Monday, March 26, 2007

Full circle...

This past week can't have been just a week long... I feel as though time has stretched (sometimes agonisingly so), but then that's what happens when you have a kid in discomfort, I guess. Happily, we seem to have come back round to where we were & life is settling down to what passes for normalcy (for us). But what a ride we've had...

The first main consideration was the pain of these new braces & how to cope with it. We did the usual tylenol, round the clock, which helped, as did the hot-water-bottle teddy bear I'd bought years ago but had never used. Brendan'd lay on the foof chair (like a beanbag) & watch tv after school with the bear over his face & said it really helped. By Tuesday evening Brendan's face was really swollen & the initial all-over discomfort had settled into just the spots where the wires were poking his cheeks. Up to then he wasn't tolerating any wax in his mouth to cover the poky things, but by Wednesday morning he was ready to tolerate just about any secondary discomfort... Wednesday morning as I was trying to situate small lumps of soft wax on his upper back molars I realised that, in nearly 11 years of life, this was something I'd never done to/for my kid before. I've changed diapers, fed him, wiped & bathed him, placed thermometers where "the sun don't shine", but had never reached this far back into his mouth before. It was weird. He was so relieved when the wax was in place, you could see it on his face. After Charlie took him off to school, I called the orthodontist & got an appointment for that afternoon, to see what they might be able to do. Fortunately, they were able to re-situate the end of the wires so they didn't bother him & his face de-swelled by Thursday morning.

Eating has been a big challenge, too. He was really psyched by the prospect of going out for Japanese on Tuesday night, since dad had to work late, & we were pretty sure that his usual selections (rice, soup, edamame, ice cream) wouldn't cause trouble, but we weren't prepared for him to be so frustrated with the amount of time & effort it took just to eat. He nearly exploded a couple of times while we were at the restaurant, while not getting much food down (on top of it all), so I was not inclined to order dessert... but when he promised to keep it together while he waited for the tempura ice cream, I relented. Good thing- after eating the ice cream he was feeling much better & proceded to eat everything that had been giving him so much trouble pre-ice cream. When I went shopping Thursday morning I stocked-up on ice cream... He'd also decided that ice cubes made of fruit juice helped his mouth, so I got more juice, & decided to get him some jello (which he's never, ever liked) along with the requested apple sauce. He tried the jello for snack that day & loved it. :)

As for distraction- what we discovered was that tv worked best, with me reading out loud to him coming in second. Dragon Fable (his newer, better version of Adventure Quest) was not distracting enough, so he's spent remarkably little time on the computer this past week. Tv-wise, he asked me if we could try watching my old (from the early 90's) "The Adventures of Batman & Robin" animated series tapes again & I agreed. The first time we tried, maybe a year ago, he was too freaked out by the costumed criminals & decided himself that he should wait. I sat & watched with him, just to be sure he was doing ok. It's funny how you don't really notice certain things... while watching the shows this time around I was struck by the heavy undertones of mental illness (with the bad guys) & focus on their incarceration in a mental hospital (Arkham). The more we watched, the more Brendan asked me about how or why various baddies went crazy & I was getting more & more umcomfortable with exposing him to this. He was particularly taken by Two-Face's compulsion for flipping coins to make decisions, which, given Brendan's OCD, made me uneasy...

By Friday morning he was much more comfortable, physically, but I could tell that he was on edge in general, very likely due to the discomfort of learning to live with the braces. So much has changed- when & how often he brushes his teeth, a new fluoride regimen that has to be timed, what & how he can eat, when & if he can have a snack before bedtime... & just the constant feeling that he's got these things in his mouth. I went in on Friday afternoon for our usual japanese lesson to discover that Brendan had gotten in a bit of trouble during lunch/outside time & was waiting to have it all dealt with. His teachers were actually a somewhat pleased, since it seemed to them normal, kid-type trouble & it was good to see him doing developmentally appropriate things. I was cautiously ok with it all, but it never feels good to know your kid has given a teacher trouble (he misunderstood a direction that lunch had to be either entirely consumed or put away before he could go & play, & thinking that he had to eat it all, got angry & was caught chucking woodchips at the teacher, thinking she couldn't see him do it). He was pretty embarassed about doing it, being caught, & worried about the consequence. I had suggested to the teachers that the consequence be helping the teacher he'd given a hard time to with something at school & they thought that was a good idea, so I told him that much, to relieve his anxiety. But not much seemed to relieve his embarassment & discomfort. I managed to talk him back to a place where he could join his classmates for a workshop (japanese lesson got steamrollered by it all) & he hung in there for a bit, but then the tics got out of hand & he had to leave. I finally just took him home, but he was an emotional disaster by the time we got there.

One of the things that complicated it all was that he'd showed me something he'd made at school & it was weighing on my mind... he'd taken 2 playing-card jokers, taped them back to back, made a scratch on one side (to indicate the "bad" heads) & was flipping the whole thing like Two-Face flips his coin. I didn't react strongly when he showed it to me, but realised that I wasn't comfortable letting him see any more Batman... Of course, when we got home that's what he wanted to do, & when I explained that we were going to take a break he flipped. Sigh. He got so worked up, it was very much like the psychotic episodes he'd had when he was 8 & had just developed the OCD. He was "scared" to go in just about any room in the house, scared of his "bad" left hand & arm (a long-standing OCD issue), writhing on the floor & banging his head repeatedly. I wasn't really sure what to do- call Charlie? Call his psychologist? I didn't feel secure leaving him alone to do either. Finally I just shook him. I felt rotten about doing it & he got really angry, but he came back down to earth. He ran into his room & burrowed under the covers (which is something I'd suggested he do but he was too scared before...). I sat on the bed & held his hand through the covers, apologised for breaking trust with him, & explained that I'd been scared & didn't know what else to do- & cried with him. When he calmed down & we both were blowing our noses he told me I did the right thing. I'm not so sure... but it was over for the moment. We had a snack & I suggested that we watch some of a japanese programme I'd found on the internet (at veoh) called "Kamen Rider Den-O". It's in the Power Ranger/Super Sentai genre, but with a lot more plot (IMO), & although it's not subtitled, I've been able to glean alot from watching & researching the show on wikipedia. He was psyched to watch, so we did for about an hour & then he wanted to play Dragon Fable.

He was emotionally up & down for the rest of the evening & it was a great relief when Charlie came home from work & could spell me. Grammie was due to come to dinner, but called during the afternoon (while Brendan was on the computer) in a panic about the pet food poisonings. She was afraid to feed her 3 cats & couldn't get through to the vet to see which foods were safe, so I looked it up for her on the internet & then told her that Brendan was having a tough time. She decided that she'd stay home & recover from her scare (& feed her cats). It is such a gift to have a mother who understands & gives us the space to do what we need to for Brendan, plus loves us all pretty much unconditionally through it all :)

Saturday morning was fairly calm (good thing, because Charlie was in the office for the morning). We watched more Kamen Rider & discussed it over lunch. Charlie came home in time for japanese lesson & sat in with us. I'd thought Brendan would be up for lesson, but he had a really rough time coping (the purple part of the sofa pillow bothered him & his left hand bothered him) & finally he melted-down. Charlie suggested that they play with legos instead, so Tomoko & I finished the lesson & talked about orthodontia- she'd had braces as an adult & really sympathised with his discomfort. I also invited her to Brendan's birthday party next Sunday & we arranged to have our lesson in the morning next Saturday, so she could move her Sunday students to Saturday afternoon & come to the party.

Brendan spent a goodly part of the afternoon alternately obsessing about legos & raging around, & watching Kamen rider with me or other stuff with Charlie. It was a good day to have 2 parents at home! One thing we discussed over dinner Saturday was strategies for Brendan to reclaim his left hand & arm from the bad OCD thoughts. We've been working with him on this particular "thought" for a few years now- it's one of his earliest ones- & from talking to him about it, it may be that the whole thing originated because he has some sensory issues with his left hand. He's told us that sometimes it tingles or feels weird, which seems to have mutated itself into an OCD thought. He's renamed his left hand "Q-1", which stands for "quadroped 1" & that's how he refers to the thought, too. Over dinner we talked about Brendan trying to move his own "ki" or life-energy into that hand & see if he could reverse the bad thoughts about it. Brendan is very sensitive to "ki" & has found that he can sense the "ki" from other people & objects as well. I mentioned that the American Indians use bundles of herbs called smudge sticks to purify things, & that he might want to try this as well. I have done some healing work with crystals in the past, too, & told him he could use some of my crystals if he wanted to. Brendan seemed psyched to have some positive ideas for dealing with his hand trouble & went to bed in a pretty good mood.

I was worried about church on Sunday, since it's always a challenge for him, but he settled into his usual Dragon Fable game on the church computer during choir practise, transitioned really well to reading his book during the first part of the service, & even participated in the kids' story that happens right before we all go upstairs for Sunday School- something he rarely does. He wanted to stay for lunch (it was pledge Sunday, so there was good food :) & we heard that he'd taught his whole class some yoga that he'd learned in 3rd grade... although I don't think that was exactly the lesson for the day :) Flexible Sunday School teachers are another great gift... The whole afternoon at home went very smoothly. I found another ancient vhs tape- of episodes of "The Tick", which had been another of my early-90's faves- & we watched it in & around other activities. We went over to our sailing club, which is where Brendan's party will take place, to scout it out (I'm looking for likely places to hide the treasure, & we're all looking for where to do the various activities of his D&D-themed party). The bay is still mostly covered with ice, which was pretty amazing considering how balmy the weather has been lately. When we got back home I collapsed on the sofa to snooze for a couple hours while Charlie & Brendan went to fly a kite on a neighbouring hill & then played quietly with legos until I resumed consciousness. Brendan was much mellower all day- such a relief! And in the evening, after jammies time, he told us that he wanted to try to de-tic his left hand & arm. I found some lavender incense (I have real smudge, but strong smells are a problem & he loves the scent of lavender) & we did it in the living room rather than in his room, in case he had trouble with the smell. He lit the incense (part of the cachet was being allowed to light the match) & held some crystals in his left hand while I smudged his left hand & arm. He closed his eyes & pushed his "ki" until he said both sides of his body felt the same, energy-wise. The I smudged all of him. We affirmed that it was ok if his left had sometimes felt differently, because he's different & he's ok. Brendan looked very peaceful & happy when he was done, & he liked the incense so well he wanted to burn the rest of it in his room :)

I know this all may have sounded hippy-dippy... but I think that the incense & crystals were important psychological tools for him, that helped him to imagine himself as whole & ok. The effort certainly tired him out- he slept right up to the alarm this morning,which usually makes him grumpy as heck. But when I mentioned that I suspected the effort of moving his "ki" had tired him out, he smiled & agreed. He seemed proud to have done it. I asked him this morning how his arm felt & he said that it felt a little empty, so we discussed his taking time during the day to keep the "ki" moving. We told Cherie, his consultant teacher, what he'd done & she was delighted, knowing what a problem the OCD has given him over his left hand. I really love seeing his pride & joy in reclaiming part of himself. When I left school Brendan was sitting quietly at his desk doing his morning work with the rest of his class.

So we seem to be back to normal- for now :) This is birthday blowout week- I need to make lists of what needs to be done, particularly the adventure-quest-type activities (I have been googling co-operative games & have found some particuarly fiendish ones that will work very well to make things seem like a quest :) & then do them!! Our goddaughter has offered to help out & I think she'll make a good sphinx (tee hee). The RSVP's are dribbling in... And then, the day after the party (a week from today), the rest of the braces are installed & we get to go through it all again!

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At 2:15 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

Braces. I am an adult and every 4 / 5 weeks when the braces are tweaked, I can't eat for a few days and I'm really, really grumpy [more so than usual]
when you first have your face invaded by braces, it's pretty tough and not the sort of thing that you can ignore /not be aware of all the time.
I don't want to 'project' but I think you might be surprised at how all encompassing the braces might be on Brendan.
Best wishes and lots of wax!

At 2:46 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

p.s. whilst I think of it I just remembered - if Brendan complains that his teeth 'itch' he is telling the truth. I know it sounds completely barmy but they do!
Best wishes

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Club 166 said...

In regards the left hand being bad, just keep him away from any Latin texts, as the Latin word for left is sinister.

At 12:34 AM, Blogger kristina said...

Charlie has something about his left hand---he wraps it tightly in his blanket and hold it under his head often when he sleeps. I suspect a circulation issue----though on piano, he is quite agile (as in dexter, the Latin for "right" hand) with his left.

It is more than helpful to read your "braces adventures"----so many things one does not think of. First the effort to get them on, and then to keep them on.....

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Thanks for the kind words & advice friends :)

Having your recent experience to draw upon is a real help, mcewen!

Luckily, we are concentrating on japanese rather than latin, club166 :)

I was put onto the possibility of variable sensation in Brendan's left hand by Zilari, Kristina. It is such a gift to have so many real experts out there to help us along!

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

Lisa I really hope things are going along a bit better for you all now. I know I (too often) do the wrong thing with my children when I'm anxious or stressed. They have been very good about forgiving me.
It sounds like the ritual on his left arm should really help his anxiety. I do hope so. It was very perceptive of you to suggest it.


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