About a week ago, as notifications from our Daniel and Friends Fund Whatsapp Support Group assaulted our phones at what seemed like a message per second with topics ranging from cupcakes, to unicorns, to wine, to flooded houses, to unicorns, to family, to wine, to unicorns, to beautifully hand-made bags, to our children, to unicorns...and so on and so on, I sat back for a moment as a thought hit me...I have had more friends, more social interaction, more laughs, more inspiration, more feeling accepted in the last year than what I've probably had at any other time in my life.
But that's not how it's supposed to be when you have a child with special needs, is it? You're supposed to be broken, sad, withdrawn...ALONE!!! Well, for a long time that person would invade my life every now and again...would break down the wall I'd built with humour and a positive attitude to keep those very negative emotions away...and I'd have to begin all over again. So, what changed? Well, out of all those wall-breaking elements, just one thing changed...one thing which makes the world of difference to how we cope with the struggles of parenting children with special needs.
I WAS NO LONGER ALONE!
Please don't misunderstand, it's not like every family member and friend ditched us...changed their telephone numbers, moved house and the like, abandoning us and running for the hills. While there have been friends that have not made it along this path of ours, I in particular have been blessed enough to have the endless support of my family and a couple of friends who have not only stuck by my side, but who go the extra mile to show support and love.
That's not the "alone" I'm referring to. I'm talking about people who understand having to trade that new car for chronic meds, satellite tv for therapies, birthday parties for hospital visits, milestones for plain old health...you get the idea. Suddenly the path you've shared with old friends splits. If the friendship is meant to survive, between the two of you'll build a make-shift path in the middle which lands up being more solid and reliable than either of the other two. But sometimes it's necessary to each go your own path so for a while we feel alone. And then, when we least expect it, we walk Smack. Bang. into others walking that very same path. There's healing in a journey shared. That's just the way it is.
I Googled "Why is support important in special needs parenting?" Loads of posts popped up with the practical reasons - sharing experiences with medical practitioners, providing information on tried-and-tested solutions, etc. I can't even remember most of the other things. But having friends who just get it...no mention of it! Yes, all the other points have merit. But you may be super proactive in approaching intervention therapies, a Phd waiting to happen from sponging up as much information as possible, have a ten year plan in place for your kiddo's potential development, have great respite care, enough buckerooni's in the bank to pay for the medical care of ten children with special needs and yet, still, I dare say you are not being honest with yourself if you believe you can come out of this on the other side a whole person, without having had at least one person who has shared, firsthand, your hopes...your fears...your determination...your courage...your challenges.
Joining a support group purely for emotional reasons is not a "maybe" once you've attended to the really important stuff. It's a "have to" if you are wanting to tackle the really important stuff with a healthy mind and heart. Truth. xxx