Photo by Sanaa Ali

Author Lynda Drake shares her journey as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome and her thoughts on what is acceptance.

“If we accept our weaknesses, we become stronger.” – Angelo Rondino

Lynda’s perspective:

What does acceptance mean to you? I would define acceptance as a willingness to acknowledge the existence or experience of a difficult or unpleasant situation or characteristic or a pleasant circumstance (for instance, accepting our beauty) that, for whatever reason, can be challenging for us to recognize or allow into our lives. In order to change these circumstances or empower them in our lives, we first must accept them as they are.

One of the most difficult yet important things I have had to accept is my dark side. We all have a light side and a dark side. I didn’t even realize I had a dark side until I started going to Al-anon. Having lived with my late husband, who was an alcoholic for about 35 years, led me to join an Al-anon group. It was in reading about the effects of living with an alcoholic that I began to see this dark side of myself. I have uncovered that my dark side is afraid to truly be myself. Thinking that I had to be something other than I was to be good enough to be loved, good enough to be worthy. I had to accept that I’m smart, but I don’t always know the answer. I don’t have to act smarter than I am; act like I know things that I don’t to be smart, to be acceptable, worthy. When I face my dark side, I can admit when I don’t know things and when I’m wrong.

I can accept that I do not always feel strong and that there are times I just can’t do it by myself. I have learned that I can need help and still be strong. As a matter of fact, when I admit that I need help when I am vulnerable and ask someone else for help, that is when I am the strongest. I can admit that I don’t always know how to do things. As a mom, I can acknowledge I don’t always have the answer about what to do concerning my kids.

With my son Alex, who has Down syndrome, autism, and mood disorder, how do I know how to help him be his best self? How do I know what to expect of him, what to do for him? Am I babying him when I do things for him? Am I trying to control or manipulate him? What is the right thing to do? I don’t know. When he has behaviors and screams at me or hurts me, how do I react to that? I know I need to hold a space of love. I know I need to see him as worthy of love, even in that moment. How do I avoid his behaviors? How much of keeping it from happening is my responsibility, and how much is his? How do I know what is empowering for him and my other children and what is disempowering? What is enabling? I must accept that I don’t know, and that is okay. Not knowing doesn’t make me less of a person. It makes me more human because it opens me up to all that I am.

I am getting help to face the dark side of myself from my therapist using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and hypnotherapy, the Al-anon group I mentioned, and my best friend and mentor, Rocky, who is courageous enough to call me on my sh*t and ask me deep questions that help me see all of who I am.

The Al-anon book talks about admitting that our lives living with someone who is an alcoholic have become unmanageable. My immediate reaction to this statement was, “They don’t know me; my life is manageable!” As I continued to read statements about how our “preoccupation with others distracts us from our responsibilities to attend to our own physical, emotional, and spiritual health, we suffer. Our health and self-esteem decline.” I had just thought not attending to my own physical and emotional health was something I had to do for my family instead of seeing it for what it really was. I have had maybe two physicals in twenty years. But that was a sacrifice I had made because I’m a good mom, right? No. It had been a way for me to be seen as the martyr who suffered for the benefit of my family. That was bullshit. It was just a way for me to manipulate others into seeing how good I was, what a good mom I was when really what I felt was a failure as a mom because I couldn’t control what was going on in my house. 

But what is acceptance? Trying to control everything is another trait those of us who have lived with alcoholics often have in common. Seeing my actions from this more honest approach has helped me to see them for what they are: a part of my dark side. Only by truly being aware of what I do and why I do it can I face the real me and make changes. I don’t need to beat myself up. I was in survival mode. I know now I can do better, be better. Improving in the area of taking care of myself and letting go of manipulation and control is a process.

My goal is to do better today than I did yesterday. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I want to be in the moment as much as possible, staying present, focusing on now, and seeing through the eyes of love, even seeing myself through loving eyes. It has been incredibly helpful to have a friend who is not willing to be manipulated or controlled by me. At first, this made me angry. Why wouldn’t he let me tell him my side so I could convince him I was right?!? One time, when this happened, he told me I was being toxic and to go to the Al-anon book. That was when I read that people who have lived with an alcoholic overreact to small things and try to control people and situations. I couldn’t believe that!! I felt so justified in my reaction. Seeing this tendency to overreact was hard to accept. In seeing this truth, I have been able to begin the journey of true healing. The journey to become a more loving version of me.

I accept that I have a light side and a dark side. I am not always nice, not at all. Sometimes I can be manipulative. I can say things to people in mean, underhanded ways to try to prove somehow that I am better than them. I can accept that because accepting it allows me to look at it. In looking at it, that is when I can change it, heal it, or come from a place of more love. I accept all of who I am. I love all of who I am. It has taken me time to get to this point. I have had to work on myself, truly look at myself, and work on listening to my inner child, as well as getting the help I mentioned. Personal growth is a lifelong journey. I am now beginning to see all of who I am, my light side and my dark side. And do you know what? Now, I can honestly say I love all of who I am.

Sending love and blessings! Lynda Drake

Share This