Monday, April 24, 2006

Being the "enemy"...


We are having an unusually specatacular Spring this year, probably due to the mild winter we had in the Northeast. We don't usually get such a show, so I thought I'd share some sakura from a nearby park :)

Today is transition-back-to-school day. The break was so much fun that, for the first time since B started school, I'm especially looking forward to summer vacation. We started brainstorming ideas for summer projects over breakfast this morning- we decided to collaborate on a manga series featuring Rufus, that bounces off some of Diane Duane's ideas (specifically her Transcendant Pig & a dog character that can visit & create alternate universes). We are thinking it would be fun to have Rufus visit some of the other characters B has created, bionicle & Pokeman, & chronicle his adventures manga-style. Stay tuned.... :)

Of course, the transition back to regular routine couldn't be smooth... last evening, while I was watching Globetrekker & the guys were having a Pokeman game, C wandered into the tv room with the news that he thought B's fish was dead... urf! B & I had each gotten Bettas 3 summers ago (B bought his with his own money). I had wanted one since childhood &, admiring them in the pet store while buying bunny food, broke down & bought one, plus accoutrements. B's arrived a week later, after some negotiation. It was originally thought that B would learn to clean his fish's bowl... but this dream evapourated after his fish jumped right out of the bowl the first time we cleaned it, requiring quick reflexes on my part (I can still hear B screaming...) as I scooped fishy up with my bare hand & plopped him back in the water. This action earned me major points for quite some time (I still can't believe I did it, since I'm pretty squeamish... the things we do for our kids...), but the volatility of his fish not only earned it the name "Frisco the Frisky Fish", but made it clear that B was never going to have the courage to deal with scooping it out of the water (with a net, of course) himself. He did feed fishy every day & was quite attached to it... Last night, when the local fish expert (me) took a look at it, I found it was indeed dead (why, oh why don't Betta's float?). C took the bowl downstairs while I comforted B & then read him to sleep, then I got the job of rescuing the body from the bottom of the bowl & putting it in a jewelry box so that it could be frozen for a later funeral...

This morning, before we could get to the job of processing fishy's demise, we faced another crisis... last night, in a pre-bedtime foggy state, I decided to use a very perfumy hand lotion that had been given to me, instead of my usual essential-oil-based lotion (I get almost all of our/my soaps & lotions & perfumes from Indigo Wild, since they use essential-oil based formulas & none of them, no matter how strongly scented, bother B). When I went into the tv room to get B this morning (he watches videos from 6:00 am to 7:00 usually) he reacted immediately, clutching Rufus to his nose & gagging. Sigh... I realised the problem immediately, mentally kicked myself, herded him into his room to get dressed, then scrubbed off the smell with our normal soap until I couldn't smell it anymore, although I'm sure there was some residue that B could pick up on... When we were both dressed, I went in to his room to open his curtains & he immediately started gagging. I explained to him that I had washed as much off as I could, but the damage was done...

The reaction to strong, flowery perfumes was one of B's first OCD manifestations, way back in 2nd grade, & seems to be tied-to an aide that began working in B's class right at the same time the OCD kicked-in. She was a lovely person, but her tall, dark, & very no-nonsense demeanor caused B to find her somewhat formidable. She tried to soften her image somewhat with him, being aware that he was intimidated by her. She remained with B's class through all of 3rd grade as well, and although B was able to to understand that I liked her as a friend, & he could say that she was a lovely, caring person, he never got over his OCD reaction to having her nearby. Her ability to cope with this was amazing- when it became clear that B was reacting to her perfume, she accomodated his need for no scent. She was always gentle & friendly to him. I always felt badly about his reaction to her, but she breezily said that she understood & never held it against B personally. To this day, though, whenever B smells strong perfumes, he begins ticcing, grunting, & gagging, goes into a fetal position & whimpers...

So, you can imagine how I felt when my kid was doing this to me this morning... After he dressed, B ran downstairs (no mention of fishy- this was the first morning B didn't feed him as part of the morning routine) & collapsed half-on & half-off the sofa, gagging. I let him be for a bit- calming myself & trying to decide exactly what was happening. I had washed my hands before even getting my clothes out, so there was no lingering scent on my clothes... B's reaction felt very much as though he'd superimposed the OCD reaction to someone else right on top of me. Something that B's psychologist keeps telling us floated into my mind at that point- desensitisation. Up until now, B has been helpless when confronted with smells & images that remind him of this aide- many of his school triggers are related to this person who has not been around for nearly a year, & it's been very frustrating. It's like he just can't get rid of his old baggage- & as a Survivor, I know baggage. So I've had empathy for his predicament, but I'm also aware that this reaction is holding him back, keeping him enslaved to thoughts & feelings he's been stuck in since he was 8 years old... So, although it didn't feel good to bear the brunt of his gagging, defensive reaction, it hit me that transferring this reaction to me might help B start to finally "get over it". I went into the living room, found him on the floor, & insisted that he at least get on the sofa where he was safe. He screamed when I touched him, & I reminded him who I was... that I hadn't changed. I apologised for using the perfumy stuff, told him it wouldn't happen again, & assured him that I had scrubbed it off. It really did not seem that he was smelling me or the scent any more, but he was locked in the OCD reaction to it. I reminded him again that I was his mom, not anyone else, & he screamed that he knew, asked if I was trying to kill him (this is a common stress reaction for B, & my sense is that he's reacting to a sense of being "killed" by the intensity of the thoughts/feelings). I observed that I probably couldn't "kill" him any more than I had by exposing him to the smell... & he began to calm down. I let him sit at the kitchen table for a little bit, then asked what he wanted for breakfast. He requested toast, & at some point he apologised for screaming at me. I told him that I understood, apologised again for using the smelly stuff, & gave him his breakfast. Within a few minutes we were discussing Pokeman & planning summer projects.

Although I apologised to him, & I certainly would not go out of my way to provoke this sort of incident again... I'm wondering if maybe this experience provided a chink of light into a very dark place for B. To have me superimposed on a very powerfully scary thought may just have taken some of the power out of it... we'll just have to wait & see.

2 Comments:

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Wendy said...

What a terrible experience for you. My friend's daughter has some sensory issues with smelling but she seems to have gotten over them. Hopefully B will as well.

We had something similar happen with our Betta one time. I was cleaning the fish bowl and the little guy jumped out and went straight down the kitchen sink. I am *very* squeamish but I stuck my hand down and tried so hard to pick him up...but couldn't. I won't go into details about what happened next but let's just say that our Betta is no longer with us. My daughter was 3 at the time and I explained to her that George had gone to live in the sea. She *still* talks about it and she's 11 now!

May your Betta rest in peace (not piece like our little George! :) ).

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Oh, yeah... another very good reason that the next pet will not be a betta... I worried about that happening every time I changed him. I did lose some of the plastic fish gravel a couple of times down the disposal- nasty time fishing it out, but it had to be done, since it was too small to go down :(

 

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