The Mental Health Struggle with Special Needs Parenting

I have this super power about me where I experience empathy to intense extremes. It is always active, though there are times where it peaks, and the power, being used so intensely, not even necessarily voluntarily, drains everything left in me. It drains me to the point where I waltz past all the messes and all the toys my kids have made that day, and I just need to lie down. Immediately. I can’t possibly do a single other thing for the rest of that night when its bad. I’ve often likened myself to a comic book mutant type character who can read and take on the emotions of the other characters in their world. My husband is a huge comic book fan, so my imagination runs wild sometimes from having read some of these story lines…

I joke with the comic book analogy, but it is a serious issue. I don’t know how to separate my emotions from the emotions of those around me. I take on every feeling that I am assuming others are feeling around me. And I say assume lightly, because when it is actually happening I am sure I am reading the person correctly. This may not make a whole lot of sense, but it is probably more common than it might sound. We all make assumptions about what someone else is thinking based on their behavior, words, and body language.  I just have a heightened response to emotions. Mine sore to both euphoric and tragic places all within seconds of each other, and sometimes at the exact same time! I can’t really explain it better than to say that I care a lot about how people around me are feeling. But I care to the point where I take on the role of feeling it is my responsibility to make everything better for everyone around me. I care a lot about how I cause other people to be effected in their feelings, and about how much I can do to relieve other people’s upset feelings, and restore their peace.

You may wonder why I even bothered explaining all that, but I felt it was necessary precursor for you to understand then how very deeply I am effected by the ups and downs that come with my older son’s ADHD and my youngest son’s autistic behaviors.  It is extremely hard for me to regulate my own body and emotions into a stable calm state, feeling that I am in a nearly constant state of anxiety over their unrest. When the two of them are having symptoms at the same time, I about lose my mind. I cannot function when I am on sensory stimulation overload from both of them at the same time.  When meltdown mode is starting to escalate in my autistic son, and my older son with ADHD is starting to increase in his wild disruptive sounds and flailing and at times clumsy movements, kicking things over, total loss of impulse control, my anxiety starts to escalate right along with them. I take on their energy, and it takes everything in me to try to remain patient in these moments.

Lately, Ive been feeling the effects of this intensely. Ive been feeling overwhelmed. The only way out of getting trapped in this defeated feeling is to better sort out what is legitimate and what is irrational in regards to the extremes of my emotions. I have to step back and breathe and remove the order I have put on myself to keep everything and everyone around me in perfect, even, levelheaded control. My control. There will be times where both my kids are simultaneously screaming, crying, fighting, making a huge mess, being blatantly disobedient, and testing the last ounce of me holding it together, but even then it’s ok. Really. The extremes of emotions are temporary. When I can step far back enough to get the big picture, none of the extreme emotions are really as problematic as they feel. Now they are problematic for sure, but they are transient. We are all learning. Together. It’s ok if I don’t have it all figured out. But it’s not ok to give up or become disheartened permanently. So today I remind myself, in this world of special needs whirlwinds and storms, nothing lasts forever. I’ll let the small stuff go, and realize, the bigger the emotions, the more irrational I may be thinking, and take a breath and realize, it WILL be ok.

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I am just a mom on a journey. Trying my best to do it right. Making lots of mistakes along the way. Enjoying having a community that gets it, to share it all with.

6 thoughts on “The Mental Health Struggle with Special Needs Parenting”

  1. Some days I literally have to remind myself to just breathe! I have the same tendencies as yourself. I am my son’s caregiver and I throw myself fully into that role- probably to a fault- sacrificing my own self care in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Other than writing, I don’t even know what self care is. But when I write I’m free! It seems like you might be as well! It is hard to tone down our natural intensities and full commitment to our kiddos, but rebalancing every now and then is crucial, for them and us! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Nikki,

    I love your writing. Thanks for sharing. It reminded me of the long letters we wrote each other in high school. Just wanted to encourage you that your empathy is surely a great gift. And makes you both a wonderful mother and a great friend. Take care! And keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Angela! Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing in my writing/life. I loved those letters so much. I looked forward to writing them and receiving the responses! We dove into so many life topics that way. Thank you for all your support love and encouragement throughout my life in all types of journeys. ❤️


  3. It’s so very hard to feel as though one can breathe some days; I can truly empathize. Then somehow they catch your eye just right and it hits your heart and you just know you are in the right place, at the right time, with your people, and you exhale, and remember it will be ok. I usually forget all that an hour later when the next meltdown hits, because we are all perfectly imperfect. Thank you for sharing yourself.


    1. Thank you for reading. So very true, I have to remind myself to breathe. And, we have to remind ourselves meltdown after meltdown, through the exhaustion. But you are right we are perfectly imperfect. ❤️


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