I’ve always been different. I never really got into trouble as a kid or teenager. I never drank in high school and to this day, I’ve never done any form of recreational drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Peer pressure was just something I didn’t pay much attention to.
Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a husband and a father. When everyone else was thinking about being a doctor or politician, I was thinking about having a family of my own.
Obviously, I needed a career as well but that was more of a means to an end.
I had an amazing pair of role models in my parents and while I know they aren’t perfect, they always set a good example. My Mom and Dad always put us first. They made a choice early on that my Dad was going to be in our daily lives. He had a career but it never took priority over us, if that makes sense?
When my friends parents were getting divorces, my parents were still very much in love and it showed. We may not have had much in the way of money or material things but we always got what we needed. My parents made sure of that and with six kids, that’s not an easy task.
The long and short of it is that while not perfect, I had a very good example of what a father and husband should be. That bar is set pretty damn high and for good reason. Anyone that knows my parents will tell you the same thing, because it’s true.
That’s one of the many reasons why I’m so disappointed in myself recently, today in particular.
When I dreamt of having a family all those years ago, it never occurred to me that there may be challenging circumstances, outside of my control. I had never even heard of things like Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Common Variable Immunodeficiency, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Fibromyalgia, Chronic pain or even Depression for that matter. I was a kid and nothing like that had ever touched my family.
Like most parents, I’ve established a set of expectations for myself and I do my best to live up to them. Lately however, I’ve been falling short of meeting those self-imposed expectations.
Some may argue that I have set the bar too high for myself and objectively, I can see that being a possibility. That said, how many parents out there don’t think their family deserves the best?
My expectations are such that I feel they are a bare minimum of what a father and husband should be or do.
A father is supposed to be patient with his kids and lead by example. He should provide for their needs, both physical and emotional. It’s his job to keep them safe and provide them with a childhood.
A husband is supposed to support his wife. Treat her with respect and show her each day, how much he loves her.
In other words, a father and husband is supposed to take care of his family.
More and more often, I’m finding myself without patience. I’m finding myself so overwhelmed that I lash out. Never physically. Never physically. But I have been biting people’s heads off and making everyone walk on eggshells around me. My demeanor helps my kids to feel like they’ve done something wrong or it’s their fault that I’m upset. That’s pretty fucking awful isn’t it. I won’t even phrase that as a question because I already know the answer.
Lizze and the boys face physical and emotional challenges every single day that I can’t possibly imagine.
I deal with Depression and by deal of course, I mean sometimes I do great and other times I struggle. While Depression is tough and I mean that, I’m not hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t really there.
I don’t live in chronic, debilitating pain, every second, every minute, every hour, every day of my life. I’m not dealing with life threatening health conditions that are so dire, they qualify me to have a wish granted. My body isn’t overwhelmed by my senses. I don’t struggle with clothes because they hurt my skin or struggle to find something to eat because my brain perceives sensory input in such a way that most food is intolerable to me.
I don’t struggle with Anxiety so bad that I can’t stop thoughts from running in circles around my head, keeping me up at night and interfering with almost every aspect of my life. I don’t walk around like a bundle of raw, exposed nerves because for some reason, anxious is my default setting.
I’m the only one in my family without special needs and that can be daunting at times. If I’m being honest, it’s daunting all the time but it’s nothing compared to what they are going through.
I tried so hard today but I fell quite short of being the person my wife and kids both need and deserve.
I’m very preoccupied with money right now because we don’t have any. I’m having to pick between bills and groceries. As well, I’m having to juggle groceries and school supplies for the new school year.
I went grocery shopping today but only because I put off something else that will likely come back to bite me.
I’m putting a great deal of effort into offsetting the recent loss in income. Some things are working while others promise great things but ultimately fail to deliver.
The positive is that I’ve built myself into a very unique position over the years and I can use what I’ve built to not only help others but provide for my family as well. That’s great and it’s very real but it’s largely untapped because I’m not sure how to do that. I need PR and marketing help but all that costs money. I’ve done very well on my own, without knowing what I’m doing but I’ve reached a point where I need help.
I simply don’t have the time or resources to write and market things because there’s simply too much going on at home that needs my constant attention. I can’t get anything done.
It’s not the fault of Lizze or the kids. I understand that things are very complicated but at the end of the day, I’m still failing to provide.
Everytime the kids want to play outside and we say no, it kills me. When the kids want to move because they’re scared of the gunfire or whatever else is spilling out into the streets around us, it breaks me. I want so desperately to move and give my family a home they feel safe in. I want the kids to be able to play in the yard without fear of catching a stray bullet.
I can’t fix this. Their childhood will be over before they get to have one and that is unforgivable.
The list of things I need to address is growing and it’s beyond overwhelming.
There are so many things that need to get done and all of them require resources I don’t have. I can’t replace our car and that’s needs to happen soon. I noticed yesterday that somethings wrong with the brakes again and we have a string of trips to Cleveland for both Gavin and Lizze upcoming,
I could easily list a dozen things that are immediately pressing and I can’t do anything about them right now.
While this may come across as self-loathing, it’s not. I’m trying to put into words what I’m struggling with because maybe in doing so, I can begin to process at least some of this shit and move forward.
I also want anyone else out there to know they aren’t alone.
Look, I know that I’m not a bad husband and father, regardless of whether or not I meet the expectations I have set for myself. I know that I do all I physically can to do right by my family. At the same time, I’m facing struggles that scream you’re failing and after awhile, it begins to feel that way.
I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again. As an Autism parent, there isn’t a person I’ve who’s harder on me then me.
It’s not easy to except my very real, very human limitations. I struggle with the mentality that drives me to want to fix everything for everyone and it’s just not possible.
I mentioned above that this isn’t meant to be self-loathing. I said I was putting words to my feelings in order to maybe find a better way to deal with them.
As I’m proofing this post, it occurred to me that perhaps, I’m setting myself up to fail without even realizing it. Maybe I expect too much of myself and while it’s true that I desperately want to do better, some things are simply outside of my control and that doesn’t make me a failure. Maybe…
I’ve got some things to think about and possibly some adjustments to make in regards to what I expect from myself.
My hope is that after reading this, anyone out there who’s struggling with these same feelings, might find cause to reevaluate the expectations they place on themselves as well.
Life isn’t a perfect science. There’s no formula that will provide you with all the answers you need, when you need them but I’m learning something about myself as I’m reading my own words.
At this point in time, I will keep plugging away as best I can. I’m going to try and be a bit more forgiving of myself. Maybe you should think about doing the same.