The Proverbial Boogeyman

We were in the emergency room after my son had several seizures at school that were new, different than past ones. As most things go with autism, we were struggling to find any answers or even move forward towards answers. He was fighting an IV as though it were the dawn of the apocalypse. After five tries, they said as they left the room, “We’ll see what the doctor says.”

I sighed.

I knew what was happening. No imaging today, which was probably fine. It wouldn’t have told us much of anything. Yet, it felt very “not okay” all of the way through me. If this were my other children, then this would be a piece of cake. I mean, not easy or anything, just that they would have gotten the IV and had the CAT Scan. And doesn’t Evan deserve the same treatment? Absolutely, we all say, nodding our head. Yet, he doesn’t.

At the time, it felt like a grave injustice. He was being discriminated against! I messaged my four people, “Isn’t this so unfair!?!?” Yes, they said.

All but one.

All but one, who said that it might be unfair or it might not be. And those words gave me enough space to breathe and think. And I thought.

Why do I assume everyone is out to get us?

I knew I had touched something in my life that was foundational and deeply engrained. So I did what everyone does. Okay, maybe not everyone….

I avoided it.

In my defense, I do think that was an appropriate response at the time. I mean, the emergency room isn’t really the place for pondering our world perspectives. Perhaps it should be though? Either way, I wasn’t really capable of addressing my victim-mindset at that moment.

Today, it’s Monday. Five days have passed. It’s time to confront this bad boy head on.

Yippee.

Sarcasm noted.

When did I become a victim? Was it when my sister and I confessed that an abnormally large amount of bad things happened on our side of the family while our husband’s families seemed to be hunky-dory? Or was it all of the years listening to my mom play the martyr? (By the way, all moms have the right to martyrdom.) Or was it just when autism emerged as a fact of life?

I wonder if it really matters where it came from or when it emerged.

Maybe, all that matters is looking at it and saying, “I am no victim.” Maybe, all I need is to recognize that the boogeyman is not lurking around every corner, waiting to attack. Maybe there is no boogeyman or if there is, he’s just a friendly teacher. Maybe pain and suffering aren’t the end of the story, but only the beginning.

Maybe the discouragement in the emergency room isn’t all consuming. Maybe it’s just one moment in time. Moments in time pass. Nothing is forever.

Maybe.

That word is the key. When it feels like the end or a grave injustice has occurred, then all we need is to say “Maybe…” And follow it up with another possibility.

Perhaps flexibility in our thinking is the way forward, the end to finite trials and the beginning of evolution.

 

Talk to your Brain, because the Heart is Listening

For some time, I’ve dealt with my own monstrous inner dialogue. My brain has not always been kind to me. My thoughts, though meant to motivate me or spur me on, did (and many times still do) utterly crush me.

My own faults aside, I have worries for my children and I desperately want them to be aware of their inner dialogue. How do you help a child realize they even have an inner dialogue? Teaching them how to converse with it and care for themselves? No clue.

In what was either a moment of insanity or brilliance, I went for it. We were driving back from mommy/kiddo date time, when I decided to venture into this mystical unknown territory with an 8 year-old. She had just remarked at how she wasn’t very good at something. I knew this was one of those times where her brain was after a certain result – her working harder, but she was unaware of its intent or potential harm.

You see, when my brain tells me that I am a failure and I need to suck it up – this is usually an indicator of my desire to do better. However, it only makes me shut down, which only makes my brain get louder and nastier and downright bully-ish. My brain is driven, at times, by my amygdala (we can call her Amy for short). Long ago, Amy was responsible for keeping us safe from bears, storms and other imminent dangers. Today, when Amy is driving the bus (aka our brains), she can be a little overzealous, because bears and storms and nature aren’t really threats to me today. Today’s threats include screwing up my children’s lives, eating unhealthily and taking a nap (vs. exercising). When I screw one of these up, Amy gets all riled because I am going against what I know is right and safe and good. She sends messages to my brain that send it into def-con 7 mode (otherwise known as military general mode). When the military general takes over, its like boot camp. He’s yelling “Get up fatty and eat Kale!!!” at the top of his lungs. Meanwhile, my heart is reverted to the fetal position and is chanting “I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m fat.”

This gets us nowhere. Literally, nowhere.

I usually just end up eating donuts.

Amy, my brain, my heart? We need to have a conversation, peace talks if you will.

This was the concept I was trying to explain to my little one. I shared all of the above with her and then said (like it was so easy), “Sometimes you need to talk back to your brain.”

She started giggling and looked at me like I had lost my mind. So I demonstrated…

“Hey brain, you are so right that I need to do something healthy right now, but calling me fat hurts me and I don’t want to do what you say.” And then my brain says…

“Oh, I was just trying to help, because I know you want something different and Amy is really concerned that you are not going to get it sitting on your ass.” Generalisimo Brain says.

“Yeah, Amy is right that I won’t, but I need you to talk to me more nicely. And let Amy know that one slip-up does not equal death.” My heart says.

“Okay, I’ll let her know that this is not the end of the world. Also, you can do this. Getting up isn’t hard. I know you have done harder things.” Suddenly, my brain is sending the right messages to everybody.

So that’s why I talk back to my brain. She’s smart, but she’s getting a lot of messages from different places and can be hard to figure it all out.

“Does that make sense, kiddo?” I ask.

Hysterical laughter erupts from the backseat.

Well, at least I tried….