I am tired. Tired in a way that is different than any tired I have known before. A deep tired. A tired that feels defeating sometimes. A tired that is beginning to feel permanent.
Six months ago my 4 year old son slept through the night. And then one night he just stopped.
He stopped sleeping because of his Autism Spectrum Disorder. A symptom that I did not even know was a symptom of autism until it happened to us. One of the many things along this journey that I did not see coming.
But, that is what this journey along the spectrum is all about. Time and time again we are caught off guard. Left with no other choice than to fight through the obstacles.
The autism in my life looks very different than the autism I learned about in textbooks. I had a pretty clear vision of autism in my head. It was filled with all of the buzz words: fidgeting, non-verbal, rigidity, aggression, savant intelligence. In my mind autism looked one specific way. I thought that I would see autism and recognize it instantly.
I never imagined I would live with my son for two years without recognizing his autism. But, I did. Because Autism is anything but textbook.
Autism is ever-changing. It looks different from one moment to the next. It is so complex. Too complex. It is intricate. It is so many things entwined together inside of my beautiful little boy. It is a puzzle, and I am forever working to solve it. And, just when I think I have it figured out, it becomes something different.
That is what happened with sleep. Our son began sleeping through night consistently at eight weeks old. And then all of the sudden six months ago, he just stopped.
As a parent there are times when you expect not to sleep. After bringing home a newborn baby you know that there will be sleepless nights. When our children are sick we anticipate that there may be some spotty sleeping going on. When we stay out WAY later than thirty-somethings with two young kids should stay out. Because the later the parents go to bed, the earlier the children wake up.
All of these sleepless moments are an inevitable part of the parenting journey. You expect them. You are prepared for them. When our four year old son stopped sleeping because of his Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, we did not see it coming. We were not prepared.
So for the past 6 months we have been fighting through the sleepless nights and the exhausted days. We exist in a tired haze.
Our son sleeps through the night about once every three to four days. That night of sleep is bliss. He sleeps a full ten or twelve hours. We wake up in the morning ready to take on whatever the world throws our way. The nights in between are not so victorious. We typically spend three to four hours awake coaxing our son back to sleep. And, by the time finally help him back to sleep, it is time for the parents to wake up and start the day.
Being tired has become a lifestyle.
We have tried so many things to help counteract our son’s sleep challenges. Some remedies work right away and then taper off. Some remedies never work. Sometimes we are not sure if a particular thing is working or not.
We have tried essential oils (in any and every combination possible), melatonin, reduced screen time, removing sugar, aroma therapy, calming music, white noise, blackout curtains, weighted blankets, compression clothing, etc. You name it, we have tried it.
The best stretch of sleep over the past six months came just after we introduced essential oils in a diffuser. We slept through the night for TEN NIGHTS IN A ROW! We were convinced that we found the remedy. We were ready to happy dance the sleep deposit all the way to the bank. It was awesome. Until it stopped.
The only thing worse than not sleeping through the night, is not sleeping through the night after ten nights in a row of sleeping through the night. It was just long enough to forget about the sleepless life style.
Some days I am so tired that I could just cry. Actually, some days I am so tired that I do cry. I ask myself how I can keep going without sleep. I put all of my faith in the belief that this is a phase that will end. Because it will end. It has to end.
But our own exhaustion is not even the worst part. The hardest part is watching our little man struggle through his tired haze. It is seeing his behaviors at home and at school increase as a result of his limited sleep. It is watching the emotional roller coaster that follows his sleepless nights.
So we stock up extra on bold coffee and patience. Coffee for us and patience for each other. Because we are all tired. And nobody is the best version of themself when they are tired.
We take our sleep when we can get it. We keep trying new things. We keep fighting through the exhaustion.
We are tired. The tiredness makes everything feel heavier. Magnified. But we just keep pouring the coffee and fighting forward. One sleepless day at a time.