My counsellor told me I should look after myself better as the stress I’m under could cost me my life.
Although I already knew that, it was still hard to hear. In fact, when he listed all my stressors on one hand, I switched off – too hard to hear in one go: co-parenting a child/young person on the (autistic) spectrum, parenting two children thundering through adolescence – another type of SEN – working with children with autism, and parenting a traumatised child … add to that financial worries, ageing parents and a demanding workload … and that’s just for starters.
To be honest, if I was not implementing the NVR principles across my whole life, I probably would be (still) on my knees. Because right now, we’ve hit another challenging time. Youngest child, the traumatised one, is about to move schools and she’s not keen (and that’s putting it mildly!). For the first time for quite a while, hubby and I are having to de-escalate daily and many times a day just to keep the status quo calm. We are doing it, we know it works – in the past we’ve come from daily (several times a day) physical attacks from our youngest to no physical attacks – but it’s SO hard and SO draining. The effort involved in keeping calm, zipping it, and not saying “because I said so” or “please, just do as I asked” is exhausting. Instead, I think of my favourite place in the world while breathing deeply until the atmosphere has calmed a little. Or, I use the communication model to give myself thinking time. However, there is a cost to my wellbeing – hearing that my child wants to kill themselves – using the communication model at the time gets me through the moment, but afterwards when I’m reflecting, it’s just awful.
So, how can I continue? I look at my wall planner and work out when the new school start day is, have a guess as to how long it will take for the dust to settle – bearing in mind there will be a honeymoon period – and get my support network organized. As part of this process I ‘drop’ a day at work so I can focus on looking after my wellbeing, both physical (I’ve put on 4 stones in the last 10 years of parenting this child) and mental (I still get times when I am perpetually tearful or can’t get out of bed); this also means I’m around when the kids get home from school and/or work and available to chat/listen. To tackle the pain in my neck and shoulders – regular soak in the bath; to cope with a tightening in my chest – slow, deep breathing; to keep my spirits up – keep going to choir, singing is very uplifting for me; to keep my mind ‘fed’ – read, read, read ?.
I’m also ‘upping the ante’ when it comes to reconciliation gestures. Things I consider as reconciliation gestures: saying yes to requests for unlimited amounts of food that I’m keeping for other purposes; letting the kids stay up a little bit later to watch ‘our’ favourite tv programmes together; taking the dog for a walk when it’s their turn; emptying cups, dishes and cutlery from their bedrooms; basically anything I can do/have the energy for when they can’t/don’t want to!
As for the other stressors – I just can’t manage them at the moment, they’re not in my red, priority basket, they’re in the amber basket; I’ll tackle them when we have survived this crisis. Don’t know when that will be, maybe in a few weeks, maybe in a few months … all that matters right now is keeping our everyone in the family calm and alive.
This blog was written by a parent