Black and white horror movies have always been scarier for me. Not knowing what it is that I’m supposed to be scared of feeds my fear. Once I know what the “scary thing” looks like, I’m over it and I’m fine. This does not apply to The Grunt. In this case, knowing what was coming was even scarier than not knowing at all.
The worst week of our life as a family was accentuated by the constant looping of the same scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? You know the one: Jessica Rabbit croons her way towards poor Bob Hoskins, who doesn’t quite know how to react to the proximity of all those curves. For a whole five days, J would play this scene over and over again with no expression on his face. We think it overloaded him with hormones; trying to take it away only made matters worse.
Since we had never had major behavioral issues with J, we had never considered medication. The way we saw it he is autistic and that makes things complicated, but he was as jolly, gregarious and good-natured as one could wish. We never really had an opinion about medication other than “it’s not necessary in our case.”
Fast-forward to (we remember the date exactly) April 20th of 2010. It was a Tuesday. Lost was on that night and Sun and Jin were going to reunite. We had neither slept nor rested for five solid days; our consumption of anything remotely resembling a meal was nil. J had been “on the rampage.”
If you want to object to the expression “on the rampage” go right ahead. That, however, is the only way it can be described. J had been awake, alert, anxious, grunting, yelling, hitting, and exceedingly clingy for a solid five days. Someone had to be in his bedroom with him, holding his hand, constantly. If one was alert enough to speak, reading out loud to him was even more soothing. By “even more soothing” I mean not soothing at all, but at least McCullough’s book on the Panama Canal (read out loud in a monotone) took the edge off.
J was wired. Nothing seemed to alleviate that thing which was coiled in his chest and pulling him down. At any given moment, the monster from Alien might have jumped out of his chest.
We looked to what we knew comforted him. We piled blankets on him; we played music; we listened to Jessica Rabbit until we started just blocking out the sound. We called the school…they didn’t have any suggestions. We tried the BA Specialist…out of town…no access to e-mail. We had spent an entire night walking around in circles through the house, a defeated looking foursome marching around kitchen, foyer, dining area, hallway, living room and looping back again. We did laundry just so J could fold clothes. The more complex the garment, the more he had to focus on something other than hitting himself. He folded A LOT of my underwear. And many, many socks. J wasn’t getting tired and he wasn’t relaxing. We were not relaxing, but we were certainly exhausted.
Mental exhaustion and physical fatigue make very poor advisors. The grown ups started to yell and curse, cry and pray, and then we’d yell some more. Our attempt to find the humor in the situation -for the very first time- fell flat; “he can now work at Victoria’s Secret because he knows how to fold panties and bras” and “at least we’ve lost five pounds each in the course of less than a week” were the only “upside of things” that we could muster. Yes, we became that pathetic.
Then J bled, and we all know blood means “call the doctor,” especially if the source of the bleeding is stopping any time soon. J wasn’t stopping any time soon…he was fixated on hitting himself, almost as if his hands had a mind of their own.
When the doctor came to the house (yes, I must’ve sounded THAT desperate over the phone) he found a kid who looked haunted, wild. J’s hands were swollen and red, and monomaniacally focused on hitting his forehead. His hairline was crisscrossed with bruises, scratches and scrapes. The index fingers had teethmarks. Every single adult in the house (our oldest included) was bruised, scratched, exhausted, weary-eyed, gaunt and looked about to collapse. Plus we worried that child services might be called. The doctor, thankfully, knew better.
Time to talk about medication. One look at the kid’s eyes and he could tell J was suffering, and not his usual self. We had not had eye contact that didn’t include and agonized, guttural yell in weeks, and now we had blood. After running through the possible side effects, we agreed. We wanted some part of our son back…
By 8 PM that night the pill had been pounded with the mortar and pestle, and a spoonful of pixy stix and med had been given to a boy who looked at us with what we recognized as resignation. Three days, the doctor had told us, before the full effect kicks in. There was no sleep that night, but -for the first time in days- Jessica Rabbit didn’t sing…
If you visit Wikipedia and type in “duck, duck, goose” a neat little article on the origins and nature of this childhood game comes up. In said article there is an animated schematic that shows how the game is played. The animated schematic manages to make the same two figures constantly go around picking each other, and none of the other four figures that keep them company, in picking the goose. So, the same two circles keep circling and picking each other.
Both Disney’s The Jungle Book and the 1955 classic film Marty include a similar bit of dialogue where one character asks another character what they’re going to do, and this turns into a cyclical conversation where the point is never resolved.
Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The first night we managed some sleep, although we were still easily startled by the smallest sound, I slowly drifted away thinking of how many mistakes we’d made while trying to sort out J’s tantrums. I will now list them for you, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them…it’s getting lonely here, just typing and considering these matters by myself.
- We were stoic.
- Those we shared our concerns with talked down to us, and we didn’t stop them. (I don’t mean the doctor.)
- We failed to realize that while we were dealing with the same person, he had changed and we needed to deal with the “new” person.
- We weren’t really listening to each other because we were too focused and too worried.
Once the Risperdal kicked in we discovered that it wasn’t giving us our child back, it was allowing us to see the person that he was growing to be, warts and all. Perhaps the most important change about this was that it changed ALL OF US.