Monday, September 19, 2011

Big Guy update

Big Guy goes through periods (sometimes for an hour, sometimes an hour a couple times a day, sometimes not at all) when he has intense feelings. Things that might make someone else a bit cranky feel catastrophic to him.  What (to me) is a twinge of disappointment is like heat on a raw nerve for my son. And like someone in extreme pain, he is too lost in the feeling to articulate anything. Embarrassment, regret, annoyance, and fear all trigger his fight-or-flight reflex. He becomes a vortex of emotion, sucking everyone around him into his reaction.

It is labor to get Big Guy out of the house, but he needs exercise and conversation and new experiences. We plan outings for him which he agrees to, and then he utterly refuses to go. He has been unhappy lately that his younger siblings have activities (soccer, birthday parties, play dates) when he feels like spending time with them. Then when they come home they are tired, and don't necessarily want to do what he wants to do. He is too anxious to try activities where he might make friends with similar interests. He finds kids his own age scary.

Big Guy has no things he likes so much that they can be used as either carrot or stick. When he starts to blow, sometimes he responds to a firm, assertive voice. Sometimes that makes him angrier. Sometimes he responds to statements like "You seem upset"; other times that makes him more upset. When he is in the midst of a wave of feelings, reason is ineffective. It's... challenging.

It is important to know when to back off. I have planted a red flag in my head that waves whenever we hit the point that anything I do only causes things to escalate. For it's a fact of parenting -- anyone's parenting -- that even when Mom can't make things better, she can always make them worse.

I do not always see that red flag waving, but I have gotten better at it with time.

Big Guy is big. He is 180+ pounds of 15-year old. I am not afraid of him, though I know he will hurt me if he is angry enough. And so life here is a constant measuring act, gauging where he is with his feelings, trying to provide trust and support while keeping people safe.

*       *         *        *        *

How does one teach a young child to stand up for himself/herself in the presence of someone like Big Guy? It's a question the professionals can't answer. They can't tell me how an adult can consistently manage Big Guy's meltdowns effectively, either. 

Little Guy has been showing OCD-like symptoms this weekend. I told him it's probably his body's response to anxiety. That helped; it is hard, when you are seven, to understand that weird feelings in your body are signs of stress.
*       *         *        *        *

I know that Big Guy is struggling right now because he has to hold himself together at school. New situations are hard on anyone, and they are especially hard for my son. He has new teachers, new classmates, new subjects, a new routine, a new school, a new social worker. Soon he will have a new psychiatrist.

It is 'safer' to fall apart at home, where he knows people love him, than it is to fall apart at school. Safer for him, anyway.
*       *         *        *        *

Andrew asked last night, before we fell asleep, "Do you ever think about what will happen longer term?" Yes, I do. I think about possibilities and probabilities, and then I go back to today. Today is the day I can do something about. Today is the day I have been given to love my child. So I'm going to try to do that.


  1. love to you. i think about you a lot. really a lot. i wish...

  2. I've wondered how Big guy was doing in his new situation. I will keep him - and you all - in my prayers.

  3. Thanks for the update; praying for you and your family.
    All the best, Carlton

  4. Wow, I just received your reply to my email asking for suggestions on readings about Anxiety in children and did not know about this recent entry on your site. Sometimes I wait to read them when there are a few because I am gluttonous when it comes to reading (and some other things that are not so worthwhile). Amazing timing as I am passing this on to my friend along with your book suggestions. Thank you so much. One day we may actually meet, but it does not matter because I already feel like I know you (and Julie Garmon!). You are in my prayers today as is your Big Guy.