Thursday, March 23, 2006


The excitement this morning at school was dress rehearsal of the 3rd/4th grade school plays. The plays are held in a small community theatre space about 2 blocks from school, so they were getting ready to truck all of their stuff down there... When I left B this morning he was dressed in the flannel shirt, chenille bathrobe, & cowboy hat that make up most of his costume (we're saving the new "blue-jean"-type pants for the day of the play, so he had his usual cargoes on :). The get-up was hilarious. I just can't wait to see the play!

I spent the morning grocery shopping, doing laundry, & finally found some time to work on B's birthday party activities. I snagged a bunch of B's code books & was making notes when, around 12:30, the phone rang. It was Cherie, B's consultant teacher, calling to say that B had had a fabulous rehearsal but got "stuck" while watching the other 3rd/4th grade class doing their rehearsal... they had managed to get him back to school by driving him, but he couldn't go upstairs to his classroom. Cherie asked B if he could go up to talk to me on the phone, but he couldn't, so I went over. When I got there B was sitting at a table, all hunched over, with his face red & contorted. I pulled a chair very close & hugged him. He relaxed briefly & agreed to have Cherie bring his lunch down (by this time it was nearly 1:00 pm & neither of us had eaten), but the minute he saw his lunch he tried to hit his head on the table & started to cry & moan. We've learned that we can't ask him what's wrong, or what the thought is because it just makes things worse. He tried to throw himself on the floor, but I got him back into the chair because I feel like he's closer to being "in control" if he's not on the floor... I asked him if we could do anything to take the power away from the thought (per Dr. M's recommendations yesterday) but that sent B into hysterics, saying that it would kill someone to do that (essentially). He kept moaning & gagging (really scary) & snot was running out of his nose, which was making him even more uncomfortable. He kept saying it was hopeless & that I wasn't listening to him, that I wasn't being open-minded to the possibility that there's entropy in the world. I countered that I thought he wasn't being open-minded to the possibility that there was hope, & that there was something that could help him... After about 20 minutes, I suggested we go home. He stopped moaning, but was upset that he might miss the afternoon work, so I pointed out that he wasn't going to get much work done while he was so upset. All this while Cherie sat quietly with us, close on the other side of him. She offered to get his coat & backpack, & fortunately my counterpoint convinced him we should go, so Cherie helped us out to the car.

B's class was outside playing & it made him cry to see them, but we got him in the car & he was able to buckle his seat belt by himself. On the way home he calmed down considerably, & although he wasn't yet ready to consider what we should do for the afternoon (he kept tearfully rejecting all of my ideas for distraction... sigh), he was able to talk about lunch options... He also told me that I can't use the "P" word ("power") when talking about taking the "power" from the anxiety & worries, so we agreed that I could say "energy" instead. I suggested that he might want to imagine an impenetrable wall between himself & the anxiety, which would cause it to shrink because it couldn't get to him. There was some discussion back & forth about how a wall can't be impenetrable, but I told him that it was his mind & that he set the rules, so he could make the wall as strong as he liked. We decided to have soba noodles with kombu broth for lunch. He wanted to go up to his room & lego while waiting, which was interesting, since he usually needs to be right by me when he's been upset. During our calm (& yummy) lunch, I told B that, although I don't want to ever be disrespectful of him, I will never agree that there is no solution when he's terribly distressed. I mentioned that we were able to help him calm down today, & that my grandmother (whose maiden name is B's middle name) always said "where there's life, there's hope", & I believe this. He told me it was ok to disagree with him, that the "stuck" feeling puts him under terrible pressure & makes things seem hopeless.

After lunch we decided to watch "Sky High" (borrowed from best buddy E) together again, & he's now watching his Pokemon dvd...

Seeing B so out of control today was really scary, but that we were able to talk him down & transition him to a more comfortable place was really comforting. I called & was able to make twice-monthly appointments with Dr. M right up to June, while the noodles were cooking, so I feel as though I've done as much as I concretely can for the moment. Thanks to B's willingness to share, I also have more insight into how best to approach him when he gets so deeply distressed. I'll remember to share the "wall" imagery with Cherie, too, & try to strike the "P" word from my vocabulary (at least around B) & try to find more acceptable words like "energy". I am definitely going to be early tonight... whew!


At 1:53 AM, Blogger Zilari said...

Wow...this might be a bit of a leap of logic on my part, but it almost sounds as if B is experiencing "existential anxiety". Basically, a sense of wondering why anything exists at all, how it can possibly exist, and how things can even hold their form. I'm only suggesting this because I've been through phases of feeling like it is impossible that such things as biological organisms can even hold themselves together and maintain homeostasis, etc.

B sounds like a bright kid...again, I might be taking a HUGE leap here, but in my case this sort of anxiety was actually quelled by reading a few books on biology (specifically evolutionary biology) and also reminding myself, "There's just as much a chance for things to hold together as there is for them to fall apart". When I was about 20 I had a huge existential crisis and spend months obsessing over the notion of why anything should exist at all. Eventually I realized that (as in the case of things falling apart or not-falling-apart) there is just as much "likelihood" of SOMETHING existing as there is of NOTHING existing.

These are thoughts I've been dealing with since I was B's age, and younger. The key for me was to turn them into something interesting rather than something scary. I consider myself something of an "optimistic existentialist" -- that is, I choose to interpret reality as something that is basically good with a few bad parts, rather than something bad with a few good parts.

Another "daily reminder" of sorts I use is: Nothing is too good to be true. What is true is true, regardless of how unlikely it is or was. This has been extremely helpful to remember...I know that growing up on the spectrum meant that the world often seemed very chaotic, and I did develop a sense that whenever something good developed it was likely to disappear. I'm over this now and can recognize how good situations can actually be maintained over time -- they're no more ephemeral than bad situations.

Whew, sorry if this was at all confusing...I just get the impression that B is a very deep thinker, and that he's dealing with very old philosophical puzzles that have perplexed mankind for years -- and that some of the fear he's feeling is due to the uncertainty of it all, and simply not having the vocabulary to express the thoughts he's having. I know I found that my own fears diminished when I could put the framework of the uncertainty into words. However, I did have to do this on my own...there's no way I could have explained any of this when I was 10 or even 18.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Zilari, many thanks (again!). I had C read your comment as well. I agree that B thinks very deeply about things- I've always loved discussing things with him because he comes up with the most amazing ideas... it's very cool to have your perspective on this & we plan to run some of your comforting ideas/phrases past B to see if they'll help. He has some fears around death that seem to be developmentally appropriate (according the the Erikson stages) but the OCD tends to take them to extremes- last evening he had me in tears (secretly, because I didn't want to upset him further) because he was agonising over who will take care of Rufus when he dies... B really does think about existential things. He was coming up with solutions for the hole in the ozone layer on the way home in the car today, because he's afraid that the world will end in his lifetime because of it... I told him this was not likely to happen & then told him that he could study the topic further, maybe in college, & then help find a solution.

For myself, I only recently came to an understanding that bad things do not necessarily come as a result of good things happening... & that even if they do, no-one can take the good stuff that did happen away. This was a major step for me, & I was over the age of 45 when I finally "got it". It's good to be reminded to share this with my kid... :)


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