Friday, July 31, 2009

The Autism Meltdown

You know how you feel when your toddler throws a tantrum" That unmotherly combination of anger, frustration, revenge, acquiescience, intolerance and a strong desire to swill down the bottle of Listerene?

Now imagine it when your toddler is 13. And you live in a house w/out AC so your windows are open. And your house is really close to the neighbors whom you've barely met. So now you can add in "embarrassed."

Add those emotions together and you have a heaping helping of G-U-I-L-T.

Then it's over - mercifully I am usually able to get it under control without losing my temper. Not always. Sometimes I snap like Joe Theismann's (thanks BT) thighbone and become psycho Mom. I scream. I hold little arms down by sides and wrap bodies in ultra squeezes. I turn my face into a twisted mask of anger and fear. I want to instill fear. Anything to make the screaming STOP. It never works.

I grab the book that's always in her hands. It's a book of emotions. Funny, huh? I open the page to angry and ask, "Are you angry?" I flip to sad, "Are you sad?" I wish for a page that reads, "Are you a crazy child put on this earth to torment me forever?"

Finally she quiets. I hit the right note. I find, "silly" or "excited" the page she perseverates on all day and all night. She grins. Tears fall from her eyes. She catches her breath. I remember to breathe.

It passes.

She sleeps.

I worry.

We both feel like this:





24 comments:

Drama Mama said...

I'm sorry, Kim. I'm so sorry. It must be so hard.

Niksmom said...

Shit, you and I must ne living in parallel universes this week. Except mine doesn't have a book and hes 5 1/2. God, I know that scenario all too well and it feels like shit when it happens. I flinch when I see *him* flinch when I yell. Right before he laughs, which sends me further over the edge.

I hear you, sister. And I feel your pain.

Niksmom said...

Um, that should read "be"...not "ne."

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

We're only human, we autism Moms... Even though we have to act all cool and together and keep a stiff upper lip and proclaim our great joy at our lot in life, and that of our kids. Bullpooperama.... Thanks, sisters.

jesswilson said...

ditto drama

stay strong, kim. and no guilt - you do so much for your girls.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Thanks, Jess.

K Fuller said...

My biggest fear. I am 5'3 1/2" tall. My son is now 16 and 5'5". Please let us keep the behaviors under control. What will I do if the meltdowns come back? What will I do?
When language came back to my son, when he was able to understand use your words, we were saved. I pray for the same thing for all non verbal affected children.
It must happen for all affected children.

Cath said...

So I'm not the only mom who feels like a butt for yelling at her autistic child...whew! I try so hard - but some days I'm just not in the mood for a meltdown (LOL) and I get pissed. But I have learned that yelling at him has NEVER calmed him down...and it makes me feel like shit...kinda like the tequila bar after a breakup. You really want it - you think it will make you feel better but ohhhh it makes it so much worse and you feel like crap in the morning... I know it. I feel for you - all the stress of moving and getting settled with this cherry on the top. Thanks for being so brave to share this one...

Rene said...

"I want to instill fear. Anything to make the screaming STOP. It never works."

No, it never does, does it?

We have been there so, so often. Take good care & know that you are being prayed for tonight.

Crystal said...

God bless you. I feel your pain.

Roger Kulp said...

What onearth made you think it ever went away ?I am probably as old as any of you here,and I just went through four days of head banging and nonverbal vocal stimming.

Big heavy hard cover books are one of my favorite things to use for head banging,too.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Oh Roger - were you in pain, is that why?? When I was in labor (drug free, I wasn't going to put poison into my baby, ha ha ha!) I stimmed with my fingers - flicking and shaking my wrists and pacing to set aside the pain. I've always thought of that - I am not autistic, the stimming was my natural response to grinding pain, not a behavior.

I hope you feel better today, Roger.

Thanks, everone. Todauy? My pal says to me, "The dog is barking. But no screaming. The neighbors. The dog is barking."

Anonymous said...

Kim

I was there this week too. The pain of not being able to help my now non-verbal son who is 8 1/2. And then the emotions I feel afterwards about what sometimes goes thru my brain (that Catholic guilt for me). We had a meltdown in the garage, windows open, people taking leisurely walks outside--my husband went to close the windows. Leave them open. I'm sick of keeping a lid on it. Hang in there, Kim. I intend to.

Holly

Amy in Idaho said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto. Is it the heat? Is it allergies? Mold? Who knows. One saving grace for us - we live right next to the freeway so when my son goes ballistic, no one hears it. Of course, there is all that pollution......

pixiemama said...

I want to make shirts for our kids that say "I am a crazy child put on this earth to torment you forever!" and then when I think I'm going to snap, maybe I'll go the other direction.

I'm sorry. I hope today is a very, very good day.

Full Soul Ahead! said...

I hear you Kim.

You have an impossible job and you do miracles every day. You are a good mom.

My child has language, and it's still infuriating at times. I can't imagine how much more so for you with three, who can't tell you with words how they feel.

Love, and more love.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I'm sick of performing miracles. I'd like to be a slacker. A schlub. I Mom who opens a box of Pop Tarts for breakfast, an Oscar Mayer Lunchables for lunch and a Happy Meal for dinner. I'd like to hang at a swim club and wave my kids off every so often with a few bucks for the snack shack while I read a trashy novel. I'd like to get on an airplane w/ my husband and go somewhere. Anywhere. How's Paducah looking right now to you? Heaven to me. I want a break. And I will never have one. Even when I'm away at a conference, or if I had respite, my kids are still at the very top of my mind 24/7. How do you turn that off? And would I ever even want to, in reality? No. It's just not who I am. I think we're all cut from the same bolt of cloth we Moms right here.

Renee said...

It must be going around. Michael had the biggest meltdown in months today. So bad that Steve and I were both bleeding from being scratched by the time it was over.

When I think that I can't take anymore, he'll do something so sweet, that no 'typical' child would ever think of, and all the pain just disappears. Those are the moments I live for.

navywifeandmom said...

It was probably the heat. It got up to over 100 degrees here this week for three days straight and we have no AC. My little ASD pumpkin was suffering, too. She regressed into stripping off her clothes and walking around the house naked, something she had made progress with over the years (keeping clothes on) and I finally gave up and just let her (and my other kids) run around like that.

Now that the heat is gone, she's keeping her clothes on better.

Jeanne said...

F@*k the neighbors.

Hope things are going better Kim. Many people love you and your girls, and so many people are sending you love and support... and understanding... lots and lots of that.

Ain't nobody judgin' you friend.

RJeff said...

I feel much the same as KF - thank the Lord almighty that language is not an issue. My 14 year old son is rapidly gaining weight, height and strength, and already wears my shoe size. If he threw a tantrum now, he would destroy half our home.

I worry about such minor things by comparison.

I pray for you, Kim, and all the other angels on earth that visit your blogosphere. You are gifts to your children just as they are gifts to you.

Emily said...

I know I am a few days late in reading this, but you described my day today. Mother, son, even my "non-affected" daughter...we all had an Autism meltdown. "Non-affected" my ass! :-)

I wish that we were neighbors... we could take turns cutting each other some slack! Thank God most of my current neighbors are too deaf to hear us much!

In response to a post from a while back (it might have been an AofA post, actually), the other reason I wish we were neighbors is that my 7 year-old daughter would have been on your porch in a flash when you moved in to welcome and hang with the wonderful Stagliano girls.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Thanks, Emily. Fortunately the Internet makes us ALL neighbors. :)

Sharon said...

Oh this is so comforting.. how about when your child ( in this case my little Jillian) begins to yell "stop it someone help me, get me out of here I am trapped and I am down stairs, not even near her and she is up in the bathroom all becuase I said you need to wash your hands for dinner!! Oh I love those moments.. yes Jill can be a "drama queen" but there you are just waiting for the police to knock on your door.. Oh dear god help us all.. hahaha - sometimes my husband and I just laugh but in the moment your entire body drains - kinda got use to it know so I just Yell up " Jill wash your hands and cut the drama". Oh we all need to go live on "Autism Island". hahaha - it's been so great reading all your stories and THANK YOU Kim.. just really makes you know your not alone - and that we are everywhere!! Have a great day guys.