Last night I had a really bad panic attack. The situation that triggered it is a complicated one that has me feeling rather torn in half. As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is a special education teacher. He is extremely devoted to his work and his students and loves what he does. This past Monday, he found out that one of his prior students, a girl who is now 19, needs a place to stay. My husband would like for us to take her in. I am really conflicted about it.
My husband and I used to do foster care, so I’m not unfamiliar with taking in strangers and looking after them, but the reason we had to quit foster care was my deteriorating health. That worries me about taking in a new, adult person who has both emotional and developmental issues. It also worries me because we recently downsized into a much, much smaller house and the autistic side of me is deeply worried about having no privacy or time alone which is essential to my well-being. Plus, I don’t know where we will move all the stuff that is now in the extra room.
On the other hand, I do feel deeply for this girl who has been through A LOT. My heart aches for anyone who already struggles with physical or mental disabilities and then has to add the weight of being abandoned or alone. She is living my worst nightmare in many ways and I can’t help but feel compassion for her. However, having never met her myself, I also worry about whether we would be a good fit or not. Often, that is something you just can’t tell until you live together, and if we do take her in, there is a good chance we would need to keep her at least a couple years until she graduates school and is moved into some form of independent living housing.
I feel so conflicted and anxious.
I’ve always found the subject of karma interesting. The whole what-goes-around-comes-around belief. You reap what you sow. To some extent I definitely believe this, although I do believe true forgiveness and grace can overcome negative karma.
Anyhow, today I want to talk about a personal experience of karma showing up a lot sooner than I expected. The story starts about 9 or 10 years ago when my husband first started working in special education. Back then I was young, still very much learning, somewhat more judgemental and sometimes just outright stupid. My husband would come home and tell me about the severely autistic kids he worked with. Some of these kids were exceptionally low-functioning and couldn’t speak or do much of anything for themselves. My husband loved them very much, but even though I am ashamed to admit it, I had some pretty negative thoughts.
Having never (up until that point) known anyone diagnosed with autism, I wondered what kind of lives these kids could have. Was it really worth educating them I wondered when some of them tried to eat their schoolwork rather than doing it? I am mortified to admit I was so ignorant and hateful, but I even wondered if they weren’t just a drain on society. Over time my views did start to shift, especially as I got to know more of these kids myself and spent time with them. It also amused me how as my husband worked with them more and more, he would laughingly comment that he thought I might be autistic. I thought he was joking. In a way he was, but in another way he definitely wasn’t.
Then came the day a few years ago when I read a book about a high-functioning autistic girl. I saw myself in page after page and was amazed. Here was someone so much like me! I saw myself in the sensory issues. I saw myself in the social issues. I saw myself in the stimming and the obsessive interests and the odd way of thinking about the world. Eventually, this led up to me being tested for autism and (surprise, surprise) I was autistic myself and always had been without even knowing it. I was one of those people I had once judged so harshly. Yeah, I might be higher functioning, but I have many of the VERY SAME issues! If that isn’t the irony of karma…I don’t know what is!
Now I am proud to say I am more empathetic to disabled people of all kinds. I stand up for the rights of others who get put down. I would be disgusted by someone who thinks the way I used to secretly think. I have grown and I am so glad…