There were times when my days seemed endless and I felt trapped. Living in what appeared to be a constant state of crisis management – always waiting for the other foot to drop. Constantly, vigilantly on the lookout for triggers, for potential meltdown material. My life swirled around me as if I had been consumed by a gigantic wave and had lost my spatial awareness, searching for something to push off of – desperately trying to make it to the surface and gasp for air. There were times when panic would settle in – doubt in myself, in my ability to cope and manage. Doubt in whether it would ever change…

Days were long, bleak and simply rolled one into the other – an endless litany of chaos.

Resentment built like water behind a dam, waiting to be released in the most non-productive explosive way – the kind of display that leaves you feeling disgusting inside, guilt-ridden, self-shaming and depleted. I could see myself and wondered ‘how did I get here and when will this end?’

Desperation that has no bottom – an indistinguishable beginning and no end in sight. I pushed against, fought hard and was tirelessly relentless – with doctors, service providers, my husband, family, friends and with Myles. There were fleeting signs of hope, few and so far, between but it’s what began to carry me through.

Instead of focusing on getting through the day and laying my head on my pillow or looking forward to the five minutes I would steal on the toilet to cry and release so I didn’t explode – I became fixated on those moments of breakthrough. I lived for his attempt to make a noise, the one bite I successfully got into his mouth without getting a black eye or the nights that he went to bed after 3 hours of crying instead of it taking 6.

Those moments became more frequent and closer together until the day when they were strung together to form an interaction, a sentence, and an experience. And the tears flowed for different reasons. They flowed from exhaustion of trying; from feeling like I had been hung over the edge of a cliff and having clawed my way back to safety.

As the momentum gathered, a shift was made and I found it challenging to keep up. I realized Fear was still my primary motivator – I feared going back more than rejoicing where we were, I feared not knowing when a meltdown would come and I feared not knowing whether I would be strong enough to manage him.

And then, I let go…

It was not a miraculous awakening, in fact I held on tooth and nail. But the time had come to let go of the trauma and no longer allow myself to identify with it. I realized autism and his outcome was not a cross for me to bear, it did not define me and that’s when faith opened the door and stepped in. It was through conversations with friends, guidance from mentors and a deep conviction to my own personal work that I realized Myles is held in and of his own right, just as I am – as we all are. And the outcome of any given situation or circumstance while I do play a hand in it, does not define me as a person. I let go of the mindset that Myles’ battle with autism is what defines me as a woman and mother and I began to cultivate a new way of thinking.

The reality is that autism IS a large contributing factor in our world – as individuals and as a family but it does not define us. It does not limit, restrict or diffuse our life experience – it has enhanced it. I have learned from and through Myles how powerful it is to live from love – to not be afraid to feel, to show your struggle, and to be authentic. Of course I have concerns for what his future holds but that’s part of being a parent.

My practice now is to provide the framework, lovingly hold him accountable because I know he is capable and be witness to his journey – celebrate his successes of all sizes, pick him up when he stumbles and love him through it all. This is not the life I thought I would live – it is far more meaningful, passionate and real.

We all have our struggles, traumas and conditioned beliefs and it does not serve us to compare our scars to others. What does matter is whether we choose to live from fear or love – whether we stay fixated on what has happened and how damaged it’s left us or whether we choose to see it as a setup for what’s to come. We are all living out our own unfolding but together, side by side. I find it remarkably beautiful how we come together to witness one another’s journey, to lift someone up when they stumble and lovingly hold them accountable in their unfolding of becoming the best version of themselves.

Life is crazy, that’s for sure… crazy awesome!

By: Erin Schumacher

Erin is first and foremost a mom to her 5 year old son Myles who has autism. He is her first full time job, ultimate teacher and grounding inspiration in life and love. Successful entrepreneur of eleven years, Erin runs two businesses, sits on the advisory board for an autism foundation and teaches yoga for kids with special needs. Her passion is the work she does as a professional life coach assisting her clients in cultivating self worth, strengthening self-love, finding balance and being fearlessly authentic. Erin is a lover of hiking, skiing and yoga. She is a foodie, loves all things personal development and snorts when she laughs. It is her belief both personally and professionally that by sharing our story, being authentic and vulnerable, we give others permission to embrace themselves, claim their worth and dare greatly in life and love!

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