As a parent of a child (or possibly two) with SEND, I have realised that you get pushed to your limits a whole lot more and it is vital that you find your own strength to carry on – nobody else can do that for you.
Some may just say ‘well that’s the same for any parent,’ after all parenting doesn’t come with any kind of manual and we all get stuff thrown at us.
Life can be difficult for many parents, regardless of whether their child has a disability or not.
But when you do have a child with SEND life can often feel like it gets tipped upside down – it requires changes and adaptions to living that you just don’t plan for.
When you have a child who has complex needs you can suddenly find that sacrifices have to be made and that you can feel like you’re always on the peripheral.
The times I have spent watching other families hitting milestones and enjoying together time, whilst inwardly feeling discarded and left behind.
It can often lead to bitterness and resentment, desperation and anger.
That’s the place I found myself in two years ago.
I was lost in limbo and felt like I hated the world and everyone in it.
A bit drastic I know, but when you are on the brink of falling down the ‘mental health’ ladder those rungs don’t half sting.
Nobody wants to hear from their partner that they have lost the feelings they once had about them either.
To no longer be loved by the person who chose to be your life partner makes you question how you even got to this point.
I understood why he felt that way because in all honesty I didn’t love myself much either.
Days had turned into weeks of sleep deprivation, appointments with professionals begging for help and calls to pick up my daughter after many an exclusion. All of the parents gossiping in the playground, the social media feed targeting our vulnerable family and then the teaching assistant telling parents to ‘complain’ so they could get my child out of the school.
I felt the opposite to being a hero – I felt weak and I felt victimised.
Added to that the violence I was experiencing from my child and the self-harm she was doing – it all took it’s toll.
I had no time for make-up, nice clothes or self-care. Instead, I was swarmed by stress and negativity.
I had lost my smile.
My daughter was in a very similar place and I had to admit her to hospital as she required medical intervention (see here for an old post).
We actually both needed to be off of the rollercoaster for a while.
I had to search within myself and look at what help I could give her when I wasn’t projecting a very worthwhile heroine.
And so began a journey of change and self-discovery.
My needs (that had been pushed so far back in the line of chores and daily routines) needed to find a time to be focussed on.
It was hard at first – the house was still so explosive that I couldn’t even find ten minutes in the day to sit with a coffee and watch some TV.
So that was the first target right there, to find a moment to have some me time – a warm bubble bath was like finding myself in a strange, utopian dream!
Slowly, I was able to move forward and to find a way to actually like myself again and with that too has come a sense of belonging once again.
I’ve thought about what I would tell a new parent if they were in the same position and this would be my list of Top Ten Tips To Being Your Own Hero:
1. Find people who understand you – whether in person or online. Connecting to others is a way of healing and to share together will help you move on.
2. Keep your targets small and attainable. There’s no point thinking I’d like some time off and my dream is to go somewhere exotic for a break – a nice trip to the other side of the world would help me breathe a bit! It needs to be bite-size to start with like just finding a time to sit and have a cuppa in the garden where you can just regain your thoughts – you’re going to need this simple tool to cope with what is thrown at you ahead.
3. Try to not beat yourself up every time you get something wrong – this will only hold you back. We have to remember we are human and we all make mistakes. Holding on to resentment for not just others but also for yourself will inevitably prevent you from being your own hero.
4. Fresh air is your best lifeline. Trying to get out might not always be practical and the risks may just be too high, but if there is any moment you can and even if you don’t feel like it, just getting a chance to step outside will help to regain your breath. Our micro-vision often becomes so heated and hazy in the moment, we need to adjust our viewpoint and getting outside can help send those much needed vibes back in.
5. Don’t forget to dress yourself up. If you can’t do it everyday then occasionally wear something different, or fix your hair a bit differently, or try putting on make-up for a change if you don’t usually wear it. We need to be attuned to how we feel about ourselves and on the days we feel positive it sure does make us feel more confident in what we are dealing with. It may feel like a worthless cause to decorate ourselves but our inner energy is projected outwards. Positive vibes will help lift your spirits when you may need them the most and will send an uplifting message to your impressionable child. If they see you believe you are worth it, then so will they feel it in return.
6. Embrace change when it’s needed. If it’s trying something new, or letting go of something that isn’t working anymore to changing your thought pattern it may be the catalyst to get you to the place you want to me. Change is hard, it is scary and often unwanted but usually the fear of the transition is worse than the act itself.
7. Take a moment to be happy. I mean, there are so many things to be grateful for that you may have taken for granted. When you have a sudden realisation that you can be content with the smaller things such as hearing the trees in the breeze, or the light bouncing from the puddles, or even the smell of the sun in the air – you have made the space to be calm. This is vital, especially if your thoughts are always pushed to racing point, the time you can take to be quiet and in solitude will help to regain your stores of positivity.
8. Try not to compare to others. We are faced with so many ‘social media ready’ stories or images it is hard to not lose ourselves to always feeling that everybody has a better life than we do. But that’s not really the case, there is good in our lives too and achievements that need celebrating, no matter how ‘insignificant’ they may seem at the time.
9. Use your resilience. Allow the bricks that are thrown at you to give you the platform to build a new foundation. They won’t be able to stick together without the mortar which binds the structure together and you are that material! You have managed to hold the fort so far which is an accomplishment in itself. Be proud of what you have achieved and use that to bounce back to face any new challenges that are likely to come your way.
10. Remember this stage is temporary. No matter how bad it feels, things can get better. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when the immediate stage you are in gives you no relief or respite. But your children will grow and you will get past this. Just believe. Just, have faith.
You can be your very own hero, no matter how dark things may feel, it is already lurking in your reflection.
You just might need to dig a little deeper to find it, that’s all.
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