Hi everyone, hope you guys are doing great. A lot has been happening in my life! And it is now that I have a little time to write this blog post. Between a full time job, a super-mommy of 3 wonderful (but quite demanding) Kings and running an organization , having meetings, etc. at the end of the day I am really exhausted but with a huge feeling of accomplishment. 🙂
I have been in contact with some parents recently and some of the conversations we had prompted me to write this blog post.
Mental health is one of those topics that are practically taboo in Trinidad. Some see it as a sign of weakness, others do not believe it exists and some are quite apathetic because they might not be directly affected by it.
I am talking specifically about a well-hidden giant called depression. And I am not talking about depression for children or adults on the autism spectrum but depression in us, parents caring for a child or children with Autism. It is one of those topics that if you happen to share with anyone one of the first things you hear is: “Think positive” or “You are too negative” or “You have no reason to feel this way”.
Of course, unless you walk the walk you have no idea and most of the time people love to offer advice in issues they do not really know about. Sometimes it is better to remain quiet and just lend as much support as needed, free of judgment.
There are many reasons why a parent caring for a child with Autism might be displaying signs of depression. Sometimes, it is not even a direct consequence of it. There are many parents who have been dealing with depression prior having children. But of course, the depression might exacerbated by the demands of raising a child with special needs in a country that has forgotten they even exist.
This blog is very personal to me because I have suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, even before I became a mom. My childhood/teenage years were unusual and difficult at times and there were times when I thought that I could never find something that could help me mitigate the way I was feeling.
I didn’t understand it then but after MANY years and with a little more life experience and wisdom, I was able to find the tools that would help me reach a state where I no longer feel those symptoms are part of my everyday life.
I understand that what it worked for me, might not work for others but perhaps it will so I hope the following information/tips can be useful. 🙂
EXERCISE & EAT RIGHT
Exercising has a powerful effect on your mind. It is not merely my opinion but it has been scientifically proven.
When you exercise, you release endorphins (also known as the “happy” hormones) but also helps you gain confidence and takes your mind away from your problems, at least for a little bit.
Choose an activity that you will enjoy and that you will be able to sustain in the long run.
The way we eat, impacts the way we feel and even think. We have only one body and we should do everything within our power to properly care for it. I went Vegan some years ago and I never looked back. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I feel happier and complete since I made that switch!
GIVE SERVICE TO THOSE IN NEED
There is nothing that makes me happier than trying to help those who might need help. It is hard to explain the feeling but the closest I could say is that you are no longer the focus; you lose yourself in the service to others. It is a wonderful thing.
You are no longer the protagonist in this story but instead choose to focus in another person with (perhaps) greater needs than your own. Perspective changes everything and when a wounded heart meets another wounded heart, a unique healing process starts.
COOK A STORM
I find cooking to be a very relaxing and healing activity. I love cooking and I love to experiment in the kitchen. Our 3 Kings are willing guinea-pigs in my Vegan food experiments! *evil laugh*. There is nothing that brings me more joy than seeing my boys enjoying the foods I try to make and when I see them happy, I automatically get happy too. You can check what I cook on my Trini Vegan blog. 🙂
According to Jacqueline Gollan, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago:
Cooking and baking are pursuits that fit a type of therapy known as behavioral activation. The goal is to alleviate depression by boosting positive activity, increasing goal-oriented behavior and curbing procastination and passivity.
If the activity is defined as personally rewarding or giving a sense of accomplishment or pleasure, or even seeing the pleasure of that pumpkin bread with chocolate chips making someone else happy, then it could improve a sense of well-being,”
KEEP YOURSELF BUSY
For me, this is one of the most important things that have helped me. When you’re busy doing things that are constructive for your life and the lives of others there is little time to entertain thoughts that are not conducing to your growth or happiness.
Keeping yourself busy is not only a form of distraction or tricking your brain but also a great way to feel amazing about yourself and what you are accomplishing!
Yes, you read well what you’re accomplishing because every single day you wake up when you don’t feel to wake up, put your clothes on when you don’t feel to put them on ..and with a brave face go about your day in the BEST way you can. Kudos to you!
CHOOSE TO PUT THE GLASS DOWN
There is a famous story that says…
Once, a professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see and asked the students, ‘How much do you think this glass weighs?’ ‘1 pound!’ ….’2 pounds!’ …..’3 pounds!’ ……the students answered.
‘I really don’t know unless I weigh it,’ said the professor, ‘but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?’ ‘Nothing’ the students said.
‘OK what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?’ the professor asked. ‘Your arm would begin to ache’ said one of the students.
‘You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?’ ‘Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress & paralysis; have to go to hospital for sure’ ventured another student. All the students laughed.
‘Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?’ Asked the professor. ‘No,’ replied the students.’ ‘Then what caused the arm ache; the muscle stress?
Instead, what should I do?’ The students were puzzled. ‘Put the glass down’ said one of the students. ‘Exactly!’ said the professor. ‘Life’s problems are something like this. Hold them for a few minutes in your head; they seem OK. Think of them for a long time; they begin to ache. Hold them even longer; they begin to paralyze you. You will not be able to do anything.’
It is important to think of the challenges in your life, but EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to ‘put them down’ at the end of every day before you go to sleep. That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh, strong, can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!
Remember friend- PUT THE GLASS DOWN TODAY!
Depression is one of those battles that many people will endure for the rest of their lives. The fears, the demons, the monsters will always be there trying to paralyze us and make us feel like what we are doing isn’t good enough and never will.
And that’s where that inner voice inside each one of us needs to start developing. At the beginning that inner voice will simple whisper but with time and lots of self-care that inner voice will become so loud and firm than it will triumph over any other that tries to distract us from becoming the best we can be.
Sometimes, you might also need the help of a professional if your depression is beyond what you can control or manage. And no matter what everybody else says around you, seeking help IS the RIGHT thing to do. It is NOT a sign of weakness but a sign of STRENGTH.
YOU ARE doing an amazing job with your child under difficult circumstances.
YOU HAVE the right to let your emotions out whenever you feel to do it.
YOU ARE WORTHY.
YOU ARE LOVED.