“When the well is dry, we know the worth of the water.” – Benjamin Franklin
I walked into the room not knowing what to expect. I was randomly assigned a psychologist by my health insurance provider. I had only been to therapy a handful of times before this and it wasn’t very productive. I had to do something though. I was desperate. I had read and tried the techniques in every parenting book known to mankind. Nothing seemed to make a difference. My family desperately needed help.
Something happened to my healthy beautiful baby boy when he was about 18 months old. He lost speech and eye contact. He also became very irritable, impulsive and aggressive. The aggressive spells were scary, and it really seemed impossible to believe that a little boy could try to strangle his mother or chase her around the house with a butcher knife, but this was now part of my everyday reality. To make the situation even less bearable, he didn’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time which meant we were waking up 3-4 times a night. It was like having a newborn for 3 years! I was exhausted, exasperated, broken-hearted, and scarred.
I liked the psychologist at first glance. She was kind, confident, empathetic, a good listener, and spoke intelligently. I noticed tears dropping from her eyes a few times as I told her my story. Mid-session, she leaned in and asked what I was doing to take care of myself. I looked at her with disbelief. Did I really make my husband take off work to watch my son and drive 45 minutes to talk to her for this? I needed help with my son’s behavior, not myself. To this day I am incredibly thankful that I was too exhausted to walk out of the room.
She must have noticed the way I was looking at her or saw the tears gushing from my eyes. She said, “Please just listen to this example. If you were on a plane and the oxygen masks came down, you would need to put yours on first. Otherwise, you might pass out or not be strong enough to help your children. You need to take care good care of your mind, body, and soul so you can pass it on to them.”
It took me years to take her advice and by the time I did, I couldn’t remember her name. If I could, I would write her a thank you note filled with gratitude and respect for the best advice anyone has ever given me. It not only changed my life but more importantly to me, changed my children’s lives.
I hope and pray that my circumstances were more severe than yours are or ever will be. Either way, the message is the same there is nothing selfish about self-care, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the best gifts you can give your family.