by Kate Greenaway, Australia
The names in this real life story are not real, but the events and sharing of the challenges and learning along the way are very real. Christina is a 44 year old woman, she is married to Tom who is 46 years old and her partner of some 19 years. They have a 15 year old son, Will.
At 2 years old, Will was diagnosed by a team of Medical Specialists as having moderate Autism with a severe ‘Global Delay’. Global Delay means that Will is significantly delayed in all aspects of communication and development. This affects his behaviour and interaction with himself, his parents and all that come into contact with him. He requires constant supervision including self care, behaviour development, safety awareness and setting appropriate boundaries, including how to interact and communicate with people generally.
When Will was 18 months old, Christina was aware there was something ‘not right’ with him; when she was told of his condition she thought “Why me, why am I being punished in this way? Haven’t I already suffered enough?”. Amazingly, she let this go pretty quickly as she and Tom realised that Will was a blessing, not a burden or punishment.
They never defined Will by his Autism, but by the loving joyful boy that he is. They love Will for Will, and continue to teach and support him lovingly while he lives in his Autism bubble. Christina shared that Will has taught her and Tom to accept others for who they truly are and not for how they present or behave. Through her relationship with Will she has learned a lot about awareness for herself and others, and this is far greater now than ever before.
In his early years, Will would get fixated on things and would control situations by continuous breakdowns, including screaming, hitting, damaging things and self harm. Christina and Tom learned early on that sometimes love was saying ‘no’ to Will when required, along with having consistency and establishing clear boundaries with him. Christina shared that what supported her and the family was continual open communication. They use a whiteboard so Will can see all the activities for the week and know what that particular day or week will be for him: over the years Will’s weeks have included supportive regular speech therapy and psychology sessions. Christina and Tom have continually embraced Will to allow him to feel his own love and to develop his confidence in the knowledge that he is amazing, autism and all.
Christina, Will and Tom have also been supported over these many years by the various Health Practitioners of the Universal Medicine Clinic in Goonellabah. Christina feels these gentle healing sessions support Will to be more with himself and less agitated and hard in his body. When Will is agitated and difficult to reason with, Christina stays as calm and gentle as possible and uses simple words, repeating the same message over and over until Will settles and gets it. These times can be fairly intense for Christina so she has found what supports her is having her own time; for instance, having a cup of tea outside to regroup and gather herself after these incidents.
Overall though, Christina describes their family life as quite harmonious with lots of joy, and that Will is a happy, loving boy who respects and listens to adults. Over time, Christina has learned to honour herself, Tom and Will, and allow each other space for themselves within their day-to-day family life.
One of Christina’s biggest challenges was to learn not to lose herself in juggling her roles as business woman, wife and mother of a son with special needs. In the past she had always put herself last, juggling demanding jobs and pushing her limits with 16 hour work days, balancing her film work with her own business management consultancy. She would wind up utterly exhausted and then be hard on herself for not keeping it all together. Initially she felt everyone else’s wellbeing was more important than her own, until she realised how damaging this was to herself and her family – where she struggled to be present with them as she was so utterly exhausted.
Over the last 2 years she has given herself more time and space for ‘me time’ by reducing the number of business clients, selectively choosing the film projects and working only 4 – 5 days a week, from 8.30am – 5.30pm. Once home, she is then able to be dedicated to herself and her family. Christina consciously winds down through the evening, taking her dogs for walks and giving herself quiet time to reflect on her day and almost always she avoids computer work after dinner. This wind down time is important to Christina so that when she’s able, she goes to bed early so her body can enjoy a rejuvenating sleep. Christina also takes moments for herself throughout her day to make sure she is being with herself, being gentle, and by taking time to sit quietly outside in the garden. An important loving time for her is a nurturing bath once a week that helps recharge her body and allows her to be more with herself.
Over time she recognised that when she pushed herself too hard her body felt heavy and exhausted. Then she tended to eat heavy, sugary foods, which made her feel worse. That’s when she knew to regroup, be gentler with herself and come back to her rhythms in the day with those moments that supported her.
Over many years of getting to know how Christina lives and observing her daily routines, the care with which she leads her days, and the self nurturing moments she has built for herself within her week, it is clear that there is something very powerful in the choices she is making. Noting how these simple changes, consistently applied, offer such support in what might otherwise be a far more difficult situation to deal with. It has been beautiful to observe how this way of living has rippled out into her loving relationship with her partner and son, and also provided the resilience and steadiness in her day-to-day interactions and relationships, both at home and at work.
Christina appreciates that life is about lovingly connecting to herself and others by living more in this gentle way and it is inspiring how open she is to learning more by just simply living it with her family, day by day.
Now that’s worth celebrating!!!