Sunday, August 9, 2015

Voices in my Head

With a title like that, I sound like a crazy person.  Perhaps that would be an appropriate deduction, given that I feel like a bit of a crazy person lately.

I hear voices that tell me about my shortcomings.  They sometimes whisper.  Sometimes the tone of them is constructive (you really should spend more time with your children rather than worrying about how clean the house is....or perhaps you should play with your kids a little more rather than packing your schedule so tight that you will miss something if you do).  Other times, it is the opposite and I feel mentally and emotionally a little beat up by what they have to say.

Lately, the voices are saying things like this:  "Matthew hates you--you're the one he behaves the worst for."  "Adi's acting out because she doesn't get what she needs from you."  "Liam isn't very strong because you aren't spending enough time working with him."  "You are Matthew's Mom.  You should know how to handle him better than anyone and you suck at it."  "You are mean to your poor husband and take all of your frustrations out on the most selfless man you know."  Yeah....not so productive.

Matthew has taken his aggression to a new level--he kicks SO HARD and will literally do 360's on the floor, flailing his legs, to avoid having you pick him up and move him during a transition from one activity to the next.  Where I used to be able to just kind of "help" (motor him) through a transition, I end up dodging appendages and have to be swift like a ninja during a pause in his kicks to grab onto his armpits, poke my fingers into them, and lift to get him to stand and start moving in the right direction.  I can still pick up his 63 lbs, but I am not strong enough to hold him once the limbs go into motion.  He is lunging at me with scratches--what used to be a little clawing at my hands (slight understatement, given that it sometimes drew blood) has now turned into full-fledged cat-fight moves.  And my sweet little Adi--she is too little to really defend herself and her reflexes are no match for Matthew's speed when he goes after her little head of hair and yanks hard enough to give her whiplash.  There is not warning as to when the aggression will start--it seems to be impulse-driven--and it is starting to take a toll on our family.

I spent some time this weekend helping my 200 lb brother in law who has Down Syndrome move from place to place with an injured knee.  Going potty is a feat when your legs don't work very well.  Unfortunately, his health has been very compromised for years, so adding this injury to it has made it tough on him.  I kept thinking that my poor, post-polio mother-in-law is his primary care taker....and she does it!  She can handle it.  My sister in law says that she has angels that help her.  I believe that.  And I'm now starting to ask, where are mine?  She can physically, emotionally, and mentally handle, and has handled for 40 years, my sweet brother-in-law (after whom our Matthew was named).  I'm half her age and have only been at this for 7 years.  Am I as strong as she is?

On one of our more difficult days this week, another voice--this time not in my head, but an actual out-lout one--told me something that I have reflected on a number of times.  One of Matt's ABA tutors came for his usual session on Friday.  I saw her coming and walked out the front door to meet her.  We had a house full of people and it was all I could do to hold it together while juggling their needs with Matt's behaviors and all of that fun stuff.  I saw her and let go of Matt's hands in a literal hand off, saying, "he's yours!  I can't!" And I proceeded to start bawling.  Verbal vomit followed as I described to her everything he had been doing that was difficult and frustrating.  I ended by quoting one of the voices in my head, "I'm his Mom!  I should know how to handle him better than anyone and I suck at it!"  She listened to me with total empathy and got some tears in her eyes as she basically said that this is hard.  No one knows just how hard because they don't live your life.  We deal with it for a few hours and you are on duty 24-7.  It's OK that you admit it is hard.

What she said next brought me so much comfort and, for a little while, silenced all the other voices.  She said, "Matthew is one of the happiest kids I know.  That is a reflection on YOU.  You and Todd are raising him in a home that is happy!  You are positive people.  You see the good in him.  You love him and build him and are raising him in a way that makes him happy!"  What?!?  We have done something right?  I guess I never credited us with Matt being happy--I just figured we got lucky because he is cute and, for the most part, a really happy kid.  But I think she is right!  We nurture happy here!  I am grumpy a lot lately, I feel like, but somehow the happy penetrates the grumpy and gets through.  His happy spirit is a reflection of our intention.

Silence ye voices!

I was giving a presentation once about habits to a group and the speaker before me talked about how you can't just break a have to replace a habit.  I think the voices in our head are the same way.  We can't just will them to go away--we have to replace them with more positive voices.  Not that the two have to get into a screaming match until one gives in and retreats.  Rather, we simply need to allow ourselves to see the good and, as crazy as it sounds, allow the good thoughts to articulate themselves in our minds.  In other words, rather than just allowing them to be fleeting thoughts, dwell on them a bit and give them words.  The more we listen to the voices and entertain them, the deeper their roots become and the harder they are to get rid of.  I guess what I'm saying is that we need to deepen the roots of the positive voices so they actually stick.

So again, i write a post of something I am struggling with.  There are more voices in my head, unrelated to parenthood and even wifehood, that also need silencing.  As easy as it is for me to put words to this thought, it is something I feel like I am struggling with a lot lately.  So this is my therapy--to articulate the thought because once it is clear, I am more responsible for holding myself accountable to it.  And, in the spirit of this post, I am totally capable, I am up to the task, and I am confident that God didn't make a mistake when he gave me this crazy crew, so I must be the right Mom for this job.  High five happy voices!