An Open Letter to the Friend I Pushed Away

I am sitting here thinking about our relationship and about how much I love you. And how I rarely see you. We joke that it’s because life is so busy. We are in our thirties and have jobs and babies. We are in that stage of life I guess.

We are always saying that this is the month that we will finally find the time to get together. And when this month passes we will laugh via text and joke about how someday soon we will have more time. One of these days we will actually get together and do something. I’m not sure if that’s entirely true though…at least not for me.

My life is different. As much as we want to pretend it’s not…it is. We are different. We are best friends. We are practically family. I love you and your babies. But we are different. And we dance around it like it’s not true. Like the differences aren’t the white elephant in the room.

My son has autism. He has a disability that has completely turned my life upside down. It’s been re-routed more times than I can count. And most days friend I am just hanging on for dear life.

I Am Sorry

I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry that I don’t make plans with you. I am sorry that I won’t commit to doing anything. And mostly, I am sorry that I always cancel. You know that cliche, ‘It’s not you it’s me.’ Well, this time it’s true. This is all on me.

This morning I woke up at 3:07 am with Cooper. This is common in my world. Some days are worse than others. There are mornings where he kicks me. Mornings where I have to physically restrain his 60 pound body. Mornings where I am so close to giving up its scary. And there are mornings where I don’t know how I’ll make it through the day.

I could tell you all this but I don’t. I stopped trying a long time ago. And not just with you friend, but with everyone. My life is not believable. I sound like I am being dramatic. Or, I feel like I am whining. My world is so foreign and confusing that I don’t know how to explain it to anyone. And if I try, like the good friend that you are, you offer solutions. Or ideas. And I know they won’t work. So I stopped talking a long time ago.

Committing to Autism

And because of it I ignore your calls. I send them to voicemail because I physically don’t have the energy to answer. I watch your texts stack up. If we do connect I refuse to commit to plans. Or even worse, if we get something on the calendar, I always cancel. I want you to know I don’t mean too. My son is medically fragile. His needs change from day to day. I literally have no control.

I also cancel because every day in my world is extreme and different. I stopped trying to fit into the world a long time ago. I want you to know that in the beginning I really tried.

When Cooper was two we could still go on play dates or go to parks. I’d look and see you sitting and smiling with our friend group and enjoying your kids. I’d be covered in sweat, running, chasing and on the verge of tears. I’d overhear you all talking about potty training and preschool. I’d be thinking about day treatment and speech therapy and praying to God my kid didn’t hit anybody.

My world is now doctors offices, therapy appointments, and autism. You could say I gave up friend. I don’t look at it that way. I more so committed to my son. And in doing that I had to say goodbye to the rest of the world. Or at least it felt that way in the beginning. I didn’t know how to live in both worlds. It was too hard. Too sad. Too confusing.

I need you to know the weight of my child’s disability rests solely on my shoulders. It’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than our friendship. And it’s completely out of my control.

I Am Different

I know that I am not the friend you remember. I am different. I used to be so much fun. I was up for anything. I feel the strain between us too. God I feel it. I miss you. I miss us. But most of all I miss the friend that I used to be. Sometimes I can tell that you don’t know what to say around me. Maybe you think I’m fragile or sensitive. Or maybe you are worried to tell me about your kids successes because it will hurt me. Please don’t ever feel that way. I love your kids like my own. But, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting.

I sometimes try and figure out how this all happened. How did I turn into a different person. I like to think that it evolved slowly over time. But that is not true. It happened all at once.

It happened the day Cooper was born. Before that we were the same. College, wedding preparations, baby preparations. I was you. You were me. We were young. We were blissful. I was completely and utterly naïve to the hurricane force that was going to soon control my life.

The Autism Label

Then wham. I was different. I had a label. I was an autism parent. I immediately carried it on my shoulders. The roller coaster was more than I could handle at times.

The differences between us were glaringly obvious.

My baby didn’t sleep. Yours did. Mine never stopped crying. Your child cooed and smiled. Mine was chronically ill with ear infections and constipation. I never slept. You did. You’d mention how it was getting easier…this parenting thing. I would just smile.

I saw how you started to miss me. I saw how I started to slip away. Don’t think I didn’t know it was happening. I was part of every second of it. But I could pretend then. We could pretend. Our children were infants. And every mother we knew was exhausted. So this was going to be fine. We would sneak away for a glass of wine and laugh about motherhood. We’d talk about the vacations we would take when they were older.

No More Pretending

Then, the differences started to show in my child. He was no longer just a bad sleeper or a difficult baby. This was more serious. The differences between our children hung in the air when I was with you. Our babies would be sitting side by side on the floor and there was no pretending anymore.

We started talking about how my son was NOT autistic. We would trade stories of other mothers we knew who went through the same thing…and it turned out fine. They were fine. I was going to be fine. This was going to be fine. You’d find a blog post or a news article about a late talker and send it my way. We both agreed it wasn’t autism.

Then, suddenly, I had a diagnosis.

Autism

My life quickly became doctors, therapies and IEP’s. I couldn’t relate to you anymore. And you most definitely couldn’t relate to me. It was like I was in a movie. I watched myself turn invisible right before your eyes. I felt out-of-place. I felt irrelevant. But most of all I felt jealous. My child was different. Yours was not. Your child met milestones. Mine did not. Your child said his first word. Mine did not. Mine would scream and hit his head in frustration. Yours sang me a song. You potty trained your child in a month while I frantically searched for size 7 diapers.

And then I completely slipped away into this new world. I stopped calling. I withdrew. That is the blatant truth. We can dance around it. You can say that you are OK with Cooper. I hear it all the time from friends and family. I know you love him. We all do. But that’s the thing. It wasn’t you. It was me.

I didn’t know how to be a good friend anymore.

I know this would all be fine if we just came for a visit. But we can’t. And we don’t. The preparations for a visit to someone’s house are epic. Do you have a fence? Do you have WiFi? Pets? Do you care about messes? The list goes on. Snacks? Sippy cups? Milk? In a sense I still have a newborn. A 60 pound newborn that can do some serious damage.

And I believe it when you say that you love Cooper. You don’t mind the screaming and the pacing. But I do friend. I care. I care about parenting in front of you. I care that I can’t sit and talk to you because of Cooper. I care that I wake up at 3:15 am. I care that I got poop on your floor while changing my 6-year-old.

In the back of my mind I wonder how long you will hang on. When will it be too much?

My Life

I want you to know that I wake up every day happy with the best of intentions. I’m going to reach out to friends. I’m going to get back into the real world. And by the end of the day sometimes I can’t see straight. It takes all my strength to respond to a day old text message from you. I will go on Facebook and see that you signed your son up for t-ball. Or maybe it’s karate this time. I guess whatever activity a 6-year-old does these days.

I will feel the pain in my stomach. I am over here researching special needs strollers for children. I am trying to figure out how I am going to pay for it. And how I am going to be strong enough to bring it out in public for the first time. How do I find one that won’t stand out? Or make us look too different.

What you are doing isn’t wrong friend. It’s amazing. I am so happy for. Your children are beautiful. You are beautiful.

I’m just not there. I need you to forgive me.

I’m Sorry

I am letting you off the hook friend. Autism isn’t your world. It is mine.

I want to thank you for standing by me. And I want to ask you to not give up on me. Your children are going to continue to grow and thrive. There are times where I think Cooper and I will be in the same exact spot.

Please remember us. We are trying so hard to fit into your world.

I want to promise you that I will come back. I believe this will get easier. One day, I will be me again. And we will be us again. Your kids will be grown. And I will still have Cooper living with me. But we will be fine. This will all be fine.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Comments

  • This field was intentionally left blank

    January 27, 2017 at 5:55 pm
    Reply

    Wow, what a beautifully written post ❤️ I felt your pain, your love, your sorrow, your regret, and your genuineness through your words. […] Read MoreWow, what a beautifully written post ❤️ I felt your pain, your love, your sorrow, your regret, and your genuineness through your words. I wish I could hug you right now. I wish I could take away all the pain. I wish I could rewind time for you. ❤️ I hope that this friend is as good a friend to you as you are to them, and I hope they value your friendship in the same way as you do. I hope they're as good a person as you are. ❤️ If so, they'll come around. They'll help you back into their life. They'll show you the way back into the groove of your friendship. Hopefully, you can simply pick up where you left off. Of course, it'll be different now, but maybe the friendship will at least have a similar harmonic. That's my hope for you. I hear your loneliness. The life you have indeed sounds heavy and lonely. So many "have-to"s. So much outside the curve of "normal". But I don't think you're complaining at all. I think that every word you wrote is highly justified, and you are entitled to every bit of it. And I admire your strength, for so many reasons. First, the strength to get through each day. Second, the strength to think this way. Third, the strength to write it out. And fourth, the strength to hit that "Publish" button. Wow. I'm amazed and filled with admiration. Because you are truly amazing. Love this post and your blog so much! Keep writing, luv ?❤️ ~The Silent Wave Blog writer Read Less

  • Thank you so much!

  • Marbecan

    January 31, 2017 at 6:04 pm
    Reply

    In dealing with this diagnosis, you have to be strong. We spend our days being strong and doing our best to be dependable. […] Read MoreIn dealing with this diagnosis, you have to be strong. We spend our days being strong and doing our best to be dependable. Reading this gave me permission, for a moment, to allow my feelings of weakness to be ok. I don't have friends in the traditional sense. My son is older now, 18 yrs old, and though he is higher functioning, is still in many ways not. I spend many days feeling alone in this journey because I don't have anything left to invest in friendships once I finish with what is needed of me at home, which is everything. Thanks for giving a voice to my inner self that desires to be strong all the time, but is not!!! Read Less

  • Emily Ferguson

    February 3, 2017 at 3:36 am
    Reply

    What a beautifully honest article. Friendships are so difficult to maintain because I am just exhausted and can't relate. My son, Sammy, was […] Read MoreWhat a beautifully honest article. Friendships are so difficult to maintain because I am just exhausted and can't relate. My son, Sammy, was diagnosed with severe, nonverbal autism 8 years ago. I still remember asking the doctor how she could tell that my little 2 year old was on the severe end of the autism spectrum. She explained that she had diagnosed hundreds of children, and that my sweet Sammy was very low functioning. She could just tell. That sent me into a frenzy. I wanted to save him from the dark future that was before him. I spent all of my time and energy seeking the best therapists and enrolled him in the best school. When I look back, I am pleased that I invested so much of myself into his progress, and I wouldn't change anything. By the time I give to Sammy, his 3 children, my husband, and my mother, I am spent. BUT I am blessed to have 4 very low maintenance friendships. My friends understand that I may not reply to a text for 3 days or that I won't return a call. They understand that I care, but I don't always show it. I am grateful they understand that autism is 24/7 and that I don't have much time or energy to invest into being a friend. Read Less

  • Emily Ferguson
    to Emily Ferguson

    February 3, 2017 at 3:38 am
    Reply

    *his 3 siblings, not 3 children...haha, nope that won't be happening...

  • Miles' Momma

    February 6, 2017 at 7:45 pm
    Reply

    Thank you for writing the words I couldn't find. I am where you are. I sent this to my closest friends. Who happen to have […] Read MoreThank you for writing the words I couldn't find. I am where you are. I sent this to my closest friends. Who happen to have children the same age as my son. I watched them reach milestones that my Miles didn't. I love those kids, as my friend loves my son. But we are in different worlds. Good luck to you and Cooper. <3 Read Less

  • Jan
    to This field was intentionally left blank

    November 6, 2017 at 4:39 pm
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this ... I am glad someone understands me!!! You are a god sent I couldn’t have explained it any better. […] Read MoreThank you so much for this ... I am glad someone understands me!!! You are a god sent I couldn’t have explained it any better. I do believe it will get better because it has too. God bless you Read Less

  • Susan

    November 10, 2017 at 7:00 am
    Reply

    As a mom of a child with ASD, I feel your honest writings and I have to commend your honesty and your transparency. I have […] Read MoreAs a mom of a child with ASD, I feel your honest writings and I have to commend your honesty and your transparency. I have felt like that for years and now I have made a choice to take time our for friends and I have been blessed by friends who now understand why I was the way I was all those years... isolated and aloof... your child needs you to be your best and friends bring out the best in us ... so hang on to those friends who are by your side and for those who do not...it’s their loss not yours... love ❤️ Susan Read Less

  • Mindy Kaszerman
    to This field was intentionally left blank

    January 6, 2018 at 8:04 am
    Reply

    Wow! Replace 60 lb 6 year old with 150 lb 15 year old and this is me!

  • carolyn

    January 7, 2018 at 7:15 pm
    Reply

    100% accurate. I have lost and distanced myself from so many relationships over the years, mainly because I got tired of feeling like I was […] Read More100% accurate. I have lost and distanced myself from so many relationships over the years, mainly because I got tired of feeling like I was a visitor from a different planet. Straddling two worlds, one with our 2 typical children and the other with our boy diagnosed with cp, asd with dangerous self injury and aggression for 16 year. Last year I finally gave up. We created a separate living arrangement for him, where he is now supported with 24 hr care. You'd think that would solve the problem, and open up the possibility to a "normal life", but the guilt and admission to failure is almost as difficult as the living hell we were in prior to this arrangement. It's honestly a no-win situation. All I can say, is keep your head up, stay strong, and know that you are NOT alone. Read Less

  • Bettina Steen Brix

    March 13, 2018 at 5:58 am
    Reply

    You are - without doubt - the strongest woman I have ever come across! Honest, clever, well-spoken, truthful and my heart goes out to […] Read MoreYou are - without doubt - the strongest woman I have ever come across! Honest, clever, well-spoken, truthful and my heart goes out to you as a mother, wife, friend. If I had the honour of being your friend, I would be crying my eyes out over this completely raw and honest post: how you manage to say the things we only think - the stings, the battles - everything! Cooper , your friends and your family is so lucky to have you - I can only begin to imagine how your everyday life is - but know that you are doing an amazing - truly amazing job for him. I know it can be dangerous to reach for the stars in case you don't reach them... but do keep trying, sweet girl - if anyone can, it's you!! Sending you all the best wishes for the future from a reader in Denmark who has truly learned to count her blessings Read Less

  • Sue

    August 19, 2018 at 10:06 am
    Reply

    My heart goes out to all of you! But, I have one question--Are all of you single parents? Why aren't the dads taking […] Read MoreMy heart goes out to all of you! But, I have one question--Are all of you single parents? Why aren't the dads taking a more active role in taking care of the children so Mom can get out with her friends once in a while? Every parent needs a break! Read Less

  • tammy carroll
    to Sue

    November 10, 2018 at 10:34 pm
    Reply

    sue. i agree. why cant dad be more involved? this lady struggles badly. n needs breaks? y cnt she go with her friend?

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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