Taking Care of Yourself
Last week I was at the Second Annual Midsouth Autism Conference in Southaven, Mississippi hosted by Transformations Autism Treatment Center. At the event I had the wonderful opportunity to do a breakout session about my life on the autism spectrum called “Overcoming Obstacles: The Kerry Magro Story.” With my last 15 minutes, which I left for answering questions, one of the first questions that was directed to me was from a young mom who simply asked “How can I make my son better?”
Even though I’m not the best when it comes to reading complete body language, looking at the mother in the audience I could see that it was an emotional topic for her to say the least. I can completely understand that. Autism is a topic that families constantly struggle with each day. My response was shocking to me because the first four words that came out of my mouth were “Take care of yourself.” There was a short pause as I wasn’t sure exactly why I said that. Looking back, however, I know exactly why: A great number of parents I see today aren’t taking care of themselves.
When it comes to taking care of an adult on the spectrum, it’s essential whether they are just newly diagnosed or have been considered on the spectrum for years that you care for yourself as much as you care for them. It’s a universal need toward progress. If you are stressed, not eating right, not getting enough sleep, etc. you might not be 100 percent available when it comes to taking care of your loved ones. To be in a position to help anyone you first must care for yourself and then use that ability to help your loved one—or the world—while making sure it reflects back to you as well.
For example, whenever I do a speech I usually tell people about the wristband that I’ve worn for five years, which says “Make a Difference” on it. When I point this out I say I want to make a difference but not only in the lives of others but in my own life too. When I say this I’m stressing the fact that it must be a two-way street. Taking care of someone else also means taking care of what I’m doing.
This is something I have rarely mentioned in the past because I thought it was rhetorical, but is it really? At the end of answering the young mom’s question, she came up to me later and gave me a hug, telling me what it meant for me to tell her that. I know sometimes I fall out of this mode as a young college kid too. It’s just as essential that we teach our young ones how to care for themselves and others because it helps so much with our passions to be anything we ever dreamed of being.
So remember, no matter the circumstances, take care of yourself and make sure your loved ones do the same.