Thursday, September 24, 2015
My Troll's Bony Butt
You know how some people say they feel like they have an albatross around their neck, dragging them down, pushing the life out of them? Or that they're carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders? I don't have an albatross, or the world on my shoulders. I have a Troll.
So squish me as much as you want, Troll, you will never squeeze the joy out of my heart.
My Troll looks like something out of a scary children's fairytale. He is short and stout, sort of square-shaped. He has coarse, scraggly hair that spikes out in odd places all over his body. And he's gray and dark green. Depressing. He doesn't talk, he just smirks. He's pretty much a nightmare I can't get rid of. And as he sits on my shoulders, his itchy wool socks dig into my skin, scratching and irritating me. Never leaving me alone. My Troll's long, pointy nose hangs down and flops onto my head when I'm least expecting it, its weight surprising and annoying me. Sometimes my Troll stands on my shoulders with his pointy little shoes, and that is a little more comfortable for me. Then his socks don't aggravate me and his weight doesn't push me down.
The problem is I never know when my Troll will plop down onto my shoulders with his bony behind, dropping the weight of the world directly onto me. I never know when the impact is coming, so I never know when to prepare, so I'm always on guard. Always on alert. Always in "fight or flight" mode. Because you have to be ready to brace against that pesky, ugly, irritating Troll.
With some special needs, you never know when things will blow up, change, melt down, break open, get worse. You just have to sit and wait, and try to enjoy the times in between the flare ups. That's really hard! It's hard because you're always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Who can enjoy anything when you're waiting for the inevitable Troll to dump his crushing weight onto your shoulders?
We didn't have a full-blown rage in our house for three whole days this week.
That's practically unheard of. Starting Sunday night with dinner, life became suddenly enjoyable. Tolerable. Less chaotic. We try to have Sunday dinner as a family, because during the week our schedules are so crazy after school, and honestly the kids are so difficult during meals, that Alex and I eat after the kids go to bed. That way I can ingest my food without having a panic attack because of everything going on at the dinner table.
Sunday dinners are usually pretty miserable. Fighting, screaming, kids being distracted, kids touching each other and making each other mad, kids not eating, kids eating too much and too fast because of their medication side effects, teasing, yelling, swearing...I don't even want to think about the horror of our Sunday dinners.
This past Sunday, we sat down and I waited for my troll to smash his bony behind onto my shoulders so hard that I couldn't breathe.
But it didn't happen. Alex and I kept looking at each other from across the table, surprise in our eyes. The kids were...wait for it...nice. I know, what?!? They were nice. They ate nicely. They didn't fight or yell or scream. They didn't hit or kick each other. I wasn't sure I was in the right house. I told the kids I was so proud of how they were acting, we gave them big praise.
After dinner, I took Ben and Jonah upstairs to oversee the bodily cleansing process. Ben wanted to race me up the stairs, so I ran in my funny Phoebe (from "Friends") way and made him laugh so hard that he fell on the floor and I won the race. When he recovered, he said, "Mom! Why are you so funny and fun tonight??" I said, "Because, my darling, you were all so wonderful at dinner that now I have the energy to be funny and fun! When I have to spend an hour breaking up fights over the dinner table, that takes all my energy. When you guys are actually nice and calm, I have energy to be awesome!" I hope that message sunk in deep, deep. It was a great night.
Monday went well. No major meltdowns. Jonah is having an emotionally rough week- anxiety, depression, separation sadness. But we're wading through the Bog of Ick, one step at a time, trying to overcome this new surge of hard emotions.
Tuesday, same thing. All was good. I had to take Ella and Aidan to therapy after school, and then Jonah called when he and Ben got home from school. Jonah wanted to be with me, so I left therapy and picked up Jonah and went back to therapy. Small price to pay for a happy kid.
Yesterday, the troll came back. Stupid troll. I knew he was going to clonk me sometime soon. I was waiting. And while I knew he would be back, I didn't know when, so of course he caught me off guard.
I took Ella to dance. I should have known the Troll was gearing up for a take-down. My son called, screaming and crying that my other boy was going to kill him. You may wonder why I would ever leave my boys home alone, given what you know about them. I take this very seriously and give it much consideration every time the opportunity for them to stay home alone comes up. I can tell if they are in stable moods or not, and if not, they come with me. A lot of times they are stable and just want to stay home and relax. Usually they all go to different parts of the house and do their own electronics and don't interact with each other. It also depends on how far away I am going and how long I will be gone. Dance is three minutes from our house and I was going to be gone for one hour.
Apparently, one boy was watching TV yesterday and the other boy wanted to watch a show on that TV. So World War III ensued.
I had to leave dance, with my friends agreeing to take care of Ella if she needed anything, and zip home in a frenzy to make sure the fight was broken up. One of my boys gets to the point in his meltdowns where he just screams as loud as he can, until his face turns red, and he just cries and cries and screams. While the other boy walks around, threatening to throw shoes, swearing, yelling. I can't get through to either of them when they're like that, so I end up yelling too. It's a nightmare. One of my friends used the term "nut house" recently, and that completely describes our family at times. So I took one boy out of the nut house and forced him to get into the car so I could go back and get Ella. The other boy was just going to watch TV and calm down, so I felt comfortable leaving him alone for the 15 minutes it would take to pick up Ella and get home. I had to stop three times on the way to dance and pull over because my boy was so mad I felt it wasn't safe to drive. Three times in the three minutes it takes to get to dance. I finally made him get in the back seat. He was still in his socks, and kept banging on the window with his shoes.
One time when I stopped, a sweet old man in a pickup truck stopped beside my van. He motioned through the windows to ask if I was ok. I so wanted to tell him no, I'm not ok. Can you just take my son away from me for a few minutes? I'm so tired of dealing with this. But instead I put on my brave face, smiled, and gave him a thumbs up. Once again my brave face shone through the Troll's stinky, itchy socks.
Even if I didn't feel brave, I figure fake it 'till you make it.
When I got to dance, I parked, got out, and locked the car. My boy continued to freak out in the car, banging his shoes on the window and screaming. He was able to get out any time he wanted to- the car wasn't locked from the inside out. I just didn't want to be around the Crazy anymore. I walked across to the dance studio and sat outside on a bench, near enough to keep an eye on my boy while waiting for him to calm down. Finally, he got out, still sock-clad, and tromped across the parking lot. (At times like these, you don't worry about dirty, stained socks. You don't force a kid to put his shoes on. You just go with it. In the grand scheme of things, who cares about dirty socks?) We went into the studio. Later, I told the boys from now on they have to come with me to dance, because I am not driving around like a crazy woman after they call screaming that they are going to kill each other.
Darn Troll. I hate him. Him and his stupid, itchy socks and his bony butt. No wonder I have such horrible neck and shoulder pain, it's from him!! I've heard many special needs parents say that they suffer from something similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It's so true. You never know what's coming next. You can't predict any part of life. You don't know if you're going to have a fine, normal day, or if your kid will have a meltdown of epic proportions and you will have to restrain him on the floor. You don't know anything. From if a kid will actually eat the food you make her to whether a kid will do his homework today or will we be facing Complete Shutdown, in which case I have to do damage control by writing to teachers to try and explain our Crazy to them.
Exhaustion. Trolls cause exhaustion. Sometimes it's too much to keep up with, but you don't have a choice. You just keep going because that's what you have to do. You don't have a choice. Bring that damn Troll with you and do your best to ignore his itchy socks rubbing on your face all day, reminding you of his presence.
My choice is to acknowledge my Troll, but not let him run my life with his fear, dread, depression and anxiety. Honestly, almost every day, someone tells me I look so calm, like I have it all together. My favorite Facebook meme says something like "Mama's- we're all a hot mess, some just hide it better than others." I'm a super hot mess, you have no idea. I explain to people who say I am always so cheerful and calm that I choose that. It's not easy most of the time, but it's also not fake. I don't fake being happy, I just choose to be happy. It is my authentic self, to be enthusiastic and joyful. I choose to get up and shower and put on clean clothes and makeup (lots of makeup to cover those sleepy eye circles!) and just live life and let my joy out.
That Troll isn't going to rule my life. Yes, our lives are totally nuts most of the time in this family. I'm sure Alex and I have PTSD. This life sucks, to be honest, most of the time. But my heart still has joy, and as long as I'm breathing, I will let my joy out. My joy is more powerful than my Troll's bony butt.