This is something I wrote about a year ago. It explains what the puzzle pieces mean to me and my family. I recently found out that some autistic adults do not like the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism. I had not even thought of puzzle pieces in a negative light because they are such a positive thing to me. I respect their feelings about the puzzle pieces and I do not want to offend any of them. However, I was using the puzzle piece idea for my life for 20 years before I knew that it was a symbol for autism. I hope by sharing this that other people can see some of the positive side that I see.
Finding all the pieces
As a child, I loved jigsaw puzzles. I still do. There is something so relaxing about really getting in the zone and finding all the right pieces of the puzzle. Maybe that is why I have thought about puzzle pieces in terms of my life.
At least 15 years ago, when I was dealing with fibromyalgia and other health issues, I started thinking of trying to get better as a puzzle. Each doctor I saw, each medicine I tried, each therapy, each vitamin, mineral, herbal supplement, diet, well…EVERYTHING I tried, became one or more pieces of the puzzle of getting better. Nothing magically fixed all my problems, and I realized that it was not reasonable to expect any one thing to do that. Instead, I realized that I had to do a scavenger hunt for the puzzle pieces needed so that I could build the puzzle ONE piece at a time. Some pieces fill large holes, and others are tiny, but they all add something to the overall picture.
Two years ago, when P was first diagnosed with ADHD and then Asperger’s, and he was getting frustrated at trying multiple medications with no benefit, I shared my puzzle piece theory with him. In typical Asperger’s fashion, his first question was “well, how many pieces are in the puzzle?” I told him that unfortunately, this type of puzzle comes without a box so we do not have any idea how many pieces there are supposed to be, or even what the picture looks like. I am not sure he really understood it then, but many medications, doctors, therapists, specialists, etc. later, I think he is starting to see that we are on a hunt for all of his pieces and that we are finding them, slowly, but they are appearing.
Now, I am realizing that I am not just building my puzzle for fibromyalgia, or helping P with his puzzle for Asperger’s. I am building MANY puzzles. My physical health; my mental health; my children’s health; who I am as a daughter, wife, mother… The list goes on and on. The frustrating thing is that while some pieces are fairly clear about which one of the puzzles they fit into; other pieces are not so straightforward. Some pieces may come with extra copies that allow them to fill holes in multiple puzzles. Still other pieces may float around for a long time before I can figure out where they might fit.
I have also come to realize that all of these “small” puzzles are creating a larger mosaic. The mosaic of my life. Overall, I think that the big picture at least has most of its borders done. That is the framework that I, for one, start with when I work a jigsaw puzzle. It may still be missing a piece or two, but overall, there is some sense of the overall puzzle. This is my foundation. My family, my early childhood, my DNA; these are things that set in motion who I am. Friends, school experiences, vacations, and so much more are part of the puzzle of me. There is enough that I can start getting a sense of the overall picture, but, there is still a lot of room left. Hopefully, I will have many more years left to continue to fill in those blank areas. I think it would actually be sad to not have any room left for more pieces.
Most of these puzzles will never be “complete”. It would be nice if we could find a cure for fibromyalgia in my lifetime, but I will be happy with a mostly complete picture. I don’t even know what a complete picture for P would be like. I don’t want him “cured”, he doesn’t need to be “fixed”. He isn’t broken. He is quirky. Like his father, and like me. That is part of why I love him so much. He is P, and that is wonderful. However, he does have some difficult puzzles to work on, like learning how to deal with frustration and anxiety. But, those are puzzles that everyone has, whether or not they choose to work on them. P may have to find more pieces to complete those than many people, but I am confident we can get those mini puzzles almost complete. He does need to understand the world is not always black or white, and it is far from perfect, but again, everyone should strive for those as well. P will have to work harder to find some pieces than other people, but his puzzles are not so terribly different.
So, I am working with my kids to help them understand that life is like a jigsaw puzzle, and we just need some patience and perseverance as we continue finding all the pieces.