I hear this regularly, from friends, autism parents I meet, from my own mouth.
“I’m afraid. All the time.”
We’re afraid of the future. We’re afraid of what would happen to our kids if something happens to us. We’re afraid of whether our best is good enough. We’re afraid of failing.
We’re afraid of not knowing how we’re going to pay all these bills. We’re afraid of being abandoned by family and friends and the local support resources that are never enough. We are afraid we’ll never be enough.
We’re afraid that it will always be so hard for our kids to face life’s challenges. We are afraid they’ll get injured or hurt and have no idea how to tell us what’s going on. We’re afraid that they will be bullied. We’re afraid that one person after another will take advantage of them.
We’re afraid that they will not have opportunities to live independently or have a job. We’re afraid they might never find the kind of love and joy in life we hope for them. We’re afraid that we will fail them in not giving them what they need for the best possible life.
We are afraid of what their life will be like without us someday, and who will take care of them when we die.
I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of everything we are afraid of. If we sit still for a minute, the fear threatens to overwhelm us.
What are we to do?
We’re never going to eliminate the fear entirely, nor should we. But I’ve tried to find ways to get a handle on my fears, start seeing what I can do about them, and make some sort of peace with them.
Here are a few I’ve found useful:
- Start by writing your fears down in a journal or even on slips of paper. You can keep your writing private until you feel ready to share it with someone, or you can keep it private forever. Don’t censor yourself when you write. Just let it flow out. There are no right or wrong answers or ways to write. Grammar, sentence structure, paragraphs – none of that matters here. Just write freely and get it out on to screen or paper.
- As you begin to identify the specifics of your fears in what you wrote down, you can take these into meditation, prayer, or quiet reflection. Whether you profess a particular religious faith or none at all, the idea here is to get to a place of quiet (or at least a quieter place) and open yourself and your fears up to something beyond and greater than yourself. Do this gradually, as it’s easy to feel even more overwhelmed if you take it on too quickly.
- Speaking some of our fears out loud to another parent is also a great start if you feel comfortable doing so. You can’t keep your fears and worries locked inside. They will just fester like an untreated wound and become so much worse. We are not made to do this work alone. In relationships we can begin to make sense of our challenges and fears and overcome them.
- Talking to other parents online is often a safe place to start, especially if talking by phone or in person is awkward for you. Look for groups on Facebook, and try them out with easier conversations until you feel the trust you need to share more deeply. If this interests you, I can point you in the direction of some good ones.
- Find a trusted counselor or person skilled at providing personal support and talk it through with them. There’s so much to be said for carving out time just for you to attend solely to your needs. You likely spend most of your time looking out for others. It’s time to spend some attending to yourself.
I am organizing sessions to work with autism parents one-on-one to do just this. If you are interested, let me know. This can be your special time to focus just on yourself, talking through what you are afraid of, and strategies for overcoming those fears one by one. When you find someone you click with, you will never regret investing in yourself and your well-being.
Regardless, don’t hold the fears inside you. Fears weaken when exposed to air, light, and connections with others. You are human. You and I were never meant to carry these challenges and fears on our own.
Begin the process of addressing your fears within yourself and reach out to others for guidance, understanding, and support. We’re out here, and we’re ready to help you. We know what those fears feel like. And the way through them is together.