It would be great if real love in real life were the way that it is portrayed in movies, on television, and in print. All shined up and perfect. Always exciting. Everybody is happy!
But real love isn’t really like that. Real love is hard work. Real love requires us to pay attention. Real love REQUIRES us to pay .
To express genuine love, you have to do the hard work. It takes time. It takes energy, and it takes effort.
When you love somebody, you are, in part, taking responsibility for their well-being. I don’t mean in some dysfunctional way that you are assuming responsibility for their happiness. That idea is not only ridiculous but also impossible and quite likely a sure path to your perpetual state of unhappiness.
I’m speaking of caring and caring profoundly and caring enough to put aside some of what I want for some of what the object of my love wants or needs.
Being a parent requires sacrifice. It is the most challenging job on earth. Whether you get it right or wrong, it’s tough. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, sick, injured, or depressed; your job description doesn’t change.
All of it requires additional mental, physical and emotional energy that has to come from somewhere.
I quit counting Josh’s appointments when we hit two thousand since the accident. We hit that milestone in his teens. That is in-patient, out-patient, and at school, from age three to eighteen.
That’s an average of one hundred thirty-three appointments yearly for fifteen years— a whole gamut of doctors and therapists, including Physical, Speech, or Occupational therapies. Radiology, blood draws, and check-ups. It even included trying to find out why gray hair showed up for him at age seven.
It’s everyday life. It’s our life. Nobody asked us if we wanted. Nobody asked you if you wanted your challenges. They show up, and we have to do our best; some days, that is incredibly difficult.
Trying to juggle work demands, making sure the bills are paid, the laundry is done, the food is cooked, and everybody makes it to their various activities on time. While keeping the home and the yard in some semblance of order, all parents struggle.
We achieve these things with varying degrees of success, sometimes with some items being put off so something more urgent can be accomplished.
When you add in the additional requirements of special needs children, it can feel like the Universe is piling on. It does for me. Truthfully, I wish there was a referee somewhere close by to throw a penalty flag against God.
Photo by Tonik on Unsplash
We haven’t even gotten to the BIG taboo yet? Mental health. This can be a bit of an extra scary area for us as parents. I had to wrestle long and hard with the issue of even considering the possibility that I needed help to handle my challenges.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
The thought that a person, young or old, needs mental health care can carry a bit of a stigma in our minds and society. The home I grew up in believed you were plain old crazy, or of profoundly weak character and constitution if you needed help getting your thoughts and emotions pointed in a healthy direction.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
See a professional. I know I waited too long to talk to somebody about my struggles. Dealing with my own challenges in addition to my son’s. It took me a long time to admit to myself and then tell someone else I was hurting and struggling.
There were moments when I felt utterly empty inside, and I wasn’t sure I would ever regain my energy.
There is no shame in speaking the truth. We are human. None of us has all the answers. We may forge ahead on sheer force of will and determination, which may work for a while. It did for me. But it isn’t sustainable.
It may work for a long while. Still, there are limits to human endurance, and neither you nor I can simply will ourselves forward forever without a cost. And sometimes a high price to ourselves and our loved ones.
The ones who need us most will be most severely impacted if we push ourselves over the edge and end up with a distorted view of life or, worse if we end up completely falling apart.
When mental health challenges arrive at the doorstep of our children, they can be particularly painful, difficult, and frightening.
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash
Josh has experienced anxiety due to his brain injury, a relatively common effect of trauma to the brain. Tending to these issues is not something else you want to add to your plate, but if you don’t, there could be more significant problems down the road.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m ranting; I’m not. And I don’t want to come across as a whiner, either. My challenges are outnumbered by blessings a thousand to one. Unfortunately, I forget that from time to time, and that’s when I start feeling sorry for myself and dive headfirst into a pity party at my invitation.
We don’t have unlimited supplies of energy. When our tank starts to run low, sometimes we can feel it, and we should take action as soon as possible to deal with our waning energy. This helps to keep us emotionally balanced, mentally sharp, and physically healthy.
Sometimes we don’t consciously notice that we are becoming fatigued mentally, physically, or emotionally. Still, those around us see it because our behaviors have changed, and we treat others differently.
We may be less patient or less nurturing. Perhaps we have become more sarcastic or mean-spirited, and those close to us aren’t having much fun when we are around. I know I have done this, and my students, staff, friends, and family have all been impacted by it. By the way, I don’t particularly enjoy admitting that.
As I stated earlier, real love requires sacrifice. Sometimes, as a parent, that may feel like that is all you do.
Real love doesn’t require that we sacrifice ourselves to the point that we don’t initiate enough self-care to be able to do what we want to do, which is to love our children, disabled or not.
Keep the Faith. Love Wins.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Photo credit: Nathan Anderson on Unsplash