Remembering back one year – From Depression to Exhilaration: My 5 Survival Tips for Special Needs Moms

Almost a year ago today, I was on a very different journey. I was starting back into the work world in the new year (Jan. 2014), in a field where I was to be working as a therapist with young children with autism. I had the dream of doing that while building this blog,  writing my autism book, and hopefully reaching a community of strong mothers who were there to support each other online as I have found at my Coffee Break Support Group in my local community. Only, the dream was never fully realized because I was out of whack with my reality, who I really was, and with asking for help. That last one was something short of a crime for me to do. So I found myself a few short months later suffering from a burnout and depression so severe, that family and friends were deeply worried about me, my son and my husband.  I recognized mid way through the spring that I needed help. When I fully recovered in the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to thank God for having gone through that burnout and depression. It has opened up my eyes to what I needed to change in order to be the exceptional parent and human being that my son Michael needed to guide him in this world and teach him to be a self sufficient contributing member of society, and most importantly, to be happy and healthy himself. I want to share the invaluable advice and tools I received from some wonderful women, my extended family I call them, as well as my immediate family, who helped save me from myself and make me finally be the person I was meant to be. I hope this blog can help other Moms of special needs children know that they are not alone in their moments of agony, and that helping yourself is the best way to help your child and to life the fullest life possible. Life is a journey, and life with a child with autism is a more complex and exciting journey. There is no handbook, so we need to live in the moment, and go with our gut. Here’s to all of us!

5 Tools I Use Daily to Stay in Balance (and they work!)

1) Meditation and yoga first thing in the morning (or as early in the day as possible)-a good friend, who is a yoga instructor and special needs Mom herself, runs a class for special needs Moms, and it is about being our best in the moment, living each moment being fully aware, and accepting our bodies and ourselves for who we are. She taught me to be me, not someone else.

2) Aerobic workouts  ideally 3 times a week or Zumba. I thank one of my sister-in-laws for sharing her love of this dancing with me. I am addicted and love this form of dance/exercise now!

3) Praying and Writing:  This is my salvation. A short prayer in the morning is my ‘Gratitude Journal.’ Those not comfortable praying could try a gratitude journal. We all have something to be grateful for. Start with “I’m glad to have woken up today.” And writing is my cheap therapy and my vessel to express myself, especially poetry. Man, the poems I have written since autism came into our lives! It could fill a book, oh wait, it has! Now it’s up to me to get it out there! “:)

4) Self-Compassion Exercises: Here I must thank a wonderful counselor I saw during my burnout/depression.  She got me to see how I had to really love myself before anything else, and how low I put myself on the totem pole. Once I stopped doing that, my power came back!

5) Time with Friends: Girls nights, girls lunches, underwear shopping: All my friends know who they are and how being with them reminds me I am a full woman and human being. That is the person Michael, my son, needs to be at this side. Not the exhausted, martyr, ‘autism expert/therapist’ I was trying to be and failing miserably at. When I started being his mother again, I was able to pick up from where we had left off. Now our relationship is better than ever.

I will be sharing more information of this kind with you in future blogs, as well as great resource sites I have learned about that have helped me. I recently read some terrific motivational books. Help is out there for us Moms. Don’t be afraid to take the first step. You and your child are worth it!

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