It’s now been a couple of weeks since Tam was admitted to hospital and lots has happened. So rather than just be a ramble here are the highlights.
A large part of our problem since Bev died is separation anxiety. Both me and Tam suffer from it, I would not like to say who has it worse. I think Tam would say me and I would say Tam. Who knows?
In the last 4 and a half years me and Tam have been like shadows of each other. The longest time apart has been about 3 days, the longest time together (24 hours a day) is probably 7 months. It has been a crazy few years. Well the biggest thing that I think affects Tam is that one day he took his Mammy to the hospital and she did not come back. He still asks for her to come home, not just when he is upset, he sometimes just asks out of the blue. That singular event would mess up anyone. He is scared of other people disappearing, especially me. I feel the same way towards him. He is Bev’s and mine boy and has become my little man. I wonder every day what she would say about how big he has become, he would tower over her. I wonder what comment she would have about his moustach and sideburns and his size 8 feet. He has gone from a little boy to a young man in the last 4 years, and he has been through one hell of lot during that time.
Well being in hospital is already showing his separation anxiety is improving. He is getting used to the idea that I can be away and I still come back to him. He does not like me leaving him but off what I know from the staff he copes really well.
In the past two weeks Tam has had a couple of breakdowns that have resulted in things getting broken and people being hurt.
The first one happened when Tam had asking for his tablet and TV to be switched off. He broke down and smashed the tablet and TV when it did not happen fast enough. Now I have seen Tams lack of patience with things and the only way to deal with it is to show him how to switch things off and put things away himself.
The main breakdown does not seem to have anything that triggered it. This led to Tam being put into seclusion for 24 hours. Again I have seen this behaviour and it does take a long time for him to calm down. It is a full on violent breakdown that happens out of nowhere and goes from zero to a thousand miles per hour in a split second. I continue to struggle to understand as to why this happens and what is going on in Tams brain. I hoped that with more eyes on him and a variety of professionals would be able to pick it apart and shine a light on the reasons why.
A part of me was relieved that this happened at the hospital as I sometimes wondered if it was me or something that I was doing to fire off these episodes. Now I know it isn’t, it has happened at home a lot but it has now happened in a totally different place. Now the huge question is why is it happening and what is causing Tam to totally breakdown like this? I wish I had a thread of an idea to hold on to and then use that to get to an idea of how to help him.
Work for me
Now, I know that to make life better I have to take a long hard look at myself and work out how to make things easier for Tam and also how to listen to him more actively. By “listen” I mean in every sense of the word and also using all senses. I know from experience that autistic kids can have issues with certain lights, smells, tastes, touches and sounds. I have tried over the years to discover what things have upset him and worked towards either removing them or helping him accept them.
I know that in a lot of ways I have done the right things to help Tam, but I also know there are many more things that I can try. Therefore I am constantly on the lookout for whatever might help. I am not talking about any crazy scheme that you can find on Google though, I am talking about asking professional people for help and finding articles that have real academic backing. Tam being sectioned has opened up a whole load of information from the support groups around us and also given me time to listen, understand and digest this information. I am starting to feel like I have more tools that we can call on for just day to day events as well as when things get tough.
One of the major things that I have realised while talking to the various professionals around me and Tam is the management of stress. I was asked to picture my “stress bucket” and look at the things that filled it up and what let things out of it. When I first did this I had way more things feeding water into the bucket than emptying it. In fact I visualised a bucket overflowing at one hell of a rate.
After a few weeks of keeping my stress bucket picture active in my mind I have now got it almost at the point where the water flowing in is balanced to the water flowing out. That visualisation has helped me a lot. I find that something crops up and I work out if it is going to make my stress bucket overflow or start filling up too fast, then I look at what I can do about this new stressor. If I can I will deal with it there and then. Stress bucket back in equilibrium. Happy Dad.
That last sentence “Happy Dad.” is also an important one as well. For a while I have been trying to portray “happy dad” in front of Tam and it has been a lie. I have been “worried dad”, “stressed dad” and “dad who needs some decent sleep”, the smile I have worn has been a painted on one. Tam has seen through that.
Between bites, scratches, cracked teeth and dislocated fingers I have been a physical mess. The past couple of week I have talked with my GP, had x-rays, seen dentists and started to get things seen to. I have also been out running and walking and generally looking after my physical health.
Feeling physically better is also helping my mental health and improving my ability to cope with all kinds of things. I need to keep on top of this and make sure I make time for it.
Well there is definitely progress that Tam is making. I think I will only understand how much progress we have both made when he gets home.