With more patience than most people, I never imagined anger getting the best of me.
After all, I wasn’t naïve. I knew parenting children with special needs was a 24/7 responsibility, in addition to my day job.
I’d also been thoroughly trained. I’d read everything possible to increase my understanding. And I had support.
Every now & then, however, the task was more than I could bear.
One night I reached my breaking point. After each of my children was fast asleep, I drove off – not sure I wanted to return. Well, I didn’t get very far – stopping just around the corner. Upon collecting my thoughts in the quiet darkness, I found the energy 30 minutes later to try again.
Holding onto my deep faith.
Remembering the importance of hope.
For months on end, I constantly reminded myself. Separate the children from their mental health conditions. Love them nonetheless.
That approach worked well initially yet over time lost some of its effectiveness. Many nights I dreamed of living with my family in the middle of nowhere – with few individuals to complicate our lives.
Because fighting for my children’s care everyday had grown exhausting. Emotional draining.
Although we were blessed with support from a handful of family members, a couple of neighbors, a few church friends, half a dozen teachers and one mental health professional, a greater number of individuals became adversaries – practically enemies.
Some simply didn’t get it.
Worse yet, they were quick to judge my children – and quicker to question me relentlessly. Never fully listening. Just casting blame. Some in my face. Others talking behind my back.
How easy. Problem solved. It’s the parent’s fault – not a brain disorder that requires intense collaboration from all sides.
Yes, the hours I spent educating others certainly helped the dilemma. But sadly those same efforts often fell on deaf ears, even though I knew my children best.
Some didn’t want to get it – no matter the level of my diplomacy.
Their ignorance, coupled with denial, affected me personally – with three people from different professions being the worst. Now I wasn’t sure whom to trust. What should I share about my children’s challenges? Am I telling too much? Could my words be used against me?
Raw emotions. Real life – not my imagination.
Like my children who had been traumatized early in life, the overwhelming stress eventually hit me. Not quite the same PTSD which rocked my oldest son’s and only daughter’s worlds, but an instant uneasiness that erupted within me two or three times a week – as I waited for the other shoe to drop.
Constantly fighting battles on the front line can consume anyone. And the symptoms of secondary trauma are nothing for a parent to take lightly.
I finally made a conscious choice.
Whenever possible, I would avoid contact with anyone who could marginalize me. Instead, I would surround myself with people who embraced my family and me.
I call it self-care around the clock.
That meant leaving our church. That meant identifying new mental health providers. That meant choosing different schools. That meant limiting time with certain family members. That meant discovering a new group of friends.
This new mentality was the only way to survive.
My only regret was waiting so long.
What about you? DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow his son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page. Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold