How I Sometimes Forget That My Life Includes Autism

by Jill Wilbur Smith

Sometimes I forget that I’m the parent of someone who has a disability. Call it denial. Call it hope.

On good days, it’s easy to believe that I’m unaffected by autism and depression. On good days, it’s easy to think that my world is just like everyone else’s. On good days, it’s easy to forget.

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Then a bad day comes along, as bad days are wont to do.

If the good days have been many, strung together in a brilliant and dazzling display of calm and joy, the bad days hit hard. Crashing down on me with an unexpected force. Taunting me. Don’t forget, they tease. Life isn’t meant to be easy.

Rationally, I know that bad days aren’t reserved for families who live with disability and depression. Bad days aren’t particular. They happen to everyone.

But in that irrational, emotional place inside of me, they feel vengeful.

I’ve had a lot of good days in the past two months. I need to remember that. My mother and sister joined us for Thanksgiving. I got a promotion at work. I had a joyful Christmas spent quietly with family. I celebrated New Year’s by kicking in the ass the dark times of the past 12 months, hopefully thinking a new year will mean no more bad days. Silly me.

Maybe that’s why I’m especially saddened by the day that occurs only 10 days into 2014. What makes it a bad day is a confluence of events that might not be troubling had they all happened separately.

I’ve had an especially busy day as I transition into a new job. I’ve mostly ignored text messages from Emily in the afternoon indicating that she’s struggling. I hope that by the time I get home the storm will have passed and we can have a quiet evening. I’m at the end of my emotional tether.

I walk into the house to find Emily’s bad mood hasn’t passed. In fact things have escalated into ugly confrontations between her and her father and sister. They, too, have had a less-than-stellar day.

So, in my already emotionally fragile state, I forget that I’m the parent of someone who has autism and depression. I forget that the angry young woman lashing out at me isn’t really condemning me. She’s fighting some unseen demon that I can only imagine.

“I just want peace,” I scream at her.

“I don’t want peace, I want justice!” she replies.

I’m too exhausted to pick up my sword and help her slay her beast, whatever it might be. I turn away. I go downstairs and drink a cocktail with my husband. I leave her to cry herself to sleep alone in her dark room.

For a few more hours I pretend that she’s just choosing to be obstinate and defiant. I make believe that there isn’t a chemical imbalance in her brain that has been adversely affected by the dark Minnesota winter. I ignore the injustice I feel knowing that Asperger’s makes it difficult for her express her sadness in a socially appropriate way.

Later, I crawl into bed and turn out the light. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I know that in the morning I will shed the mantle of denial. I will somehow find the right words to help her see through her depressive haze. I will have the strength to pick up my sword and continue to fight.

P.S. Many good days have followed since I wrote this post, with the occasional bad day thrown in to remind me of my special place in this world.

I Love Being Fat

by Emily Smith

I’ve never told anyone that before. In fact, I’m not even sure I believed it myself until recently. Now that the holidays are behind us, weight-loss resolutions and new diets crowd our collective consciousness like Thanksgiving leftovers in an overwhelmed refrigerator. But why? Is it really so important for one’s silhouette to lack its occasional lumps and bumps? Is it worth the dinner dates missed, sweets unwrapped, Christmas teacakes uneaten? Is all that effort and worry really worth a physique that’s never even seen as “good enough” once it gets there? What kind of a way to live is that?!

If your answer is different from mine, please don’t worry about it. You’re entitled to your own feelings. But at least in my own experience, the answer to that question is “totally not worth the commitment. Being fat is awesome.” For real. Putting away all the holiday candy and ornaments never makes me think “oh shit, I’m super flabby now and that’s AWFUL.” I mean, I am super flabby now, even by my lax personal standards. Happens to me every single year, actually. But what of it? During the holidays, everyone cooks and eats and laughs together. We indulge in gift-giving and booze and eating red-and-green peanut butter cups whenever we damn well please. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Granted, I don’t want my fatness to get in the way of living. I don’t want to be inconvenienced by excess bulk; I don’t want to die before my time. I’m not even opposed to getting into better shape. There are just two things that everyone in my life needs to know, and will not change.

One: I absolutely, unequivocally, do not want to be thin. That’s not a knock on anyone who is, and it’s not a value judgment on body shapes of any kind. Thin is not my shape. “Stocky” is the thinnest I get. And that’s fine.

Two: In fact, it’s better than fine. See title. “I Love Being Fat”! That’s a true statement, and I don’t even have to justify it. I will anyway, though, because I live in a world where mere neutrality towards fat is considered subversive, and unless you’re reading this article in the very distant future, you probably live there too. So fasten your seatbelt. I’m warping us somewhere else.

I wouldn’t really be me if I weren’t fat. I wouldn’t relate to the world in the same way. I’d hardly understand my own body. There’s supposed to be a nice protective slab of fat all over it, and while other people might value me less for that characteristic, I don’t actually want my body to be that different. More muscular, perhaps, or more flexible. But skinny? Never.

Fat is for comfort. It lets a person lie comfortably in most any position. It’s perfect for long hours of idle chats with friends, tabletop gaming, and giving lots of excellent hugs. Fat is for loving and snuggling. Fat is for satisfaction and fun. Ever heard the phrase “fat and happy”? It’s mostly true. Because fat is for happiness.

I genuinely feel like my personality is conducive to fatness. I’m an accomplished cook, a lifelong gamer, and a family loyalist. I eat what I like, play when I can, and love whom I want. I prefer Sunday morning to Friday night. For me, all that is improved by a little extra give in the waistband. It’s here to stay.

I love being fat. If you let yourself find out, maybe you’d love it, too.