Do you ever feel alone?
Many parents of exceptional children feel isolated. Public outings may be a disaster waiting to happen. Babysitter mays be hard to come by. Your social circle may have shrunk. Family support may not be available. I 100% empathize with your situation if you are finding yourself nodding along in agreement. I have been there and admittedly there are times when I still feel like I'm stuck in isolation.
I have a little secret to share with you, though...you are not alone. Your tribe is out there. You just have to find them.
How do you go about locating your people? You have to put yourself out there. What?!
Scary, I know, but you have to do it. You will never find your tribe if you're hiding out at home. There are support groups, both in person and online. There are conferences, walks and runs raising awareness for disabilities, and community events supporting organizations who are available to help us.
Go to them. Show up. Be approachable and do not shy away from approaching others.
In the past year I have joined numerous online support groups for Tourette Syndrome. I cannot tell you how comforting it has been to realize we are not, in fact, alone. I also attended the bi-annual conference in D.C. and found myself in a place filled with "my people." People who understood what everyday life is like. People who could understand the frustration and heartbreak of raising a child people don't understand.
It was two of the most peaceful days I have had in years. I was able to relax, take in all of the information I could absorb, and interact with the nicest people who live a life similar to mine. It was amazing and if I had not taken a leap of faith and declared I was going to do it, I would have missed out on the best opportunity to come my way since our son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.
There is something to be said for gathering with people who share a similar life experience. It is humbling, empowering, and comforting. These gatherings provide you with the opportunity to let down your guard. To be honest, authentic, and vulnerable. No need to pretend your life is something it is not. What a refreshing opportunity!
One of my passions and talents is bringing people together. In the past decade I have begun numerous groups, from new mom meet-ups to mothers of young children groups at church. I started a non-profit with a dear friend from my childhood, planned block parties to bring neighbors together, and countless fundraisers. I absolutely love bringing people together.
As a person who has always struggled with finding my place in social circles, I understand the negative self-talk that may occur in your mind. Human beings crave connection and providing opportunities for people to gather, socialize, and leave feeling less alone than when they arrived fills my heart with joy.
For so many years I always thought it was just me. Why was I always part of a group, but never really felt connected? Why did I always feel like I never truly belonged? I have pondered this question for two decades. As I've spoken with others about my feelings of being an "outsider" throughout many periods of my life, I have shockingly discovered...the majority of people I discussed this with have felt the exact same way throughout their lifetime.
Many of us fear rejection. We fear not being accepted. Rather than taking a chance and putting ourselves out there, we retreat to what's comfortable and surround ourselves with the people in our lives who don't illicit these uncomfortable feelings. Our spouse. Our family. Our closest friends.
This way of closing ourselves off, though, deprives us of connecting with others who might just become our newest tribe member. Someone who can relate to our challenges, but who will also appreciate and celebrate the little wins so many take for granted. Those people are out there, I promise you. You just have to be open to finding them.
My vision board contains three major undertakings pertaining to Parent Empowerment Groups: recording a podcast, writing a book, and organizing and putting on events. Exceptionally Unordinary the Podcast is now five episodes in. I am slowly, but steadily, getting my words out on pages and will have my book finished and published by the time I hit 40. What's left? The events.
My vision is simple: to organize events and allow people to gather, listen, share, and hopefully leave with at least one person to join their support network. Our mission is to encourage, educate, and empower parents raising exceptional children and this mission will be the driving force of our events.
This is where you come in. I want your input!
When you think of each principle of our mission (encourage, educate, empower), who would you love to hear from? What topics would you like discussed? What information do you need to live your best life? Where would you like to see an event organized?
I'm all ears! I look forward to hearing your input and hopefully, one day soon, seeing you at one of these events!