I think we all like to “vent”, but I’m becoming more convinced doing so only hurts us over the long-term. We find like-minded people via Facebook groups, support groups, etc; and share how hard our life is. Those around us commiserate, reinforcing our beliefs and adding their own tales of woe. How is this helping anyone? Speaking for myself, all this had done in the past is push me deeper into a hole of self-pity and anger.
I don’t want to take anything away from the struggles parents of children with disabilities face – single or otherwise; I’ve been a single dad now for (7) years, in the first years after my wife died I was in a very dark place and I’m grateful to those who knew me then and are still talking to me. And for those who aren’t, I can’t blame them – looking back I don’t think I would’ve stayed around me.
But I wasn’t helping myself. By focusing on how bad things were I was much more attune to anything and everything else that went wrong; it didn’t feel like there was anything positive in my life. Over the years I’ve learned I will find what I look for – if I focus on how bad things are then more often than not when something happens it will reinforce this belief. Flat tire – there’s more money out of my account and lost work (cue “why is life so hard?).
Life just is – stuff happens to everyone, not just those of us who have children with disabilities. What I attempt to do now is find the silver lining, and yes, I believe there is one in every situation. Even what happened with my wife, I’m thankful she was in a coma – because I believe it would’ve been much worse had she been conscious and aware of what was happening. I shudder to imagine the pain she would’ve been experiencing.
Parents, maybe especially moms because they are more commonly the primary caregivers, experience sadness and a feeling of hopelessness (at least I have). But having these feelings reinforced and almost encouraged (or so it seems to me) just cannot be healthy. I don’t understand how this is helping anyone.
Instead, I would like to challenge all of us to focus on the positives, and I don’t mean to imply the positive will be rainbows and unicorns. The positive could still suck, but it has always served as a beacon towards something better for me. Diagnoses give a name to a problem, and it now becomes something to “fight”. That flat tire – imagine if you’d had a blowout on the highway.
Try to be more thankful for what you DO have in your life, rather than regret what you’re missing. At first it’s going to be difficult, especially if you’ve surrounded yourself with people who also focus on the negative and like to “vent”. You may find yourself getting shutdown when you share your new perspective – if this happens look for new people/groups to associate with.
Test it out for at least a month, it’s going to take some time to change the habit. For me, it’s taken years – and I still slip. I’ve learned I need to be around people who take ownership of their lives, don’t make excuses. These are, in my experience, the same people who will accept that not everything in life is going to be awesome – there are going to be lows; but we don’t have to wallow in them. They are there for me when I feel sorry for myself, reminding me of all the wonderful things I have; and I do my best to do the same for them.