Mental Health Issues In Special Needs Parents

Studies suggest special needs parents are more likely to have mental health issues. This is not to suggest our children cause us to have mental health issues, but the challenges we face can bring out some of those tendencies. The chronic, on-going, on-call, adrenaline filled days that never end can turn into something more serious. Not only that, but many special needs parents experience trauma because of medical complications their children have to endure (and the kids do too!).

Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability. 1 out of 4 people have a mental illness. For women, 1 out of 5 women will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives. It is a lot more common than people think.

We do not realize how prevalent it is because people keep quiet because of the stigma.

Clinical or situational depression is not the same as feeling really sad.

The signs of depression are different for everyone, but when they last for more than four weeks and they interfere with our ability to interact with life, we are at a point in life when we need help.

Sometimes we hold on for so long that when we can finally let go we fall apart.

Some women feel like they are bad moms because of how their mental illness affects them, but that is not true, there is a difference between a bad mom and a sick mom.

Mental health issues can amplify with our life’s circumstances.

You feel what you feel, and you have to work through it.

Getting the help you need looks different for everyone, it could be medication, support groups, therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, reach out to people and create authentic friendships, exercise, diet.

Nobody has the time for life overhauls, sometimes small changes can really make a difference, it is something.

You are worth it! To be who you need to be for your family you need to take care of yourself and do something about any mental health issues you have. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your family is put yourself first.

Taking care of ourselves is not a selfish thing to do.

Mental health illness is a family illness. It affects everyone in the family, your friends, your church.

Mental health issues can affect our marriage too. Not everyone has a spouse who is supportive or understanding. This is why if you feel like you do not have a teammate, getting help is so important.

We are made for community. Sometimes our inclination is to move inward, rather than move outward and ask for help.

We all have individual journeys, but we all have to start the journey

Dealing with the Cold and Snow

Now that the holidays are done and all the pretty decorations and lights are down, things can really start to look gloomy. Especially with all this snow we now have on the ground. Everywhere you look all you see is white, white and more white. Then there is the ice that keeps you slipping and sliding around. It seems like every week there is a new storm coming through and you just wonder where can you possibly put any more snow? You can barely see around some corners the piles are so high and you are afraid you are going to get hit by a car. Then there is the problem with even trying to walk on the sidewalks. Some have been cleared but there are many that still are not clear and you have to risk walking on the street and who wants that?

So what does a person do when you can not get out a lot and you are starting to feel a little down? This winter has been a hard one at times and even I have been having a difficult time keeping that happy face around. I have offered to send the snow to other places but since that is not a possibility I guess we must find other avenues to uplift our spirits because Mother Nature is not helping. Usually this time of year my kids would love to be out throwing snowballs and just playing in the snow but the snow in the yard is taller than my 7 year old. How would he even play?

I try to open up the shades every single day even when it is gloomy outside because I find that if I keep them closed I feel more down. Even if there is only a tiny bit of sunshine it does brighten my mood a little and every little bit helps. I love to read, so I will make myself a nice warm cup of coffee, add my favorite creamer to it, find my favorite blanket because I am always freezing and curl up and read one of my many favorite books. I will be lost for hours. If I want to actually brave the cold and get a little exercise I will go to the mall and walk around just to get out of the house and you never know who you may run in to while you are there. It is always fun just to see what is new.

There are those times I want to get out of the house but not be around a lot of people so depending on the time I find Barnes and Noble is a good place to hang around. I can lose myself in the books or get a wonderful coffee and stay warm yet be in different surroundings. It lifts my moods up. I also find journaling can be helpful to get all that frustration out. Another great tool I find helpful is a gratitude list to just remind me all the things I have to be thankful for.  Every once and awhile I just need to do something silly and paint my nails or try to do something new with my hair. Anything to get through these long cold days. I also like to write on my blog and there is nothing like sending silly things on Facebook to your friends.

I am lucky that when my kids are home I have a 7 year old that loves to play Trouble. I can not tell you how many games I have had to play already. We play Memory and Go Fish and that is great fun. Then they have school and I do like my games on my tablet. None of my children will play Scrabble with me so it is great that I can now play it by myself. It helps my mind and gets me through these long winter days. I also found these wonderful puzzle books like Sudoku and Logic puzzles. They keep me busy for hours. I light my favorite scented candle and go those puzzles. It is wonderful.

Thankfully winter does not last forever, although it may feel that way at times. Sometimes we just have to find little comforting things to do to help us get through those winter blues. What it comes down to is you have to find things that make you happy and keep you busy. If you keep yourself distracted with fun things you like you won’t have time to get so sad about all this snow. Spring will get here….eventually.

 

Getting Through the Holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year for most people. Getting together with family and friends, all the noise, the lights, and the business that seems to go on and on. Everyone seems to be in such a great mood all the time. How do you get through these times of merriment and joy if you suffer from disabilities that make it a struggle just to get out of bed?

Not everyone has family and friends to celebrate with this time of year or maybe they are facing some hardships that are making this time of year more difficult. That in itself is difficult. When you have mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD or any other issues this time of year can become even more painful. You feel lonely, excluded and you blame yourself for feeling this way. It can be almost impossible to make yourself get out of the house to go anywhere even if you are invited. If you do manage to drag yourself out of the house you usually do not stay very long and find any excuse to hurry up and get home. Putting on that fake smile for people is exhausting and fighting back tears that you don’t even know why they are there is sometimes more than you can handle.

It is hard to balance the fine line of when you are not feeling your best and trying to make the holidays good for others especially when you have children. For me personally, that is where I am struggling now. I thought this year would actually be great for the kids because we had just moved into a house and we could decorate it and put up a nice tree. We finally had a lot more room now. I have been managing my bipolar disorder better and things were overall just better. But then life threw me for a huge surprise that I did not want. I ended up in the emergency room with a huge clot in my lung and was told if I had waited I would not be here. This has really put me down this Christmas season. The kids were sad that no tree has been put up and there are no decorations are up and just nothing is the same as years past. It makes you feel you are not being a very good parent. All I can do is tell myself that I am doing the best that I can do. The kids have presents for Christmas and I am still here to see them open them.

The only thing we can all do to get through the holidays when they are tough is just take things one step at a time. If that is minute by minute or an hour by an hour. Whatever it takes because it will get better. If I need to have a good cry because I feel overwhelmed by everything that has happened then that is what I will do. I will journal or reach out to a few good friends. Yes sometimes it is I just need that time by myself and have my favorite cup of coffee and just let things sink in.

Remember you are special and important!! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!

Five Healthy Habits For Mental Strength

Life can be pretty crazy sometimes, right? We’ve all got a plethora of problems to sort out, conflicts to solve, and tough spots to endure. But why does it seem like some people handle adversity better than others? What’s the secret to maintaining the calm when everyone else seems to be panicking and losing their minds?

Mental toughness.

Contrary to popular belief, mental toughness isn’t something you’re born with or not. It’s not a luck of the draw sort of thing. That means that everyone can work to improve their fortitude with a little practice and mindfulness when life starts going sideways. Research backs this up. Since the 1960’s, groups like the Beck Institute have pioneered Cognitive Therapy in the hopes of helping people stop negative “automatic thoughts” that impaired their views of themselves, the world, and/or the future. And the results are clear: everyone can change the way they think and develop mental toughness.

But how?

Below are five tips for developing your mental toughness in a positive way.

Set your expectations

Mental toughness isn’t about avoiding conflict. While you can’t control every aspect of your life, you can control how you will react. Act like you’ve got everything under control and no one will think otherwise. You might wind up even fooling yourself. Know that time is finite and there’s only so much you can do in a certain period of time. By setting realistic expectations for what you can achieve in a given amount of time, you’re laying groundwork for measurable performance and success.

Strengthen Self Control

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Whether things are going crazy at work or you feel the urge to find comfort in sweets after a trying day, take a moment to step back from the situation. By stepping out of the present, stressful moment and putting it in larger perspective, you can give every crisis its context and respond with a level-headed calmness. By delaying gratification, whether in the form of a cupcake or yelling at someone, you’re helping yourself to see difficulty as a setback rather than an insurmountable problem.

Focus on Yourself

No matter what you do, you’re never going to please everyone. Mentally tough people have mastered the art of focusing on impressing themselves. Love the ensemble you put on but maybe other people can’t appreciate your sense of style? Well, those haters are going to hate. They don’t matter. You should surround yourself with people who can appreciate you for who you are and the unique traits you have to offer, especially since these people are likely ones you can count on when you feel that your mental toughness is starting to get a little weak. Similarly, don’t get down in the dumps by envying other people or being jealous of their success. If you see someone who’s doing things with their life you want to achieve too, focus on how you can get there yourself, rather than how that other person reached their goals easily.

Silence the Negative Talk

Whether it’s expressing envy over someone else’s success or using negative words to describe yourself, your words have immense power to shape your worldview. Don’t let that glass-half-empty viewpoint dominate your thoughts. When you make the effort to see the positive in everything, you’ll find it was there all along. And when you find aspects of yourself or your life that you’d like to change, focus on how you can do that and set measurable goals rather than sitting back and accepting your present as your life’s course. Become your biggest advocate and believe in yourself. Others will follow your lead and believe in you too!

 

If you have ever watched the Disney Show, Frozen, you will remember Elsa sang, “Let It Go!”

Elsa had it right. Don’t let the past bring you down or be deadweight on your path to success. Everyone has suffered failures and setbacks, but it’s the people who learn from their mistakes or face adversity with a measured approach that come out on top. Don’t let your past dictate what your present and future should look like. There’s no point in lamenting something you can’t possibly change. But the present and future is only what you choose to make of it. Make it something amazing! That commitment to the present will build mental toughness in no time.

Improving your mental toughness takes mindfulness and commitment. It’s not easy, but the payoff and rewards are immense. Take charge of your life and withstand adversity like a pro!

Thankfulness: The Special Needs Way

When my daughter was born with Down syndrome, I never imagined that someday I would be thankful for her diagnosis. At the time of her birth, our future seemed bleak and limited. But disability was so different from what I thought it would be, and years later, there is so much I am thankful for.

I am thankful disability is not the horrible green eyed monster I thought it was

I was scared of disability, mainly because I was ignorant; I didn’t know much about it or what it would mean to our family. But I have discovered that disability is part of life. You learn, you grow, you live. And so much of life goes on as before.

I am thankful my priorities and what I valued in life changed

How smart you are is not as important as how well you love. I didn’t know that before my kids came into my life. We live in a culture that praises intellect over kindness, a culture that values a high IQ more than compassion. But at the end of our lives those things will matter little, what will matter is how we lived life, how we loved, how we reached out with open hearts. Family. That’s what matters.

I am thankful for the small milestones

Perhaps to some the little milestones go unnoticed, or they seem insignificant, but when you parent a child with a disability, no milestone goes unnoticed. You become so aware of the small things, and those small things have a way of bursting your heart with pride for your child.

I am thankful for the celebration.

Because we notice milestones, we celebrate. We celebrate the small and the big, we celebrate with others around us. And going poopy in the potty is a big deal, even if it takes considerably many more years than the average child. And a labored step with an assistive device is sweeter than a medal for the 100 meter race. You celebrate, and you celebrate big.

I am thankful for the tears

For the tears shed at hospitals, for the tears of helplessness, the tears of loss. Because, in those dark moments God has brought in the most amazing people into my life that understand this journey as intimately as I do. And I have learned what it means to allow God to be in control when I cannot handle it. And those tears have given me strength, helped me to move past my own needs and care for the needs of others. I can now meet people in the messy of life, and understand what it is to feel beat down. So many tears that have become treasures in my heart.

I am thankful for the joy

Because my children brings me indescribable joy. I am lucky I get to call them my own. With all our challenges and the extra work, they are mine to hold and to love.

I am thankful for the unconditional love

I thought I knew about unconditional love simply by being a mother, but I discovered it was easy to love a child that would seemingly meet all my expectations. In that process, I discovered I had expectations for my kids, and that is not unconditional love, that is love with strings attached, so different from what true love is. So I ripped the expectations and tossed them to the wind, because love is freely given expecting nothing in return. We love because we are loved. Oh there is so much love.

What are you thankful for in the special needs journey?

by Ellen Stumbo

Concerns About Accommodation

Your interview is in two hours! You are as ready as you will be to meet the hiring manager with one exception. Even though you are qualified for this job, this will be the first time you interview as a person with a disability. This time you may need accommodations to perform your job.

Accommodation is a big word and means different things to different people and employers. You may wonder when to bring up the subject of accommodations or if you should bring it up at all. Here are some helpful ideas.

Read the Job Description

Some employers will list the actual physical and emotional requirements of the job. For example: “Must be able to lift 40 pounds regularly,” or “ability to remain professional under stressful situations.”

Sometimes you will need to “read between the lines” on a job description. For example, “attendant at busy information booth” means that you may have to deal with impatient people or people who do not understand the information – which could be stressful and overwhelming for someone with emotional disabilities.

Know Your Disability

If you have found an ideal job for your skills, but it means mostly sitting, which will aggravate your back, you can have a strategy in place. By looking at the job description you see different walking or standing tasks. In this case, you could be prepared to ask the interviewer, “Do you think it would be possible if I arranged my time a little differently? Could I do some typing for an hour then file for a while to break up my sitting time?”

You may also need to gather information to determine whether or not you will need accommodations. For example, you cannot drive but the job description, among other responsibilities, requires the “the ability to drive customers to and from the airport.” Because it is just one of many responsibilities it may be an area where there might be more flexibility. You might ask, “How often would you need me to drive customers to or from the airport?” Or “Is there a lot of driving in this job?” This will allow the interviewer to elaborate if it is a common need or very rare. Then you will know if it makes sense to ask if you can “trade the task with a co-worker.” If it is a large part of the job, then this job may not be a suitable fit for your disability.

Try to easily integrate this accommodation question into the conversation or you can also mention it when the interviewer asks for your feedback about the position.

Other ways to suggest physical accommodations to an interviewer might be:

  • “It is difficult for me to climb ladders. Would it be possible for you to schedule someone else on the job that requires climbing a ladder?”
  • “I would love to work here, but I am unable to stand all day. Would it be possible to use a stool during part of the time?”
  • “I really like my ergonomic keyboard. Would you mind if I brought one to use at the office?”

While reasonable accommodations are legally the responsibility of the employer, for example providing a ramp into a building to make it accessible, many times from a practical standpoint, it is preferable and easier to bring your own accommodations. Unless a person needs extensive modifications or has a very visible disability, it is generally more practical to provide your own accommodations and only discuss your disability accommodations if it is something your employer needs to get involved in. Most people with disabilities do not want to be seen as different in the workplace and often there is no reason to disclose. Many employees, with disabilities or without, have favorite chairs and keyboards that they prefer to use.

Scheduling is also a common accommodation for people with disabilities because of ongoing medical appointments. Here are some ways to address that area:

  • “With regards to the schedule, I see that Wednesdays are the truck deliveries with the heavier cargo of more than 25 pounds. That sounds like a lot of lifting for me and I would be a better fit for the other days. Could Wednesday be my day off?”
  • “I can certainly fill all the requirements of the job, but it would be a much better fit if I could have some flexibility in my hours, as I have some regular appointments that I will need to keep.”

Be Prepared to Ask Questions and Address Concerns at the Interview

Remember, when you go into an interview, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you. It is illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring people because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability.

However, sometimes employers cannot provide accommodations. A small company may not have the resources to have another employee do a particular task or it might create a safety hazard to have a stool in a particular location.

Therefore, it is important to only apply to jobs where your disability would not affect your ability to handle the job responsibilities or one that can be easily accommodated.

When you find a suitable job that will need some accommodations, be prepared to speak up at the right time! Having a script in place for addressing your accommodations and preparing ahead of time, will help you stay focused about your skills and abilities during the interview.

May your next interview become your next new job!

About the Blogger:

 Paula Reuben Vieillet is president and founder of Employment Options Inc., an authorized Social Security Administration Employment Network in the Ticket to Work Program, which assists those on SSDI/SSI benefits in returning to the workforce. They specialize in Work At Home Employment and have long-term relationships with national employers. They also offer community on-site jobs serving 47 states.

Her company, which also has a Facebook and Twitter page, let’s interested job seekers apply online for their free services at http://www.MyEmploymentOptions.com. You can also learn more about their Work At Home Specialties. Paula is a frequent consultant to the SSA on the Ticket to Work Program and has authored three books on job placement.

8 Thanksgiving Hacks for Kids on the Spectrum

Christmas decorations are up and it’s only November? Well, it must be time for Thanksgiving! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) In all seriousness, Thanksgiving can be a fun time filled with food, family, joy, and thankfulness. However, the atypical schedules, new foods, and people-packed homes can be a little overwhelming for kids on the spectrum. Here are some ideas for helping your child get through the day.

  1. Prepare your child a few weeks ahead

Preparation is vital for many kids on the spectrum. Before the big day, sit your child down and explain the day’s schedule, as well as what type of behavior is expected of them. If unfamiliar or rarely-visited family members will be attending the festivities, show your child pictures of the relatives so they know who they’ll see.

  1. Prepare your family to see your child

While it’s important for your child to be prepared for Thanksgiving, it’s equally important for your family to be prepared, particularly if they don’t know much about your kiddo. If your child doesn’t like showing physical affection, give family members a headsup and assure them it’s nothing personal. If you will not be the one cooking the meal, let your host or hostess know about any dietary needs or preferences. This leads us to the next point…

  1. Don’t force your child to eat food they don’t want to eat

Sometimes kids on the spectrum are picky eaters. Rather than trying to force turkey down your child’s throat (and risking a meltdown in the process!), allow them to eat foods they like. This may mean cooking something separate for them. It may mean bringing the preferred food to a relative’s house. If the latter is the case, be sure to give the host or hostess a forewarning. Again, assure them it’s nothing personal.

  1. Try to keep the day as close to your child’s typical schedule as possible

If feasible, do your best to maintain typical schedules. Have your child eat at the normal times, and put your child to bed at the normal time. If you have other rituals, try to keep those consistent as well. It’s okay if it’s not possible — but if that’s the case, be sure to give your child ample warning beforehand.

  1. Give your child a safe, quiet space to escape in case of sensory overload

Sensory overload happens. It’s especially a risk when the house is filled with new smells, and the air is noisier than usual, and a lot of people—both familiar and unfamiliar—are crammed under one roof. Designate a safe spot to which your child can escape if everything gets to be too much.

  1. Consider seating your child at the end of the table

If your little one is particularly prone to sensory overload, consider seating them at the end of the table, so they aren’t squashed between two other people. This provides a little extra space and removes them from the middle of things.

  1. Praise good, appropriate behavior

Is your child doing well? Make sure to let them know! Positive reinforcement not only works, but it also feels good.

  1. Take it easy

This is undoubtedly easier said than done. But you can pull it off by reducing the amount of pressure you put on yourself and your child. Ask for help if you need it. Keep your expectations reasonable and realistic (My Asperger’s Child advises penning a list of what you’d ideally like on Thanksgiving, and cutting it in half). Request that others bring something to pass around if cooking a huge meal will be too much for you. And most importantly, take a deep breath, cut yourself a slice of pumpkin pie, and enjoy the quality time you get to spend with your family, being thankful for what you have!