Last year, I wrote an eBook entitled “Shield: A Framework of Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families“. It is just full of helpful information and suggestions. It even has a few personal experiences thrown in there. If a person were to follow it, they would cut down on their stress and probably increase their family’s chances of success following an adoption or foray into foster care. The book’s biggest problem is that the author is very good at giving advice and knowing what works (for others of course!) but is not good at applying the advice in her own life! I guess it’s like when “they” say that doctors make the worst patients!
I thought I could manage on my own and for a lot of years, I did. I had some help along the way. I never did it entirely on my own of course. I have a husband and a very helpful mom and wonderful friends and the world’s most amazing babysitter and so I was never an island unto myself but most things I did myself. I am not good at asking for help and am a terrible delegator and I got used to doing things on my own. As a recovering perfectionist, I can also admit that it is hard to let others (including my husband and kids) do things because it’s not done “my” way.
But then there came a time where things began to spiral, when the stresses in my life piled up to a point where as I wrote about yesterday, I was probably heading towards a nervous breakdown (if not already there). Just some of the stresses that led to this are:
-a chronically ill daughter
-a wayward teen
-denial of insurance coverage for above daughter’s potentially life saving medication
-a son with Asperger’s who went through early puberty and challenges were multiplied
-father-in-law’s diagnosis of terminal cancer
-change in The Husband’s career
-a family member’s marriage breaking down
-financial stresses including the cost of therapy for one of the kids
-a daughter being diagnosed with a severe form of asthma
-another daughter being diagnosed with hearing loss, severe cognitive delays and severe speech delays
-trying to fit in appointments for the above new diagnoses while still managing first daughter’s medical care and appointments
-some of our adopted children dealing with trauma and grief
-two children with a neurodevelopmental disorder
-a personal crisis
-and the one that doesn’t sound like the worst but that living with has trumped all the others…one of our daughters developing severe PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
There came a day when I realized that I could no longer manage. For the privacy of one of my kids, I won’t go into what happened that day but I no longer felt that I could keep all of my kids safe (let alone stay even a little bit sane myself). That day, I called FSCD (Family Services for Children with Disabilities) and applied. It took months and a lot of phone calls from me for them to get back to me and by that point, I was desperate. When I made that first phone call looking for help, I was probably a year at least past when I should have asked for help so when I didn’t get help right away, I was barely coping.
The days were so hard to get through and I wasn’t able to take on any extras or even maintain my “normal”. I am so thankful for the friends that God sent to me during that time. Music helped me a bit and sleep was my solace. The night I went to The Husband and begged him to let me pull our son out of Rep. baseball was a low point for me. It is so hard for me to ask for help and I was really desperate by that point. Earlier that night while The Husband was at ball with that son and one of the girls, I was here with the other kids who all began throwing up and I was cleaning it out of the carpets and doing the laundry from it and bawling the whole time. The conversation didn’t go very well but the next morning, The Husband took the kids out for the whole morning to give me a break and he seemed to understand how desperate I was and began to help with driving to activities and even sometimes missing work to watch kids while I took others to important appointments.
Just after that time, FSCD finally got back to me. I had been told that it is difficult to qualify for their services and that they will only offer the bare minimum. I was nervous going into the meeting but there were people praying and I got exactly the right Social Worker as she is a former foster parent and adoptive parent and “gets” it. Within just a few minutes of getting here and looking over some of the paperwork regarding just two of our kids, she turned to me and said, “I just have one question for you…What the heck took you so long to call us?!” She and her Supervisor were able to see that life with four special needs kiddos (plus three more) had become unmanageable and they offered help immediately. She also put me in touch with other agencies that may be able to help and told me about some government programs that we qualify for but didn’t know about.
I cannot believe how blessed we are because starting last Wednesday, I have full time (paid by the government) help! I also have a night nurse three nights a week. And as if that weren’t miracle enough, my full time help consists of our amazing, unbelievable babysitter and super close friend Mandi four days a week and a lovely, fun, kind homeschool student Rachel for another eight hours a week. Both of them my kids are used to and I really trust so there will be no transition period or the stress of hiring a stranger.
Essentially, I have managed to clone myself! As an example, this Wednesday, I have a meeting that is critical to attend at the exact same time as the kids have swimming but now Mandi can take them to their lessons and I can go to my meeting!
Obviously, not everyone is able to get full time help and help at night in addition, but there are other self-care practises that I am starting to implement for myself that anyone could do and I will be detailing those this week in my Transformation Week series.
One thing that really helped me was the acknowledgement of others about how bad our circumstances were. I am a glass-half-full person and always looking for the positives in everything, but it was very healing for me to have people say “it is a testament that you are still standing” or “this is more than I’ve ever heard of anyone having on their plates at one time and it’s ok to admit that you can’t do it alone anymore” or “it was a relief to be able to leave your house and know that that is not my life”. Those statements may sound harsh, but they were what I needed to hear. I needed to give myself permission to acknowledge that some of this just plain sucks. Wallowing in that pity party isn’t healthy, but allowing myself to admit that this is more than most people have on their plates and I am not Wonderwoman was healthy. It let me accept help without guilt.
A few months ago, a friend offered to organize some freezer meals for us. Normally, I would have said “no” and would have even thought of other families who needed it (or perhaps deserved it) more than we did. But I am learning and I said “yes”. Another friend recently told me that she was doing a fundraiser for some of our medical expenses. She knows me well enough to know that had she asked, I would have refused. I will say that it is still hard for me to accept any kind of help, but at least I am finally in the place of realizing that I need help. It’s a start.
This is a journey for me. I have spent my whole life trying to be “enough”. Now I am realizing that though I may never be enough for the people I am trying to please, I am already enough for a God who loves me just the way that I am.