Daniel raged last night and this morning. Rage triggered by the slightest movement or imperfectly chosen word. Exhaustion has been the norm this week for me.
Daniel has always struggled with emotional control. It was extreme outbursts as a toddler were the first red flags that prompted my search for answers.
I never completed college and even though I always tested as intelligent, I lack extensive formal training. When Daniel was 2, he had reached an age that I could speak to him and expected a response of some sort from him. Sometimes, he was pretty normal. Although he didn’t speak much, he would respond to my words. Other times, he would freak out, arms flailing. Something as simple as a direction to climb down off the back of the couch would suddenly elicit a screech. When I would touch him to physically move him, he would become a different person. Scratching, biting, kicking, his eyes would look at me but it was no longer Daniel and I connecting.
My first response was a combination of terror and heartbreak. I was already at a place in my own life where I felt very alone. Now I felt completely isolated. I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I had no experience to know where to turn for help and I feared judgment.
We had just bought our first computer and I was just learning my way around the internet. Google was quickly becoming the #1 online search engine. The internet gave me the anonymity to look for answers without fear of judgment from another person.
“Disturbed child behavior” was all I could think to type into the search engine.
The first result was a site on Reactive Attachment Disorder. While, I now know that Daniel does not have this rare disorder, the site taught me the basics of how to safely restrain my child to prevent injury to himself or me.
I used those techniques to hold Daniel until I could get him to calm down. I grasped onto those techniques as my lifeline back from the edge with Daniel and in my own struggles as a mother. Feeling Daniel relax in my arms and being able to communicate with him again, was a huge relief and victory.
It was my first step. My first step towards learning to set aside the preconceived ideas of normal and good. My first step towards learning to fearlessly look outside the box for answers. My first step towards bridging the gap for Daniel and in doing so start to teach Daniel how to bridge that gap himself. It was Daniel’s first step toward independence.
I am still afraid sometime. I am still often overwhelmed. However, I have learned that the moment I start to feel afraid as Daniel’s mother, it is time to reach out for help. I research, read, network, speak to doctors, other parents and teachers. I don’t always get the best answer on the first try, but I am always encouraged. Encouraged that I am not alone in this journey. Encouraged that there really is no such thing as normal and that having an atypical path is sometimes as much of a blessing as it is a struggle.
What do you do when the path gets really rocky? What makes a difference for you?