Is It Time for A (Mental Health) Break?

Many of us live fast-paced lives. Kids, work, marriage (or other relationships), and other activities keep us busy. We tend to stay pretty occupied on a daily basis- the main part of adulting. Someone has to pay the bills, right?

There is a time where you begin to feel a bit rundown, maybe even a little cranky. You start wanting to get away from everything, checking your social media less than usual- maybe it’s getting annoying. Maybe you’re sleeping in a little more or losing your motivation to get things done. This might be the time you start thinking about taking a mental health break. This doesn’t mean jumping in the car and never coming back (although sometimes that’s a great daydream). Your body and mind will send signs that it is time to slow down a bit.

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Listening to the Signs

My immune system is awful, so I listen to it frequently. I might not like what it has to say, but I do listen. If you’re constantly sick, it may be a sign that you aren’t getting enough sleep. eating properly, or maybe just extremely stressed out. Stress can do terrible things to your body- if you don’t rest when you’re sick, it takes longer to get better or your symptoms can get worse. Neither of these options are fun, and you should probably see a doctor.

Sleep is also important. We don’t function well without it. Getting to sleep and staying there can be an issue when we have a lot on our minds. Laying in bed and not being able to sleep is frustrating (I’ve been there many nights) There are ways to get better sleep- blackout curtains, turning off TV and electronics at a certain time, essential oils, meditation for sleep, etc. Getting more and/or better sleep is beneficial all the time, not just when you need to take a mental health break.

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Being social is a good thing- even if you’re not a fan. Going out has become pretty tiring for me, physically and somewhat emotionally. I still enjoy it. If you pull away from your social circle, this can create or add to feelings of isolation. It may be hard to notice without others letting you know that you have been pulling back lately, due to work or other factors, but it may be time to take that break. Taking time to do something as simple as a dinner with two or three close friends can be a lot of fun and stress relieving.

Stress can contribute to a need for a break. Some things that we do can be kicked off our lists- what do we really enjoy and what can go? It may be time to reconsider what you (and your family) do with your time. When you’re stressed, your body feels it. Muscles stay tensed, fatigue sets in, weight loss plateaus, etc. Yoga and/or meditation can be a great help. Stress comes from many different places. It may be time to re-evaluate things and figure out where things need to be changed.

Be Like Ferris… Maybe

I don’t recommend calling in sick when you aren’t, but I do recommend having a day of fun for yourself.

I’m a huge “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” fan, and if you’ve never seen the movie, you should. Ferris is a high school senior who cuts school with his best friend (while pretending to be sick), Cameron (who is actually sick and the character that I named Cameron for) and his girlfriend, Sloane. They spend the day running around Chicago. It’s so much fun to watch. It’s my favorite movie. As Ferris said. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

The lesson is: Take a day off. Everyone needs one.

Suggestions:

  • Museums- art, science, anything that you’re into
  • Shopping
  • Sitting in the park
  • Library, bookstore, etc.
  • Spa, makeup/beauty store, etc.
  • Curling up in a chair with a good book and snack all day (one of my favorites, preferably with a cat)
  • Hiking, jogging, any kind of sports that you enjoy
  • Trying out an art class, pottery, painting, etc.
  • Working out
  • Writing, journaling

Don’t feel bad about taking this day to yourself. Make a note to do this at least once a month- and look forward to it. If you want, involve a friend. I enjoy my day alone.

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Self- Care is Essential

If taking time for yourself isn’t helping in the way that you are hoping for, please seek help with a professional. This does happen, and that’s okay. Everyone needs to be able to care for themselves somehow and may need the extra boost to do so.

For further reading: Are You Meeting Your Needs?

How do you take care of yourself? When do you know it’s time for a break?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information Courtesy of Blysee

Feisty Green Polka Dot

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Adjusting to a New World

Many parents, myself included, envision parenting as this wonderful adventure in which kids develop at the pace they should, play instruments and/or sports, learn to drive, go to prom and all that great stuff.

But what happens when those things are altered because of a special needs diagnosis?

Cry a little

The Big Change

Some parents find out about their child’s diagnosis before or right after birth, in cases of Spinal Bifida, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome. I know parents of kids with these diagnoses, and it has been life changing for these families. All of them have other kids without any special needs.

The adjustment is hard. I cried my way through Lily’s evaluation for First Steps the day before her first birthday, even though I knew something was not going right. I knew she needed more help than what I could give her. That story can be found in Special Needs Round Two . When her diagnosis of global delays was given, I was even more devastated. The blame game began. It took a lot of talking with Lily’s speech therapist, Denise, to realize that it wasn’t my fault that she was developmentally delayed. We are in the process of getting Lily re-evaluated. At ten, she is still showing signs of issues that we thought she had grown out of. Cross your fingers for us- we may need it.

In Julian’s case, it’s been a tougher road. His psychiatric nurse practitioner, Ann, once said that we have adjusted wonderfully as a family to Julian’s needs. I almost hugged her. I explained to her that it has not been easy and it remains a somewhat rugged path. My question is: Why not adjust? Julian is wired differently and that’s okay. If we didn’t adjust, he would feel badly about himself and I couldn’t bear the thought of this. It would also cause so much chaos for him that he doesn’t need or deserve. It would do the same for the rest of us. Why do that?

He needs the ability to feel okay about who he is, quirks and all. We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and finally develop a sense of humor. Every kid needs that, with or without a diagnosis. In a home with medical issues, this is a necessity.

I have made many mistakes in raising Julian (and his siblings). Even after reading up, trying many different things, therapy for both of us, getting Matthew on board and lots of burnt dinners in the process, things remain interesting. Julian is now 12 and puberty is kicking in.

Learning that your child has a medical and/or physical special needs diagnosis is complex. Some parents grieve the life they feel their child “should have had”. This is a rough one for me, as I’ve never done this. I can see this happening with kids with severe medical problems. A high school friend of mine has a child with spinal bifida and she lives a full life. Instead of being devastated and staying in a hole as some might, Shelly and her kids go out and do all kinds of neat things. Ryan is eight, and she is one of the coolest kids ever. She’s a tiny fighter. Some parents, like myself, are devastated and are not sure where to go next. Some fall into the “research pattern” and find all kinds of information to know exactly what to do.

This can be a great thing- I have read up a lot on Julian’s diagnoses and it didn’t hurt to work with kids with similar issues. (It did physically hurt some days, but that’s another story. I learned a lot from that job.) Some parents, sadly, go into denial. This can be damaging to everyone involved, and I highly recommend seeing a therapist, church member, or another trusted person. If it’s your partner, this can get really bad quickly, and I definitely know the pain of where it can go. Please do what you can to change that path. Talking can help. Easing your partner into information, appointments, and other things can help. Just don’t force them, because that can make things worse.

I recommend reading up, asking questions, and getting all the help from the medical community you can. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel to help your child. Julian’s been very lucky- he has had a great team from day one, because I wouldn’t let him have anything less. I’m a proud mama shark.

Never give up

It’s okay to feel different things- don’t let anyone make you feel different. Julian was diagnosed almost seven years ago, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. As of writing this post, I’m about to battle it out with his school over his IEP because it’s currently not being followed. Some days are better than others. Some days are absolutely great, some are so bad that you want to devour a liter of Cherry Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and call it a day. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. I didn’t do all of that, but I considered it.) If you’re overwhelmed, write it out. Get someone to help you sort out your feelings.

Making The Best of Things

Daily life also changes. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need assistance with everything, or nothing at all. This can become time-consuming and require an overhaul of your routine as you knew it. Food may need to be altered due to sensory issues- I live in a house with two kids with sensory issues, and I gave up on those battles years ago. Julian won’t eat french fries if he can see the potato skins or if they aren’t super warm. Lily won’t eat anything that resembles soup, any pasta that isn’t spaghetti, mainly because it looks different. Julian actually had a meltdown once over the shape of pasta my father in law used for dinner. These changes can be irritating to make, but they are necessary for the world our kids live in. I’ve learned to look inside Julian’s mind a bit, probably because of my work, and try to see the world as he does. It can get hard, but it’s worth it. Explaining this to others can get even harder, even your partner.

Small steps

It takes time to adjust- it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn how your child’s machines work, or how to get the wheelchair to fit in your van. Give yourself space to make those mistakes. I completely screwed up Julian’s 12th birthday party by inviting too many people, which cause him to shut down at the end, but I’m pretty sure he still likes me. He used to get mad at me when I would hold onto him with a death grip in parking lots and large stores, but he had a bad record of eloping. It was terrifying to have to run after a very fast 5 year old, especially in a parking lot. He was seven before I let him walk more than a foot or two away from me. (I never used a leash because I hate those things.)

If you’ve got a kid who takes things literally, you have to change how you talk to them. For example, I once told Julian to drop the jar of jelly he was holding after he was told not to eat anything. I was making dinner and he didn’t need to eat so soon before.

He dropped the jar.

Major mom fail.

Thankfully, the jar was plastic. That would have been an awful mess otherwise. Matthew and I have had to re-think things before we say them, because Julian thinks differently, and so does Lily, to an extent. We are still trying to figure out her thought patterns. She doesn’t quite think on a 10-year-old level, so we have to tread carefully.

Super parent

Final Thoughts and Tips:

If you have to buy things to keep your house, kid and car safe, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

It really does take a village. I have friends that have kids with all kinds of physical/ developmental disabilities. A few have kids with autism, and they have been so helpful when I’ve needed them.

Being a parent of a special needs kid will make you a different person. I’ve fought for Julian since day one. Lily’s issues haven’t required so much of a fight, but I would do the same for her. It makes you tougher and less likely to take people’s crap.

Breathe and find something that makes you laugh. Comedy will get you through anything.

Get a binder and organize all of your kid’s paperwork. Julian and Lily have their own binders.

You are not alone, and get help if you need it. Take time for you, because your kids need Mom at her best. If you’re tired, sad and cranky, that’s not your best.

If you have other kids, let them be involved in adjustments. It’s not easy to be the sibling of a special needs kid. My kids have been pretty good about Julian, but it can get hard for us as parents. Cameron and Lily have a post about this in The Siblings’ Turn

Allow your child to live their best life. If they can do it- let them. My friend Laura Leigh’s son, Levi, is seven. He is in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, and he is an awesome kid. He smiles for days, gives his younger sister Presley wheelchair rides and loves school. I let Julian run cross country in the fifth grade and he loved it. We have a rule that his diagnoses aren’t excuses for not behaving. He does have bad days, but he doesn’t get to say, “I’ve got autism, so I get to act like that”, “I forgot my ADHD meds, that’s why I’m like this today”.

Most of all, love and accept your child the way they are. It might sound weird that I wrote that, but it is saddening that many parents don’t. Acceptance and love matters- it’s everything.

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

Recommended Reading: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Why Sharing Your Story Is Good For Healing

Everyone Has A Story

Over the past (almost) year, I have shared my story. It is not a pretty one, and that is something I knew from the beginning. It hasn’t always been easy. After I finished writing Love Through Bipolar, I cried. That was a hard post to write, but it needed to be written. It’s become one of my favorite blog posts. I think it’s because there is so much emotion and love behind it.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years. I was a teen when things started going a bit downhill- I have posts dedicated to this. The Journey Through PPD is about the time after Julian was born and I had a battle with Post-Partum Depression. A Letter to my Anxiety and Depressionis just that- a letter to what holds me back from feeling things as I should or doing things as I would like to.

But yet, I still didn’t see the point of sharing my story. I didn’t think it would help anyone or change anything. My life changed again right in front of me as my marriage fell apart and I started drinking heavily, but I was in no shape to talk about it. Everything fell apart the day Jake died, and the aftermath was nowhere near easy. Thankfully, I went into therapy. My therapist helped me develop coping skills and tools to be able to rebuild my life.

Rachel once asked me how I could make something good out of losing Jake. This was a hard question to answer at first. I had no idea how this would happen, because losing him has been one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. It took a while, but I decided on two things: volunteering for the American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and creating this blog.

Going on A Mission

Sharing your story can be rough, and that’s normal. Everyone decides to do so at their own time- some start at the beginning of their journey, some wait a while, like I did. If I had, most of my blog posts wouldn’t have made sense- I was far too drunk to be creative. What makes someone want to tell their story?

  1. Helping others. This is a big one for me. Helping others helps me deal with my loss and helps me stay on track with my sobriety. I know I am far from the only person that has lost someone they loved to suicide. This is a sad fact. I’m also not the only mother out here trying to stay sober. Being a mom who doesn’t drink is not easy these days, especially when there are wine jokes everywhere and kids are stressful. Telling my story of getting and staying sober reminds me of how far I have come and hopefully gives others hope that they can get there too.. I have read a lot of comments thanking me for telling my story of coming back from losing Jake, and it does help a lot, especially on the bad days. It helps me continue Jake’s love of helping others. This is something else that helps me heal.
  2. Helping yourself- processing can come in many ways. I wouldn’t have been able to start this blog much before I did- August 2017 was almost two years after Jake’s death. I needed that time to heal and figure my life out. It wasn’t the easiest process. I did write in journals that became the beginning of this blog. As you write, sometimes you realize things that you hadn’t thought of until then. Writing allows me to let out the things that I cannot say for some reason or another, and this is common in many writers. I’ve been able to look back some of my earlier blog posts and realize how far I’ve come and where my thoughts have changed. This is a good thing.
  3. Marking milestones as you go through healing. When you are deep in grief or in active addiction, you don’t see milestones. You barely see the next day. As of July 1, I’ll have 18 months sobriety. That’s something I wouldn’t consider in 2016. I thought I would just keep drinking forever.

If you decide to tell your story, please take care of yourself. Take time to unplug if you need it. Disconnect from the internet, take a walk, listen to music, whatever you need. It will refresh you to keep moving.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest