As caretakers of special needs children, we have a habit of putting ourselves last so that we can give 100% to our children. But is that causing more harm than good? I have been wondering this lately, as my own health declines, my mental stamina fades, and I find myself feeling a deepening void at times.
When you are sitting in an airplane, waiting to take off, the flight attendants go into a speech concerning various directions and safety precautions. One of those safety rules is in the event of a crisis, put your own oxygen mask on first, and then put one on your child. Why? Well, the answer is pretty simple. If you don't get yourself taken care of first, then there may not be a you left to help your child. And you both end up suffering. You can't help your child survive if you have passed out from lack of oxygen, and the same can be said when we have both feet on the ground. What help can we be to our children if we are over-stressed, and never take the time needed to care for ourselves?
I've seen several articles published that talk about the similarities between combat veterans and parents/caretakers of special needs persons. Research has shown that chemically speaking, there's not a lot of difference in chronic stress hormones between the two groups. Caretakers fight their own war. And while we may not be in a far off country, boots on the ground with missiles flying-we are in our own backyards, boots on the ground, with our own kind of missiles. We fight. We fight for the rights of our kids. We fight for their dignity. We fight for therapy. We fight insurance companies. We fight doctors and hospitals. We for for truth. We fight for respect. We fight. We fight hard. And we fight long.
This stress adds up over time, and it takes a toll on our bodies. We are only designed to tolerate so much. We need to ask for help. We need to accept help. And we need to put ourselves first from time time, take a breather and take a break, and just exist. We NEED this. We have to start taking care of ourselves, otherwise there will be no soldiers to fight our own personal war.
I plan to make this a weekly post. So stay tuned for more.