"Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism" excerpt by Janele Hoerner (CatholicMom.com)

Chapter 13: A Violent Shaking

The rock shook with a multiple of thunderous rumbles before I had even mustered the courage to bring my entire body to the base. As I stood there, with the rising waters engulfing my legs, I questioned if I, myself, encompassed enough strength to endure this next trial. With hundreds of questions filling my mind, I became lost in trusting that I could successfully reach the summit on my own merit. I did not believe that I could do what I felt I had to do, yet I believed I had no options left. Repositioning the heavy and thrashing child on my back, I begged him to hold on as I swallowed hard and simultaneously pulled my drenched legs out of the water. In finding each small ledge for my footing, I could only pray that my next movement would not cause me to slip down into the freezing waters. I was forced to dig my nails into the cliff for support as the entire rock again began to shake with the roar of the thunder echoing throughout the vicinity. As the sun disappeared entirely, we were left in complete darkness. With no visual idea of where I was climbing, my only physical guide was the rock that held my cold and shaking body. The dropping temperature made the arduous climb close to impossible, but nothing could now deter my mind from what needed to be done. I felt my body breaking down with each change in position; however, I was determined to hold on for the life of my child. There was no relief. My hands cracked and became numb, while, at the same time, my back tightened and ached from the weight upon my shoulders. My body became bruised while scaling the jagged cliff side as we were slammed into it by the force of the gusts. It seemed as though not even the wind had an intention on providing us with any type of relief as every element in our vicinity seemed determined to have us fall. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I silently begged for some type of a rest. I was so worn down by the climb that I felt despair set in as to if we would ever make it to the top. With yet another flash of lightning, I looked up searching for some view of what lie ahead. All I saw was rock. The rain continued to burn my frozen face with each drop that felt as though needles were countlessly protruding into my skin. I could truly not move one more muscle, and in one split second, my body shut down in its place. I felt trapped, scared, and out of breath as I began to believe this climb was in fact impossible. There was no longer any strength left in my body. I knew I could no longer do any of this on my own. I had put much belief into my own abilities, even though I knew that I was, after all, just one human being who encompassed really nothing on her own. I was not fit to lead a climb, make decisions, or any of the like, but it was in that moment that I knew exactly who could. In attempting to regain my strength once again, I bargained with my child to hold on for just a minute longer, while I rested in place. Though, to my surprise, just as I began to close my eyes, my glimpse found a ledge of significant size to the right of my body. Reaching for that ledge with all of my strength, I pushed my child up to safety first. As I hoisted myself up, I collapsed entirely in tears. I sat down holding my child tightly on my lap, kissing his forehead before feeling the embrace of our lifeguard from behind. As we sat in safety for just a few moments, we stared out into the black nothingness of the sea. I could not do much other than thank God for the ability to rest during our arduous journey and promise that I would now rely on Him as my ultimate guide. I was so thankful to again be able to hold the dear little child whom had now fallen asleep beside me. In that moment, I also attempted to sleep, but sleep eluded me. I was incapable of resting when I knew that at any moment my child might try to escape our position. With the two bodies sleeping beside me, I reclined against the rough wall as I again stared out into the darkness that surrounded us. When the sky flashed, I was able to peer into the heart of the storm. My weighted eyes eventually fell closed, just for a brief moment. Against my own will, I was immediately taken into a sleeping state. Awakening only what felt like seconds later, the sun had begun to rise. I could now vividly see the devastation the hurricane had bestowed upon the beach. Gazing into nothing but ocean, I watched as the rain from the skies above surrounded the base of the cliff. The beach was entirely gone, and the waves pounded upon the rocks below. The wind continued to whip and howl, while far out in the distance, I could vaguely see some calm waters. Seeing calm on the horizon, I became invigorated with hidden energy as I fully awoke determined to finish our climb. I looked beside me and watched as my son joyfully sat with our lifeguard throwing tiny pebbles into the massive sea below. Smiling happily at the sight of them, I felt reassured that we were doing the correct thing in climbing with a newfound devotion to who was really in control of our lives. As we began to prepare to climb once again, my son protested loudly with endless screams while I held onto his small body. Attempting to thrash loose from my grip once again, I reassured him with calm and firm words as I began to scale the wall. Simultaneously, I began praying deep within my own soul for strength. Even though the rain still poured down from above, our mission did not seem as devastating as before because we now held the faith to push onward. ♥ With the battle of a lifetime before me and my family, I was led to question everything in its complete totality. I believe every life has a point where a person hits a sort of bottom and realizes just how little they truly are in the grand scheme of things. I, personally, believe that I have hit that low point countless times, but one of the longest, lowest, periods of my existence was during my oldest son’s 3rd year. There was entirely too much of everything going on, and silence itself seemed a fairytale. I had never felt more worn down than that year with my child; at the same time, I believe that it was just as hard for him. I was determined to give this child every part of my body and soul, yet even that seemed like not enough. My desires, overpowered by my exhaustion and my own anger at the situation, seemed to get the best of me. I could not control my son’s violent hour long meltdowns, which brought me to my knees. I could do nothing to help the screaming. Even my touch made him only scream louder. He did not want any sort of physical affection at any point throughout the day or night, and during these outbursts, that at their height occurred five times a day, my mind was left in complete shambles. I did not understand how holding him brought out a violent and intense anger in his eyes that a parent should never have to see in their little child. I did not believe that I was doing anything correctly. Although, looking back, I see that my husband and I did exactly what needed to be done. We did not force our love on our child in the manner we believed he should be loved. We gave him the appropriate outlets to express his own anger, while we, at the same time, gave him tools to calm his own mind. We did not leave the house for that full year with him unless we had to go to a doctor appointment or something of dire need. We did not go grocery shopping together, go out in public, break routine, or anything of the like because our son needed the stability, consistency, and predictability of knowing what would happen next in his life. We basically sheltered ourselves in an attempt to regain control over Gracin’s emotions in order to allow his body the stability it craved. We hoped we could then slowly incorporate in new situations without meltdowns. We did a complete turnaround between the ages of two and three, where instead of expecting our son to fit into our lives, we now sacrificed ourselves for our son’s ultimate wellbeing. It was hard, no close to impossible, yet it was exactly what love calls us as parents to do. Our love was enough. It was enough to climb up any rock without a guide into the heart of the storm. With the sight of our son’s soul in mind, I abandoned every thought of myself for his wellbeing and gave him every ounce of my body in service to his good. It may seem as if we trusted too much in our own devices, yet I personally feel that we did not trust in ourselves at all.  We trusted in God that He would bring us into the sunlight once again. We trusted in prayer, good works, and perseverance to keep us safe and straight on our arduous climb. Of course, I was not alone on my journey as God had blessed me with an exceptional husband to help when I believed I could do no more. I felt as though I was blindly feeling my way, yet by using my faith to stay true to my son’s needs, I was never fully in the dark. To my disbelief, all of our perseverance to find out answers for our son led us to the correct doctors who properly diagnosed him. After encountering numerous doctors along our way, we were given our much needed rest as we watched our son sleep deeply and actually play with toys for a substantial period for the first time in his life. As we rested on what felt like a ledge high above the raging waters, we were not only given our son’s diagnoses, but we were also given peace of mind. The diagnoses were hard to swallow yet made sense and helped us to give our son’s mind the exact kind of calm that his body always craved. The two neurological diagnoses of High Functioning Autism, also known as Asperger’s, and ADHD gave us a direction and an illumination to push onward. At the same time, our son’s behavioral disorder, termed Intermittent Explosive Disorder, was brought to light as we attempted to find ways to best help his mind find a calm way to express emotions. As a result, we were led onward towards the future, a bright future where our son excelled at life instead of being overwhelmed by it. Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism is available at Amazon.com.

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Copyright 2019 Janele Hoerner