Raising Tim - Tantrums
I know I said I would try to write one blog a month, and it really was my intention. However, as I also said, life has a way of getting in the way. For example, since my last blog, I moved to a new city, started working with a new school district, and to be perfectly honest, most of the time I am just too damn tired. I mean, come on, spending a night watching Netflix or Game of Thrones while eating Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream after a long day at work sounds much more appealing than writing, doesn’t it? Anyhow, this blog's topic is about tantrums. Dun dun dun.
I tell you tantrums are no joke. Everyone’s seen some kid throw a mother meltdown somewhere in public, right? Now picture a grown man or woman acting the same way. I guess the reason I am writing about this is that Tim has been having tantrums almost nightly for about a month and I just read about how a young boy with severe autism died after being placed in a restrictive hold by the staff in his school. Tantrums from adults with severe or profound autism is a really big problem that no one likes to talk about. These massive tantrums can cause injury to the individual, or others in the sounding area, and property damage. For example, Tim has broken four flat screen TVs, a few MacBooks, a few house windows, my van’s windshield three times and the school’s van windshield twice. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Tim’s a kicker, he will kick everything in sight, including the walls, me, himself, or anyone near him. He will slap his own face violently, he will punch his own legs with all his strength, and he will tear at his own ears. Most of Tim’s tantrums will end with bruises and or blood (either mine or his, sometimes both), and maybe a new hole in the wall. When Tim was younger, we had holes in almost every wall in our house (we hardly ever got our full deposit back from any home we’ve rented). The tantrum Tim had last night at 12:30 am was a doozy- did I mention that almost all of his outbursts are in the middle of the night? Anyhow, it lasted for over a half an hour, with brief intermissions, so Tim could basically regroup and start all over again. Screaming and yelling, thrashing all around in his bed, while he proceeded to beat the shit out of himself. All I could do in the beginning was watch and ask him what he wanted (Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Do you have an owie?) while keeping a safe distance. When this didn’t get us anywhere, and my older son came into the room to see if he could help, I fell back on my training and asked the same thing his teacher and aides ask. Do you need a break? Do you need to go for a walk? When this didn’t work, and the situation escalated even further and another 10 minutes passed, I’ll be honest, I was so frustrated at this point, I just wanted him to stop. So the sleep-deprived, overworked, - I’ve had enough of this shit - angry mother reared her ugly head and started yelling back at him (really classy, Rose). This seemed to get his attention... briefly. When Tim engages in these types of tantrums, that I like to refer to as meltdowns, there are so many emotions that I experience simultaneously, I can barely wrap my head around it.
First I am annoyed. I mean seriously, Tim’s nearly twenty years old, is he ever going to outgrow this shit? Second, I’m angry, I hate hate hate having to watch Tim have another tantrum. Third, I’m concerned, why is he acting like this, what is wrong? Forth, I’m scared, watching you kid beat himself and knowing that if you attempt to intervene can have you land up in the hospital too, is a hard thing to endure. So you try to keep everyone as safe as possible, by moving potentially dangerous or breakable items, like putting a laptop away and putting pillows or thick blankets around his body. Fifth, despair, is he ever going to grow out of this?
While my life revolves around Tim and he is the light in my life, I can say that there are times, I feel like I am stuck in an abusive relationship with no out. I mean you can leave an abusive partner, which I have (Tim’s father), but your child who can be abusive due to his disability is not the same thing, but they can and do share similar qualities. For example, instead of becoming fearful after my husband came home late at night, I now get scared when I see Tim make certain facial expressions and hear him make specific sounds that I know are the precursor to a tantrum. The fight or flight response kicks in and my blood pressure instantly spikes, and I get into a defensive mode, and it often takes me more than an hour or two to calm down after. For example, Tim’s tantrum last night ended shortly after one. After his meltdown was over, Tim was the happy go lucky kid people tend to see. Smiling away like he didn’t have a care in the world, while I was all jacked up with adrenaline running through my system. It was 3:36 in the morning the last time I looked at my phone, and I finally fell into a fitful sleep, knowing each time I woke up, I was going to hear my dreaded alarm clock ring at any moment. I kept replaying the incident in my head and how I could have helped de-escalate the problem. Yelling at Tim didn’t help, all of my strategies didn’t work, I just had to weather the storm and wait for him to run the tantrum through its course and just as I was about to fall back to sleep, my alarm clock rang. Damn!