Friday, September 17, 2010

Amazing Brothers

Yesterday, the boys were supposed to go to the 7th birthday party of a best pal of Lil'Bro. One of the 4 Musketeers, Lil'McV. They've both been pumped all week for this.

Just before lunch, the school called me. Lil'Bro was in the nurse's office with a low fever complaining of tummy yuck. I called The Ex and he ran to pick him up.

When I picked up BigBro from after school care, I gave him the option to still go. We got home and took Lil'Bro's temp. The fever persisted so we had to call the McVs to say, sorry, Lil'Bro couldn't go. Oh he was SO upset. He understood about contagion. He understood he needed to be a responsible sick person. But on MAN, this was a hard one.

As Lil'Bro sat silently crying on the couch, BigBro told him, "If you don't want me to go, I'll stay here with you." Lil'Bro didn't reply. He was too upset. BigBro told me, "I'll stay here with [Lil'Bro]."

Do I love my boys? Durn TOOT'N'!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drilling a Relief Well

Since my last post, BigBro has had one more ginormous volcanic eruption. Again, it was a minor upset at a friend's house. This time, I had the sense to stay at the play date for just such an occasion.

Lack of sleep + life-event stress do not a good thing make. Good grief. I'm typing like Yoda.

Listening to him after this breakdown...or during it, I guess...I heard so many things that broke my heart:
  • When will this STOP?!
  • I don't want to FEEL this way!!!!
  • This happens every DAY!!
  • This will never end.
  • I'm so confused!
  • I don't even know who I AM!
  • I don't even know what I'm feeling!!!
After he had blown off some steam in his room, we had a talk. He shamefully confessed that he had twisted some of his very special stuffed animals. "I wanted to hurt them!" he tearfully blurted out. It was then I wished I could hand him a big ol' bat and a hanging punching bag.

I told him it's totally ok to be mad at dad or me. It's totally ok to feel confused about wanting dad to stay while wanting him to be able to go back to his beloved Boston. It's ok to scream and want to punch things. I can sense the guilt and shame in him - thinking that all of these outbursts and negative feelings are somehow him being "bad".

I did NOT have the answers and I told him so. But God does have the answers and I reminded him of that. His faith is huge. And I'm thanking God for growing it so huge because it's what will get him through this.

When I dropped him off at school yesterday, he was down. Not pouty or over dramatic. He was probably depressed. He was low energy. He was giving people brave fake smiles. But it wasn't him. Sadness just dripped off of him.

From our conversations, I knew he thought he had reverted. He knows how awesome he's been doing with no tics, no rage and no anxiety. And all of a sudden, bam! they're both back in spades. So add to all the guilt, fear, hurt and anger the thought that suddenly Tourette's is back and taking over.

Yesterday, I called his therapist and said he needed to get in there because he was having an emotional crisis. They got him in first thing this morning.

Our play therapist, Dr.M, is awesome. He loves both boys so much. But he has that special appreciation for BigBro. Today, BigBro saw Dr.M for an hour. Toward the end, I joined them and they showed me (some of) what they had discussed.

Dr.M firstly explained that all of these crazy conflicting emotions are very hard to wrestle. And that EVERYone wrestles with them in their life. Even grown ups. So A) you're not alone.

He then explained that everyone has needs in their lives. I saw a piece of paper that had a bunch listed - obviously, they had made the list together. I saw things like "security", "attention"...I couldn't read all of it. Dr.M explained to BigBro that all of these needs, if not met, will pull on you like gravity. Except they pull your heart (ie emotions). So when a big life event comes along and these needs become greater, the heart can sometimes be over run by things like fear, anger, hurt, and guilt. I saw those written on that same pad.

It was explained better than that but that's what's in my head.

So Dr.M asked BigBro to show me how he had modeled what his emotions might look like in the sand table. Firstly, I wouldn't even know how to go about modeling that. But here's what he did (and I wish I had photographed it):

One third of the sand table was fenced off and had a volcano, ambulance and eagle figure. The other two thirds had some bright shining marbles & stones, some little toy street signs (like yield, stop, arrows, etc.), a colorful moth figure and a bat figure. It also had a big wooden elephant near the fence.

The side with the elephant represented the side that held his friends (moth & bat), fun (shining marbles & stones), and direction (signs). The elephant represented a big event that happened. It was so big, it pushed him out of the fun side and into the volcano side.

The volcano side represented his isolation. He felt alone even with people around. The volcano represented his anger. The ambulance could get to him but wasn't able to stay long (he showed it sliding down the sand away from his eagle self).

I pointed to a Grinch figure on the fun side that was facing the volcano side. He said that represents how he feels like there is something watching him, always ready to mess him up. He felt like it was his guilt and other emotions that would get him when he least expected it.

It was amazing.

I told him I found it very interesting that his two friends had wings. Because his two best friends are very awesome and true friends. It made me think that their wings would allow them to fly up over this huge elephant and get to him. He looked at them for a minute and went, "Ohhh..." then picked the moth & bat up and flew them over to his eagle self. He liked that. I also pointed out that HE had wings. He liked that, too.

Dr.M drilled a relief well for my little volcano today. It's a good start, as he said. But putting words and labels on those needs and emotions was key, I think. BigBro seemed light when we left. Like, he knew what it all was now. He had identified it and named it. It's a known quantity. Takes the edge off that fear and anxiety.

When I dropped him off at school, he greeted the teachers with his usual bright, "Hi!"

I know we're not done yet. But that relief well is doing its job. It's relieving the pressure and letting God do the rest.

Keep those prayers coming.

Friday, September 10, 2010


BigBro is having a rough go of it this month. The boys' dad moved back to town on 09/01. He's a 5 minute walk from our house. He's not mopey and he's already helped me out with sharing the kid care almost every day.

The boys are thrilled. many emotional obstacles. BigBro finally uncorked at my friend's house tonight. Huge meltdown. All of the conflicting emotions he's been bottling came flying out when one teeny thing happened. Here's what was in the volcano:
  1. BigBro hesitated to show how happy he is about their dad being back. He thought it might hurt me.
  2. We are letting them choose where they want to sleep pretty often. BigBro was worried if he wanted to stay with parent A, it would insult or hurt parent B.
  3. He's afraid dad will leave again.
  4. He's glad dad is back but knows he really wants to live in Boston. He feels bad that dad can't be where he wants to live (I personally also think he feels guilt over this).
  5. He feels bad that dad gave up all his friends.
  6. He feels bad that dad gave up his band, job, life, etc.
  7. He worried about dad's ex-girl thing because, well, he saw what a breakup can do.
He also feels guilty for having most of these feelings. It's a horrible vicious cycle.

Tonight, the boys were at my friend's house, playing with her two boys and a few others. The Ex and I went out for Indian food - the boys are not fans. Just as we wrapped up dinner, my phone rang and my friend told me BigBro was having a big meltdown and she wasn't making any headway with him. She got him on the phone and he wasn't making any sense. He was way beyond losing it.

When we got there, she came out to meet us. He had calmed down enough and uncorked on her. I think it helped having a totally neutral loving safe person to talk to. She explained that some game had gone bad (some boys not following rules - which sets BigBro off on even a good day) and that did it. UNCORK. So that one little pinhole became the egress for all of these pent up emotions. He had communicated #4-7 to me the other night. But I hadn't know all of the rest.

The boys went home with their dad tonight. I'm hoping that goes well. He hasn't had to deal with this close up for quite a while. I wish I had them. Ah well.

But to back track - since their dad returned, BigBro has been having exaggerated blinking, his finger/hand action (Spidey Hands), shoulder shrugging, and multiple little verbal tics. His threshold for dealing with problems has dropped. He's been having little emotional explosions here and at school. One happened this morning at school.

So the signs have been there. I knew something was up. And I knew it coincided with the return of The Ex. I know it's normal. I'm not worried about this being some long-lasting thing. But I can tell you this: I'm making an appointment with our awesome child counselor on Monday.

If you're the praying kind, my boys need it. LilBro clams up. So this could all be going on in his head, too. I don't know yet.

Like I told BigBro - God is bigger than this. He'll help BigBro control his body again. Now that we know what's going on and how to counter it. Come on, God!