I never thought I was one who would need a “tribe.” I’ve had the same friend since I was 14 and that was enough for me, even as a military wife who moves around…that all changed though the day I found out I had a special needs child.
My sweet boy Connor was not hitting developmental milestones; what I thought was just a gross motor delay that physical therapy would “fix” then turned into a speech delay, a fine motor delay, and eventually into an Autism diagnosis before the age of 2. Along with all that, came the discovery that Connor also has a very rare genetic disorder called SATB-2 Associated Syndrome which affects speech, development and intellectual abilities.
After Connor’s Autism diagnosis, we immediately got him into ABA as I am huge for early intervention, but this was another therapy we had to add to the already long list along with doctor’s appointments. I was stretched thin to say the least. My husband worked long hours and I had no friends or support as I embarked on this new and scary journey. This was not what I had envisioned, this was not what you see in the movies or read in the books, and I am not going to lie when I say I was in denial that Connor was Autistic. My perfect baby boy was “different” and always would be. So many things go through your head, present, past, the future and it’s scary!
I hated that things didn’t come easy for him and that he had to struggle; everyday was like ground hog day. Wake up, therapy, doctor’s appointments and sleep. I had no life outside of this world, but was instead thrown into it without any instruction manual or guidance. I entered a deep depression and developed anxiety that I had never had before. I didn’t want to go anywhere outside of Connor’s therapy sessions, and I pretty much holed myself up in my house. My husband saw my sadness and hurt and would tell me I needed to make friends. I would get so angry at him because he made it sound so easy. I resented the fact that he had his job outside of our home, adult interaction and friends. I had none of that.
Then one day while waiting for Connor to get done at his ABA session with my head hung low and sadness in my eyes, a sweet girl by the name of Mallory came and introduced herself to me. She told me about her amazing boy who also had Autism and that she had been on the journey a lot longer than me. She also informed me of events for mom’s and events for our special needs kiddos. There was more to this world than just therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments! It still took time for me to attend any of them as my social anxiety held me back.
I finally decided to attend a mom’s breakfast and that was the day my life changed, the day I felt like I had something outside of therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments. It was nice to sit and converse with women who understood, who you could vent to, cry to, laugh with and who wouldn’t judge you. I started attending more events and becoming close to these phenomenal women and getting more involved in wanting to connect and help others myself because I know what it felt to be lost and to not have friends to lean on to begin with. That was when these amazing women, my tribe, asked me to be a board member with them for the non-profit Emerald Coast Exceptional Families. How could I say no?! This was my chance to give back and be there for others just like they are there for me.
When my husband deployed they were at my doorstep with wine and hugs, when my son was hospitalized they were texting and calling me, when I am having a down day or anxiety they are right there telling me it’s going to be okay. I’ve never had a tribe and never thought I would need one per say but I did, and they saved my life and saved me from depression and anxiety. Laying my head on my pillow at night knowing I have support makes this life much easier.
While my life may not have stayed the course I envisioned, it took the path it was destined for. Connor is my perfect, he’s taught me strength and his diagnosis has brought me an amazing tribe that I am forever indebted to and love with all my heart.