So last Wednesday my Autistic son Colin had what we call, “An episode.” Basically, he gets loud and then he get or tries to get violent. The usual program is to try redirection (get his mind on something else) or you try to neutralize his physical options. Which usually means getting him to sit in the chair in his room. It’s much harder to cause physical anything while sitting down. You can try this for yourself to see what I mean. We’ll usually give him a cold damp cloth to put on his neck or forehead to help cool him down. All of this while he yells and screams unintelligibly at you. Once he’s locked into the pattern it is very hard to break him out of it and you literally need to let it run its course, which can take hours.
Oh, I should mention, this, “Episode,” took place at 4am. It started at 3am but he really got a head of steam under him by four. He was also due to go to his program later that morning and if this was the state he was going to be in, that wasn’t going to happen. He’s a big kid and many of the other kids in the program aren’t as robust as he is. We can never risk him hurting somebody else’s child or one of the other workers. So he was told, chances were he was going to be staying home because of his actions. Even if he can’t rationalize it, you need to tell him why because ultimately we don’t know how much he does understand outside of the world that is him.
You’re not really at your best that early in the morning but I was able to get him contained in the chair and after a bit the screaming became intermittent though it didn’t decrease in intensity. You quickly realize that going back to bed in not going to be an option. This is bad for me on a couple of levels but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Seeing as I was up and it was going to be a bit of a haul, I figured I might as well get through a couple more sections of XCOM on Colin’s XBox 360. This would actually serve a couple of things. One, I’d get further in the game and two Colin could focus on it and not on whatever was driving his current state. That much worked and he did settle down watching the game and eventually I was able to shut it off and go grab a shower before heading off to work.
Which brings us to my bit in all of this or to be more succinct, how this effects me and possibly how it could effect others around me.
The common numbers for mental illness in North America are one in four. One in four people will have at some point in their life have shown signs of a diagnosed mental disorder, one in three will have a constant manifestation of that disorder. Which sounds dire but phobias are listed as disorders (to make a point, not to indicate that phobias can not be serious in their manifestation) in fact any mental issue that causes disruption of quality of life is a serious thing.
My mental disorder is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It has a few other names, Battle Fatigue, Shell Shock etc. but I was never in a War so these don’t fit me so well. Those of you that know me personally know what caused this trauma, hell a bunch of you were around me to keep me upright and going forward at least until I completely collapsed but by the time that happens, you’re pretty much all by yourself in the wasteland of your head anyways.
Common symptoms, post trauma are:
Inability to sleep
Physical harm to self or others often unprovoked or the provocation makes no sense.
Lack of protection of self from physical harm
Loss of appetite
Flashbacks (a personal favorite – not)
In other words it’s a rough disorder to live with and for the most part you are a ticking bomb unless you diffuse yourself with the help of medical assistance, which I got myself to after my own, “Episodes,” started to become more and more manifest. That was a three years process, for which I am grateful even though in the end it was a book about a downed Jaguar Pilot in the First Iraq war that gave me a list of symptoms to put against the disorder in my head. The Therapy gave me coping mechanisms to deal with the onset of my episodic rages and the flashbacks, which thankfully started to fade out around the eight month mark of my therapy sessions.
But coping mechanisms and lifestyle changes are not a cure for a mental disorder. They’re more about maintaining a dyke or bulwark against all of that stuff in the river of my mind. It’s not always successful, sometimes little bits slop over the edges and you find yourself involved in obsessive behavior that has no bearing in the real world. There are many times I have to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” And while I do try to be safe as much of the time that I can, I do like a certain level of risk in my life just to keep things alive. Of course the main defense I have against a lot of this stuff is a simple one.
Getting enough sleep.
It’s critical. Lack of sleep tends to undermine all of the coping mechanisms and short circuit the logic centers of my brain. My emotions run a bit wild and are actually the first indication that I’m in a dangerous place. Add stress and a lack of control to that situation and it’s not going to a good place. So to say that I was apprehensive about my work day would be an understatement. On any given day, my workplace can be extremely fluid and what you had planned is not what you end up doing. I’m mostly used to this but there are some days where I had a plan in place only to see it yanked from my hands. That sort of thing sets my teeth on edge. Lucky for me, I was rebuilding a pump. A nice logical progression of mechanics, at times frustrating but fairly low on the stress scale. I kept mostly to myself and kept quiet working on my pump at the end of the day I went home and grabbed a couple of hours nap and that night I gave my son enough sleep aids to see him through the night and tried to catch up on my own sleep.
Throwing more dirt on the backside of the dyke as it were.
Not all the scars are on the outside, the ones on the inside can be the most horrible of all.