‘There’s something missing in your son.’ I brushed it off as him being ADD like me. I felt guilty and angry.’: Neurodivergent mom to son with autism urges ‘self-empowerment’ for others like her

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of sexual assault, physical abuse, and suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some.

“I always knew I was different. How?

Because I didn’t understand the world around me. I didn’t like interacting, and I didn’t understand people. I was too literal. The Bengali version of ‘rude,’ ‘mad,’ ‘r*tard,’ ‘lunatic,’ etc. became my ‘pet names.’ I didn’t know until three decades later I had ADD and a learning disability.

My mom would hit me consistently and pretty much every day because she thought I wasn’t trying enough. She channeled all her personal and interpersonal troubles on me, and I became her punching bag. In South Asian culture, parents, teachers, and other authoritative persons could beat children to breaking points, and it was acceptable. Sometimes, it was ‘important to make sure we grow up nice humans.’

Needless to say, without realizing it, I grew up with trauma, which is now identified as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). I was never officially diagnosed because I was kind of labeled, and to overcompensate my lack of exemplary results, I worked very, very hard on keeping everyone happy. So, when I was sexually exploited by a cousin, I tried to be a ‘good girl,’ the kind who doesn’t upset parents with such trivial details.

The frustration of not being understood and not understanding the ways of life ate at my core. I still found the inner strength to pursue excellence. I did well in my O-levels but flunked my A-levels, which was why I couldn’t test for being a neurosurgeon like I wanted to become. Instead, I chose Pharmacy in my second year, despite achieving stupendous results (I finally understood things, and I could hold my attention and interest for a 4-month long semester but not for the 1-year school lengths).

A neurodivergent woman wearing a hjiab outdoors
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

I went through intense emotional and psychological abuse by my ex-husband and in-laws. I nearly lost my life in trying to be a mother. I lost 2 pregnancies, which ended up requiring back-to-back surgeries. The third time, I was successful. I wasn’t planning on becoming a mother. Motherhood never really called me, as I alone was too much to handle for myself. I was coerced and asked to become such to lessen the competition they felt since I was a rising star. So, when I got pregnant and discovered my ex was cheating. I totally lost my dignity and self-confidence.

Long story short, I finished B. Pharm and M. Pharm and went on to get my Ph.D. at the young age of 28!! I was the first person at my alma mater to achieve that and even way before a lot of my teachers at that.

All throughout my life, I suffered, and when I got married again and got pregnant with Muhammad, I was not ready once more. He came to me in a terribly stressful time. I had bleeding for 3 days, and I thought I was having my period. My son pretty much suffered with me, lack of nutrition was another battle as my husband didn’t have a job and there was no money.

A woman in a red hijab and her husband sit in a car
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna
A father holds his autistic son to his shoulder
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

After finishing my dream degree, I came back to Bangladesh and faced even greater hardships. There was a lack of space, and proper food and a stress-free environment became scarce. When he was 7 months old, my mother started badgering me, saying there was something missing in my son. He didn’t look when called, he didn’t respond, and seemed very self-absorbed. I brushed it off as being ADD like me. I was working and balancing work plus home along with trying for Canadian PR-ship, and it all took its toll on us. My son started regressing, and by the time he was 22 months we couldn’t wait any longer, so we went to get our preliminary diagnosis.

To say we were devastated would be not enough.

A father with his young son in a car
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna
A toddler with autism playing on a bed
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

I felt extremely guilty because I didn’t heed my mom. I felt angry at my surroundings for putting unsolicited pressure, stress, and lack of resources in our lives, and the consequences were now being suffered by my precious beautiful munchkin. He was always soft and mellow, but his sleep disruptions made me lose my head, I dare say. We decided to expedite the process so that we could come to Canada early and get help from the first-world country benefits and medical innovations. As a trained pharmacist, I was only focusing on the bodily aspects.

After coming to Canada while being pregnant for a third time, life tested us one more long time. With no job, or 1 job and Covid plus giving birth to a hypersensitive daughter, I succumbed to severe suicidal post-partum depression. I wanted to either run away or throw my girl out the window or something of a similar kind.

A hypersensitive little girl sitting on a bed in pajamas
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

Remember, I hadn’t been sleeping for the last 2.5 years anyway, and Muhammad’s regression became horrific. He started self-harming, he began to sleep even less, he was hyperactive, he started harming his siblings…. I had to wait for my husband to come home so I could do ‘nature’s business.’ I had to hold on to the urge for hours—this went on months, until one day, things broke.

Muhammad broke his arm, and I felt terribly guilty. I was sick and tired of waiting for the first-world country’s fast care we came here for, and it wasn’t working fast enough. To this day, we haven’t received any call for an ‘official diagnosis’!! Well, my son was nonverbal and terribly socially shy.

An autistic toddler sleeping
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

So, I started my own research. I was a published scientist. Research is what I do best. I decided to try holistic modalities and found an ayurvedic doctor to help me understand my son. He told me to experiment with his diet and lifestyle, and after many months of single-minded, hyper-focused experimentation, tremendous patience, going through many ups and regressions, we finally arrived at a point where my son is very much recovered. He talks, interacts in social atmospheres, doesn’t hurt his siblings, expresses his demands, has interests, and he is alive. He no longer resembles the ‘living doll’ I was raising.

An autistic boy and his baby sister lie close together
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

Doctors tell us food doesn’t work to recover or reduce autism and the related symptoms. But I STRONGLY beg to differ. Why won’t healthy food, proper digestion, and a loving and understanding environment help your child? They treat symptoms, and modern medicine doesn’t want you to try holistic modalities because then you are no longer stuck with the disease or disorder, and you no longer need ‘medications and drugs.’ Ask me how I know: I am a trained pharmacist, remember? I have seen how the marketing and management of drug legislation works.

A young boy with autism eating a meal
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

My hopes and goals for the future are to create awareness, build a tribe, and let the world know there is absolutely no alternative to great food and a healthy lifestyle when it comes to the management of neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD, autism, etc. Do your own research: don’t keep being a puppet and waiting for others to determine when and how your child will receive help. The ‘therapies’ available for autism children are band-aids, and most of the time, they don’t work.

The world labels our children as ‘disabled’ and makes us believe it is their personality and future. Since the modern healthcare system delivers us proper interventions and practical results-driven guidelines, they made it a norm and acceptable to brand your child with a disability, and then they ask you to see your child’s pain as something about which nothing can be done. I tell you this after working with many other families as well as my own children; You can absolutely help yourself and your child. I regularly write about autism moms’ mental health and how to take care of both yourself and your child.

A neurodivergent mom holds her autistic son near flowers at a park
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

Self-empowerment is the best gift you can give to yourself and your child. I have since started working as an Autism Health, Recovery, and Success Coach, and I made it my responsibility to stand on top of the medical world and shout out pleas to take notice of your and your child’s health in your hands.

A neurodivergent mother wearing glasses and a hijab
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

Due to the fact I am a neurodivergent myself, I have great feelings, love, understanding, and empathy for what these children go through. I don’t want them to suffer as I did. Many parents and autism adults have been brainwashed into thinking the constipation, the sensory processing issues, the social disruptions, the poor health and sleep, and the fact that they or their children are essentially less fit for the world are essential parts of being an autism individual. They are told there is no pain.

Yes, we need to accept our kids, but I ask for us to help them become successful by giving them support for their mind, body, and spirit. There is no loss in getting healthy, giving them holistic support, helping them get healthy sleep, helping them have healthy bowel movements, etc.

An autistic boy holds his little sister
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

You don’t have to wait…you can start now. And if you are neurodiverse yourself, honor your own understanding of the world and see it in a different light. I didn’t (still don’t much) enjoy being a mother, especially of a special needs kid. But the process made me a stronger and better human and more attuned to myself, to my children, and to the world in general.

I worked on releasing my inner trauma and have taken coaching in reestablishing a better mind-soul connection. The inner work helped me free a lot of the demons and has also allowed me to hold space for the parents I work with. My program delves deeper into the emotional and psychological health of the mother being the primary source of care to her autism child.

I believe and have seen proof that when I was able to empower, deepen self-connection, and release the emotions as well as negative beliefs of the parents regarding parenting autism children, I have had tremendous results in seeing both the mother and the child thrive. There is no shame in being stuck or having mental health issues, but your state affects your child too. Take heed of your need, release your pains, and heal your inner child to be able to flourish yourself.

A neurodivergent mother holds her two children in her lap
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

Give yourself and your child the gift of hope, knowledge, success and so much more by learning and understanding the mind-body connection, the gut-brain connection. Don’t take information at face value and do your own experiments.

Your sister in hope, success, and health.”

A neurodivergent mom and her son with autism outdoors
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna
A neurodivergent mother wearing a hijab stands in a park
Courtesy of Tasnuva Tunna

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dr. Tasnuva Tunna. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and her website.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful perspectives from moms of special needs kids:

‘Of course he doesn’t, he’s absolutely fine!’ Everyone laughed it off. My little boy wasn’t going to talk, EVER.’: Mom to son with autism urges ‘acceptance starts in the home’

‘Mama, no! Please no hair wash! Too scary!’ Was I being punished? I dread it just as much as he does.’: Autism mom shares insight into meltdowns, ‘We live a spectrum life’

‘I loved him when he had words, and when he lost them. Through the sleepless nights, endless screaming, and walking in circles. I loved him even when he couldn’t say, ‘I love you.’: Mom to son with autism urges ‘all you need is love’

‘It’s so easy to get caught up in what life could have been. Autism wasn’t a death sentence back then and it isn’t now.’: Autism mom pens open letter to kids, ‘I promise to always fight for you’

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