It’s horrid weather today so let’s go back a few weeks. That’s better.
I heard someone from the Government brush off a parent talking about her daughters genuine fears and phobias about returning to school. Her daughter doesn’t think her classroom and school is safe enough. From the sound of it her daughter is in a similar place to Hawklad. Really struggling. The interviewer cut off the parent saying that she was in the minority and the vast majority would see things much more positively. The message from the Government followed instantly. People and kids who had concerns and fears needed to listen to the majority. Schools are completely safe, just get on with it. Parents have an obligation to send their children into schools when they open.
Meanwhile back here the NHS Psychologist is just at the early stages of a treatment programme to try and help with Hawklad’s deep seated anxieties. No guarantee that the programme will ever work. This week’s task is for Hawklad to try and stand in the front garden for 1 minute. The message is don’t worry if you can’t do that. Even a few seconds will be a massive leap of faith. And if he can’t do it at all then we can try another week. Pushing people with significant fears and ingrained anxieties can do so much harm to their long term mental health.
The Government and the ‘Majority’ are not trained mental health practitioners. They have absolutely no idea what some people are going through. On this issue they can stand out in the rain and whistle for all I care.
I was listening to the new David Gilmour song and one line really hit me.
Yes, I have ghosts, not all of them dead.
For me that is so true….. Often the ones which are not dead are the hardest ones to deal with. They can appear at any time. They fill my head with negative thoughts. Once there they can haunt me for days. Missed opportunities. Past mistakes. Errors. Broken promises. Heartaches. Dead ends. Let downs. Sad memories. Inhibitions. Self inflicted hurt. Bleak times. They can hold me back, stop progress, bring on self doubt and herald the return of depression.
Those thoughts still live within me. They aren’t dead. Ready to reappear when I drop my guard. When I am low. When I am tired. When I’m facing a leap of faith. They all relate to past events but the memory still lives on within me. They try to shape my present day mood and choices.
Maybe it’s time to deal with them. Exorcise them. End the hold they have over me. Life is too short to waste. Its time to fill my soul with positive thoughts and memories. Ghosts should be dead.
A good blogging friend was taking about finding a big spider in her garden. That friend is on a different continent. A place where you get spiders that are big, scary, poisonous and they even jump at you.
Did I ever tell you that I am not great with spiders.
So the prospect of scary spiders brings shivers down my spine. A movie comes to mind – Arachnophobia. Give me Jaws and Sharks anytime. Sharks need our love especially as Trump has decided to bully them as well now.
Scary spiders. No, no, no.
Hawklad loves to go to the zoo and handle spiders. The bigger and more deadly the better. The last trip I just about heard him say as he handled a Tarantula- ‘Isn’t she lovely….’. It was difficult to hear him as I was stood 30 yards back, hiding behind a wall. That’s great parenting……
Fortunately for me I live in Yorkshire. The land that time forgot. We don’t really do scary animals. Those cows can look at you in a funny way. Ferrets can nip a bit (especially if they are in your trouser pockets). Don’t get in the way of a squirrel and his nuts. Those Scarborough Seagulls are hooligans when you have a bag of chips. Get on the wrong side of stick of rhubarb and it can very awkward.
But we don’t really do scary spiders or insects. A few small and timid spiders. This is as big as it gets. A Daddy-Long-Legs. The most delicate creatures going. We end up desperately trying not to hurt or damage them. Even I can get up close to them. That’s the kind of spider and insect I like. Friendly and most definitely not one that is going to eat me.
Whisper it very quietly. A red rose in Yorkshire. The white rose is our counties symbol and our historic rival, Lancashire has a red rose. The two neighbours have had bloody civil wars and conflicts over the crown…. Now thankfully the battles are restricted to the sports field.
Not the only battle being waged here.
Anxiety and adverse reactions to it, are very common for individuals who are on the autistic spectrum. It can take so many forms
- Social fears and crowds
- Fear of being alone
- Germs and illnesses
- Eating and food types
- Bright lights and colours
- Types of clothing
Too many to list. Some of these may have sensory origins and appropriate medical help should be sort. Whether that help is available is another matter….
Our son has had to face down and battle a number of these fears. One fear in particular has been ever present. The fear of illness, germs and death. These are genuine, life altering fears and anxieties. Fears which became even more real to him when he lost his mum and both grannies in such a short period of time. We were lucky in that finally his medical notes were passed to a young nurse counsellor. Over the last few years she has done stellar work with him. He trusts her fully – no mean feat. Unfortunately government cutbacks have resulted in far less contact time. Any contact has now temporarily ceased due to the pandemic.
The pandemic has really shaken things up. For our son it has ramped up his fears and anxieties. Now they are off the chart. This manifests itself in so many ways
- Constant hand and face washing,
- Frequent hand washing finally taking its toll on the skin,
- Repeated changes of clothes,
- Reluctance to leave the house or garden,
- Refusal to touch many items – telephones, handles, gates, letters, food packaging, surfaces and clothes which have not been washed that very day,
- Trips to the bathroom every time a bug or fly brushes against him (summer and living next to farm land mean that can be every few minutes),
- Refusal to venture anywhere near strangers and anyone outside of our household – one of the reasons I can’t arrange for someone to come and repair our boiler,
- Any food deliveries or parcels having to go into quarantine for at least 4 days before they are let into the house.
So we battle on. Eventually his nurse counsellor will be able to see him but until then it’s self care.
- We try to maintain a diary. Record and document the anxieties. Try to get a handle on what we are dealing with. Is it improving or getting worse. What improves things and what makes things worse.
- Trying to balance avoidance with small doses of learning exposure. Yes avoidance works but it doesn’t address the route cause. So carefully controlled small anxiety exposures needs to be factored in. Yesterday that involved both of us putting our hands on the grass for a minute. Then without washing our hands observe if anything bad happens….
- Trying to slowly control the hand washing. Setting a time limit on the seconds he is allowed to wash his hands for. Currently that’s the time it takes to say a nursery rhyme. Trying to encourage him not to use soap for a number of the hand washes. Get into the habit of properly washing hands when IT IS NECESSARY.
- Yes he has a range of fears but we can’t deal with them all at the same time. So we only ever deal with one fear at a time.
- Allow as much access to those things which help him relax. If he wants to go on YouTube, or play an Xbox Game, or watch a movie – then he does….
We all have fears and anxieties. Some disappear, new ones appear and some stay with us for life. With Autism and Aspergers these fears can so easily be ramped up. Yes we hopefully can find ways to eliminate our worries but realistically some fears are with us for life. I guess the secret is trying to provide a range of tools and strategies which we can have at our disposal to help manage those fears when they strike. In that way it still allows us to keep living and enjoying life. That’s the plan with our son.