I try to maintain a positive attitude and an optimistic outlook on life, I really do. But I must admit, the past two years were really hard on me. And not just “I locked my keys in the car” or “I didn’t get that job I really wanted” kind of hard. I mean it took a toll on me emotionally, physically, even financially. I probably aged prematurely by about 5-7 years — at least that’s what those grey hairs on my head seem to indicate.

So I’ve decided that this is going to be the year I take charge of myself. No, this is not a New Year’s resolution, it’s a plan for a better me. My son will always be my number one priority of course, but I have come to realize that I too need a little TLC in my life. I’ve let my needs go to the wayside and it’s time I make some changes.

The emotional toll I speak of hit me in two ways. Hard and fast right after we received my son’s autism diagnosis, and slow and steady like a tortoise crossing the road. As the days, months and years have crept by, the stress built up and it was palpable. My anxiety would skyrocket to levels I’d never experienced. What was happening to me?

The physical toll has been just as draining. Feeling perpetually run down and not like ‘myself’. I would see my doctor for every ache and pain, most of which was psychosomatic. Yes, I had become a hypochondriac.

Lastly, the financial toll. I recently read an article that said the cost of supporting a person with an autism spectrum disorder throughout his or her lifetime can soar as high as $2.4 million. *Gasp* I shudder as I type these words. Over $2 million dollars?! My son was denied government funding as he was deemed too ‘high functioning’ – DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THIS. My blood boils when I talk about it and this is probably the subject for another blog. But what I will say is that the costs for our son’s ABA therapy, speech therapy, OT and various other services are bleeding us dry. Having said that, we will do anything for our son and we pay for these services without complaint knowing full well that it’s for his benefit.

So how do I plan on taking charge of my life? Baby steps. There’s a very succinct saying that goes like this: “start wherever you are and start small”. That’s what I will do. I’ll start small and go from there.

Maybe I’ll make more of an effort to go to the gym, which I’m almost always putting off, or I’ll treat my dry, neglected fingernails to a manicure more often. Autism, you’ve kicked my butt for the last time. I am going to take charge and do the things that will make me feel better about myself again.

Parenting a child with autism has its challenges and we get so caught up in taking care of our kids, we lose sight of the bigger picture. If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will. Our kids are counting on us to be there for them for the long haul. Keeping our health and mental well-being in check is vital not only to our children, but to ourselves.

The old me is ready for a comeback.