Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This past week, as 2011 came to an end, the news has been filled with various top ten lists of the year: the most important news stories, shocking scandals, best movies, celebrity weddings and breakups, to name but a few. In the spirit of looking back and compiling lists, I decided to make a list of the unusual things Alex has yelled during his meltdowns in 2011 to give a glimpse of the things that concern, aggravate, and agitate him.

10. “Is Mommy joking?” Alex blurts this question randomly when he is upset and accusing me of saying something I may or may not have actually said. We don’t know what triggers this inquiry, but we have discovered that no correct answer to this question exists. An answer of “Yes” or “No” only seems to stir his anger more. Therefore, we have learned not to respond to this question when he’s mad.

9. “Need a pen/paper!” Alex’s need [compulsion?] to make lists leaves him frequently searching for the tools he needs to write them. When he’s calm, he can find the pen and/or paper on his own, but when he’s anxious, he needs our help. Most of the time, our providing the pen and paper for him solves the problem because he can then write down the dates, times, or other numbers he wants to list. Other times, however, he reveals his frustration by turning pens and composition notebooks into projectiles, hurling them to let us know he’s not happy.

8. “Oh, no!” This is a generalized cry for help, triggered by Alex’s inability to find something he’s lost or by his upset that the cable tv or his computer won’t work or by some other issue he feels is beyond his control. Sometimes we can solve these problems for him, but other times we cannot, which may lead to other comments blurted in frustration.

7. “Need to ask God/call Dr. Trowbridge/look it up!” When Alex can’t figure out something or needs some piece of information that he doesn’t think Ed or I know, he turns to those whom he trusts can answer his question: God, his [now retired] doctor, or the Internet. If God would start e-mailing Alex, our lives would be a lot simpler.

6. “ENT!” and the closely related “Want voice to stop changing!” Alex has been obsessed with the way his voice changed in his teens, and he has indicated that he doesn’t like the way his voice sounds now. When he’s really angry, he’ll even say, “Voice is too damn deep!” Even though his voice is really not that deep, apparently he preferred his little boy voice. He has spent hours researching voice changes and found some idiot’s post on a comments board that said surgery can be done to make a man’s voice higher. With some more Internet research, Alex decided that the best person to do this operation would be an Ear-Nose-Throat, or ENT, doctor. At one point he decided he’d save his money for this surgery, despite our best efforts to convince him that his voice is fine and that no doctor would perform such an operation on him for that, anyway. While he no longer talks about that plan anymore, the remnants come out when he’s upset in the form of the ranting regarding his voice and the type of doctor he thinks could fix it.

5. “Want life expectancy to be 150 years old!” This comment reveals a recent obsession Alex has with age, life, and death. After studying insurance actuarial charts on the Internet and his various medical books, Alex has decided that he wants to live longer than the typical life expectancy. I suppose this is probably related to a fear of death, but Alex used to talk happily about going to Heaven someday. Like other phases, I’m guessing this one will eventually pass, but if not, Alex may be thinking about it for the next 130 years.

4. “Happy New Year!”/”Happy Birthday!” When Alex is really agitated, he starts rambling about dates. As though he is playing a newsreel in his head, he’ll oddly mark the passing of time by blurting “Happy New Year!” before yelling out the number of a different year or “Happy Birthday!” [or sometimes, “Happy Birthday, Alex!”] to indicate he has aged another year as he remembers various events. Ironically, Alex isn’t very happy when he says these two comments, and hearing them out of context is a bit disconcerting.

3. “I’m sorry!” While one would think apologizing is a nice social skill we’ve taught Alex, when he uses this phrase, he’s not really sorry. In fact, he’s probably fairly irritated. Yelled in a sarcastic tone, Alex’s “I’m sorry” is the equivalent of saying, “I’m sorry that I have such losers for parents who can’t figure out why I’m so upset by this seemingly small irritation.” Our usual response to him is, “I’m sorry, too, Alex,” which often means, “I’m sorry that you’re so upset by the stupidest things.”

2. “Need to pee in the potty!” For years, we would have been thrilled to hear Alex say this phrase because he was so difficult to potty train. Now he uses this phrase to attempt to manipulate us. When he’s in meltdown mode, we insist that he sit until he’s calm. Trying to escape our imposed time-out, Alex thinks that telling us he needs to use the bathroom will allow him to get away from us. Smarter than we look, we assure him that he can wait to use the bathroom until he’s calm.

1.“Done arguing now.” This phrase is one Alex recently started using, and the wording is totally his own. Knowing that Alex’s meltdowns stem from anxiety, we have never referred to them as “arguing.” After he has listed his grievances, he has learned to calm down and seems to know that he’s done with the meltdown. This self-awareness signifies a developmental leap for him. We hope the next step is learning to calm himself before the meltdown ever occurs.

Although 2011 offered many challenges in terms of Alex’s development and behavior, we look forward to 2012 with hope that he’ll continue to learn and improve. Perhaps a year from now these utterances said in frustration will be a faint memory as his anxiety fades, allowing all three of us to enjoy a peaceful life. Wishing everyone a 2012 filled with many blessings!

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13


K. C. said...

Happy new year, and best wishes for a calmer year with less anxiety for you all!

Mom said...

Pam, I'm glad that, even in the midst of almost overwhelming concern and frustration, you are still able to summon a humorous view of your situation, as you have in listing Alex's specific pronouncements. I'm hoping and praying that 2012 will bring back the sweet Alex we all know and love to see---calm, happy, and predictably well-behaved.

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, K.C. and Mom, for your nice comments and good wishes for us. With fingers crossed and prayers said, we seem to be seeing Alex calmer and happier with some changes in his medications, and we have hopes that he'll continue to improve. :)