Depression in Parenting an Autistic Child

By Rhonda Leverett:

In my depression in parenting an autistic child, I began thinking about suicide.

 

Then I found hope.

 

Stock photo by David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stock photo by David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In 1988, my youngest child, Caleb, was diagnosed with autism. I had no idea what autism was, but it looked like this: blank stares; fear of unfamiliar people and surroundings; books, crayons, shoes, and other items stacked in odd-shaped mountains from corner to corner of our house. It sounded like high-pitched squeals, crying, or silence.

I was exhausted, and consumed by fear of the unknown.

My marriage soon soured as well. Too overwhelmed to engage, I could think of nothing so extraneous as my adult relationship. This was survival mode, dysfunction at its finest.

Still, I prayed. The weakest prayers known to womankind maybe, but I knew God loved us, and I prayed.

Fast forward seven years, no marriage counseling, and many autism therapies later—Caleb was not better, but dramatically worse. Everything was worse.

My daughter and her stepfather fought constantly. She, fourteen, and my oldest son, Cliff, eleven, had become my assistants in curtailing Caleb’s now dangerous behaviors—and in cleaning up messes like broken eggs, broken glass, and smashed food. The understanding that they had not experienced childhood themselves bore heavy on me day and night, but I had no alternative to offer.

My daughter announced she intended to live with my parents, and ran away to prove it. Her grandparents supported her desire, due to my unwillingness to leave my husband. There had been separations, but I always came home because it seemed impossible to find anyone willing to take us in due to the challenges of autism.

Determined to escape what had become an intolerable situation, I called a shelter for help. Although hauntingly destructive, emotional trauma was not shelter criteria.

I moved into my daughter’s room and shut out the world, even my boys. I watched the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” every night, all night, for three weeks, and slept during daylight hours.

Thinking About Suicide

I had drawn the conclusion that life was not worth living.

One bleak afternoon, I sunk down on the bathroom floor and contemplated taking my life, even considering a suicide plan.

I heard Caleb then…but in reality, the house was silent. My husband had taken the boys somewhere. Nevertheless, I heard my son in my heart. He cooed as when he was a baby. I saw him reaching for me. My suffocated mind received the oxygen needed to remember this Truth—my life had purpose.

My children needed me. I remembered this just in time.

I stood up, put everything away, and washed my face.

I would live, because I am a mother—and because I am a daughter, God’s own daughter. I live because I was rescued by Jesus Christ long ago, on a cross.

He died to save you, too. If you cry out to Him, He will meet you wherever you are.

He will remind you of your purpose, and that you are loved.

If you turn to Him, He will save your life.

Read an update by Rhonda Leverett about her son (now-grown) and her own joyful life at rhondaleverett.com. 

One Christian resource for parents of autistic children is Autism’s Hidden Blessings, by Kelly Langston. You can read an excerpt at kellylangston.com.

Moms of special needs children may be encouraged by this video from Kelly Langston: