The advice I was given is “There are parents of sick children, and then there’s everyone else…” This may sound melodramatic, but let me explain why this statement is so important to me.
I have struggled, and still do, when others don’t understand what my family has gone through. Frequent comments like “your kids are fine now” puts me in whirlwind of emotions. I wish that people could understand the feeling I get when my kids complain of a stomach pain or even get a cold. To some these may seem like ordinary things your child has to go through, but to me these ‘ordinary’ aliments are incredibly distressing. I can’t help but imagine the worst and my mind goes right back to our darkest moments at the hospital.
Last year I decided to return to work after an extended leave. It was jarring to be thrown back into teaching at a new school while ensuring my boys were okay. There were still a number of emergency hospital visits, sleepless nights and anxiety around what the future would hold. I found myself losing friends as they couldn’t understand why I was so scared and stressed around my boys’ health. Things were becoming very stressful and I found myself in a constant state of panic.
One day, I was confiding with a new co-worker when he shared his story about his family’s struggles. His son has Autism and had spent some time in the hospital. After explaining my current situation, my co-worker looked at me and said, “Jessica, there are two types of parents in this world. Parents of sick children and everyone else.” This quote shook me. It perfectly depicted the loneliness I was feeling. I still wondered why my friends and family couldn't get me and why I felt like that crazy mom all the time. He went on to explain that my experience was so unique. No one else can have the same understanding unless they went through my exact circumstance. It doesn’t mean it’s us vs them, but it's about accepting that some people won’t get you and this doesn’t mean the world is against you.
Since this conversation I've come to learn that not everyone will understand my circumstance and I might not understand theirs. The only thing we can all do is approach these conversations with empathy and take control of our responses. Surrounding myself with positive people who try their best to "get it" also has made a world of a difference in my mental health. Rather than getting frustrated when people ask me why I'm so stressed when my boys don't eat or when they get sick. I try to explain that I'm still healing from our experience at the hospital. And for some people its not even worth the explanation...and that's okay - move on and stick with your people. For me, it's been helpful to remember that healing isn't linear and experiences aren't black and white. Yes, my boys are better but this doesn't erase what we've been through. You can hold onto your past while taking control of your future.
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