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I have an autistic 5 year old and my 38 year old husband inexplicably lost the use of his entire left side 5 months ago and I have been caring for them both all alone. Lately I've been angry, sick with a neverending cold, and crying all the time. But in public everyone thinks I've got it all together, and I'm doing a great job. I just need a break, I'm so tired of worrying, and I'm always on my feet. I'm tired. Help.

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"But in public everyone thinks I've got it all together, and I'm doing a great job." That is your problem. When people think you have it together, they don't think you need help. One of the main problems I have is that family members get angry if I don't help, but no one tells me help is needed. I'm not a mind reader and have my own family with their own problems. I'm not looking for more work, but that doesn't mean I won't help out if someone will just let me know they need help. And as the others above me have posted, the only way you can get that help is if you ask. Now for the hard part. You have an autistic 5 year old. The average person just has no idea how to handle that. You may want to consider asking 2 friends/family members if they can help you out during the same block of time, so they can tag team your husband and 5 year old. You may want to check and see if there area any Yahoo groups in your area for Autistic children, get to know some of the families and trade back and forth with another parent (sometimes 2 or 3 autistic children will play in perfect harmony in parallel play if you find the right sets of kids). You might even be able to get an older child or high school student to come in and help out when you are there. Sometimes, just having an extra set of hands around, or someone to chat with, can lessen the stress.

Bottom line is don't be passive-aggressive hoping someone will volunteer ("I'm so tired all the time, I wish someone would help.") Being specific that you need help, how much and what type of help you need, and when you need it, as the others above me have posted, is the key. If you say you need to grocery shop, you might really mean you need to get out of the house and relax by grocery shopping. Someone volunteering to grocery shop for you isn't what you really need.
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Don't whine. Ask for specific help. Whining is going on and on about problems without offering any solutions. You, instead, have some solutions in mind and are trying to implement them. As blannie says, first figuring out what you need and breaking it down into manageable chunks will put you into the solutions mode.

"Clara, I have figured out that I need 2 hours a week to grocery shop and run errands. I hope that I can find 4 friends to each stay at my home for that long once a week. Would you be able to help me out for a couple of hours a month, in this way?"

Does that sound like whining?
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Sorry for your troubles!
It is hard to ask for help.
I have been using the report tool that is included on this site to keep family and friends informed about the person I care for. My sister calls me almost every time I send it and we have better discussions about mom's care and my needs since she has this report and previous ones to compare.

Please look into making a calendar of what needs to be done (there are some great online versions - family caregiver and lotsahelp to name a few) and then recruit ASK for help...that's what I am currently doing - recording and asking (do as i say...)
Somehow when we are caregivers we lose sight of the fact that we need care too...and without that, we really can't help our loved ones to the best degree.
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Um. You stop worrying about the very remote and vague possibility that ignorant people who have no idea what you're dealing with might be so rude and callous as to accuse you of whining. Screw 'em. They don't know what they're talking about. Who cares what they think?

But to be honest, I'm guessing it's probably mainly you who's doing this to yourself. If you're one of life's copers, perhaps you think, somehow, that you *ought* to be able to manage your family without breaking stride and with a smile on your face? Be fair! Have a good, critical look at your workload and see what it would most help you to share. Then ask.

You never know. You might find that once there are more hands on your family's deck, the reduction in stress helps your husband's condition too.

And by the way, sometimes people say "you're doing a great job" because they hope and intend to encourage you, rather than because they think that everything is actually fine. They're scared to put you down by saying "boy! - do you need help!" - so instead they're waiting for you to ask. I suspect you'll find they'll jump to it once you do. Best of luck, keep us posted.
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1tiredgirl, oh my gosh you have a lot on your plate. Regarding hubby, did he have a stroke? If so, physical therapy for someone as young as him can do a world of good.
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I am so sorry you're going through this! It's enough to try anyone's patience. First of all, you need to figure out exactly what kind of help you need. Do you need someone to come in on a daily basis to help your husband get dressed and fed? Or do you need someone to get your son ready to take to school? Do you need help with shopping or driving or what?

Once you figure out what you need, you can start to ask for that kind of specific help from various sources in your community, family circle, or friends. Are you a member of a faith community? You could talk to you minister. Does your son have a caseworker or someone working with him because of his autism? Contact that person about specific help you need for him. Or contact your local United Way or Township Office (if you have one of those).

What's your husband's prognosis? Does he have a diagnosis? Does he have insurance that might cover some rehab or physical therapy? Tell us a bit more about your situation and you'll get some help from us. I think you'll get a lot of help once you figure out what you need and who to ask. Anyone would be feeling the stress that you do.
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