Let’s get a quick count . . . How many moms of kids with autism have health issues themselves? I’m including ALL moms — adoptive moms, foster moms, stepmoms, bonus moms, grandma moms, aunt moms, dads who are also moms.
My hand is up. Is yours?
I recently asked a bunch of Thinking Moms from our virtual Month of Healing Book Group the same question — it was a completely non-scientific, anecdotal-driven, unblinded show of hands. I expected to get a couple of responses, but was floored by the number of moms who spoke up. Two said they had no health issues, but their entire families or husbands’ families were riddled with autoimmune problems, from Crohn’s to lupus. The rest of the respondents — including moms I would have sworn were super healthy — deal with a variety of health problems: severe allergies and asthma, celiac, IBS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus, psoriasis, and more than one mom had undiagnosed “digestive issues” that landed them in the hospital at some point. These moms see the connection between their health and that of their kids.
In real life, I know ASD moms with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Lyme. These moms don’t always make the connection.
Do you have health issues, and, if you do, have you looked outside of conventional, allopathic medicine for help? I went gluten free for six months when my oldest son was a baby on the recommendation of my mom’s naturopath (I never fully bounced back from my pregnancy). In hindsight, I should have stayed vigilant and off gluten. It took me several years to get it completely out of my diet and has been one of the single best things I’ve done for my health. Mainstream medicine really didn’t have much to offer me, other than frequent screening for autoimmune disease and repeated suggestions that I lose weight. I now depend on alternative health care for actual care of my health.
The longer I work on this whole heal-my-family effort, the more overlap I see between what we’ve done for my kids’ issues, my own chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia, and what’s going on in the rest of the world. I frequently see posts in my Facebook feed from nutrition and spiritual groups and do a double-take because they’ve linked to an article about GMOs, mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, overuse of ADHD medications, gut health, or gluten intolerance. Even my celebrity gossip feed touches on chronic health issues. (Did you know Ozzy Osbourne’s son Jack is following a Paleo diet to manage his multiple sclerosis? True story — and a stunning combo of heavy metal music, neurological impairment, Paleo nutrition, useless trivia, and MTV. Honestly, it’s gossip completely targeted at me).
What’s up with that? Is it just stress? Are we all sicker? Is it environmental or genetic?
We know that moms of kids on the spectrum have stress comparable to combat veterans, and we know that stress negatively affects your health. I think the time has come to think about ourselves and how important we are to our kids. We can’t be agents of change and healing if we’re too tired or too sick.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to hear Arianna Huffington speak at the BlogHer ’14 conference. While her message wasn’t specifically directed at special-needs moms, it resonated with me. She experienced her own rather dramatic crash-and-burn in 2007, passing out at her desk, hitting the corner as she went down, and waking up in a pool of her own blood with her eye sliced open and her cheekbone busted. Her advice for women everywhere is to cultivate well-being, wonder, wisdom, and giving. I think for special-needs moms, the foundation of well-being is critical. Ms. Huffington found sleep, meditation or prayer, taking a break from digital input, and gentle exercise to be the foundation to thriving.
Well, of course, you might be thinking, she’s a super-successful millionaire. She doesn’t have a kid with issues. She can hire whatever help she needs. True, but she can’t hire someone to sleep for her or meditate for her.
If you haven’t already, I would like to propose that you try three things:
- Put yourself on your own priority list.
- Try to get an extra 10-15 more minutes of sleep each night.
- Try some of the same things for yourself that you do for your kids.
Commit to clean food, clean water, and fewer toxins for yourself. Try a GFCF diet for a month, get an energy healing session, add some magnesium or melatonin for sleep, dab a little lavender oil on your wrists for stress, take an Epsom salt bath, or maybe pass on that glass of wine and take a little passionflower and liver-supporting milk thistle instead. And if you tell me you absolutely can’t live without your (fill in the blank), that’s a good indication you should try to do without it, or least be aware that it’s become indispensable. My fill-in-the-blank is coffee with organic cream, by the way.
Since our kids rely on us for just about everything, it’s in our own best interest to stay or get as healthy as possible. What can you do today to help improve your own health? I know it feels like One. More. Thing. to do when you’re overwhelmed with responsibility already. For myself, I’m vowing to exercise as much as my chronic fatigue will allow, to schedule lights out for 10:30pm, and to take my phosphatidylcholine daily.
Let’s save ourselves. Who’s in?
Here are a few links to help you get started on your own path to health.
Women and sleep: sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/women-and-sleep
Insomnia tips: www.webmd.com/women/guide/insomnia-tips
90 minutes of calming music: www.youtube.com/
How To Do a Digital Detox: www.forbes.com/sites/francesbooth/2014/06/13/how-to-do-a-digital-detox/
Zorro – is a California mom with a point to make about autism (and ADHD and sensory integration dysfunction): It has biological underpinnings and it’s treatable! Kids can improve and some can recover when their medical issues and nutritional deficiencies are corrected. Mom to three boys with issues including anxiety, autism (her son has recovered!), ADHD, epilepsy, dyslexia, and mild attachment disorder, Zorro spends her days looking for solutions, geeking out over neurobiology, juggling schedules, trying to feed picky kids with a billion food allergies, and keeping up with celebrity gossip. She blogs at Recovery Road www.RecoveryRd.wordpress.com.