A friend complimented me lately, telling me that if she had to deal with everything going on in my life, she'd be screaming.
Here's the little secret: I do a fair bit of screaming.
For a long time, I squashed my negative emotions down into the tiniest mental box I could manage. I concentrated on practical things, fixing the problems.
That solution didn't work out so well for me. Like any sealed container of toxicity, the pain and anger began to leak out in unpredictable ways, mostly depression. I learned to mask it well and function, but it sucked all the joy out of my life.
I remember a moment where I was six months pregnant, cleaning out cat litter and crying hysterically. I literally could not bring myself to get up off the floor because I was completely emotionally exhausted. I had a child with autism and I had just begun to truly realize what kinds of lifelong challenges I would be facing. I had financial and extended family challenges as everyone tried to deal with the diagnosis in their own way. I was a hormonal sh*tstorm as I headed into the most uncomfortable trimester. And my own insistence on pretending to be the capable mommy had left me feeling isolated in my own hurt, grief and fear. I also had a cat who had just pooped in my shoes.
I did something really hard then. I asked for help. I found a therapist, worked with my social worker and infant development worker and slowly learned to put up boundaries, to accept that I wouldn't always have all the answers and most important, learned to accept my feelings as part of an emotional barometer, rather than signs of impending failure.
While I mostly choose to focus on sharing my goals and plans in this blog, I don't want to give the impression that there aren't days where I find myself wondering if I can cope or find myself weighed down by fear and frustration.
I've learned to accept those moments and discovered that if I allow them to run their course, then they are fleeting. Letting myself feel sad over a destroyed book isn't going to send me into a non-functioning depression. Recognizing that I feel angry because this isn't what I signed up for in the parenting line doesn't make me a bad parent and it allows me to regulate that anger to its proper place and source.
I don't know if this would work for everyone. But giving myself the time and space to scream has let me have more energy to focus on getting on with my life. Fighting it used to take almost all my energy. Now I give it space and remind myself that I won't feel like this forever. I may go to bed feeling hopeless but odds are good I'll wake up feeling better.
This is why I think parents of special needs children need emotional support. Clergy, therapists, anyone who can give them unbiased aid and help them find coping strategies. It makes all the difference in the world.