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6 Reasons a Special Needs Parent May Need to Vent

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Have you ever had one of those days that starts badly and progressively gets worse? Nothing dreadful, but a multitude of frustrating little incidences that make you want to scream, swig wine and snort up cheesecake all at the same time.

It could have been the heady combination of the baby not sleeping and the toddler ramping up the tantrums. Or simple mundane things like missing the train to work, an unexpected bill, shrinking your favorite jeans in the dryer.

At times like this you might reach for the phone to have a moan to your mum or text your vexations to your best mate. Or you could even save them all up for your significant other – firing out your disgruntlement before he or she have even got in the door.

We all do it. Venting is just one way of relieving the build-up of stress. You could say it is good for us to let off steam from time to time. It is like the golden unspoken rule of relationships. I’ll listen to your vent if you listen to mine.

But what happens when the vent pact is top-heavy and you are the one who needs to lay off the cookies?

When you parent a child with additional needs, it comes with a unique set of daily difficulties. These have a habit of piling up all too quickly and the urge to vent can be strong. We might hold back though, not just for fear of alienating all and sundry, but mostly because spewing out our emotions often makes us feel even worse.

So we let it build and build until the vent becomes a volcano and God help anyone in the volcanic plains.

Here are six reasons why it is important that special needs parents learn to open up more.

1. Sometimes we get frightened.

The fear. It is not something we parents of children with extra needs like to talk about in everyday conversation. It’s not like we can say: “Nice shoes. By the way I worry about my child dying suddenly,” or “What did you have for tea last night? I was awake all night obsessing about the state of adult disability services and who will protect my boy if I should ever die.” (I can’t by the way. Die that is. Ever).

No. Death talk is not really a crowd-pleaser. So where do you go with that? Because really, in one guise or another, this fear is ever-present like a morbid mate. It is mostly nestled calmly within us, but it doesn’t take much to make it bubble over. Then our other friend panic arrives. Then the party properly gets started.

2. Sometimes we get overwhelmed.

Often there is so much to do, that nothing gets done. We freeze. You can start the day with a list the length of your arm – from re-ordering some prescription
medications to chasing services – and you can end the day with the other arm
getting in on the length-of-the-list action. Then pesky things like actual real life pay-the-bills work or looking after children gets in the way. It can only take a few hospital or therapy appointments nudged into the week before you feel like you are drowning.

3. Sometimes we get jealous.

It does depend on where you are in your journey to how jealous you get. In the early days I was insanely jealous of everyone with what I deemed a “normal” life. Envy long left the building, but the pang will get me now and again. And it is usually petty, ridiculous things. Things I would be too ashamed to admit to in this post.

4. Sometimes we get tired.

If it is not physical tiredness, it can be emotional tiredness. The day-to-day demands of caring for someone who has complex needs can be tough. Raising any child is tiring. Rewarding, but relentless nonetheless.

5. Sometimes we get sad.

As my boy gets older I am finding myself in more and more situations where I feel uncomfortable. I know it is human nature to look again at a scene that is not the “norm,” but those second glances can be awkward or painful depending on my mood. Then there are the daily tasks that make our life seem different: washing skinny fragile ribs in the bath; trying to calm a yelling child when they can’t tell you what they need; writing down calories; researching “amazing, ground breaking” therapies that cost more than my house; sending the siblings to support groups. All of these things can often leave you reeling.

6. Sometimes we are awesome.

All of the new friends I have met, who have children with special needs, bring so many, many extra gifts to the table that the venting is all part of the charm. All of the above makes them more empathetic, kinder and compassionate. And when they let their hair down, they do it in style. So I would go out on a limb and say that being friends with a special needs parent would be very much worth it.

That said, it can take an extraordinary sort of person to put up with us. So, on behalf of us all I’d like to say thank you to all the marvellous mates and family members. We really, really do appreciate you sticking by us. For seeing we are still
here amid the stress. And most importantly for not giving up on us. We owe you a drink.

Thank you for listening (again).

mom with son smiling

Follow this journey on Complicated Gorgeousness.

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Originally published: March 24, 2016
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