A report from the front lines

This is the type of post I never want to write.  One about how human I am and how hard autism can really be.  In the back of my mind I think “Well, you could just not write this.  You could pretend you’re more put together than you are.  You could just keep your worst nights to yourself.”  And I must admit, this voice in my head has a very persuasive argument.  But I know two things.  One – You read my blog because I’m honest.  And two – The people who saved me last night were other autism parents who admit to sometimes feeling as if they live in a war zone.  So maybe you had a similar night last night, maybe you’ll have a similar night tomorrow.  Either way I want you to know I’ve been there.  Because things get really scary when we think we are alone in our darkest hour.

I was going to start by telling you about how stressed I was and how Skylynn has been being overly frustrating lately.  But I decided in all reality that doesn’t necessarily matter.  We are all stressed, and all of our kids (both autistic, and NT) know how to push our buttons for extended periods of time.  So I guess in some ways this could have been any day that I was at the end of my rope by bed time.

So last night my own personal meltdown started because Skylynn wouldn’t take her medicine – again!  She is starting to have withdrawal symptoms after not taking her night medications for many nights in a row.  At least that is what it seems, hard to know when she isn’t very verbal.  So knowing she wasn’t going to take them again, even after I had tried every creative trick I could think of, made me LOOSE it last night.  As she started into another meltdown I just couldn’t take it another second.  I have never lost it in front of Nate, but I did.

I grabbed Skylynn forcefully by the arm;
Started screaming about how frustrating she was being;
Dragged her down the hall;
Then I threw her in her room and slammed the door.
I stood there with my heart racing, mad as hell, as Felicity began crying because I woke her up, and Nate looking at me like “ok what the hell do I do now.”  I could tell he wanted to go comfort Skylynn but he had no idea how I might react.  So I told him to do what he wanted and jumped in the shower to try and calm myself down.

The whole thing was a horrible terrible mess.  I was so mad, and yet felt bad, and almost didn’t feel bad, all at the same time.  I am all about autism positivity but when we are being completely honest we have to admit that sometimes autism feels like a war.  Sometimes it pushes us to the point that we just can’t take it anymore.  Studies have shown that autism parents have stress levels similar to those of combat soldiers.  And sometimes I feel it.  I feel so stressed out that I can’t take it another second.

There are so many things that are so difficult about this situation but one is not knowing when we’re about to snap.  I understand that if I’m getting to the point that I’m going to snap, I need to back away from the situation and take a time out.  But in reality that line between losing it and keeping it together is so thin I think it’s almost impossible to know when I’m close.  Skylynn having meltdowns and making me crazy is a very normal part of my life.  Sometimes these meltdowns are intensely frustrating, but I hold it together.  I don’t know what really separates the days that I can deal with it and the days that I can’t until after I’ve lost it (thank goodness I hardly ever lose it to the degree I did last night.)

I think another really difficult thing is being so incredibly mad – but at what?  When I’m mad at Nate, I know I’m mad at him.  When I’m mad at a coworker, I know I’m mad at them.  They have control over their actions.  I think it would even be easier with a NT kid.  If they do something they know they shouldn’t, you can be mad at them.  But with autism, how can I be mad at her?  Skylynn was being incredibly difficult, so incredibly difficult, but can I be mad at her for it?  I don’t know – she has autism.  Do I know how much of last night was her being a difficult 4 year old and how much was autism?  No – which sucks!  Can I be pissed off at autism?  No – because I don’t want Skylynn to feel like that part of her is bad.  Autism has aspects of it that are both great, and difficult.  So who can I be mad at?  I’m so mad I could throw things across my house, and punch a hole through the wall – but who am I mad at?  Nothing?  Everything?  I don’t even know.

So, after I got out of the shower; Nate got Skylynn to bed; and I got Felicity to bed; I sat there waiting for him to tell me what a horrible mother I was.  But he didn’t say anything about it and changed the subject as if nothing happened.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was so disappointed in myself, still pretty irritated, and had no idea how to make sure this type of thing never happened again – and Nate just wanted to figure out what we were going to do for the next 2 hours before we went to bed.  So I asked him about it.  How wasn’t he pissed off at me?  How wasn’t he disappointed?  How wasn’t he incredibly concerned for the safety of his children?  His response “let’s be honest, in some ways I expect things like this to happen.”

Wow did that change my mood so fast.  One – I felt so grateful to have such an understanding, loving, wonderful husband.  And two – I guess in some ways he is right.  How can we be in such a stressful situation day in and day out and not have moments like this?  They are horrible and awful and I am not justifying my behavior.  But I’m only human.  That is what is so frustrating when people say “God must have given you a special child because you could handle it.”  Well guess what – Sometime I CAN’T HANDLE IT.  I can’t.  That’s all there is to it.  I’m an imperfect mom who does imperfect things who sometimes can’t take the pressure.  That’s the truth of all of it.  Maybe half of my problem is I believe I should always be able to take it perfectly without getting upset and losing it so I leave myself in situations where I am pushed to the max because somehow I should be able to handle it – because somehow I’m special.

Well in that way I’m not special.  I’m not blessed with a magical amount of patience.  I’m not immune to incredible amounts of stress.  I’m not a zen yoga master who can keep my cool through incredibly frustrating situations day after day after day – and that has to be ok.  Because in the end I love Skylynn more than anything in this world.  And as imperfect and awful a mother as I am some days – I’m the only mom she has and I’m trying my damnedest to do the best job I know how.

So do I hope nights like last night never happen again – absolutely.  Will I try my best to be more on top of my emotions and understand when I need to walk away – yes.  But even with my best efforts will nights like last night happen again – probably.  And when it comes right down to it – as much as it sucks – it just has to be ok.  Because I’m doing the best I can.