Meltdown Monday Pt. 3

Today we are talking about demands….or perhaps that should be….

DEMANDS!!!!

They are constant and never ceasing. A deluge and barrage of them from the moment that we wake up…

Get out of bed. We’re running late. Put on your shoes. Feed the cat. Eat your porridge. What do you mean you don’t know where your coat is? How many times have I told you…

Any of that sound familiar?

Then there is school…

Sit there. Read this. It’s quiet time. Stop fidgeting. No, I don’t hear any buzzing. No, you may not go to the bathroom…AGAIN. 

Even on the playground with your peers the pressure does not stop. Though it may shift to a more subtle and unspoken demands to fit in. To act and behave like everyone else. To wear the correct clothes/shoes. To play the same game that everyone else likes even if you don’t.

Then it is back home to more demands…

Eat your broccoli. It is good for you. Why must I make something special just for you? Do your homework. No video games/television/computers. Get a bath. Brush your teeth. Go to bed. I don’t care if you aren’t tired. It is bed time. All the other children your age go to bed at this time. 

Are you tired and frustrated yet? Do you feel like you have no control over your very life? Someone else tells you when to wake up, what to eat, what to wear, when to go to bed…perhaps even when you can and cannot pee.

A level of demands and expectations that few adults except those in the military, prison or mental facility could or would endure. Yet our children are forced to conform to these standards ALL the time.

For the simple reason….

We are older and bigger.

That does not work in world politics….the work place….and it should not in a family either.

But there is a third type of demand that I had not considered until Jane Sherwin author of My Daughter is Not Naughty pointed it out…self-imposed ones.

I don’t know why I had not considered them before. After all I am the QUEEN of ‘perfectionism’ (which is why I have three finished books…or is it four…five…in my cloud…waiting from them to be ‘good enough’). I am the mom that PanKwake accuses of being…obsessed with cleaning. The partner that Cookie Monster must spank and tell to give myself a break.

So why could I not see that these self-imposed demands might be playing a role in all those times when I just could not figure out why PanKwake was anxious?

When Sherwin listed some of the demands that her daughter avoided…self-imposed ones…it was another light bulb moment on this journey. I mean who would believe that getting her own glass of water or turning on the television or bringing PanKwake her iPad was a ‘self-imposed demand.’

But look at it this way…if she got good at it…then it would move into that category of unspoken or spoken expectations. ‘Get your own water.’

Two that we struggle with and battle now are telling time and reading. She has built these two ‘demands’ up in her little mind to the point that it is easier to just avoid them…even if it causes meltdowns when she does not understand when her carer will arrive or I can’t be right by her side to read the Roblox chats fast enough for her.

Yes, we have carefully crafted a child-led environment and learning system that minimizes demands…spoken…unspoken…and as much as possible even self-imposed ones.

And it has paid off…big time. Meltdowns are rare now…especially big ones. My daughter is happy…and so are we. Even if it is a HUGE adjustment for the world’s most amazing man that I still have no idea what I did to deserve.

The thing is….experience has taught me….

If you take the pressure (those demands) off…she will eventually do it all herself…when she wants too….when she can tolerate it…when it is important to her. 

That is what happened with sequencing….now, next, then, first, second, third, etc. We had six weeks of focused speech and language therapy in the home. With no measurable improvement…and loads of avoidance. But the moment she got interested in a YouTuber named Aphmau, who crafts these intricate serials/soap operas using Minecraft, she mastered it almost overnight. ‘No, Mommy, that one comes after this one.’

It happened too with dressing herself. She steadfastly avoided it…until she became self-conscious of the changes occurring in her body as she approaches puberty (not that that is a good thing….but silver linings are important to hang onto, folks). Now she won’t allow any more help than laying out her wipes and clothes for her.

Of course, things are still on backwards and sometimes inside out. I simply point it out…not judgmentally, but more like… ‘Your shirt is on backwards. Is that comfortable for you?’ I have learned if it don’t bother her, then it should not bother me…and if someone thinks I am a ‘bad mother’ because of it… well, my pathological bullshit avoidance clouds up and rains all over them.

I admit that is a HUGE challenge. As a parent of a child with Pathological Demand Avoidance….you actually have to see it as a contagion. And welcome your own case of it with open arms. But when it comes down to all those spoken, unspoken and self-imposed ‘demands’ of being a good parent…the only one that matters is a happy, healthy child. And society can…

And then they can….

Because society…those people… simply cannot or WILL NOT make the effort to understand and empathize with the underlying stressors of not just demands but SENSORY OVERLOAD that cause our children to react that way…

But that is where we pick up next Meltdown Monday…

 

Meltdown Monday

At that conference I attended last week, one guy asked a question that I think plagues all parents…but especially those on the autistic spectrum (ASD)…and most especially those of us blessed with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).

What can you do for them when they have a meltdown?

I will get around in a few Mondays to that, but first it is important to know/understand what a meltdown is…and more importantly what it is NOT.

A meltdown is NOT a temper tantrum.

A meltdown is NOT them testing your boundaries.

A meltdown is NOT them trying to manipulate you.

Then what the heck is it, you ask?

A meltdown is a panic attack.

Anxiety.

Sensory overload.

And that is the hardest thing for parents to get…to understand. Simply because of the intense pressure and anxiety creating stress that society places upon us to control these monsters, make our children behave.

I know. I understand. I live it.

But let me help you to put this into perspective…

Seven years ago I had a miscarriage that left me clinically depressed with anxiety and panic attacks. I was forty-five years old with a BS in Health Education, including a background in psychology. I had been through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and learned all kinds of positive self-talk and coping strategies. I had managed multi-million dollar accounts, babysat drunk celebrities and planned parties in the country estate of Duke…

And yet one day I found myself wandering the streets of London with my heart pounding, my chest so tight that I could barely breathe, my palms cold and clammy, everything around me was painfully loud and bright…and my whole body was shaking with great sobs that I could not stop.

This educated, once highly successful woman with all these ‘coping strategies’ could NOT cope. That is anxiety. That is a panic attack. It does not matter who you are or were. Where you have been or who/what you know.

In that moment you are helpless and out-of-control. Even…especially…your own control.

So a couple of years later when I read in Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance by Phil Christie et al that meltdowns in my daughter were not temper tantrums (I knew that much already…but not what they were) but rather PANIC ATTACKS, I cried. I sat on our couch and cried my eyes out in guilt for all the things I had tried/done to stop her.

It was one of those light bulb moments in life when I realized…

If I as an educated forty-five year old woman could not control myself during a panic attack, how the H-E-double hockey sticks could I expect a six year old (at that time) little girl to?

I never again saw or managed a meltdown the same way. It was an instant transformation to empathy and understanding.

Let me give you another analogy…

volcano1

One of my freaky fetishes is…volcanology.  Amateur anyway. One of my fav movies is the BBC docudrama Super Volcano about the eruption of Yellowstone. And if there is a documentary on the subject…I’m there. One of the first things that I learned was that beneath every volcano is a reservoir.

reserviorA couple of things to understand about reservoirs:

  1. Each volcanoes is different. Size. Shape. And even the content of the magma is different mixes of rock and gases.
  2. …but this is the important one, folks…WHEN THAT RESERVOIR FILLS WITH MOLTEN/ERUPTIBLE MAGMA, THAT VOLCANO IS GOING TO BLOW!!! There is nothing that the volcanologists can do except get any people around to safety and sit back and enjoy the fireworks. And learn…each and every volcanic eruption teaches them more about the nature of eruptions…and gets them one step closer to understanding and preparing for the next one.

What is that reservoir though? Hmmm….that sounds like a good place to stop for today. And to pick up next Monday…