Saturday, 24 September 2016

Mental health and autism, a rollercoaster ride



As the track clacks rhythmically under the carriage and my grip tightens on the handlebars slowly we climb higher and higher into the unknown.

My stomach flips as I fight to keep my eyes open when every fibre of my body is telling me to squeeze them shut tight and it will all go away.

I reach out to comfort you but my grasp can’t reach you, you’re just too far away from me.

Fear and adrenaline are pumping through my veins, my sense are alert, I am on the edge waiting for the fall and my body feels weak and jittery.

Higher and higher we climb, the world fades around us and all I can see is the two of us surrounded by a sea of nothingness that is swallowing us like a mist.

I wanna get off, I can't do this I scream inside.

Beads of sweat trickle down my forehead, but fear has gripped my hands in place.

I am frozen on the spot.

You turn around and catch my eye. There is a deep sadness that breaks my heart.

We jolt to a stop, suspended in mid-air, silent and still. We wait.

Time stands still.

Below I can see the miles of track that awaits us. The twists and turns, the loops and bends. And the drop. The drop that we are teetering on the edge of.

I want to get off, I can’t do this.

“It’s gonna be OK buddy, I’m here” I whisper to him as I catch my breath and swallow my pounding heart.

I close my eyes as the carriage kick-starts into motion, I can't stop this, I have to ride this with him, I have to be there for him… somehow I have to be brave. No matter how scared I am, or out of control I feel, we are in this together….

Sometimes being a mum feels a lot like being at the funfair. There are moment of immense joy and excitement, thrills and laughter. Those photo moments that capture the memories to treasure forever, that keep us going and give us strength to fight on.

But there are also moments of fear and anxiety, self-doubt and worry. That feeling of adrenalin when you queue for the Big One, or that sickening feeling when you think for a split second that you have lost your child in the crowds.

Some days I am the smiling mum waving proudly as my kids ride the carousel.

Some days I am the driver in the bumper cars, knocking obstacles out of their way.

And some days I am sat behind them on a roller-coaster. With no control over what’s happening, no way of getting off and wondering how on earth we are going to survive this as my basic instincts take over my body.

This is the situation I have found myself in.

You see my sons special interest has decided to take us on an unexpected roller-coaster ride into the unknown. It’s become all-consuming and life changing.

I have always encouraged my sons special interest. I have never seen them as a threat before. For me they have always been a way into his world. They have allowed me to share precious moments of connection with him and they have always been a way of engaging him with the world around him.

But over the last few weeks his all-consuming love for animals has opened the doors to obsession.

It has quickly seeped into every aspect of his life. Swallowing him, filling him with fear and anxiety.

Why do humans eat animals, why is there such cruelty, how can we let this happen?

His obsession and anxieties have stopped him interacting with people, made him confused and angry and taken away his ability to function in school.

How could I let this happen? How did I not see the warning signs?

I feel like I am the top of that rollercoaster, useless and scared.

How do I get him back, how can I help him see that his obsession is making him feel so sad? His love for animals has become something I now fear. He won’t eat, he can’t talk about anything else, and  I feel like he is losing himself. The special interest I respected and admired has become an obsession that I can’t contain.

Mental health and autism provision is chronically underfunded in this country, and I know there are many parents like us up and down the UK in the same position as we are. Scared, overwhelmed and worried for the future.

I know I have to ride this white knuckle drop on the roller-coaster with him, and somehow I have to find the strength to fight for services, support my son and navigate through the issues he is currently facing. I will do that because I love my son. My children are my world and I will never give up no matter how insecure and alone I may feel. No matter how much I want to shut my eyes and make it all go away… it won’t, so I have to do this.

I can’t take him to the doctors and get him a prescription to make it all better like I could if he had a cough or a cold. But his mental health is just as important, if not more so… so should be taken by seriously by the government and policy makers. Because there are thousands of families like mine struggling to do the best for their child. Struggling to help them and barely keeping their head above water in the process.

And I know deep down that I can’t beat myself up for not seeing this coming. The dance that my son tiptoes with his mental health is so delicate, and intrinsically linked to his autism, that it means that sometimes these things are out of our control, and can creep up on us when we least expect it. No one could have seen this coming. All I can do is my best.

So for now, I will hold on tight, and keep going. As scared as I may be, I will never give up, I will never leave him to face any of this alone.

We’re on this roller-coaster ride together my darling boy, hold on tight, I’ve got you x

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