As parents, we have choices to make daily. We have to determine what is best for each child at a given moment of the day. Most of the time, it’s pretty clear-cut: eat, sleep, bathe, play, school, etc. When it comes to a child with a chronic illness, those choices become a little more difficult.
In my last post, I wrote about how this ordeal has taught me more perseverance than I ever knew possible. I have learned so much more than just how to push and fight for my child. I have also learned how to surrender those priorities that simply do not matter at this point in our lives.
I am a former teacher and homeschool mom. Academics are definitely the top priority in this house. I never imagined I would have to slide academics to the side to focus on things like physical and mental health. Although I have never pushed my children to be straight “A” students, I have always encouraged them to do their best. At this point, “best” is not even a goal. Knowing what my child is capable of and what she is able to do at this point are two different things. I have to choose what is doable. This means taking whatever grade given based on 1/3 of the schoolwork. This means taking a zero for an entire course because my child’s mental health is more important than the stress of attempting to complete an assignment. Canceling school for the day is common when my child can barely get out of bed to make it downstairs when every move evokes tears.
School simply isn’t a priority right now. Believe me, that has been difficult for me to accept. I have stressed, cried, and agonized over her inability to perform academically. I have had to come to terms with the fact that she is doing what she can. There is no such thing as pushing through the pain. Those words are like venom to her. She cringes, slips into an anxiety attack, and shuts down completely.
The other day, while out running errands, my daughter showered, cleaned her room, and prepared herself to “hopefully” have friends over. She asked my permission after these tasks were completed. I was shocked. For her, the pain would have been so excruciating after showering, that the other two would have been impossible. However, she was physically and emotionally in a place where she wanted to be with friends. For her, this is a bigger achievement than making an “A” on a science quiz. Her desire to accomplish all of those simple self-care tasks within an hour was nothing short of a miracle. For three hours, she was able to focus on friends and not her increased pain. For that time, her anxiety lay at a manageable level so she could enjoy laughing and being silly.
As with others who suffer from chronic pain, when you use up so much energy doing basic tasks, your body retaliates. The next day was punishment for her. Her pain level inflated, school was canceled, and rest was necessary. While earlier in her illness I would have pushed her to do school, I have now come to a place where I must move school to the side while she recovered from her emotional and physical achievement. Her mental and physical health has to be the priority. Reconfiguring priorities is always necessary in order for healing to take place. Although valleys are a part of life, I am indebted to a God that orchestrates circumstances for our good.
UP NEXT ~ Lessons in the Valley: Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness