Sunday, July 7, 2013

PTSD and the Autism-Warrior-Parent or Simply Life's Lessons Reviewed

We have all read the studies that indicate that autism-warrior-parents have the same cortisol level as soldiers who are faced with continual combat. Actually I doubt too many of us found that result strange at all. We are constantly on. We have no real vacations. We have no time off. We prep, consult, organize and prepare for battles on numerous fronts, including having to fight with our own offspring at times. Life for most autism-warrior-parents is a continuum of "what ifs, why nots, maybes, how comes and perhaps this will work." Never mind the constant preparation of battlefield maneuvers in dealing with those that are supposed to help, support and care for your children in the school system, the psychiatric and neurological professions.

But I have a question...I wonder has anyone ever done a study that looks into whether autism-warrior-parents also suffer from a form of PTSD? I actually ask this as a personal question. I have been having nighttime flashbacks of sorts. OK I admit it, yeah some are during the day too. Interestingly though my flashbacks have very little to do with the boys. And don't worry, no I never lose consciousnesses of where I truly happen to be. It's just that suddenly I get reminded of situations and episodes. Memories get triggered due to sights, sounds or smells. Events that make me feel unpleased with myself, even nominal events in my life, get triggered that I had long ago forgotten about.

It has been over twenty years now that we have been dealing with the vagaries of autism issues in our house. Before we understood what was happening with Mr. GS it was years of worry, concern, fighting against  simply evil and ignorant persons around us. I always say that the best day was when we finally understood what was going on with him. That diagnosis gave us direction and a goal. We knew what had to be done and we made a plan to do it.

Sure there have been glitches along the way. Many times I think that is simply called life. We in the autism parenting community always like to see everything as as outgrowth of our child's autism, but sometimes the people you deal with would be just as big an asshole if your child didn't have issues. Everyone I think has something. Some more than others, no doubt. But everyone in life has something.

There is an old wives tale about a little shtetle (town) where everyone was complaining about everything. Nothing was good and no one wanted to deal with their problems. So the chief rabbi had everyone in his congregation but their problems in a bundle and then everyone put their bundle into a huge sack. Each person took turns going through the bundle to retrieve concerns. Not one villager took anyone else's bundle. They all took back their own. Needlesstosay, the kvetching stopped.

But lately, and I don't know if this may also have to do with menopause as well, I have been having these nighttime flashbacks. I had had an accident when I was 7 years old. I had been playing on a car with the neighborhood kids and I fell off, leaving a huge-deep gash in my leg. Of course, I quickly ran home and it was taken care of. It was so deep though, that I do carry the scar to this day.

Oddly I find myself waking in the middle of the night with my legs aching thinking about that incident. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I am reliving that incident over and over again. Why it has taken over 40 years to think about it, I have no real idea. Heck, there is even this icecream commercial on TV that I can't watch because the actress runs atop cars. It causes my legs to ache.

Then there are incidents that I review from decades ago where I let people take advantage of me in some way. Little things that had no real longterm bearing on any part of my life, but I feel myself reliving these times and trying to figure out what I did wrong. Even silly things like taxi cab rides and how I handled rude and nasty drivers. I feel myself getting angry at myself for being so weak-willed. I review and examine and I figure out what I would have done different and how it would have turned out different. I come up with future game plans and plans of attack (so to speak)if ever I am confronted with negative, mean  people ever again.

Funny, I even think about the frenemies from college who were fine and dandy with me when they had boyfriends but the minute I met hubby they turned on me, called me names and one even tried to take him away from me. I keep wishing I had told her what a horrible c***t she was instead of simply just walking away from the "friendship." The funny things is that years later I ran into one of the other frenemies from that group who actually apologized for being so horrible to me and I accepted her apology.

But I ran into the potential fiance steeling frenemy one day actually years before Mr. GS was even born and didn't stand my ground then.  Made like she had done nothing wrong to me. Maybe that's why I "kick" myself. I think I wanted to really tell her what I thought of her. But then again would it have even been worth it in the longrun? Whores like that don't think they do anything wrong and in fact would probably feel justified with what she had done if I attacked her for her behavior. Sociopaths are like that....Who knows. Meanwhile I have found out through the alumni newsletter that to this day, she has not married, has no children and has a deadend job as a civil servant. So in the end I did win afterall without having to fire a shot and retained my ladylike self-respect.

Now I do walk around town, lurking at times,  to make sure that those who were once mean to Mr.GS don't rear their low-life-heads near him. Yet we rarely see anyone from the boys' school days around. (Is it a rational fear that they would still be mean to him afterall these years?) I don't even see their parents who are still living in our quaint little village. I think though, when it comes to these horrible children I wish I had pushed the school to do more and demand that their parents be apprised of the situation whether the school liked it or not. I know for a fact under that circumstance I should have been stronger and more demanding. I suppose that comes from the normal parental need for your child's tormentors to be punished and not to win football scholarships to ivy league colleges.

But I do remember yelling at the PTA mother who called when Mr. GS was a senior telling me I had not paid my share of the "senior classes' party bill." Told her where to go and how long it should take her to get there. She apologized. I slammed the phone down. Then I cried. Years of frustration and anger came pouring out. Sadly I had said something to other parents when I was part of the executive committee at the PTA. They didn't give a damn. Not a one of them. You would think, being so highly educated as most of them happen to be, they would actually care about bullying and the like. But they don't. Oh they give  lip-service to the cause of the day, of course as long as they don't have to put themselves out at all. The biggest irony here is that one of the town's actual do-goodie-moms was the parent of one of the bullies and not one person I told would believe that the kid was such a shit. But heck, these "not my child" parents did vote for the USA's first African-American President so that makes them "good people," at least in their own mindseye.

Listen, I am not certain what it all means, all these dreams or flashbacks. Am I having those late-in-life regrets that come with middle age? Am I allowing things that have been shunted aside for decades overcome me because the boys do need me less and less? Since I know how strong a personality I actually have, am I trying to figure out why I didn't access my inner-bitch earlier in life not only for my own protection but for the boys' as well?

Honestly  I know I have to move on and forget about these incidents. I know I need to forgive myself for not being everything I thought I should have been and for not being as brave as I should have been earlier in life. I need to move on and remember all the good and the positive in my life. Which I do constantly. I really don't dwell on the negatives of the past. It's just interesting how all of a sudden things are popping up out of nowhere.

Is it some form of warrior-parent  PTSD or simply the things we regret in life replaying in our heads? Do all these flashbacks, thoughts and regrets, have something to do with my father's passing and that it will soon be the first-year-anniversary of his death? I don't have an answer. Maybe someone else has an idea or a thought. I'd really like to know.



Elise