I live in fear. Fear of my son’s anxiety. Fear that one day, the medicines won’t work anymore, and we will go horribly, helplessly backwards. Fear that I will be trapped in that never ending cycle of sensory issues, panic attacks and completely irrational screaming fits.
JD is almost twelve years old, so I know my fear isn’t rational. He has come so far in the past few years that anxiety isn’t really a part of our lives like it used to be. Thanks to the hard work he did learning coping skills with biofeedback, his amazing psychologist Dr. Fritz and finally a couple of medications, most people would have no idea he ever had OCD or anxiety issues. Yet there it sits, like a cat waiting to strike–this fear that anxiety may take over our lives again.
For years he would scream dozens of times a day. Because he has Asperger’s we couldn’t tell what was sensory, what was OCD, what was anxiety from what was just generally normal for autism. He’d scream if he was given a yellow stripe straw instead of a blue one. He’d scream if you changed the type of jelly on the bread. He’d scream if you turned on Veggie Tales at church instead of at home. He’d scream if someone or something made a noise he didn’t expect. You just never knew what would send him spiraling into a panic attack that he didn’t know how to come back out of. As parents, we lived our lives on eggshells, never knowing what would set the screaming off. I spent my first eight years as a mom going back and forth between being his chief comforter and being the bitch in his life who forced him to do things he never wanted to do. Sometimes the panic attacks and screaming would happen twenty or thirty times in a day.
The past three years have been rather quiet. Once he began taking anti-anxiety medications it was like a whole new child appeared. He was always giggly and sweet in between attacks, but now we see that virtually all day long. (He could be very Jekyll and Hyde as a young child) After a couple of years he has matured greatly, and we see a lot of growth and respect coming from him. Still, we often find ourselves walking on eggshells, waiting for the panic to come. I often describe it a lot like living with post traumatic stress disorder–only the trauma comes from your own child, the thing you love with a ferocity that will scare the hell out of you.
Last night the fear struck me with a fierce blow when we discovered JD has a large cavity on his front tooth. Now, if you’ve ever had a child with a sensory sensitive mouth, you may have some clue as to why I went into panic mode. A trip to the dentist with JD has never been anything but excruciating. We have always had to live with the aftermath for weeks after the appointment. He wouldn’t let the dentist even look in his mouth without knocking him out first. He had his first oral surgery when he was six to have a few teeth pulled and crowned, and now I’m fearful we are headed for that again. Since the first surgery he has learned to deal with his issues a lot better–even brushing his teeth nightly (though leaving a bit to be desired, he is brushing them)–so maybe his mouth isn’t as sensitive as it once was. Maybe the anxiety medications will keep him from freaking out. Maybe. Yet I sit here and shake, tears rolling down my face, envisioning the last time. When I had to carry him, kicking and screaming, into the dentist’s office. When I had to hold him down and hold his nose closed so he would swallow the pre-operative medicines. When he gagged that medicine back up all over me. The weeks of not eating and not trusting me because I’d forced him to do something he was terribly afraid of. The months of anxiety-fueled acting out in so many different areas of his life, as he worked through his own warring emotions.
I’m just not sure I have it in me right now.
I sit here and I tell myself the platitudes. God has this under his control. JD isn’t who he once was. He doesn’t freak out like he once did. If you look up at the picture at the top, you’ll see the JD I know now–happy, peaceful, smiling most of the day. And I try to hold on to those platitudes, but they are like whispers in the wind. For the fear? The fear is full of things I DO know. The fear is full of things I know to the very core of my being, the things I will never forget.
I haven’t had the courage to pick up a phone and call a dentist yet. I have gotten some excellent recommendations and I know that one day soon I will suck it up and dial that number. But for now, I am procrastinating, because I’m just not ready to face that yet. One day I will pick up that phone, ready to be the bitch he needs in his life. I will be warrior mom again, ready to fight anyone he needs me to fight–even if I have to fight him. One day I will be there. For now, I’ll have an extra glass of wine (or whiskey) and live another day in denial.