Sunday, April 17, 2016

Managing Depression and Parenting the High Needs Toddler

The last week or so has been a lesson in patience. It is not easy being pregnant and managing a toddler. It's especially not easy when your toddler is a high needs toddler, and you feel like you can't breathe.

When I realized Kaiden was high needs, he was younger, maybe around five or six months. He had a very hard time doing anything if we weren't directly watching him. He'd complain until we'd pay our complete and undivided attention to him.

I often would vent to one of my mommy groups/due date groups, who all had children born in the same month as Kaiden. I'd tell them how depressed I'd get that I couldn't catch a break, and I felt like every day I was suffocating under the weight of having to give all of my time and energy over to my son, who, in turn, would want more, more, more.

I know they didn't mean it, but often times, my mommy group would make me feel guilty. They'd tell me, "Well, if he is acting out for more attention, then you should give him more attention," implying that I wasn't giving him enough attention when it was the exact opposite -- I was giving him ALL the attention I possibly had, so much so that I stopped paying attention to myself.

I suffer from major depression disorder. It's been a constant struggle for me to stay on top of it. Since becoming a mom, my worst days are the days when I am consumed by Kaiden. These are the days when I hide in the bathroom, close the door and cry because I NEED a moment alone -- a moment when he is not whining at me, or acting out to get my attention. Sometimes, it takes all I have in me to make it to bedtime, and after getting him down into bed, I can do nothing more but to lay in my own bed and sob.

One of the mommy groups I recently joined is for mommies of high needs babies and toddlers. In the group description, it says that we all must be mindful that many of us are exhausted and depressed due to the nature of our children, and to be gentle with each other. I look back at that description often and try to remind myself of that for ME. "Be gentle with yourself." It's easier said than done, though.

This week has been a trying week. Kaiden is 2.5 years old, and the terrible twos are so much more amplified when you have a high needs toddler. I read an article that highlighted that you should not compare your high needs child to other children. This only leads to frustration and depression, and it's not fair to your child, since every child is different. But let me tell you how hard it is, when your child can't manage to play on his own for more than a minute at a time, and his peers will sit and play with their legos or playdoh or crayons for 15-30 minutes and be CONTENT. Contentedness does not exist in this house.

Kaiden is like a bumble bee. He flits from one flower to the next, never staying at one long enough to appreciate it. I buy Kaiden new toys in hopes that one of them will capture his attention long enough to let me look away, but they never do. The only thing that does help is the television, and even that is losing appeal for him.

So, how do I manage this? Well, writing helps out a lot. Just getting my thoughts and my struggle out there gives me some hope that someone else will see this and commiserate and realize that they are not alone.

The weather is nice again, so I have been trying to get us out of the house. This is hard because I am often tired and achey and walking with the stroller is exhausting. I can't let him walk out of the stroller because he is flighty and tends to dart off, and it is stressful running after him. But, a walk wears him down, it give us some peace of mind, and I feel better after exercising. I have also been walking hand-in-hand with him around our neighborhood, which is nice for us too.

I try to get us out of the house to go to stores or the mall to walk too. Anything to give him a change of scenery is helpful, as long as he isn't too tired and cranky. The mall is nice because they have the closed in play areas which are more optimal for us than playgrounds, since Kaiden doesn't pay attention when he is playing and would be the one to fall eight feet off the playground equipment. We don't even take him to playgrounds often because we literally have to chase him everywhere to make sure he isn't going to kill himself.

I also need to be better at asking for help. Kaiden already goes to daycare three times a week, which is very helpful, but I still don't really get time to myself, since I work on those days. So, maybe learning to find something to do for myself that is rewarding and relaxing would be nice. I should get back to running, but I have to modify that now that I am pregnant. Maybe I can walk on my own instead...or go get a massage. :)

Anyway, a high needs toddler is a very real thing. If you want more information about "high needs" Dr. Sears (whom I don't always agree with) has a great article you can read here.