I have been on this different-brained journey for Michael’s entire life. He came out with a very clear expectation of how life was going to be. And with that expectation, he was given the gift of communication when things did not go the way he thought it should. That communication includes loud screaming and crying and threats.
I started journaling several years ago to attempt to keep my sanity and create a healthy habit for myself. I also work really hard at maintaining beneficial support systems in my life. Following is an email that I wrote in July 2011, although it seems more likely it was sent in 2010—but my ability for geography and chronologaly (yes, I just made up that awesome word!) is almost nonexistent.
My Asperger’s son who is now eight has had “episodes” of epic proportion as of late. I now have emergency psychiatric hospitals and clinics ready to program into my cell phone. My son, Michael, has threatened suicide over a math problem in the last few months (he was seven at the time). He has screamed at me to “kill him on purpose” because his brother was promised a Frosty from Wendy’s. He threatened to burn down our house. He locked me out of the house a few weeks ago because his brother got to the front door first. He’s eight now.
He has a severe case of whatever-this-is (currently labeled Asperger’s syndrome—form of autism) and it takes over when he can’t make sense of life and feels out of control and completely confused . . . and then it blows out like a candle. It is terrifying, devastating, loud, confusing, and deflating.
He will be getting a psychiatric evaluation as these episodes are escalating in severity of threats. He has not tried to harm himself or burn anything and I really don’t think he wants to . . . I live in constant fear of what will happen next. I have questions that seem to have no answers. I have a son that could potentially be hospitalized (tears) due to his mental condition for safety reasons. How? Why? What to do? What not to do? Rhetorical questions?
When he was one year old, if I didn’t put his shoes on in the order he wanted them on (sock L, sock R, shoe L, shoe R), it would take about fifteen minutes to calm him down from the crying and screaming. I didn’t have another child to compare this behavior to, so it seemed normal, and when describing it, people said hundreds of different things.
The above episode’ are what it looks like at eight years old. I am currently living in fear of what it will look like at ten and twelve. He’s got tools he’s being exposed to in social groups, individual counseling, and occupational therapy. He doesn’t seem to be able to put them into practice as of yet. I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever be able to. What do I honestly know anyway? Hmmm?
I feel that all will be well for moments at a time. Other times I feel overwhelmed with the unknown of where I’m headed. I am softly smiling thinking of all of you, who I feel will hold me while I’m on my journey to the unknown with my son. He’s such an incredible gift and at times I have felt like he’s a living prophet. He’s truly amazing and now I am witnessing an emerging part of him that terrifies me.
I received truly enormous support back. As I reread that, it says “I am currently living in fear of what it will look like at ten and twelve.” Well, he’s ten now and I’d love to share what it looks like. He is on a wonderful medication that has calmed his tantrums to an incredible minimum. He has been in therapy for so many years and his “toolkit” for social skills and life skills is chock full of awesome tools that we all use. He totally struggles and he still gets in and out of the car first. If he doesn’t get in and out first, there is a loud, threatening breakdown. But the breakdown doesn’t last as long, and he can sometimes talk his way through them with minimal support. He still hangs on me when he needs grounding, and I am happy to be that for him (a safe coat rack?). So I want to share my celebration of how his maturity and medication and therapeutic practices has created a young ten-year-old boy who is capable of being in loving relationships and can go to school everyday with minimal calls from the teacher.
Know that my life is pretty much devoted to his well-being and the tools I can offer him. We currently have an in-home therapist that is making helpful changes to our way of life and how we relate as a family (me, Michael, who’s ten, and Mason, who’s seven). It’s a work in progress. And I’m thrilled to say that I don’t have emergency psych ward phone numbers in my cell phone anymore. I may still need them, but for right now, I’m not basking in fear. And that is a huge celebration.