I will not lie and say that every day is easy because it’s not. Here’s how to manage the depression that follows an autism diagnosis. Really, it’s all part of dealing with the initial diagnosis. Though your experience may not be the same as mine, if you are feeling these things? Know that you are not alone.
Managing Your Depression as a Parent of an Autistic Child
When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, I went through so many things. I’ve talked in the past about the grief after the diagnosis. I have also talked about the mom guilt following the diagnosis. If you’re looking to just understand the diagnosis process? I have you covered there too.
What I wasn’t expecting was, after the grief and the guilt, for my mental health issues to rear their ugly heads.
You see, I have clinical depression (or major depression or unipolar depression) and most of the time, I am able to keep this in check. Sometimes though, my depression does get the best of me. In fact, it’s when my anxiety starts to spiral out of control that my depression kicks in.
And boy, does it kick in.
Most days I am okay.
Most days I can hold it together.
Most days I can function like a “normal” human being.. because, you know, kids.
But then there are the days that I can’t.
There are the days where it’s just not enough.
There are the days where it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to get any better.
Again, because you know, kids.
I’d love to tell you that I have more good days than bad days, most cases that is true.
But there are also days where there are some good hours and some not so good hours.
So how do you manage depression as a parent of a special needs child?
Just as you would for any child. You do it because you have to.
I know, I know — it doesn’t seem like much of an answer.
But it’s just one of those things.
I can tell you this:
- Making time for myself was huge. Do NOT put off your self-care. You cannot pour from an empty cup.. trust me, I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.
- Your support network is crucial. Even if it just starts small, having one in place will be a sanity saver. Find your people who get it.
- Acknowledge your feelings and let them out. Try journaling as a way to start. Or write letters to yourself. Even if you just burn them later? Just get it out.
When Should You Seek Help For Managing Your Depression?
There will come a point in time where those things (the self care, the journaling, the support network) just aren’t enough. I’ve hit that rock bottom and it was not pretty. I was hanging on by a thread that was just barely there. Believe me when I say? I was at rock bottom. And it sucked.
I knew that it sucked.
But, I didn’t know what to do.
There have been many times in my life where I was just too proud to ask for help.
Or where I was too proud to admit that I needed help.
Or where I didn’t want to ask for help.
Because of pride. Because I was convinced that I could do it. Because I didn’t want to fail.
I could go on.
I needed help and in a big way. And fortunately, my mom recognized this. She stepped in and she helped.
And then, I was able to take one more step and seek more help.
I did what I had to do.
And when you get to that point? If you get to that point?
Do you what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Because you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Yes, you are enough for this.
Yes, you can handle whatever life throws at you.
But you need to take care of yourself first.