Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘stress

Breathing Freely

with 3 comments

I’m not sporty.  At all.  The girl who never got picked for a team?  That was me.  My husband refers to me as “indoorsy” and he is spot on.  I enjoy getting cosy under a blanket with a good book or TV show.  I enjoy treating myself to cups of tea, or hot chocolate…actually, chocolate in any form.  Lots of chocolate.  I have a feeling that I’ll make the most content old person ever, having practiced for it all my life.  As long as my home has plenty of chocolate.  On a Saturday evening we’ll put the kids to bed, eat take out followed by treats and watch TV, just lazing around.  It does me good, but it isn’t good for me.

I don’t enjoy exercise in the way that I feel about my more passive pastimes.  But I need it.

Last year was tough.  For the first half of the year, I felt like I added an extra worry every day.  There were big things like additional diagnoses, assessments for the other child, moving to another country…and other big  things like a supportive friend moving away  and trying to coordinate therapies for two children.  That is the thing about life- there are never any little things, and before long I was suffocating under the weight of so many big things.  After more than a decade symptom-free, I was back on two different kinds of medication for asthma.  Just so I could breathe.

Once we moved, I knew I had to make changes if I was going to stay healthy for my family.  We found a babysitter.  Once the kids were in their respective preschools, I started going to the gym.  And though there were still stressors, they didn’t seem to weigh me down so heavily.  I no longer need the asthma medication- I’m breathing freely again.

Now I can’t get enough pure oxygen.  Last weekend we took the kids outside to play sports.  Pudding refused to join in, preferring to draw with chalk.  Cubby soon tired too.  We couldn’t compete with the allure of the other kids in our housing complex, who are impressively accepting of our kids, quirks and all.  Instead of sinking in a chair to keep an eye on them, I suggested to Spectrummy Daddy that we had a game of tennis instead.  We only have plastic Swingball rackets, and the balls didn’t have half the bounce our kids do, but we managed quite the game!

We used the driveway for a court, and both of us were running around for the ball, unable to convince the kids to collect the strays.  Before long we were both a little out of breath, but this time in a good way.  We had a good time, and it doesn’t hurt our kids to see us play.  Maybe next time Pudding will join in too.  Spectrummy Daddy even said he’d pick indoorsy me for his team.  Maybe we were all winners that day, but the score was love-all.


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 20, 2012 at 11:53 am


with 9 comments

The morning started out fine.  Pudding didn’t try to get in our bed until right before the alarm went off at 5.30.  I got to enjoy most of my cup of tea in bed, the two of them sitting peacefully together watching Sesame Street.  Pudding demanded pancakes for breakfast, and I agreed to make them.  So right up until 7, it was a perfect morning.  I had Pudding washed and dressed and ready for school.

Then I decided to take a shower.

I felt the warm tingle on my skin, heard the hum of the water hitting the tiles, closed my eyes and meditated on the simplest of life’s luxuries.  It is a good place to just be, there have been many times I’ve taken that 5 minutes and let my stress wash away down the drain.  But it comes at a price.  Either there is banging on the door, and screaming, or- worse- the sound of silence.  Sometimes I don’t know what scene will greet me as I emerge soaked.  One thing for sure, I haven’t taken a shower in peace for a very long time.  Today there was no pounding on the door.  I grabbed my robe and headed downstairs.

Before I even saw it, I knew it would be the pouring.  Pudding’s stim of all stims.  She loves to pour from one vessel to another.  It is the reason why we have long baths with lots of cups, why we play on the sand & water table for hours, why in bad weather we’ll pour water together at the table.  But it is never enough for her.  We’ve put child-proof handles on doors to stop her getting to the taps (faucets) for more water.  We have to swipe away every item that could become a pouring vessel before she gets the idea.  Our kitchen is a galley one, with no doors, so we put up gates on either end, and a lock on the fridge door.

You’d think that would be enough.

A gate was pushed down, and the fridge door wide open.  The tap was still running with water all over the kitchen floor.  Cubby was carrying a cup, and the minute he saw me he deliberately turned it upside-down.  Pudding was on the carpet in the dining room, trying to mop up a pink stain.  It was the very expensive liquid omega supplement we give the kids because they can’t eat fish, and is also gluten and dairy-free.  It is also in her hair, and her clothes.

I don’t even recognize my own voice as I start yelling.  It is low and deep.  Full of rage.  The kids are terrified of course.  I usher them upstairs.  I strip Pudding of her clothes and give her new ones.  I take her Abby doll, and tell her she can’t leave the room until I get back.  I go down to clean up as best I can.

When I return, she is still naked, no longer in her room, but at the basin in mine.  Water.  Again.

She begins to sob as soon as she sees me.  She attempts to apologize, but she is incoherent through her tears.  She knows she is wrong, but she just can’t help this impulsive, compulsive behaviour.  No social story, no punishment seems to work.  Positive reinforcement works until I’m not around.  I feel like I’ve tried everything, and I don’t know what else to do.

I just hold in more anger, waiting for my time to pour it out.  One thing is certain, I can no longer let it wash away in the shower.

I wrote this earlier this morning, but decided not to post it.  I felt better for writing it, and don’t need a reminder of this morning for posterity.  Then, the SPD Bloggger Network published this post of mine, and I was reminded of Pudding’s connection with water.  It makes her feel right, and I take that feeling for granted every day.  Instead, I welcome any sensory suggestions for Pudding’s water craving.  I think we’ll start again with a morning bath, at the very least.  As important as a shower is to me, water means everything to her.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm


with 25 comments

I’m roused from my sleep suddenly, viciously, by Pudding’s scream.  My husband rushes out of bed before I can even move.  He doesn’t come back, choosing to sleep in the chair by her bed instead.  Melatnonin doesn’t help, the weighted blanket is working, or the white noise, or anything else.  She just needs her sleep, just like the rest of us.  This is the second time he has gone to her, and I know he is too tired to do it again.  He has to work in the morning.  It is 4 am, and my heart pounds.  I try to breathe, I’m suffocating.  Amongst the noise of thoughts pushing for attention in my head, one is louder.  This is anxiety, it shouts.  I listen.  I try to breathe in and out, slowly, quickly, through my nose or mouth, anything to calm myself.

Sleep evades me.  Though I’m in a fog from headache tablets, I can’t find the peace I need.  Eventually I get up.  I’m not supposed to have anxiety.  My husband has struggled on and off all his life.  For my girl, it is the shackle of her autism.  My boy doesn’t escape it either, but this is new to me.  Now I’m in anxiety’s grip too.

I come downstairs and start to type, hoping that I can write out these thoughts that are looping around my head.  This has been building up for a couple of weeks, not just for me, but for Pudding too.  She has been struggling with sleeping alone.  Stressed and exhausting, I allowed her to sleep with me.  I know it isn’t the right approach, and by taking the path of least resistance, I’m exacerbating the problem, but I’ve just been too stressed.

Wait.  The path of least resistance has led to this stress.  These things are not happening independently.  I’m stressed, so I slack, and that exacerbates the problem which makes me….you’ve guessed it- more stressed.  And Pudding doesn’t so well surrounded by stress.  She absorbs and then reflects all the emotions around her.  It makes her anxious.  Seeing her struggle makes me more stressed, and round and round, and down and down we go.

So I must stop.  I have to be the one to stop the spiral, because she can’t.

I need to focus on calming her by providing what she needs, not what is easiest to give her.  First she needs patience, a resource that is in incredibly short supply when we don’t get sleep.  She needs positive reinforcement.  She needs her senses soothed even if she doesn’t feel like doing the things that will help her.  She needs consistency and she needs social stories to explain what is going on.  In short, she needs all the supports that I readily provide when I’m feeling at my best, but which have somehow dropped away as my anxiety took its hold.

It is not to say that I’m not allowed to feel stressed, or anxious, or just plain miserable.  I just need to make sure that when I’m feeling this way, I don’t take away all the things that she needs to prevent her from these very same feelings.  It was a revelation: I can be the beginning of the anxiety, but that also means I can end it.  It will take more effort at a time when making an effort is the last thing I feel like doing, but the results are already promising.  And she has slept through the night by herself before, so she will do it again, as always, in her own time, and with the supports she needs.

As for me, I feel better already.  Maybe this is the beginning of the end of anxiety.


This post was submitted for the S-O-S Best of the Best series on Anxiety, which will be published on May 15th, 2011.  You find more information and read other submissions here.

Taking part in the Mental Health Blog Party:


May 18th, 2011

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 29, 2011 at 7:28 am


with 19 comments

I am trying to prepare for a huge move with my spectrummy kid.  I’m trying to find a school on another continent which will:

  1. accept her.
  2. accept her when we arrive and not 6 – 18 (!) months later.
  3. have adequate support for her needs.
  4. have classmates who will be able to verbally communicate with her.
  5. not be too far from our home to commute (even though we don’t know where that is, or where anything else is in relation to the school).
  6. have teachers and therapists who are aware and knowledgeable about autism spectrum disorders.
  7. offer an adequately challenging and developmentally appropriate curriculum.

It is not proving easy.  When you add in regular day-to-day running of the house, managing therapy appointments, illness, dog bites, and evaluations for your nearlytypical (yes, that is what I’m calling it) son, it gets a bit tricky.  And then…Wednesday, snow day.  Thursday, snow day.  Friday, snow day.  I have sensory-seeking Pudding who is desperate to get outside in the snow and ice, and defensive Cubby who screams if it touches his skin.  And me.  Ragged, worn out, had enough, can’t take any more, me.

By Friday afternoon, even my indoorsy self was cabin feverish.  I learned that both Monday and Tuesday were student holidays from school too, with more snow due on Tuesday night.  I believe it is called a Godsmack over here.  I hatched a plan.  I would take the kids to the small indoor play/party venue close to our home.  Pudding used to go to a music and movement class there when we were living here temporarily, pre-diagnosis.  Though she hasn’t been there for over a year, she was excited by the suggestion.  We bundled up, and though I struggled to find parking, we eventually got there.  Turns out, the reason for no parking was that every family in the vicinity had the same idea.  It was packed, hot, and claustrophobic.

Pudding had already begun to remove her boots, gloves, hat and coat, so I helped Cubby to do the same thing.  Cubby was ready to play.  Initially Pudding ran in the enclosed area too, then she froze.  It was as though it suddenly hit her: the bright lights, noisy kids, crying babies, spinning fans, heat, people.  She turned to me with a look of anguish on her face and screamed.  I picked her up and moved to a corner and dropped to the ground.  She cried and screamed.  Her breathing came too fast.  She alternately clung to me and tried to run away.  I held on tight, stroked her hair, and repeated my mantra: Mummy’s here, Mummy’s here.  She was unable to speak to tell me what was wrong, but I’d already figured out that everything was wrong, all at once.

I sat there on the floor as kids ran around us, wondering what to do next.  Cubby was gone, climbing on some apparatus at the other side of the room.  If I suggested we leave, he’d have this same reaction.  And she was so worked up, how would I ever get her dressed warmly enough to go back out into the snow?  She stopped screaming, but the sobbing continued.  My so-tall girl, as big as some kids twice her age, and I still comforted her like I did when she was first born.  Mummy’s here.  Mummy doesn’t have a clue what to do, but Mummy’s here.  Little has changed in four years, except her size.

Then I had the thought.  The least useful thought that could possibly enter my head at that juncture.  What do people think? I know, I know.  But it was in my head.  The thought that makes me tilt my chin down and look to the ground, lest I see what people think.  But not on Friday.  Not after this week, not after this day.  I raised my head, and looked around.  Some people were looking, most people weren’t.  Some kids staring, some mothers gazing.  I looked right back at every one of them.  Then one woman smiled at me.  I smiled back.  She looked over at Cubby and nodded to me.  Kind nonverbal code for don’t worry about the other kid, I’ve got your back.

I carried on my comforting litany: Mummy’s here, Mummy’s here.  I really am here, I thought.  We’re in it together kid.  Her sobs quieted, and her breathing slowed, her body loosened and relaxed.  Our foreheads touching so I didn’t know which one of us was sweating, couldn’t tell if they were her tears or mine.  She got her words back:  “I want to sit up there,” looking up at the wall that surrounded the play area.  I lifted her up, and she surveyed the scene from up high.  She took in every inch of the room, floor to ceiling, side to side.  From this perspective, she assessed that the place wasn’t a threat.  From ground level she was overwhelmed by the perceived danger.  After a few minutes, she got down and tentatively joined her brother.  We stayed until she’d had enough.

I’m trying to remind myself that I too need to get a little perspective.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times with so much chaos going on.  So many things out of my control.  I might just need to sit this out for a little while until I’m ready to get back into play.  If she can do it, so can I.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 1, 2011 at 6:39 am