It was one of those evenings when everything seemed to be spinning out of control. I was trying to make dinner on our "Italian Night"- shrimp scampi, bread, and homemade bruschetta. Corbin was building legos at the table, the phone was ringing every five minutes, mental list going a mile a minute of what I had to get done tonight, and I was still feeling the stress from taking Brian to get blood taken this morning (which took four adults to administer). In the midst of chopping up some parsley I heard a huge tearing sound come from the table.
I look over and see Brian holding my fieldwork assignment sheet- only in three separate pieces. An entire wave of frustration and overwhelming panic flew through my body and I yelled, "NO BRIAN!!!!"
Yelling is a very, very rare thing here. It doesn't happen often- it's usually saved for running out in roads or other such safety hazards. Because it is so rare it really affects the boys when it happens.
Brian ran upstairs screaming and crying. I let him go, generally he just needs some time to gather himself then he'll join us. Well I was right he did join us about five minutes later. But there was something different about this time compared to all other "episodes". This time he was covered in rug burns. Two on his back, one on his upper shoulder, and one on his wrist. I don't know exactly what happened but I imagine he went upstairs and threw himself on the floor and kicked and writhed and screamed until the actual pain took away his emotional pain. Until he felt that inner balance again.
This was what it was like when he was first diagnosed, before we started the diet. He banged his head so many times each day that he actually had a permanent bruise right between his eyes on his forehead. He'd have bite marks on his wrists from himself and a bald spot on the back of his head from pulling his own hair out. When you'd try to stop these behaviors he would fight and fight you until he could do it and then you'd just feel a sense of calmness come over him.
This is the truly ugly part of autism. Children hurting themselves to feel better. Children having such intense emotions that they can't handle them. Teenagers on the spectrum often have such intense anxiety and depression that parents need to be proactive about suicide attempts. Can you imagine the pain of seeing those harsh red marks on your child's pale skin as he walks to you with tears in his eyes looking for a big squeeze and reassurance that you are no longer angry with him.
I held him in my arms, trying not to cry, feeling guilty over being so upset about a stupid piece of paper. Yet knowing that it wasn't my yelling that caused this, it was this disorder my son has. This autism that makes his life and our lives so hard. So unimaginable hard for all those who don't live it.