I have been wanting to address the idea of moving out of crisis mode for a while. After all, it is what we find ourselves in as parents when we first find out that our child has a special need: that our son has sensorineural hearing loss and will need to wear hearing aids; or that our daughter was born profoundly deaf and would benefit from cochlear implants.
But I couldn’t find the right way to start. I wanted to put a positive spin on the word. How as parents it’s important that we move beyond crisis, although so many of us are scared to admit that we are even in crisis.
So, I looked up the definition of crisis and found:
“a time of difficulty, trouble, or danger.”
“a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.”
And, while those definitions addressed what parents often feel when they first receive news that their child is deaf or hard of hearing, the words felt stale and lifeless to me. There was no hope in what I read, nothing you could use as a battle cry to get you through those moments of darkness.
Then I was rereading Carry on Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton, and there on page 27, I found the words I needed.
You have been offered the gift of crisis. As Kathleen Norris reminds us, the Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift,” as in to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold onto only what matters most. The rest falls away.
This sifting can only happen if we are willing to admit that we are in crisis in the first place. It is a strange new world for many of us. We do not know any adults or children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), we have never heard the term cochlear implant, and we have never had to understand an audiogram. But, all of a sudden we are shoved right out into the spotlight where we are expected to make some pretty overwhelming decisions.
And for some of us we pretend like nothing has really happened, we artfully arrange our daughter’s hair over her ears, or expand our son’s hat collection all in an effort to keep appearances “normal”. We don’t admit that we are in crisis, when it is what we so desperately need to do in order to move our families and our children forward.
But, just as damaging as pretending we are not in crisis, is when we become stuck in crisis mode. When crisis becomes our new operating reality and we don’t know how to move past it. It is as if we become paralyzed with emotion and are unable to sift through anything at all.
And at first this crisis mode works for us. It puts us into action. We make decisions, we make plans, we advocate for our child. But when the crisis of our child being deaf and hard of hearing becomes the focus of our marriage, the focus of our friendships, and in many cases the focus of our entire identity, that is when we know that we are stuck and need help.
It is important to move through this crisis mode – and beyond for your child. If your child always sees you stressing or freaking or overreacting to everything that comes across your plate that relates to him and his hearing loss, he is not going to grow comfortably into his loss.
There is a false sense of empowerment that comes with remaining stuck in crisis mode. Instead of building engagement with the teachers, administrators, and service providers we need to work with to help our child, we instead isolate ourselves with the defensiveness of viewing others as an obstacle.
I am not saying that you are supposed to ignore everything, that you aren’t supposed to get upset, or feel overworked, or care about what is happening to your child, but at the same time being in a constant state of high alert is draining – physically, emotionally, and mentally.
If you find yourself stuck it’s important to find help. This help can come in the form of informal “therapies” such as writing, talking, walking, volunteering, or reading. Just be sure that you are connecting with positive resources and not ones that are only going to fuel your crisis mode.
If none of these informal methods work for you then it’s okay to ask for help from a professional, you will be a stronger parent if you look after your own needs first. Therapists, counselors, and parent mentors are all trained to help work through the emotions and frustrations of parenting. You are not expected to carry the load all by yourself.
How have you found the strength to work through crisis? Is there one area in particular where you were stuck? I would love to know…