Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jeanie in a Bottle

I have an old friend who in the past has helped me to cope with some really difficult times.  When I felt shy in social situations I could always rely on her to boost my confidence and make me feel part of the crowd. When I felt stressed, or bored, no-one else would do.  She was always available...and was often on special offer from my local off-licence, so she didn't cost me too much either.

The trouble with alcohol is that it isn't honest.  It covers up who I really am, and makes me feel like 2lbs of shit in a 1lb bag the next morning.  Parties and social nights out terrify me and I need to start saying "I'm sorry I won't go because I feel horribly uncomfortable at's nothing personal", instead of dragging my quaking butt to the bar and drinking until the fear passes.

When I have a difficult day with Bob (I'm afraid non-autie parents just don't get how difficult Difficult is), by 4pm I'm texting Bob's Dad to swing home via the offie.  Then I can survive 'til 10pm that night knowing that later on I can sit an relax with my old pal.

The odd glass of wine was always lovely, and that first sip is the heavenly moment when the day's stresses melt away.

Since Bob was diagnosed with Autism, and I gave up my job (which I loved, but which was impossible for me to sustain), I spend my days cleaning up poo, pee and puke (as he enjoys eating non-food items like aeroboard and books).  My life has become a treadmill of speech therapy, occupational therapy, TEACCH, ABA, PECS, constantly locking doors and gates as Bob is a bolter etc etc etc.  The list is endless. This isn't a pity party, or an excuse for looking for tranquility at the bottom of a wine bottle, but when I take a step back from the exhausting chaos of my life, I can see why the odd glass of wine has snowballed into half a bottle every night.

My image of an alcoholic is someone swigging out of a brown paper bag in a railway station with pee stains down his trousers.  Or a wife-beating bully who would see his kids without shoes before going without his whiskey.  It's not an ordinary autie mammy who can function perfectly well without a swig of vodka to settle the shakes in the's just that the crutch I've been leaning on is starting to lean on me.

I don't know if I'm an alcoholic, but I do know I need to stop and that I'll really miss it.
I'm afraid of how I'll cope when every fibre of my being is convulsed with tension, or when the the constant autie newsreel in my head just won't stop.
I hope I will have the strength to find other ways of  dealing with that.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Would The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up??

Sometimes I feel like The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

OK, so it's possible that I don't have his talent, his fortune or his penchant for stacked shoes and  velvet jackets (although I do love purple...see we have loads in common)...
...but there is some common ground between myself and His Preening Purpleness.

We have both undergone dramatic identity shifts in which we continue to look and sound the same, but what motivates us has changed to the point of being unrecognisable to our Former Selves.

Sadly, I didn't get to write albums and throw magnificent tantrums (I still haven't forgiven him for cancelling his Dublin gig).   Instead I was soundly squished like a bug ( a fabulously glamarous LadyBug, of course) by the Autism SuperTanker, and while I lay in an sticky splat of grief on the road I had a rather pressing decision to make.

I had to either get up, reapply my mascara and whup some Autism Ass...or I could lie in my pool of self-pity and wait for the next truck to come along.

Oh Gawd, enough already with the motorway metaphors.  I sound like a hungover  Jeremy Clarkson.

So of course I got up.

I slept, ate, drank and dreamt Autism.  I immersed myself in the latest research and flooded my thoughts with causes, theories, treatments and options.
I consumed Autism, and it consumed me.

Today, while I was tidying up, I was listening to Prince (sorry, Squiggle) belt out Let's Go Crazy and I had one of those thunderclap moments.  It was profound enough to make me put my mop down and have a cup of tea.

I thought "if  Bob suddenly became non-autisitc, who would I be???"

What would I talk about, think about, read about?

Autism has become so deeply embedded in my psyche that I can't separate myself from it.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing.  It is what it is, and I need to be this way to help Bob be all that he is capable of becoming.
It's just so vastly different to the person I may have been otherwise.  It is entirely possible that I'm a better, stronger person because of Bob's Autism...but we'll never know.
I just don't want to vanish beneath the endless folds of Autism that envelope me.

I can't seem to read books anymore, and I used to chew novels up for breakfast and spit them out by teatime.
I find myself steering each conversation I have back to Autism, even if the original subject was global warming, or lipstick.
I speed read the papers, searching for the word Autism, and only then will I focus enough to read the entire article.

I think it's time to reclaim who I get a little more balance in my life.
I think I may write myself a prescription for some Selfish Tablets, and if that involves time out for some exercise, shopping and the odd facial then so be it. I already have the full support  of Bob's Dad, so the only thing stopping me is the feeling of  being rooted to the ground by autistic superglue.
I could live with  changing that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And the Sunshine Award Goes To......

Cripes! I've won an award.
And I haven't had a chance to agonise over Valentino/Vera Wang, an up-do or a spill of golden curls over my tanned shoulders (erm, it's possible  in this dimension that I have a short, dark, frizzy mop straining to make contact with my pasty bingo wings....but as this is my blog I've decided that I look like Gwynnth with it, people).

OK...reality check.  I'm sitting (some unkind people might say "slouching") at the dining room table wearing an eclectic ensemble of Principles (bankrupt), Jane Norman (nice) and Pennys (nasty).
My look is Vintage Bag-Lady meets Hairspray Explosion at the Salon.
It's next season, so you may not be familiar with it.  You gotta keep your finger on the pulse, folks.
I'm thinking Viviennne Westwood meets Mick Jagger.

I got a very welcome message from my favourite girl-crush Jen who awarded me the coveted Sunshine Award for being fabulous and shiny, and other nice things.

But with the award came a challenge to choose  my favourite blog to pass the love onto.

There is the insightful Blue Sky, who will not give up on any problem until the solution shows itself.
There is, of course, Jen herself, whose blogs I look forward to like no other.  I like to have an emergency pack of Tena Lady handy when I read her blog, as deep belly laughs are a hazardous adventure for a lady of a certain age (especially when my bladder has been kicked into touch by three fully loaded pregnancies).
The tenacious Taz writes about her experience of adopting a critically ill baby (who kicked TB in the ass, but was also born an autie).  She writes from the heart about her A-Ha moment (not to be confused with the dreadful 80's Swedish band) which  resonates with me to this day.
The feisty JazzyGirl reminds me (shock! horror!) that there is Life Outside Autism.  Who knew??
The proud Daddy who is brave enough to share his feelings (gasp! guys have 'em!) about his gorgeous son's diagnosis.
The courage of Lora who manages not only her son's autism, but also her own mental health issues, is a constant inspiration to me.

But there can only be one winner of the coveted Jean Carroll Sunshine Award (grab your Tena's ladies) head-melt was thankfully short-lived, as it was abundantly clear that the First Lady of Autism, Lisa,  is most deserving of  a place so deep in my heart that it would take a  crack team of cardio-thoracic specialists to find her.
FYI they'd need hard hats and a canary.
She only writes three blogs (lazy article), and has been the hand on my shoulder since alarm bells started to ring over Bob, all of three years ago.
One diagnosis, one grieving process and a wealth of pragmatic, loving advice later, I am the proud mother of one fabulously barmy son.
I would not be here without Lisa.
Oops...I feel a Gwynnth moment coming on....hope my make-up artist applied waterproof mascara.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

iTouch, YouTube, WeWin

We have discovered an entirely unexpected benefit from the iTouch we bought for Bob.

His Bobness has discovered the delights of YouTube, and has learned to type "Bob the Builder" with impressive speed.  It is a perefct size for his little hands, and he can whizz around it like a pro.

We have been having trouble finding a reinforcer that would hold his attention.  At school his Teacher would often have to switch reinforcers several times in just one day, as he quickly bored of popcorn or computer tokens.

Meanwhile at home, toilet training for the Dreaded No.2's  has been going on for over 18 months and we have variously used star charts, chocolate buttons and Bob stickers as reinforcers for a direct hit in the jacks...but nothing weathered the storm of his inattention.

We are getting kinda tired of PIK's (poo in knickies, for the newbies) and short of painting the entire house brown (with matching brown accessories and brown accents) we arrived at a point where Something had To Be Done.

The Doing Something area is usually the forte of Bob's Dad (I usually stick to what I'm good at, which is crying and drinking some pretty damn good merlot, while he mends wiring and puts up shelves), and this time was no different. 

A few months ago (on the autie grapevine) we were alerted to the iTouch revolution and we thought "hey, Bob would LOVE that!".

So we gave it to him...allowed him to LOVE it...and then Bob's Dad  suggested we take it away again, with the promise that it would be returned when poo was deposited in the correct account.

At the risk of being perceived as being vile, nasty parents (sometimes we're not bad, honest ), check out this lady's blog before casting judgement.

I swear, nursing was so the wrong career for me and I would have made a kick-ass banker (so to speak)...I may have had some interesting questions to answer re sweeteners for my unorthadox deposit accounts though...

Sir Bob, Lover of iTouch, Defender of the Faith (btw, I've set up a new church called Autism Rocks...not as much sex and wine as the church I'm used to, but a LOT more soulful) discovered that illegal brown envelopes do not collect interest (in any sense), but that  waste in the right receptacle should be photograhed, framed and celebrated....or at least awarded  an hour on the iTouch.


Today is deserving of champagne.
In fact, I may insist on it.
After a few false dawns, of Bob sitting on His Throne insisting  he had produced the goods when he hadn't (the Chancer....shudda called him Bertie)...he finally came good and announced "poo in toilet...I want iTouch".

I don't imagine I will feel much prouder when I cradle my first grandchild in my arms (not that any cradling went on....that would be weird).

The point is, that Bob knew he had to do to get what he wanted.  He made a demand and he was rewarded.

The carrot and stick works, lords and laydeeze.

Try it.