Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Time for Healing

With each of my children, I have had intense periods of stress and worry involving their medical challenges. My oldest will continue to have difficulties, though she is progressing in small ways all the time. My middle child was born with a rare blood disorder that literally kept me living in a panicked state for over two years, worrying about him possibly going into shock, taking him to a specialist on a regular basis. And then when my youngest came along, and we had prayed to have a child that would be "easy" or "normal," and he was born with a birth defect that needed surgery and possible speech therapy, it opened up a whole new box of worries and challenges to our family, mostly me. I honestly look back on the almost 12 years of being a mom and think, how did I hold it all together?

Well, I never did keep it together, and I still don't. I am plagued with not only worry, but also a lot of guilt over the way I simply cannot handle the pressure of raising my children. There are days it becomes almost unbearable, and I want to just run away, leaving all my worries behind. The stress and worry that has piled up all these years never had a chance to resolve itself completely. I sought out therapy here and there over the years, but it was never enough. About a year ago I saw a doctor because I thought I might have depression, and after briefly telling him my journey as a mother, he without hesistation wrote me a prescription and said it was mostly due to very high stress. I never took the medication, but it has weighed on my mind. And recently, I've read articles about how being a parent of a special needs child can cause PTSD symptoms. This motherhood thing is way harder than I ever imagined it would be, and with my youngest, more and more doctor visits piled up, and then therapy, in addition to everything else I was trying to do for my oldest. I started to feel like there was no end in sight.

But then something happened this summer, which was no doubt a blessing from heaven. I applied for a grant at Nathan's, my youngest's, early start school, which is also a daycare and preschool. I did it to make sure he would have a spot at the school just in case he was kicked out of early start (he had caught up and surpassed all his goals by this point.) And I got the letter back, saying if I wanted to, he could attend school there from 8-5, Monday through Friday, for FREE.

This was completely unexpected, and of course at first, I told the school, no, I don't need that much childcare. I can take care of him at home after his early start class. They told me I didn't have to use all the hours, but could personalize it to whatever I wanted. Well, this got me thinking, for the first time ever, about childcare/preschool that was longer than the typical 3 hours/2 days a week. The more I thought about it, the more I felt guilty about even considering it. I'm a stay at home mom! Why would I even use something like that! I'm here with him; I don't need more help.

And then it hit me, really strongly, that this grant was given to me to help me in a way I didn't even know I needed. I have spent over a decade worrying and stressing over the demanding needs of my children, to the point where I very nearly had a breakdown. Maybe I even had one, I don't know. So why should I feel guilty accepting this offer? Don't I deserve this, after everything I've been through? He will be in a safe, wonderful place where he will learn from his teachers and other children, the same place my oldest attended when she was young. I love this school, and the only reason I can think that they qualified him for this grant is because they know my history, they know what I've been through, and they wanted to help. How could I possibly turn this down?

So I decided to extend his three days of school to 3 pm instead of 11:30. And now that school is back for my older kids, I have three school days a week, to myself, to do whatever needs to be done, whatever I want to do. And I can already feel that this time for me is exactly what I needed. I need to heal right now. Healing. I've written recently about how I feel broken and worn down and exhausted, and I know that's how many moms feel. But unless you are a special needs parent, it's impossible to understand how I really feel. The emotional toll is so great that it begins to affect you physically, even. So right now, and for the next few years until Nathan starts kindergarten, I will be healing on those three days a week.

Part of my healing also includes taking a creative writing class at our local community college. It includes exercise. It includes cleaning my house without interruption, like really cleaning it well. It includes watching shows and reading books. It includes doing service for others. And most of all, it includes writing and blogging, to the point of being in tears, just like this post did for me.

I am going to try really hard not to feel guilty or selfish for taking this time for myself. That is hard to do because being a mother is all about being selfless, about sacrificing everything. I am going to keep remembering that, right now, I need to heal in order to be whole again.

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