DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

From Hopeless To Thriving: Raising Children With Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Nikki Weigel

A Journey of Connection for One Mom and Three Boys With Autism

I am all about getting to know people, having connections, and authentic relationships. Those start by telling stories. Stories are strength; a verbal representation of our inner truth. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable telling mine, seven years exactly. But I want to tell you mine now…

I know life can be pretty messy sometimes. Some days I didn't even want to get out of bed. Other days I bounded up, ready to do as many things as I possibly could.

Over the past seven years since I started my road to transformation, I’ve realized that feeling ruined is a gift. (Thanks EAT, PRAY, LOVE) When life is messy, it’s giving us the opportunity to rebuild how we want it to be. It is in those messy times that the deepest learning about ourselves happen. It’s truly a beautiful thing. Yet I am always reminding myself that it’s about progress, not perfection.

The Wake-Up Call

In June  2010, I found myself in a life I wanted out of. I had just lost my younger sister and two year old niece six months prior when they were murdered in a quadruple homicide-suicide. The same week of their deaths, I tried to take my own life. In January 2010 my boys had been in back-to-back car accidents, the second one totaling my vehicle. In April, all three of my boys were diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. Then, topping it all off, I had just woken up to the fact that I was five years into a narcissistically abusive marriage. That summer, life was less than stellar. I wanted out. I wanted change. I wanted it so bad that I could taste it.

In those days, I only saw myself as a wife and Mom. I lived for my family, breathed for them. I was so asleep in my life, and I wasn’t living… I was barely even existing. I was 142 pounds and looked like a stiff wind could blow me over. My hair was falling out, my eyes looked sunken in, I looked like a skeleton woman. People would tell me I looked great because I’d lost 100 pounds through gastric bypass, and that I was a hero because I was raising three kids on the spectrum. I felt like a failure. I felt like "if they only knew the truth" then they wouldn’t say that.

I was scared of my husband. I was scared of making the wrong decision for my kids. I was scared of all of the financial troubles we were having. I was scared of LIFE. 

Then a chance meeting changed it all…

On the six month anniversary of my sister and nieces' deaths, everyone involved in the case met to discuss our personal experiences in realtion to the tragedy. It was in listening to the other families’ description of my sister’s murderer, habits, and other relationships that I recognized my own life. I had the wake-up call I desperately needed. I knew I was in an abusive marriage and I was bringing my kiddos right along with me. I didn’t want to exist like that any longer, so that day I began to plan how I would leave my marriage and that life behind me.

Living A Bright Life

It took me over two years to break free, but I did and it was amazing. Each day in-between I grew stronger and stronger.  Along the way I managed to go to nutrition school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which changed my view on so many things! I used my Mom-tuition to change my boys' diets despite the doctors telling me it would never help, and my boys thrived! My youngest even went from being called “the worst case of Autism we’ve ever seen” to a happy little boy mainstreamed in the public school system. My health improved as well. I no longer looked like a bag of bones and peopled began to tell me I was glowing. 

Although I was free of my marriage and getting healthier nutritionally, I still felt empty. My boys were doing decent for the most part, but my middle son was extremely violent. I was doing all I could to hold on as a Mother, but I still felt like I was just existing. I was no longer being abused by my husband, but I didn’t feel free, happy, and loved. In February 2016, I hit rock bottom again.

I’d been doing so much healing, seeking out different services for my kids. I’d been going to all of the IEP meeting and therapies and doctors’ appointments, it seemed endless. My one son had been in three hospitals, which nearly broke my heart and his. I’d been having night terrors of past sexual abuse as a child and been trying to recover from all the emotional and psychological damage that had been done to me. And I’d been trying to hold down a job while raising my boys and keeping a house as a single Mom. I felt crushed by society's expectations of me, by my own- I wanted to die again.

That is when my whole life and the boys began to shift and it hasn’t stopped its upward spiral since!

I began the deepest personal work I’ve ever done. I learned how to love myself, and began to actually heal. The kind of healing that leaves no scars, so I can share my story with you and not sob the whole time. This kind of healing makes a person stronger than they were before, thriving ang growing through the pain. I noticed that the more work I did on myself, the more my kiddos began to find relief too. The stronger our little family became. It amazed me and our entire team of providers.

As I grew in my self-worth, self-confidence and self-love, my boys began to blossom. For the first time in years, they made progress. I started feeling joy again, and they did too! There are no words for the kind of shifts we began to experience. It was miraculous. My middle son stopped being violent, no more hospital visits. Since I was confident in myself, I could create good boundaries, so my ex could no longer control me through the kids or schools. 

Beyond that, I was being the change I wanted in my own life! I wanted love and because I was loving myself, love was now what I was experiencing from my kids and others around me. The same with respect and safety. Life was truly turning around.

The healthier I became, the more open I was to learn new things about my kiddos, from my kiddos. I began to partner with them. Their education and wellbeing took a huge turn for the better. We went from a family dependent on services to an independent family…confident that we could work our way through any storm. 

My relationships with every service provider, school, and family member shifted as well. I became a kinder advocate, but not less passionate. The love for my kids could not shine through more, the frustration and anger was less.  I was able to inspire my boys to embark on their own journey’s to becoming their own advocates. I watched them find their voices and step into their choices. It was a gorgeous shift!

That was just over a year ago, and that was just part of my story. What I will tell you is that I almost gave up. Life seemed impossible. It felt like my soul wasn’t strong enough and each mountain I climbed was making me more and more weary. I kept looking outside of myself for the answers, the solution, the next thing that was going to save me. What I didn’t realized was that I had the power within me all along. I just had to unleashed it. 

Today life seems really bright. It’s not perfect, but perfection is a myth. It feels so incredible to have this life full of possibility; these relationships with my boys, my family, and myself. My mission now is to light the way for others so they can find that spark within themselves. I want to help others fan the flames until their fire burns with an intensity they’ve never felt before so they know their full potential and feel supported on their journey.  I have such a passion to see each child thriving in their life!!

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