February 15th, 2011: Gabrielle Riel

It’s gorgeous outside. The sky is clear blue and it’s 20 F (-7 C). There’s still snow on the ground, but the bright sun makes it sparkle. I turn 42 in 6 days.

I drove my son to school this morning, which is not our usual routine. He enjoyed the special ride. My son is 6 and in Kindergarten. He is also on the Autism Spectrum.

I lived for 11 years with my husband, prior to having my son, quite happily, unaware that Autism was a huge component of my life. It’s crystal clear now that my husband is on the spectrum. So many weird things that I always wrote off make sense now. We were the “perfect couple”. The couple everyone envied because we were so happy and so much in love with each other.

When you are part of a couple, and expecting a child, you hear a lot about how your partnership will change. What I did not expect was my entire life to fall apart. I never realized that I had provided support in my husband’s life in a way that was beyond what most couples have. I did not know that Autism had secretly and silently molded our life.

An infant takes all of your focus. In my case, that infant became a Special Needs Child. I had nothing left to give.

Most couples adjust, sometimes with difficulty, after the birth of a child. Autism made it impossible for my husband to learn a new way of life. Add in my father’s death, severe pre and post partum depression for me, and you have the recipe for the destruction of your life and marriage.

I try not to feel guilty, but I do. I feel like I was not strong enough to handle it all, and I should have been. There is one thing of which I am proud: I am a good mom to my son. He is a happy kid. He is going to have chances, and the ability to make his way through life, that my husband never had.

My son and I are moving forward together, and we are both going to be OK. I promise.


Gabrielle Riel is the General Director of Radio Riel (http://radioriel.org), the internet public radio station that she launched from inside of Second Life in June 2007. Radio Riel has been one of her full time jobs (albeit non paying) since 2009. Radio Riel now ranks in the top third of numbers of listeners out of all internet radio stations in the world and has the only 24/7 Steampunk radio station programmed by human beings.

Her other full time job (also non paying) is the Estate of New Toulouse in Second Life, a lively, 4 -sim Estate based on the city of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries (1890 – 1920). Prior to being sucked in the virtual world, she was an Instructional Designer and Trainer in the corporate world, primarily for software companies, for 15 years.



3 Responses to “February 15th, 2011: Gabrielle Riel”

  1. Mandy Says:

    I know you don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I felt compelled to leave you a comment after reading your post. You mention your guilt and how you feel like you should have been strong enough, but I think you did what you could. Being strong doesn’t always equate to the perfect ending, and look at you now.. you’re raising a son who needs additional attention and carrying on with your life. You’re truly an inspiration :)

  2. Janny Wright Says:

    Darlin, Autism Spectrum disorder.. (Asperger’s) permeates all that we do as spouses and NT. You have been incredibly strong, as have I. You and I know that. Do not equate strong enough with fixing it. You know that it will never change. That is the hardest part of AS knowing it will never change. I love you, thank you for being strong for me and there for me during my last dance with my Aspie.

  3. Gabrielle Riel Says:

    Thank you Mandy. :-)

    One of the reasons I was able to write this is that I am finally coming through the guilt…and the rage. I logically know I should not feel guilty, and I don’t feel it at the level I did a few years ago, but I think a little part of me will always feel a twinge of it as part of the acknowledgment of the grief.

    Life happens as none of us ever expect it. It takes time to deal with the changes. To accept the “new” version of your life, but I truly believe that you can live and love, and feel the joy on the new path. I feel it at Radio Riel. I feel it in New Toulouse, and most of all I feel it in the hugs and laughter of a little boy who loves me.

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