What Autism Does to a Mother
While a few friends hung in there, the phone calls from others faded.
"Life went on for them," says Nicole. "But without the phone
ringing, and without being able to run errands because of Ryan's behavior, my
days were filled with silence." Nicole often cried to her husband, Tim,
about the loneliness. Tim, 38, who owns a contracting business, realized how
suffocating the situation was for his wife. "I had work as an escape,"
he says. "But autism was every minute of Nicole's day."
A part of Nicole simply shut down. "I did put up a wall," she says.
"When someone reached out, I didn't jump. I just felt like, 'There's
nothing anyone can do to fix this.'"
"I kept turning down help"
After the prayer vigil, Nicole's "wall" began to crack. "I felt
so cared for during the vigil, which was very healing," she says. But it
was a new friend, Sue Stigler, who finally convinced Nicole to truly drop her
Sue and Nicole were in the same social circle at church, but they weren't
close. So it surprised Nicole when the 41-year-old mom, who has a son Ryan's
age, took on the role of best friend. Sue began showing up at her door
throughout the summer wanting to help — she stopped by with uplifting greeting
cards, cookies, chocolate, and offers to shop for groceries and even to clean
Nicole's house. "I kept turning her down," says Nicole. "I wanted
help, but I felt like I was drowning in everything I needed."
Sue persisted, and even packed Nicole's suitcase for a family trip to Laguna
Beach, CA, with Tim's friends and their families. Nicole had contemplated
canceling the vacation because going away with Ryan seemed too hard. But Sue
convinced her that it would be a good chance for the family to have some fun.
"I'm so glad Sue pushed us to go," says Nicole. "I bonded with the
wives of Tim's friends, who were very understanding on the trip — probably
because they got a chance to see all my day-to-day challenges