My cupboards are full of supplements, medications, homeopathic remedies and herbal tinctures. Us biomed mums stockpile everything; especially precious supplements that help improve the health of my two girls. When you live as I do in a country where ASD-specialty supplements are not easily accessible and must be specially imported at great expense, buying in bulk is a necessity.
Apart from the cupboards, I also have 'the bookshelf,' where discarded and unused supplements go to gather dust and wither. The bookcase is crammed with numerous autism books, old therapy data sheets, medical reports, conference notes, ASD product literature, leftover jars of supplements, my paperbacks and Hubby’s serious non-fiction books. He used to hide my girly books behind his books out of embarrassment when people came to visit! We were running out of space, the bookshelf was cluttered, unorganized, neglected and crying out for help. Much like the state of my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I wonder what a psychiatrist would say if he ever took a peek at my bookshelf. Does this represent a chaotic frazzled mind? Or does it reflect a dedicated autism mum who’s juggling countless balls in the air?
The journey to recovery for both Mei and Min Min’s has been riddled with regressions and setbacks. Every time we went through a bad patch, I’d stare at my bookcase for inspiration. Is there a book there I should re-read? A supplement there I could re-introduce? Any notes or literature gathered at numerous conferences I could seek answers from? And those dusty little bottles…..if I gave them a second chance, would they help my girls? If I opened the bottles, would a magical genie pop out in a whoosh of smoke and solve all of our problems? Those supplements and remedies sat on my bookshelf for years, rejected. Yet they were too precious to throw away. Those silent jars taunting and mocking me with their broken promises, mourning for their failure to heal my girls, regrets over the wasted money, an unwanted reminder of yet another hope dashed.
As part of managing life with autism, I needed to manage my own emotional, mental and spiritual health. Otherwise I’m left with too much emotional baggage and no more strength or passion left to nourish my soul, my relationships and myself.
So what’s this I call emotional spring-cleaning?
It’s when my mind gets too cluttered, there’s too much conflict in my innermost thoughts, and I can’t think rationally or clearly. I need to clean out the excess baggage, get rid of the cobwebs and binding chains that hold me back. When things get too much, I take a little time-out to regroup my thoughts, to find balance and inner harmony. Most times, this is terribly hard especially when we feel that we are living in a whirlwind tornado called autism.
I recharge by reading, getting massages, and shoe porn (that’s what Hubby calls it when I surf the Web drooling over the latest Jimmy Choo collection!). When autism entered our life, my love for sci-fi/fantasy and chick-lit novels was replaced by autism books. Eventually, I got over the guilt of reading just for pleasure. I love traditional Thai massage. Nothing brings on the bliss like being prodded by elbows, knees and feet and bent like a pretzel. I walk out with wobbly legs, froofy hair and a blissful smile. If I can’t afford a massage, I give Hubby a foot-massage. He usually returns the favor. All marriages need time and effort to bloom, it’s harder to do so when there’s autism in the mix. Don’t forget to pray, pray for good things. Send good vibes to the universe to help others in need. The universe repays you with good karma. We all need divine intervention and all the luck in the world.
Not everyone has the luxury of finding time for themselves. I am very blessed with a supportive husband and family, enabling me to take time out when I most needed it. Mind you, there were years where I was not able to do any of these things, even a 5-minute shower was a luxury then. Autism and being a Mum took over every ounce of my strength and focus. Over time, I found ways to bring some balance back into my life. A much needed realignment of a life that was terribly skewed.
Each of us have different coping mechanisms, different strategies to emotional spring-cleaning and nourishing your soul. I’d love to tell you that I do yoga, transcendental meditation, attend the symphony and other elegant, spiritual endeavors. But my guilty pleasures are more mundane, usually whilst dressed in worn-out sweatpants. Vampire chick-lit, (don’t judge!) listening to Duran Duran or even shoe porn, I try to do something just for me. As selfish as it may sound, it helps me be a better mother, wife, and person.
Today, I’m going to hold off cleaning out my bookshelf. Instead, I’m going to hug and kiss my daughters, for that’s where the source of all my bliss lies…
*Mei & Min Min
About the Author:
Marissa Bagshaw is a mother of 2 children who are recovered from autism. Her blog Spectrum Mum in Malaysia is inspired by her daughters' journey through autism. Marissa is the founder of KL Biomed, a support network for autism families doing biomedical intervention in Malaysia and neighbouring Asian countries. She is also a co-founder of The Thinking Moms' Revolution. Marissa lives with her husband and daughters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.