We have all heard about the necessity of being your own best friend, having self-appreciation, and the importance of performing self-care. Even the Stuart Smalley character from the comedy show, “Saturday Night Live” stressed the importance of saying daily affirmations like: ” I’m good enough and I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Not everyone will like us, and visa versa, but that’s OK. As long as we are alright with who we are and our place in the world, the rest are just details. We are the cake and our friends are the icing on it; it’s a major bonus when we have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with true friends, you know, the ones you can count on your one hand. But even with such a priceless gift, there will still be times when we will be on our own. Our special children are often the main reason for that. Illness, behaviors, our own exhaustion, and depression. Winter is just around the corner and with it, an extra layer of isolation, darkness, and sadness.
I know that I am effected by Seasonal Affect Disorder, ( SAD), or the ” winter blues”, usually peaking by the middle of February, when we are stuck at home due to illness, bitter cold, and snow. My self concept is negative. I don’t feel good or smart enough; I actually feel depressed and hopeless. It took me a long time to realize and understand the connection between mind and body, and what I was literally feeding my mind and body with, was not healthy. A bad habit of negative self-talk and junk food, created the perfect storm. Not replacing this self-imposed destruction with kinder options. I didn’t even realize at the time how deeply ingrained these bad habits really were and how much they were truly hurting me. Familiarity is always the safer way to go, change can be too scary and painful, until you are on your knees, desperate, which is exactly where I ended up. I have made changes slowly for the better over the years. I feel well most of the time and have changed my mental perspective to a healthier one by my choices and with prayer, once day at a time. But it will always be my Achilles heel, a constant work in progress. This self-awareness helps me now to better prepare for the return of my least favorite season, but instead of succumbing altogether to the depths of despair, I have learned to fight back. In the process, I have also learned how to actually enjoy being with me, myself, and I. A silver lining that has served me well year round.
It’s funny how you can feel alone in a crowd or not alone when you actually are. Or how about not feeling alone in a crowd or feeling alone and there is no one there. We have all felt all of the above, and I think these scenarios are particularly heightened with a special needs child. I have definitely felt alone, even when physically with other special families, but simultaneously quite content when by myself. I have also felt very connected and engaged with others when in a group setting, as well as quite lonely when home alone. Sometimes my reaction has to do with what’s going on with Brian that day; a challenging day tends to exacerbate the feelings of loneliness and isolation, even when in a crowd. A lack of sleep is also a major game changer. Or I might be internally triggered by a comment or something that I see. I try not to make comparisons, keep a positive attitude, and be objective. But we are all human and in the special needs world, parents are already profoundly affected by their child’s disability, in all ways imaginable, for better or for worse. It would stand to reason that our perceptions, reactions, and feelings to situations that involve our kids will be the same at times. I know mine have been. Yet, other times our opinions regarding our special children couldn’t be more polar opposite, even when discussing the same disabilities. Sometimes being in this particular position with other special parents is very uncomfortable and may cause us to shut down, lash out, or be misunderstood. It can happen to the best of us, regardless of our good intentions.
We special parents really need to give ourselves permission to “agree to disagree” with others, make mistakes, and to practice self- forgiveness, the very same forgiveness that we would hope to offer others. Eventually, we will disappoint our children, our families, our friends, and ourselves and certainly visa versa- this is a guarantee! It’s really hard to forgive sometimes and it’s a process that requires time and perspective. Interestingly, I have personally found that it is easier to forgive when I apply the same criteria to myself: I make many mistakes, but I’m still good enough. My foibles show just how human I really am, but it doesn’t define who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses and have come to love them, even poking fun at my weaknesses! I believe wisdom is one of the gifts of middle age and I appreciate it greatly! These realizations have helped me to find contentment whether I am alone or with others. Years ago, I could never imagine being happy with self-contentment, in fact, it would have been unimaginable and a tragedy! I needed others to define my worth back then. Today, I LOVE having time to myself; I enjoy my own company, as well as genuinely enjoying being with others, especially those who I share commonalities with. I have learned in the course of my special needs journey that you will not be friends with all of the special parents with whom you encounter along the way. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for our children, there wouldn’t be any connection at all, yet, there can be still be value in those interactions. Perhaps you will learn something important that will help your child or that individual was placed in your path at the right moment in time to teach you a valuable life lesson. I have definitely experienced such moments over the years and have come to appreciate them for the gifts that they truly are. And THAT is truly enough!
Rain or shine, snow or sleet, alone or together with others ,I continue to learn the beauty, pain, love, and richness of the human experience in this thing called “Life”, particularly influenced by the special needs journey with my beautiful Brian, yet, I am not ultimately defined by my son. I am still Me, Myself, and I , an eternal work in progress, whom I’ve come to know and love over the years and, yes, that’s good enough for me (us, lol 🤣)!
Until we meet again, thanks for reading! 😊