Our Christmas break didn’t turn out like I thought.
It rarely does. I knew this. But I still held a deep and warm wish for those 17+ days to be full of slowness and play and rest. I needed the holiday.
The holiday came, but the break didn’t. Instead, an extension of the difficult weeks before.
I’m oh-so-careful what I write about my family members. It’s one thing to share my vulnerabilities, another thing to share theirs. But for those of you who likewise needed a holiday and didn’t get it, I simply want you to know …
I GET IT.
Over the last three months of 2013—October, November and December—one of our littles unraveled. We have a few guesses as to “why” and “how.” But our attempts to explain matter not as much as the fact that our child became less and less able to cope with ordinary, daily life. The result? Near constant anger, tears and stress. We waded through countless phone calls and emails with school professionals, doctors and therapists. No matter what we tried, the spiraling continued. It wore us all down, including our sweet child.
At the same time, I noticed my own self unraveling. I’ve learned that emotions are often contagious. When one person is emotional or volatile, it puts the rest of the family on high alert. Everyone is waiting for the next blow up. Each person cringes and tiptoes and does all she can to avoid a potential land mine and the resulting flying debris. As I attempted (unsuccessfully) to quiet my child, I felt my own center of quiet disintegrating, and my health deteriorating.
That’s when I decided we had to do something. Of course, we’d been doing countless “somethings” for months and years. But it was time to think outside of the box, to make radical life-altering changes and try things we hadn’t yet tried. Too much was at stake.
You may not have a special needs child. You may not be deeling with trauma, PTSD or sensory challenges. But I’m guessing a few of you know what anxiety and stress feel like. Maybe you’re even coming apart at the seams.
If that’s you (or someone you love), I’m with you. We’re in a high-stress family situation, much of which can’t be helped. But some things CAN be helped, and that’s what I determined to tackle.
Over the past month we’ve recaptured a measure of quiet. A relief, let me tell you. We’re laughing more, sleeping better, and our precious child is more calm and regulated than we’ve seen in months. Here’s how we did it:
- Sleep: I’m a huge believer in the power of sleep to heal the mind and body. Our kids get close to 12 hours of sleep a night. Adults and grown children, around 8 or 9. The more stress, the more sleep. We go to be early. We take naps. And we don’t feel guilty about it.
- Diet: This has been our most radical change. After consulting with a specialist, we decided to go completely wheat-free and sugar-free. We started this a few weeks ago, and already notice difference. It seems to be taking the edge off the angst, for everyone. I won’t lie—it’s a huge adjustment. I spent weeks researching specialty diets, collecting recipes, and tracking down ingredients. But you can’t put a price on peace.
- Activity: When one family member struggles, it’s time for the rest of the family to circle around, create safety and offer support. We did this by limiting activity. We slowed our schedule and spent more time at home. We’ve also planned a few fun family events. In all the tension, all the jumping from crisis to crisis, we’d stopped having fun. But that’s exactly when we needed it most.
- Noise: A doctor recently told us to be cautious about what radio stations we listen to and what music we play. Music is a powerful means to alter a mood. Especially for sensory kids, music can either make or break an afternoon. For now, we’re listening to classical music in the car, or none at all. We also limit the noise inside the house, and keep the television off more than on. Excess stimilation is poison to someone who is unraveling. Quiet is healing.
- Community: We need help. There, I said it. Every single morning I wake up and realize I’m in over my head. As a result, we asked for help. From teachers, school administrators, therapists, doctors, specialists, and friends. Not only does our child need support, but we parents do, too. Healing takes place in community, and we’re determined to allow community to help us through.
What is one way you can quiet your life this week?