Chronic Stress: An Autism Family’s Elephant in the Room

chronic stress

Yesterday was International Day of Happiness. You would never have known in my house, it was more like yet another day of chronic stress.

This is doubly ironic given how my last blog was all about how well we are doing. How it feels like we’ve turned an elusive corner with our 7yo autistic daughter Polly, and can finally see some light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

Not that we’ve had a break from challenging children, oh no. 5yo Clara has seen to it that there has been no respite in that department. Not that it’s her fault, I can’t blame the poor kid for hating school and demanding to know why she gets ‘sent away’ (her words) when her sister doesn’t.

chronic stress

Two steps forward, three steps back

As we were doing so well, Polly had a few days at her grandparents last week. She came home out of sorts, which hubby and I were fully expecting. The change in routine, eating food she isn’t able to tolerate and having undivided attention was always going to mean a thud back to earth upon returning. We were finally getting somewhere when she had an unfortunate incident with a neighbour’s dog. It’s only a puppy, not even a year old, but Polly doesn’t enjoy jumpy over-zealous animals.

Regardless of whether the dog was ‘just being friendly’ or not (the owners words), it knocked her flying and she was terrified. She also grazed her elbow and knee quite badly, which caused her real pain. Every time we change the plasters it reminds her of the scare she’s just had. Every time she went out to play over the weekend she was worried the dog was going to be there and would chase her. Then she was disappointed with her friends, because rather than support her they made fun of the fact that she was scared of a friendly, adorable little dog.

This is where Polly’s autism comes shining through her mask

We had a tough weekend, not just because Polly was anxious about the dog. Chuck into the mix a sad Clara and a cough-ridden 3yo Freddy who is hardly sleeping, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster on your hands.

This continued into yesterday. The girls fought all morning, and Clara went to school in floods of tears because her sister was calling her stupid, something she hasn’t done for months. She was pinching her brother, and taking his toys. She refused to do any learning, and the meltdown that then ensued because I said she couldn’t just vanish into the ether with her tablet was off the chart.

Kicking and hitting and screaming in my face wasn’t enough. At one point she threw a sharp knife in my general direction. She crossed the line, and my inner calm vanished.

Count to ten, they say. Leave the room if you have to, they say. Deep breaths, meditate, they say. Don’t take it personally, they say. You’re tough mama and you’ve got this, they say. Have a drink, they say (not going to do that on a Monday morning).

chronic stress

When you live in a state of chronic stress

Last night I collapsed in a heap in my bed directly after the kids fell asleep. I was spent, good for precisely nothing. Today is a new day I told myself. Today is a new day my husband told me. I was full of resolve and my positive head was on my shoulders.

Then Polly got told no, for something very minor, and her first response was to scream in my face and kick me in the shin.

And I flipped.

I went right back to yesterday. I started sweating profusely, and my head felt like it had cotton wool in it.

“I am not doing this again!” I yelled. Bad mama.

Thankfully hubby is working from home, so I left him downstairs with the kids while I came up here to write this. Because sometimes, this blog is better therapy than trying to meditate.

Sometimes, getting the words out of my head make them less toxic. Sometimes, it’s just what a I need to calm me down and get me back to happy.

Thanks for reading, and here’s a hug for anyone who needs it!

Today’s been super hard. I started my day on a sleep deficit, after being up for hours in the middle of the night with F. The girls have been cranky to put it mildly. All three have spent the day on a knife edge, kicking off at the slightest thing. Tears on the way to the park, more tears on the way home. It’s been exhausting, and my head is pounding. 💖 I used to pride myself on my together-ness, but days like today push me to my limits limits. My mind starts drifting off into a bleak future, and I think f***, if I can’t cope now what will it be like in a few years time? I start worrying that the foundations of my marriage aren’t strong enough to take the strain of this pressure cooker environment we call life. 💖 Then I remember to breathe. And I remember that the days are long but the years are short. I count my blessings, and think of the empty armed mama’s I know, who’d sacrifice a limb for what I have. And I remember that I’m made of tough stuff, but I’m not a robot. 💖 Is parenting the toughest gig of all? I’m starting to think that yes indeed it is. We can only do our best, and hopefully our best will be good enough.

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