How to survive the special needs journey…and be happy!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

What about when life gives you a special needs child? Not to mention all the other lemons that continue to come your way, because life goes on. Marriages break down, budgets may be tight, friendships still need nurturing and families, well they still remain crazy!

So how do we get through each day, and still remain happy?

Some of us may need more time. Time to be on auto pilot. I was on auto pilot for years. Just living each day doing what had to be done, feeling many different emotions but never really dealing with any of them. Almost giving in to “my life is going to be hard”.

Then one day, as I cried to myself because Billy and I had to leave yet another family gathering (Billy doesn’t do too well with crowds), I realised we hadn’t been singled out by the universe. We hadn’t done anything we were getting paid back. We had simply been given something that none of my family or friends had. However there were many people out there that had. I had actually been given a gift. A beautiful little boy who has so much to give back to me. How could I be unhappy with that?

Life isn’t meant to be easy, for anyone

Everyone person breathing has their fair share of life’s ups and downs. People die, hearts are broken, employment ends. We are all fighting our own battles. I knew it was time to completely accept that this was our life, and I could either love it or loathe it, but regardless I was going to have to live it. So I choose to live it happily.

So how do we build killer resilience?

  •  Sometimes we have to let go of the life that we have planned in order to live the life that is waiting for us.

The first step is acceptance. Accepting isn’t easy. It can feel like you have been defeated. Like you are giving up on everything you had dreamt for. Instead of thinking about the dreams we are giving up, focus on creating new dreams. Remember that your dreams don’t always have to be about your child. You are still YOU as well as a special needs parent. How far you go depends on you!

  •  It’s OK not to be OK. There are ups and downs, happiness and sorrows and that is life. 

Give yourself room to not be ok. I mean we are not rocks, we are human beings and we feel, think and love. It’s ok to have bad days. It’s ok to lose it every now and then. The key is to understand that’s what they are, they are just bad days not a bad life. We may have many bad days, which can make it hard to believe our live’s aren’t hard, but there are worse things that could happen, harder things to deal with. It’s all in the way you see it.

  •  Once in a while, you have to close your eyes, breathe & remember that you have been though pain before. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

Be proud of yourself, you have been through some difficult times. You survived, you still laugh and love. Reflect each evening before you go to bed. Think about your day and what you got through, but don’t spend too much time reflecting on the difficult before you recognise the lessons. The lessons are what makes us who we are and that is something to be very proud of.

  • Sometimes a break from your routine is the very thing you need

It is amazing the difference a break from your routine can make. Even if you only take a short time to have a coffee with a friend, or if you are like me a trip to the supermarket, alone, can be just as good (yep). For a long time, I made the mistake of still thinking and talking about “special needs” when I took a break. It is really important to remind yourself that are more than a carer or parent. That can be tough, as we have been going through some tough times and may be stuck, especially since we have been referred to as “so & so’s Mum” for so long…. I go to the hospital, specialists appointments etc and I am always Billy’s Mum. Does that happen to you? Think about YOU, what were you like before your child? What did you enjoy doing? If possible, get involved in an activity you enjoyed before your children. Doing this will reconnect you with interests that made you happy and were just for you!

  • Set Goals

When I say set goals, I mean anything goes. Your goals can be about your career, family life or they can be as simple and fun as setting yourself a goal to visit a place with your children, with friends or even alone. It should be something that is important to you or exciting. Something you need to stay focused on to get, because it is so easy to get caught up in caring and cleaning, appointments etc and forget about our own needs. Goals are our road maps that show you what is possible for our life.

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These are just a few tips to help you build resilience and building a great life. Accepting what we have, making the most out of every day and learning are what eventually makes us who we are. Throw in positive thoughts, goal setting and motivation and we will become exactly who we want to be!

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