I asked Wrae Sanders to be a special guest blogger! One, because she's a mental health blogger and I'm always looking to collaborate and support other people who advocate for mental health (mental health blogger? click here!). Two, she has an awesome story to tell, with great importance and relevance to many mothers and children out there dealing with mental illness. Read her story below and check out her blog!
Caring for either mom or child with mental health issues is work, but both? That takes a lot. It takes work everyday and there is no taking a day off. It’s realizing how life is and accepting both yourself and your child for who you are, and going with it. It’s celebrating the good days and just getting through the bad ones.
My house has had a lot of good and bad days, for both my son and I. Julian and I had a rough start after he was born in July 2006. He and his brother (and later, his sister) are eighteen months apart, and I struggled a lot with that idea. In the beginning, I didn’t bond with him very much, cried a lot and became very depressed. I was diagnosed with Post-Partum Depression within weeks. It was a very dark time in my life, and it took months for me to truly start bonding with Julian. We got through that and I thought things would be okay from then on. He was a great baby and I was on anti-depressants until he was about a year old.
When he was about four, I began to realize something was going on with Julian. The terrible twos had extended about a year too far. He was still having tantrums, but now they were getting worse. He was becoming aggressive and destructive. He would hit us, throw things and I was at a loss on what to do. He also stopped giving us the hugs and kisses that we loved so much. I read books and finally consulted with his pediatrician after he turned five. She recommended that I get him evaluated for ADHD.
Julian’s evaluation results came back with a diagnosis of ADHD (combined) with traits of Aspberger’s Syndrome. This was later amended to Aspberger’s, and now it is High Functioning Autism, since the first diagnosis is no longer in the DSM.
Meanwhile, my anxiety and depression had reached a higher level than it had in years. I put Julian on medications (the hardest but best decision ever) and began working with him on his behaviors. He eventually spent a year in social skills therapy. I ended up in therapy after losing a close friend to suicide in 2015. I’m still in therapy as of this post, and it has been life-changing. I wasn’t good at taking care of my emotional health before I got into therapy, and now I know how important it is.
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Julian takes his meds and learned a lot of social skills in therapy but I still have to work with him a lot on empathy. We just went over this topic in his last session with his psychiatric nurse practitioner. He still has bad days in which he shuts down, or becomes aggressive, or both. He only weighs 70 lbs, but don’t let the small size fool you. He’s stronger than he looks. When he is having a bad day, or even a bad moment, I literally stop what I am doing to give him all the focus I can to help him. It can be exhausting, especially if it’s a whole bad day, but those are few and far between. We know his triggers, and try to avoid/alter them when we can. He knows what to do when things get to be too much, but this was not an easy path. Lots of meltdowns and tears (from both of us) were involved.
Me? I have learned a lot about taking care of myself. I can’t be there for my kids if I am not there for myself. Two years of therapy has helped me get through the bad days, not just with Julian. I’ve learned to do something small for myself each day, even if it’s something small. I meditate, talk to my kids more, and learned my own triggers so that I can take care of situations before they get too big.
What happens when both of us have a bad day? We’re just done. This doesn’t happen often, but we just chill out the rest of the day and start over again. There just isn’t much we can do. I’d hug Julian, but that’s not his thing.
Our house can be loud, wild and a bit out there, but it can also be a calm and peaceful place when it needs to be.
Meet the Author,
Wrae is a mental health and parenting blogger in Louisville, KY. She is married and has three children, who are 12, 11 and 9. She has a BA in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University.
When she is not writing, Wrae spends time with her family and friends, or is reading and/or listening to a true crime podcast. She also enjoys coloring in adult coloring books.
Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Instagram: @shortstackblogs
See her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WraeMeredithBlogs
Last (but definitely not least), check out her blog!: www.wraemeredithblogs.wordpress.com