Do everything you can to care for yourselves.
You know the old, “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Not only is your child a barometer of your emotional health (if you cannot regulate, they cannot regulate), but it may catch up with you in ways you don’t imagine.
Try to laugh, sing, meditate, garden, exercise, whatever grounds you…. It’s so important!
In the middle of my child’s crisis years, I called his therapist, desperate – yet again – for some advice to help manage his rages. I was probably crying or sweating or on the verge of hyperventilating. She said,
“You need to do some self-care.”
I was speechless. What in the world was she talking about?! How could I possibly take more than the 5-10 minutes a day when I hid in my closet sobbing because I didn’t want either of my children to see??
Things improved when we found care and the support of CMHRC’s support groups. Eventually, the vigilance I’d developed wasn’t needed, and I had a caretaker crash. It took a couple of months of feeling sick, depressed, and withdrawn (I did everything I had to but felt like I was watching myself from afar. Smiling at my kids because I knew I was supposed to, etc.), but I did some therapy and slept more, and that went away.
This summer, my heart started feeling like it was working too hard. My typical anxiety was turned up to 11 and hair-trigger. I was extra sensitive to heat, had difficulty sleeping, etc. Eventually, I was checked out and diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases: Graves and Hashimoto’s. There were hints of Graves in my past, and as I dive down all the rabbit holes trying to figure out how to calm this condition, I am running across information about vagal health. Hey! I know something about that because we do vagal nerve stimulation/support for our son.
But as I’ve poured care over him… maybe I haven’t done enough self-care.
I wear an Apple watch. Yesterday, I dug into the data and saw that my Heart Rate Variability is very low (avg. 19-21 ms). And it’s been that way as long as I’ve owned the watch (maybe 2 years). My FOH child has better HRV than I do (avg. 65 ms)! Kids and adults have different averages, but I think of myself as fairly healthy, and so this was a kick in the pants.
I have a lot of work to do. More singing! More laughing! Gardening, meditating, and hugging the people I love. Not bad chores!
Remember to love your life. Everything is temporary. Bad days will get better. If you are in the thick of a child in crisis, I highly recommend becoming a CMHRC member and getting on one of the Zoom support group meetings. Gardening and those calls were the best thing for me. It helps to not feel alone!