Depleted…not Defeated

Every parent understands being beyond done. You paste a smile, feign superficial engagement and barely fulfill basic responsibilities. That’s all you can muster Our vulnerability blossoms when feeling alone, overwhelmed and judged. But you already know that from experience.

When parenting a child with a disability, marginalization delivers relentless blows to heart and head. Devaluing stands defiantly in plain sight and lurks in unexpected corners. Once your child reaches school age, initial warm welcomes dwindle. The farther you proceed on typical pathways to ordinary, the more you are offered offramps. Besieged, exhausted and discouraged, it doesn’t take much to flatten you.

Giving up is not an option. Your child needs you to rally. Rallying demands your energy, courage and grit—but your stockpile is gone. Regardless, there’s too much at stake. So, you dust yourself off, stagger to your feet and survey for damages. Where to from here?

Stop, breathe and reflect. What happened, how, what did you learn and how can you reduce risks for the future? Taking time to reflect is key. Rest assured, root causes are so much bigger than any perceived shortcomings you may have. Next, explore ways to address your realities and support your family in ways that work for you. Life is demanding and energy levels fluctuate. Be prepared.

Here’s a few basic guidelines for softer landings:

  • Be gentle with yourself and accept that overloads happen.

  • Be aware of environmental risks and what could trigger reactions.

  • Build your network - family, friends, community and system professionals.

  • Trust your gut. If you’re feeling wary, that’s a warning sign.

  • Bravely ask for help from trusted sources before your slip becomes a fall.

Susan Dunnigan

January 2023