Just when I think, okay, yeah. I’ve got this. I have accepted and my grief is gone; I feel — dare I say it — equanimity, grief and sorrow gurgle up like I’m a sponge that has absorbed too much and the moment you touch it, it all leaks out.
You notice that the regularly scheduled programming has been interrupted. You think, “oh, normally, this thing (whatever it is) would have set me off, but it hasn’t. It must mean I am done with that. It must mean I’m into the next stage”. Eureka, I’m there – I’m on the other side of this, I’ve taken what life has thrown at me, at us, at my kid and normalized it.
When you’re a special needs parent, that stage is what I’ll call the Doesn’t-Phase-Me-I-Am-Fierce-And-Invincible stage. When you get there, whether you get there in months or in years, and yes, even decades, you are pretty sure you’re there to stay.
So you can imagine the surprise and panic that registered on my face when I realized that I’d looped right back into the F*ck-Everything-And-Everyone stage.
Psycho-Emotional “Menstrual” Cycle
I’d like to dub this the: Psycho-Emotional “Menstrual” Cycle. It is triggered when you receive a diagnosis about your child that hurls them out of the label “Typical” and into the label “sick”, “disorder”, “abnormal”, and the ubiquitous “special”.
The only point of difference between a physical Menstrual cycle and the Psycho-Emotional Menstrual cycle is that you can be female, male, or trans. You can be any or all genders. You can identify however you feel most comfortable. It’s an indiscriminately fair cycle.
There is a lot of talk about mastery. Mastery of a skill, of our emotions. Mastery has become a goal. I have felt Masterful. I thought that once I mastered equanimity about my child’s diagnosis and all that it indicates for her, for myself, for her sisters, for my marriage, my work, and my friendships that it would be mine forever. Like the rings of a tree that show it has grown and survived or the demarcation on a wooden coffee table not graced by coasters, I felt my Mastery was indelible.
Or, in keeping with the metaphor, I thought emotional mastery was like a hysterectomy.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
You can gain mastery and it doesn’t mean your cycle is over. In fact, unlike a physical Menstrual cycle, this one doesn’t come to an end when you’re in the next stage. So what the hell is the point of mastery??!
In this sense, mastery is more of a balm than a skill. It gives the gift of bounce-back — which you’ll recognize as a much bantered about term: resilience. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel the sorrow or grief. It doesn’t bubble wrap us from the hardest of emotions or the stares or the whispered voices we try to ignore. It doesn’t make taking hard steps easier.
But it does, little by little, allow us to incorporate the new cycle as part of our new normal.