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I want my boys to learn to be kind people, to seek out ways to help others. This can be very difficult when many children with Aspergers have such a hard time focusing on how others might feel, or why they should go out of their way to help someone. Despite how difficult it is to teach them these things, it remains one of my top priorities. I have seen for myself how even one small act can start a series of changes that makes a person's life better.
It all started with a kind neighbor.
Ever since Mason's birth I had wallowed in one form of depression or another. I was very good at hiding how I was really feeling, but the depression was always there, just under the surface. At first I told myself it was just postpartum depression, it would get better after awhile, there was no need to get any help. Jodie did notice and tried to encourage me to go to the doctor, but the idea paralyzed me with fear. So now it was just over two years later, and I was still struggling. I had just had Connor, and, to add to everything, he did not sleep. Ever. I really mean that. He would doze off for 30 minutes, then wake right back up. All night long. All day long. The only time I got to sleep was on the weekends when Jodie was home. And, even then, I didn't get much sleep. I couldn't sleep. I was constantly in a fog, mostly just plopping Mason in front of the TV and hoping something, ANYTHING would get Connor to sleep. And wondering why, when Jodie was home, I couldn't sleep even though I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion.
Across the complex lived a woman who was about my age. She had a daughter Mason's age, and had just had a baby a couple of months before I had Connor. She was very friendly and had invited me to bring the boys and come on over anytime. Yet I couldn't. I was busy suffering, feeling anxious all the time, crying because I was trying to keep breastfeeding and Connor seemed to hate it. I could barely get out of bed some days, and I certainly didn't feel like socializing. One day we were at church, and my neighbor said I looked tired. I explained that Connor really didn't sleep. She offered to take the boys one day, so I could sleep, and I said, "Oh, sure, sure." People make offers, but they don't always pan out. Imagine my surprise when the next day she called and asked if she could run over and grab the boys. I stuttered out something about Connor being really cranky and I didn't know if it would work...but she insisted. I packed up some formula and numbly let her take them. Then I slept. For four or five glorious hours I slept.
Her act of kindness, just that one act, started a chain of events. I woke up, refreshed. I washed some dishes, I showered, and I went to get the boys. Connor was calm and sleeping. SLEEPING! A different baby. At first I thought she was some magical baby guru. Then, in my newly rested state of mind, I realized that Connor had eaten only formula that day. I hadn't breastfed for hours, and I didn't even feel "full." I must not be producing enough for him! That night I started using solely formula. And he started sleeping! Which meant I started getting some more rest. I still suffered from depression, but, because I wasn't so tired all the time, I could push it down. So I started going to an aerobics class (with the same neighbor) and walking twice a week with a group of women. I started feeling that I could do something about my depression. So I finally, finally forced myself to go to the doctor. I was terrified to say the words, "I think I have depression." But, somehow, I did. Then came the blood tests and a meeting with a counselor where it was determined I had a hormonal imbalance which was causing the depression. I was put on medication, and I started to get a real handle on my life. Though things aren't perfect, and the depression and anxiety can still rear its ugly head, I'm no longer afraid to deal with it or talk about it. I have control over it.
I don't know how much longer it would have taken me to get help if I hadn't started with that one day of sleep. My old neighbor most likely has no idea what that one day did for me, what a chain reaction it would set off. I will always be grateful. And I will always try to do small acts of kindness, and make sure my family does, too. Because you never know what one small act can start...or what it can do for a person.
Because, for me? It all started with a kind neighbor.