This isn't going to be a pleasant post to read and it certainly isn't one to write. But I'm doing it anyway because I think there are two important pieces of information to communicate:
1) Sometimes feelings bring you to a dark place. As a parent, I need to be prepared for that.
2) Those feelings are temporary. I have to give myself permission to feel them and then move past them or else they can become all-consuming.
I've been sick with a GI bug (or food poisoning) and that's lowered the reserves of resiliency I usually have to draw on. So today, when Alex soiled himself and managed to destroy his expensive pair of noise cancelling headphones within twenty minutes of one another and then stood there complaining that I wasn't making his dinner fast enough, it was a dark reaction.
I found myself thinking of him as a taker, someone who is always demanding and never returns anything. I then found myself thinking that the autism means he will always be a taker. He will always be standing there demanding and demanding and demanding. Demanding that I maintain a positive emotional equilibrium. Demanding special care and hypervigilance. Demanding the things he wants with no clue as to when I'm tapped out with nothing else to give.
Rationally, I recognize this is a dark exaggeration of the truth. Yes, he will always have trouble picking up on social signals and thus will probably have a bad habit of not realizing this is not a good time to ask. But that is not a character flaw.
But emotionally, at that exact moment, I felt trapped and hopeless.
Hope is the greatest resource a parent of a special needs child can have. People tell me constantly that they couldn't do what I do. And if I looked on it as a whole, I couldn't do what I do either. If ten years ago, when I was first picking up my newborn son, someone told me that ten years later, I would still be hand feeding him and diapering him, I couldn't have coped with that knowledge.
Instead, I moved on with blissful ignorance and did the best I knew how. I had the hope that the unpleasant things of today were temporary, letting me focus on the pleasant side of having Alex in my life.
Now I know that these things may not be temporary. But I don't know for sure that they aren't, which means I have to keep trying and put in the effort on the slim chance of achievement. But it's harder. I'm now more like the guys in the second wave of an attack on an enemy fortification. The first wave didn't know about the machine guns or the booby traps. I do but I'm doing it anyway. It's harder but no less necessary if I want the chance of taking the hill (or potty training my son).
I know these feelings will pass which gives me the strength to let myself feel the dark stuff and let it go without making it a part of the definition of who I am. I'm not a bad person who is fooling the world. I'm a good person who had a moment of discouragement.
When you have these feelings, recognize them for what they are: a realistic emotional reaction to an incredibly difficult situation. They aren't signs of being a bad parent, a bad person or anything else. Accept them (don't act on them!) and then let them go. Take the time and help you need.