Parenting children with complex needs – when the adrenaline wears off

From one parent to another. This is just some of the stuff I wish someone had told me (and I’d listened to) when my daughter was born. Perhaps I could have avoided burnout. I hope you read it on a day that you both need it and are able to absorb it. My hope is it reaches you when you’re open to receiving and that it changes your trajectory a few degrees towards positive.

My daughter is 11 years old now, and this story recalls the time when she was about 8 years old. When the adrenaline had worn off, I was living on the stress hormone Cortisol and my world was imploding around me…..

Within the safety of our home, I was ranting a lot. Looking back, I’m not sure I know what the ranting was for – what it was trying to achieve. But nothing good came from it.

Did I want acknowledgement & praise for everything I did? Did I want someone to step up & help me? Did I just want everyone to know what a trouper I was or did I just want to make the people around me feel bad – like I was feeling.

Maybe 🤷‍♀️

Or was I simply keeping myself so busy, to ensure there was no time to actually stop , think and look at the pain I might just be in.

Or perhaps it was all of the above.

I’d take on job after job around the house, for my kids, for school, for charity… I read hundreds of books on diagnosis and therapies. I went to all the courses. I helped at school & charity events. I was overwhelmed & exhausted.  I was a disability advocate. I was just so goddamn positive about everything.

I wouldn’t let myself sit down or relax.

But…. I was molding myself into some kind of Super Martyr! 

I was afraid to stop & deal with my feelings. But the business and self-imposed duties were eroding me.

At home, I’d find myself saying:

“I may as well just do it all my bloody self”

“No one listens to me”

“Must be nice to put your feet up”

Bitch – Martyr – Victim. Right there ☝

I was in one hell of a rut.

Oh and every morning I would wake up, and sink at the thought of another day. Just wishing it was bedtime. This just breaks my heart.

I’m not a mean person. I no longer sounded like myself. And I’d never been someone who felt low every. single. day.

After 8 years of bugger all sleep, various diagnosis,  a life changing regression, & a total loss of my career – my life…. Well, I guess when you put it like that (and that’s the tip of the iceberg), it explains a lot about my decline.

By the way,  I was a super smiley school gate Mum, through all of this. Just in case you were wondering. This was very much an invisible decline to the outside world.

I was in overwhelm & burnout and I guess I was sabotaging my days, to prove some unknown point. But also, to prevent there being even the tiniest opportunity that I would have time to look directly into the light – or in this case, the pain. The pain I had buried at my daughter’s initial diagnosis and then subsequent regression and further diagnosis.

My behaviour was most definitely a cry for help.

As a parent carer,  the first decade of our child’s life is a whirlwind of high emotions. Fierce love, fear, sadness… it’s all in there. We’re blindsided, but don’t even realise it until we finally come up for air. We put our child first, first, first.  But then comes the exhaustion and burnout.

We finally realise this is a marathon, not a sprint – and we haven’t been eating our energy bars.

Lots of love to you, if you recognise yourself here.

The good news? We can do it better.  We can find love again. Starting with a great big cry of relief.

Hindsight advice

The stuff that saved me. The stuff I wish someone had told me when my daughter was born, and the stuff I wish I had actually listened to. Properly listened to.

1. Be brave. Stare into the light.

First – Go give yourself a hug. Be kind to yourself. Feeling sad (or in my case grief) doesn’t mean you love your child any less. The biggest favour I could have done all of us, would have been to identify my feelings, allow my feelings and sit with my feelings. We must be brave and start to lift the lid on the feelings we have knowingly or unknowingly tried to ignore. But which keep knocking at our door!

“What we resist, persists”

We can’t move forwards, not properly. Until we’ve dealt with the emotions. My daughter was 8 years old when I finally burnt out and life imploded. I had never, ever allowed myself to acknowledge that suppressed feelling, let alone to label it.

There are lots of ways to do this. Therapy, journaling or hypnosis are just a few examples. Hypnosis worked for me, (and later on journaling). Not that I actively went looking for it. I happened to get a free ticket to a conference – some kind of female empowerment weekend. I went in a daze to be honest, but then this incredible thing happened.

We started talking about being stuck in our lives. But also about being stuck in a bitch, martyr, victim triangle. That was a huge AHA moment for me. We then started to look at unbeneficial emotions that might need addressing and before I knew it, I was doing a group hypnosis with a few hundred other women.

My conscious mind tried to choose a trivial issue to deal with, but my unconscious mind won (thank goodness). And I went there. I went to that dark box in my chest and I lifted the lid. And in it I found grief. Grief for the little girl I lost, when she had her regression. Grief for the future I thought my daughter would have and the relationship I imagined having with her.

It was raw pain. There was mascara everywhere and when I came out of the hypnosis, I was incredibly fragile but also felt insanely light. Like a ton of bricks had been lifted off me.

It was a life changing moment and the moment I started to slowly heal.

So to recap – Deal with the pain. Be brave – look directly at it. Acknowledge it. Feel it. Accept it. And then, we can start to tentatively heal and move forwards. And remember – painful feelings have nothing to do with the love you have for your child. It may be helpful to seek out support here. From a counsellor, therapist, coach or hypnotist.

2. Put yourself first

Oh why is this so hard for us? We know all the sayings “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, “oxygen masks on first” etc etc. We have probably liked and shared them on social media. But, are we actually doing them?

No.

We put our child, our family, the world and his wife first. Then this typically happens.

We get worn out, we get resentful, we end up giving from a place of lack, which leads to resentment. Which leads to bitch, martyr and victim.

Now imagine this. My tank is topped up every single day. I am full of replenishment and love and my cup overfloweth! And as I top up everyday, I know my reserves are always refilled. Guess what? Yes, in this state we can simply keep giving the best of us, not what’s left of us! And what we give, comes with love, not resentment.

Now, does that sound better?

So first things first. What makes YOU feel good?

Now grab your diary and schedule it. Actually schedule it. This is IMPORTANT. It isn’t a nice-to-have – it’s a vital part of keeping the show on the road – ie us!

Stuck? Here’s some simple, cheap ideas – so no excuses.

  1. Treat yourself to a magazine subscription and book an hour to yourself each week – or hey, half an hour every single day! Perhaps after you’ve dropped the kids at school, before you start working. A little moment, carved out just for you. If that means a bit less house work, then good! I promise you can find the time if you look. How much time do you spend scrolling for example?
  2. A facepack and bath once a week.
  3. A home pedicure.
  4. A walk (on your own)
  5. A new hobby or course – I’ve recently signed up to an arts and crafts subscription, who send me a mini project each month.

Watch out for excuses! We’ll do anything to sabotage this! It takes determination to embed this new way of thinking. Get creative with how you use your time, to make space in your life. Park guilt – it serves no purpose – plus if you’re replenished everyone around you benefits. Win-win.

Honestly, there is so much we can do to help ourselves, but starting with these two is a winning first step.

Be gentle with yourself. Especially while you’re acknowledging your feelings. This is an incredibly vulnerable place, and you’ll need time, support and lots of self-love. But know, this is an essential part of healing.

When you start to feel stronger, there are many other tools to support how we feel each day and how we can each live our own best life. I’ll be adding to this toolkit, so keep an eye on this blog.

Of course there are tough days and seasons in our lives. But knowing they will pass, and having tools to support us along the way, we can make each day its best version of itself.

With love,

For daily(ish) inspiration you can find me over on instagram @holdingthespaceforyou

Published by Holding The Space for You

Supporting carers and business through NLP coaching

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