Don’t Judge Me! Why Special Needs Parents Need To Take Their Own Advice!

We have all seen the lovely quotes on social media, “Don’t judge anyone else f40b6aa069e0a4d93d7fa67356a51361eor everyone is fighting their own battles”, you’ve seen them right?

I have actually posted one of these quotes and have totally believed in it. I have been judged on the way I have dealt with situations, the way I have coped with what life has thrown at me or even the decisions I have made relating to Billy. None of these things affected anyone other than myself and Billy (mostly) however I was still judged which left me with a huge sense of self-doubt and guilt. Not very nice.

I will admit I have also judged in the past. When I was in the first couple of years of caring for Billy, I  overheard a conversation two special needs parents were having. They were talking about their own children and the little amount of therapy based activities they did at home. One mother said “I let my child watch TV whenever he wants, as his home is where he should feel happiest.” I immediately judged. It may have been, because it was the beginning of my journey and there was lots of therapy to teach Billy, new skills, I was right amongst it.

It wasn’t until a year or so later, I thought of those mothers again. I had been beating my head against a brick wall trying to get Billy to do craft activities or pretend play when all Billy wanted to do was sort the pegs in to colour coded groups. I realised Billy was an individual, he would learn his way not the way I wanted him to. We all learn easier if we are doing something we love.

A few days ago I witnessed another special needs judgement. I was reading a post on social media. It was on a “support group” for parents who have children with Autism. It made me sad as it was from a mother in the U.S who had just made the decision to have her child put into care. She signed it “devil women” and throughout the post expressed her guilt and almost begged for reassurance she had made the right decision. Her child was very violent and was reaching puberty which was also proving to be a problem as she had three other children who were girls. The care was not permanent rather a three-month trial and she even posted a letter she received from her child in which he told her how much he loved her and how she was a great mum. All the comments the post received were positive and encouraging, except for one.

One is all that is needed for a person who is already heartbroken and struggling with how guilty they feel. One is all that is needed for a person who is almost begging for someone to tell them it is going to be ok, to just give up. One is all that is needed to affect your mental health which could impact negatively on your life.

I have made a conscious effort not to judge others. I’m sure I have and will again, I think it’s human nature, although I will make a bigger effort to always keep my opinions  to myself when I don’t agree. If I am asked for an opinion, I will always make an effort to remember that we are all different, we have different challenges, we have different families, and we all have different levels at which we can cope.

I will continue to post quotes on judging others, not because I never judge but to remind all of us that a little bit of thought and compassion is always needed before we use our mouths to give our opinions.

Have you been judged before or have you judged others and later found yourself in the same position? Leave a comment and give your insights below.

This isn’t the life I had planned! What to do first when life throws you lemons!

Whatimg053 - Copy happened to my bliss? My plan was like everyone else’s. I followed the same path. Then I had a child with special needs. My plans were destroyed. I had to let go of what I dreamt of. I had to let go of the future I had instilled in me since childhood and I had to believe I could be happy in a future completely foreign to me.

Not to mention, children are one part of your life. We all have other dreams and goals. So what happens when you get hit in the head with another lemon? After meeting Billy for the first time, after crying what I thought was all the tears I had, I remember clearly saying to myself, “it’s going to be ok, life is still going to be perfect”.

I lived believing everything was “normal” for a long time. I was on auto-pilot, waking up each day and living like many other people, except I had a special needs child. Trouble is, eventually I needed to take control of where I was headed. It happened to coincide with Billy starting “big school”. Before that I was protected by my “normal circle” of family and friends. Then I started to feel very alone in my foreign world. The stress and pressure of having a child with special needs can put a lot of strain on a marriage. Feeling alone on top of all that was the icing on the cake and unfortunately my relationship broke down. There goes another dream.

I was totally devastated by the way my life had turned out. Everything I ever dreamt and wanted had been taken away from me. I felt scared, emotionally drained and mostly ripped off. I had nothing but a bleak picture of my future and I felt like giving up.

They say you need to see darkness before you can see the stars. Well, how true. I was at the bottom and the only way was up. So, as I went through the grieving process for the life I had planned, I decided to reflect and reconnect with the new me. What did I want? What was I capable of? What was I hoping to achieve in life? Like most people, I want happiness. I want to guide my children with good morals and beliefs. I want to empower them to become caring, strong people who will always survive and inspire. I knew I would only be able to achieve this if I believed it and practised it.

So it was time for me to take a good hard look at myself. I needed to reconnect with me, as confronting as that may be. I started with a simple plan which was simply being “in the moment”, well every moment. Some of the things I became aware of were:

  • My reaction (thoughts) to good/bad stories
  • My defence. Living in the moment untapped a hidden pattern, poor me, the world owe’s me.
  • My thoughts. It seemed although I was busy I had way too much time on my hands to think negative stuff!
  • My drive to try. Looking back I hardly remember me as a person who would rather do nothing than try, due to my fears.

I kept track of all this by using a simple journal app. You can do it however you like however I recommend it’s always accessible as you may find yourself becoming so aware you are jotting things down every 15 minutes or so (I did).

This exercise was the foundation I needed to get back on track. I knew how I wanted to live my life and my ultimate goal was to be happy. This helped me understand that my happiness wasn’t dependant on, having what I wanted but rather what I did with what I have. It is important for all of us to understand who we are, what we want and what we could be doing to get where we need to be. That means the buck stops with each of us first. After that we can start to plan and practise. Even if nothing changes for a while, you will feel happier!

Have you ever felt like giving up? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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How To Overcome Carer Burn-Out When It Equals Sh#%

We all have our days. Those days when you’ve dealt with a few meltdowns, struggled to have your child follow a simple direction, been bitten, had your hair pulled and cleaned several accidents. I had one two days ago. I’m thinking to myself, one more thing I’m going to lose it, then Billy comes over to me and hands me a long solid log! Umm yep exactly, a solid number two is being handed to me with a smile. Of course I will turn into a raving lunatic, I deserve to go off the deep end, RIGHT?

Well I say no. No to going of the deep end….umm too o10153018_868593926500666_9200869889764543477_nften anyway. Why, because when I go off the deep end, I am in the red zone on the stress indicator. That is not good for me, my family or my goals.

So because I am important, to me anyway, getting the most of out my day is what I need to maintain my oomph.  Here are three of the many tools in my tool bank that help me feel happy.

  1. Be Silly – I’m a silly Mumma. If you are wondering what that means, it is simply, me acting like the Mum in the Vita Wheat adverts (the mum jumps in a muddy puddle while the child stands there watching…remember?) My home is chaotic most days, so to fit in I will find the time to be a child and play silly games with the kiddies. The games are fairly simple so Billy can join in, but 10 minutes of hide and seek can give you quality time with the kids, laughter and maybe even complete joy if your child does something unexpected in the right direction.
  2. Keep a memory book – Really a memory book is nothing more than a photo/scrap-book/journal of moments. We have our phones pretty much attached to our ears these days, so keep remembering to take snap-shots of moments. Whether good, bad or boring, you will look back at the memory book and feel happy and grateful for your beautiful family.
  3. Go to a support group or online forum – They say a problem shared is a problem halved, but I say, listen to what others are dealing with and I guarantee you will take the other half of your problem back. We all get stuck in our own bubble and feel as though we have the most difficult life at times. That’s ok, just don’t get stuck there because your problems are only as big as your thoughts make them. There are many people dealing with worse and some of them still have massive smiles.

Try these tips out as I’m sure you will feel grateful and see how far your child has come. I have felt proud looking back at the snaps of where we once were. Oh and if you get the chance, take a picture of your child holding a solid log, at least you can show your other half as proof it happened!

 

I would love to hear how you get the most happiness out of your day, please leave any tips by leaving a comment below!

 

 

 

 

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!