Last night my husband and I started watching Season 2 of Atypical. We watched a few episodes and experienced the same rollercoaster of emotions as we did when watching the first season – no surprise there. When we turned off the T.V. and tried to sleep, we both lay there in silence, unable to shut off our heads. My husband is a man of few words, and it is often a mystery what goes on in his head, but this morning when he got to work, he sent me a text message with some insight. “What am I going to do when I can no longer throw Giancarlo in the air and spin him the way he loves? What if people are mean to him at school and he doesn’t know how to defend himself? It broke my heart when he told his sister that he wants to take care of her sometimes… we forget Giancarlo is older than Rosalia, don’t we?” The little hamster in his head had been pretty busy, it seems. These are the questions that led my anxiety to spin out of control a while back. Until recently, I was the worry-er and he was the eternal optimist, reassuring me that everything would be okay. Of course, Giancarlo will be able to work when he is older. No, you won’t have to wipe his bum till he is in his 20s. No, why would he get bullied? Denial.
One of the hardest things about going through the different phases of acceptance regarding Giancarlo’s autism is the fact that we went through them at very, very different paces, and it nearly tore us apart as a couple. When I was desperate to learn everything there was to know about possible and impossible treatments, I stayed up reading studies all night, went to conferences, tracked down professors and doctors abroad, managed different therapies and a multi-disciplinary team, both in the public and private sectors, I did it alone. I worried alone. I broke down crying in the shower, my office, in the car – alone. I have been so consumed by the tsunami of thoughts and worries that I have been unable to catch my breath. When I was spiraling out of control, gasping for air between two of Giancarlo’s violent meltdowns, my husband didn’t see me. He didn’t see my mind race ahead 5 or 10 years when I will no longer have the physical strength to overcome my son lashing out at me and then crawling into my arms so I rock his over-sized body back and forth, back and forth, back and forth as I weep.
But last night he got a glimpse of that because of that show on Netflix, and I imagine that other viewers will, too. They will see how a family like ours can be torn apart because we all deal with the challenges of Autism in very different ways. They will see how hard it is for someone on the spectrum to wrap their heads around the simplest things we take for granted. They will see how the siblings struggle with, embrace, and reject their role.
I am both excited and apprehensive to finish watching the second season. Partly because I don’t want it to end, partly because I know I’ll ugly cry, but mainly because although I relate to it on so many levels, it brings up raw, intense emotions. And it gets my husband to express himself better than any therapist I’ve been able to find, so I’ll take it!