Appreciation for what we have should be something we feel every day of the year, not just in November. This mother's tumultuous life has taught her just that.
Life Parenting Special Needs

Be Thankful 365 Days, Not Just 30

Appreciation for what we have should be something we feel every day of the year, not just in November. This mother's tumultuous life has taught her just that.

By Courtney Barnum of A Legion for Liam

If you told me twenty years ago that this is where I’d be today, I’d have punched you in your eating hole for daring to speak such nastiness. (I was a rough chick back then. I was kind, and I was fair, but I took shit from no one. I always had the underdog’s back. I once bloodied a classmate’s face when he screamed and called me a whore in front of our entire class at lunch, all because I wouldn’t let him cheat off my literature exam. I once popped a boyfriend in the mouth in math class because he kept poking me in the ribs. I had asked him so many times to stop and he wouldn’t listen. Finally, I told him if he did it again, I would give him a fat lip. He did it again. Our substitute teacher told him, “She warned you. I think you had that coming. Now go to the nurse.”)

I digress. So ten years ago, had you told me this would be my life, I would have ignored you and probably not spoken to you again. I was blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations that would become my life. I lived in my bubble of happiness, and if you tried to burst it, I would do my best to distance myself from you.

Now, before you jump me for being a whiner, calm down and keep reading!

I’m a very positive person. My glass is almost always half full (of coffee,) but I will NEVER sugar coat the life we have lived and continue to live. We all have struggles. I know this. I also know that even on our worst days, we’re lucky. We still have MUCH to be thankful for. But that doesn’t make those bad days hurt any less. Much like a paper cut in the crease of your finger, those awful days will continue to burn and sting my heart until I push them out of my mind.

I had my miracle child. The baby they told me I would probably never have. We had our first home. Hubby had a decent paying job. All was right with the world. Or so I thought.

We had recently moved back home after Hurricane Katrina devastated the South. We were thankful we had our lives and the few belongings we owned. To say we were annoyingly happy is probably an understatement.

Then, one thing after another started stealing the wind from our sails and knocking us on our arses. It didn’t matter how hard we clawed and grasped for that proverbial ladder, we just kept falling right back down it.

We didn’t give up. We fought harder.

Hubby broke his back. He lost his job. We had to look to the state for help. Liam was a handful. Even at only six months, he gave me a run for my money. I didn’t know any better; he was (and still is) my first baby. I was clueless. Without boring you with a TON of details that I don’t feel like rehashing, the short and sweet version is that life was going to hell in a hand basket.

I remember in the thick of it, my mom mentioned she thought Liam had autism. I remember seething with rage. I was uneducated. I had only ever experienced children with severe autism. That wasn’t my son. As a matter of fact, we didn’t speak for a year. That’s how angry I was. Liam was around 15-18 months at that time. He quit eating. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him. He would line up his baby cars just so, and if you tried to touch them to play, he would freak out. I just thought it was a phase.

It wasn’t.

Jump ahead to 2010. Liam was diagnosed with autism. We were gobsmacked. I had to call my mother and tell her she was right. (The blasphemy!) The years to follow would become even more tumultuous. At that point, though, we were at rock bottom.

But then I educated myself. I read every book I could get my hands on about autism. (Thank you ABOARD’s Autism Connection of PA for your FREE library!) I got online and “met” other parents like me. I fought endlessly for therapies and school rights. I started to home-school Liam. I started my Facebook page for support and to support others. Things were looking up.

Then they went right back down. Those of you with a loved one on the spectrum know, there are great days, weeks, even months. Then things get worse. But for Liam, it wasn’t “typical” autism rough patches. We had to seek more opinions. In 2014 he was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. His actual diagnoses are now autism, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and SPD. How much can one little boy and his family take?

The answer is a lot! There are days I don’t understand how my boy can survive. How he can fight through those inner demons and smile another day. Some days I don’t know if I am strong enough to help him conquer these demons. Sometimes I wonder how he’ll (or we’ll) make it through.

But we always do. We may live in a small trailer. We may have no money. (Hubby is STILL fighting for his benefits.) My son, my husband, and I may have more diagnoses than an entire wing in a hospital, but we’re alive. We have a roof over our heads. We have loving family. We have great friends (some of whom live in here, the interwebs). We have amazing senses of humor. Most importantly, we have each other.

So as you scroll through your feed this holiday season and you see everyone doing their thankful 30, take a moment and think of what you’re thankful for. Then, continue to do this the other 335 days of the year. You can let yourself have a bad day or ten. You can be angry at the curve balls life throws at you sometimes, but bottom line, look to the things you DO have.

If you spend more time dwelling on the good, the bad won’t seem so bad after all.

This post was originally published on A Legion for Liam.


About Courtney Barnum

Courtney is a SAHM. She home schools her autistic son. He’s nine with a myriad of other diagnoses. In her spare time, she writes. Follow her blog at A Legion for Liam.