I was 39 when I had J. A successful professional. Adept at leading teams and running businesses. My sense of self very much tied up in my work life.
It didn’t slip away over night that life. It kind of drifted away over several years as the burden of appointments increased and the diagnosis shifted from this delay to that disorder.
Annoyingly for me my alpha female take on life pre-J didn’t really help me in the pre- or post-diagnosis world either. I was no longer in control. Parenting was out of my area of expertise. But parenting a child unlike other children. That nearly did for my sanity.
It was only when we reached crisis point as a family despite 2 years of all the usual nonsense (no diagnosis, no EHCP, no local therapy services available, a school crisis that turned into a school/home crisis) that I finally and desperately reached out for help.
And what I found after a lot of hours on the web and trawling our local offer was lots of people happy and willing to help us. People with similar or different stories who didn’t judge, didn’t comment, and spoke the new language I’d been forced to master.
The bravest step was the first. An activity day in a local park for children like my son. Provided by a local charity at no cost. I absolutely dreaded that day but deep down I knew that I couldn’t damn J and myself to being the odd ones out in our social group. So we went.
I tried to look more relaxed than I felt. I tried to be interested in other people. Tried not to judge kids or their parents by the normal behavioural/parenting standards. And something wonderful happened. J loved it, which meant I loved it. We both made friends that day – real friends. But more importantly it taught me that trying new things would generally be OK (even if they weren’t repeated) and that we weren’t alone.
Since then I’ve:
- joined Twitter (gathering understanding and living my SEND persona away from the glare of family/friends on Facebook)
- added myself to email lists from lots of local charities
- attended lots of local meetings
- gone on ASD & ADHD parenting courses
- got to know other wonderful SEND parents in my area
- been able to support a mum at school when her son was diagnosed
- and – now that J and I are in a good place – put pen to virtual paper to share a little in the hope that sharing empowers others.
If you have the strength left today, tomorrow, or next week then reach out. Say hello. It’s amazing what being part of a community feels like – we parents and our families don’t have to feel lost or alone.