by Cynthia Fernstaedt Martinez
It has been a bumpy ride over the past three years, and as for most families, it has also felt like the race of a lifetime. Doctor appointments, tests, sick days, hospitalizations. Last summer, in a period of waiting and worrying, I was feeling completely overwhelmed. As I had millions of times over the years, I was actually thinking of seeking help by finding someone to talk to, such as a therapist, psychologist, or clergyman.
The big question was, “where do I look?” I had sought help for a couple of my older children before, but I’m not a child or teen. I didn’t want to ask friends because, “Oh my gosh! Then someone would know.” I decided to call our pediatrician, someone I hold full trust in, someone who knows our family better than most anyone. I felt silly calling for myself, so I began talking of some observances I had made of my son, and the emotional/mental struggles I was having with these. The end result: a medicine change for my son. OK, so that didn’t work as planned.
After another month or so of feeling completely exhausted, frustrated, edgy, I decided to try again. This time, I had a contact! I would talk to a social worker our pediatrician referred us to for some help with school issues. Surely she would pick up on what I was going through.
I should have known better. Her first words were, “Your pediatrician has told me how on top of everything you are.” And as we ended our call, she said, “I so enjoyed speaking with you, I really think instead of you calling me, I should be calling you. I have learned so much from you today, you are doing wonderful for your son.”
I actually sat down and laughed a little. It was difficult enough to say, “Hey, I am feeling overloaded mentally and emotionally, I’m not myself, I need help,” and I couldn’t even get this across to people. In my head I was saying the right words, the key words that should signal what I was trying to say, even if I didn’t come right out and say it. Light bulb moment! I needed to just come out and say what I needed.
This time I decided to speak with our priest. I made the appointment, so this had to be done in person. I went in and told him outright, “As you know, my son has special needs and numerous health issues. And I am completely overwhelmed and exhausted.” We began talking. I started by telling more clearly some of my son’s health issues and needs. I told him (which he already knew) of his blindness, to which he said, “that must be difficult.” I stopped speaking and looked at him, “Well, the technicalities of blindness are difficult, such as teaching him to cut, but everything can be overcome or adjusted for. And really, in one way, we can see his blindness as a blessing; my son will never judge another person on looks.”
And our talk continued. We spoke of death. I stopped him to explain we are living each day to the fullest, as we do know his condition is progressive and often associated with a shortened life. And I said to him, “but I feel blessed, as too many in our society today only realize too late the importance of living each day fully or living minute by minute. “
And our talk continued, until we came to finances. We spoke of the costs we endure, outside of the normal family living expenses. He suggested places where we may seek assistance if and when needed. He talked of how financial pressures can wear one down. And I stopped him to say, “Yes, we have financial struggles. Heck there are times buying toilet paper is a struggle and food is scarce. But when I look back, it is those times I have made a meal from a few scraps here and there, and they truly tasted the best. No, we can’t afford TV, but this, too, is OK, as we spend more time together.”
Soon our time was coming to an end, and the priest told me, “You have taught me much today. Thank you.”
On the way home, I was laughing. I couldn’t even ask for the help I needed. Or wait; maybe I did get the help I needed. Three people I reached out to all gave it to me. They listened when I spoke. Even though I didn’t want to hear how on top of things I am or what a great advocate I am for my son, at the same time I didn’t want to hear sympathy or how difficult it must be. I needed to hear my real thoughts and feelings out loud.
Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, at the end of my rope, I think back at my attempt to get help and I laugh. Did you know sometimes laughter is the best medicine?