Thursday, March 28, 2013

I spoke too soon

Yep, those panic attacks I spoke of are back.  It had been over two weeks since my last one and I thought that I was done having them.  I even mentioned to a few people that I thought I was in the clear because they appeared to just stop as suddenly as they started.  Wrong.

I am still really on the fence about taking anything pharmaceutical for it.  I asked a group of autism moms how they handled their stresses and mentioned my panic attacks and the most common recommendations were either Klonopin or Xanax.  I did a great deal of reading on both of those and the side effects listed made me nervous just reading them.  I also checked into more natural methods of battling those attacks and think that going that route might be the least scary path for me to take.

I'm not one of those all-natural, crunchy or even semi-crunchy moms at all.  The minute I get a headache or any kind of body ache I am literally sprinting for the bottle of Aleve.  I don't look for all-natural methods to get rid of things like that; I rely on what I know to work and makes the pain go away in the quickest manner possible.  I insisted on drugs the only time I gave birth and the thought of doing that without them gives me the cold chills almost 11 years later.  Nooo way.  Uh-uh.

I understand why they started happening, or at least I think I do, now I just really want to make them stop.  Each time I get one I feel a bit hungover for a couple hours.  At least with a hangover you generally have memories - albeit cloudy ones - of a good time that was had.  There's nothing fun about these. 

I'm overwhelmed most of the time but what parent isn't?  I've been that way for years but having these panic attacks makes everything seem that much more strenuous to me.  The fact that these began right about the time that my son was about to start a month-long break from school also well.. sucks.  When he's in school I have a small amount of time each day to myself and try to take necessary breaks to keep me going.  I love my job as his mom and wouldn't trade it for anything, but like any full-time job time off is needed.  I'm hoping that when he goes back in less than two weeks and I have that time again that these will stop and I'll feel more like myself.  If they do continue and I am still feeling the need for help maybe a return to therapy might be in order.  Whatever I have to do I will do it because these aren't fun and these just need to go away. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anxious about anxiety

I'm an anxious sort of person and I always have been.  I tend to worry about things both in my control and out of it.  Worrying doesn't get me anywhere, I know, but it's part of who I am.  I've never really thought too much about it being detrimental to my well being because I've always done that and I figured if I was going to feel any side effects of it I would've already.  I've never developed an ulcer or suffered any other physical type of consequences because of my tendency to worry.  I can remember a few instances where I worried so much that I shook on occasion.  I did that quite a bit when my mom was really sick and about to pass away.  I felt helpless and when I couldn't banish the thoughts of what was happening to her from my brain I'd shake a little bit, have a good cleansing cry and feel better for a while.

I had never had what I now know to be a full on anxiety or panic attack though.  I didn't experience my first one until about a month ago and it scared the hell out of me.  I was on the way to the memorial of my friend Amber's mother.   My friend Karen was driving - thank God I might add - and out of nowhere I started to shake all over.  I felt very cold and my teeth began to chatter.  I suddenly felt really thirsty too.  My friend that was driving became worried about me when she turned the heat on me and I was still shaking and saying how cold I was.  She correctly guessed that I was having a panic attack and asked me if I had ever had one before.  Since I had never experienced one I wasn't sure.  All I knew is that my heart was pounding and I felt like I was coming unglued for a few minutes.  She pulled over and I ran into a convenience store for a bottle of water to help relieve my cotton mouth.  I was shaking as I paid the cashier and he was looking at me funny and I don't blame him.  I was a sight to see.. shaking all over and almost unable to pull the cash out of my wallet to pay for my bottle of water.  As soon as I got back into her car and started drinking the water I began to feel better.  My legs felt wobbly as I walked into the church but as soon as I sat down I felt a bit more like myself. 

When I got home I googled my symptoms and read up on panic attacks. I learned the difference between what is an anxiety attack is and how it's different from a panic one.  Panic attacks pretty much feel as if they're coming out of nowhere and present themselves exactly like mine did.  I began to think about why I had one that seemed so out of the blue and sudden while it was happening.  Turns out it was something I think was brewing for a while and just presented itself that way and that day.  It was the first memorial I had been to for someone's mom since I lost my own and I think that something about going to that triggered something inside of me that I had buried for the sake of functioning - my own grief.  I've known my friend who lost her mom for well more than a decade.  She's twelve years younger than I am and for some reason I've always felt very maternal towards her.  I didn't know her mom very well but I took it hard when I found out that she passed because I care deeply for my friend and know what she was going through.  I related to her pain and how she felt like a lost little girl who only wanted her mommy again.  I went through that and still to this day have those feelings.  I push them aside because I have a job to do and need to focus on my child but in my quieter and more reflective moments those feelings are there even though my mom has been gone for over four years.

I think just the act of going to her mom's memorial triggered my deep-seated sadness and instead of crying like I would normally do brought on a full panic attack.  I thought that once that day ended that would be the last of those but I was wrong.  It's almost as if the floodgates opened.  I've had four of those since then.  One happened in the middle of the night and woke me up.  I have no memory of what I might have been dreaming of that brought that particular one on but all I know is that I woke up with the same symptoms as before and it took me getting up and drinking a bottle of water and going outside for some fresh air to calm down again.

I'm torn at this point as to what to do.  I am hoping that this is something that will pass.  It's been over a week since my last one.  I am not ruling out the possibility of resorting to taking medication if this were to keep happening but I'd rather wait and see at this point.  I've never been on any form of anxiety medication or anti-depressants.  Nothing against them for other people at all but I've always worried about how they'd affect me.  I'm very, very sensitive to medication and always have been.  I was prescribed Vicodin last summer for a pinched sciatic nerve and it messed me up big time.  I was barely able to function and lost a good amount of weight.  I couldn't sleep and just felt very out of it until that stuff was out of my system.  Suffice it to say meds and I don't mix well.  I know people who've been greatly helped by meds so if I get to the point that the panic attacks are commonplace and they interfere with my ability to do what needs to be done I will do it.  I'm just hoping I don't have to.

Since I worry that just me being anxious about these attacks will bring on one I am trying to not focus too much on them.  That's partially why I wrote about it.  If I sit down and get my feelings out about something I tend to feel better and can handle whatever that is bothering me in a calmer manner.  Here's to hoping that happens with this.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The school issues we were having earlier this week were resolved by extending his month long break by a couple of extra days. He was supposed to be off for a month as of today at noon but instead I chose to keep him home on Wednesday and for the few hours that he would've been there today.   I hated having to do that but after thinking about it for a long time the other night I decided it would be the best way to go.

I resisted doing that because it felt like I was giving him exactly what he wanted - to be home and away from the confines and demands of school.  I was honestly just worried that there would be a repeat of his behavior earlier in the week.  He knew his behavior was enough to warrant an early pick up from me and I thought that he'd do the same to get out of there if he went back so soon after that.. His teacher e-mailed me thanking me for making that decision and saying that she had the same feelings about what might have happened if he came back for the remaining two days before they tracked off.

Her support meant a lot to me because I had been second guessing that decision all the way up until his bus came for him Wednesday morning and I went out to tell the driver that he was staying home.  I worried about what kind of message I was sending to him.  He is a super smart kid and remembers what works with people, especially with me.  He has a memory like an elephant and seems to file things away for future use.

A big part of my reasoning in extending his break was that I was hoping that he'd have a good amount of time as a buffer zone between his awful behavior and being sent home and when it's time to go back to school the week after Easter.  I'm not expecting him to forget what worked but hoping that that much time away and his love of routine will compel him to behave better when he does go back.  His teacher agreed with me on that as well.  In terms of bad behavior things tend to get worse before they get better with him and after how bad it was this week at school I didn't want to take any chances and risk having it get even worse.

On a purely selfish note I was sad to not have much time to myself this week before his break began. I am grateful for any and all downtime and had been looking forward to savoring the little I was going to get this week. But if I had sent him back just so I could have that much needed break what kind of mom would that have made me?  A pretty selfish beotch of one in my eyes, that's for sure.   Needing some me time doesn't make me selfish but doing it at the expense of others does.  I'm not big on judging other parents.  I generally have a way of thinking that believes that people have to do whatever works for them and since I am not in their situation who the hell am I to sit in judgment.  But this is different entirely.  This scenario is mine and I would've mentally kicked my own ass for putting my needs above others.  Totally not worth it.

Did I make the right decision?  I hope so.  If anyone would like to comment and tell me what they would've done or lend me some perspective I'd love to hear.  I'll make sure I am wearing my big girl panties too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Deep breaths.. in and out

This is going to be a major vent post.  Not a woe-is-me one, but definitely one where I spill how I am feeling and hopefully just writing this out will calm me the eff down.  I need it.

I just had to go pick my son up at school for being aggressive and hitting classmates and the teaching staff.  He did that yesterday as well and I was all set to go get him but his behavior turned around and he reverted back to his usual self.  Today was different.  Both yesterday and today there was a substitute teacher in his class because his teacher was out sick.  She's awesome and has a way of calming him down and redirecting him that nobody else in his classroom has.  Whenever she is gone he tends to act out more.  Part of me wonders if it's because he thinks the sub will let him get away with it.. I really am not sure, but it happens nearly every single time his teacher is out.

I understand that aggression among people who are autistic is very common.  If non verbal they often show their frustration with not being able to communicate by lashing out.  Sometimes it's an attention seeking behavior or a way to avoid having to do something they don't want to do.  I get that but that being said I don't excuse it or think Nick or anyone else should be able to do that and get off scot-free.  When he does that he loses the things that make him happy like watching his beloved Spongebob and playing with his iPad or my iPhone.  I made it clear to him when I picked him up that this wasn't a reward type situation.. he's not going to have the things today that make him happy and shouldn't be as happy to see me as he was. 

Being a hardass and taking what he loves the most away is hard, damn hard, but I feel like I have to show him that what he's doing is wrong and not acceptable in any way. I believe he knows better than that and can control those impulses but just chooses not to for whatever reason.  One of the aides in his classroom who was there today reminded me how she told me a while back that she wished that their whole class was made up of kids like Nick.  She said that he is generally the sweetest, most engaging kid and she loves having him in her class.  To have him behave badly and the total opposite of that is so upsetting.

I love nothing more than when he's behaving like the sweet boy I and just about everyone else knows him to be.  The Nick I know is a sweet cuddle bug who gives me more love in one day than some parents get in a week with their kids.  To have him behave badly and seek people out to hurt is something that upsets me and makes me feel like crap in every possible way.

He is about to start a month long break from school as of this Thursday.  I am not sure if I should send him back to school tomorrow and for the part day on Thursday or keep him home with me.  Home with me is clearly where he wanted to be today and yesterday but I don't want reward his bad behavior by giving him what he wants nor do I want to send him and have him behave like he has both yesterday and today.  His teacher has the flu so there is no telling whether she'll be coming back before the break.  That sweet aide I spoke to took my cell number and said she'd call or text me today if she finds out whether the teacher is coming back or not.  As much as I was looking forward to having a day and a half to myself before his long break starts I won't send him if I think he is just going to do what he's done lately.  Especially since I went today to pick him up.  He got what he wanted by behaving badly.  What kind of message is that sending to him?

As much as I live for and love my son and think being his mom is the greatest gift I have ever been given this whole parenting gig is sometimes just very, very hard. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Now and then

As much as I try to just focus on the now I do worry about Nick's future as an autistic adult.  As he gets older that concern does intensify.  When he was diagnosed at almost three I had high hopes that he'd make so much progress that his disability wouldn't hinder all that I knew he could become.  I still have hopes but they aren't as high as they used to be. That's hard for me to admit or really talk about.  In part that's because I worry that it makes me sound like a bad mom to others or at least as someone who has lost some faith in their child.  How it seems to others is secondary -what's more important is that it bothers me that I do that.  I wrestle with that within myself.  I get angry when I allow myself to dwell on those worries instead of keeping faith and living in the now.  I don't struggle with faith in my son's abilities at all; I struggle with letting my concerns get the better of me.  That's my nature but it doesn't help me as a mom and especially as my son's advocate if I let that consume me.  I try taking deep breaths when I feel that coming and remind myself to think positively. 

Faith is something that means a lot to me.. if I believe in something or someone I believe in it wholeheartedly and none of that has ever faded even as he hasn't made as much progress as I had hoped for. There are a few blogs that I have been reading lately about adults on the spectrum and while some help me keep my faith that things will greatly improve for Nick, there are others that cause me concern because they echo my fears of what could be.  At this point I am pretty sure that Nick will always be in my care in some way or another.  That doesn't bother me.  When I chose to have him I never believed that parenting was something that ended when the child turned 18 and was in college or on their own.  What concerns me is that nobody is immortal and there will come a time when he will have to care for himself and be productive on his own.  Yes, I am referring to what happens when I am gone.  I am sure all parents worry about that but anyone with a special needs child probably tends to dwell on that a bit more.  Most parents envision college for their children followed by a career that will provide them and their future family with a good lifestyle and the ability to have all the trappings of a "normal" life. 

I've had people ask me what I want for Nick as an adult and that's not an easy question to answer.  I want him to be happy, self-sufficient, loved for who he is and accepted for who he isn't.  I want him to be able to express himself to others in whatever way he's capable of and have his needs understood and met. Nick will most likely never be considered to be normal by society's viewpoint but that doesn't bother me.  I am sure by the time Nick is an adult he most likely won't be in such a small minority among other adults.  With Autism rates rising as much as they are I am convinced by the time he's an adult he'll be among the many who are in the same boat as he is.

Normal isn't a word that applies in a household with an autistic child. Our lives are anything but.  In fact, I pretty much despise that word.  To me it sounds judgmental in of itself.  I prefer to use the word typical.  Typical doesn't have as negative of a connotation as the word normal.    Normal, to me, suggests that if someone isn't a certain way they aren't right.  That kind of thinking just flies in the face of logic and just basic respect for the differences between everyone. 

Tonight on MTV a show called "World of Jenks" will have its season two premiere.  This show is a reality documentary series that features a guy who moves in with a person for a week to get a feel for life from their perspective.  Tonight he'll chronicle his experience living with a 20 year-old man with Autism.  I have seen a few clips from this show and it looks like it will be an interesting show to watch. 

I'm sure watching what little I've seen of this show and reading about autistic adults has stirred up my concerns to a point that they are higher than they generally are.  When this heightened level of concern passes - and it always does - I'll better be able to focus on the now.  It's the now that will shape what happens then.  I suppose that needs to be my mantra and what I need to tell myself to calm down when my anxieties threaten to take over.  That and deep breaths and/or a stiff drink.