Having a child with a complex medical condition can be overwhelming and exhausting, even in the best of times. Daily medications, procedures, doctor visits, hospital stays, insurance appeals and lack of sleep. All these things can and do become quite stressful.
I'm sure a lot of you can relate to the feeling of being on the edge, and cautiously awaiting what is next around the bend. Almost five years ago my daughter, Emma, was born extremely prematurely. Little did we know that the end of her nine week, four day, and 28 minute NICU stay would be just the beginning of her medical journey. Each day brought new obstacles, new specialists, new medications, and unfortunately new stressors.
To be honest, it was hard in the beginning. Very, very hard. My husband and I both struggled with how to deal with the stress in our own ways. While he seemed to try and "fix" things, like most men do, I fell into a deep depression that only therapy and a good combination of medication could bring me out of. I tell you this, so you know you are not alone. I have been there. Others have been there. It will get better, and you will learn to cope. It may never be easy, but it will become your new normal.Focus on Yourself
Through therapy I learned that I truly needed to focus more on myself to be able to help my daughter to the best of my ability. It is like being in an aircraft when the flight attendant tells you that you must put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. If you cannot breathe, you cannot help others.
Find something that you enjoy doing, whether it is writing, reading, art, or exercise. Try and make it a point to do a little each day, or at least a few times a week. Dedicate this time to yourself, and try not to think about what is going on around you. This becomes easier with time; just like anything else it takes practice. Reach out and find a support network, whether it is your spouse, family, friends, or even an online group. This is essential. You need not be alone in this struggle. A good support network can truly help you to keep your stress levels down. Just the act of talking and sharing with others and sometimes even venting can help you feel less stressed. You need to know and feel that others around you truly care and that you are not alone in this. Focus on Your Relationship
For couples raising a child with special needs, it is important to not let the stress of your daily life put a wedge in your relationship. They say what doesn't break you only makes you stronger. I am a firm believer that this is even truer for couples dealing with a child who has special needs. It is important to constantly be reconnecting with your loved one.
Carve out a time of day once a week for a date night. Go to dinner, play some miniature golf, see a movie. For those of us who are feeling the effect of the mounting medical bills a little more than others, plan a date night in. Put the kids to bed, have a picnic in the bedroom, play a board game, draw a nice relaxing bath, and maybe even give each other a massage. Hug, kiss, and even make love. Physically reconnecting is very important and all too often put on the back burner. Sometimes, this can be the most difficult part. It is all too easy for our love life to fall to the wayside. If you're like me, at the end of the day you're stressed, tired, and just not in the mood. So it is important to put forth the effort, and enjoy yourself. Try not to think about what the next day brings, or what appointment you have to go to tomorrow. Live in the moment. Laugh, talk, and love on one another. Remember, this time is for you as a couple to reconnect and de-stress!
Through finding ways to help alleviate stress in yourself and your relationship you will feel better and be able to handle the day to day grind with a better attitude, less stress, and a greater sense of accomplishment. Remember, this is the hand that life has dealt you. Make the best of it!Elaina is a stay-at-home-mom to four young kids. She has been married for five years and lives in Sunny Southern California. You can visit her at www.stanfordfam.com.