Today on the blog, our children's therapist Laura, speaks openly and from the heart about her life as an Autism mother (written last month)......
It has been a while since I sat down and wrote a blog post. Client work has become increasingly busy, and between this and my work within the NHS , I have not really thought about it. Of course life just simply gets in the way sometimes.
The main reason I am writing this post now is because , ironically, tonight I am killing time. My youngest, Noah is going through an intense separation anxiety phase and has also stopped sleeping, mainly through to being without his sleep meds for almost a month..however tonight we attempting to give them to him , and low and behold - he now won't take them.
Noah has begun to refuse food, drink and meds through fear of being sick. I'm not worried regarding food and drink - mainly because I know he won't starve himself. But the meds...I had high hopes for a night sleep after a month of surviving on 3-4 hours. The seperation anxiety means that if he wakes and I am not there he has intense panic attacks and meltdowns lasting for hours through the night; so I have been sleeping on his floor for the past 3 weeks. My back aches and stings daily now. I recently turned 30 and my husband suprised me with a trip to NYC and this week I realised that its a pipe dream to consider Noah managing me being away from him for 5 days ..so we cancelled the trip. So I needed a good nights sleep to bounce back.
Without meaning too I began to compile a list of all the things that I have struggled with since I started on this journey as an Autism mother and then with it, things I learnt to combat these or the little things that make it worth it. And then, I thought I would share it with you...
The stress, lack of sleep, (uncomfortable floor sleeping), and zero time to cook and eat dinner like an average person really take its toll on my health. I find myself with more colds, more aches and more headaches. So I recently signed up at my local GP surgery as a carer. This means flu shots, appointments on time and a full health check up annually.
I also started going to the gym again and making the most of times when both me and my husband are actually in the house together long enough for me to take a nap!
Time for myself
I had found myself toward the middle of the year losing myself to work and being a mum. I work in the Autism field so I was living and breathing ASD 24/7. I love my work and I love my kids but sometimes I was looking back at pictures of my younger self and it was like looking at a completely different person.
So (slowly at first) I started making time for myself. It can be 60 minutes time out to have a hot bath , a nap, dinner with friends for a few hours one evening or 45 minutes in the gym. Even just taking the time to call that friend back and have a chat. Me time. It's important.
My Mental Health
This is a difficult one to admit. Bare with me.
As my job encompasses me having the answers, and as a mother I should know what's best for my children I found myself shying away when I needed help and support. I am incredibly lucky to have a wealth of family around me and some close friends , but when I was exhausted, or Noah was melting down and attacking me or his brother, or when he was having a panic attack if I left the room; I refused to accept help. I could do this. I know how to do this. The thing is, its different when you’re the one going through it.
As a therapist, you are removed and have no emotional attachment to the situations. As a parent you do. I couldn't do it all. And by refusing help my own mental health began to suffer. I began experiencing anxiety and rumination.
So I asked for help...although I admit this is something I still need to work on as I'm not very good at it. But every now and again I will now admit I'm struggling...and then enters the me time and then I'm back ready to fight another battle.
Work / Life balance
This one feeds nicely into taking time to myself. As the company grew this year I found myself working more and more. I love my work and enjoy every second , but between working, and home I was not taking care of myself. I didn't even have the time to take time for myself! So I implemented some boundaries for myself - something I teach parents about in relation to home life and their children.
So I practiced what I preached and did the same to me. I gave myself strict work hours. I stopped working all weekend, every weekend. I even devised a timetable , penciling in admin, client hours, jobs around the house and then make sure I had significant time just to be at home, being a mum and being me.
After you have children, long gone are the days that your marriage is ever about just you two. But after we had Noah and then Noah presented with his difficulties mine and my husband relationship became more a tag team, ships passing in the night relationship. And neither of us wanted that.
So now, regardless of how tired we are, how much work we have to do, or how much we just want to appreciate the silence..we take the time to talk. Ask each other about our days, have a joke, eat dinner (even if we have to wait till about 9pm) and sometimes we even go out for an afternoon / evening together to see a gig or have dinner (like adults in a restaurant!!)
As Noah's needs become more challenging, and the sleep becomes less he requires more time and energy.
We all know the drill so I don't need to explain.
But I also have a bright, caring beautiful 8 year old boy that , because of this, his time can be limited. The realisation of this was one that did not sit comfortably with me, so me and my husband set a plan to combat this.
Once a week, Joshua and I have an afternoon to ourselves to spend 1:1 time, going places we can't go with Noah. We go to golf, the cinema, trampolining. Or sometimes we head to pizza hut, order food and play UNO. I also, once Joshua turned 8 signed him up to young carers; so that he can meet other children who experience a home life like his.
So now as I write this , its just turned 1.30am and Noah is happily watching Bing Bunny whilst the Christmas tree lights twinkle and he is at peace, He is cuddled into me, and has told me he is smiling because he is happy (he is a therapist's son after all so we practice lots of emotion recognition!) and that makes all of the above worth it.
Knowing that I, and I alone am his anchor , in turn gives me peace. We're a team Noah and I. As we drove to the hospital today to pick up his medication I played Christmas songs loudly and sang along, Joshua and I did some great duets and talked about what Joshua is excited for, which made Joshua happy.
Tomorrow it is my day off , as I am on annual leave from NHS for Christmas. I have arrangements to collect Christmas treats from a local bakery, I will make gingerbread houses with Joshua like I promised and put Christmas lights around our front door because it will make the kids smile. And that's worth it. And that makes me happy.
I will take time when my husband gets home to lock myself in the bathroom and have a hot bath and watch Netflix for an hour. I may take the time, when the kids are sitting quietly to call a friend and talk about our weeks for 20 minutes. I may even look into getting someone to treat my back pain.
We lose a lot of ourselves as SEN parents, as working parents, as parents in general. But its important to ensure that your doing little things to make it work. To balance the scale. So that we can still find the peace and happiness in the little things.
Useful links mentioned in this post:
Young Carers Information:
Register as a carer at your GP:
If you are struggling with your mental health: