I Cried In The Shower Tonight….
When The Dark Days Win In Special Needs Parenting
I cried in the shower tonight. Now, for many of you, that’s not a big deal. “Heck”, some of you might think, “so did I”. But for me, crying IS a big deal. I actually cry maybe once every 12-18 months. I’m a very contained person when it comes to emotions, and they don’t often overtake me.
But tonight, I spent 45 minutes being being attacked by my four year old.
He was “stuck”, in a sensory meltdown, enraged, completely unreachable. This happens from time to time. When he’s tired it’s more likely to happen. And he just lashes out because that’s all that he can do in those moments. It’s like the rest of his brain shuts down, and he goes into absolute fight or flight mode. And, since he’s my son, he fights. Not “flights”.
So, there I was in his bed with puppy dog sheets, dodging punches and kicks like a professional MMA fighter. See, I know what to do in these situations. I know exactly what you’re supposed to say, and how to handle a child in the midst of a violent episode. I know how to restrain him in such a way that doesn’t hurt him and mostly (*mostly) prevents him from hurting me. I remain calm and say soothing things like “It’s ok”, “I’m here”, “I love you”, and “I can let go when you calm down.”
For 45 minutes.
Eventually he did calm down. Apologized. Hugged me. Woke up, in a way. Then passed out from exhaustion. And I kissed him, since he doesn’t allow that when he’s awake, and I sniffed his hair because it’s irresistible, and I stared at his gorgeous eyelashes, and his hands that still look like starfish, because he’s only four. And I breathed shakily.
Because for 45 minutes, my own body was in fight or flight mode. Being physically attacked will do that to you. Adrenaline surges. More than that, though, heartache flows. Permeates your being, and saturates your soul, and leaves you a wreck. Full of What If’s. That’s part of this special needs parenting journey, the What If’s.
What if he does this when he starts school?
What if he does this when he’s ten? Or sixteen?
What if we can’t get this under control?
What if we never figure out exactly what’s wrong, or how to help?
The What If’s will tear you apart. They can be debilitating. So I left my little one’s bedroom, stumbled into my own like a shell shocked soldier (special needs parenting can in fact cause PTSD, or C-PTSD, and autism moms in particular have stress levels compared to stress levels of combat soldiers), and faced my husband. He’d spent an hour handling my son before I did, so he knew what was going on, and understood when I sighed deeply and headed off to the shower.
Where I sank to the floor and let hot water pour over me and cried. Really, really, cried. Ugly cries, heaving sobs, burning tears. Because sometimes I don’t like this journey that I’m on. I can’t change it, and I won’t, because these kids need me to walk it along with them, but man is it a tough journey sometimes.
Sometimes the dark days win, and I am left raw and vulnerable and fearful of the future.
Their future. Sometimes I don’t want to continue my endless reading and researching, sometimes I get mad when I log into Pinterest and see more articles in my feed about disorders and delays, medications and therapy techniques, than recipes and crafts. Sometimes I don’t want to look at social media because all of my parenting support groups for all of the various things that we deal with are overwhelming- scrolling through a teenage version, or an adult version, of my own kid and reading about that person’s pain and suffering, or a parent at the end of their rope, desperate for answers, just plain sucks. Sometimes I don’t want to go to our appointments and see the other children in the waiting rooms, with problems more severe or more obvious than my own kids’, and to feel my heart break for them and their families on top of my own heartache.
Sometimes I am shaken with the unfairness of it all.
Sometimes I grieve for the things that they won’t have or achieve, just because their brains are different. Sometimes I am crippled with fear for them, and I want to shelter them from this harsh world with its lack of understanding and judgement that flows like rivers.
But..they need me to be strong when they can’t. They need me to explain when they don’t understand, to feel when they can’t, to see what they overlook, to teach what comes naturally to most but is foreign to them.
They need me to advocate.
They need me to go to those meetings at school armed with resources and plans, and they need me to not accept “No’s”. They need me to make a thousand phone calls and appointments, and juggle the schedule and calendar. They need me to not give up on them. They need me.
How lucky I am that I like to be needed, I like to be busy, I am (*pretty) good at delegating and being efficient and organizing and multitasking. How lucky I am that the dark days don’t always win, and that my love for and devotion to them overrules fear, exhaustion, stress, and grief. In that way, I am no different than mothers everywhere. So, after crying in the shower, and passing out asleep just as tired and wrecked as my little one, I will wake up refreshed. He will have forgotten all about his episode, and want morning cuddles and chocolate milk. I will put my hair up, make a cup of coffee (or three), turn on music that makes me happy, and go on with my day.
Good or bad, full of smiles or full of tears, I will go on.
This journey, tough as it is, is ours together, and I will be there. Holding hands, wiping sticky faces, supplying snacks, reading endless books aloud, and loving them all through the struggles. I will be there.