Tonight was one of those nights I was hoping were behind Michael and I. It was a night where Michael totally lost it, his temper, his sense of control, and his ability to use his strategies to calm down. He had had an aggressive outburst with me after school, and even the way he has been talking this week is fueled with aggression and anxiety. I’m sure the new medication for focus is a major reason, but he has argued with me that it is helping him. I see improvements in other areas, so I have been watching and waiting to see if it is truly working and if he is better off overall being on it. What has NOT been happening though, is Michael using strategies to calm down anger and anxiety when he starts escalating. In the winter time, he was using the Zones of Regulation with strategies to find a balance. In the last two weeks particularly, he has been struggling greatly at regulating himself. Then we introduce a medication with possible side effects of aggression, loss of appetite and insomnia and BINGO he gets the aggression one. It has been hard to handle for all of us.
I was emailing his psychiatrist to express my concerns, when he started mouthing off at me and getting upset. I had just come in from an outing with him so told him to stay with his father while I went downstairs as I needed a break. I needed physical space away to breathe and not let his anxiety and anger take me along with him, and as Dad had not seen him all night, I figured this would be an opportunity for them to talk and Michael to calm down. Instead what happened was that Michael escalated more . Dad was tired as I was the night before and could not help. I raced up the stairs two at a time and got Michael to his bedroom after he had banged the wall a few times, shouted horrible things and been jumping up and down so hard I thought the floors would break in half. We got to his bedroom and he was still yelling. I kept repeating, “Michael breathe. Michael breathe.” And I stayed with him. It was scary. In the past though, after we talked about it, Michael would say, “I needed you there at the beginning to remind me what to do. I forget Mommy. I can’t do it alone.”
So I stayed and eventually the screaming and cursing stopped, and I heard two big breaths. Then two more as he held my hands and breathed with me. I knew he would be ok. Then, when he was able to express remorse for what he had said and done, I told him he was forgiven. I also reminded him though, that he needed to use strategies to calm down as soon as he started feeling himself getting upset and anxious about anything. We talked about what could work, what doesn’t work, and what may work. He came out of his room realizing that depending on what the doctor recommended, he may be on a lower dose or off the current medication for focus and hyperactivity.
I was proud of the fact that even though he was saying and doing some pretty scary things I kept in mind three things- 1) my child was out of control 2) my child did not mean what he was saying and 3) my child needed me to be the calm one through it all, no matter what. I was happy to say I was successful, and he finished his bed routine promising me he’d find new positive strategies to help with anxiety and anger. You see, I learned that his old ones did not help anymore and he said, “When I let myself get really angry and let it out, I feel better.” I agreed it’s good to let anger out, but not when you become physically or verbally dangerous to people around you. After I explained it that way, Michael understood and said he would do better. I know he will. My heart breaks for him that finding balance is so hard- balance in focus, balance in controlling emotions, balance in life. His brain works differently than mine, and he has so many incredible things to share, but the fact he is always ON definitively takes its toll on him and those around him. I am learning how to respect who Michael is while respecting myself and finding a compromise so both of us can respect each other’s differences and learn from one another.
Exceptional Parents, how have you managed to support your Exceptional Child when they have been in crisis? If you stayed calm, congratulations. The best thing an exceptional child can have is a parent who is a calm, safe haven for them when they are in turmoil. As much as you are unraveling, knowing that you’ve got their back, will often help them find the strength to try again. Also never forget that no matter what your child says or does when angry, it is not who they are. It is their reaction to whatever stressor provoked them. Be patient and loving. Unconditional love, having ways to talk together and strategies to handle stress, will be the ultimate thing that will help you both in the end. Until next time.