Riding in Cars with Boys

When I was a little girl, my parents would often fight in the car with both my brother and I in it.  It was always the most distressing experience.  My father would fly off the hook about something, and my mother would beg him to stop screaming in the car and driving like a maniac because we would get into an accident.  My brother has autism, and as a little boy, he would hit whoever was closest to him – hard.  If he hit my dad, he would freak out even more.  If he hit my mom, she would just go silent.  And if he hit me, I would cry, and it would largely go unnoticed because of the bigger problems at hand.

Anyway, it was a disastrous event, every time it occurred.

Eventually, I became old enough to decline invitations to go places and was happy to do so.  My domestic life was dramatic enough without having to take it on the road.  My mother explained to me that my father did this to her on purpose.  Because she was so passive, he would trap her in the car so that she couldn’t avoid the ensuing argument.  Not a bad plan, other than the whole prospect of getting into an accident.  (Which we never did, by the way.  My father, at 61, still has yet to get into an accident that he caused.)

I have found myself in similar situations throughout my years of being a passenger in a car with a significant other.  I had one ex who found the car was the only place he wanted to fight.  He would dodge everything until the key was in the ignition.  And for maximum results, he would take a crowded highway.

I am not my mother’s child.  I am my father’s child in every way, minus most of my physical appearance.  I am not passive, although I can be passive-aggressive.  I have fought to get this far, and I’m not going to lie down anytime soon.  I am highly reactive (probably a product of bipolar), and can take a hint better than most.  I am an empath.  I can feel what’s going on around me, even without words.  So if someone is going to take a stab at me, they better hope they don’t miss.  Because, I’ll be back with chainsaw.  On a non-deep-down-dark-depressive day.

 

Back to the chronological narrative.  After my husband witnessed all of the direct deposits being dumped into the account on Friday, all was well in the world again.  At least his.  I don’t get over things easily.  It’s hard for me to forgive, and I will NEVER forget.  But when he became a little more easy-going and wanted to actually spend time with his family, I started to feel a little better.  We had friends over on both Thursday and Friday after the recent disasters.  C.S. puts on a fantastic show.  It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, truly a dinner theater-type show to behold.  I am less inclined to play pretend when I feel it’s too much of a farce.

Saturday morning came and he was springing to life with ambition for family time.  He was intent upon taking our son (I’ll start referring to him as T.D.) to the museum.  Outings are always a to-do and stressful to get out the door.  Yes, with the man who is perpetually late.  When I die, this man will be late to my funeral, if he makes it at all.  His man will be late to getting to the pearly gates before closing time for the day, and he’ll stand there and sweet-talk Saint Peter into at least sneaking him in the backdoor, while also taking some money off of the cover charge.  That is C.S. in all of his glory.  But when it’s something that wants to do, he’ll be flying us out the door.

“Check the mail.”  Always an obsession with the mail.  You know, there is nothing ever in there but junk mail, bills, and boasting / nagging letters from his annoying, pompous bitch aunt.   (There, I said a swear.  She’s a bitch.)  But no matter.  I grabbed the mail and knew by the scrawl on the front that this was the results from T.D.’s evaluation, addressed: To the parents of T.D., Pittsburgh, blah, blah.  I told C.S. what the contents were and was about to throw it inside.  But I knew that it would gnaw at me until I returned to find it there.

“I have to read it now,” I thought.  So I dropped it in my purse and hauled it off to the car with the rest of the 50 pounds of supplies and junk we need to go five feet from our house.  My doing, mostly, I’ll admit.

As we drove through our town, headed for the gas station, I opened the letter.  I scanned through the first few pages, because I had seen them before.  My husband started hounding me for information and I started to give it to him as I was reading it.  When I got to “The mother filled out a questionnaire to assess Autism Spectrum Disorder…” he went off like a firecracker.  “How could you fill those out… I’m his father too… he  act autistic like what you say… you just said those things to make it seem worse… I should have a say… You aren’t allowed to fill out any of those questionnaires again…”

We pulled into the gas station and I fired back, “Is it going to be like this the whole trip?  I will get out of the car right now and walk myself back home.”  He refused to answer.  “I had to fill those questionnaires out.  It’s part of the evaluation.  I’m doing what is right or our son.”  He growled, “We won’t talk about this here.”

I don’t think so!  Absolutely no one on this planet will ever silence me.  I don’t care if that person is the President, or even the Pope.  No one has the right to take away what I want to say and where I want to say it.  Second, you don’t start an argument with me and then attempt to silence me!  If you started it, I will be sure as hell to finish it.  And third, no one, and I mean, NO ONE on this planet, father or not, will tell me what I’m doing with MY son.  I carried that little boy inside of me for a grueling 38 weeks.  I spent 13 and a half hours in agonizing labor (is there really any other kind?) to bring him into this world.  I bear the physical scars of motherhood on my stomach and other lady parts.  And I have spent the majority of his life raising him practically alone.  I believe that I have earned the right, even if it wasn’t given to me the moment I saw that digital pregnancy test light up as “pregnant”, to do what is needed and best for my son’s health and well-being.

We fought for 10.4 miles.  I google mapped it.  It was this awful back and forth.  C.S. insisted that he be present at every evaluations and that an evaluation couldn’t be done without him.  I bitterly asked him what was the sudden change of heart after he failed to be at every other evaluation.  It was my mother and me, his two primary caretakers and the only two people in T.D.’s life that are well-versed in developmental disorder and mental illness.  “What gives you the right now, after all of this time? Out of the 14 awake hours T.D. has, I care for him 6 hours of that solo and another 3 with you lingering around.  The other five belong to mom, who watches him so I can close the hole in our finances.”  He gets on the defense about how that isn’t his choice and how someone has to work.

I wanted to scream at him that is was his choice.  I was working and all of a sudden, he decided after 8 months of being laid off that he wanted to go back at any cost.  And I still worked after that.  The only time I didn’t spend working at least 15 hours a week was during a portion of my pregnancy when I wasn’t doing well enough to work, and then I became to pregnant for anyone to hire me.  And after I had T.D., when I was very sick from what if physically and emotionally took to bring him into this world.  Now, I can’t work more than I do because someone, meaning me, has to be at home to take T.D. back and forth to therapies, special schools, and be at home for in-home services.  I have done nothing but devote nearly every available waking moment to T.D.  He wasn’t interested before, and I had resigned myself to being a single parent inside of a marriage.  (And believe me, there ain’t a lot of outside help to us married gals, even the ones with bipolar who have children with special needs).  Why now?  You know, all of a sudden when someone wanted to slap a label on him.

I went on to tell him about the rest of the contents of the letter.  He was very silent for a moment and all he had to say for himself was, “Oh.  You didn’t say that before.”  {Insert insane cursing here}.  How could I have possibly been able to do so, when the first three lines that came out of my mouth were met with such a colossal storm of rage, berating, (because that’s his favorite), and threats?

I gave him the points that I couldn’t make before.  This diagnosis opens up the doorway to treatments and funding that T.D. would not have otherwise qualified for.  We are both agreed that he needs extra help, and that even if they go overboard, it can’t hurt him.  Labels don’t carry the weight that they did when we were kids.  In fact, when we register T.D. for school, no one will even have to know about this.  Legally, no one has to know.  We don’t have to tell anyone.  Not our friends, not our family.  We don’t even have to tell his pediatrician if we don’t want to.  (And largely, no one does know.  Two close friends, his therapists, and our parents).  There doesn’t have to be a stigma, and there is so much awareness now that there isn’t one.  This diagnosis, this label, does NOT make T.D. any different than he was yesterday or the day before that.

He was relieved and the conflict was resolved.  For now.  I find it disturbing that the only thing my husband seemed to care about was the social stigma that could result from carrying a PDD-NOS / ASD diagnosis.  But then again…

Who’s Afraid of ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe?

(NOT I).

Adding It Up

The Chicken or The Egg

I’ve had this talk with my psychiatrist before. What begets what, exactly? Does the episode precipitate certain events based on behaviors or does the environment spark the episode?

There’s really no clear cut answer. My largest concern has been what seems like constant fatigue and body aches. Yes, those are symptomatic of a depressive episode, of which I am especially prone to. The doctor asked me, “Well, you tell me that you are a mother, you work, you go to school, you are a wife, and you are responsible for domestic duties. Consider the amount of stress you are under and your lifestyle in general.”

I have considered those things.

Breaking It Down
Let’s take a tour through my average day. I wake up and am solely responsible for getting my son out of bed, dressed, fed, and ready for the day. Three days a week, we have either Occupational Therapy, Developmental Therapy, or Speech Therapy. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder and likely Pervasive Development Disorder. But he’s too young to have a definitive Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

We do that, get him off to the babysitter, and then I have to make the mad dash to get ready and out the door for the hour commute to work. Then, there’s the whole matter of navigating Port Authority, Pittsburgh’s “premiere” public transportation system. For those of you who live in or near the city, I’m sure you’ve had at least one memorable encounter. Like when the bus was especially early or incredibly late. We all know this doesn’t work when there’s a connection in town. And in most cases, there is. It’s always a nightmare.

Honestly, work is the most enjoyable experience in my day. It’s mostly stress free. There are usually two or three teachers per classroom, which makes behavior management so much easier. Most of my students come in focused, enthusiastic, and ready to learn. And all of them are loving and affectionate toward me, much like I am toward them. My boss is great. She’s a very hands off boss who trusts her employees to run their own classrooms. My co-workers are hilarious and warm. Everything about that place feels like home and family.

This is not to say there aren’t problems. My students still have behavioral difficulties. Sometimes, I do have co-workers that rub me the wrong way or interfere in my lesson more than they should. New policies are implemented that I don’t like. And my boss doesn’t always give me gold stars. It’s just like any other workplace. The only exception is that I like what I do, the people I do it with, and where I do it. Makes it a little easier to bear.

Another hour to an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the babysitter’s. We go home and I get to cleaning and cooking. My husband comes home, we eat, and then the rest of the night, it’s up to me to care for our son.

And that’s my day. I usually have a couple of hours to fight sleep because that is the only time available for me to unwind. Sometimes, I just pass out from exhaustion.

Doesn’t sound like much to some of you, huh? I’m sure there are a decent number of readers that will scoff and say, “I do waaaay more than that in a day.” Yes, you likely do. And that is the core to this.

Adding It Back Up
Bipolar Disorder or too stressful of a lifestyle? Or both? Could it be possible that I take on more than I, personally, can?

Which brings me to the core of this. I get a lot of flack for not living up to expectations, or what others perceive to be “laziness”. And I think to myself, “Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I take on everything without having a breakdown?” Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t.

What I exampled above it only scratching the surface. I’m not going to go into a novel sized, pity-party sounding recount of every single snag in my life. Just add in all of the incidentals. A large unexpected bill, a tough toddler day, a rough patch in my marriage, a hard day at work, family troubles, financial difficulty, etc, etc. You can draw from your own experiences and know that there is much, much more.

Honestly, why can’t I perform all of the tasks and duties required of me? It doesn’t sound very complicated. Although, to me, it is. So I push myself harder. I medicate myself more, because I am convinced that my lacking is a result of my dysfunction.

In Reality?
Which is which? Can people without disorder handle everything? Or is this deficit actually a result of dysfunction? And if it is, can medication actually resolve that?

Or is it the reverse? The dysfunction is caused by overload and can only be resolved by reduction in responsibility and stress through delegation. And how do you go about telling people, “I need help. I can’t handle my life.”?