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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Honest Truth about Special Needs Parenting

I have cried more tears in this past week than in the last six months combined.  My heart is heavy.  Maybe I am just emotional, hormonal or overly sensitive, but I am concerned for my sweet Grace who struggles off and on with symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Her symptoms first appeared upon her entering kindergarten and have come and gone in waves over the last several years as stress and anxiety affect her.  Unfortunately, I believe this latest set of compulsive behaviors was triggered by my own personal stress and anxiety.  My kids are very "in tune" with how I am feeling and I have been "off" for awhile now. 
I have tried to pinpoint why I have been "off" why my stress is higher, etc., however, I look back and see no defining event.  Mainly I feel it is trying to manage everything, deal with everything  and hold it together for too long.  I feel burnt out.  I am run down.  I am tired.  I am depressed and anxious all at the same time.  I really believed that I could "have it all".  I remember saying multiple times as I began working my part time job, "I will have the best of both worlds."  Only what I have realized is it is NOT true.  We want our cake and to eat it too.  And I know that is me.  I took on too much.  I can't give 100% to my kids and I can't give 100% to my job and I can't give 100% to my marriage.  I am not excelling in anything...just treading water.  Enough to get by.  This is so frustrating for me.  I thought this job would be the answer to everything that burdened me last year.  It has only caused different burdens.  The job is stressful.   There are students with high needs.  I have been bit, scratched, hit, kicked, hair pulled out, things thrown at me, and have had both my cheek bones bruised.  I take on the responsibility everyday of attempting to keep all my students safe.  It is a big task.  I don't always win.  I have a huge feeling of defeat when someone gets hurt. It is a stressful environment.
This is one of those difficult life lessons to learn.  I was reminded of what my therapist said to me in the beginning stages of therapy in my post partum state.  She said, "you can do anything for five months and then you hit a brick wall.  You can push yourself for five months and then you have to make changes."  Mostly this was talking about my sleep deprivation but I found it to be true.  I added up the amount of time I had been working...yep...five months.  Five months of trying to convince myself that this is what I am supposed to do.  Five months trying to be happy imagining myself working in that classroom for the next 20 years.  Five months kissing my 2 year old goodbye hearing her say "no classroom mommy.  Stay me."  Five months telling myself she would be ok only to feel like my heart was being ripped out and my arm severed from my body.  Five months.  Now...brick wall.  But Mark and I are walking this hand in hand and praying about what the answer is.   
Grace's latest trials have caused Mark and I to re-evaluate her placement in school.  She is struggling academically and socially.  She understands that she is behind in areas, her peers understand that she is behind and they make sure to remind her any chance they get.  Grace feels beat down, unhappy and self conscious.  It is interesting to me how just a month ago I spent all this time researching school options for Luke, but now I am using all that information for Grace.  I am glad that I did my homework.  Grace's last day at her school will be on Thursday.  She will be switching to our school district's alternative learning program.  She will go 2 days a week in a small classroom and 3 days a week at home with Mark and I.  We will also be looking into some art therapy for her, as recommended by Luke's therapist.  The last thing I need is another appointment, but Grace needs it and so do I.  I honestly do not know how I am going to juggle even more.  My plate is already so full that things are dangling from it.  I think back...probably shouldn't have gone back to school, probably shouldn't have taken on a lot of things. 

So honestly...special needs parenting of three special needs kiddos is rough.  It is not pretty.  There is no magic over here.  I am not a saint and fail daily.  It is ugly at times as far as the pain, sadness, grief and feelings of being so alone.  There are triumphs too, but right now I am in the trenches of some really intense parenting and it is difficult to see anything.  I think of Dory in Finding Nemo....just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, because my friends all I am really doing right now is swimming...somewhat.

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