I’m frustrated. I’m trying to not turn this into a rant, but into something more productive. Not that I’m against rants. They serve a purpose to the ranters, and are great fun to read! But I don’t want to feel this way.
Do you have anyone close to you that drives you crazy all the time. I’m not exaggerating. I mean all the time! My particular albatross is our autistic son. He is 20 years old. He has the usual autistic difficulties with communication and socialization. He is usually very inappropriate when other people are around. When it is mild, it is just continuously interrupting, standing way too close, only talking about his own subjects and not what the current conversation is about, 100% self centered, completely unaware and incapable of understanding another person’s perspective or intentions. He has continuous wants, like a 2 year old. And he has several inappropriate and even dangerous behaviors that make it necessary for him to be supervised 24-7. When things are not “mild,” they can get aggressive and violent. His tantrums, or “meltdowns” as they are known in autistic circles, are a nuisance at best and scary/dangerous at worst. When we feel one of these coming on, the house gets quiet, depressing, and we walk on eggshells, just waiting for the explosion.
So, as a result, we usually aren’t around people. Much of Gail’s family has made it clear they don’t want to be around him, even so far as to ostracize them from family holiday get-togethers. We don’t go out much, and feel trapped in our own house a lot.
We try to keep things simple so as to not overstimulate him. Autistic people feel most comfortable in routines. They have limited interests, and can be obsessed about those. The “overstimulation” has to do with their abnormal sensory systems. Sounds, tastes, textures, light, smells, can drive them absolutely crazy, and lead to unexpected behaviors. So, we have to be extra careful all the time.
We have arranged for special schools, counselors, psychiatrists, etc. He has an after school program, and is trying a special work program. It is incredible how many people are needed to support the life of just one such individual. I suppose we can all say that about ourselves if we really think about it, but we wouldn’t die without such support. Eric probably would. On his own, it would take no time for him to be in trouble or have some sort of accident. He is entirely incapable of taking care of himself. He can follow some instructions and knows how to do things around the house, but it takes constant reminders, repeated instruction, supervision, and even then the job is done poorly. Gail has a visual communication system, known as PECS, to help Eric through routines. He seems to understand that better than the spoken word.
Well, I can handle that, and more, most of the time. But once in a while, I get close to my limit. The most recent example is understandable and was expected. We drove down to North Carolina, where we will be moving shortly, because we had arranged for a number of appointments with autism specialists, to set up his services down there. It was important that he be present. But we knew it was too much. Too long of a drive, and then too many appointments, too much time away from his routines, too much stimulation. Even though we tried to schedule some things that we knew he would like, overall it was just too much. So, in the car on the long drive home, he had a meltdown, over what should have been a minor irritation. I ended up getting punched a few times.
At those times, I get rushes of powerful, mixed emotions. I get angry, frustrated, fed up. I want to quit. I think “what’s the use?” I feel a bit sorry for myself. I want to be someplace else. I want to engage in a fruitless fighting conversation.
Thank God Princess Gail and I take good care of each other. These bad moments don’t translate into getting upset at each other. We are a pretty good team.
But for myself, to settle myself down emotionally, requires some active work. This is a good example of the Serenity Prayer in action. I have to remind myself of the things I cannot change, such as his abnormal brain, his meltdowns, his foul language, his idiotic judgments and behaviors, his immaturity, his sneakiness and manipulations.
More importantly, I have to remind myself of the things that I can and must do. I can anticipate, provide structure, teach (and re teach) lessons, set examples, provide fair/natural consequences, and follow my high school motto of “suaviter et fortiter,” gently and firmly. I can practice patience. I can remind myself that to some degree, I have behaved in similar fashion at various times of my life, and people were there to guide me. I can remind myself to be grateful for a healthier brain, and a richer life. He’ll never have what I have.
I am grateful!