Anxiety – The Joy Sucking Vampire

Someone needs eye drops.

THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD.

Married to a man I adore, two (on the whole) OK children, and living here, I am content.

Some weeks are harder than others, but the laughter is more frequent than not. There is an exciting new project on the go and some plans to help my writing. All progress on the path of self-fulfilment.

But hanging around like a bad smell, threatening to throw me off course, is my old foe, Anxiety.

Heart-racing, palm-sweating, breath-stopping anxiety.

Sucking the joy out of life, like a fucking vampire.

Along with his friend Panic Attack, both of them can …yes. That.

I am what is known as a  ‘born worrier’ (an insecure childhood will make you anxious that’s for sure) and have carried that throughout my life.

Then we had children. God knows every parent worries. For us though, our intense experiences were more than just the average concerns about sleep and potty training .

BW had seizures on average every 6 weeks between 12 and 24 months. We would hear the noise in the night, in his sleep. The sound of him choking.

There were too many high-speed ambulance journeys, too many nights sleeping in hospital chairs next to his cot. We got to know the paramedics by their first names.

He was finally diagnosed with epilepsy at 2 and medicated shortly afterwards. The seizures stopped and we relaxed enough to allow babysitters to come so we could go out together (we’d been too terrified before).

But that didn’t stop me from keeping a baby monitor in his room until he was 7.

A few years later, after a spell of enormous stress,  TS had 4 seizures in 2 hours. I’d seen enough seizures with BW not to panic, but my mind was racing through the possible causes – brain tumour, cancer, he was dying? No. It was epilepsy.

For him, that meant meds and no driving for 12 months and for me,  being too terrified to leave him  alone with our children. You can imagine the scenarios that went through my mind, can’t you?

BW’s Asperger’s diagnosis was probably the final twist in our family story that my anxiety needed.  The worry that goes with parenting a child with special needs is unfathomable. I have no idea what each day will bring, let alone what sort of future he has.

Now my body doesn’t know how to function unless it is in fight or flight mode.

I am an adrenaline junkie.

Cold Turkey isn’t an option.

Medication, space to contemplate and relax, good friends and gin help.

I can manage.

Some weeks better than others.

But I need to kick the habit.

Do you suffer from anxiety? What helps you?

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Boy Wonder’s Food Project – The Verdict

Just over a week ago, following a meltdown of epic proportions, see The Edge, it was time to try something new.

The Boy Wonder Food Project was born.

So how did it go?

Well, it as was a HUGE success. We have not had one argument over food. The boys come home, check the menu and get on with their lives until dinner.

People, I have seen CLEAN plates.

NEW foods have been tried, devoured and seconds have been requested.

At times I wondered who had stolen my children and replaced them with gourmands, but no, it was still them.

The single most popular dish had to be Meatballs with sweet and sour sauce.

 

You have no idea what a personal victory the sweet and sour sauce was. Cheeky Boy asked for seconds. This from a child who thinks ketchup is a) a vegetable and b) a food group in its own right.

I can also recommend Rice Krispie Chicken which is a mighty fine, guilt-free, alternative to take away fried chicken.

Aside from the actual food, the lack of conflict at mealtimes has given us all space to breathe. It has made for a much calmer house. Witching hour has had it’s arse well and truly kicked.

On Thursday Boy Wonder snuggled up and told me how much he was enjoying the menu project and how he felt we were getting along more. Now he wanted to (in his words) “work out some strategies to help him and dad get along better”.

I had no idea that this project would have such an impact on all of us.

Week 2 has already been planned and written on the menu board. Progress.

The Glitter Patch

Last week when I posted The Edge,  it was fair to say we were on a downward swing with Boy Wonder.

During those kind of weeks, I question everything.

My parenting skills, my love for him, whether I can survive, whether The Saint and I will stay together. The days are long and the thoughts are dark.

Then out of nowhere we hit a glitter patch.

Two successful days of The Food Project.

And a high school interview for Boy Wonder.

We talked it through the night before. “What’s the most important thing to do when someone is speaking to you BW?”.

“Look them in the eye, mum. I’ve been talking to Benjamin (speechie) about that.”

I sat in awe as my beautiful boy was polite and funny and engaging. He can be like that with people he has known for ages, but with someone he had only just met? Wow.

I could not believe how good his eye contact was. (I think my jaw may have dropped at one point).

There were a couple of moments when he got tongue-tied, or didn’t know what the interviewer meant, but he handled it.

At the end of the interview, the teacher turned to us and said “He is lovely, you can see the joy bursting out of him when he speaks about his passions”.

For that moment, I saw glitter and rainbows and unicorns. I saw a bright future, free of worry and full of smiles.

Fast forward two hours and I’m being bollocked for not being telepathic and knowing that Boy Wonder wanted salad for lunch.

But you know, I have seen some glitter today, so it’s all right.

The Food Project – Day 1

Soooo last night was the first day of the new regime. Both the boys had play dates so I had 4 to cook for. I was nervous, but Boy Wonder seemed excited and showed the menu off to the guests.

I made Goujons of Fish with Tartare Sauce (sounds posh, doesn’t it!). Most of the recipes BW has chosen this week come from Annabel Karmel’s After-School Meal Planner. I’m not sure why, he looked at Nigella and Jamie recipes, but I think the photography in this book captured his imagination more.

I pre-prepared the food so that it was ready for inspection as soon as BW came home.

I got BW to taste the tartare sauce before the meal.

The Goujons were made with fresh fish and crumbed with a mixture of crushed crackers and parmesan cheese.

For a bit of fun I made these for the kids to fill out.

Spot the deliberate mistake on the score cards!

Maths was never my strong point!

They were all a little harsh on the score for presentation but judging by the empty plates and the score for taste, I WON the first round of The Food Project.

Best of all there was no whining or crying from either of us!

Boy Wonder’s Food Project

Those of you who read my post The Edge last week will know that Boy Wonder and dinner time can often be an explosive mix.

His (current ) 3 favourite foods are macaroni cheese, beef burgers and salad. He makes the salad himself with a divine dressing, so that’s a big plus point.

However, man cannot live on mac’ n’cheese, burgers and salad alone. I need him to broaden his range of foods. Before he ends up with rickets, or I get sectioned. Whichever happens sooner.

I tried to explain this during the mother of all melt downs last week (the range of food not rickets or me being sectioned), but predictably I got nowhere.

Time for a new tack. Over the weekend I sat down with Boy Wonder and a heap of cookery books. I explained that we needed to find 6 different meals. He could choose them all. Burgers could feature once during the week. He was very excited and together we had an enjoyable hour talking about recipes.

I then made him this:

I am hoping that the menu board will take away the element of surprise which can often make him anxious. He can also see when he will be having his favourite meal.

I have found myself squawking “THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT” in the heat of battle, but have decided to embrace the notion for the purpose of this project. He doesn’t know it yet, but I am also going to produce a little score card for him to give feedback. He adores Masterchef, so I think this could work.

I am under no illusions that this is going to be a tricky week. There will certainly be things on the menu that he won’t like, Cheeky Boy DEFINITELY won’t like a lot of it, but I am hoping that this project might make mealtimes easier.

Watch this space.

The Edge

Ever had one of those days where you feel you are being pushed to the edge of madness?

Yesterday was one of those days.

Boy Wonder woke “with the devil in him”. From the minute he opened his baby blue eyes, I could do no right. He refused to eat breakfast. Told me he wasn’t going to school. “Everything” he said “is your fault”.

GOOD FUCKING MORNING to you too, I thought.

As with most of BW’s moods, they are prompted by something. So I cajoled, I soothed, I stroked his hair. “Are you worried about something?” “Did you have a nightmare?”.

He couldn’t explain why he felt so rotten. Tears started falling (not mine, for now).

Finally, Boy Wonder told me he had seen 1am on the clock and then 3am and I realised that he’d slept really badly. A duvet day was in order.

I snuggled him up on the couch with a duvet and hot water bottle. He seemed content to doze. Or so I thought.

At 9.45am I heard “Is it lunch time?”

Fark, this was going to be a long day.

I became the “Worst Mum Ever” again when BW realised that no, a day off to recover from a poor night’s sleep did not mean a day of playing Skylanders. I explained that CB didn’t play it when he was off sick, so he would have to wait until the end of the school day.

“How many more minutes?” He asked. Rinse and repeat until 3.30pm.

A nuclear meltdown occurred at tea time. It is ALWAYS witching hour in our house.

BW would happily eat the same 3 things every day of his life. Beef burgers, salad and macaroni cheese. I explain to him that my job is to make sure he has a variety of different foods so he grows big and strong. I also wanted to cook THE SAME meal for 3 people.

Oh I should explain he and his brother won’t eat what we eat, so each day I can often cook 3 different meals. Yeah, yeah, I know SUCKA!

What I really love about BW is that he often “goes off” meals, just as I finish cooking them.

Last night he had “gone off chicken stir fry”. He was rude and shouty and definitely NOT going to eat chicken stir fry.

I negotiated (The UN so need to employ my services in the Middle East) I cajoled, I soothed, I stroked, I begged.

I shouted.

Not proud of myself.

BW spewed hatred at me and threatened to hurt himself and me. I was scared.

He was sent to bed.

I poured a glass of red whilst trying not to hate myself for not coping better. I know he has Asperger’s, I know he can’t help it. But do you know what? I am not a saint. I had tried, I really had.

And this morning? A huge hug and an apology from him (and one from me).

But I can’t shake off the fear.

Sharing Your Child’s Diagnosis-Books That May Help

Sharing Boy Wonder’s diagnosis with him and other members of our family is probably one of the things I have struggled with most. (I could fill an entire blog with other people’s reactions!). He had only just turned 8 which we felt was too young, and anyway we needed time to process the information and learn more about how we could help him.

We were extremely lucky that his learning mentor in the UK had over 30 years experience with ASD kids and she helped to “break the ice” about Asperger’s Syndrome when he was around 9 1/2.

In the meantime, I looked for books that may help us as a family. I thought I would share my thoughts on two that I particularly liked.

Can I tell you about Asperger Syndrome? A guide for friends and family

The author, Jude Welton, is a psychologist who has a son with AS. She has written from the perspective of Adam, a boy with AS. Each double page spread features a simple drawing of Adam engaging in an activity with a brief description of the problem he may face. For example “I sometimes find it difficult to play with other children”. On the other page, Adam talks in more detail about how and why he finds playing tricky and makes some suggestions that could help people understand what to do.

The areas that are tackled include: reading feelings; tones of voice; playing with others; confusing groups; unexpected change; motor skills; special interests;What is Asperger Syndrome? and how you can help. There is also a section at the end for teachers which discusses aspects of learning that Adam may struggle with and offers strategies to make school less stressful, for example visual timetables.

I liked this book for its simplicity. Written as Adam made it feel more accessible. The book is aimed at 7-15 year olds, but I think it more suited to younger children as the pictures are quite simple and may not engage a teenager.I think I will find it useful when the time comes to share BW’s diagnosis in more detail with Cheeky Boy.

One of the struggles I found as a parent was making BW feel like there is something ‘wrong’ with them. I try to normalise it with him wherever possible. I say it’s PART of who he is, not the whole of who he is. That he has talents as well as everyone else.

That’s why I was so pleased to discover:

The Blue Bottle Mystery, An Asperger Adventure

On one level it is just an adventure story where the main character happens to have AS, on the other level it manages to explain what AS is, without getting bogged down with technical terms and psychology. The main character is diagnosed with AS during the story and credit to the author, Kathy Hoopmann, for doing this so well without ruining the flow of the story.

It’s great fun to read and the adventure would engage any child with or without AS. There are two other books in the series ‘Of Mice and Aliens’ and ‘Lisa and the Lacemaker‘ which I will definitely be purchasing.

BW hasn’t read this one YET! He won’t hear any mention of ‘The ‘A’ word’ without telling me off. When he found the pile of books I was reviewing for this post he immediately got very cross with me. 10 minutes later he cuddled up and asked me to read some of “Can I tell you about Asperger Syndrome?” and was very excited when he recognised some traits he has “I have a great memory too, mum!”.

Which goes to show, I can buy all the books in the world, but Boy Wonder will let me know when he is ready!

The ‘A’ word

Boy Wonder was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 8. We started talking to him about it about 18 months ago. It’s only been in the last six months that he has really started to realise that he’s different to his peers. And he hates it.

He won’t say Asperger’s hence is expression “the ‘A’ word”. His counsellor is worried as Boy Wonder thinks that it’s really bad to have “the ‘A’ word”, he wants to be normal like the rest of his family. I am desperately worried too. I worry all the time. About what happened yesterday and today, but most of all I worry about what the future looks like.

The Saint and I are constantly told by school “he can’t”, “he doesn’t”, ” he won’t”. Getting him to do anything he doesn’t want to do is nigh on impossible. He’s so scared of failing, he won’t even try. It can be very depressing.

And then, last week.

Athletics Day. To say Boy Wonder hates sport would be a massive understatement. Athletics Day? With all his peers watching (in some cases, sniggering)? Unstructured activities, lasting hours? Not winning? In the cold? Cue massive anxiety.

“Please mum, just take me home”

I cajoled, he was mean. I got frustrated. He told me to go. I stayed. We worked through it and he valiantly gave everything a go, with me cheer leading like a loon in the background.

My broken foot was uncomfy after 4 hours wandering round the sports field and I asked if it was ok to go.

“After the 800m mum, Ok?”

I watched proudly as my boy came in last with a massive smile on his face. He was fine. I left, thinking, it’s ok if he sits the rest out, he’s done more than I could have imagined.

At school pick up, he told me he had some bad news.

“Sorry mum, I didn’t get a ribbon”.
“That’s ok” I said. “It’s more important to me that you tried everything”.

He beamed as he lifted his hoodie to show me the 3rd place ribbon pinned proudly to his chest.

“Only joking mum!”

He excitedly told me that it was for the 200m. “And guess what mum? I fell over at the start, but I got up and just kept going!”

I could have wept with joy (except his best mate was standing next to him and Boy Wonder has enough to deal with without his friends thinking his mum is nuts).

The Boy Who Could.

A Boy Wonder original