Yesterday I posted a promise that this blog would return, today, to the six-month evaluation of Martin’s ASD recovery. I don’t want to be the kind of blogger who makes a pledge and fails to pay, especially not when I’ve been blogging only a month. But I’m going to risk breaching my readers’ faith with one more diversion. I have to, because this crap day topping off this crap week compels me to address a new topic: what I wish I had known when we decided to treat autism biomedically. What I wish I had known, so I could have steeled myself.
I wish I had known that recovery would sometimes beat the daylights out of Martin. I’ve already written about how arduous I find chaperoning Martin’s recovery. That’s a bunch of self-indulgent reverie. Martin is the patient actually doing the work of emerging from autism. Martin is the guy too drunk from detox to sleep at night, too drowsy from sleeplessness to function during the day. Martin is the guy whose very cognition vacillates, who must wonder why his mind functioned differently yesterday than it will tomorrow. Martin is the guy who swallows pill after pill, oil upon oil, without protest, who accepts without explanation that he can’t eat what Adrian and I eat, that his sweetest treat is neither birthday cake nor Halloween booty, but a pear. My son today remained his darling, loving self even as he teetered on exhaustion, crying without provocation, unable to concentrate or to enjoy any toy, any game. I endured on the thought that these few years are saving him from a lifetime of lethargy and gut pain, muscle fatigue, and inability to connect with other souls.
If only he too could see the prize.
I wish I had known that my work would be every day, unrelenting. No one knows Martin’s diet, supplementation, and routine like I do. Not my mother, who is visiting. Not Martin’s excellent Track Two doctor, who oversees his care. Not even Samara, who is with Martin five days a week. I can never sleep in; certain pills and drops must be given as soon as Martin rises, and spreading his HANDLE exercises throughout the day means completing some before breakfast. I can leave the apartment for an evening, but I can never take a break; for me to be gone a few hours requires adjusting his supplementation before and after, completing exercises ahead of schedule, preparing food. Last month a family member became ill, requiring me to make an impromptu four-day trip to Germany. I ended up pulling two consecutive all-nighters before I could depart, getting my business affairs in order and then spending nearly 24 hours in the kitchen, freezing meals and training Samara, who had to move into our apartment while I was away. I long to declare a holiday from ASD recovery: a morning, noon, and night just for me, to squander as I see fit.
I never will.
I wish I had known what it feels like to run the proverbial marathon. For at least ten days now, Martin’s progress seems to have stalled. He’s had no concentration. His sleep has faltered. He’s even engaged in self-stimming behaviors. I begin to doubt whether we will succeed in recovering Martin. I can’t help but doubt. This evening I was out on a prepared-in-advance jaunt, showing some tourist friends Times Square after dusk, when I received this email from Adrian: “I was looking at some pictures of Martin and realizing that I am ultimately very scared of the whole thing.” Some months ago Martin’s excellent Track Two doctor commended me and Adrian for noting even the flyspecks of progress—the times when Martin understands a facial expression, or reads a gesture, or engages another child. The recovery process is so long, so tortuous, the doctor said, that the parents who catch these little things are the ones who ultimately succeed. The parents who, on the other hand, await the morning when their child will suddenly wake up neurotypical lack the stamina to finish the journey. They give up. The doctor’s word sounded so true, and I recognize them to be such. But I wish I had known that even those among us who record signs of recovery in every detail, however ephemeral, eventually will flag.
And I wish I knew, now, how to hold it together when recovery is beating the daylights out of Martin, when my work is unrelenting, and when it feels like this marathon will never end.