I have a husband, 2 kids with a disability label, 3 dogs, an outside cat, and a fish. I work from home. I try to balance all the school meetings, doctor appointments, therapy appointments, and counseling appointments. I try to keep the house in a little bit of order. I also attempt to cook a healthy meal every now and then.
And somewhere in all of that, I try to have fun with my kids and lead a normal life. Whatever that means.
It’s a lot of work. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m completely worn out. Then an anxiety attack hits me. And I’m surprised. I sit and wonder why I’m feeling this way. Nothing in my life has changed. I’m juggling all the balls like normal. Why would I have an anxiety attack at 11:00 a.m. on a Monday morning? It doesn’t make sense.
But it does make sense. Our bodies and minds can only handle so much stress. We can only cope with such a demanding routine for so long. I’ve learned that my anxiety attacks are my red flag. My body is forcing me to slow down. My mind is telling me that I’m taking on too much.
When you have children, you always worry about them. You want to make sure you’re raising them well. When you have kids with a disability, I think that worry is intensified.
I am always worrying and planning for the “what ifs” in life. What if he gets sick in the middle of the night and aspirates on his vomit? What if he rolls out of bed? What if he chokes at school when they are feeding him? What if he becomes really angry at school and destroys the classroom? What if he runs off and doesn’t come back? What if I make the wrong decision with his class schedule? What if, what if, what if? A lot of these thoughts are subconscious thoughts. But they’re always in the back of my head.
My anxiety attacks are my signal that I need to try to turn all noises off. I need to try to get out of my own head. I need to try to rest and relax a little more. I might go get a pedicure. I might have lunch with a friend. I might turn off all the social media and watch a bunch of TV. A little escape from reality helps, even if it’s just for a few hours.
If you’re drowning in stress and anxiety, I hope you can find some downtime to unplug for just a bit. Try to recharge. This life isn’t easy, and we must be healthy to take care of the kids who need us.
Self-care is one of the most important things you can do for you and your family.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.