Meet My Monster

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I love to be the first one in the house to get up.  If you know me at all, you probably think that is, at the very least, sarcasm or just a downright lie. I love to sleep. I can’t for the life of me understand why it isn’t one of the 5 love languages. (If you haven’t read that book, do it now. If you have kids, read the one for kids too. Life changers. You’re welcome.) On the weekends when my beloved says, “hey why don’t you go take a nap?”, my love for him at that moment is so strong that I might just explode. This alone is a good enough reason to have married this man. And I don’t even care if he is offering/strongly suggesting because I am hard to deal with and he can’t take me another second. Or maybe he just wants to play Halo 5 without my incessant talking. Motives makes no difference to me, he said the word “nap”. Sometimes I think I could sleep 24 hours straight. I even amaze myself at my mad sleeping skills and have often wondered if maybe I have mono or something. No one should be as tired as I am. My husband assures me that whatever mysterious sleeping sickness I have, I have had for the 15 years he has known me. My mom says it has been all 34 years she has known me.  So it seems to defy the laws of logic that I have been choosing to get up earlier than the fam. But it’s true.

My monster has done this to me. I wake up every morning with this looming dread that has set up camp in my chest. The kind of dread the happens just after the worst case scenario (whatever that may be). This causes my insides to revolt in the most unpleasant way. Dread, panic, fear, frustration…they are all piled on top of each other in my chest competing for thoughts in my head. I absolutely hate starting my day like this. Every! Single! Day! My interactions with my family suffer because of this intruder.  It makes my startle response rival that of someone with PTSD and when my son wakes me up to come with him to the bathroom because he’s scared, I just feel down right angry.

I get it. I sound a little crazy. Crazy is a relative term. I have been a Psych nurse for 10 years and have seen crazy. Wrapping your own poop neatly in towels and keeping them inside your shirt is crazy. Sawing off  most of your fingers and your own foot with a hand held saw is crazy.  Don’t get me started on the lady that ate most of her face…. I am assuming this is not acceptable conversation so I’ll move on.  I’ll wear the crazy label if I must. Any kind of deviation from Stepford Wife tends to be frowned upon.  My dear husband seems to think there are lots of my kind of crazy but they don’t write blogs about it;)

Whatever you call it, I hate it. And even more than the monster, I hate that my family has to suffer because I can’t handle my emotions. I would do anything! Rub Cheetos on my third toe?? Sure, if you say it might work.  By trial and error, I have tried getting up early. Trying to get my hot mess of a mom self together before the boys wake up. Prayer, yoga, reading, repeat. Whatever it takes. This actually works really well. This morning I got up at 6am and had coffee by the pool. All….by….myself.  When you don’t get a moment to yourself, ever, and you’re surrounded my mass chaos, being by yourself is like winning the lottery…and not even having to pay taxes.

I am strangely drawn to and terrified by nature. They say everything is bigger in Texas but I beg to differ. Behind my house is nothing but woods, and this swamp, river, creek thing.  This makes for a breeding ground (literally) for some strange animal sightings and some of the biggest insects I have ever seen. I am sure my small dogs could be carried off by some of these spiders and my husband and oldest little have reported a “huge cat thing bigger than our dog climbing up a tree.”  I try not to make eye contact with the forest. Maybe it will take this as a sign of respect and not send its tenants into my yard to eat me. I check the pool skimmer and, when I see fur, I close my eyes and replace the lid. I have no problem taking care of the pool and I have already rescued a turtle, a duck, and 13 baby chicks. What more do you want?? There are these huge pterodactyl bird looking things that I am certain could take on a coyote…one of which I saw brazenly walking down my street. No doubt trying to make a snack out of the geese that run the neighborhood. And go ahead and google “hellbender”.  I am certain it is called this because it is a literal  demon sent from the pits of hell to take your first born.  I saw something that looked like this come out of the ground right in front of me while I was pulling weeds from my flower beds.  It looked like a giant pickle with wrinkles like a Shar-Pei and a weird tail but moves as fast as those tiny geckos. I also learned that I am a freezer. You know, your fight or flight response? I don’t know where my fight went but my flight most definitely didn’t operate properly. I froze for what seemed like an hour and tried to figure out if I was still alive and if I still had control of my bodily functions.

But as I sat there this morning, I could smell the honeysuckle that is growing with abandon on the back fence. I could hear the owls talking to each other in perfect sequence. I could hear large “beasts” (???) running through the woods (I’m assuming modern day dinosaurs but again, no eye contact). The wind from the trees and the sun and 55 degree weather was absolutely perfect. I was scared and completely in awe at the same time. It was glorious. A testament to God’s greatness. A gift. Then I realized that I would have never been outside to witness any of it without the monster. I was forced to give up my beloved sleep to fight this monster and, in return, learned that my mornings to myself hold some of my favorite parts of the day. You will be amazed at what God reveals to you when you are quiet and still. It makes me wonder what else I am missing out on because I am so concerned with my own discomfort.  It makes me want to try new things and take more chances. Who knows, maybe I’ll run a marathon! Hahahaha that’s totally a lie. If you see me running, you should probably run too. Something is most definitely chasing me. It’s probably one of those dinosaur birds…or those hellbender things they said were “very rare”. Liars…. Regardless, I will keep trying to count my blessings in the most unlikely of places. Even if that means I lose my precious sleep. RIP old friend;)

 

 

 

How To See The World Through My Son’s Eyes

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Let me start this post by saying that this is not a post about  viewing the world through an autistic lens.  I try to be very real and raw and honest but the last thing I want to do is try to portray something that I have no idea how to accept as reality. This is about what I have learned through my neurotypical-filtered brain. Some of these things I will tell you may or may not have a direct correlation to my son’s autism. What I do know is that he has some amazing characteristics that I wish I possessed.  Before I get to that, let me paint you a picture of some of the struggles my son faces each day.

First a little background on obsessions. Darn you basil ganglia! Did you know that OCD is a biological disorder? Because I need you to know this. This (and most) mental disorder is not something that you snap out of. You can’t tell someone with obsessive, intrusive, ruminating thoughts to simply, “stop thinking about that.” If only it were that easy. It is an actual disturbance in the pathways of your brain. Pretend someone puts you in one of those revolving doors. I seriously hate those things. (It takes me back to elementary P.E. class where you do this awkward rocking motion to pick your perfect time to jump into the swinging jumprope.) Now pretend someone has played a cruel joke and closed all the openings to get out. You begin to panic because….hello, you’re in a hamster wheel. Now imagine a loud speaker shouting at you to exit. My claustrophobia is causing some serious heart palpitations right now (have I mentioned I have my own issues?).  This is kinda how those with OCD are forced to operate.  Trust me, they would love to stop the insanity.

My son tends to ruminate on certain subjects, as many with autism do. He can tell you anything you want to know about superheroes, MMA fighters, and Minecraft.  After a particularly long day (literally this can be ALL day) of hearing all things superheroes, I sarcastically asked when the first Batman was made. I was referring to the one with Michael Keaton although I have no idea the year. He didn’t skip a beat while answering, “1966 starring Adam West.” Wait, huh?? I had to look that one up. This caused a rapid fire session of his new party trick. I stared blankly after I asked him when the first Avenger movie was made and he responded, “Animation or real life?”

One reason that my son sticks to things he knows so well, is because he loves routine. This is his comfort zone. He doesn’t have to be faced with new input to his already haywire system. This is his safe place. But sometimes the revolving door/hamster wheel gets stuck on things that aren’t so “safe”.  This is not only frightening for him but heartbreaking (and if I’m honest extremely frustrating) to watch.  After playing with a caterpillar in the yard, my son went into full blown panic mode for seemingly no reason because he was afraid it somehow went into his eye, traveled to his heart, and was going to kill him. Let me preface this by saying my son most likely has a higher IQ than I do. He knows this is not rational. But at that moment, it is not only probable to him that this will occur, it is all he can think about. I would imagine this is like hitting your toe as hard as you can with a hammer and then being told to pretend it isn’t hurting and, to add to that, carry on a conversation as if your toe is not black, bleeding, and throbbing like a duck’s butt (I have no earthly idea what that means but my parents say it. Come to think of it, that might not even be the correct saying. I like it, so I’m leaving it. Let’s move on.).  Some of these fears become so overwhelming that the ability to have rational thought completely leaves him. Coupled with flailing arms, screaming, lots of tears, and incessant begging just to feel safe.  It is the most helpless feeling to see your child in so much distress and not be able to comfort him or help him feel secure.

Sometimes he gets in these moods (I have no idea what to call them). Let’s call them wild-eyed episodes that can last for hours. This is when he complains about his brain shaking violently. He runs, he screams, he laughs and can’t focus his eyes,  almost like he is dizzy.  He makes bizarre facial expressions and literally and continuously moves every muscle in his body. Just watching it is exhausting.

I tell you these things to tell you this. My son is my hero. He is the happiest boy I know. His laugh and smile are contagious. He will find a way to play, have fun, love life. He takes opportunities that I would have completely missed. He reminds me to never take myself too seriously. He plays with wild abandon and gets so lost in his pretend worlds that I almost believe he’s there. He looks at the world with wonder and amazement. He forgives and drops it, immediately. He asks far too philosophical questions that are beyond my capabilities to answer which only attest to his beautiful mind. He suffers but he doesn’t let it define him. He lives in a world he doesn’t understand but tries so hard to make it work. He loves simple pleasures like tickle fights and family meals together and can play Legos for hours and say it was the best day ever.  He sees wonder in an odd shaped pinecone and splendor in a full moon. He is devastatingly aware of his battles but always remains positive and quick to remind me, “I will be able to do this one day.” His insight goes far beyond his 7 years and his soul is a thing of beauty. His unyielding belief in the power of prayer makes my heart happy.  I wish I could imprint these lessons on my DNA. I wish I had his strength. His will to do better and be better. To find happiness despite circumstances or the toll they take on your mind.  It’s not an easy journey. But as Dr Seuss says, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So….get on your way!” Yep, you’ll go far kid. I believe in you.