Sunday, November 15, 2009

Even masks have to come off to blow your nose...




The one thing that parents of children with special need are experts at is putting on a brave face. No matter how difficult you are finding things to cope with, its like the glasses you take from the bedside locker each morning, part of your daily ritual. Get up, shower, and put the impenetrable mask on that few are privy to see behind. It is almost as if we admit to others that we are finding it hard to cope, the reality will hit the person we least want to admit it to... ourselves.

I had a meltdown this weekend while visiting my family. I had spent a particularly lovely morning with my Facebook friends, enjoying coffee and chat, and even got to meet the hairier members of the group in the form of Jules and Dusty the assistance dogs. These girls are the ones we allow to see past our shields, the ones who know that struggle to keep our emotions in check and understand why we feel the need to bury them at times.

Stress is something that can build slowly over time too... I like to think of it as my own personal pressure cooker... Lets start with that ingredient ADD, yep can cope with that, throw in a bit of Aspergers, yep still coping, add some more ADD, a pinch of OCD, a smidgen of anxiety, wow.. still managing! Wow, this recipe is shaping to be an interesting mix... Add in a handful of divorce, a dash of depression, a HT program, dealing with the authorities and the powers that be, fill in some paperwork, chase and make phonecalls... yep the pressure is building now but if I only take a little bite at a time I'm managing to keep the meal I'm making down. Stick the lid on, turn up the heat and like a pressure cooker, let a little steam out through a safety valve (my own safety valve is my facebook friends, who get the steam blown their direction and who help me diffuse it before it fogs up my glasses!) Then something unexpected happens and it might seem the most insignificant thing in comparison to the other ingredients in the pot and the valve bursts off spraying the ceiling with the contents of the previously controlled chamber...



This is what happened this weekend... Being slightly oversensitive and a tad over reactive, I perceived advice as a lecture instead of remembering that the person who had offered it only has my best interests at heart. This person loves me unconditionally, has always been there to catch me when I fall (which I have plenty over the years) and has only ever wanted me to be happy. Its my fault that I keep my mask in place and don't want them to see when I'm not coping and stressed. I dropped my mask and dissolved in floods of tears. Ok that last bit sounds like tears rolled gently down my cheeks where in reality, I'm not the prettiest cryer. My face was one only a mother could love, crumpled, red, bloated and there were plenty of tears and snot involved (thanks Dad for the kleenex). I opened up my fears to them and they all spilled out mixed together and jumbled up. I'm sure that it must have been difficult to decipher half of what I was crying about through the wails and tears.

What I have to try to remember to do is not to keep the mask in place with the people who love me most. To allow others in, to help before the pressure pot builds to that point again. I'm sorry now that I hid my stress levels from the person who loves my kids as much as I do. I think a lot of us do that to protect our families and loved ones from having to worry about us. For now, I can put my mask back in place and carry on with the daily grind of appointments and paperwork etc, but I will be asking for help when I need it.


For Mum xxx

14 comments:

Jen said...

Ah, sorry it happened, but hope it clears you head a bit and you feel better. Great blogging, and great advice. Thanks:)

Andra said...

Wow what a great blog, you certainly have a way with words, I love the analogy of using the pressure cooker to describe the stress we all feel and letting off steam when it needs too just like we do. We all have our masks firmly in place to face the outside world but unfortunately a small remark can be all it takes to knock the pressure cooker over and leave a sticky situation to clean up afterwards.

Andra xxxx

Jean said...

wonderful post hun.
to a degree we need the mask, but the trick is to learn when it's safe (and necessary) to take it off.
painful and insightful
big hugs (((HUGS))) (proper hugs heehee) xxx

Anonymous said...

Lovely post as always! I've often compared my life to a finely balanced scales - going along grand, but all it takes is the slightest increase in pressure on one side and whoops.....

If I didn't have such wonderful family and friends (that's all you guys!!) I would tip over an awful lot more than I do, but when I do I know you're all their to help me get everything balanced again. Sorry you had a bad time, hun, but glad you found a safe and comforting place to do it in
Tazzy xx

grufalomum said...

so true Petunia, so true. Unfortunately many of us keep that mask well & truly fix in place, with anyone getting a glimpse behind for many yrs (myself being one). But 1 thing is certain it always cracks - sooner or later. As alway, so accurately and elioquently written - another great blog :) x

Hammie said...

Can't remember the last time I let the mask down.
No safety net down there. xx

KWombles said...

Aww, Hammie, that's terrible; we all need to be able to let our real feelings, our anxieties, our fears show to at least one somebody out there. ((hugs))

Petunia, I'm glad you were able to let it out, even if it was unintentional at the time. Big hugs to all.

Petunia said...

Ah no Hammie, everyone needs to be able to take the mask off occasionally before it suffocates us. You know that we are here for you if you need a safety net chick (((hugs)))

Thanks everyone for your kind words and especially to Jeanie for making me laugh (you know why hehe) xxx

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic post, as usual of course, but particularly poignant non-the-less. For some reason there seems to be a full moon in autism land, where everyone seems to be at boiling point (myself included). Its funny, I dont seem to have a problem letting folks see behind my mask, or at least I explain to folks that Im struggling, but without the visible meltdown, people tend to not believe me.... am I not asking for help? Is it not sufficient to say "God I find this so hard" or "Jayney this autism lark isnt all its cracked up to be".... family and friends reply with "I think you're fantastic", which dont get me wrong, is nicely reassuring, but a little frightening all the same. Im asking for help, and they find it easier to tell me Im doing a great job (is it so that they dont feel the need to intervene??). I like to believe I do the best I can, but Id love someone to say " maybe if I help with...". Hasnt happened yet... but then again, I have the same fantastic bunch of FB family that you have Petunia

PS. I think you're really pretty no matter what mask you wear xxx

Hennie xx

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking blog. I tend to be oversensetive as well and yes it's usually a well meant piece of advice that I read wrong, or else I convince myself to try and not take it too personally but I do. I did that this weekend and forced myself to stay away from the computer in case I deleted contacts I'd regreat later. Your pressure cooker analogy(if that's the word?) is perfect way to describe storing a lot of daily emotions.
The FB page is so important to me and reading your blogs and the other bloggs brings me back from isolation in recogonising that this is quite a full boat we are in.
Once again, great blogg!!
Glad you had someone there with the safety net...or you hiring her out???
Ruth xx

Anonymous said...

Hey Trace, I am an expert at throwing a speed wobble, I think we all need to every now and then. We are all human and need to let off a bit of steam every so often. Great blog missus, you articulate your thoughts so well. Michele xxxx

Petunia said...

Hennie, I think it might be time for you to ask directly for help instead of hinting at it as your family don't seem to be picking up on it, instead thinking that they can just tell you what a wonderful job you are doing and praising you. Instead of saying that you are finding it hard to cope, maybe say directly "I cannot cope, can you do X,Y or Z for me please?" Sometimes you have to spell it out. Wish I lived closer and could give you a hand now and again (((hugs)))

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

One of the things that happens to us parents of special needs kids is that we live our life in a fishbowl. Hence, the need for the mask. Some privacy, at least. And in that fishbowl we are expected to be perfect parents; there are always specialists ready to judge -- or so it seems -- when they themselves often err and no parent is perfect. Hang in there. I cannot say it gets terribly much easier, but at least the kinds of stresses change with the years, and they do grow up and become adults and along the way someone provide us with much pleasure. Oh, and learning. Don't forget about the learning! Hang in there!

jazzygal said...

Sorry I'm only getting around to commenting now missus.

So sorry you went through that but glad you got it sorted in the end and were able to see it as advice. You are double-gifted so!! You have your family support AND your FB family support! Glad you're realising it's ok to let the mask slip too.

I don't really have family support as my mam in Nursing home and there's only Mr Jazzy's Dad. Brothers and sisters are too far away and too involved in their own lives. Things are OK now but they were difficult when WiiBoy was younger. xx Jazzy

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