Some life lessons are just more difficult to understand than others.
Life’s balance, as I know it, has completely shifted over the past six months. The independent, dependable person I once was seems to be a distant memory-replaced, instead, by what often feels like a scattered shell of my former being. The woman who never turned down a request for help has become someone who feels like she’s constantly asking for the graces of others. Simply stated, the giver has become the taker, and it’s terrifying.
I am fairly new to the community of special-needs parenting. Six months ago, the only “special need” I had was to leave work for a few hours when my son fell off of his new bike and broke his nose! My reality now is stretching FMLA leave to cover Piper’s visits to the developmental pediatrician, the pediatric neurologist, and multiple weekly therapy sessions, just for starters.
Presently, I find myself overwhelmed and anxious over the mere thought of what my daughter’s care means for my personal and professional life, alike. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, and I feel like the only way to find it is to reach out and ask those in my professional life to consider ME, the person hidden behind all of the requests.
I ask you, please, to understand how scary all of this is for me. We’ve only known each other a little over a year, and that makes all of this so much harder! You barely got a chance to know me professionally before my life became so demanding, so I’ll explain the best way I know how. I was YOU. I was ever present, driven, and reliable. I was the person who filled in without question when “life happened” to someone on my team.
With the exception of needing regular time off to coordinate my daughter’s care, I am still those things. Because of my needs, I feel like my performance is frequently overshadowed by my need for accommodation. I give all I have each day I work beside you, yet my sense of personal responsibility causes me to feel like a liability. Unless you have walked this path, you cannot understand how indescribably heart wrenching that feeling is.
I want you to know, also, that I see YOU. Honestly speaking, that is what makes this reality hardest of all. I see how it affects you when I leave you short-handed. Not only do I see you, I care about you. I am mature enough to realize you don’t harbor resentment towards me, personally. Still, I internalize your frustration in this situation, and I feel tremendous guilt over the fact that my needs regularly come at your expense. If I didn’t value you as much as I do, this wouldn’t be so hard.
I ask you to understand that besides being a special-needs parent, I’m human, just like you. There will be times where I will be sick, need surgery or lose a loved one. Like you, I will need occasional time off to take care of my own needs. Please fight the immediate instinct to be annoyed by this, due to the fact that I already ask for so much. I never wanted to be needy. I wouldn’t change a thing about my daughter, but the gravity of the situation regularly sits heavily on my shoulders.
Lastly, I wish for you to understand how much I appreciate your continued support. No one but me is responsible for the feelings I’ve expressed. Life hasn’t been easy as of late, and though I may seem like an open book, what I share with you often doesn’t scratch the surface. Collectively, you seem to accept that, and continue to embrace me, even with all of the needs I never wished for.