In the summer of 2011, I finished one journey as a surrogate, something I had done before. A few short weeks later, I began a new journey as the survivor after the loss of an immediate family member, something I had also done before. The synergistic effects of these events’ timing was to lead me on a completely different journey than I ever expected, but that has helped me grow to accept who I am like never before.
Last week was the start to our family’s summer break. I know it’s late, but that’s how we tend to roll. My husband, Dwight, and I are graduate students (but I’m almost done!), and he works over the summer at his side job, so we have the summer off from our “real work” but with everything else that was going on, we hadn’t had any time to do anything as just a family so far; everything had involved other family members and/or at least some working. So on Thursday evening, while sitting in front of the television watching some Doctor Who on Netflix, Dwight popped the question. “Why don’t we go to Cedar Point tomorrow?”
Sounds reasonable enough, right? Since we’re only an hour and a half away it would be a simple day trip. We also have season tickets to Cedar Fair parks- which include Cedar Point- it would even qualify as a cheap day trip. Our son Kenny had never been to Cedar Point, but he’s tall enough to go on any of the rides, and he had been asking about going to “the big kids’ kiddy park.” After all of five minutes of discussion, we made the decision and set our alarm for early the next day, planning to be on the road by 8:30 AM, to put us there at 10 AM, when the park opened. We went off to bed, and visions of Raptors and Mantises danced through our heads.
The alarm didn’t quite work out as planned, so we awoke late, but the next morning, we worked on getting everything ready to go as efficiently as possible. Well, I did that, and Dwight did something with his computer in his office that I wasn’t completely clear about at the time (and I remain so- he likes his private space and I’m kind of afraid to ask). Shower and clean clothing- check. Breakfast- check, but not anything really breakfast-like. Kid out of bed- check, with bonus tantrum and fit-throwing. Time to hit the road if we were to get there when we wanted- check, but it was another half an hour before we finally left.
If this sounds like a far cry from a well-oiled machine to you, then you’re a keenly observant reader. If this sounds like a sure-fire way to make my head explode, then we’ve obviously met at some point. And explode my head did, somewhere around the turnpike on ramp, when I realized we were running too late for me to get a coffee and doughnut. By the time we got to the amusement park, I had in fact calmed down and was ready to have some fun. A great time was had by all, although the day was not perfectly smooth sailing, but that tends to be how anything with a six year old generally goes. By the time we got home that night, everyone was ready to relax some, and head to bed early.
All of the melodrama could have easily been avoided with some careful planning (or even some not-so-careful planning, like throwing food in the cooler the night before). I’ve always known that I function better with lists and plans, and I’ve made this point to Dwight on many occasions, but this time it simply didn’t happen; spontaneity isn’t supposed to involve lists and plans, right? All of this chaos is to introduce you to an all too normal chain of events for me, and to point out one way in which my Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (or PDD-NOS, for short) happens to show itself.
You can easily check into PDD-NOS if you like, but suffice it to say, this is one disorder on the autism spectrum. Forget everything you think you know about people on the autism spectrum, because one of us might be sitting next to you right now. Someone you considered “quirky” or “a bit odd” might indeed fall into these same ranks. Ask my husband, he’ll tell you that he would never have imagined his wife of eleven years to have been on the autism spectrum. But earlier this year, after living with it for thirty-one years, I was told that I do indeed have PDD-NOS. It wasn’t until then that I had even heard of this, but all of a sudden friends of mine in psychology were chiming in with “Oh, yeah, that makes sense” comments. I found this out after I hit a metaphoric brick wall while talking to my grief counselor after my sister’s violent and sudden suicide.I had always felt different growing up, never quite fit in, and always had problems communicating with others, let alone relate to them. For me, this was not necessarily a welcome pronouncement, but one that held a measure of relief and helped to give me some reasons. It’s not been entirely helpful, in part due to the stigma and preconceptions around autism spectrum disorders, and in part due to my own reactions to the label, but overall it’s been useful at the very least.