Caregiving, Disability, Mental Health

October 5, 2020

Mommy Guilt & Respite

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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Today I was given some surprise respite time. I spent part of the afternoon trying to think up some grandiose plan. In pre Covid times, this is the time I’d go wander the mall, get a Starbucks, get a walk in pedicure, maybe find a friend to come with me. I suppose it’s stuff I could have done earlier this summer. But with the recent urging to stay home and away from unnecessary errands I wasn’t really going anywhere. 

In the end, my physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion won out and I had a glorious nap on the couch. 

When I woke up, I had a message from Stacey reminding me to write a blog. I thought – what the heck am I going to write about? Then I realized maybe the blog was what I was looking for all along. 

A chance to be me, just Marilyn. A place to share my voice, to physically, mentally, and emotionally recharge. A place to be thankful during this season of Thanksgiving. 

Why Respite? 

“Respite” traces from the Latin term respectus, which comes from a verb meaning, both literally and figuratively, “to turn around to look at” or “to regard.” By the 14th century, we had granted “respite” the sense we use most often today-“a welcome break.”

Respite and I have had a difficult relationship.

I have to back track a little bit. Like Stacey, I have children with autism. Their individual journeys are something for another post, but for now, I’ll just mention that like every caregiver, we need a break sometimes. I need a break sometimes. 

This is especially true with my youngest. He is 9, and a smart, curious, active, adorable, lovable little monkey. His smile brightens a room. He is also unable to speak, but he uses a variety of ways to successfully communicate. This sometimes comes in the form of aggression – both to himself and others. I was told a long time ago that behavior is communication- and it truly is. When he has his rough moments (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) he is communicating frustration and anger at something he can’t express. Day after day, this is incredibly taxing on our family.

I need a break sometimes. My husband needs a break sometimes. His older brother needs a break sometimes. 

For a long time that was accompanied by guilt and shame.

I shouldn’t need a break, I’m his mother. I should be able to handle him all day every day.

If I send him away does that mean I’m a failure as a mom? Why can’t I handle this? 

These are just a few of the circling thoughts that would fill my mind whenever we had respite care. 

Let me be clear – he is in the loving arms of his grandparents for much of his respite. We are lucky, extremely fortunate, to have my parents living nearby. Grandparents who are healthy and physically and mentally capable of taking care of their grandchildren. I am thankful daily for their involvement in their grandsons’ lives. My son loves being at Grandma’s house. 

Now, back to my brain. 

I used to half dread respite because of the thoughts that went through my mind. Anxiety is a beast, and coupled with depression it is hard to separate swirling thoughts, to determine the thought distortion vs reality. It took the gentle coaching of a social worker shortly after my son’s diagnosis, as well as a lot of self reflection, to get to the point where I was able to let go of those thoughts and actually have respite. 

As the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, respite comes from the Latin meaning to “to turn around to look at”. And that’s truly where I am today. I am taking time to turn around, to look at my day, my week, the past months, and reflect and look at life. 

Many of those respite days are spent like today was – napping to replenish my energy. And I’ve also come to peace with myself about that nap. 

Marilyn R.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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