I have a confession. Scratch that, a few confessions. And a story to tell. MY story. Deep breath…
I have always had a “dream.” Dreaming was and IS something I love doing. It’s fun to think of yourself doing something that seems out of reach, obtainable or not.
When I was itty bitty, I remember sitting in my super pink bedroom – I’m talking pink walls, pink carpet, pink ceiling and a pink comforter – dreaming of the day I would be a better artist; be a mommy like my Barbie doll was; be someone who had a voice.
I was painfully timid, to the point where I never tried anything new. I would get sweaty palms and my heart would RACE anytime I would even think about doing something new. And that controlled my life. I was way too young to feel this way, but I did. If I could tell that child one thing, I would tell her that life is always going to be scary when it comes to the unknown, but you just have to try. Trying is soooooo totally worth the risk.
Later on in my life, I realized there was a name for those feelings I had…anxiety. Fast forward a few years. I’m a pre-teen, still in my pink bedroom. I sat at my desk doodling and loved what I was creating. “Wow,” I thought, looking down at my pencil sketch. “I… am… good.” It was the very first time I ever paid myself a compliment.
And it was the very first time I saw a dream come true.
It was a foreign concept to me, dreaming out loud, but I really liked it and I told my little 11 year old self, right then and there, that no matter what, I would NEVER stop dreaming.
I kept the promise I made myself, so very long ago, until a day that just recently went by. It was the day we received Arlo’s autism diagnosis. It was the day I stopped dreaming. I stopped believing and I stopped being ME. Because honestly, I no longer mattered. My child did. My children did. My family did.
To get myself through that first “turned my world upside down” life chapter, I talked out loud. I hit record and I shared my world in the form of a podcast. It was therapy. It was scary. It was relieving. It saved my sanity, which I felt was slowly slipping away. (You can have a listen if you so choose at https://www.BrandisAllison.com/category/podcast-episodes). Just when I felt like I had a handle of things being thrown my way, I logged into Facebook and there it was. Someone celebrating their child, the same age as Arlo, talking and getting ready for all the amazing things to come that year like Kindergarten. They celebrated a family trip and their 4.5 year old was standing there, smiling, holding her hand, not trying to elope or fight or scratch or scream. I scrolled down the page, tears streaming from my face. Arlo isn’t going to experience those things….at least not right now or in THAT way.
As I scrolled, glancing at all my friends’ updates, I saw post after post about vacation, dates with their littles, how they dealt with crying kids (their solution was something I literally could not do for my crying kids). It was brutal. I suddenly found myself hating these people, instead of feeling fondness. I resented them for how easy their life was (or seemed as they shared it). Do they even know how lucky they are? I was thrown into a deep dark hole and it was such a strange place to be. Those awful feelings of mine…those weren’t me. I’m not a jealous or resentful person. I love hearing about others celebrations and victories. But not anymore. And I knew I had to go offline. I had to STOP talking. I had to STOP scrolling. I had to STOP everything and be present with only my four babies. And I needed to face this new stage head-on. I was grieving.
I was grieving the loss of all the dreams I had for Arlo. I was angry about all the things being thrown in my face, that I knew nothing about (autism comes with A LOT of paperwork, to-dos, to-try’s…doctors, specialists, therapists, and so much more you couldn’t possibly imagine, unless you are also an Autism Family). I was grieving the loss of all the simple things I used to do with Carson and Millie when they were his age…things I couldn’t do with Arlo. I was grieving the unknown. I was grieving the future. And I was grieving my life, too. A life of traveling with my family, owning a thriving business, having a little more freedom to get back to ME – something I let go of a very very long time ago. Here I was, dying inside. And I knew I had a lot to figure out.
In my months of being offline, I cried. A lot. I screamed. A lot. I loved on my babies. A lot. I spent as much time with Arlo as I could, to try and get to know even more about him…and his autism. I studied him to try and figure out WHY he didn’t like certain things and loved others. He’s nonverbal, so he can’t tell me. Not yet anyway. I practiced patience (and still have to, Daily). I practiced sibling bonding. I practiced stress-relief. I practiced everything I could practice, more or less. And one day…I left my house. I had been a prisoner in my home and in my mind, for months. And I was the one who knew.
Therapy started finally, and I was forced to leave. I was forced to take all four kids to therapy. I was forced to put on makeup and get dressed. Little by little I figured shit out. BECAUSE I HAD TO.
Can we pause for a moment and can I be real with you? I cannot STAND the comment, “I don’t know how you do it, Brandis. You’re so strong. You’re so patient. I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you do it.” Please stop. It’s not helping me, even though your intentions are pure and honest. It’s a stab in my heart. I’m all of those things because I have to be. When life throws you a curve ball, you step up to the plate and hit the crap outta that ball. Because you have to, otherwise you’ll never get to first base…then second…then third…. And if you’re super lucky, you’ll reach home, in a much better state of mind, than when your foot first left that plate beneath you.
You still with me, over there?
Trust me, you would also be all those things if you too, had a special needs child. Because you would have to be. It’s not something you can plan for. You just have to wake up every day and try the very best of your ability. Because NOW this little person needs even more of you, more than you ever could imagine giving.
Ok, where was I? Oh yea. Instead of “I don’t know how you do it.” Say, “Brandis, you’re a great mom. And you’re doing a great job.”
That…that would be uplifting and amazing to hear.
I recently told someone, “My every day is difficult. It just is. There are no easy days. But you know what…there are sprinkles. Sprinkles of happy, beautiful, amazing moments scattered randomly, amongst all the hardships.” And those happy little sprinkles? They save my life. They save my sanity. They remind me that no matter what difficult moments I face…there is a happy sprinkle just waiting for me.
The social media blackout was a necessity. I needed that time, more than I even realized at first. Little by little, day by day, I started feeling again. The bad feelings slowly started to back the F off. And then I started smiling again. Those happy moments, man. They are EVERYTHING.
Here I am now, thrown into the next chapter of my life as a special needs mama with a large family. There’s SO much going on. Between school, therapies and ASD related to-do’s, I found myself missing one very important thing…myself. How was I going to start dreaming again? How was I going to find myself in the mix of happy chaos? How do I even take care of myself and get this weight off my poor bones. How do I feel good…for me?
Still with me? God bless you.
Remember at the very beginning of this very long letter to you, I mentioned wanting to tell my younger self “If I could tell that child one thing, I would tell her that life is always going to be scary when it comes to the unknown, but you just have to try. Trying is soooooo totally worth the risk.”? Well, I decided to do something scary. I decided to TRY something new, that could possibly get me back to ME. And this thing…I can also give Arlo a voice. And advocate for my baby. And be helpful to another Autism Family that’s just now going through what we were, just a little over a year ago.
I started a YouTube channel. 🤭
And there are 19! 19 videos uploaded!
I’m not gonna say they are GOOD videos, haha, but they are there. I created something. I’m sharing my family. I’m sharing Arlo’s journey as a beautiful, smart, Nonverbal Autistic child. I’m sharing my heart. I’m slowly starting to share my creative loves. And I’m dreaming again. Out loud! I’m trying something scary and unknown and I’m showing up. I’ve committed to something (that purely is for myself) for the first time in over a decade. And it feels amazing.
So if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this very long love letter, thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your love, your support and your thoughts – especially while I was away. Thank you for your inbox messages and your texts and your phone calls. Thank you for being there. I truly appreciate you, whether we talk often…or you just silently read (or perhaps now, watch) our story as it unfolds. I LOVE the crap outta you!
So yea, here’s the intro video to my channel. I’d absolutely love to invite you along for the ride. It’s gonna be WILD I tell ya. 😆 Please subscribe on YouTube, or if you would rather get an email and watch our story off YouTube, please visit my website (link above) and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page. You can enter your email address and when I post a new video, I will get to say hi to YOU via inbox. I know youtube isn’t for everyone so I wanted to make sure that you had two options for chatting with me.
Ok my friend, I’ve kept you long enough. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on either site or both (if I’m a super lucky girl) soon.