An Open Letter to the Friend I Lost Along the Way

I am sitting here thinking about our relationship. And about how much I love you. And how I rarely see you. We joke that it’s because life is so busy. We have jobs and babies.

We say that this month we will finally find the time to get together. And how someday soon we will have more time. One of these days we will actually get together and do something.

I’m not sure if that’s entirely true though…at least not for me. We are different. We are friends. We are practically family. I love you and your babies. But we are different. And we dance around it like it’s not true.

Like the differences aren’t the white elephant in the room.

I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry that I don’t make plans with you. I am sorry that I won’t commit to doing anything. And mostly I am sorry that I always cancel.

This morning I woke up at 3:07 am with Cooper. This is common in my world. Some days are worse than others. There are mornings where he kicks me. Mornings where I have to physically restrain his 60 pound body.

There are moments where I am so close to giving up its scary. And other mornings where I don’t know how I’ll make it through the day.

I could tell you all this but I don’t. It’s not believable. I sound like a broke record. I feel like I am whining.

So, I cancel. Or, even worse, I refuse to commit to plans. I do this because every day in my world is extreme and different.  And I need you to know the weight that I carry is bigger than me. It’s bigger than our friendship. And it’s completely out of my control.

I feel the strain between us too. God I feel it. I miss you. I miss us. But most of all I miss the friend that I used to be.

I know that I am not the woman you remember. I am different. I used to be so much fun. I was up for anything.

I didn’t fit into your world anymore. I would like to think that it evolved slowly over time. But that is not true. It happened all at once.

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Photo Credit: Melanie Houle Gunderson

It happened the day Cooper was born. Before that we were the same. College, wedding preparations, baby preparations. I was you. You were me. We were young. We were blissful. I was completely and utterly naïve to the hurricane force that was going to soon control my life.

Then wham. I was different. I had a label. I was an autism parent. I immediately carried it on my shoulders. The weight was more than I could handle at times.

When our children were younger it was one thing. My baby didn’t sleep. Yours did.  Mine never stopped crying. Mine was chronically ill with ear infections and constipation. I was tired. I couldn’t speak about anything besides how my child was NOT autistic.

I saw how you started to miss me. I saw how I started to slip away. Don’t think I didn’t know it was happening. I was part of every second of it.

But I could pretend then. We could pretend. Our children were infants. And every mother we knew was exhausted. So this was going to be fine.

We would sneak away for a glass of wine and laugh about motherhood. We’d talk about the vacations we would take when they were older.

Then, the differences started to show in my child. He was no longer just a bad sleeper or a difficult baby. This was more serious. The differences between our children hung in the air when I was with you.

We would trade stories of other mothers we knew who went through the same thing…and it turned out fine. They were fine. I was going to be fine. This was going to be fine.

You’d find a blog post or a news article about a late talker and send it my way. We both agreed it wasn’t autism.

Then, suddenly, I had a diagnosis.

My life quickly became doctors, therapies and IEP’s. I couldn’t relate to you anymore. And you most definitely couldn’t relate to me.

It was like I was in a movie. I watched myself turn invisible right before your eyes. I felt out-of-place. I felt irrelevant. But most of all I felt jealous.

My child was different. Yours was not. Your child met milestones. Mine did not. Your child said her first word. Mine did not.  Mine would scream and hit his head in frustration.  Yours had a conversation with me.

You potty trained your child in a month. I frantically searched for size 7 diapers.

And then I completely slipped away into this new world.

I stopped calling. I withdrew.

That is the blatant truth. We can dance around it. You can say that you are OK with Cooper. I hear it all the time from friends and family. I know you love him. We all do.

But my son is different from yours.

And I want to say that I am so sorry.

It’s truly not you. You are a wonderful friend. And I love you. But I slipped away and I don’t know how to come back.

I am sorry we don’t come and visit. The preparations for a visit to someone’s house are epic. Do you have a fence? Do you have WiFi? Pets? Do you care about messes? The list goes on. Snacks? Sippy cups? Milk? In a sense I still have a newborn. A 60 pound newborn that can do some serious damage.

And I believe it when you say that you love Cooper. You don’t mind the screaming and the pacing.

But I do friend. I care. I care about parenting in front of you. I care that I can’t sit and talk to you because of Cooper. I care that I wake up at 3:15 am. I care that I got poop on your floor while changing my 6-year-old.

In the back of my mind I wonder how long you will hang on. When will it be too much?

I want you to know that I wake up every day happy and with the best of intentions. And by the end of the day sometimes I can’t see straight. It takes all my strength to respond to a day old text message from you.

I will go on Facebook and see that you signed your daughter up for gymnastics. Or maybe it’s t-ball this time. I guess whatever activity a 6-year-old does these days.

I will feel the pain in my stomach. I am over here researching special needs strollers for children. I am trying to figure out how I am going to pay for it. And how I am going to be strong enough to bring it out in public for the first time. How do I find one that won’t stand out? Or make us look too different.

What you are doing isn’t wrong friend. It’s amazing. I am so happy for. Your children are beautiful. You are beautiful.

I’m just not there.

I need you to forgive me.

I am letting you off the hook friend. Autism isn’t your world. It is mine.

I want to thank you for standing by me. And I want to ask you to not give up on me. Your children are going to continue to grow and thrive. There are times where I think Cooper and I will be in the same exact spot.

Please remember us. We are trying so hard to fit into your world.

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Photo Credit: Kacie K Photography

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6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Friend I Lost Along the Way

  1. Wow, what a beautifully written post ❤️ I felt your pain, your love, your sorrow, your regret, and your genuineness through your words. I wish I could hug you right now. I wish I could take away all the pain. I wish I could rewind time for you. ❤️

    I hope that this friend is as good a friend to you as you are to them, and I hope they value your friendship in the same way as you do. I hope they’re as good a person as you are. ❤️

    If so, they’ll come around. They’ll help you back into their life. They’ll show you the way back into the groove of your friendship. Hopefully, you can simply pick up where you left off. Of course, it’ll be different now, but maybe the friendship will at least have a similar harmonic. That’s my hope for you.

    I hear your loneliness. The life you have indeed sounds heavy and lonely. So many “have-to”s. So much outside the curve of “normal”. But I don’t think you’re complaining at all. I think that every word you wrote is highly justified, and you are entitled to every bit of it. And I admire your strength, for so many reasons. First, the strength to get through each day. Second, the strength to think this way. Third, the strength to write it out. And fourth, the strength to hit that “Publish” button. Wow. I’m amazed and filled with admiration. Because you are truly amazing.

    Love this post and your blog so much! Keep writing, luv 😊❤️
    ~The Silent Wave Blog writer

  2. In dealing with this diagnosis, you have to be strong. We spend our days being strong and doing our best to be dependable. Reading this gave me permission, for a moment, to allow my feelings of weakness to be ok. I don’t have friends in the traditional sense. My son is older now, 18 yrs old, and though he is higher functioning, is still in many ways not. I spend many days feeling alone in this journey because I don’t have anything left to invest in friendships once I finish with what is needed of me at home, which is everything. Thanks for giving a voice to my inner self that desires to be strong all the time, but is not!!!

  3. What a beautifully honest article. Friendships are so difficult to maintain because I am just exhausted and can’t relate. My son, Sammy, was diagnosed with severe, nonverbal autism 8 years ago. I still remember asking the doctor how she could tell that my little 2 year old was on the severe end of the autism spectrum. She explained that she had diagnosed hundreds of children, and that my sweet Sammy was very low functioning. She could just tell. That sent me into a frenzy. I wanted to save him from the dark future that was before him. I spent all of my time and energy seeking the best therapists and enrolled him in the best school. When I look back, I am pleased that I invested so much of myself into his progress, and I wouldn’t change anything. By the time I give to Sammy, his 3 children, my husband, and my mother, I am spent. BUT I am blessed to have 4 very low maintenance friendships. My friends understand that I may not reply to a text for 3 days or that I won’t return a call. They understand that I care, but I don’t always show it. I am grateful they understand that autism is 24/7 and that I don’t have much time or energy to invest into being a friend.

  4. Thank you for writing the words I couldn’t find. I am where you are. I sent this to my closest friends. Who happen to have children the same age as my son. I watched them reach milestones that my Miles didn’t. I love those kids, as my friend loves my son. But we are in different worlds. Good luck to you and Cooper. ❤

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