We’ve been having a rough summer.
My son always has trouble with summer, because he is autistic. The normal trials of summer bother my son too like boredom and cabin fever. In that he is like all other kids, but there are a lot of other issues that come into play. For example, thunderstorms. He’s terrified of them and yet gets upset because we aren’t having a storm every time there is a cloud. There is also the heat. He loves to be outside but the heat gets to him as well as the allergies that come with summer.
This year has been particularly bad because not only has it been over 90 the whole summer but the air has been filled with smoke from all the wild fires. Outside is not healthy. Inside is boring. It’s a brewing storm. Then you add in things like fireworks from the 4th of July. Loud unexpected noises that sound like thunder happening throughout the nights makes him very edgy. For weeks after the 4th he jumps at every little sound. He wears sound proof headphones, but the fear is there even if the sound is not.
It finally came to a head one day when he hadn’t been sleeping well. It was a couple of weeks after the 4th and we’d been fighting to go to bed every night . He hadn’t been sleeping and neither had I. Bad combination. He was playing video games. (He likes mini golf) and he couldn’t go into a shed in the background. I told him that it was just part of the scenery and he got upset and started to bite his arm. I told him to go into his room until he could be calm. In the few seconds it took for me to set aside the game controller he had gone into his room and slammed his head into his window with enough force to splinter it.
It didn’t hurt him any, although he had some broken glass in his hair. I had to first get him calm and then get all the glass cleaned up. But he was upset to begin with, then he was upset that he had broken the window, then upset that I couldn’t magically fix it, and upset that I was upset. It was a long time before we could get sorted and then right after that a thunderstorm hit. Needless to say it wasn’t a good day.
It was a this point that I began to think about medication. I hate myself for thinking about it. I don’t like pills. I don’t like how I feel when I take them and usually I have bad reactions to them. So the thought of putting my son on them when he can’t tell me if he is feeling weird makes me shudder. We had tried him on medication once a long time ago when his violent outburst were getting out of hand and it had turned him in to a weeping pile of mush that was still violent. We gave up, threw away the pills, and learned to live with the outbursts.
But he is getting bigger now. He’s 12. He’s almost as tall as me and weighs 120 lbs. So off we went to the doctor. After a long discussion, the doctor decided that it was probably anxiety that was the route of the problem. If we could get that under control then he might not be a danger to himself. I was willing to give it a shot even though I was wary of the possible side effects. The second problem was sleep. I found some chewable melatonin and I hoped that would help.
The first week was amazing. He was going to sleep because of the melatonin and although he was still getting up in the middle of the night, it was still an improvement. The Sertraline was working. He was in a great mood. We had to make a trip to Helena, which is a two and a half hour drive, for my daughter’s orthodontist appointment and I was expecting a blow up when we had to go home. But he was great shopping and he was great coming home. I didn’t even know how to handle a trip without a melt down.
It was great while it lasted.
About a week into the medications, we were watching tv during dinner and the character’s gloves had run away and gotten into some trouble and were sent to jail. In the blink of an eye, my son exploded. He was pounding his fist on his tray knocking food everywhere and then started to bite himself and hit me and his sister. It was weird! Usually there is some warning before a meltdown but this was like a lightening strike out of a clear blue sky.
Over the next couple of days he started to get worse. He just kept getting really angry over such small things. Then the big blow up came. My daughter had another dentist appointment this time to get five teeth pulled. (I know that’s a lot, but her regular dentist hadn’t been doing his job and let 4 years go by without telling us that she was going to have a problem with her baby teeth not coming out. So now we are in dental crisis, but that is another story.)
Now here was my first mistake. My son is scared of the dentist but is also really fascinated by it and as soon as he knew my daughter was going, he started asking if he could have an appointment. I told him he would have to wait for his appointment. The longer we sat in the waiting room, the more agitated he became.
Here was my second mistake. I should have known this trip to the dentist would be hard on my daughter and I should have found someone to watch my son while I took her to the dentist.
You have to understand at this point that my son doesn’t handle other people’s pain well. When he sees you cry he gets upset because he doesn’t understand the reason. Often he will attack the crying person. I am assuming because he believes that will give them a reason to be upset so it makes sense to him in a backwards kind of way. Needless to say our family tries to keep the crying to a minimum and let it out only when he isn’t looking.
Unfortunately my poor daughter couldn’t help it. She’d never had dental problems before so this was her first experience in having teeth pulled and five at one time was traumatic. She couldn’t help it she cried. This set my son off. He didn’t understand why his sister was upset.
Here was my third mistake. My daughter wanted to get somethings from the store despite how she was feeling after the dentist. I warned her against it but she insisted that she was fine and she could handle it. So I stupidly listened. Half-way down the street my daughter changed her mind. She was in too much pain and wanted to go home. Before the trip I had warned my son that if his sister didn’t feel up to it then we were NOT going to go shopping and we would just go home. I thought he had understood, but when we started down the street toward the stores and then turned around, he got upset.
Here was my fourth mistake. I didn’t take him to get food. It was about lunch time when we finished at the dentist. Because my daughter was feeling so awful I didn’t want to make her sit and wait while we ate. Instead I took my son to a gas station and grabbed some of those deli burgers and chips and a bottle of milk and headed out. He really wanted to get food at a restaurant and got upset.
Here is my fifth mistake. I didn’t stop at the car wash. It is a treat for my son when he is good to go through the automatic car wash before we leave town. Again, I didn’t stop because my daughter was feeling so badly. I should have know better. Foregoing the car wash always causes a melt down. It was the final straw.
From that moment on it was a nuclear fallout meltdown. The drive back from Great Falls in an hour. Usually the meltdowns don’t last more that half an hour and usually we can get him out of it by playing I-spy or something. But this time I think the medication was in play. Nothing would stop him from pulling his sister’s hair or punching her from the back seat. He was spitting and trying to break the window with his fists and his feet. Foolishly I stopped on the side of the interstate to try and switch everyone around so that I could keep my daughter safe from his attack.
We ended up chasing him around in the ditch and trying to tackle him to keep him out of traffic. I’m sure the people driving by thought we were trying to kill him. He was punching and kicking me while I tried to get him to calm down and get back to the jeep. He grabbed handfuls of my hair and ripped some out. Finally we got him to the jeep but he got a hold of my daughters neck. In getting him to let go of her he got a hold of my hair and pummeled my head with his fist. I got kicked in the chest, repeatedly bit and he grabbed handfuls of my skin on my arms before I finally got him into his seat and buckled in. My daughter drove while I sat in the back by him and tried to keep him from kicking her and bashing his head through the window. Unfortunately that put me in the strike zone. He was so deliberate with his attacks. This wasn’t like his normal meltdowns. I kept telling him that I would be okay, that he needed to take deep breaths, that I still loved him and he would be alright, but nothing stopped him.
That was the longest hour of my life.
By the time we had gotten home I was near hysterical with terror and guilt. I had to wrestle him into the house. I sent my daughter downstairs out of harms way and took my son to his room. It was dark and he was still agitated. Then almost as quickly as it started he was back to normal. He wanted a drink and a snack. He sat down and started to watch tv. At that point I was doing my best to stay calm. I wanted to sob and curl up into a ball and shake, but I knew it would only set him off again. I stayed out of the room where I wouldn’t trigger him but also where I could keep an eye on him.
I am pretty proud of myself. Considering the craziness that we went through, my son came out without a mark on him.
My daughter only had a little welt on her neck. I managed to protect both my kids from harm. I don’t know how, but I did.
I called the doctor when things looked like they were as calm as they were going to get. We went over and the doc was shocked at the level of damage on my arms. He thought maybe we needed to up the dose of Sertraline because it seemed like it was working, and he get me some Risperdone pills to use as needed when things were out of hand. We went back home and I followed the doc’s orders. But over the next few days, my son stayed angry. He was mad about everything. He kept biting himself for tiny little upsets. So I talked it over with my husband and we decided to stop the meds.
It’s been three days now and he hasn’t had any blow ups. Well, there were a couple of small ones, but I’m not expecting miracles.
The thing is this is our life. I can’t say I’m not affected. I’m a wreck. I love him completely and I’m terrified for the future. I’m not scared if him. I’m scared of what he’ll do to others. This whole episode has turned my fears into reality. What happens when he goes to school? What happens if we go to Great Falls again?
I know that it may get worse as he gets bigger. I may end up with broken bones at some point. I don’t want that to happen, but I’m not going to fool myself. This is Autism. This is melt downs. It’s hard. I hope that we can get past this someday and he can have a productive life, but I fear the alternative. That it may get too bad and he’ll have to live in a home where he’ll be doped up and live a miserable existence. I don’t want that either.
Right now I’m not feeling real positive. I’m bitter at the world for the lack of help. I’m angry at myself because I should have known better. I’m disillusioned with my life right now. But it doesn’t matter. This is Autism and we get up every day and keep going. I love my son regardless.
The NIMH estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It is a leading cause of disability. Jan 28, 2015
So what it this beast we call depression?
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Although depression may occur only one time during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Other people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
Most people dealing with depression turn to modern medications such as anti-depressants. In most cases this is enough to get you out of the pit and moving again. However, for some that isn’t going to work.
Many of those suffering from depression don’t have access to medications, maybe they can’t afford it or maybe medications just don’t work. Some may even make their symptoms worse. I’m one of those poor fools who can’t take the meds because my body won’t metabolize them correctly, so I only get the side effects and not the help.
There are medical alternatives for those of us who can’t do take medications.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Examples of supplements that are sometimes used for depression include:
Nutritional and dietary products aren’t monitored by the FDA the same way medications are. You can’t always be certain of what you’re getting and whether it’s safe. Also, because some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions, talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.
Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:
Relying solely on these therapies is generally not enough to treat depression. They may be helpful when used in addition to medication and psychotherapy.
Some people turn to psychotherapy or go to counseling. Counseling can often be extremely helpful in sorting through the problems. However, not all counselors are helpful. I’ve been to some that just shrug their shoulders and say, “Gosh, I don’t know what to tell you.” Doesn’t really help much. Finding the right counselor can take time through trial and error. Often this adds to the depression giving a person the feelings of failure or hopelessness.
So what do you do when you are just one person sitting alone in the dark? When nothing has worked and you have no strength left? When you just can’t find the will or the energy to get out of bed let alone seek help? When you are sitting on your bathroom floor exhausted from crying and holding a scissors over your wrist because you are so desperate for an escape?
If you’ve hit that point then call:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
However, if you are still holding out with one tiny little shred of hope grasping onto the last thread of your last rope….
You’re not alone!
We are here for you, even if you don’t know us. There are those of us struggling along beside you. We can’t see you and you can’t see us through the haze of darkness that seems to surround us, but we are here.
And it’s time.
Time to take a breath.
Time to go out and look at the stars.
Time to let go a little.
Constantly holding yourself accountable for all the problems in the world will do you no good. You are only human and that is okay. Yes, the world around us is going to pot, (haha see the joke there? everybody is smoking it? haha). But what I mean it that the world is going crazy and honestly, honey, you can’t stop it.
Look to your friends. They love you. They are just waiting for you to let them in so they can help. If you don’t feel like you have friends, then just cry once in public and you’ll find them. Believe me, they’re there. Even strangers on the internet are there to help you. There are chat rooms, Twitter feeds, Instagram and Facebook pages full of people going through the same things as you are. You may not have met them yet, but your peeps are there. 35 Million of them, remember?
Honestly, I find that a lot of depression is rooted in three places: our health, our mindset, and our environment.
Depression is a many faceted beast with no easy answers or cures. It is a struggle every day, but it is a struggle that you can get through. I will leave you with something my mom always says.
Keep going. Tomorrow may be the best day of your life.
Donkey Basketball. Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well, it is. It is a game involving players riding donkeys up and down a basketball court trying to get the ball in the hoop while staying on the donkey. There is no dribbling but there is passing to other teammates. If the ball goes awry then the player must get off their donkey and chase down the ball and throw it to another player then get back on their donkey. The donkey’s wear little rubber shoes to protect them and the floor of the gym. It isn’t a fast paced game, but it is fun.The Shelby FFA kids were having a fundraiser by way of playing Donkey Basketball. They asked the Conrad FFA group to bring a team to help out. My daughter volunteered without a second thought. Her and a couple of other kids rounded up enough members for the team. They donned fake mustaches and little sombreros and called themselves the Caballos diablos. Incidentally the team was all girls with one guy. Most of them had never been on a donkey, but they had ridden horses. It was an eyeopening experience.
When they arrived they found out they would be playing against the three time running champions- the firefighters. They were very intimidated but unbelievably enough the kids won! The Shelby FFA kids were playing against the Shelby Faculty. That match was a comedy of errors because it seemed the kids weren’t quite ready for their teachers to be so game. The final match was the Shelby FFA against the Conrad FFA. Nothing like friendly competition! Was more like a free for all and the donkeys were winning.
There have been a lot of articles about the cruelty of donkey basketball. They say it violates the donkey’s rights and subjects them to frightening circumstances. I can’t say if that is true in other places but here in Montana, it wasn’t true at all. As a matter of fact, we live with an abundance of animals here in Montana and everyone is brought up to treat them right.
The donkeys were subjected to lots of petting during half-time, but beyond that they were treated great.
From the looks of the games, it was the donkeys that were in charge of things. Most of the time they were meandering where ever they felt like regardless of what the riders wanted and in wonderful Montana fashion, the riders just laughed and let them go where they would. My poor daughter had picked a very sleepy donkey that spent most of its time visiting with the audience and getting its ears scratched. She even ended up in the corner at one point because the donkey decided that he was done.
All in all it was a wonderful night and my daughter said that she was glad she did it and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The FFA raised a lot of money for the food drive and everyone went home smiling, even the donkeys.
These lovely girls are from Ft.Collins, CO. I used to live there.
My son has Autism. He is eleven years old. I have learned that optimism is a trap.
Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
My husband and I have been married for 20 years. I think we were optimistic in the beginning. We thought that all we had to do was work hard and the world would be ours. The Universe apparently thought that was a challenge. We’ve been through a lot of difficulties and trials. Life hasn’t always been easy, but sometimes we do alright and sometimes we don’t. Autism has taken us to a whole new level.
I was optimistic that we could handle this new complicated life together, but instead we’ve had to give a lot up including being in the same geographic location. He works away from home because that is the only way we can make enough money for me to be a stay at home mom and still afford all the bills, medical or otherwise. I tried working, but it wasn’t worth it. Child care for a special needs kiddo is hard to come by and I had to keep leaving work to take care of problems that arose with my son.
It hasn’t been easy for my daughter either. She’s had to give up a lot and she’s had to adjust to getting less attention because of her brother. Being optimistic that I could pay attention to both of my kiddos at the same time was unrealistic. I’ve learned that kind of optimism leaded to hurt feelings and overwhelming parental failure. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to find time to devote to my daughter completely even if it means that she has to skip some school to get it.
Like Sisyphus and the boulder, we start every day at the bottom of the hill.
Day after day, we get up and try. There are a lot of things to learn when you have a child with Autism; behavioral, medical, dietary, psychological, methods, routines, etc. They all play a crucial role in a stable life. The things that worked yesterday don’t necessarily work today. Sometimes they have the opposite effect. Teachers ask me how to handle my son and I have to say, “Well, that depends on the day.”
Friends don’t really understand why we don’t do things like they do. Most of them feel that I’m being too overprotective and honestly I’m too tired to try and explain it to them. They are always optimistic that my son will be fine. That there will be no problems. Birthday parties, concerts, fairs, we’ve been to them all. We’ve dealt with the migraines and the over stimulation meltdowns and the violence that comes from them. I’ve pushed that boulder up that hill enough times that I know our limitations. If they want to think badly of me then so be it.
The teachers at school ask me what my long term goals are for my son. I usually laugh and say, “To get through today.” You have to have optimism in order to have goals, and I don’t.
Optimism has never been one of my strong suits. I’m not one of those people born under a lucky star where everything went right and the world was a bright and sunny place. Things don’t just work out for me. I get by on my brains and my abundance of personality. Things happen. I deal with them. I’m a realist.
Realist: a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly.
Optimism can give you a false sense of reality and make you really unhappy because you are always struggling to meet unrealistic expectations.
I know that we are making progress, but to try and reach a certain milestone in a certain amount of time is more stress than I can handle right now. Don’t get me wrong, I want my son to learn and blossom into a happy healthy adult, but it will have to happen in its own time. I’m just being realistic. I know that my son makes leaps forward only to backslide. That doesn’t make me try any less. I just takes away the expectations and that takes away the disappointments and the feelings of failure. No one needs those kind of feelings in their life.
People laugh at me when they ask me, “How are you?” and I answer, “Still alive.” I see it as an affirmation that I’m still here. I’m still trying. I am living for the now taking each day as best as I can. I’ve lowered my expectations to the level of “Everyone is still breathing, so we’re doing great.”
So for those of you out there struggling to be optimistic about your children’s autism, it’s going to be all right. You don’t have to be sunny, or cheerful, or optimistic. You just have to accept your life has changed. It’s okay. All you have to do is love your kiddos. That’s the reality .Go with the Zen approach. All there is is the now. They are who they are and that’s okay. They don’t have to be anything else and neither do you.