Spirals... & living with JRR
When I was in Survivor recovery (see "History pt. 1 back in the January archive) I learned that the process seems to take an upward spiral course... you deal with something difficult, think you're over it, move on to the next thing, & then the old stuff comes back again. Usually it's pieces you couldn't get to the first time, deeper, bigger, what you just didn't have the strength to face. Sometimes it's the "next level" of issues. One of my recovery issues was that a great deal of my abuse was from when I was very young & didn't have words to describe the feelings/experiences. As an adult, coping with the abuse, I used to have these pre-verbal flashbacks, re-experiencing the abuse, that were absolutely terrifying, because I had no words to describe what was happening & what I was feeling. The "next level" of these experiences came when I had an infant of my own. Just seeing how helpless he was frightened me... but because I had experienced the previous level of recovery, I knew what was happening & was able to find help before I became overwhelmed by my feelings. This is the "upward" part of the spiral- revisiting things with greater insight, & therefore a better chance of not being knocked-down by the experience.
What brought my recovery spiral experiences to mind is a similar thing I see happening to B these days. I never have, nor do I now, see B's life-journey with autism + OCD, Tourettes, etc. as a process of recovery similar to my own... but it has been interesting to see that B seems these days to be revisiting earlier stages of development on a higher level of functioning. I mentioned in my earlier post today that B has started whacking himself on the head in a most disturbing (& sometimes injurious) manner. This sort of behaviour when B was 5 years old is what led us to seek out a child psychologist & we were very fortunate to find Dr. M, who is still an important member of the village. Because we were able to find a positive (& somewhat humourous) resolution back then (detailed in my previous post) I feel confident that we'll be able to do so again, although there are some twists... for one, B is aware of what we're doing & why, which was not the case four years ago. He still thinks it's funny, but is also hitting himself on purpose at times to get us to throw beachballs at him. **sigh** I have explained that this is not the idea... On the positive side, when I request that he try to catch the balls I'm throwing, he happily complies, so there is hope of re-wiring the perseverative behaviour away from whacking himself (as long as I remind him why we're doing this!).
The other "old" behaviour that B has been revisiting is "listing". Because he's doing it on a higher cognitive level, it took me a while to put my finger on it... it was my gut that finally clued me in. When B was in kindergarten & first grade almost all of our time spent together in the car was spent with B reciting lists of things. He did it a bit in other situations, particularly stressful ones, but the car was the main venue. We would start out ok, with a bit of chat, but it always evolved in B wanting to list all of the different kinds of bionicles, their different masks (by name) & their attributes. If it wasn't bionicles, it was other interests- detailed lists of everything he knew about these things... it nearly drove me mad. I started finding excuses to ask him to stop- the traffic was too heavy & I needed to concentrate, etc. I didn't want to be disrespectful of him or his need to tell me things, & I sure didn't want to cut off or limit our communication!! But it didn't feel like communication, really. When I finally brought it up with Dr. M, he explained that it was a classic Aspergers-type behaviour. It was B's way of chatting- but it was not reciprocal. Dr. M helped us to find ways to help B learn to stop listing & actually have 2-way conversations, by role-playing conversations, taking turns asking each-other questions & responding, & reminding him gently when he'd lapse back into listing behaviour. B has become quite the conversationalist in the intervening years & I really enjoy our conversations, which range everywhere: string theory, power rangers, brainstorming new bionicle creatures, discussing Miyazaki movies, what happens when people die, what happens to bionicles when they die... you get the drift. But over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself feeling grumpy in the car on our rides to school, asking B to hold off on chatting while I navigate traffic, deal with snow... I realised that I was getting tired of his conversations, & that these conversations were mostly B telling me the attributes of the bionicle creatures he'd been dreaming up... sound familiar? Well, I was fooled at first. To be honest, I am often awed by my kid's ingeniousness & attention to detail when creating his creatures. He creates cosmologies for them- unique languages, musical styles, & spirituality. There are times when it feels like I'm living with JRR Tolkien! And I really enjoy hearing him tell me all about these details, although I really wish he were moved to write all this stuff down. Even if he doesn't do anything with it for years, he'd have amazing background for future stories.
Well, on the third morning in a row that B wanted to tell me all about what the Great Spirit looks like to Rusagi on the way to school, I realised that he was actually listing again. Figuring it out helped me a lot. His revisiting these behaviours really makes sense, in light of his present challenges. The coping methods he's used for quite some time are not helping any more & he doesn't have much in place at the moment, so it seems quite reasonable that he'd fall back on older comfort behaviours. I feel pretty confident that once he's feeling more in charge of his life again, he'll go back to having conversations. It's just so interesting, though, to find him spiralling through life as I do. I may be the mom, but it's also nice to remember that he's on his own life-journey, just like me.