Slowing life down when you’re a parent of an AHT victim.
Every parent knows how important it is to get away. But it’s hard to get away.
Getting away seems even more impossible after a child becomes the victim of child abuse. Between keeping track of the investigation, medical bills and follow up appointments, court hearings and the corrections process, most days it is impossible. Not to mention the anxiety of spending time away from a child who has been victimized. All of this happens so quickly and frequently that it’s easy to forget to also take care of our own needs as parents. We need to give our minds a chance to unload, even for twenty minutes.
Child abuse and neglect, in all their forms, have a victimization radius much greater than most people might at first realize. Not to minimize the inexcusable harm done to our children, but these traumatic experiences throw their weight around onto every family member. Sometimes it even seeps out into a greater community of caregivers and friends.
I was a runner before Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) became part of our household’s everyday vocabulary. Nothing too intense, but enough to say I’d train for several mid-distance races a year. I never expected to find running a lifesaver or my way to truly get away. After our son became the victim of AHT, running was one more form of therapy – a kind of dynamic meditation.
At first, it wasn’t the healthiest of practices, as my mind would simply focus on the act of going into the space of the city ahead of me. Just go. It wasn’t exploration or thrill. It was autopilot on an undetermined course. Eventually during a therapy session, I realized that autopilot had intruded upon so many facets of my life including my way to get away, running. On my runs prior to this session, I was always on a path without an outlet. It took several months and a stress fracture in my foot before I found that sweet spot of mindfulness in my running shoes.
For me, running slowed life down to 8 MPH. It was about having this one thing under my control for an hour at a time, and keeping my feet on the ground without feeling like they were about to be swept out from under me. This was my way to get away and come back refreshed for our son.
We all need a cadence to count on – something predictable that grounds us when everything else is suspended so far out of reach. Running may not be for everyone. Whether your thing is croquet or crochet, painting or paper airplanes, just remember to slow things down and take time for you. As a parent of a child abuse victim, how will you slow your life down to 8 MPH? Get out. Make it mindful. Make it count.