As a parent of a high needs child it can be easy to forget to care for myself. I can spend the whole day servicing my kid. Even when he is at school I could be filling out forms or researching ASD programs and therapies. I have done that and it is exhausting. I am slowly realizing that if I don’t care for myself I will burn out fast. This has never been more evident to me than it is now.
A lot of people in my life are going through hard things right now: death of loved ones, divorce, addiction, mental illness. It can sometimes feel like life is swirling around us throwing grenades our way. As discussed previously, my go-to reaction is either to push through until I explode or disengage in hopes of avoiding the pain, neither of which are very effective. They must have been at a time in my life since they are now habit, but for whatever reason they do not serve me well anymore, especially as a wife and mother. Life’s rough if you don’t know whether your wife/mom is going to ignore you or blow up at you. I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions but this year I wanted to pay enough attention to myself to be able to be healthy for my family. I hope that if I care for myself that will ripple out and benefit everyone. Well, I had a wake-up call on New Year’s Day in the form of a panic attack that seemed to come out of nowhere and really scared me. It also showed me where the best place to start taking care of myself was. For some context, I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 16 years of age and have been on some form of anti-depressant medication for 20 years. Since I’ve had kids, my depression has morphed into anxiety and my panic attacks have increased and even though I have been on meds all along, I still have felt wary of being on too high a dosage. I don’t know why. I think I feel like I should be ‘doing the heavy lifting’ and being on any meds is ‘unnatural’ or makes me ‘weak’. I always tell myself that I will stay on a low dosage and ‘do better’: drink more water, do yoga, meditate, eat healthier, be kinder, do more creative projects, live a more organized life. But when I inevitably am not able to stick to ALL these changes, I feel like a failure and I feel more depressed and more anxious, and on and on the cycle spins. I have to go to my doctor every 3 months to refill my prescription and each visit she asks me how I’m doing. “How’s your mood? Do you feel hopeless? Do you want to harm yourself or others?” And every time I shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know, life feels hard and my son has ASD and my daughter is 4 (which for those who haven’t had a 4 year old girl, it’s a challenge!) and … would more meds help that?” And she says “I don’t know, parenting is really tough” and I walk out with the same dosage. But on the evening of January 1 as I sat recovering from yet another panic attack, I resolved to ask for a higher dosage. I called the very next day and got in that week. And 2 weeks later, though many difficult things were happening around me, I started to notice that I felt 10% better about life. For years, something hard would happen and I would feel desperate, like I had to find a way out of this or die and now it’s like that veil of desperation has been lifted, like I can actually cope with life without completely losing my shit (I still do a bit, of course, but not completely). As I started to realize that this was my new med dosage working as it should I immediately thought ‘why did I wait so long? Why did I let myself suffer? What was I so afraid of?’ We put up with so much crap that we don’t need to put up with. But we don’t have to. It’s ok to take care of ourselves even though we are the “caregivers”. We can ask for help and will not be shamed for it. We can find our way of feeling 10% better.