You are not alone.
Being a carer as well as a parent has got to be one of the loneliest jobs in the World.
I lost it this week. Completely. Totally. I’m talking crazy-person, screaming type of losing it. I’d finally hit rock bottom and knew with certainty that I’d failed as a mother. I couldn’t do it anymore. I have tried so hard, fought so hard for my kids, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I had completely and utterly failed.
I’ve never felt so alone.
How could I reach out for help and admit that at this very moment, I hated being a mother? I could barely believe that I had thought it – let alone admit it to anyone. The fear of judgement and the hatred of myself was tearing me apart. I crawled into bed and didn’t move for hours.
How had it gotten to this point?
Sure, my kids have special needs and require a lot of patience, help and support… but others seem to handle it with aplomb. Why is it that I can’t handle it? Why do my kids manage to trigger my anxiety and send me into a depressive state, in just a single moment? Why was I the only mother who couldn’t cope with what I’d been dealt? Why was I such a failure?
I finally got the answer to my question the next morning.
In a heartfelt conversation with my ex-husband, I admitted how I felt. I let it all out – and braced myself for the judgement that was sure to follow. Instead, he admitted that he too struggled with similar thoughts at times and that I was not alone. He reassured me that I wasn’t a failure.
He then explained to me that I had been caring for our twins for 6 years – and it was time I had a break. Not because I was a failure, but because we all need one. He could see I had reached my breaking point.
Our main issue right now is that our boys aren’t coping at their mainstream school. We are on school number 2 (they are in reception!) and we still haven’t progressed past 2-3 hours of attendance a day. He suggested it was time we accepted that it wasn’t working, and sent the boys to a special school, which could give our boys much needed support. As the school we needed was in his neighbourhood; it made sense that they stayed with him during the week, and I had them on the weekends. Above all, he wanted to ensure that I was looking after myself.
I finally realised – feelings of overwhelm and failure affect us all.
It took me awhile to realise that he wasn’t punishing me for not coping – that he could actually see the effect my caring role was taking on my health and knew that something had to change. And finally, I got it. Firstly, I wasn’t alone. The feelings of overwhelm and failure weren’t just unique to me. We ALL experience them at one time or another. Secondly, what he was proposing made sense. It’s not a common scenario – but it might just be the solution that is in the best interests of our family.
A few days later – I have mixed feelings, but overall, I feel relief. A friend pointed out to me that it shows how strong I am, and how selfless I am as a mother, to ensure I put myself and my health first; that I have made the decision to have them in the best place for them to thrive and succeed. She felt it shows strength to not only ask for help but to accept it. And she is right. I’m not superwoman. I can’t do it all – all the time. After 6 years, I am burnt out and I need time to recuperate and recharge. But I am also grieving. I’m grieving the life I thought I would have; that my efforts weren’t enough for them to cope in a mainstream school; and that the struggles will always be there. I also fear judgement from others who don’t understand why my Ex has more custody than me for a period.
But one thing I know for certain – is that I am not alone.
I am not the only one having these thoughts, fears and grievances. I have spoken to many people over the last few days – most of them fellow carers – and they all expressed similar experiences. Yet, we are reluctant to speak out for fear of judgement. Why? Why should we have to feel so alone, like such failures – when we all experience it and understand? This knowledge has really lit a fire in my belly. I am on a mission to ensure that no one, feels the way I did. Knowing I wasn’t the only one was such a relief! I felt human again. I forgave myself. I was empowered.
It’s okay to feel this way.
And if you are reading this and nodding, if you understand the feelings and fears I have described – you aren’t alone either.
As any carer will tell you, “I get it”. I’ve come to realise that this is ‘normal’, that it is OKAY to have these thoughts and feelings sometimes. You don’t have to keep them bottled up. Talk to someone you trust; share with others in Parents & Carers Connect; write a blog about it and share it with strangers! But let it out – or it will eat you up inside. You aren’t alone – and this is our ‘normal’.
Donna Leaker is a single mother & carer to Heath and Austin; 6-year-old identical twins who were diagnosed with autism shortly after their 2nd birthday. Other diagnoses/challenges include anxiety, sensory processing disorder, OCD, hypotonia & language disorder. She is also the owner & operator of Addicted to Words & a valued member of our community.
We are here to support you!
At The Carers Place, we provide a safe and enjoyable space for carers and parents to have the opportunity to speak, share and learn without risking judgement or ridicule. Why not join our private closed group Facebook community Parents and Carers Connect, The Carers Place and be supported by peers and professionals who get it?
If you are feeling burnt-out or in overwhelm, why not download the “Burnout Buster”, full of practical tips and suggestions to help you take the steps you need to move toward more ease and less stress.