I know that a lot of people will say “ask for help, you don’t have to do it alone”. But for me (and I am sure it is the same for most caregivers) it is really hard to ask for help. I am not sure why that is? Is it because as mothers or parents we are supposed to be able to care for our children all by ourselves? I don’t know….
In February 2019 Oscar was hospitalized for breakthrough seizures and my parents had come to care for Olivia so that both my husband and I could be at the hospital. When we arrived home my parents I think assumed that we would want our own space and said that they planned on returning home. My husband had to return to work and the truth is that I was terrified to be home alone with my kids. I had to ask my parents to stay and they happily did.
During this time, I’ll admit that I was really breaking down and my parents could see it. They suggested that I talk with my family doctor. My doctor is great and she took me in right away. I remember her saying, “I was expecting you to come in and talk with me, I didn’t know when, but I knew that you would”. She understood that we were going through a lot as a family. I asked her to put me on anxiety medication. At that time she declined because she said that I was grieving, grieving the loss of the child that I thought I was going to have and that I needed to process all of those feelings. I had hoped that she would give me this “magic pill” that would make me feel like myself. But she said “no”. This was an emotional time for me and the emotions were very unpleasant. I wanted to get rid of them with medication. (I should mention that I did set up some counseling sessions with my family doctor).
Due to my son’s complex needs, he was able to be apart of the Complex Care Clinic through the Hospital for Sick Children. In May 2019 at one of those clinic appointments was when Oscar’s pediatrician facilitated my first appointment with my social worker. He understood that the mental health of the caregiver was important. Prior to that, I really didn’t think that my feelings were a priority because everything was about Oscar.
My social worker educated me about the “3 Ms: Movement, Meditation and Medication” as being the three things that can help control anxiety. I shared a lot with her and together we addressed “Movement and Meditation”. I was feeling a lot better, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. To be honest, I forgot about the “Medication” part mainly because my doctor hadn’t thought that it was appropriate for me. I was a compliant with everything my social worker suggested. But I still didn’t feel like me. I decided to talk with my doctor again about medication.
I was nervous, especially because I had already asked her and received a “no”. I felt ashamed asking for help. I went to her office and told her that I had been consistent with my social worker appointments, I told her that I was running 4-5 days/week (“Movement”) and that I was working on some relaxation techniques (“Meditation”). I was doing two out of the three “Ms” and still I was struggling. She recognized that I had put in the work and she now felt comfortable giving me medication to help manage my anxiety. For me, the medication was the missing piece, it really helped. I have continued with all of my “Ms” and actually am weaning off of my medication now. I am hopeful that I will no longer need it, but I might and that’s okay.
I had to ask for help and I am so grateful that I received it. I believe (I could be wrong) that most parents who are raising a child with special needs struggles emotionally. I hope that if you are struggling you have the strength to ask for help. I know first hand that it is difficult, but it is the best thing that I did for both myself and for my family.