If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you already know that I don’t mince words. I mean what I say and say what I mean.
I have been a special needs parent for over a decade and something that I learned along the way is that despite my very best efforts, at the end of the day I’m only human. I get frustrated, overwhelmed and on occasion say and do the wrong thing. There have been quite a few times in my life as a special needs parent that I have said something in the heat of the moment that I later wanted to kick myself for.
But…as I said, I’m only human.
One of the things that happens quite often to special needs parents is that the demand on us simply exceeds the resources we have available, be it emotional, physical or financial. This demand is constant in many cases and the strain over time becomes more and more difficult to carry. The stress can really take it’s toll and in my case, I’ve lost most of my hair and have plenty of grey in my beard….
I just turned 33 last week but I feel so much older then that.
In my opinion, as special needs parents, we don’t give ourselves enough credit or cut ourselves enough slack. Speaking for myself only, I have a tendency to be overly critical of myself, especially when I feel I’m failing at something, which is honestly, quite often. However, in reality, I’m failing to remember that I’m doing or trying to do things every day that most people simply couldn’t handle. I suspect that many of you could say the same thing about yourselves as well. I think that we become so accustomed to the to everything that we often focus more on our perceived losses or defeats then we do on our successes and victories. For example, I know that my stress level is through the roof but at the same time, I’m so used to it that I don’t always realize just how stressed out I am. Does that make sense?
One of the things that I have always encouraged people to do is share their feelings. Sharing your feelings can mean different things to different people. For me personally, I share my thoughts and feelings daily on this blog. Sometimes I’ve been known to post a few rants, where I just blow off some steam or vent.
In my opinion, venting is something that is extremely important in special needs parenting. Again, speaking only for myself, I’m under constant and unforgiving pressure. These pressures can range from health or behavioral issues with my family to simply trying to make ends meet. Some of this pressure I put on myself but most of it’s inherent to special needs parenting in general and raising 3 boys in various places on the spectrum.
One of the things I used to struggle with was how I would feel sometimes as a result of behavioral issues associated with Autism and the various other mental health issues we deal with on a daily basis. There are times that my kids drive me crazy and I swear that my head is going to explode. For a long time this was a like a double edged sword. I would be so incredibly stressed out, overwhelmed and frustrated. On top of that I would feel an extreme sense of guilt for being stressed out, overwhelmed and frustrate. After all, they had no control over most of these behaviors. I had this idea that, as their father, I was supposed to have this never ending supply of patience but instead I was always a day late and a dollar short.
There were times that I so far gone that I would go through a drive-thru to pick up dinner and when asked, can I take your order, I would answer, I’ll take some sanity with a side order of patience and some peace and quite for desert…oh..and….biggie size it. I know that this may come as a shock to many of you but my efforts were always in vain. Apparently, this kind of stuff is not on the menu…anywhere. Trust me, I’ve tried everywhere…you can ask my wife. She was always mortified when I would place my order.
Then one day I was hit by something. No…it wasn’t my youngest throwing his shoe at my head…well that did actually me but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m not sure how or why this happened but I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty for being frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed out by my kids or their behavior. I guess I had felt like if I admitted that I was frustrated or overwhelmed by the challenges associated with raising 3 boys with special needs, that it somehow reflected poorly on them or that I loved them less. I felt like it made them look bad or something and I don’t want anyone to think that about my kids because, while challenging, they are totally awesome and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.
With that said, the reality of the situation is that raising 3 boys on the spectrum is very challenging. Admitting frustration with those challenges or even with any or all of my kids doesn’t mean they are bad and it certainly doesn’t mean that I somehow love them any less. What admitting this did mean however, was that I was human. I learned that not only was it normal to feel these things but it was also healthy.
This was such a powerful realization for me and it changed my perspective considerably. I discovered that acknowledging these feelings and even embracing them provided a much needed sense of relief. The relief really kicked in when I became comfortable enough with these feelings to not only admit them to myself but publicly share them as well.. While that may not appeal to everyone and understandably so, it helped me to keep myself centered. I think that this is something particularly difficult for fathers. Society tells us that we are supposed to be almost emotionless and not feel things like this…and if as a man, you actually do have these feelings….God forbid you ever admit it.
I found that I could vent and share that I was frustrated, overwhelmed or even resentful at times. I mean honestly, with everything that is required of me as a special needs parent, how could I not feel resentful at times. I really think that all these feelings are just part of being human. When I vent, especially when I do so in the form of a blog post, I put everything out there. When I’m done, I can walk away and leave it all behind me. That means I have that much less to carry around with me and it frees me to pick up other things that I couldn’t carry before.
I realize everyone is different and we each handle things in our own unique way. I’m just sharing with you what works for me.
Look, we are human beings living in very difficult situations. These situations very often require sacrifice to the nth degree. Feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or even resentful is completely normal, at least in my opinion. I also think that admitting these things are not a sign of weakness or even bad parenting. In fact, I would argue that it shows great courage and a deep unconditional love for our kids. Honestly, no one likes admitting things like this but in doing so we get a better understanding of ourselves and our limitations. As far as I’m concerned, this helps to make me better parent and speaking for myself, I need all the help I can get. 🙂
Please know that you all are invited to join my special needs parenting support group on Facebook. It’s private and only viewable by members. We have about 70 members and we all share our stories and experiences. This is very active group and it seems like there are always people available to listen. It’s a same place to vent and share anything in a judgement free very understanding environment. All are welcome….