Growing up, I felt nothing if not broken. Pieces of me littered my landscape, fragmented by fear, fragility, and frequent fury at my mother’s hands. But, I quickly learned to conceal. I aged, married, mothered, was divorced from, and remarried with a lot of those shards in a semblance of order without, yet profusely bleeding me from within. Depression, some said. PTSD. Spiritual depletion. Each correct, but none the complete picture.

Jesus loved me, this I knew, yet, no matter the strategy, I never felt enough for long.

Already raising my children, including two autistics, I lived a conundrum. Encouraging my sweet babes on one hand, grappling with my own confusion in the other. I barely even considered dipping a toe in to the water concerning my own autism. Other family, sure. But, not me.

And, then, in the quiet of a morning a while ago, I felt His prompt to explore the depths of what I had dared not name. Not because I was ashamed, by any means. Just not sure I could call my tiptoe of a thought legitimate in the face of what others experienced.

So, I took test upon test. A bit stubborn at first, but, slowly softening to the Lord, keystroke upon keystroke. And what had stared me in the face much of my life became abundantly clear:  Not only was I a mother to autistics, loving and raising them to love themselves, I was autistic, too, and sorely in need of loving myself in a way I had never been able to bring myself to.

And, what’s more, I was suddenly becoming quite unafraid.

Pieces long jabbing at my soul started coming together in a new, unusually beautiful way. I felt a deeper kinship to my beloved children than ever, and a finally-makes-sense sensation fell over me.

Not that it’s boom. You’re an autist. Here’s your badge, your key to the washroom, and lifetime membership package. Yippee.

There are battles faced. Understanding to be gained both in myself and in others.

Some don’t acknowledge the experience of the mind and heart that does not have a pound of clinical paperwork as backup. Others accuse flippancy for finding joy, just as they did in my finding joy in my children, diagnosis and all. Or bandwagoning. Perhaps I am or will be dismissed quirky, or reminded I suffered abuse, and, therefore, that badge fills my label quota and should explain all.

I hope I can answer each respectfully when I simply state:  I know what I know.

After living this long alongside autism, I just…know. And should’ve known much sooner, if I hadn’t been under a pile of other ready reasons for my struggle.

I further hope there are those who can say:

“Well, all right, then. This is who you are.” And embrace me wholeheartedly, as I seek to embrace who I am in a new light.

For, honestly, it isn’t suddenly that I need a new brand of help, pity, or a cure. I need what I always needed, what my dear children have always needed – recognition and love.

Recognition it is okay to be the way God made us, fine and dandy to be happy with it, and even pretty darn useful to be unconventional. And loved truly and mightily and completely as the next. Without reservation.

Nothing different, truly, than anybody, is it?

And, back to hopes. I hope most of all my kiddos look on and see me a new example of strength, as all these jaggedy pieces of this old gal come together in a fresh way. In an unbroken way-perhaps for the first time since girlhood.

In the end, autistic or not, it’s what we all need.

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Marisa Ulrich

Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals," living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams. Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is set to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing. Join her ongoing thoughts on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Broken-Cookies-Taste-Just-as-Sweet-492541130948912/?fref=ts and online at https://brokencookiessite.wordpress.com/

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