In light of it being national maternal mental health day it struck me quite hard that I very rarely talk about my struggles, as a parent of a child with FASD and seeing what day it was prompted me to sit and think.
I dropped Liam to school this morning after a truck load of verbal abuse and general 5 year-old attitude, I got to thinking about how I was feeling. My feelings tend to get lost in the moment of what Liam is feeling – if he physically attacked me I have to respond in a kind, caring, yet authoritative manner. Even if I’m in pain I can’t show it or he’ll just walk all over me. If it was an adult hurting me, I’d either tell someone or fight back, but actually what Mum wants to admit to anyone, that a 5 year-old beats her up or physically hurts her? For no reason too. It's just that he is so built up with emotions that he can’t explain or over loaded from a full day. Which led me on to another thought; I pray that he will stop being violent one day. I hope that he will learn to tell me exactly why his angry or annoyed, rather than lash out at me but actually shouldn’t I hope for the same for me? Shouldn’t I be able to tell everyone that I’m feeling low? That if I take one more punch it may just break me and I may not get out of bed the next day? I’ll just stay under my duvet and cry? Shouldn’t I feel comfortable talking to a professional in saying "help me, please? I need emotional and practical help for me!"
I got help from my GP recently, after 3 years I finally worked up the courage to say, "I need help!" It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It was such a relief I spent five minutes just crying after my first sentence... Then I laughed. I laughed that I’d been so worried at going to the appointment and so scared to say I’m exhausted. Not only do we have Liam but we have also just had a birth son who is 9 months. I’m a parent to two completely opposite children. I’m sleep deprived, eating the wrong things – because let’s face it, you eat quick and fast with a baby – I need to give myself a break! I need to look after myself. My GP turned to me and said, "what would you do if you broke your leg?"
My immediate response was panic because I don’t know how I’d cope with Liam. Then my second thought was go to hospital to get it fixed. My GP told me that my two responses were normal but actually I should go to the hospital first before worrying about Liam. If I don’t get my leg sorted, then I couldn’t sort Liam. My GP explained the same applies to my head/brain/mental health (whatever you want to call it) and I cried again! I’d be suffering in silence for 3 years, putting Liam first and dealing with my pain last – which has more than likely had such an adverse reaction on my parenting itself. So, now I try to change the way I think. I try to make sure my health is in the right place. I take my vitamins, I’m trying to control my diet and lifestyle a bit better. I asked my husband for a break and I now manage to get to the gym a few times a week or get out for a swim. I’ve taken a small part-time job to give me another purpose other than mum. I am proud to say that I take antidepressants and I talk to a counsellor – this is a short term plan, hopefully no longer than six-months. My GP said that it’s what I need to bounce back and refuel, because parenting a FASD child is a Challenge. It's one that I love but one that is exhausting and you can’t run a car on an empty tank – so these meds help to give me a boost and I may need them again in the future. No doubt when I hit certain obstacles with Liam but now I know there is help there and I shouldn’t be scared.
Be proud to look after yourself – mind and body!