Jason's Connection is excited to feature Tom Klinedinst, from the blog "My Walk With Tyler", as a guest blogger for Jason's Connection. This blog series is about his journey with his son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with special needs children.
Tyler and I are more than just father-son. We are close friends. Since I was only 21-years-old when he was born, I feel in many ways we matured together. We learned to communicate with each other in ways that reached far beyond the norm. I could never put into words how much I have learned from our relationship.
I have always been extremely emotionally invested in Tyler.
As with so many special needs parents, I have always been extremely emotionally invested in Tyler. When it was a bad day, the world felt as though it was crumbling around me, and nothing could ever be right again. A good day was an opportunity to take a small quick breath of air before returning to battle.
For me there is a constant assault of emotions. When I was with Tyler I was hypersensitive to every little thing around me. Was he close enough to lash out at someone? Was there anything he could trip on or bump into? Was he being too loud? Is there an exit close by I can get to if we need to get him out quickly? Protecting him and everyone around him was an all-consuming activity. When I wasn’t with Tyler I was running through the scenarios in my head about where he was and who he was with. I felt like even when I traveled I left half of myself behind. Like somehow all of this churning of my mind could somehow protect him. In reality, all I was doing was killing myself with anxiety.
Every time something goes wrong, I view it as MY FAULT.
Every time something goes wrong I view it as MY FAULT. Either I didn’t see it coming and I should have, or I did see something coming but I didn’t prevent it the right way. It’s a tremendous responsibility to take all of that on but it was something that I could not avoid within myself. It was parental instinct on triple caffeine.
I tried to ignore how sad I had become. In fact, dealing with my own emotional state only made me feel guilty and petty. But deep down I wanted more for my own life, too. I had no idea how to reconcile those two things. I also wanted more for my wife, our marriage, and our young daughter. I felt like all of us were trapped within this disability (if that makes any sense). I didn’t feel resentment toward Tyler, but I felt resentment toward the afflictions that he had to endure.
I had to give myself permission to feel sad.
The first thing I had to do was to give myself permission to feel sad. It is not selfish to have dreams of my own, and those thoughts and emotions do not make me a bad person. Next, I needed to find a safe place to go and talk about these things and process them. I selected a therapist from my son’s psychiatric group. With him I could say whatever I needed to without feeling judged. He had worked with many special needs families and he knew how to challenge me to think in a healthier way. The last thing we did was start to formulate a plan for ALL of us to live a better life. Just thinking about moving forward made me feel more purpose and hope.
Give a voice to your emotions.
If you are a caregiver and you are feeling that sense of sadness and loss of hope, you need to take that step of giving a voice to your emotions. Feeling that way is OK. Being sad is OK. Wanting to improve everyone’s quality of life is certainly OK! As hard as it will seem to be at first, talk about it in a safe environment. Just talking about it will help keep things from bottling up. Last but not least, find some small way to move toward wherever it is you would like to go. Opening one small door can lead to other doors as well.
It’s important to never suffer in silence. It’s OK to be sad, as long as you can acknowledge it and give it the voice that it needs.
My Walk With Tyler is about my journey with my son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To be fair, I am not a therapist, or an expert on special needs, nor would I intend to pretend to be. My goal is to share all of the triumphs and heartbreaks that we have been through, especially during this transition into Tyler’s residential placement. Because there is no “manual” for caregivers to follow, we must help each other find the way. My hope is that through my advice, stories, and experiences that the reader can find nuggets to add to their own journey. To read more from Tom click here!