Our 7 year old daughter, Veronica, is special needs. It’s something that is both new and terrifying. Apart from ADHD and sensory processing disorder, she doesn’t yet have a complete diagnosis. But there are words that are thrown around that break my heart and scare the poop out of me. Psychosis. Schizophrenia. Autism. Depression. Chronic Anxiety. But she’s just 7!
I have been in this beautiful girl’s life for a bit over a year now. It’s very easy to notice that there is something a little…different…about her. However, the first thing you would ever notice about her is that she is friendly, affectionate, and has a massive heart.
We have been wondering if she is on the autism spectrum for a while now, but about a month ago she had her first full psychotic break and was hospitalized in a children’s psychiatric hospital for 5 days until she was stable enough to come home. It was a heart breaking experience. She told us, “I want to die,” and I could feel my heart shatter in to a thousand pieces.
Since being released from the hospital, we have been trying different combinations of medication for her. She admitted to having voices in her head, but does she really understand what we are asking? She has a large problem with understanding social and emotional cues. To an outsider, you would think that she is selfish and destructive. I don’t, however, believe this is true. She lives in “Veronica Land” and has a very difficult time seeing anything outside of this little bubble. She has a difficult time understanding social boundaries and appropriate behaviour. She has put our cats in harms way several times…because she doesn’t understand that she is hurting them.
We have three other children at home, and unfortunately a large portion of our attention is focused on her. Making sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to. Making sure she’s not doing things she’s not supposed to. Watching her when she goes in to the kitchen because she steals things (soda, candy, etc). Making sure she’s not hurting the cats. It’s a never ending and exhausting schedule. But we can’t ever stop. She is our little girl and deserves the best.
But as parents of a special needs child, how do we maintain our own sanity? How do we ensure that we keep our anger in check and don’t lash out? How do we do self care?
Becs and I work as a team. And we work well. With my history in mental health, I have learned how to communicate in a more calming way when Veronica becomes upset and throws a fit. I can help her calm down and at least slightly understand the situation.
Becs does too, but stands back and lets me work my skills (or at least try to) and then swoops in to give kisses and cuddles and tell her how amazing she is.
One of the major things that helps me maintain my sanity is waiting until the children are in bed and being able to vent my frustrations to my partner without judgement.
It is so incredibly important to take care of yourself when caring for a special needs child. Becs and I are both in therapy where we often talk about Veronica. We love her, we think she is amazing and incredibly intelligent, and at the same time it is a massive stress in our home. Not just for us, but for the other children.
Sophia and Veronica share a room. Veronica frequently destroys Sophia’s belongings and is constantly glued to her side. Sophia NEEDS her own personal space, but in a three bedroom apartment there are only so many places to go.
When she knocks the boys over and hurts them because she is playing too rough, we worry that one day she will be a bit too rough and cause serious injury.
Bath time, movies, couple snuggles, sex, and crafting help keep us sane. What else can you do?