Runaways

heartburn

Ben ran away last week.

I didn’t tell you about it because it’s hard to talk about autism on my blog because there’s always someone whose best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s girlfriend knows this guy who knows this girl who knows this kid who has this brother who has autism, too. And SHE heard that removing gluten AND standing on his head for sixteen hours a day made him normal again.

That’s awesome for that family, truly, I’m happy. But like any other condition, there’s a million different variations and this is MY kid we’re talking about here and this is our story. And, I should add, I DO want to hear about your children and your stories, The Band. I do. I promise.

Why, Aunt Becky, did your son run away? I can hear you practically screaming at the computer monitor, cup of coffee clenched in your hand as you shiver with antici…..

….pation.

The answer is: I don’t know. HE doesn’t know. All I know is that he decided, upon returning from my mother’s house where he had been spending the morning while I worked, that my (technically also his) house was bullshit and he’d rather not come home and so he took off.

His brother informed me, “Ben ran away,” and assuming Ben had just stomped off to his room, I wasn’t terribly worried.

Until I couldn’t find him in his room, slouched petulantly in either car, holed up in the basement reading a book or lurking around the exterior of my house.

It was then that the blind panic set in. I drove down the street, the bitter taste of adrenaline coating the back of my tongue, as I looked left and right, hoping to spot my son somewhere; anywhere.

I found him, his mop of dark hair a stark contrast to the white snow, a body all elbows and knees, trying to cross a busy road at the edge of my subdivision.

I pulled over and hollered at him to get into the car, and he did. He peered sheepishly at me through eyelashes as long as his sisters as he buckled his seat belt.

For once, I was at a loss for words. I just gaped at him.

I drove us home and still, I said nothing. I didn’t even know what to say any more. I knew where he was going and why. I know my son well.

Rejection started when he was born. I waddled into the birthing room as one and a mere twenty-four hours later, we were two. The nurse helped me get him to my breast, and I swear I’ve never seen a more pissed off baby. He launched his gigantic head atop that tiny neck backwards, nearly toppling off me, clearly disgusted that someone might even SUGGEST such an uncivilized thing as BREASTFEEDING.

Breastfeeding didn’t work. Bottle-feeding only worked if I didn’t hold him. I’d put him in his bouncy seat and sit next to him, holding his bottle as he watched anything but me. The guilt was tremendous. Maybe Ben sensed my inherent evil or something.

My mother didn’t help. “I’d NEVER let a baby sit on the floor while taking a bottle,” she’d say to me as I fed my child. But I’d already tried to cuddle him closely, only to have him scream like I’d poured molten steel on him. Maybe she’d never let her baby lay on the floor to feed him, but Ben was not her baby.

The older he got, the worse I felt. The pain was exquisite. It was compounded when I enrolled in school full-time to earn my nursing degree while working part-time as a waitress/bartender over the weekends as I didn’t see my son much.

He didn’t care.

I, however, cared very, very much.

My heart shattered each time I’d stop and think about The Situation With My Son Ben. I was rearranging my life for this tiny boy with a shock of black hair so thick it looked like a wig and he hated me.

These were the days, you must remember, that autism was not commonly discussed. No one walked, ran, drove, pledged, or otherwise attempted a “cure.” ASD, PDD, SPD weren’t on the lips of every mini-van driving soccer mom. In 2003, when Ben was diagnosed at age two, I was on my own.

I was also relieved by that diagnosis. Autism.

The concept of autism didn’t send me reeling, I guess, because I’d already been reeling for so long. Knowing all that rejection wasn’t because I was an evil soul-sucking wench of a mother was such a relief that I cried. Then I stopped making it about me and got my kid into therapy. Loads of it.

Autism is, after all, just a diagnosis. And a diagnosis is just a word. I wasn’t going to let that word rule my life.

And I haven’t.

The pain of rejection, though, that never seems to go away. I love my son just as he is with every inch of my heart. I always will.

I sat there, my heart hurting and my hands numb from the cold as I drove the two of us home last week. I sat at my computer trying to eek out a half-hearted Christmas post, forcing jollity out of my fingertips. I sat there trying to pretend I was okay, that the pangs of rejection didn’t burn brightly in my chest, and I remembered that sometimes, as my throat burned with threatened tears, it’s okay not to know how I feel.

It’s okay to wish that it was all different somehow.

Then, my first son, Ben, without whom I would be nothing, approaches me with open arms and says, “I love you, Mom,” and I know that even if I never understand any of it, it’s all just as it should be. And that has to be enough.

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There Was This One Time I Was A Mother

I'm not even sure where you begin.

This isn't a story of love - it's a story of need. I needed to get away from my home and I ran to the first boy who showed me he liked me. He very quickly got me pregnant. He joined the Army and off we went. Things were never easy with him. He was abusive. He kept me under lock and key - literally. I never said anything to anyone. We had two more children rather quickly and I was trying very, very hard to be Suzy-fucking-Homemaker.

After seven years and a lot of Oprah, I came to the conclusion I was going to leave him and my life will be hard, but it will be mine. And my children and I will be happy having lives and play dates and *gasp* friends. So I told him to get out one day after telling him I just found about his affairs and other children.

He left.

"That was fucking easy," I thought.

Three days later there is a knock at the door and a police officer and him - a shit-eating grin on his face.

"Ma'am, there is a warrant for your arrest. Domestic violence. You hit your husband." No. Fucking. Way. I would never hit him. I was too afraid. He would kill me. And then in that second. I knew. I knew. I knew. I knew. My babies would never be mine again.

I had no friends of my own - no family other than his. Never even had a real paying job. So getting out of jail was hard. When I did get out, I stayed at the neighbor's house. I could see my children playing, I could hear them, but I couldn't touch or talk to them. No contact. None.

I was told to get ten letters of reference, seven of which would be used for the judge. I couldn't get ten, but I got as many as I could from people in my children's lives. However, now I can see I never had a chance. I had no driver's license, job, home, or income, and the judge felt they were better off with their dad. They needed stability.

It wasn't supposed to go this way. Why can't you see he wouldn't let me drive, or get a job. Why can't you see he doesn't know that Joey won't eat fish sticks, that Olivia has to have Max AND Ruby to go to sleep, that Ryan still needs to nurse. He nurses! The judge and he don't know these things. He changed 5 diapers.

I tried to go back six days later. All I wanted was to be with my kids, to sleep in their beds with them, to play, bathe them, comb my daughter's hair. She started pulling it out from all the stress in her little life. He only wanted blow jobs and told me to lock them in their rooms and fuck him. I cried, but if that would let me be with them, I'd do it.

I got a job and began working. I asked him to take me to work and after much arguing, he did. On the way he became furious to the point of slapping me and punching me. He opened the car door and shoved me out at a red light in front of my children.

I fought to see my babies. But fuck. I was all alone working three jobs to a keep a shitty roof over my head and pay my court-ordered child support. My time with them was restricted to the weekends, when it was hard to get off work.

He took my children and moved cross-country. He rarely answers his phone. He lied to my babies - told them I left. He said that I was a whore, a drug addict and a drunk.

Every single day is a struggle. My depression is horrid. I can't tell you how many times a day I think of just pulling that trigger. I don't because I hope that one day soon they will come back to me and remember the good times.

I hope to one day be whole.

Until then, I put one foot in front of the other.

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never knowing

every time i try to start a post for this new community, i erase it and start over.  i literally do not know where to begin.

i am an addict.  i am a cutter.  i am clinically depressed.  i have ptsd.  i have anxiety disorders.  i am the child of an alcoholic.  i was physically and emotionally abused.  i couldn't stop my friend from being raped.  i went to my first funeral at the age of 5.  my parents are divorced.  i have had 16 suicide attempts.  i have a younger brother and he is my best friend.  i have an awesome husband, and he is my other best friend.  i have sold drugs.  i have had sex for payment.  i was on welfare. i have had sex in a church parking lot.  i have done cocaine off the back of a public toilet.  i have cheated, lied, stolen, broken, taken, left a path of destruction around me.

but i am here.  i don't know what to make of that most days.  am i a survivor?  a survivor of what? of life?

life should be lived, not survived.  you survive a disease.  you survive in battle.  you survive an accident.  you don't 'survive' life.

i guess this is as good of a place as any to start: i'm fucking crazy.  batshit crazy.  yes, you read that right.  i own my craziness.  but i don't know what to do about it.  i take my pills, i blog (which is my new free therapy), i exercise, i try to be a productive adult.  and i fool most people.  the pills help, they do.  but it's like lying under the surface, there's always this blackness waiting to grab me and pull me under again.

i'm always treading water: surviving.

i don't know why i'm crazy.  i know that outside factors have not always helped.  my dad was a highly functioning, non-abusive alcoholic.  we left when i was 6.  i got a new step mom when i was 7.  and my mom found a new boyfriend when i was 9.  we moved in with him when i was 10.

that first summer, he was home sometimes during the day.  mom was at work, brother was at daycamp or some shit.  i don't remember why it happened, but i do remember the first time he hit me.  it was kind of like a spanking.  i was a bit old for that at ten, and had something to say about it.  he told me that my mother had said he could discipline us, and she knew that he was hitting me.

so i didn't say anything.

when i was 11, he flung a heavy piece of thick plexiglass at me while i was sitting on the stairs.  i jumped down, and the plexiglass broke the banister.  he would call me names - tell me i was fat, i was a whore, i was stupid, i was ugly.  he would hit me.   my mother finally noticed something was wrong, that i was acting out.  she did the right thing and called a child psychologist.

i went to the psychologist three times.  back then, i didn't know what she told my mom or why i stopped going.  now i know: she told my mom that i was a pathological liar.  i was not being hit or abused by my stepfather - i was making it all up for attention.  my mother was told to continue disciplining me, but not to give me that attention that i supposed was acting out for.  i had no idea.

then he started getting me high.  he first offered me pot when i was 12.  he supplied me until i was 18.  i was high for six years.  and it didn't help.

he was a functioning alcoholic.  he almost never seemed drunk, and i didn't even always register it.  we'd smoke a joint in the basement, then each grab a beer while he cooked dinner.  we'd be friends for that time.  but it never lasted.  i stopped respecting him because of the way he treated me.  so i started mouthing off to him.  he threw a pot of cooked rice at me at the dinner table one night.  my mom saw it, but what she saw was me goading him into doing it.  in reality, i just didn't care anymore.  i ran away about once a week.  he would follow me outside to the gate, tell me he loved me like i was his own daughter, please come back inside.

i would.

one time i walked out to clear my head after a confrontation.  i must have been 14 or 15.  when i came back in, he said, 'i thought you were running away'.  i told him i just went for a walk, but i'd leave if he wanted me to.  he got mouthy with me, i got mouthy with him, and he threw a butcher knife at me.  in front of my mother.  i left then, and stayed at a friend's that night.  i called home five times, hanging up every time he answered.  finally, my mom picked up and i told her where i was.

his defense to my mom was that if he wanted to hit me with the knife, he wouldn't have missed.

one time i told him i'd call the cops on him.  he got in my face, and told me he'd already been in jail, it didn't scare him.  they'd never believe me anyway - i was crazy.  i told him if he ever touched my mother or my brother, i would kill him or die trying.

he never did lay a hand on them.  only me.

one night at dinner, he shoved our wrought iron table into my ribs multiple times, bruising two of them.  we just kept eating.  he told me he wanted to get some mushrooms (not the cooking kind). i could get them, but my source wanted my step-dad to roll blunts for him.  he agreed, and my source gave me cigars to be rolled.  my step-dad showed them to my mom, said he'd found them in my room (he had - in my underwear drawer.  he routinely went through my things) and that i needed to be punished.  he made me eat the cigar.  and when i wasn't eating it fast enough, he lit it and exhaled the smoke into a plastic bag.  he then made me hold the bag over my nose and mouth for what seemed like three or four minutes.

i spent the night vomiting in my room.  i never got him the 'shrooms.

i tried to put the iced tea back in the fridge one night. he got within arms length of me.  by this time, i was 16 and basically had a panic attack when he got that close to me.  i started yelling at him to get away from me.  he trapped me behind the fridge door and shouted at me.  i started screaming obscenities at him.  he hocked a loogie in my eye.  when i ran screaming to the bathroom to take out my contacts, he followed me and threw me across the bathroom.  i bruised my lower and mid back on the side of the tub when i fell in.

he threw me out when i stole $1000 from him.  i thought it was his, but it was actually the rent money for our house.  he took everything i owned - all my artwork, paintings, sculptures, and threw them out.  he got rid of my bed.  he dumped all my clothes into plastic garbage bags, and emptied an ash tray into each bag.  i ended up with two laundry baskets full of clothing, my senior year english notebook, two sketchbooks, and some cd's.  i lived in my car for a few weeks, sleeping over friend's houses when i could - but most were away at college.  my boyfriend's mom took pity on me, and let me move in.  until his grandma found out a few weeks later why i was thrown out of my home - then she threw me out too.

i was 17 and going to be put in a girl's home.  when they called my mom to tell her, HE insisted that i could not go to a place like that and let me come home.  my room had my old dresser and desk, a lamp, and my bookcase in it.  my boyfriend took a mattress off a cot his family had so i didn't have to sleep on the hard floor in my own home.  i lived like this from october 1997 until august 1998.

i'm focusing on my step-dad here, so there are lots of things missing - me doing drugs, me stealing, me raising a bit of hell.  but i've never laid this all out before.  i've never actually gone through it all like this.

i was kicked out again in 1998. i lived out of my car for weeks this time.  i slept on the road near my boyfriend's house.  i'd call friends to sleep over and shower at their house.  i wasn't allowed in his home at all - not even to pee.  his grandmother wouldn't allow it.  we'd drive to a local taco bell so i could use the bathroom.  every night, his mom would send him out with two dinner plates, and we'd eat dinner in my car.  i finally went on welfare for housing in september 1998 and was in the system until june 1999.  i was hospitalized for a suicide attempt.  the only person who came to visit me in the hospital was my boyfriend.  i didn't see my step dad much during this time.

in 1999, i moved within a few miles of my mom's new home.  i was invited over occasionally for dinner or something like that.  i'd pick up my brother to hang out with me and my boyfriend.  little by little, i was allowed in the house more.  i would come over to do laundry.  my step father would make passes at me, comments about us being alone together. i made sure that wouldn't happen.

i was telling my mom one day that it had been so long since i cut, i was feeling better.  we were having a dialogue, and that hadn't happened in so long.  my step dad put a knife on the table in front of me, and walked away.  he'd come up behind me when i was in the family room alone, using the computer, and put his hands on my shoulders and whisper nasty things in my ear.  we'd go to a family dinner for thanksgiving at my aunt's house, and he'd hand me $100.  it was a confusing relationship.

after the last time i was kicked out of my house, he never struck me again.  but he was as emotionally and verbally abusive as he could be.  my mother never really saw it again when i was an adult, but he was inappropriate with me up until he was diagnosed with bone cancer in june of 2003.  he died december 28, 2003.  i was at the house helping my mom that day.  things did not look good, our hospice nurse was concerned.  i usually did not go into their bedroom, ever.  i hadn't since i was 10.  i went up to say good bye to him before i left.  when i poked my head in the door, he waved me to the bed.  i walked in, and he reached his hand out to me.  i held it for a moment, and he said, 'good bye'.

i said 'good bye'.  i drove home.  he died about five hours later.  my boyfriend - the same one all this time - drove me over there at 2am.  (i ended up marrying him.)  for my mom and my brother, it was a release - he'd been so sick.  it was sad, but it was good.  it was over.

i was the one who broke down.

i will never know why he chose me.

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A note about commenting: It only takes moments to comment but makes a world of difference to an author to know they are not alone: They're with the Band! Please share your support here!