Help is not a Four-letter Word

Of the three paediatricians Mr Boo sees I have a clear favourite. One is very professional and smart but a bit inscrutable; one thinks bedside manner is something you buy from an IKEA catalogue (enough said, really); but the third (a community paediatrician who Mr Boo will see for many years to come) is fabulous.

No one likes to be told there child is not where they should be developmentally even if this is glaringly obvious. But she manages to impart this news in a positive and reassuring way. For her, Mr Boo is clearly not just a case or a list of clinical puzzles and diagnoses; he is also, and above all else, a child with his own unique personality. And instead of dwelling on what he can’t do she emphasises not only what he can, but how remarkable it is, given his medical history, that he has accomplished any of these things. She sees his achievements and the positive possibilities that lie ahead. And when she said ‘We’re just going to throw everything we can at him to make sure he gets all the help he needs to maximise his potential’ I could have kissed her.
It goes without saying that I would do anything to help Mr Boo and his sister, whose needs as the sibling of a child with disabilities are slowly emerging. There’s no depth to my inner resources to advocate for my kids, I’ve found. So why is it I treat help like such a dirty word when the recipient is me?

I’ve always been this way. On the list of Boo priorities I have almost always ranked mine somewhere between the negligible and the non-existent. I prioritise everyone else’s needs and wants, not just those of my family and friends, but those of work colleagues, neighbours and even relative strangers. I don’t even use L’Oreal. You see in my mind I really am not worth it.

I say this not out of self-pity or to make you feel sorry for me. I say it in the same spirit of mild self-loathing that makes asking, let alone accepting, help difficult for me. I like to think I am compassionate to others. I was always the designated driver to nightclubs as a teenager, the one who wouldn’t drink, even though I am fond of a tipple, because I knew one of my pals would end up in the toilet needing someone to pull her hair back to avoid the inevitable vomit and to see her safely home. But if someone tried to do the same for me, I would be horrified. This is the woman who made her c-section scar bleed because of doing too much housework the day she came out of hospital after having Sissyboo knowing that her in-laws were coming the next day to help her look after her newborn. I never slept when the baby slept (fool!) and continued to do work on maternity leave when people asked me to do so even though I was unpaid and so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Although I would help anyone out in any way I could, I find the idea of someone helping me pretty scary, a sign that I am failing, yet another indication that I am not worth helping. I would never think this of someone else who needed or sought assistance. Just me.

Ok, you got it: I’m nuts. But I am high functioning in my nuttiness, at least. Correction: I was high functioning.

Having Mr Boo early put us all under a great strain. But it wasn’t until Christmas that I really realised just how fragile my grip on things was. When Mr Boo developed infantile spasms, a new devastating condition on top of the cerebral palsy we’d been told to expect, I was floored. Add on (because of the aggressive treatment) no sleep besides odd naps of a few minutes over a period of several months (on top of months of sleep deprivation prior to that), heavy weight loss because of his increased appetite and repeat hospitalisations, I really couldn’t cope.

I was living in a hall of mirrors: everything looked distorted to me. I couldn’t see straight and the ground felt spongy under my feet. My face hurt when I smiled. I was worried to laugh in case something bad would happen. Yes, everyone was fed and watered, but I was a wreck. I needed help. But I didn’t want it. I should have been able to manage better, I thought.

And then one morning things changed. I was walking around like a tetchy zombie, Sissyboo was crying and I couldn’t get her to put her school shoes on. I started shouting and Mr Boo started screaming because of the noise. I felt like the worst Mum in the world. I was failing my kids now just as I had failed them  by bringing Mr Boo into the world early with all the life-long complications he and we faced as a consequence of that day.

And then I realised I wasn’t a bad Mum. I was a struggling parent. And struggling wasn’t all that surprising giving what had happened to us in the past few months.

But here was the big revelation. I could be a better Mum. How could I help my kids if I wouldn’t help myself? I needed to be strong, but I needed support. It wasn’t wrong to accept assistance; it was the responsible thing to do.

So I found help. Well it wasn’t that easy, of course. It was absurdly difficult emotionally for me to see a GP, to be told I had severe reactive depression and anxiety and possible PTSD, that antidepressants and CBT were a good idea. The GP also thought there might be organisations that might help and asked when I was next seeing our health visitor. I told her we didn’t have one. I wasn’t sure I wanted one. I thought there must be so many more families deserving of help than we were. We were OK. But we weren’t.

When the health visitor came out to us as an urgent case 6 weeks later she provided all sorts of information about support services and groups. I resisted, knowing how The Grumposaur (still in denial there was anything wrong with Boo) would feel about it. But I kept glancing at the leaflets anyway and each time they seemed less threatening and more promising.

In the meantime the health visitor referred us to the fabulous Homestart who sent an amazing volunteer to us for a few hours a week to give me some respite and time to get on top of the many practicalities of daily living that were being routinely neglected. Now she comes to give me a little and much-needed one-to-one time with Sissyboo each week. I cannot tell you what it means to us. Support. Sanity. Solidarity.

And then I started to help myself. I started chatting to the amazingly generous and knowledgeable people on the Bliss message board and in the special needs section of the Netmums Coffeehouse. I asked for advice and shared experiences when I felt I had something useful to contribute.

And then I entered the worlds of blogging and Twitter, through which I have connected with people who put a smile on my face every single day and who offer a complete stranger, even one hiding behind a ridiculous pseudonym, friendship, encouragement and kindness.

I am not cured and I will never be a saint. I love my kids so much and am endlessly annoyed by my failings to live up to the ideals I hold out for myself. But I am more like the person I want to be now than I have ever been and that is because of the help I have received, because I have admitted that I needed it.

I sometimes don’t get to each lunch. I often miss out on a shower and have managed only one haircut in the last 13 months, but at least I know now that I need to look after myself a bit better. Because if I don’t look after myself, I really can’t look after the Boos as well as I want to. They’re worth it. And I think I might be, too.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Help is not a Four-letter Word

  1. Mummypinkwellies

    You are ABSOLUTELY worth it!

    “How Important Are You? More than you think. A rooster minus a hen equals no baby chicks. Kellogg minus a farmer equals no corn flakes. If the nail factory closes what good is the hammer factory? Paderewski’s genius wouldn’t have amounted to much if the piano tuner hadn’t shown up. A cracker maker will do better if there’s a cheesemaker. The most skillful surgeon needs the ambulance driver who delivers the patient. Just as Rodgers needed Hammerstein you need someone and someone needs you.” — From Wall Street Journal

    Reply
  2. gemgemmum

    You are definitely worth it. Mummy pinkwellies quote says it all!

    What a fab and honest post x

    Reply
  3. pinkoddy

    You are definitely worth it. Just got to challenge those core beliefs.
    I know it’s hard but by even making time for lunch for yourself will then give you more energy to give back to your children (if that’s what you want to do with it).
    I am glad you are starting to realise just how important you are.

    Reply
  4. Natalie Ray

    It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job and you certainly deserve to accept some help for you. Oh and the shower thing… that’s what I end up missing out on when things get busy too (shhhh!)xx

    Reply
  5. Laura Huggins

    You are doing an amazing job and dont let anyone or yourself tell you anything different.

    And you are totally worth it. 😀

    Well done for finding the courage to write this post. These sort of posts are not easy to write.

    If you ever need to talk,cry, shout or moan, then us Mummy bloggers will always be around for you.

    Thank you for linking up the The Weekend Blog Hop

    Hope to see you again on Saturday

    Laura x x x

    Reply
  6. lookingforbluesky

    So glad that you’re looking after yourself – it took me 16 years to go to the GP and tell him that I wasn’t coping, well done for realising that you’re important too, both for your kids and for yourself xx

    Reply
  7. Wry Mummy

    Fantastic post, so glad that you reached out for help when you so needed and deserved it. I totally sympathise with the reluctance to show you are struggling, but I think people respond so well if you admit it and you’re actually doing them a favour by letting them help you. All the best to you, the Boos and your next haircut 🙂 x

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s