Asking for Help.
Kathy is a mom of three, coffee addict, and socially anxious extrovert. Back in 2016, one of her children was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder and while she was surrounded by supportive family and friends, she still felt very alone. She created TheAutismEdit in the hope of being able to share her experiences to the benefit of someone else in their journey as well as to create a community where everyone can celebrate the joys and successes, along with the fears and challenges of living with autism spectrum disorder. Her wish is that parents in this community will share their experiences with others who may be in a similar situation and be able to access resources that help them understand their child's development; she wants the parents within her reach to know they are not alone and to have the tools they need to navigate their child's diagnosis. Last November, Kathy wrote an article for her blog titled, " Asking for Help to Avoid Caregiver Burnout" to share her personal story with caregiver burnout and reflect on a time when she knew she needed help but struggled asking for it. One thing she recognizes is that asking for help can be challenging when parenting children with special needs, however, there are good people out there who want to help; you just have to find them and connect with them. Kathy describes that their family was assigned a case worker when they qualified for public services. This case worker was given the role of coming to their home and evaluating their needs. Allowing her to do so was challenging for Kathy as she says she needed to "let down my perfect mother walls and let her see behind closed doors." During the first visit from the case worker, both Kathy and her son were distraught. Her son was upset that this strange person was in his home; he hid and protested, making it very clear that he was unhappy with this situation. Kathy on the other hand, felt useless in the situation, she sat there holding their baby girl just crying; she had never been vulnerable with someone about her struggles or feelings. She started thinking things like "this is my life..." "how did I not see it more clearly?" or "What kind of mother am I, when this is how we live?" She realized she had to let her walls down and let this person see the real her; she didn't have the energy to pretend anymore. She could not laugh through another meltdown or tantrum and not think about or acknowledge what all of this chaos was doing to her sons, her daughter, her marriage and herself. Kathy expresses that she was jealous of their case worker because she was poised, composed, dignified, and poised, everything Kathy had always wanted to be perceived as. This woman realized quickly just how much help they really needed; they could never make it on their own. After that first visit from the case worker, Kathy was filled with a million questions. She wondered, "Are we completely helpless?, Does she think we could do anything with the help, even if we received it?, and Is there anything that will actually change this, or is life going to be this way forever?" A few days after that, the case worker called and said that she would help them, Kathy describes that she felt elated, she was so glad that she and her family were going to finally get the support that she had shut out for so long, the help that she refused to seem as if she could handle it on her own and was strong enough not to need it. She explains feeling like she was failing everyone by trying to get it all together; the day they officially had help was the closing of a chapter and a much needed fresh start. That first day of help was years ago and while that time was extremely hard for both Kathy and her family, she expresses how much they have all grown since then. Tantrums are less frequent and if they happen, they rarely last longer than a few minutes and people coming over to visit them is always welcomed now, even if those people are new to her son. Kathy says that she is happy to have help no matter what it looks like and she is beginning to now embrace the fact that "special needs children bring special lessons too." She notes that "when your child doesn't develop like other children, there are extra challenges thrown your way. There is added stress in your life." Kathy urges parents who are also struggling but don't want to seek help to do so; let someone else in. You can start with just one trusted person and see what happens because it could end up making a world of difference. There will still be hard days, maybe even bad days, but everyone has them; there will still be struggles. But, if you are willing to let your guard down and ask for help, you may see your life improve in ways that you could have never imagined.