I don’t have time to think about nutrition. It’s not possible to do mental health & nutrition for special needs mums!
I have heard it literally hundreds of times.
I was the same for the first few years of Matthew’s life. But something has to give. How prepared are you for the cost of not caring for your mental health?
When I started balancing out my nutrition, started to feel the difference that small change had on me, I looked at what was happening for the parent’s around me.
What I saw was terrifying.
It was around that time I learnt that divorce rates in parent’s of special needs children are around 80%.
50% for typical parents is crazy enough.
I realised that so many of us were completely dedicated to the care of their child, their often very complex and fragile child came first above everything. Which is totally understandable and even admirable. But what else did I see?
Health problems everywhere, relationship breakdown, siblings with behavioural problems, and lots of unhealthy coping strategies.
Am I judging? Absolutely not! I was one of those parents, am I one.
If there was one simple thing you could do each day to begin to combat these side effects of being a parent of a medically complex child, wouldn’t you want to know what it was?
You read the title you’re not stupid, you know I am about to say
‘a nutritionally complete diet.’
You’re already thinking,
‘I’d don’t have time, I’d can’t afford it, I just can’t find the head space to do it.’
If that’s what you think, then it’s true.
I’ll leave it at that for those who stop there.
I can’t help you.
What if you could?
If there is some possibility you might like to find the head space to do it, if you might like to ask yourself ‘How can I afford it?’ or ‘How much time do I need to find to make this work?’
A quick google will find facts like:
“The consequences of chronic stress related to raising kids who have intense needs are real. Studies show that parents of children with developmental, psychiatric or learning disorders are far more likely than others to experience:
I found that excerpt on childmind.org, quoting British studies which say chronic stress puts parent’s at risk of medical issues as well.
Now, I know you know it’s true, you have friends who are battling all kinds of issues. We can’t afford to ignore mental health and nutrition for special needs mums.
For the parent who is putting themselves aside for their child, I ask you…
What happens if you get too sick to care for them?
Now in times when my own anxiety was probably talking, I stopped doing things like tubing behind a boat. Snowboarding and rock climbing became terrifying. The thought in my mind, “what happens if I can’t look after Matthew? What if I can no longer juggle his care and the care of his siblings?’
Now I kept working on myself to continue doing those things that bring me joy, but what would happen?
It happens all the time. Care of children is relinquished all the time.
So why am I focused mental health and nutrition for special needs mums?
I believe the first step towards self-care is nutrition.
A whole realm of possibilities opens up to you once you have the energy and the brain fog starts to lift.
Headspace.org have a whole page dedicated to eating for a healthy head space:
“Improving your nutrition is heaps easier than you think, and can make a real difference to your mental health.”
“We know a poor diet can make you feel sluggish, low and increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. But now we are seeing a healthy diet (with a variety of fruit, veggies, nuts and wholegrains) can actually improve mental health.”
“What we put into our bodies has a big effect on our minds. Did you know that eating well can give you more energy, help you sleep and sharpen your focus?
If you’ve been putting less effort into food, it might be it might be a sign that you’re not travelling as well as you’d like.”
‘Okay you’ve made your point but…
I don’t have time for fancy eating.’
Get it, I had days when at dinner time I couldn’t understand why I was so hungry. A huge hamburger and chips is all I wanted. Then I would realise I hadn’t had a real meal all day.
I have a friend every time I visit her in hospital, I ask what she has for lunch, or what she had for breakfast, ‘An apple.’ She replies.
Okay, so it’s not a bar of chocolate, but do you think that has enough nutrition in to the battle the brain fog, the emotional swings that will come later on, when she’s burnt it all up?
I took something everyday, it took me 30 seconds in the morning, sometimes mid-afternoon for 3.30itis and 30 seconds before I went to bed.
It covered all my fruits, veggies, vitamins and minerals both fat and water soluble. It was made of real food, so I wasn’t adding more synthetics to my body.
A minute and half a day. ‘I don’t have time’ doesn’t really ring true does it?
I also went to the supermarket when I was feeling up to it and bought grapes, nuts, healthy option snack foods so I had it on hand when leaving Matthew’s beside wasn’t an option.
Sliced meat or chicken in the fridge so I kept everything simple when I needed to eat simply for energy. Not because I wanted to.
I was able to stress less about what wasn’t in these snacks too because I already knew I had covered my nutritional needs with my supplement.
Did I buy chocolate and chips still? You bet. But no where near as often and then I could call it a real treat!
It saved me loads of money.
& probably saved my life.
Which brings me to the next question…
I can’t afford it.
I get it, hospital parking, meals, extra babysitters for the siblings, fuel, tolls, medications, the list goes on.
Question though, how many cups of coffee does it take you to get through the day? How many Vs or Red Bulls? Chips, chocolate? Take-away meals because you’ve run out of energy?
Putting the right things in your body could eliminate cravings for these things. That would more than cover the costs.
If you’re working or balancing a side gig, how much work do you already miss? Can you afford to miss more because of your own health?
Take it one step further. What if you can’t care for your child? Who is going to pick them up and drop them off? Who is going get their meals, do their personal care? A carer?
Who is going to pay for that?
Okay, so how do I know it will work for me?
I don’t know, all I know is my friend Dani Loxton mum of 5 including Ethan, who has an autism diagnosis, told me this about improving her nutrition:
“As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. My energy levels increased straight away, alertness and ability to concentrate improved. It helped me through his (Ethan’s) meltdowns.”
Dani was a professional photographer, she started her business so she would be flexible for her kids. She was good at what she did and ended up spending weekends at photo shoots and staying up all night to do her editing. So on top of Ethan not sleeping Dani was trying to do her work, you can imagine the exhaustion that followed her.
Ethan had 3 therapy appointments a week, soccer, homework and school runs with him and the other kids. He struggled at school, with the noise – he couldn’t concentrate because of the way the noise in his brain would overwhelm him. He was struggling to read.
The younger kids had begun to mimic his meltdowns, adding to her stress.
Once Dani started taking the nutritional supplement, she says:
“I was able to just sit with his brother through a meltdown where he lay on the ground screaming. I had told him that he needed to go to bed, it wasn’t a punishment, he was just obviously overtired, but he screamed ‘I’m not tired.'”
“Your mouth might be telling me you’re not tired but your body is telling me something else.” She calmly said over and over, instead of grabbing him by the arm and dragging him kicking and screaming off to bed.
“Ethan had slept through once in 5 years.” Dani recounts after she give her nutrition to the whole family, “The night Macey was born. I had her at 9pm and everyone slept until morning, I couldn’t believe it.”
The link between mental health and nutrition for special needs mums is clear
Michelle Rice Spencer shared with me:
“Brian and I are so grateful this was brought into our lives, this last week has been life-changing for us and especially for my autistic son Tyler! My son has had sleep disorders for so many years!!! I have been sleep deprived forever, barely able to get through the days! What a difference in a week, all of us are sleeping!! We feel like new people, I would’ve never imagined!!!
The aches and pains I was having are literally gone, I was having night sweats for months those are gone, I’m not craving bad foods that I was previously!! I literally feel like it’s magic, It’s amazing to me the changes your body will make when the right things are put into it!! “
May be it’s time to think about mental health and nutrition as special needs mums. I’m not an expert, it worked for me and these Mums. Is it time for you to give it a go?
If you have a story of how eating better and getting better nutrition has helped you, I’d love to hear it!