He Ain’t Heavy

The road is long, with many a winding turn / that leads us to who, who knows where? who knows when?/ But I am strong, I’m strong enough to carry him./ He ain’t heavy, he’s my son.

These are the words to a song that inspired me many times in my autism journey. (I changed the word “brother” to “son” to make it apply to my situation).  I am sure you know that I was not always strong and sometimes he was heavy, so heavy that some days I didn’t know if I could make it through the day. There were days when I felt it was impossible to show him any attention of affection. He was wearing me out.  But now, at age 73. I can see where the road has led us. I am now strong enough to carry him.

I was forever pushing myself. Bishop TD Jakes said “If you don’t feel it, do it until the feelings come.” (Fake it until you can make it), so I did a lot of faking and pretending to be the mother that I thought I should be. And, lo and behold, one day the feelings did come. I did become the mother that I wanted to be. Of course, when you have a child with autism there is never enough that you can do. I had to learn that some things were out of my control. I could not make PJ learn or behave above the level of his ability.

Bishop Jakes also said that your situation does not have to be your world. Your world is bigger than your situation.  He said that through our disaster, our strengths are developed; that pain gives you conviction about your Purpose. He said that what you think is working against you may be for your growth. He was right. But if I were choosing a Purpose, it would not have been autism. Many times I did not believe those words, but I was faking it until I could make it.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said that the secret of life is not what happens to you, but what you DO with what happens to you.  So just short of me becoming autistic myself, I decided that what I could do was speak for my son and try to make conditions better for him. We are such a “survival of the fittest” society that some of us tend to look down on those who we feel are “less than”.  PJ was constantly looked down on. He didn’t know this, but I did and it was very hurtful. So hurtful that for two years I did not take him out of the house unless I had to. With the increase in the autism diagnosis, I hope things are better for parents today.

I was so full of fear. Fear for him, fear of him, fear for the future, fear for the present, fear that I would not survive autism, fear that I wasn’t making the right decisions. I daily read one of my favorite scriptures , II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Dr Peale also said that there is only one force more powerful than fear and that is faith. When fear comes to your mind, counter it with an affirmation of faith. He also said that love overcomes fear. Dr. Peale is one of my heroes that I talk about in “Inspired By Autism”.  My heroes have been instrumental in helping me adjust to my son.

PJ is now 37 years old and I can finally say that “He ain’t heavy”.  Recently he has been spending a lot of time in a group home and we both seem to be adjusting quite well. My home will always be his home, but I am past 70 now and want to feel that he will be taken care of if something happens to me as suddenly as it happened to his father. I can’t pretend that I will live forever, or that others will care as much for him as I do.

Until next time; May your Faith and your Love overcome your fear.

Claudreen Jackson

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