Advice for the new special needs parent

So you’ve just gotten a diagnosis. You might be scared or worried or just blank on what to do or where to go from here. I’ve been there. Three times. I get you. So let me help.


First and foremost, breathe. Your child is the same child they were before the diagnosis and getting that diagnosis is a good thing! Because now you know more and that means better understanding their struggles and their quirks that may baffle you.

Second, your child being “different” is not a bad thing. Things might be hard right now, but as they grow you will find things about them that you love ferociously, and in doing so, realize those things are part of their diagnosis. Part of them. We don’t love them in spite of the diagnosis. We love all of it.

Also, don’t buy into the whole “treasure every part because they grow up so fast,” BS. It is okay to get frustrated. It’s okay to get overwhelmed.

It’s okay to say “I love my kid. But I do not love meltdowns.”

Finally, take every part of you that cares about what other people think of your parenting, and throw it out the window. Your parenting will not be the same as neurotypical parents. Sometimes taking advice from people who are in different situations, although well intentioned, can cause your child and your family more grief and trouble than following your gut.


YOU are the parent. YOU know your kid. Listen to experts and doctors and go for therapies and all that, but not blindly. There are tons of resources and many adults who used to be that special needs kid who can give insight on what was good and bad for someone like them.

And mostly, breathe and hug your baby. Whatever their diagnosis is, there’s always something beautiful in it that just adds to the wonderful person they are already turning into. There’s a ton of us going through the same thing. You are not alone. And we got this. 🖤

Self care for the chronically sick

In the past, I’ve always related self care to “selfish” things. Just doing things that you want to do but never have time for. Taking bubble baths, doing your nails, going out for a haircut or manicure. When I made self care a priority for the new year I was still thinking along these lines. And while I enjoyed the Epsom salt baths I treated myself to those two times, I’m starting to learn that there is way more to this than a half hour of sitting in hot water.

When you suffer through chronic illness, disability, mental illness, whatever, taking care of yourself is more needed than ever, but it is hard. I’m not going to pretend that any of this is easy, but the things we live with aren’t easy either. And taking the time for you might be hard at first, but it’s so worth it in the long run. You are worth the effort. So if you’re like me and can’t seem to look past manicures and bubble baths, don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas.


  1. Ask for help. Life can get overwhelming fast and no matter what it is holding you back, it’s tough to move past a bad spot when you don’t have the energy to do it. But over the years I’ve learned to ask when I need something. It helps me regroup to see something get done, and when I can check something off my mental to do list, my OCD chills out a bit. In turn my anxiety calms down just a bit and when all of that is chill, the depression doesn’t have as much fuel.

  2. Meal prep. I know. This doesn’t sound fun at all! But we all know that diet can play a huge part in how we feel. If you aren’t feeling well, you’ll be more likely to reach for food that doesn’t take long to make, or worse, something that’s prepackaged and not very good for you in the long run. Instead, try to get ahead of the game. Personally, I’ve found a diet that not only helps my PMDD, but it also combats my arthritis and helps me stay at a good weight so my back pain stays manageable. (Read about the keto diet and it’s role in mental health here.) It’s important for me to stick to this way of eating, so whenever I am having a good day, I plan ahead. Chop veggies to prep for the week or cook a huge dinner and put a bunch of leftovers in the freezer for a rainy day. Even if all you do is make a healthy dessert to lift your spirits when you’re down. On bad days, it’s nice to reach in the freezer for a good meal or a pick me up in the form of chocolate that won’t break your scale.
  3. Taking care of business. I know first hand how hard it is to make a phone call when anxiety levels are at an all time high. Or realize that your home is a mess when you are in too much pain to do much about it. Believe me, making a dreaded phone call on the wrong day has ended in panic attacks more than a few times. It’s not pretty. But the trick, which I’m admittedly still working on, is to take care of things when you can. When I’m having a good mental health day, I try to tackle one thing that I know will be too much to handle on a bad day. Likewise with pain. When I’m having a day where I feel good, I try to pick a job that I can’t handle when I’m hurting. This way, when the bad days strike, the stress may still be there, but at least that one thing isn’t lingering in the back of your mind. At least your living room is clean, so lounging on the couch doesn’t feel so horrible.
  4. Find yourself a hobby. Ok, this one sounds like the self care that I talked about in the beginning. But having something all to yourself, that can benefit you and your own mental health, can help in all areas of your life. I freely admit that I am terrible with this. This blog is a hobby, along with Twitter, but I’m on the hunt for something away from the computer.
  5. Keep up with your therapies. Whether you take meds, do yoga, pet all the dogs or go to actual therapy, make sure you keep at it. Go out with friends if it helps, volunteer, talk with strangers on the internet, hit the gym, do anything that helps you feel good.
  6. Reach out. Talking to someone who understands your struggles is so important and can really help. There are so many great places to look for support. I recommend browsing The Mighty for articles from real people with real conditions, writing about their personal experiences. Also, check out Facebook groups and search hash tags on Twitter to find likeminded new friends.
  7. Space out. Sometimes life can be too stressful all around and I totally get that. Diving into a good book or putting on a movie can help you get out of your head for a little while and calm your mind. You could do meditation, yoga, browse social media or get lost in a YouTube rabbit trail of videos. Even just going for a drive on some back roads with no destination or time constraints. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something positive that won’t bring your stress back to the forefront of your mind.


No matter what it is you’re going through, you need the self care. You deserve it. Now go on, get off my page and go do something. Or stay and hang out, whatever works. I’m here.

For the stay at home parent who did “nothing” today

It wasn’t until I threw myself into the circus of social media that I finally came to realize something. I am not alone in how messed up I am! Which is awesome. Sorry guys but it’s good to know I’m not the only one. But one crappy thing about being a stay at home parent is that we can all easily feel like we can never do enough.

We are called stay at home parents, so that means we spend all our time at home, which in turn means we have time to clean the home, right!? That’s the logic that many people follow, and if we are honest with ourselves that we follow for ourselves as well. So when we end the day with a home that is just as messy as it was upon waking, we feel like we failed. WELL WE DIDN’T.


So let’s change things up a bit. I’ve been trying to end my days differently. Instead of focusing on what didn’t get done, I make myself a list. Not a to-do list, because who needs that kind of pressure. More like a “What I accomplished today” list. And it changes everything.

I look at the messy counter tops and note that I made a weeks worth of dog food and a months worth of baby food today.

The baskets of laundry waiting to be put away are marked down as actually washing laundry that day.

Smiling children means I spent quality time with them.

A messy bathroom and pink rimmed tub shows evidence of a fancy bathtime.

Toys scattered on the floor means the baby had a fun day.

And a sink full of dishes means I fed my family, and hopefully even myself.


I’m someone who has some extra struggles in the housekeeping department, a shitty homemaker being one I’ll admit to… But even without any extra things going on, GUYS, this stay at home parenting thing is HARD!

Whatever we clean, whatever we fix or prepare, it all gets undone almost immediately. It’s the way of things and not anything to be avoided or agonized over, yet we let ourselves feel the guilt of it anyway. And honestly, we deserve better. Screw the rest of the world and their opinions, we need to think higher of ourselves because we deserve that recognition. We deserve to feel proud of what we accomplish at home, even if some days it feels like nothing.

So to all you stay at home parents who did “nothing” today: You did not fail today. You are doing a great job; and there may not be any parenting or housekeeping awards but I’m handing them out now. But like, in my head. Virtual invisible adulting awards. It’s a thing now. Trust me. When you feel like you’ve fallen behind, focus on the thing you did good with today and imagine me in all my mysterious internet stranger glory handing you a beautiful gold ribbon.

This is the hardest job ever, and honestly in these days it’s hard to feel the slightest validation in it. But you are doing great. And honestly, I wrote this because I needed to hear it too.


Growing Up Broken

This article first published with Daddy’s Digest August 2019.

I was always a weird kid. I was the loner, the outcast, the one playing with bugs in the yard instead of with the other kids. While they did stunts and chased each other, I sat back and watched from a safe distance. I was too scared to take risks. Too afraid to get hurt, afraid of what they’d think of me, afraid of being their friend and afraid of staying on the outside and not having friends. Everything about being a kid terrified me.


I never learned to ride a bike, I never broke a bone, I was always last to try anything, and it was with such terrifying intensity that I’m amazed I didn’t just puke my way through childhood. As I got older it got worse, but it also got easier to hide. But getting older brought on more weird. Around 10, I was starting to slow down. I just felt heavier, like the weight of the world was on my shoulders and I was obviously too small to carry it. My eyes constantly threatened to close, my shoulders gained a permanent droop and my smile faded away.

I tried talking to my parents about it, and they both took me to a doctor, who ordered blood work, and when the blood work came back normal, I was deemed normal. Normal means there’s nothing wrong, right? I never saw a doctor for it again. When I said I still wasn’t okay, my mother determined that it was a spiritual issue. She started taking me to prayer meetings and forcing me to stand in front of the whole church while everyone I knew prayed for me. I was told different things from different people.

“It’s just a phase, you’ll be fine.”

“You’ve got nothing to be sad about.”

“God will heal you if you have enough faith.”

And my personal favorite: “There’s no such thing as mental illness. You’ve got demons inside you. You need to cast them out.”

While it all sounded different, it felt like they were all saying the same thing:

There’s something wrong with you.

So, after the last prayer meeting that didn’t go very well, I screamed at my mom that I was never going back.

I started to lie. It worked! I’m cured! Must have been those pesky demons because I’m okay now. Look at this smile. Totally normal kid.


The dangerous part is… They bought it. I don’t know if the adults in my life believed I was really okay or were just relieved not to hear about it anymore, but they stopped asking. I put on an act, and I was a damn good actress. But on the inside, I was broken. The adults in my life had shown me that there was no point in speaking up, so I learned to keep it in. And when I kept it in, it grew. The depression that had been a tiny tumor hinting at trouble, started to turn malignant. Vicious, aggressive, and life threatening. I felt it growing inside me and I sobbed through the nights because I was dying, and no one could see it. And I almost did.

I lost track of how often I thought about suicide. How many times I planned. But through years of acting, I had gotten too good. I fooled myself. I spent my preteen and teenage years going through the motions on autopilot, acting the way I thought was expected of me. Dressing the way my friends did, listening to the same music they did. Partied how they did. I didn’t know who I was or what I liked because if I looked behind the mask, it hurt too much. The person I pretended to be was a shield protecting me from my own brain. And that person just kept going. She fell in love, got married, had a baby. And through my adult years, that mask began to crack.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom changed everything. I was suddenly sheltered, alone and in charge of another human life and the stress was breaking me. The tumor sensed the crack in my defense and it started to grow again. It grew, and it grew, and I kept on smiling, pretending I was a young, happy mom. I got pregnant again, lost my baby and the crack widened, threatening to swallow me whole. Pregnant again and I kept it together because I had to. I had two kids now, and I had to care for them. I was on autopilot again and terrified of something I still couldn’t completely understand.


When I was 25, on a day that looked like every other day, the crack in my defense broke completely. The kids distracted with a movie, I ran to the other room and had the worst panic attack of my life. I suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. I looked at my precious babies in the next room and lost it because I knew in my heart that they were going to lose their mother. I was going to die. I tried to push it away, and I did many times whenever they needed something, but for months I slipped farther and farther into the worst state of depression I had ever been in, with no hope of ever finding my way out. I lost track of how many times I planned to die. I came very close more than once. And I honestly feel very lucky to still be here.

In the end, I couldn’t leave them. I made the decision to seek help, and I was finally diagnosed with major depressive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and attention deficit disorder.

Disorder, disorder, disorder, broken, broken, BROKEN.

But this time it was different. This time I was more mature and the more I looked back on my past, the more I knew I needed to change. I was ready to be fixed. At some point, I decided that I needed more than just doctors’ visits and meds. I needed a failsafe. Something to remind me to hang on even if nothing else gets through. I realized that almost my whole life I was fighting something, that I still am. I have these battles that will never truly end and if I am going to keep fighting I needed to become something else. I needed to be a warrior. So, I did the best thing I could think of, and I armed myself. A sword, right on my forearm where I am sure to see it every single day. When I’m doing well, it makes me feel strong. And when I’m not, when I get low, it reminds me that when I was at my worst, I chose to keep going. I chose to stand up and fight and never give up.


My mask is gone now. It leaves me open to more attacks; gives my brain more chances to fight against me. But now, in its place, it’s just me. Finally trying new things, finding who I am and who I want to be. I’m not hiding anymore. And that’s the strongest thing I could ever do.

So now, while I am finally trying to learn how to be okay, I want others to know stories like mine. I want parents to read and pay attention. Listen to your kids. If they say something is wrong, do not dismiss them and don’t you dare ignore them. Find real help and know that mental illness is not a common cold or flu type of sick. It’s a chronic, there for life type of thing and you need to be there for all of it. It might end up being a phase brought on by hormones and teenage emotion. It might be grief over something in their life changing or the loss of a loved one. It might very well be one of those temporary types of things. But just in case it’s not, be there. I had just enough at just the right time in my life to keep me here and it makes me feel damn lucky. But there are countless other kids with similar stories that can’t write about this. Countless others who lost their fight. So, this is for them. For our kids, and for other parents going through this themselves. We are warriors, and we will never stop fighting.