I recently read a study that found moms that have children with autism, have also been shown to have stress levels similar to combat soldiers.
I have felt this for years but I could never admit it. If I admitted that I couldn’t handle Cooper than I was admitting he was severely autistic. Admitting meant defeat. Or failure. There are a lot of emotions that go into asking for help.
I am strong. Seriously. This blog is the ONLY place I break down. Not in real life. Not to friends. I get up every day and handle what is thrown at me. In saying that, I completely and utterly waved the white flag this weekend.
Autism won. I had lost. I admitted my defeat.
Just when I get a handle on Cooper’s autism….he changes. It’s been happening that way for 5 years. Just when I think we are getting ahead something happens. A new behavior. A new quirk. Or, like this past weekend, it all happened at once. And not slow. Cooper can completely change overnight to the point that I don’t even know who this kid is.
One week ago Cooper woke up and started hitting. Just like that. He went to bed not hitting and he woke up hitting. And throwing. And pushing. My sweet boy went to bed and a little monster woke up.
By Monday morning at 6:30 am I sensed something was different. Just like that he started hitting me and his brother. Not hard. Not aggressive. But he was clearly hitting.
At Monday afternoon pick-up from Fraser I was asked to stay after and discuss his behavior. Hitting and throwing were discussed at length. By Tuesday at noon I had the same observations from his preschool. Of course I knew this was coming. I felt it. I saw it.
Cooper had changed over night.
Tuesday afternoon his ear started draining. I brought him to urgent care and he had a clear cut ear infection.
Thank God I thought. This explains the behavior. He is in pain. He is hurting. He can’t speak so he is taking it out on me. I get it. I had an answer.
The doctor prescribed ear drops and a promise he would be better in a day. Except it didn’t get better. It got worse.
By Wednesday his ear drum had officially ruptured. He was alone on a van to downtown Minneapolis. When he got to Fraser his face was a bloody mess. This is the third time in the past 3 months that his eardrum has ruptured. Yes, he has tubes. He is on his second pair.
By Thursday the ear hadn’t stopped draining. He wasn’t sleeping…at all. I wasn’t sleeping. He was like a wild animal when I went near his face. He clawed me and hit me. The ear was red and swollen.
I spent the night thinking about how I am failing this child. I started to panic thinking about his quality of life. He has chronic ear pain although his pain tolerance is unreal. He can’t poop. I spent the night making a plan to get him help. I was going to march him into the doctor on Friday morning and demand help. I was going to find answers if it killed me.
Friday morning we went into the doctor. I was fueled by caffiene and sleep deprivation. His ear was a mess. He was a mess.
He tore the waiting room apart. He ran back and forth knocking over chairs, throwing books and magazines, shrieking and shouting. Think about a wild animal. That was happening. After 10 minutes of people staring I begged the front desk people to put me in a room. I didn’t care if it was an hour…put me in a damn room.
The room was worse but at least we were alone. He threw coats, knocked over chairs, flipped the light switch on and off, on and off.And he hit me.
Here is a short video. Notice that he is laughing the whole time. The behaviors are not aggressive…they are silly. He is looking for a reaction. With the reaction of me ending up in a padded room. I’m on my way.
By the time the doctor came in I was a complete and utter wreck. If you were a fly on the wall you would have seen a shell of a human being hit by their 5 year old. I had zero control.
And I completely and utterly unloaded on this doctor. I said I needed him to help me. More like, ‘please help me. I am losing it. I can’t control this child anymore. I don’t know what is wrong. I’m failing. I am waving the white flag. He can’t poop. He has chronic ear pain. There is something wrong. Please help me.’
During this epic speech I was holding Cooper because he was so out of control. He was intermittently hitting me in the face. Or attempting too. I just kept talking. I think I said the phrase, ‘help me’ at least a dozen times.
And then this 250 lb, 6’5 male doctor patted me on the back and said something so comforting to me. He said, ‘I hear you. I hear everything you are saying. We will fix this and I will help you do it. You are going to be OK.’
Not, Cooper is going to be OK. He said I was going to be OK.
We went home with a plan. Nothing groundbreaking…but it was a start. Oh, and Cooper’s ear infection was something crazy. They cultured it since it wasn’t responding to medication. Ugh. This kid.
I waved the white flag on Friday.
I need help. I am admitting it. It took me five long years to get here. I need to hire someone. I need someone to come in my home and help me. I’m not sure if that is a nanny or a PCA. I don’t know what it looks like yet. I just know that I can’t do this anymore. I am not a nurse. I am not a psychologist. I wasn’t trained in caring for an autistic child.
I am just a normal mom. Asking for help is not admitting failure. While yes I am defeated…I have not failed. I just need help. It’s OK to ask for help people. Don’t forget that.