Asking for Help to Avoid Caregiver Burnout


Asking for Help to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Asking for help can be challenging when you’re parenting special needs children. There are good people out there who want to help you. You just need to find them or ask the universe to connect you to them. We were assigned to a case worker when we qualified for public services. She needed to come to our home and evaluate our family’s needs. I knew that to help our son, I had to let down my perfect mother walls and let her see behind closed doors.

As soon as she started asking us questions, my tears began to flow. It wasn’t long before I was a complete wreck. It was the first time I had been open about my struggles to a perfect stranger, and it was the first time I had been completely vulnerable about my feelings at all. She nodded, took notes, and offered the odd suggestion.

Meanwhile, my son screamed and cried simply because she was there. He was protesting and it felt like his tantrum went on forever. He slammed the pantry door and hid, but we could hear his anger and frustration loud and clear through the door. I didn’t know what to do, so I just held our months old daughter in my lap and sobbed.

This is my life.

This is my reality.

How did I not see it more clearly?

What kind of mother am I, when this is how we live?

It’s hard to live through. It’s harder still to deny it and not reach out for help.

I let my walls down and let her see the real me. The me I so rarely show anyone. But I could not muster the energy to pretend anymore. I could not laugh through one more major toddler meltdown. I couldn’t hide the fact that I wondered what effect this was having on my sons. My daughter. My marriage. Myself.

Our case worker was composed and dignified. I envied her unflappable nature. So strong and poised; as I had always wished to be seen. She recognized our deep need for help, clearly seeing we could never make it on our own. I wondered if this was a typical day of work for her. If this is what she sees in the homes of most special needs children. I recognized that she was so good at her job, that I would never have the answer. She collected her notes, packed her bag and said she would be in touch.

When she left I was plagued with questions. Are we completely helpless? Does she think we could do anything with the help, even if we received it? Will she ever be able to step foot in here again? Is there anything that will actually change this, or is life going to be this way forever?

A few days later she called, and said she would help us. I was elated! I was about to receive the support I had adamantly shut out all these years, just so everyone would know that I didn’t need it. So everyone knew that I was taking responsibility for my choices, and I was strong enough handle them on my own. It was like the tears shed that day were the closing of a chapter and we had been given a fresh start. I had realized I was failing everyone around me by pretending to have it all together.

Years have passed since that time. The pantry tantrums used to be a regular issue. New people coming into our home was once debilitating. Accepting help was extremely hard, and had to be on my terms only. He and I have both grown so much since then. Now tantrums are significantly less frequent, and they rarely last longer than a few minutes. People coming to visit us are always welcomed, whether they’re new to my son or not. I’m happy to have as much help as people are willing to give, and I don’t get picky about how it looks. I embrace the fact that special needs children bring special lessons too.

When your child doesn’t develop like other children, there are extra challenges thrown your way. There is added stress in your life. Some days are extremely difficult to get through. If you’re struggling but are stubborn like I was, I urge you to let someone else in. Start with just one really trusted person, and see what happens. It may make a world of difference!

We still have bad days, like anyone does. We still face struggles that my husband and I didn’t anticipate when we decided to have children. I still sob sometimes. But overall, our lives have improved in ways it never otherwise could have if I had not been willing to let down my guard and ask for help.

— Kathy


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