Dear mom who is afraid to leave her house,
If it’s because of your special needs child- I can understand.
If it’s because of a fear of judgement- I can understand.
If it’s because of a feeling of helplessness – I can understand.
If it’s because of your own anxiety – I can understand.
If it’s because of your own depression- I can understand.
You see, I may not have been in your exact situation, but I can relate. Because I have been there.
Because, at one point, I was the mom who was so wrapped up in nerves. I hated the thought of leaving the house. I didn’t want to deal with people at all.
To be fair, there are some days that I still don’t want to deal with people but it has nothing to do with my anxiety or depression.
Why was I afraid to leave my house?
I had a very small social circle. I was already a teenage mom (my oldest was born when I was 16 and Sweet B was born when I was 19). So, you could say, I never had that typical wild youth. In fact, my days of partying hard were more like dancing to the Wiggles.
Still, I wouldn’t have traded any of that for the world.
And let me tell you, those Wiggles dances are workouts in and of themselves.
But having a limited social circle, also meant having a limited support network.
I was already ignoring my depression and then Sweet B’s diagnosis just sent everything for a whirlwind.
But I didn’t care.
She was still my daughter, regardless of whatever diagnosis she had received.
Granted, it still took me awhile to deal with everything and I can’t even say that I had great coping skills.
Things may have changed and eventually, we started going places again. It started out small with trips to the local park. Most of the time, we were the only family there.
And I was more than okay with that.
And then we would go out to eat…. and things changed.
Was everyone really staring at us or was it all in my head?
I could feel the curious stares directed at my daughter. I could even sometimes see people talking about her. She was the center of attention whether she wanted it or not. And she was blissfully unaware that people were watching how she was flapping her hands. Or how she rocked back and forth while we waited in line.
She couldn’t see the questioning looks.
But I did.
I met every inquiring look with a look of my own. Sometimes inviting, sometimes annoyed (depending on how long they had been staring), and sometimes challenging. Almost daring them to say something.
She couldn’t hear the loud whispers.
But I did.
I heard everything that they were saying. I saw them turn their attention from my daughter to me and back again to her. On occasion, I even dealt with their sympathy- telling me with all of the best intent in the world how sorry they were.
And I started to hate it. I started to dread the very thought of going anywhere with her.
Even if it was simple as a walk to the local park.
How we eventually started to self-isolate ourselves
I was starting to become afraid of leaving my house.
Not for fear of judgement.
But because I couldn’t shield her from everything. I couldn’t defend her from everyone. I couldn’t shield her from prying eyes. I couldn’t deflect every question.
I couldn’t protect her. And it became easier to choose self-isolation instead of going outside.
The one thing in the world that I was supposed to do as a mom, and I couldn’t do it.
I was unable to protect her.
But at home, I could keep her safe.
At home, I could change the environment to meet her needs.
At home, she wasn’t subjected to criticizing looks.
At home, there were no whispers of “that poor retarded child” or “can you imagine how that mom must feel”.
At home, she could be as loud as she wanted to be.
At home, she could rock back and forth without bumping into some random person.
At home, I could protect her.
We were safe at home. There was nothing to fear at home.
Until she got out of the safe place and wandered away.
Then nothing was safe. And the world just got that much more challenging to deal with.
Home was supposed to be my sanctuary. Home was supposed to be the safe place. Home was supposed to be where I didn’t have to worry.
Home was not supposed to be yet another place that I was afraid to be.
It wasn’t until later that I finally realized- home was wherever it was meant to be. And I couldn’t be afraid to be there. I made home wherever it was supposed to be. I made home safe again.
And I got over my fear of leaving home with her.
People still stared. People still talked. People will stare. And people will talk.
But I’ve learned to deal with it better. I’ve learned to handle it better. I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity for education. I’ve learned that no matter what I try to do- I cannot always protect her.
But I can be brave for her.
I can stop being afraid to leave my house.
And so can you.
Want more help and advice? Grab my free autism parenting toolkit!
This post is a part of a 12 month long series about parenting a child with special needs. I am honored to participate with these amazing bloggers and hope that their posts will resonate with you as well.
10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child | Every Star is Different
7 Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Special Needs Child | The Chaos and The Clutter
Dear Mom at the Park | This Outnumbered Mama
How to Teach Kids the Social Skill of Think it or Say it | And Next Comes L
Dear Mom Who Is Afraid to Leave Her House | Kori at Home
Navigating the Store with a Child with Sensory or Anxiety Issues | The Chaos and The Clutter
How to Help a Mom When Her Child Suffers a Public Meltdown I Finding the Golden Gleam