Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Big Guy was in bad shape yesterday. He was in his "the world would be better off without me" mindset: desperate, hard, sullen, feeling wronged, impenetrable to reason or love. It scares me when he's like that, and his unreachability makes me insane.

Big Guy has a mental front-wheel alignment problem. The official term for it is distorted thinking; for most people the problem is resolved with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We've had years of that, with only modest improvement. Big Guy needs his interpretations of events and thoughts constantly corrected, because his anxiety and mood issues warp and bend reality. He is prone to impossible tautologies. Yesterday he believed no one loved him, that he was unloveable, that nothing could be done about it. I asked what evidence would be sufficient to prove he was loved. He replied, emphatically, "Nothing could prove that!" When no evidence is admissable, it's hard to make a case. It's maddening, not to mention exhausting.

I suppose if Big Guy was unrelated to me I would shrug and walk away, leaving him to his own devices. I'm his mother, though, and at night I sob, bemoaning the crippling of my beautiful son. Yesterday I became so frustrated that I did physically walk off, snapping, "Don't talk to me! I need to cool off!" Fortunately we had a solid mile to go to our destination. That was sufficient distance to burn off a goodly amount of adrenaline, and to send up a hundred little prayers.

When I am angry, I need to burn it off. At home I tend to clean house furiously; when I'm out, I tear down the sidewalk. Deep anger builds a barricade around my heart: I want to be mad, I have a right to be mad, and I'm darn well going to be mad. There is no reasoning with me at those times, and I've learned that the only legitimate course of action is to get physically busy, and keep my mouth shut.

It dawns on me today that being in the midst of real fury is probably somewhat akin to being in Big Guy's head. When I allow my anger to pass, I can look back and can see how I got stuck, how anger grew to dominate my body and brain, how easily I justified myself, how I rejected sensible input and neglected to consider all angles. I can see all this because I'm outside it. Big Guy doesn't get completely outside his distorted thinking often.

When I finally calmed down yesterday, after racing many blocks and sending up many requests for help, my brain cleared. I turned to Big Guy and asked quietly, "Out of all of you, how much is really worth hating?"

Ten minutes earlier he probably would have snarled, "All of it!" But he was able to stop and think (trying to keep up with me probably helped lower his adrenaline level), and admitted, rather surprised, "Not much."

"Then let's just work on that little piece," I said, "And we can love the rest."


  1. Sometimes medication (albeit temporary) enables someone prone to anxiety to benefit more from the CBT. Have you tried that route? (she asks helpfully, not critically).

  2. Yes, thanks. Didn't mention it, but yes.

  3. How old is he? How long have you known about this? Were the meds helpful? When did you use the meds?
    *She asks, whistling as though she were asking about your child and not hers*

  4. Here via Magpie's tweet. I can only imagine how hard and painful this is. Hope things ease up.

  5. Sending good wishes your way, with admiration for your ability to pull a moment of grace out of all that adrenaline as you fiercely love your boy.