No-one has ever explained to me the actual reality of having another life depend on me; nor the constant nagging feeling of parenthood – the never ending sense of ‘should I have..?’, ‘what if I just said it this way..?’, ‘maybe I could just..?’
Having a child who self-harms exacerbates those questions a hundred fold; it’s like a hamster wheel going round day and night and there is no stopping it; the thousands of minuet second guesses that are played out mentally in your head are exhausting.
How do we cope with the stress of having a child who self-harms?
Firstly and honestly; you just do. There is no strategy for it, you truly just have to get on with it. There is no manual for this; it is a ‘make it up as you go along’ parenting scenario (yes, another one of them!).
Secondly; get help. For you. From someone you don’t fear judgement from or give you a bizarre story of how it relates to some random thing they have been through – I mean real help. GP, counsellor, close family, a far- away friend: it doesn’t matter but you need to deal with the stress of this and you honestly can’t do it alone.
Thirdly; learn to breathe. Set an alarm in your day and take 5 minutes to breathe deeply, relax your shoulders and close your eyes. Reset your body and mind. If your child is coming home from school, or you are coming home from work, do this then. Give yourself permission to take 5 mins before it hits the fan and you have to deal with whatever happens next.
Fourthly; record changes. Keep track of your child’s moods, but also yours. If you have been feeling overwhelmed or very low for more than 2 weeks, see your GP. In the craziness of daily life, we forget how long we have felt like we do so have no idea how long we have been feeling so stressed; our bodies can not survive on high alert for too long as we get ill and therefore aren’t able to respond to our child’s needs in a positive way.
Lastly – engage with it all; accept your child is self-harming and find people who can share this journey with you – we run weekly parent’s sessions: email Jo Fitzsimmons for more info.