“Sorry seems to be the hardest word” is one of Sir Elton John’s most popular songs. According to Wikipedia, the song was a Top 20 smash, reaching No. 1 in the United Kingdom, No. 6 in the United States and No. 3 in Canada.
Whilst I admit that I like the song, I have to disagree with Sir Elton. There is one word that I think we all find is the hardest to say.
According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. That means that mental illness is more common than you would think. One of the most vulnerable groups to mental illness are parents who care for children who are disable or have special educational needs.
Please do not think that I am purely blaming children for causing mental health issues. Like any parent of any child I love my children, despite the fact that at times I could quite easily sell them on Ebay to the highest bidder.
Being a parent to a disabled child is hard. There is no way of sugar coating that I’m afraid. However, finding it hard is perfectly normal, and it does not make you a bad parent.
I’ll be honest; I think that I am a bad parent at least once a day. That once a day is often when I am tired or my patience is running thin. It can be something quite small in isolation but when added on top of everything else that being a parent of an ASD child brings that small thing can feel like the equivalent of Christmas being cancelled ( actually, some of you reading this may like that idea. Perhaps not the best example to use ).
When you are a parent of a child with ASD you spend pretty much all of your time and energy to try and make their lives easier and give them the happy childhood you think they deserve. However, doing this can be incredibly stressful both physically and emotionally.
After all; there are numerous school meetings to attend, numerous meetings with healthcare consultants, numerous coping strategies to implement, the never ending requirement for routine, the constant battle between siblings, the feeling your child is constantly judged because of their autism, in some cases constant battles with your child’s school to ensure their receive all the support they are entitled to….. the list goes on and on. Add on top of that sleepless nights and holding down a job to support your family and it is easy to see how you can crack under the pressure every now and again.
My wife and I feel that pressure every day. However, us ASD parents are a proud bunch. We tend to try and put a brave face on it. Stiff upper lip and all that. We try and be Super Mum / Dad. We don’t want to burden anyone else with how we are feeling.
Let’s flip this on its head and think of this from a different angle. If you saw one of your closest friends or family struggling with life would you tell them to stop complaining and get on with it? Of course you wouldn’t.
Now think about this rationally, would your friends say the same to you? I bet you they wouldn’t.
There are some excellent organisations, charities and trusts whose services can help. All it takes is a google search to find them. Don’t forget that your GP can also help you in your hour of need, as mental illness is still an illness.
I am lucky that I can call on my fantastic family and circle of friends for help. But to get that help I had to ask for it. I have learned the hard way that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. None what so ever. You are already an excellent parent, but everybody needs help sometimes.
So in actual fact “sorry” is the hardest word to say. As the Beatles once sung, it’s “Help”