Fear, Anxiety, and Looking Inward

Many of us parents in the chronic illness community experience an intense fear and anxiety that we aren't doing a good enough job raising our children with our health circumstances. That our children will feel unloved, angry, or even sad that mommy/daddy can't play with them sometimes (and sometimes for long stretches of time). That our children will develope anxiety. Many parents I've talked to have said that their child/children becomes very emotional whenever they are in a flair-up. 

My daughter, for example, used to get full blown panic attacks any time I needed to lay down or go to a doctors appointment. I felt very guilty about that because her anxiety and fears are all well warranted. There have been many times in her short life when mommy has gone to the doctors and ended up being hospitalized for a week or so. Additionally, she knew that my needing to rest a lot tended to precede said doctors appointment. 

A while ago, I had posted in a support group about my struggles with this, asking for advice and/or support. Today, a friend of mine in the group responded with her own experience supporting and reassuring me that I wasn't alone. 
She wrote "My son is going on 10 and struggles with me being ill too. He often wants to play games with me but I just haven't been feeling well enough to. He'll start to cry and tell me that I don't love him and that he just wants to spend time with me. It makes me so sad." 

It is simply, yet profoundly heartbreaking. 

As I typed out my response, it just started to flow from me. And as it did, I was able to look inward. Resulting from her supportive comment, which was in response to my anxiety driven plea, came the answers I had been seeking the whole time. 

I posted this in response: 
There is hope. My sister (who is  2 yrs older than me) is autistic and also has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and severe developmental delays. As a kid, I had an understanding of things far beyond my peers (still do sometimes) At home, we had sibling rivalry just like other siblings. She would spit at me, I would yell at her to stop, say she was so annoying, she'd spit again (she knew it was the one thing I hated most, lol) we'd go round and round. My family and I look back at those times fondly. Even though she was nonverbal, in a wheelchair, and developmentally around 18 months old (but much smarter) we were still sisters. We still bickered, and loved each other. We annoyed each other, and we stuck up for each other. I may have expressed anger and resentment towards her and my parents at times, but I never really was angry or resented having a sister like her. When I was around the ages of 8-9, I felt sad that I didn't get to have a "normal sister" and our family couldn't do "normal family" things like vacations, beach trips, getting share a closet with my big sister, having her help me get through middle school and all of its social  protocols. But as I grew older, (by age 13) I no longer envied those other families. I wouldn't change my sister for the world, and I am so proud that she is My Sister. I think a big part of how I felt ok with it and not left out was how my parents made it a priority to make time for me and what I wanted to do. I never felt neglected or overshadowed. Part of it is the age. I was like that, too. Later he'll remember these years and think of them differently. I do. 

Something I've started trying with my children is doing simple little gestures that let them know I love them and always want to be with them. I have instated an open door policy. I always invite them in when I'm ill and need to rest. They can go in and out, watch Netflix, cuddle with me, talk, or whatever works for us. If they get too rambunctious, they have to leave. Or, if I really need to actually sleep, I'll tell them they can hang out on the bed and watch TV, or play in the room but they have to let me sleep. So far, this policy has made a world of difference. They know I need to rest, but I still want to be with them. 

Another very important part of it: As soon as I'm up, I play whatever they were asking about when I had to say "not right now" and had to rest instead. Now they know that if I rest, I'll be able to play with them later. But if I don't rest I won't be much fun at all. 

Lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles. I sit with them and hold them at night as they fall asleep. That's their special time with me. You just have to find what works for you and your family. It doesn't matter what other people say (example: the theory that you shouldn't make it a habit to sit with them while they fall asleep. They'll never learn to put themselves to bed and they'll have attachment issues) It only matters what works for you and your family. Chronic illness creates a household that isn't "normal" and it shouldn't be held to "normal" standards. 

Then, I apologized for my comment being so dang long. And I'll apologize again for this post being so dang long ;)

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