Intensity & Empathy

I’m an empath and it is intense. So intense, that it makes me feel a little crazy (border line losing it) most days. I find myself setting aside from social media more and more lately, other than sharing my love for my family and advocating for Haidyn.

As an empath, I understand that not everyone will view the world in the same way that I do. My heart breaks constantly and bleeds endlessly for cruelty, injustice, inequalities and other’s heartbreak.

My biggest flaw that I have come far in learning to accept is failing to understand why others do not give out the same amount of compassion and affection as freely as I do. How can others so easily turn a blind eye to heartbreak, destruction and suffering when healing is required?

How can you be so far left or so far right, so far black or so far white, so far christian or so far athiest that you can’t sit still, for just a moment, to put down your wall and feel for another’s path that maybe you, so fortunately, have never had to travel?

I haven’t mastered anything other than how to be intense. Intense in my passions, intense in my advocating, intense in my feeling and thinking too much and I have no idea how to quiet my mind from all of these things.

In this crazy world, full of so much division, I find myself stuck in the middle most days. Questioning my relationship with God and as a christian, questioning where I stand with all of the disheartening politics amongst both parties, questioning how I can be a better person and to show compassion to the people I love all around me but that are all divided by opinions, religions, race, passions, struggles and views. How can I love them all but never step on one’s toes, without ill intention, but within reason of caring/voicing for another so different?

I am always searching, whether it be research or my own heart. I believe there is meaning in everything around us and I struggle consistently to find meaning in all that surrounds me.

I am constantly evolving as a human and I believe my journey in life has molded me from what was once a young, extremely sensitive, insecure and people pleasing girl, into a strong, resilient, compassionate, human being.

As I have evolved, I seem to still be intrigued by damaged people but I have learned that it is no longer my job to try and detox their mind and soul. My job is to let it always be a reminder that there was once a part of me and may still be a part of me that resonates with their toxicity.

If you are not a empath, you may not grasp how I can feel this way or believe me when I tell you that I can feel things on a different level. When I say my feelings are intense I am stating examples like:

•When a loved one hurts, I feel it in my chest.
•When the world is filled with division and hatred, I become so nauseous I can hardly eat.
•When someone is hateful, criminal like, or making terrible decisions – I find myself wondering why. What made YOU that way? What hurts so badly that you can’t move past it? Why is your passion for hatred seeded so deeply inside of you?
•When someone cries, I feel awkward and uncomfortable because I want to make it better but I know words are just that, words. I can’t fix anything or anyone. Only they can do that.
•I can literally FEEL my intuition or my gut instinct like a burning rage in the pit of my stomach. I know when something is “off.” Be it a person, a place, a situation or something that has yet to happen – I know that it isn’t right or authentic.
•When I find myself surrounded by negative people, dark times and hard emotions – I shut down, I back off and I become introverted. Otherwise, it mentally and physically drains my spirit.
•I am constantly torn between tough love, karma and just wanting to love others through it, even when they deserve absolutely nothing.
•Unneccessary drama, sarcastic jokes to hurt others and anything petty has never and will never be amusing to me. Hurting others or stirring the pot for humor is something I will never understand and I wish others could find a different hobby for their spare time.

That’s the problem with being an empath – you feel empathy for all of the jackasses too.

Even though all of this will be a part of me forever, I have accepted it. I am positive God gave me this big, strong and loving heart for a reason. I have learned that it is okay to change my mind and my commitments. It is okay to speak up and advocate for things I am passionate about. It is also okay for me to take time off, to say no, to stand my ground, to be alone, to do nothing and to let go.

It is okay to change.

I am sensitively strong. I am passionate. I am deep. I am an unconditional lover in almost 99% of cases but I do have my own flaws and struggles as well.

I am an empath and compassion fuels my fire to be stronger, more resilient, and feisty with each passing day. I am finally okay with that. 🔥

Be kind to your empath friends because with the way the world is functioning right now, we are struggling to focus on being a light and not drain ourselves at the same time.✨

Childhood Dementia is a demon.. 🔥

As your mama, most days flow by quicker than I can grasp, but sometimes, I sit still and wonder…

Do you smile through a pain I can’t fathom?
Do you frustrate easily because you can’t communicate your wants and needs as easily as you used to be able to?
Do you continue to climb over things despite the pain in your joints?
Do you want to sleep no matter how hard your body fights you?
Do you realize you how strong you are physically?
Do you wish to understand why your body keeps becoming more difficult to understand with each passing day?
Do you wonder what’s happening?
Do you question why things keep getting harder?
Or do you continue to smile or at least try, no matter how destructive your body can be?

As your mama, I look at you, and how beautiful you are. You are big, strong, resilient, energetic, hulk-like, joyful, sleepless, fidgety, lost at times, withering in many ways, but absolutely precious.

You shouldn’t have to struggle.
You don’t deserve to try and grasp on to your speech, physical activity, muscle strength, eating without choking and running without pain.
You shouldn’t have to fight your own body for more time.
You shouldn’t have to wonder what’s happening… and I wish I couldn’t wonder if these thoughts cross your innocent, infant-like mind… but they do.

I love you.
Jesus loves you.
I wish I could grasp the reasons in His plan… but I have yet to do so.
The only thing I can seemingly try to process with my feeble mind is that you are far to beautiful for this earth and maybe He knows that.

You are my bestie, forever.
If I could pick up your broken pieces and take them on myself, I would, but for some reason it just isn’t that simple.

Rare disease stinks.
Genetically inherited disease stinks.
Children suffering stinks.
But suffering without a cure, is rotten to the core.

Even if it isn’t in your lifetime, we will fight until the end of ours for a cure.

I promise. I love you, Haidyn Grace.🔥

#curesanfilipposyndrome

Indescribable Strength

The world deserves more of YOU.

Despite the pain, you smile.
Despite your tears, you are easily humored.
Despite your lack of understanding, you find joy.
Despite your anxieties, you love so much.
Despite your uncomfort, you long for touch.
Despite your body fighting against you every day, you keep living to your fullest ability.
Despite your clumsiness increasing, you continue to run.
Despite how often you fall, you always get back up and try again.
Despite your loss of many words, you continue to talk as much as you can.
Despite your inability to sing your favorite songs, you still listen, smile and mumble a few words of your favorite lyrics.
Despite your sensitive tummy, you love food more than anyone I know.
Despite your lack of safety awareness, you see no danger and only beauty around you.
Despite your fatal diagnosis, every day is a new day for you to give it your all.
Despite our broken hearts, you know nothing but love.

You are the strongest girl I know, Haidyn Grace. 💜

I Am Resilient 🔥

Saturday, I had a long, sleep deprived, tear filled argument with God about where I am at, right here in this moment.

Despite all of life’s imperfections, I have everything I could ever want. I have an unconditionally loving husband, a happy marriage and two beautiful girls. My heart has always longed for a stable, joy filled marriage, children to love in the midst of it all, security in myself and the ability to find compassion over judgement.

So, WHY does my dream have to shatter with a fatal diagnosis for the child I was lucky to be able to have?

I’m sure He was standing up there thinking, “She’s not going to stop yelling at me today, but I’m listening.”

This morning while the girls were still asleep my heart settled to all of those enraged feelings on Saturday and I’m so thankful that His love never fails, because without His love, I wouldn’t be remotely close to where I am today – even with the heart break we are currently facing.

This version of me wasn’t built over night. Who I am today, is standing on a mountain that formed from earthquakes in my life revolving around experiences, insecurities, pain, abuse, anxiety, depression, health issues and mistakes of all kinds. I had to go through so much to get to the level that I am on now.

Now, I am kind. I am okay with being imperfect. I am compassionate. I try my best not to judge another. I can admit to my wrongs. I am a lover but a fighter when need be. I can hold my ground with grace instead of pride. I value time over materials. I find happiness in the simple things. I forgive easily. I embrace the smallest moments that most take for granted. I am open about my anxiety and depression, but never use it as an excuse. I am blunt, honest, and realistic – and I am okay without the approval of others. I find money to be necessary but also the root of all evil. I strive to be a better version of me, every day. I am an imperfect yet powerful mama (patting myself on the back). I will give my all to move mountains for my husband and my girls. My relationship with Jesus is the best it has ever been due to His unfailing love for me and willingness to listen to my attitude far more than usual in recent weeks.

I have been through so much.
Why does He think I’m so strong?
Maybe because He built me for this. Instead of choosing to wallow in self pity, I continued to get back up. I am 100% a “bring the fire,” type of spirit and I’m only a quitter on things that no longer serve me in a healthy manner.

Maybe, just maybe, He chose me for this path because •I AM RESILIENT•

My dream didn’t shatter because of a fatal diagnosis. My vision, heart and mind were adjusted accordingly for a fight He has been preparing me for.

•About six months ago, I promised to find out what was going on with my girl, despite everyone saying it was “normal,” or “would be okay.” I did that.

Now, I promise that the world will know about my girl and others like her. 🔥🌪🌩🌈

From Autism to Fatal Genetics. 🧬

I haven’t brought myself to write since November of 2019.

My last blog post was written on a basis of finding thankfulness and humbleness despite the darkness of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is now May 2020 and I would give anything in the world to have that severe autism diagnosis back in our lives.

On March 25, 2020, our five year old daughter, Haidyn, was diagnosed with a fatal, genetically inherited disease. Diagnosis: Mucopolysaccharidos lllA – Sanfilippo Syndrome.

WHAT IS SANFILIPPO SYNDROME?
IMAGINE ALZHEIMER’S, BUT IN CHILDREN.

“In a nutshell, that’s what every family of children with Sanfilippo Syndrome faces.

Our children are born with a change in their DNA that causes a very important enzyme to be made improperly … or not at all.

Because they don’t have enough of this critical enzyme, our children cannot breakdown and recycle natural cellular waste. Their cells become clogged with toxic levels of heparan sulfate.

While every cell in the body is affected by Sanfilippo Syndrome, brain cells suffer the most. Sanfilippo’s effects on the brain become apparent between 2-6 years of age – speech problems, developmental delays, challenging behaviors, extreme hyperactivity, and poor sleep. All because of the build-up of cellular waste.

Many children are initially diagnosed with Autism before finding the underlying diagnosis of Sanfilippo Syndrome. Children with Sanfilippo go on to experience progressive dementia similar to Alzheimer’s, stealing away their skills and knowledge. Sanfilippo Syndrome will often cause these children to suffer from seizures. They will lose the ability to eat for themselves and many will get a feeding tube. They will lose the ability to walk and need a wheelchair. All because of Sanfilippo.

Relentless and devastating, children with Sanfilippo Syndrome often pass away in their teenage years.” – Cure Sanfilippo Foundation

Now that you have a general idea of what Sanfilippo Syndrome is, because I’m sure you had no idea, as did we, let’s shuffle back to about late 2019. (This will be long • for everyone that has asked to hear, “Haidyn’s story,” buckle up.)

Towards mid to late 2019 I began to really struggle with the autism diagnosis. Haidyn fit the autism diagnosis based on behaviors and characteristics, but that’s what autism IS. It is a behavioral diagnosis. There is no lab panel, test, scan or any other physical, medical procedure that can SHOW you autism. Autism is strictly diagnosed on a basis of categories that involve behavior, cognitive skills, and even an IQ score. It’s more than that, but you get the idea. As I have stated in the past, Haidyn was diagnosed with severe autism in October of 2018. We didn’t really understand the severe category that she was placed in but over the course of the next year we completely agreed.

Everything has been extremely hard for Haidyn over the last year and it continues to grow harder with each passing day. Normal for autism, right? Well, maybe. If you’re not actively working with your child to help them communicate, cope, understand and feel your love and understanding – maybe. If you’re not involved in all necessary therapies provided by outside sources or even a special needs class – maybe. If you’re not actively communicating with doctors and other medical professionals about where your child is at mentally and physically – maybe… but we were doing all of that and more. My brain can’t even fully grasp all of the little details and even some of the bigger details in regards to everything we have tried in hopes to help our baby girl.

As of late 2019, Haidyn had been involved in speech, occupational, and physical therapy, once a week, every single week, for a year and a half. Her therapists at Mckenna Farms have become some of our family’s favorites. They are amazing and Haidyn has formed a beautiful bond with each of them. Haidyn was also half way into her second year of special needs Pre-K. During the school week, she would receive speech therapy twice a week and occupational therapy once a week. That is SIX therapy sessions a week, alongside a structured school environment with a great IEP established for her. At home we took the time to try and implement the same things she was learning in therapy or what they may be focusing on at the time. I’ve read just about every book on autism I could get my hands on, watched countless documentaries and more. Anything, anything, to help ease the autism struggle for our girl.

Despite all of the help from so many hands on deck, we continued to see rapid regression. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many positives from school and therapies as well. I am forever grateful for her wonderful teachers this year and her therapists. They have found ways with her that even I couldn’t find sometimes. They have had an abundance of patience and focus even when I had zero answers for them or even knew where to begin on how to help with certain struggles for Haidyn. All of the good and the bad combined, something still didn’t sit right with me.

Have you heard of “mom intuition?” I call it my mama gut, but it’s a real thing. Looking back, after we moved in August and things became increasingly hard due to routine flying out the window, I fell down into a really dark place mentally. I struggle with depression and anxiety but it came on with a force I hadn’t seen or felt in probably several years. At the time, I assumed most of it was due to Haidyn adjusting to a new home, a new school, a new routine, a new everything. Literally, her family, her doggies and her therapies are the only thing that didn’t really change during our move. So, it was fully expected to be a nightmare for a bit. I assumed because she was struggling, so was my mama heart for her. I now believe it was my mama gut kicking into gear and starting me down the path of finding further answers.

Sitting in the waiting room at Mckenna Farms, with my other special needs mom friends, I was filling out a routine six month evalutaion/questionnaire for Haidyn. Since we started therapy, these have continued to become more difficult to answer. I will attach the two questions that really stuck with me in the recent evaluations, and I sent them to my husband while trying to answer them.

It’s hard to put into words where my mind was in this moment because that’s how far she had regressed and how difficult things had become. Everything about our baby had changed so much that I didn’t even know where to begin or what was a priority for independence or a new skill set I’d prefer for her. I just wanted her to not have to struggle.

Down the rabbit hole I went. I began reading more blogs from autism parents. I started following “Fathering Autism,” on YouTube and Facebook. You should too! They are great. I started reading any parental advice about autism I could find, anywhere. I watched movies based on autistic characters. I researched autism forwards, backwards, left and right online. Nothing, seemed to fit.

I dove deeper. I started researching vaccines. I mean, every single thing, in every single vaccine on every single credible website I could find. Victoria, if you’re reading this, thanks for your help. I researched vaccine injuries and side effects. Then I dove into the medication side of things. Pain medication, antibiotics, anesthesia, etc. I watched the vaxxed documentary. I watched some interesting and some weird conspiracy theories on YouTube. After all of that research, I scrambled through every single piece of medical history and documentation of Haidyn’s since birth. I mean everything. If I didn’t know what it was or what it meant, I looked it up. I’ve actually found myself to be a decently educated individual on medical stuff these days. Furthermore, I dove into genetics. I read about gene mutations, genetic errors and overall, how your genetics play a role in every thing that happens with your body. I shuffled through my dad’s medical documents to find a genetic test he had done a while back and found that he had a specific gene mutation that I was curious about Haidyn possibly having. Side bar – that gene mutation would’ve been a much better alternative to the one related to Sanfilippo Syndrome. Some say that genetics is experimental but after all of the reading I have done, I find genetics to be a crucial necessity for every child born. I cross referenced all of these things with Autism. Still, no definite answer but an eery feeling that I was on the right path to an answer.

Y’all, I’m lucky that my husband loves me as much as he does because I promise you that I was borderline losing my last marble during this process. Some nights, he would have to force me to put my phone down because I would find myself so sucked into the reading and searching for answers that I would make myself sick. I’ve never been one for surprises or being out of control of a situation. I am also a slight hypochondriac. I can’t help it that I am this way… thanks Dad – genetics.

Genetics. Genetic testing, that was my next path to travel down for answers.

In February of this year I took Haidyn to a routine checkup at her pediatrician’s office. She had some blood work done, I was reminded that she was considered obese, again. She’s not. Have you seen her daddy? She’s just a tall, thick, little girl. During the appointment they did routine blood work to check a few things and I also requested a referral to see a geneticist. The doctor asked why I was curious about genetics and I explained. Little did we both know, neither of us had any idea as to how important this geneticist referral would be for Haidyn. Blood work came back with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, elevated liver enzymes and a diagnosis of mixed hyperlipidemia – related to cholesterol.

At this time, we started seeing a naturopath doctor as well. LOVE HER. If you need a good one, I’ve got her for you! She mentioned Haidyn having some major detox issues from every kind of toxin you can imagine… ok, elevated liver enzymes. That makes sense. Liver = detox. She also mentioned noticing some genetic issues as well but couldn’t explain them.

I started googling geneticists in the Atlanta area and I finally just picked one that seemed fitting and could fit us in within a reasonable time frame. We made it to our appointment with the geneticist on March 5th of this year after waiting over a month to get in with them.

We walked in, Caleb sat down and contained Haidyn as best he could with snacks and the iPad. I began going through the course of Haidyn’s medical history, my pregnancy with her and Braelynne, family medical history and anything else she asked for. We waited about five minutes and Dr. V came in to greet us. She took a seat next to me and over the next hour and a half we talked about everything with Haidyn. She asked me to show her picture of Haidyn from birth up until now at age 5. She kept mentioning how her features were “more coarse,” with each passing year. I agreed but had no idea what in the world she meant. She had us undress Haidyn and she watched her walk, felt of her stomach and back, listened to her breathing and even told us by looking at her, that she thought she was suffering from absence seizures. We had already been questioning the same even though we had inconclusive results from neurology a year before. She sent us for blood work and told us that she would first test Haidyn for lysosomal storage disorders or metabolic disorders. In my uneducated head, I’m thinking, “metabolic = metabolism. That can’t be bad.” She sent us off to the lab, handed us our paperwork from the visit, along with a couple of referrals for an MRI of her abdomen (liver and spleen) and an X-ray of her bones, and that was a wrap while we waited for results.

That night, I came home and started looking through the paperwork she sent home with us. I read on the referrals that explained the testing needed, a diagnostic code. The code represented Mucopolysaccharidosis or MPS. I’m a researcher who hates surprises and likes to know what I’m up against. The first thing I did was look up lysosomal storage disorders. Bad. Next, I looked up metabolic disorders. Same thing – still bad. Lastly, I looked up Mucopolysaccharidosis. Heart breaking. I followed myself down the path and came across Sanfilippo Syndrome. Instantly, I knew what she meant by, “coarse facial features.” ALL OF THESE CHILDREN LOOK LIKE MY CHILD. I read further into symptoms and characteristics. Haidyn was a textbook definition of a Sanfilippo child. I can’t even explain the feeling that came over me. I thought I knew what a heart sinking feeling was… but I definitely know now.

I hopped over to Facebook and started looking for stories or tags related to Sanfilippo children. I came across a page for Sanfilippo parents and I requested to join. I remember a sweet mama, the admin, reaching out to me and me telling her that we were awaiting test results and I was praying that this diagnosis was wrong. She knew it when she looked at my profile and saw pictures of Haidyn. I knew it when I found the description of Sanfilippo Syndrome on google. I confirmed that feeling when I compared my child’s picture to these Sanfilippo parents children. Below is a collage I made while awaiting test results. It shows Haidyn on the right and her two Sanfilippo sisters that are also a part of the same foundation that we are involved with.

https://curesanfilippofoundation.org

After the longest, excruciating, three week wait – we received a phone call that results were in. Due to COVID, we scheduled a conference call for several hours later with Haidyn’s geneticist.

At 12:00 PM, March 25, 2020, we heard the words, “Your daughter has a confirmed diagnosis of Mucopolysaccharidosis lllA – Sanfilippo Syndrome.”

Excuse my language when I say that I am so grateful that my mama intuition lead me here, without fail, and over the course of several years – but damnit if I wish it could be wrong for ONCE! Just once.

Since diagnosis day, we have publicly announced it. Honestly, that was easier to post on Facebook than to pick up the phone and go down the list of all of our loved ones and repeat those words over and over and over. I don’t think I would’ve had the strength… and some days I still don’t. We have created a Facebook page, @HaidynsHope. We have shared several donation links, a fundraiser and witnessed a few family members and friends do the same (over $7000 raised from all). We have started the process of finding a clinical trial that she may be eligible for. We have partnered with the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation and embraced our new Sanfilippo family. Social media definitely has a few pros. ✨ I reached out to Haidyn’s pediatrician, who was completely unaware of what Sanfilippo Syndrome was and we spent quite a while on the phone just talking, her listening as well as being supportive and me trying to explain the little I know. It’s ironic because for five years I heard the words, “normal,” “grow out of it,” “therapy will help,” “common,” “not a big deal,” and many others…. but now I’m the mom educating my child’s doctor about her rare disease. I mean that with zero ill intention – I love her pediatrician. They have been through it all with us as a family and for Haidyn. It goes to show just how rare this disease is and that it is not uncommon for doctors to have very little, if any, knowledge of this family of diseases + mom intuition is a super power.

As of today, we are taking it day by day. The joy, the grief, the sadness, the happiness, and all of the other emotions. We are raising awareness any way we can and we are so thankful for each and every single person that has jumped on this journey with us for Haidyn’s Hope.

The beaten path that lead us to the end of 2019 and now into 2020 began with these signs…

•Haidyn is born. January 9th, 2015. She was born with the cord wrapped around her neck and later determined to have underdeveloped lungs/respiratory distress. She also suffered from jaundice. She was placed in the NICU, on a ventilator, for 7 days and released after 10 days. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•6 months+, large head circumference up until present day. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Haidyn is almost a year old and beginning to walk. She walks on her tip toes and eventually puts one foot down but never the other. After physical therapy evaluation and an orthopedic evaluation she is determined to have an Achilles’ tendon contracture. She had surgery to fix this and “drop her heel,” in August of 2016. *Muscle contracture is a Sanfilippo Symptom

•Also at a year old and even a little bit prior, constant ear infections and upper respiratory infections begin. Antibiotics never seemed to help. In August of 2016, Haidyn had tubes placed in both ears and adenoids removed – the first time. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Two years old. Sleep is becoming an issue and she snores horribly. A sleep study is done in June of 2017 and Haidyn is diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Ear infections, respiratory infections and sickness continue at age two. In August of 2017, Tonsillectomy is scheduled to help sleep apnea, second set of tubes placed in her ears, and adenoids removed a SECOND TIME, because they grew back fully in a year. Even her ENT was shocked. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Age 2. Stomach upset was normal for Haidyn but by age 2, chronic diarrhea and vomiting were a daily crisis. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Summer of 2017, GI visit for stomach issues. Everything comes back normal, aside from a dairy allergy. Dairy is removed from her diet, her stomach is better, but diarrhea is still a normal thing… even to this day. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Late 2017, a hearing screening is done and results are inconclusive due to Haidyn being uncooperative. We were concerned because speech seemed to be just a tiny bit behind. We assumed it could be related to her hearing and so many ear infections over the first couple years of her life.

•Late 2017, Haidyn is screened by “Babies Can’t Wait,” at her daycare to see if she qualifies for speech therapy through the state for children under three. Haidyn did not qualify or seem delayed enough at the time. Of course, we were thrilled. Delayed speech is a *Sanfilippo Symptom.

•January 2018, age 3, separation anxiety and sensory issues become increasingly painful for her. She started a new daycare and when I say it was awful… it was the worst kind of awful. Not the daycare or the staff, just for her. I can still hear her screaming for me, outside, as I’m getting in my car to go to work and in tears. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Prior to and continued to try after January 2018, potty training. Terrible. She was not potty trained by three and I could not understand why. We took away pull-ups for two to three weeks completely and cleaned up more pee and poop than you can imagine.. with no achievements in the potty training game. To this day, she is still not potty trained and likely never will be. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Early 2018 – strange, unexplainable fears all around her, become hard to manage. Sensory overload is in full effect compared to the little we knew about it. Her central nervous system was definitely beginning to regress. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Summer 2018, tip toe walking is becoming ever prevalent again… with both feet. The tendon that did not need surgery at a year old, is now becoming very tight. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Fall of 2018, I quit my job to stay at home and help Haidyn. I had this overwhelming feeling I needed to be home. I started keeping kids at the same time to help with income and also provide friends for Haidyn to play with daily. Shortly after is when I really started to notice that something was different. She didn’t play “normal,” and didn’t seem to understand any form of pretend play. Her speech was even further delayed than I had ever noticed. She was 3 at the time and fit in better with 1 year old Emmy versus the girls closer to her age.

•September 2018, developmental assessment is done by her pediatrician and we leave with testing for autism and referrals for speech, occupational, and physical therapy. Also, we must see a cardiologist and an ophthalmologist.

•September 2018, ophthalmologist finds amblyopia or strabismus. Commonly known as, weak eye muscles, lazy eyes or wandering eyes. She also needs glasses and has an astigmatism. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•September 2018, Cardiologist rules heart murmur to be true but innocent. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•September 2018, all three therapies begin. Physical therapy notes weak muscle tone, weak core, extremely clumsy (always has been) and tip toe walking are major issues to focus on. *Sanfilippo Symptoms

•October 2018, Haidyn is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Global Developmental Delay, & Sensory Processing Disorder. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•January 2019, Haidyn begins special needs pre-K. It is a very hard adjustment and change of routine.

•Early 2019 Hyperactivity in full blown manic phase. Her attention span is almost non existent. *Sanfilippo Symptom

Diarrhea continues 🙃

•March & April 2019, Neurologist, EEGs & MRIs (yes, multiple) to check for absence seizures – results are inconclusive. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•MRI results show scar tissue and some damage to all sides of her brain but mainly the left frontal lobe. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Summer & Fall 2019 (before and after move), behaviors become increasingly hard to manage and control. Calming down is not a choice I get to make her for. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•Fall 2019 to now – new school and teachers (who are all amazing) but Haidyn has an extremely tough time with school, adjusting, understanding direction, following instruction, destructiveness, behavior and diarrhea of course. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•February 2020, seemingly off bloodwork results from routine labs. Elevated liver enzymes & high cholesterol.

•March 5, 2020, first genetic visit and testing done.

•March 2020 – ophthalmology reports her eyes are about the same, no major changes but no new issues. No sign of cataracts, praise God!

•March 2020, MRI of abdomen results in enlarged liver. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•March 2020, Bone Scan XRAY shows deformities in clavicles (shoulders) and hips. *Sanfilippo Symptom

•March 25, 2020 – Diagnosis of Sanfilippo Syndrome. It’s an answer we so desperately were seeking and needed but it’s not the answer we wanted.

As of now, we wait until the COVID19 pandemic ceases or calms down enough to continue with many more appointments. Haidyn is considered an extremely high risk case now for not only COVID19 but any illness, injury or medical issue. We are currently awaiting on follow ups with neurology for seizures, endocrinology for Sanfilippo, UAB to be studied for research and to help Haidyn’s medical team, and hopefully finding eligibility for placement within a clinical trial whether it be in the U.S. or another country. On top of all of that, every step of medical history I mentioned above (that we thought we conquered) has to be followed up on. Not just once more, but continuously for the rest of her life.

We are standing in the valley surrounded by mountains that I’m not sure we could ever climb… but we are going to give it our all.

If you took the time to read all of this, thank you. If I can ask anything, please just tell at least one person about our Haidyn. Raising awareness for Sanfilippo Syndrome is the only HOPE these children have for a cure.

https://curesanfilippofoundation.org/meet-the-families/haidyn/

“Hope is love on a mission.” – Cara O’Neill

Follow Haidyn’s Hope on Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/HaidynsHope/?ref=bookmarks

Thankful. ✨

“Thankful,” as cliche as it is with the upcoming of the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow is something I am feeling so strongly every day.

Our days have been harder, more stressful, emotional and most of the time I just don’t understand. I sit back in the evenings, once Haidyn has taken the time to wind down and I scroll through Facebook, looking at everyone’s families, children and life events. It is hard to see dear friends and family getting together for regular play dates that aren’t so simple for us anymore. It is also hard to see people in a stage of life that you hope and dream so deeply to be in. You see, we have this routine, that we do try to break at times to help Haidyn cope but other days it is just not worth breaking, for her sanity and mine.

Therapies, school, doctor appointments and every day struggles/anxieties can become consuming and my brain and heart feel like they may drown from the pressure. We are always tired, here. Every day is a new day with an unforeseen future of if it will go as planned. I am so happy to see all of my friend’s children growing and thriving just as they should. Why do they have to grow up SO FAST? They are not babies anymore and it’s extremely bittersweet. I love watching your journeys but I would be lying if I said I didn’t ever feel a little sad or even envious that we aren’t on the same path. Although Haidyn is almost five, mentally she is still about where a two year old may be.

She isn’t potty trained, even the smallest transition can throw off her entire day and speech, understanding and expression of feelings are difficult. Then throw all of the other autism and sensory processing disorder characteristics curveball in there and it gets wild!

Even though I find myself wishing it were easier at times and trying to trust God’s plan for our life, I am completely overwhelmed with a thankfulness and humbleness that I’m not sure I was capable of until she changed our lives. Don’t get me wrong, Autism is not beautiful, it sucks and it is crippling in many ways but it does have it’s beauty and sunshine too.

When Haidyn says a new, multi-syllable word we are so proud. When she puts three or more words together into a complete sentence, even if it’s demanding, my face gleams with the biggest smile. When she plays on a new playground without fear or explosive poop from nerves, I am thrilled. When she participates in therapy activities willingly and shows progress, I am in awe. When she walks with her heels down for the majority of the day and finds even the tiniest bit of focus, my heart is amazed. When she finds little ways to express to me that she is hurting or doesn’t like something, I feel relief. When we walk into Walmart, shop at Walmart, check out at Walmart and make it back to the car without a single meltdown or change in behavior, I feel peace. When I see her face light up to see her daddy, her grandparents, her sissy and her puppies, it justifies that she does have a beautiful heart that loves so deeply even when it’s hard. When she sleeps through the night and wakes up happy, I know we have a great chance at having a really good day.

I am always watching my families interaction and love for her. She has the BEST big sister that is my saving grace most days. I couldn’t do it without her. She plays with Haidyn, helps keep an eye on her (because if we leave her alone for one second she could burn the entire house down) when I need to do a couple of things around the house, and she is accepting and understanding of her special needs. To watch Braelynne’s excitement for Haidyn’s small achievements and successes makes me feel as if I’m doing something right. Braelynne has always had the biggest heart for others and I love seeing it grow even bigger with the things her sister is teaching all of us. She also continues to amaze me with her love for school, her determination in any goal she reaches for and the fact that she is obviously way smarter than her mama.

I am incredibly thankful for my husband, Caleb. I don’t say it enough but I pray every single day that our marriage continues to grow and only strengthen throughout our life time because not only is he the best daddy to our girls but he is the best husband and partner I could’ve ever dreamed of having. He helps pick up my slack when I’m struggling and he is always understanding to his girls needs. He shows me the definition of unconditional love at all times and even on my ugliest days. He is selfless in more ways than one and will do anything for anyone he loves without question. I watch him tire himself out just to ensure all those that need help are taken care of and don’t have to do more than absolutely necessary without his help. He may have a grumpy face most of the time but his heart shows otherwise.

I am thankful for our families. We have more support than we deserve and we could never repay or give enough to show our gratitude. We couldn’t do it without y’all and we love y’all. Caleb and I both come from parents with beautiful marriages and so much love to give to their children and grandchildren. I hope to be even half of the beautiful parents/grandparents that they are and if I am, I’ll say I’m doing okay in this life.

Through all of Haidyn’s struggles and hardest days I continue to find it shining a brighter light on even the smallest positives and progress we see with time. I’ve found myself empathizing with others and their lives more so than ever before. I no longer feel the need to judge another if I’ve never been in their shoes. Almost everyone has a reason behind the way that they are – yes, even the ugliest of people. I suffer with anxiety and depression and most would never know if you ran into me in public. My daughter has severe autism and yet so many people that are around her on her best days or in her “safe places,” will never see the true struggles that lie underneath the surface of her skin.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and spending time at therapy, meeting other moms and learning about their children with all kinds of different disabilities and struggles has brought me an abundance of humbleness and gratitude. It could ALWAYS be worse. Life isn’t fair to any of us but we all have the ability to embrace our hardships and find the beauty in them. The whole “glass half full” perspective has a brand new meaning to me and as we continue to feel lost in our daughter’s diagnosis, we will continue to be incredibly thankful, honest and pure to others about our lives, hopes and dreams.

Life isn’t what I pictured in my head but it never has been. I’ve always struggled with leaving MY PLANS in God’s hands and trusting His plans for my life. I believe He has a funny way of teaching us that His plans are so much greater than ours and I’m okay with that. We have everything we need and beautiful friends and family beside us to walk along this journey of life.

No matter what life continues to throw at us with a force, I will continue to cry when I need to, pray through it all and at the end of every night find thankfulness and the shining light at the end of the tunnel for right where we are in this moment. Life is beautiful if you choose the light instead of the darkness. 💡

Love,

A mama/wife of one super-smart, big-hearted, gifted, neuro-typical daughter and another baby girl, with autism and more affection than she knows how to give in any other form than extreme, and an amazing, supportive husband that is my very, best friend.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families and I hope that through the darkness you see the grace God continues to shine upon your life. ✨

To our friends & family

Yesterday, I sat down and searched through my email to find the attached copy of Haidyn’s autism diagnosis from almost a year ago as of this month.

I’m not sure why but reading through the twenty page report hurt my heart even more now, a year later, than it did when I read it for the first time. Maybe it’s because I understand more of the terminology and the reasoning behind many of the behaviors and characteristics that the psychologist saw and we didn’t understand at the time. Maybe it’s because I have spent hours over the last couple of months reading books and blogs, watching movies and listening to podcasts all based on enlightening what autism is and how it works. At least, the little information that is out there about autism.

I read over the diagnostic testing and charts explaining where she fell on all of these scales as a child with autism at least ten times and then I just cried.

To say that the last three months have been easy would be a blatant lie. Her behaviors and autism “quirks” have become very aggressive, very intense and very overwhelming. Not only for her but for us as well. Melt downs were a periodic thing and I usually knew when to expect it because I knew some of her triggers. Over the last few months they have become almost a daily to multiple times a day occurrence and 90% of the time I am in a complete loss as to what the trigger may be. When she was diagnosed I didn’t see a lot of these things. I also believe I tossed a lot of “quirks” into the “that’s just a toddler thing,” category. I was wrong. She was three then and she is almost five now and as she ages these “quirks” make themselves more noticeable and less, “normal.” Also, with age the meltdowns have become more severe and far more aggressive. I now 100% understand her diagnosis, her being placed on basically a severe level of the spectrum, and being told that she would need a substantial amount of help to adjust and blossom in this world.

Haidyn has made so much progress in therapy and I am forever thankful for all of her wonderful therapists but aside from that, everything in our daily lives outside of therapy has become far more difficult than it was a year ago. I know she thrives on routine but even our routine is a constant battle.

I am not writing all of this to complain. I am writing this for our friends and family to read. I am asking for patience, love and understanding. If you pray, I am asking for your prayers. If you send vibes, I am asking for good ones.

As of right now, every day, every situation, every new place, and every get together are completely unstable for her. I used to be able to say, “oh yeah, she loves that and she will do fine.” Right now, I cannot guarantee that. Something in her brain and her little body can change so quickly for the worst and I can’t predict it.

Bare with us. We love our friends and family dearly. We still want to be invited to all of your outings, birthday parties and events. We wish to be a part of all the things that are just simple and fun for most and we enjoy it more than you know when we are able to make it work.

We may miss holiday gatherings and birthday parties. We might not do dinner as often or “parent’s night out,” but we want to. We may not make it to every church gathering or weekend vacation but we are definitely sad to miss it. Also, IF we do make it, please be patient when we have to leave sooner than expected because something changed and an exit strategy became priority.

We will always try our best to push Haidyn out of her comfort zone as much as possible to help her learn to cope and adjust to this crazy world around her but some days it is genuinely not worth the battle for her or for us. Even a simple run to the grocery store lately has ended within minutes from entering the store and sometimes just trying to bathe her at home can be a nightmare.

We love you and we miss you all. We wish we could be a part of everything and more. I know that with time she will hopefully adjust and we will also learn new ways to understand her needs and what’s going on inside of her little brain but for now we are hyper vigilant, we are tired, we are on edge and we are trying to protect her. Nothing is worth watching it physically and mentally hurt my baby in ways that I cannot fathom and without a quick fix.

So, to those that love her for exactly who she is and those that support us whole heartedly, thank you. Friends and family like you are what helps us on even the hardest days. To those that think we don’t reach out or don’t try, you’re right. We don’t but not because we don’t care. Only because in this moment our life is kind of up in the air and we are taking it day by day.

I hope and pray every single day that with time, therapy, love and a lot of patience, Haidyn and I both grow from all of this. My hope is that one day she can live a “normal” life but for now, we will take each day slowly and embrace the mess. She has humbled me in more ways than I could ever express and even though our days can be long and hard they also fill my heart with more love than you can imagine. Loving someone that is wired differently and sees/handles life on a completely different wave than you can teach you amazing things about embracing the differences, having patience with strangers and just loving others despite their flaws.

I’m not sure why God thought I was fit to be her and her sister’s Mama or why he thought I was the person to take on all that comes with Haidyn’s diagnosis but I’d like to think he’s teaching me to be a better human.

… and I’m here for it. ✨♥️

Anxiety & Depression are my demons 🔥

To anyone suffering from anxiety, depression or many other mental illnesses, I love you and I see you.

You are a warrior because there is nothing more terrifying than fighting a battle with your own mind.

I haven’t ever touched on extreme details of my anxiety and depression before and that is mainly due to the lack of words and metaphors to describe what I feel like on the inside. I was diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and depression several years ago. That was a total shock by the way.

Anxiety and depression had taken over every second of my every day life at that point. I am super fortunate to have a husband that unconditionally loves me, supports me and never makes me feel less, even during my mental struggles but my anxiety and depression had become so terrible that he told me, “I love you and I am always here for you but I can’t fix this.” Therefore, I ended up at the doctor to talk about my issues, do some labs and bloodwork and ultimately leave with a prescription for lexapro.

I took lexapro for about six months. The first month or two, after you get through the beginning phase of new medication hell, were amazing! I felt better than I had felt in months. I could laugh, I could smile genuinely, I was productive and felt like my brain functioned properly. As time passed, I started to become a zombie. Not out of it but just cool with it. Cool with it as in not too happy but not too upset either. Just cool.

I began to be so relaxed to where I felt fine with not doing housework because it can be done later. I could pay the bills tomorrow and it’ll be fine. The house might burn down but it’ll be fine. Everything was fine. I was fine. We were all fine. Except for my husband. Poor guy, he has so much craziness to love through in our household. He pointed out my fine like feelings and after opening my eyes to it, I came off of lexapro per my doctors instructions.

Overall, the medication did what I hoped it would do for my body and it seemed to have leveled out some of the chemical imbalances in my brain for a while. Over the last year, anxiety and depression have slowly crept their way back into my day to day life.

Honestly, the last few weeks have been overwhelming and for no reason. My life is still the same. I love my life. We have typical struggles as does everyone else on this planet but overall we are extremely blessed to be where we are today and to have the family and friends that we do.

Nonetheless, anxiety and depression have a mind of their own and it unfortunately tends to be mine. For me, anxiety typically creeps its way in little by little. It starts with feeling like I can’t catch my breath. I inhale with force just to feel the air fill my lungs but I still feel as if they are only half full. It grows into feeling as if there is a cinder block sitting on my chest and my throat wants to close up. I find myself hardly able to eat or trying to eat the anxiety out of my body.

As time passes I am in a constant state of barely able to breath, add in nausea, a dash of trembly limbs and a heaping spoonful of hardly being able to speak words. My mind races and my heart feels like it may explode out of my chest. Everything around me overwhelms my senses to the point that I burst into tears or become ridiculously agitated with it all. Let’s not forget the paranoia that makes you feel like a psychopath and can place you in a panic attack within minutes if you lose your control over your mind.

I find myself while driving, picking up kids, grocery shopping, cooking dinner or even sitting down, repeating to myself, “I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.” Of course, that never seems to work for me and all I can look forward to is sleep because at least when I can fall asleep, I can’t feel. If I can’t feel, I can’t panic over senseless things. As the anxiety and depression grows daily, the sleeping at night turns into closing my eyes at any given moment during the day or I am barely able to keep my eyes open. I’m not sure about you but when my anxiety and depression are running full throttle I can feel all the pressure of it in my eyes. The fatigue is so intense and that results in absolutely zero motivation for day to day tasks.

As I said earlier, I am forever thankful for my husband. He has learned to read my physical signs and can pick up on it almost instantly. He doesn’t force me to talk through it or tell me to, “suck it up.” He doesn’t pity me or make me feel sorry for myself. He just loves me. He gives me space when I need it. He helps with tasks around the house when I’m struggling mentally and can’t keep up. I will kill him if he ever leaves me because I don’t know what I would do without him some days. He is my safe place.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the world. So many of us struggle with a multitude of the destructive symptoms I mentioned above and also many more.

I see you when you say you are busy but I know you’re at home crying into your coffee cup while the kids are at school. I hear you trying to inhale deeper to catch your breath. I feel you when you need to step outside to let the fresh air embrace you and see if it awakens any endorphins in your body. I understand your silence when you are trying to calm your racing heart. I resonate with you when you look at your phone while it’s ringing and don’t answer or open a text with no intent to respond. I am also busy telling myself that I am okay.

If this is your busy, that’s okay. Mental health problems are real and they are hard but I am always here for you. I am always a phone call, text message, email, show up at my door, or mail a letter away.

On the worst days it is unbearable trying to pull yourself out of a dark place. If this is you – I am so proud of you. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are worthy.

“Just because I can’t explain the feelings causing my anxiety, doesn’t make them less valid.” – Lauren Elizabeth

In conclusion, be mindful, be kind, be humble, and just love others. We are all fighting a battle of our own. ♥️

Anxiety and depression are my demons but Jesus, self care and acceptance are my light. ✨

I’m chaotic & that’s okay. 🔥

I know that I’m different and I know that Jesus loves me through it all – and my husband tolerates me through it all. 🤪❤️

I get distracted almost always before finishing a task I began, ten tasks ago.

Inappropriate memes and jokes make me laugh harder than they should. Oops.

I love my dogs more than 99% of the human population and sometimes they hold a tight race to the kids.

I rewash my laundry more often than not.

Also, I do not iron but I will straighten out a good wrinkle with my hair straightener if I’m in a pinch.

When I am annoyed I make sure everyone in my household knows it and I always call my mama to vent.

I love a good book/movie/tv show – when I can actually make myself sit – and I am that person that pauses to tell you all about it, during the middle of it. Annoying, I know. 🙃

I am unapologetically loud and I am rarely serious.

I am “handsy” when I talk and I have sound effects for all of my daily activities. My oldest has inherited this weirdness as well.

When I am serious though, you’ll know.

I laugh at myself more than anyone else in the room but I can also cry tears of pure anger.

It takes a lot to anger me but once I’m there, there is no turning back for quite a while and I am not afraid to let you know what exactly is on my mind.

I savvy myself on being pretty good at forgiveness and understanding but forgiving doesn’t mean I’ll ever let you back in. A lot of times, that forgiveness is for my heart, not yours.

I am a simple girl that typically never wears makeup but best believe I love my hair extensions and fake nails.

Music is my kryptonite. All types of music. When I’m moody I’ll blare some Eminem and when I’m feeling lovey me and Thomas Rhett are best buds… but most days when the kids are at school I’m rapping to some Cardi B and proud of it. 🤘🏻

I like food. I like to go out to eat. I despise cooking and I will totally pout about being nice and eating something I don’t like at a family gathering. My husband gets to hear all about food I don’t enjoy.

I am sporadic. Routine stresses me more than a free for all.

Stars make me tear up with joy but I still run like a baby in the dark.

I am drawn to misfit things. Misfit people. Misfit animals. Misfit tattoos. Misfit situations. I’ve found that some of the “scariest” humans and animals have the biggest of hearts and the best of life’s stories.

Passive aggressiveness makes me MAD. Say what you feel and be honest or don’t say it at all. I have so much more respect for debatable conversation verses passive judgment.

I love being a mama and a wife but I do not find most mom/wife duties to be enjoyable. I love my family of four and would rather spend every minute with them making a mess, eating fast food and playing outside… but then the house is a wreck and I get flustered and ridden with anxiety. Therefore, sometimes I have to play the role of housewife.

I pray about any and everything, all day, every day. Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus is like, “girl, chill. I got this.” • but I also let out a few cuss words every now and again.

I live to please and help others and I thrive off of others loving me • but try and change who I am & I will run 100 miles the other way.

I am thankful for all the love and support in my life but I prefer to be independent and it eats me up when I can’t handle everything on my own.

I am stubborn and I have a serious issue with authority/control. I absolutely do not do control. Ask my daddy. 💁🏻‍♀️

I can crack a joke at any moment and I will laugh at just about anything but I do have feelings. I portray this insensitive woman but I do hurt and I do allow certain things to pass through the surface of my skin.

I am more sexual than I am emotionally dependent. Don’t preach to me cheesy little words. Show me your inner feelings.

I don’t trust words. I am always paying attention to your actions.

I am anxious. About everything. I am a paranoid individual and a slight hypochondriac. I’ve made my husband go to the doctor more times than not just so I can feel safe that he isn’t going to die. He loves it.

I love you. The authentic you. Your race, your religion, whether you are straight, bisexual or gay, whether you love Jesus as much as me, whether you’re wild or calm, and so much more. I love realistic people that so kindly accept others for who they are without judgment. Those are my people.

I am not confrontational yet I’m never scared to get in your face.

I am loving and I am bitter too.

I preach self love and continue pick myself apart in a mirror. Having the perfect body doesn’t make you confident.

Stagnation and boredom will be the death of me. I love mystery, a challenge and being spontaneous.

I’m a spender who is learning to be a saver.

I’d rather live a life full of adventure and memories than be rich.

Speaking of spontaneous – it gives me anxiety but I’m gonna do it even if I cry.

I am always late. I am always a mess. I barely ever know what day it is but I remembered mine and the kids birthdates at the doctor last time we went – so that’s a win.

I am strong willed. I am weak to my fears. I am secure in demanding my respect but insecure in my flaws.

I have new ideas 💡 each day and I put my whole heart into each one. I am also bad about not following through the whole idea. I am a procrastinator at its best and bless my husband for always allowing me to try new things – even when they don’t last!

I say I won’t get my hopes up but I always do. I say I won’t be down when things don’t go as planned and sometimes I laugh it off… yet, sometimes I cry.

Anything slow irritates the heavens out of me. Slow computers, slow drivers, my daughter getting distracted on the way out the door. I have so much patience for other aspects of life but not slow.

I am passionate. I love hard. I trust hard. I respect hard. I appreciate hard. I fall hard. I fight hard. I leave hard. I move on hard.

I am chaotic and I am not for everyone. That’s okay. I believe in being authentically you and if you’re not authentically you, you can’t find your people.

Don’t dim your light for the approval of others.

Let your chaotic, flashy light shine all over and embrace your differences. After all, God never intended on us all living an identical life with the same paths to walk. He made us each in our own way.

It breaks my heart watching so many beautiful humans conform to what others expect them to be, just to receive love and acceptance. The right people will love the true you, all of you.

I refuse to be anything else in this world but me. I don’t sugarcoat the truth for my kids on who I am as their mother. They see the imperfect, flawed, realistic mama, 100% of the time.

Find the grace in your mess. Show yourself some grace when it comes to your imperfections. Be you.

I tell my daughters every day that I will always love them for EVERYTHING THAT THEY ARE AND CONTINUE TO GROW INTO. I may not always agree or understand but I will always accept them and love them without conditions.

I am too much for a lot of you… but I am enough for me and my little tribe & that’s okay. 🔥

We do chaos. 📸

Autism is… difficult.

Haidyn was diagnosed with Autism (moderate to severe) at age 3. We knew absolutely nothing about the autism spectrum or how it was about to change our world. 🌍

I’ll be honest, when I titled this blog I was trying to think of some sweet, cliche, autism quote that would be fitting. Instead, I chose to just be honest and raw with y’all. Over the last year and especially the last six months, autism in our home has been harder than I had pictured it would be in my head. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to help raise awareness for autism and to soften the hearts of others towards the special needs community because hey, we out here! We are everywhere! 👋🏻 … BUT it is so extremely difficult for me to form words from my emotions and thoughts on our experience with autism thus far.

Our little Haidyn was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and what was considered, “level 2,” (moderate to severe) on the autism spectrum at the age of 3. She is now 4.5 years old and let me just tell you…. I knew absolutely nothing almost a year ago when she was diagnosed. Guess what, though? I still know nothing. I honestly think I feel more lost now, in this whole world of autism, than I did when I had zero education on it. See? Confusing, I know.

We had her tested by a psychologist that involved a series of appointments, testing one on one with her, with us as parents, questions, questionnaires and then finally, a follow up with a diagnosis. Her psychologist was AMAZING, thorough, patient and super informative. If you’d like her info, I’d be happy to share! When her pediatrician initially mentioned autism at a developmental assessment we had prior to her diagnosis, we assumed that IF Haidyn was diagnosed, she would be VERY mild. She was verbal, she understood what we were saying, she played with her friends and she was just a little nervous about a few things. When they say that every autistic child is unique, they are being real. The spectrum is so broad and the quirks, so wide. We just didn’t know… but we are learning with each new day.

Y’all, I laugh at myself now. I laugh and I cry. I laugh because I thought it was so simple and I cry because how did I not see it? It was all there. Almost a year later and I feel like the autism flows equally with the blood in her veins…. but the hard part is helping others see it. Yes, she is verbal and she can talk but does she truly understand you? Sometimes but more often than not, no. Haidyn speaks and communicates everything she knows from repetition. The lullabies she sings are from watching the same YouTube kids channels over and over again. Does she play with toys? Yes… but she is OBSESSED with baby dolls. Normal for a girl, right? No. You don’t understand when I say OBSESSED. I mean it. Does she play with other kids? Yes, absolutely yes. She loves other children. The fine line is when it comes to pretend play. If all of the kids are running in a circle, Haidyn will be right there with them, but if they are playing something that involves pretending, she just can’t grasp that concept and prefers to play in her own world. Her attention span is also about 0.000999 seconds long and she probably wouldn’t run in a full circle before getting distracted.

I didn’t realize that autism would affect every aspect of our lives. That it did, it was and it will continue to do so. She is autistic and there is no changing that. Instead of teaching my daughter about the world (which I am still doing), I am also having to teach the world about my daughter. I love advocating for autism and I find true passion in it but sometimes it is mentally and physically exhausting. Others just do not truly understand the needs of autistics and all other special needs humans on this earth unless they deal with it on a personal level. I don’t say that to judge, I say that because I was that person too. I didn’t know that our days would be filled with meltdowns, poop (A LOT OF POOP), so many broken household items and toys, stimming, hitting, clapping, escaping, fears and the never ending hunger. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t know how to fix it all.

Nothing is simple, or fast, or on time, or a quick fix around here. Life isn’t dull but it dang sure isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. Life with Haidyn is a lot of work and even though it isn’t all easy, it’s all worth it. She has humbled me in ways I never knew possible. I find myself on my knees almost daily, praying to God, to show me grace and mercy, to allow me patience and tenderness, understanding and opened arms, and that Haidyn will live the best life meant for her. I’m not sure why he thought I was meant to be an autism mama because I’m pretty sure I fail, daily.

I hope Haidyn never sees that she’s different and IF she must, she sees it in the most positive of lights. She is my light and she is my hero. To see her fight so hard to understand the world going crazy around her…. ugh, I wish I could see inside her little brain. I wish so deeply that I knew what she was thinking, feeling, fearing and loving… but I do know she loves me and her daddy. She thinks sissy is the funniest person ever and she loves her puppies every day. I wish others could see her how we do.

So, if you’re that person in Walmart that smiles at me. Thank you. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. What you don’t know, is how I mentally prepare myself every single time before we leave the house. Is Haidyn’s bag packed with all necessities? Speaking of necessities, pull-ups, because no, we aren’t potty trained and public restrooms SUCK. Hello world, let’s make it a sanitary place for the special needs community too!!! I am constantly preparing for what can go wrong. Are we going to have a meltdown? Are we going to pitch a fit because mama said, “no” but then get so mad that said tantrum flows into a meltdown and all control is lost? Will we survive Walmart?! Somewhere new? That could be bad. Am I prepared for all of the awkward stares and attention when my child is hollering, slapping me and losing her mind? Am I ready for one more lady to look at me like I sexually assault my child as she yells, “don’t hurt me” while I change her in a public restroom because her senses are on overload? Am I ready for the odd stares when someone asks me how old she is, I tell them 4 and then they seem confused based on her speech and actions? Am I ready to constantly remind her to keep her hands to herself, not wreck the store, sit down, quit licking the buggy and to not slap mommy one more time because IT FREAKING HURTS?

It is mentally exhausting to always be so hyper alert to everything that can happen, will happen and that will never go as planned. Life is a mystery with Haidyn Grace. I originally thought her autism was getting “worse” but as I learn, I think that she is just growing but has no idea on why or how this world keeps changing and her little body is overwhelmed.

So, thank you to her therapists who always show me how much progress she is making. Thank you to all of my mama friends at therapy, that do autism too, and have taught me so much. Y’all, you just get me. Thank you to the lady that hugged me in McDonald’s when I wanted to cry after a huge meltdown. Thank you to the lady at the nail salon that interacted with my baby after she smacked your butt multiple times (dang sensory seeking), and thank you to everyone that just smiles. Just accepts. Just loves.

I feel as if I’m mostly complaining but I promise you I am not. I am learning. I am grieving about what I THOUGHT life would be and quickly learning that autism will change that. I am adjusting and so is our entire family. There is so much more I could say, and so many more topics related to autism, but we will cover those with time. Just know, special needs mamas, I feel you and I see you! I am proud of you!

& if you’re that person that just smiles, i freaking love your face. 🖤