Parenting is hard enough. But when your child has a disability or special needs, it’s not just a whole different ballpark…it’s a whole different game. You will be put to the test on a daily basis. You will need to learn how to deal with an insurmountable amount of stress, and must learn to rely on others for support.
As parents, you may experience extreme emotions ranging from shame and guilt, to blame and anger. These feelings may be directed towards yourself, your partner, or even your child. Your partner may not be on the same page as you with regards to the diagnosis, treatment, and reality of what you are being faced with. He/she may be in denial that a problem exists, or unwilling to share in the burden of care. The stress can take a toll on your relationship, and even push it to the breaking point.
All of the attention and energy in your family becomes focused on meeting the needs and managing problems. Sometimes, you may ask yourself, “why me?” and wish for a “normal” child. And often, you may wonder, “What about me? Who’s taking care of me?” The answer is “you are”. You have a responsibility to take care of yourself, for the sake of your sanity, your child, and your marriage. But how?
First of all, you truly must learn how to deal with stress. There will be excessive amounts of it. So whether you enjoy yoga, massage, walking the dog, or taking a bubble bath…you’re going to need to do it…often. Get plenty of sleep and proper nutrition, all of those obvious things.
But the single most important thing you can do for yourself, truly, is to find a supportive friend, therapist or group of people that understand what you are going through. I’m not talking about your regular friends here. Yes, they can be supportive and understanding, even helpful. But they don’t get it the way someone who’s been there can, and they never will. Countless times I’ve hung up the phone with a close friend, and thought to myself, “ I know she means well, but she just doesn’t get it”. And how could she?
Having someone who gets it can change your life. The comfort and validation you get from knowing someone understands, really understands, what your day was like and what you’re going through is priceless. The importance of knowing that there is someone you can share things with that otherwise might be embarrassing or misunderstood cannot be denied. Now, I have a friend that I hang up from and think, “Wow. She’s the only one I know who get’s it. What would I do without her?” (You know who you are, LG). For that, I am forever grateful, and hope that everyone who ever has to struggle with these issues can find a friend like this.