I have read The Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted from Brene' Brown to myself and to my clients a bazillion times. Each word of this manifesto speaks of strength and self-compassion and written in a way that inspires the heart to let go of shame. Her powerful words just seem to speak to the wounds I carry as a Matty's mom.
The Manifesto of the Brave an Brokenhearted
"There is not greater threat to critics, cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.With skinned knees and bruised hearts we choose owning our stores of struggle. Over hiding, over hustling over pretending.When we deny our stories they define us. When we run from struggle we are never free. So we turned toward the truth and look it in the eye.We will not be characters in our stories not villains not victims not even heroes.We are the author of our lives. We write our own daring endings.We craft love from heartbreak. Compassion from shame. Grace from disappointment. Courage from failure.Showing up is our power. Story is our way home. Truth is our song. We are the brave and broken hearted we are rising strong." Brene' Brown
Today, I had the privilege to speak to future counselors from Tennessee Tech University, Geaux Golden Eagles!
It is a talk that I have done for years, the one where I explain what it is like to be a parent living with someone struggling with Autism and the journey that led to becoming a therapist. I can't lie, it's a story that I never get tired from telling, a story that I have shared with many people on different professional platforms. Today, I realized that the story has been told for almost 9 years and has changed in intensity and message because I am still living through our story, still "writing our own daring ending."
Let me back up and briefly share the story.
When I began the journey of sharing Matty's story, I was a master level student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, it was the Fall of 2013.
Matty was 8 years old when we moved back to Louisiana after years of living in Florida. I wanted to come home, I was ready to face life as a special needs mom or so I thought. I also needed to finish a masters degree that I had started 10 years before. (I started over...I needed to).
The transition for Matty was painful and full of hurtful moments from the most unlikely of places and people. I was attempting to heal my "bruised heart" while getting Matty set up in his new environment. I spent the beginnings of our home coming being knocked down for advocating for my son. I did not understand the cruelty, the rejection and the torment that we faced. I wanted more for my son, the basics that we were given just a few states away. But because I was "passionate" for my son's education, I was deemed a "parent who would never be satisfied." A problem. Never-mind, the experts and the money spent for this torment, I was left bruised and broken entering the Counselor Education masters program.
In my mind, I was a 40 year old failure.
I found compassion and grace from my professors and cohorts.
I was struggling with major sleep deprivation, anxiety mixed with heartbreak, emotions that are all too common for families struggling through the spectrum. Piece by piece, class by class, I learned about how my mental health impacted our lives. I prepared for class like a warrior training for battle. Reading about stages and phases, techniques and theories, ethics and statistics with research to advocate for a population of humans that were often written off. Basically, I was entering my masters program prepared to tackle it like a mother on fire.
I credit one of my favorite professors for seeing me, giving me the opportunity to share my pain, my gains and more importantly to advocate for a population of people who struggle with a developmental disorder with no known cause or cure. That first time still brings tears to my eyes (yep even today). I was in a child and adolescent course and we were discussing developmental disorders. I remember coaching myself to let the professor teach her class, I was planning on listening but she had other plans. She entered the classroom and immediately gave me the floor. It was the first time, that I shared our story.
Over the years, the release came in stages and phases, mixed with intense emotions and hard truths. Each time I shared our story, the more of our story unfolded. The cathartic release, the need to feel heard, to gain acknowledgment for the bruises earned, lively discussions and the beautiful ways Matty's story educates others has become a true caterpillar to a butterfly movement.
It only takes one person and or one opportunity, to create a shift and a change in another's healing. Brene' Brown encourages others to share their stories of struggle. So go on... tell your story. Speak it loudly. Some of us are waiting for you.