Walking my walk
This month I really and truly need to walk my walk, and talk my talk.
As some of you know I am not only a psychologist who works with parents and families of special needs children but I am also raising my own quirky kid.
Decision need to be made.
And they are BIG DECISIONS for my daughter and for our family. My beautiful, bright, quirky and complicated daughter who has an IQ that is off the charts but cannot read even though she is in second grade.
It feels like a lot is on the line.
It feels like if we make the wrong decision the consequences could be extreme, not only in the short, but in the long term.
This is my own personal version of what is known in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as Catastrophic Thinking. We all do it at times, imagine the worst possible disaster.
More on that in a moment…
It feels like everyone has an opinion and sees only a piece of the puzzle while my husband and I hold the whole complicated picture. It seems, at times, like every option will be a compromise.
So I really and truly need to walk my walk this month. And my walk is all about self-care and staying calm and grounded and not letting fears and worries run away and bring you (or me) to emotionally overwhelming places.
My walk is about doing everything you can to plan for the future while still remaining stubbornly and joyfully grounded in the present. My daughter will only be seven for a little while longer and I want to drink in every precious moment.
I thought it was worth sharing this with all of you because what I am going through this month is not so different from the rollercoaster that a lot of you are on.
So now back to this notion of imaging the worst possible outcome. Catastrophic Thinking.
I am interrupting my own litany of fears and worries. I am holding them up to the light of day to see which ones are truly serving me and which ones are creating panic and distress.
Some fears and some worries are appropriate, motivating even. No parent should ever be told not to worry or that worry is irrational. This is especially true for parents of children with special needs. We specialize in worry.
But I can do without the thoughts and worries that lead me to scary and irrational places in my mind.
Let us examine the thought that tends to create a lot of distress for me. Here it is: if we do not get this decision right, if next year does not go well, things will get worse and worse and my daughter will never like school and never read or go to college.
When I start thinking this I start to get very upset.
I start to calm down when I say this to myself: we are gathering all of our information and will make an educated decision that is the best possible decision at this time.
And even more importantly:
Even if our decision is not perfect (and what is perfect) it will move us forward and we will learn and grow. And we will rally and address any problems that come up. Even if the worst happens. And that is a big IF. We will deal with it. As we always do.
Here the trick is calming down the worries and the irrational thoughts, which then calms down the feelings. Change the thought. Change the feeling.
Separate the worries and fears that are useful and move you forward from the ones that immobilize you and overwhelm you.
It actually works.
Here is the rest of my self-care prescription for this high stress time:
I am trying to be kind to myself, making sure that I work out and going to bed at a reasonable time.
I am leaning heavily on a couple of close friends when I need to blow off a little steam.
I am reminding myself of my daughter’s many diverse strengths and doing things with her and my son that are fun for all of us.
I am ignoring the people who are not helpful or who are not supportive in a way that is useful.
I am not starting any stressful projects.
I am keeping stuff simple with the kids.
I am taking a long view but staying grounded in the here and now. Because the truth is no one knows what will happen in the future and all we can do in the present is our best.
Oh, And maybe I keep an extra stash of my favorite chocolate in the house. Because every mom knows that some days call for extra chocolate.
What do you do to keep your balance when things get stressful and decisions need to be made? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Tags: special needs parenting