Tuesday 3 May 2016

How daily life drains my sons' engine until it's empty.

How daily life drains my sons' engine until it's empty!

Hi folks, I feel like I need to say sorry as I have neglected you all somewhat over these last few weeks.
But I think I needed a bit of a break as I had done so much writing for other people in preparation for autism awareness month, that I kind of burnt myself out really. I had written eight different pieces in one week as everyone wanted it in by the beginning of the month. It was great and I really enjoyed every second of it. But when I had stopped to catch my breath, I think my brain simply sighed and said “no more!” The fuel tank was empty. I had become sick of worrying about how well my various pieces were being received, whether or not people liked my work, and how many shares it was getting etc....that I was driving myself mad with it all!
I just felt like it was becoming another thing to worry about, rather than something I was doing for pleasure.
So my natural reaction was to shutdown, switch off the engine (and the laptop) and focus on me and the family for a while. It meant that I could refuel my tank. Does that make sense?
I didn’t know how long it was going to take, a few days, weeks, or months maybe? But I assumed I would just know when I was ready to return. And as it happens, its only been a couple of weeks that I have had off now. And I have to say that I actually feel much better for it.
So today was the first time I have felt like picking up the laptop. 
And it’s kinda got me thinking... is this how my son feels when he becomes so overwhelmed with stuff that he just switches off, removes himself from our world and needs to be by himself?
 And he can often take several days to recoup after he has had to work hard in a situation. Almost like he’s refuelling his reserve of energy. Filling up his own tank.

Take this weekend for example. It has been my mum’s birthday celebrations, and we have had several days where things have been out of sync at home as a result.

On her birthday we went to her house for tea. All our extended family were there. We had singing, balloons, cake and lots of laughter. Little man found it tricky but he tried really hard, and he got through it for her and she was so proud of him for trying so hard.
But what we couldn’t see was that a quarter of his tank had been drained as a result.
Then the following night I was up until late making decorations for nannas party with my sister.  The house was full, bedtime got pushed back late and tea was a takeaway that hadn’t been planned. Again he coped really well, and got through all the changes.  
But as a result his energy tank had been drained a little more.
Finally it was the big party night at a hotel. We checked in, and we decorated the room with balloons, banners and pictures. He then had to sit still surrounded by people he didn’t really know, eating a meal at a table he has never sat at before. Contain his anxieties. Leave the comfort of his bedroom. Not play on his PlayStation like he usually does on a Saturday night. Smile at people he feels unable to talk to. Pose for photographs. And sleep in a strange room, in strange bed with lots of new smells and noises to keep his senses on high alert all night - so no sleep.
Inside his tank was spluttering on empty. It had taken all his energy to get through it all without having meltdown that when we got home …. then came the burnout.
His tank was empty. His tolerance was low and his anxieties were raw and seeping out through his body, unchecked and unregulated because there was simply no fight left in him.  
We got home and he didn’t want to move. He couldn't cope with any demands on him at all. And that was fine. So he spent two days recharging.
But the problem came this morning when it was time to go to school. There were tears, huge anxiety, refusal, heightened sensitivities and one guilty mummy forcing her child to school in tears.
It’s not that he doesn’t like school, I know he's happy there. It’s just that he wasn't fully recharged from working so hard to be part of our world over the weekend. And as a result his anxieties were still high, his senses were still super sensitive and therefore his ability to cope was still drastically reduced.

And he knew that in order to get through the day ahead in school, he was going to need to use more energy and effort from his tank. The tank that wasn't ready to make that journey yet - because it was still running on empty.
You see every fibre in his nervous system is so fragile that it takes so much unseen effort to fit into our world, and control himself when being bombarded by sensory overload, that its going to take time to repair and recharge. And today, well he wasn't quite ready. So his defence mechanism this morning was to go into ‘flight or fight’ mode to protect himself. His refusal and panic this morning was his way of telling me it was too soon. 

Just as I didn’t know how long it would take me to feel recharged enough to put pen to paper again, for my son it's no different . Who’s to say how long his body will take to recover and recharge fully? Not me that's for sure.  And I don’t think he really knows himself to tell me. He just feels better in his own time, and I have to follow his lead. Today I pushed him too far because I felt the pressure to get him into school.
But we should never take for granted how hard it is for kids like my son to fit into our world. And how long it takes for them to recover. I mean in my case it took several weeks until I felt ready to do something I love – writing! Never mind facing a day at school which is full of challenges and struggles.
So imagine how hard it must be for children on the spectrum that often don’t even fully understand why they feel like they do in the first place. They need us to be patient and understanding and to look beyond the behaviour to understand what they are trying to tell us.
Their engines have to work so much harder than ours just to keep up, and as a result that must drain their energy and tolerance levels so much faster too. So it’s understandable that they will need that bit need longer to recharge fully and recover.
Time and patience is what they need to refuel.... well that and a whole heap of love!

That is why when my little man walks through the door tonight, I will make sure I tell him how proud I am of him for getting through the day. I'll make his favourite dinner, and then I'll  give him the space and time he needs to top up that tank!
Mrs M x

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