Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is self-care enough?

There was a concept in graduate school that was harped on more than ethics, empathy, or knowing our diagnoses combined. That concept was self-care. It is pretty self-explanatory, however, I am going to explain it because it seems that a lot of people might not get the idea. Self-care is taking your needs into consideration when you do ANYTHING that involves caring for others. This could be parenting, elder care, teaching, therapy, medical practice, or even as simple as being in a customer service position. Today, self care came up in my world because I stumbled upon an article that I had not heard about. I have been out of the loop in terms of blog reading and even non-front page news because of parenting so this really shocked me to find. I'll let you go and read the article first just in case you have not heard of the story.

Kelli Stapleton

I should first of all say that anything I say on this blog is my opinion and certainly does not declare to be a fact since I do not know Kelli or her family. I do not understand her struggles or know her daily life. I am just learning of her existence so there is certainly going to be some unanswered questions for me. I have started to read her blog though which can be found here. From my understanding, Kelli has written a blog called "The Status Woe" where she chronicles every day life being the parent of a special needs child, specifically her daughter Isabelle who is diagnosed with severe autism. Her last post is dated September 3, 2013 and on September 3, 2013 she and her daughter were found in their family vehicle alive but victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was arrested for attempted murder of her daughter. She was apparently trying to kill herself and her daughter. Heartbreaking is the first word that came to my mind.

I know it's easy for a lot of people to label her a monster and to just immediately shun her from the parent camp because of  what she did and I can understand that sentiment, I really can. I decided that once I read this article, I would use a different lens to view it through and not judge the actions but look into it. As a mental health professional, I always look further when anyone tries to take their own life and of course the life of their child as well. I think there is more than meets the eye here. I immediately logged on to view her blog first. I also started to think. I started to imagine the life that Mrs. Stapleton lived. She routinely was physically assaulted by her child, overwhelmed with the responsibilities, and it sounds like..not fully supported in her endeavors to get the best care and education for her daughter. I have no knowledge of the challenges of raising a child with special needs or more specifically a child with severe autism. I do not know the first thing about what it must be like to feel like you are in an abusive relationship with the person you brought into the world but I would imagine, it's crushing.

I also started to think about this simple concept of self-care. It is so easy to say that she should have taken better care of herself in order to care for her child but let's be honest, how many of us have lost hours of sleep we desperately needed, "forgotten" to eat, and even disregarded our own illness to care for our ill child and maybe our children don't even have any special needs that we know of. In Mrs. Stapleton's case, she had endured 14 years of being physically abused by her own child and she, her husband, and her other children being in a life threatening and very stressful situation, daily. My heart does not get mad at her but breaks to think of the anguish she must have reached to have endured that for so long and finally just couldn't do it anymore. My heart has been burdened since reading this article and although I am several months behind, I am wondering what my role can be in the world to help parents who get to this point and don't know what to do. Parenting is not easy for anyone. It is constant worrying, sleeplessness, happiness, joy, pain, self-sacrifice, and anxiety. I say that to say this...that is parenting a child with no neural issues or tendencies to beat the crap out of you daily. My post is hoping that first of all I could write my feelings out on this poor mom and her poor family. Secondly, that maybe someone would gain more compassion for her through reading this. Third, that I would be able to reach out to those of you who may be parenting and finding the end of the rope insanely close. If you are parenting a child with special needs, first of all I stand in awe of what you must endure daily. If you are just parenting, I feel the same way. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal feelings are no joke. No one is judging you here, God has a handle on that stuff. It's my job (literally and figuratively) to give compassion and empathy. So stinking heart breaking.


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