Don't get depressed or anything....

Depression. Not to be taken lightly, so I won't call this D is for Depression.
As I have said I am not a professional so I am not going to comment on what can be a serious psychological condition which should be identified and treated.

I won't even presume to advise on the condition known as "re-active depression" which can assault a parent on diagnosis. It is supposed to be acceptable because it is in reaction to a concrete cause. But does that mean you can or should treat it chemically?
Who knows? and who am I to judge as I have another sip of Beaujolais.... mmm ahhhhhh...

All I can do is offer up the ways I try to keep away the "Black Dog" of the dark days. The days when you do not want to get up and at em. When you just want to curl up in a ball and say "I hate my life!"

Because we all have those days. We all have a lot of them in the beginning, when we are learning that the little life plan we mapped out for ourselves and our offspring is not going to work out.
But we also have them along the way. "Autistic Days" as one Mum calls them. Whether that means she is feeling her own autism, or the raw reality of her child's autism, I am not sure. Either way it can be tough enough.

Yes, it is easy to slip into self pity. And avoiding that means reminding yourself there are others that are worse off, and convincing yourself that things are going to be better for you in the future. You see my shade of normal actually cushions me from the negative thoughts. Living and acting as if this is how my life is meant to be protects me and my mental health.
It is when I have to face the real world that I start to slip down the black hole.

I have two kids with moderate to severe autism. One of them has a worse mix of effects.
Bratty is going to have a hell of a time ever learning to talk with any fluency. She can communicate thanks to home programs, Intensive PECS and belated consultation with a very skilled speech and language therapist. At the age of 8 she cannot and probably will not ever hold a pencil to write her name independently.
But she can google and sign on to Hoobnet using her name and Hooby password, she can shop (but not bid) on ebay and has been known to independently install the latest version of flashplayer. She is also charming, ruthless and beautiful
Her brother is highly verbal and thanks again to intensive home programs, is very articulate in describing his interests and wants. He had the gift of a special needs teacher who believed in him and as a result has been shown to excel academically at a level well above his age group when the skills were broken down and tailored to his interests. My pride in what that teacher achieved with my Boo is inestimable.
He too is extremely computer literate; he can google, search Youtube, and type at 150 words per minute. He uses fonts, backgrounds and features on Word for Windows that I didn't know existed and can sit and use the chat on gmail in an admittedly eccentric way. He engages with fellow human beings who can help him; and is therefore has a preference for adult company; he does not like other kids. That does not bother me; all kids grow up eventually.

I have a lot of pride and hope for my kids. They both have very challenging behaviours, which can make some days very wearing. Hence the self medicating with the appellation controllee.
But I always feel that somehow those challenges can and will be overcome.

Now what does get me down; when I think about it too much, when I allow the shutter to open and show me the big clear picture, is the fact that it is very probable that neither of my two children will ever learn to cross the road safely on their own.

I understand that we could do a Task Analysis and teach each child step by step to recognise the RED MAN and the GREEN MAN at the kerb. And to look left and right and right again.
And I think if we taught it intensively enough we could teach them to understand when it is probably safe to cross the road.
But we could never factor in All of the variables that would allow them to walk across any street, in any town, Alone.
Even if you teach them to wait for the lights, there are going to be intersections without traffic lights or a crossing.
If you teach the look right, look left, look right, there are going to be intersections that are never quiet; where you just have to judge the distance between you and the nearest car and cross then. And you could never teach them to factor in how fast a car appears to be going, whether it is likely to be driven by someone sensible or some yob in a burberry cap who is flat footing it while listening to vile misogynist rap music and is not going to notice the love of your life stepping out from the curb.
When I arrived in Ireland I was fascinated by the County abbreviations on numberplates.
Where I come from we would rely on the broad generalisations about ethnic characteristics and the age of the driver to make snap judgements. (the wearing or storage of a hat in the rear window, or the addition of doilies on the rear parcel tray would be a good guide)
How could such a small demarcation as one of 32 counties make any difference?
But I soon learned to judge by those county initials when combined with a year and make of car; just how much time I had to cross the road with the buggy!
So even if I teach my babies to wait and look, will that mean they are still waiting and looking hours later as yet another car appears on the flat horizon?
Or will they look and walk only to find that a car comes screeching around a blind corner, without giving way. Help!!!

And that is just the tip of the iceberg of maternal worry and fear. I refuse to get into the whole area of manipulation and exploitation that awaits the Alien Autie who dares to explore planet earth alone.
As that crazy Icelandic songstress Bjork said "there is definitely no logic to human behaviour"; Well where does that leave my babies?

Best not to think about it, for now.

The other way I keep the black dog from the door is to only focus on what I can change, and think and plan and create ways to achieve that change. Projecting all my energy into what I can achieve keeps me positive. That is why I have to involve myself in the big picture of social change, because it will ultimately lead to an improvement in my personal outcomes. A better world for my kids to grow up in. And many parents, not just those with kids who have special needs; feel like that.

Even getting angry when the social change is being thwarted, is better than getting sad. As the great Tony Soprano says; Anger is depression turned outwards. Kicking in doors and shouting and marching sure beats being curled up in the foetal position on a two seater couch in your dressing gown at 3am; hating your life and crying until you cannot draw breath.
So do get mad when you have to (don't whack anybody) but try to be pro-active in your anger. Channel your passion into writing letters to the editor, phoning, texting or emailing radio stations and aim to articulate exactly why you are angry. Offer evidence and example to explain your situation and relate it to the bigger picture. Better angry than sad. Better angry at the wider world than flipping out with your kids who did not after all choose, to be born with special needs.
And anger doesnt give you wrinkles! whereas frowns and tears give you lines and puffy eyes.
Speaking of looking good; This is important for your mental health too!
While I can see a place for anti-depressants; I would also give equal value to a really nice new lipstick. Don't go around with your hair unbrushed, face unwashed or unshaven, and wearing clothes that you could comfortably have slept in.
If you get out of bed and do a lot of stuff for your kids; great, well done. But if you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and see a grey faced and worn out old drone with bedhead (squashed flat and sticking up at the back as opposed to "scratcher chic")
Well, you are hardly going to smile back.
You need to smile at yourself, then you can smile at everyone else and if they try to mess with you; You will feel a whole lot more confident knowing you look your best.
So on a bad day, put on your lippie, your eyeliner, your touche eclat and your favourite perfume and go out and tell the world to FECK OFF! because you are fabulous. (even if you don't feel it that day)
I also swear by shoe shopping. When my sister was having chemo and worrying about early menopause we were discussing PMT and how such things affected us. She asked me how I could tell if I had the "blues" and I said I just look at my feet. If I'm wearing new shoes; then I know I it's just that time of the month.
It aint always about shoes (but if it is visit my boyfriend Imelda on
Maybe if the budget is tight, try a bit of vintage or thrift. I just love to trawl through charity shops. Not looking for anything in particular but just whatever catches my eye or fits my arse. It is also a great place for out of print children's books and videos (which are extinct in Boo's words). You can then come home with new-old levis, a nice sweater and a few videos to keep everyone happy.
For seriously good shopping Karma, try having a good clean out before you go. It is good Feng Shui to get rid of all the excess in your life; as it enables you to attract new luck.
Very spiritual huh?
Well in my world, I know if I let go of the 1980's padded shoulder jackets and Mom jeans (with the high waist which shows off your front bottom) then I will be more likely to find a pair of Bally Loafers or even an Armani jacket in the "Cancer Research" shop.
And the best part? If you take it home and decide you don't like it; Donate it back! Everyone wins.
More later, and keep those comments coming!
We all need to know how others cope. Sharing is Caring as my Boo says.



Gracie:) said…
Hammie I put everything in a journal, if I kept it all in my head I would go crazy.
Don't start me on crossing the road, im going to get my very clever son to design a Jet Pack to get acress ;)
Its the easiest thing in the world to slip into self pity and want to curl up and ignore the life you have, but we can't.
You have a treble calling in that your bringing your children along to thier potential and encouraging others to do the same.
Our Sue said…
Hi Hammie, have you been inside my head lately?? recognise most of those feelings and thoughts, great to see my head is not alone.. ds is 9, another computer whiz kid who loves ebay,nintendo, tv and utube but does not like kids, rain, vegetables (of any colour),wearing shoes or sitting quietly (no mass for us any more). dd is 5, non autistic and passing ds out at a rate that makes me sad.. the world is a much easier place for her!! thanks for the blog, lots of food for thought!!!
Anonymous said…
Hey Hammie,
Sometimes the good old reliable clich├ęs work:- “emphasise the positives,” “the glass is half full,” “there’s always someone worse off,”etc. Although, depending on just how down you feel, if someone says that to you, they risk getting a smack in the nose (ok then, a scowl.) I find a positive outlook essential for the mental health. My dad swears by it and he is heading into his mid 80’s.

A bit of “me time” is essential. Whatever you like, a little and often does the trick. It’s important to look after yourself too.

I find isolation a huge contributor to feeling down. When I first had my babies, I was the classic case of new person in a small village, knew nobody. It can be frightening when the only way you know the difference between the different days, is to check what day of the week is on your babies bibs! Thank God things have improved there. Reach out, and you find you are not the only one feeling the way you do.
Hugs to all
Anonymous said…
You are an inspiration to us all - do you have any idea how many people you are helping? We have been told our son may be autistic, waiting for an assessment now. Have no idea where to turn, have a 8 week old baby as well, suicidal does not begin to describe it. How to help my child? Where to go? What is a good st,ot etc? Thanks again - and consider writing a book about it for bewildered parents that do not know where to start. regards, v
Lisamaree said…
Thanks Everyone, Of course there are days when I have to remind myself to think positive and view my troubles through the wrong end of the telescope (so they seem smaller)
Please, if anyone is feeling really down and needs to talk, you can email me on
this is my fair dinkum private address and your mail will be between me and you. It is never as bad as it seems on your own. And who knows, I may be feeling a bit lonely and in need of a cyber chat too!
Anonymous said…
Hiya Hammie,
Love the piece. It really hit a chord with me because as well as dealing with Autism, which is like trying to create a beautiful sculpture out of treacle, my Dad has just been diagniosed with terminal cancer. In a funny way, his cancer has put Autism very much on the back burner and I'm seeing it from a differnet angle at the moment. That even though Autism is a central part of my life, it IS life, there to be celebrated for the short time we have it.
Lip gloss and concealer are the best Prozac going. I made sure to have mine on when the news was broken to my Dad. And I managed not to break down in front of him.
Please keep writing. You're an angel
Lisamaree said…
Ahh Frances, that is tough. Really tough days ahead of you but you are obviously a great Mama and a great daughter too.
I cannot begin to imagine what is in store, but I think the best of it will be knowing that your dad has seen you coping with tough days with your Boo, and will know you are able to be there for him.

And when you need to come and have a cry; we will be here for you.
Anonymous said…
Hey Hammie
Glad to be able to report I haven't been bitten by the 'Black Dog' of the dark days (love your way with words!), but know people who have and would not like to go there. I find that if I think too far into the future that's when the dog starts growling so I have to step away from the dog as quick as possible and head back to my one day at a time, Here I am safe.

I am however guilty of wearing clothes that I could have comfortably worn in bed, having bed head and no lippie in sight for most of every week. This is not due to the fact that my ds has autism more to do with being a stay at home mom to 4 with shag all motivation. Cabin fever is a whole different post. However it causes me no real distress. But I do agree that bit of lippy and bit of care with appearance makes you feel better. Come september ds will head off to mainstream and his wee bro will be in playschool 2days a week so have no doubt I'll be a new woman with time to buy shoes and lippy and hit the charity shops with a vengence.

A little selfishness is good for the mental health, that's what I tell myself. I have finished a special needs course that took up one night a week for around 20 weeks. I do swimming lessons once a week also and this time to myself is invaluable. It pays to have a great hubby and he is. It also helps to have supportive family and friends and we are doubly blessed here. My folks have had my 4 for the last week while myself and himself headed off to Prague with a gang of mates. My parents do this every year for us since my first was born in 2001. Yes we are lucky and we know it. Batteries fully charged and ready to face the next year..the kids have had a ball on their hols and me ma is better than any tutor/teacher ST or OT with my ds. It helps that they all eat and sleep well and have good manners (few things being a stay home mom are good for).

Am bit cowardly when it comes to tackling politicians or health depts head on but have no problem hiding behind the pen or keyboard and writing to them for anything and have successfully done so on a number of occasions. This is where my subtle anger takes hold and is at it's best. One of my finest hours was getting 40 euro from local health board when everyone telling me I was wasting my time writing. I had left kids with my ma 20 miles away to attend a speech therapy session with ds. When I got there all SLT's on training day but had forgot to ring me to cancel session. Angry was not the word but cheque eased the pain.

Anyway that's my take on it. Oh one last thing that works for me to keep the blues away is my friday night drinky night. Bottle of wine chillin for when kids in bed...heaven!

Keep up the brilliant work Hammie. I always look forward to your new blogs and each one as good if not better than the last.

Lisamaree said…
That is really nice to say that Sesame. The depression blog was literally outside my window one morning when I woke up and looked out there for some reason to pull back the duvet and get on with it. Keep writing those letters. xx
Hi Hammie, just reading this now and really needed it this morning....must add to the list of essential reading for all new parents...xx