6 Warning Signs That You’re Running On Overload.

It’s not unusual for parents to find themselves in over their heads. This is especially true for foster and adoptive parents. We’re constantly on overload. But how do you know when enough is enough, and it’s time to change direction?

Pressure Gauge

I remember the summer of 2008 like it was yesterday. It was one of the best summers we had ever experienced as a family. But it was also one of the worst. Hot, adventurous, muggy, defeating, joy-filled, tiring, fun and overwhelming all mixed into one. We were burning the wick at both ends. Life was beyond crazy.

We were in the thick of foster parenting. Along with our 3 daughters and son we welcomed a little girl with major medical special needs placed into our care. We were not a therapeutic home by any stretch of the imagination. We both become queazy at the sight of blood, vomit, or any other fluids the human body can produce. This was not a good fit but we mustered up the strength to handle it.

We soon found out that the needs of this little girl, were more than we could handle. She was diagnosed failure to thrive and thus needed regular feedings through an NG tube. If we fed her too fast, she vomited Pediasure all over the place. To this day, we still cannot stand the smell of Pediasure.

This was only the tip of the iceberg. We were running on empty, completely overloaded from the demands of life. Foster care had already taken the life out of us, but now add to that a child who not only had a major special need but was also wild and crazy. True story! When we picked her up from the hospital she bolted like a fox until Kristin could restrain her in a car seat. She never stopped bolting. We were so tired.

Running on Overload.

Looking back, we see clearly how overloaded our life was. After all, hindsight is always 20/20. Unfortunately, when we’re in the thick of battle we don’t necessarily see clearly. Over the years, however, we’ve picked up some warning signs, personally, that our life was on overload…

  • SIGN #1- You lose it over small, insignificant things.
    Your child asks a simple question, the dogs are barking, a dish breaks, you trip over a shoe on the floor, your iPhone isn’t loading quick enough, you name it. Ever found yourself losing your stuff over things that later on you thought, “That was silly!”? We’ve been there.
  • SIGN #2- You feel hopeless even when things are hopeful.
    The sun could be shining, your children are happy, bills are paid, you’re not dealing with meltdowns, aggression or anxiety with your children, but you still feel hopeless. When you think about tomorrow, all seems bleak. Try as you may, you can’t make yourself feel different.
  • SIGN #3- You wrestle with unexplained anger or frustration.
    You just feel mad all the time. You can’t explain it nor rationalize it. You’re just…angry…frustrated…unhappy, constantly.
  • SIGN #4- You feel shortness of breath.
    Breathing is so essential to life. It IS life, in fact. One sign of overload, that we’ve discovered, is shortness of breath. We often overlook breathing in general, but when we’re short of it, it may be a clear sign that we’re running on overload and about to hit the wall.
  • SIGN #5- You’re tired even after a full-night’s rest.
    This is a common sign of parenting, let alone foster and adoptive parenting. Our joke is that we’re 14 years behind on sleep now that we’ve been parenting for 14 years. But ongoing weariness even after you’ve slept 6-8 hours at night, is a clear warning sign that your days could be running on fumes.
  • SIGN #6- Your children melt down on a hair-pin trigger.
    The emotions of your children can often be a clear sign that you’re on overload. We saw this from our children in 2008. Our kids would lose it over the smallest things. Foster care, in particular, can produce secondary trauma for the children who are permanently part of your family. It’s often an easy sign to overlook when you’re in the trenches of parenting children from traumatic places.

Changing Direction.

You read through a list like that and it’s easy to feel…hopeless. If you’re anything like us, you throw your hands up and think, “This is my life. Nothing’s ever going to change.” We understand this feeling because we’ve felt it a lot.

How do you find a place of peace?

Picture it like you’re driving down the expressway, intending to go East but instead, you’re going West. What do you need to do to change direction? Hit the next exit ramp, turn around, and start driving the right direction. I know! It sounds simple, but that’s often all it takes. We can’t even begin to count all the times we’ve had to stop moving in the direction we were moving in, turn around, and start traveling in a new direction.

We created an entire online experience, called The Resting Place, based on changing direction when you feel tired, frustrated, and defeated on the parenting journey. And let’s be honest…foster and adoptive parenting can make you feel all of this, and more! It is such a hard road to travel.

There is hope! While the signs may be clear, you don’t have to live in a place of overload. And you certainly don’t have to live there alone. We created this blog to be a community where you can find camaraderie and hope. We created The Resting Place to be a simple resource that helps you change direction when you feel exhausted. Who doesn’t feel exhausted, right?

If the signs are clear, it’s time for a change. It’s time to move in a new direction. It’s time to work toward a renewed you. What are you waiting for?

Question: Have you been running on overload? Feeling exhausted? Struggling with hopelessness? Share your story with us in the comment section. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

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  • Tara Bitterman

    Overload. Yes. You certainly hit the nail on the head. The first step is admitting that there is no more room on your plate, right?
    Well, I will share my last few weeks that defines MY overload.
    March 25 was my last day in my full-time career. I resigned after we accepted placement of a very troubled 12 year old set to move in on March 31. My resignation decision came because I wanted to give 100% to this boy. We were told there were strong behaviors and our other foster boy, 16, was going through 16 yr old behaviors.
    I thought I would have a few days to get his room ready and relax a bit with my husband who took vacation that week to spend time together.
    After a few tests that week, on March 30, we found out that my husband had Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer. My/our world completely changed. Our new boy was set to move in the following day and I had to figure out how to pick myself up. I was now, a cancer patient caregiver, a wife and a foster parent.
    Our new guy moved in. Very good at home, but horrible at school. April was very rough. So many tests. Inside hospitals and at home with the boys and my strength. Was I strong enough to continue this?
    Then May 2, I dropped off our new guy at school. I got about 4 blocks from home and his school called to let me know he was getting picked up by his youth services mentor due to being suspended for the day. Once home, my husband called to let me know the 16 yr old and his step dad, and case worker and my husband were on their way to our house. The 16 yr old tried committing suicide overnight. He had taken 94 pills. After they took him away from our home in an ambulance and everyone else left, I broke down.
    I felt my world crashing in on me. Both kids with substantial issues in one day. DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THAT MY HUSBAND HAS CANCER?!
    Oh my goodness. That night I called my mom and sobbed. I also prayed. I prayed not to have it go away. Remember, this is now my chosen full time job. I stead I prayed for strength to keep going. To keep being there for the kids and my husband. Just when I wanted to give up, I thanked God for my OPPORTUNITY to be the caretaker and foster parent at home.
    Overload indeed. But I’m keeping my chin up as much as I can.

    • Tara, oh my goodness… this breaks my heart to read through. I am so sorry that you are walking through this. It’s an inspiration for sure that you are able to keep your head up. Hang in there.

      • Tara Bitterman

        Thanks! It’s all a learning process. It helps to have other foster families to talk with and get support from.