New Year!: We Got Up Late Because Martin Had a Tough Night

Happy New Year!

Adrian and I didn’t make it till midnight, New Year’s Eve. Didn’t even try. We were in bed by 9:00 pm, in a vacation house in Park City, Utah. On New Year’s Eve, our family (1) got up late because Martin had a tough night, (2) skied, (3) met one of Adrian’s colleagues for a drink, and (4) zipped by a Whole Foods Market. From each of those four activities gives me a heading for a “Martin right now” mini-essay. I’ll post them in four installments.

New Year! (1) We got up late because Martin had a tough night.

Martin is in treatment for Lyme disease. His LLMD wants to treat with antibiotics. His MAPS doctor, on the other hand, prefers to treat Lyme anti-microbially, which she says is as effective as antibiotics without the potential negative effects for gut bacteria. The LLMD and MAPS doctors have talked to each other. For now, the LLMD is letting the MAPS doctor “quarterback”—that’s the LLMD’s word, so catchy—Martin’s Lyme treatment, and we’re going with the anti-microbials.

I think they must be working, because while Martin’s cognitive and physical functioning are smooth, his adrenal levels seem maxed out. He is full of anxiety, looking for excuses to melt down. New Year’s Day, Adrian was listening to a Frank Sinatra song when Martin started crying because he remembered that the song was recorded before his parents were born. Honestly. Martin was playing a video game, heard the song, and burst into tears. The only reason he gave was the date that Frank Sinatra recorded “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and it took several minutes of comforting to soothe him. If that’s not adrenal stress, I don’t know what is.

Autism and even, to some extent, healing cause stress. Sometimes the process of getting better means that Martin’s body hardly knows itself, or what is coming next. The body can react by producing excess adrenal hormones, like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol. The hormones cause meltdowns. The overall stress diverts blood flow away from the gut, affecting nutrient absorption, which pressures the pancreas to keep up with digestive enzymes. The stress also stimulates the liver to increase glucose production to feed the muscles—and I think you know what mayhem excess glucose can wreck in an ASD kid.

Martin is also exhibiting increased OCD symptoms, which for him accompany adrenal stress. His current obsession is making sure he sees a digital clock anytime the digits are all the same, i.e., at 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, and 11:11.

These factors—adrenal stress and compulsions—have affected Martin’s sleep, too. In “Curse the Night,” I described how Martin couldn’t sleep Christmas Eve because of his anxiety that Santa Claus might not come. In the night between December 30 and New Year’s Eve, Martin woke from a nightmare: I think it was about skiing (see next post), because he woke exclaiming, “No, no, not so fast!” He stayed awake from 2:30 am until after 5:00 am, declaring himself simply unable to sleep, asking for me to be with him, and worrying about the time—“It’s 3:12! It’s not 3:33 yet!”—until finally I hid the clock.

Night waking has been so rare this past year that nowadays it really throws me for a loop. I just don’t have the stamina to get by without sleep anymore. I dozed off, lying on the sofa, until Adrian’s alarm sounded at 6:00 am, our usual waking time for skiing. Then I told Adrian that Martin had been up for hours and was now asleep, set my alarm for 8:00 am to call his ski instructors and say he’d be late for his 9:00 am lesson, and crawled back into bed for a couple hours. We let Martin sleep until after 9:00 am, then ate a big breakfast and finally reached his lesson at 11:00 am.

Martin remained high-strung all day, and does still as of this writing.

(I will provide more information on the Lyme disease in a subsequent post. I am almost as excited about writing that as I was for the recent informative post about mitochondrial support.)

Falling Near

Parents enjoy identifying ways their children are like them, right? That’s why we have expressions such as “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and “chip off the old block.” When I was growing up, I knew a boy so like his father that everyone just called him “Chip.” I don’t even remember his given name. Daniel, I think.

When your child happens to have autism, the process gets reversed. You start looking for ways in which you are like the child. Autism has a genetic component and, like other immune disorders, tends to run in families. Hey, I find myself thinking, do I have autism? Maybe just a little? Is there a reason I’ve always liked to be by myself, a reason I was an awkward child? (Okay, fine. I’m still awkward.) Does everyone trace patterns on wallpaper? Does everyone count the number of steps she takes on each sidewalk square or section of parking lot? Does everyone need to locate all three cats before she can start the washing machine, just in case the 14 times she checked to make sure no cat was in the washing machine were inadequate? Does everyone inspect her front bumper upon arrival home to confirm she didn’t run anyone over, even though she surely would have noticed if she’d run someone over? Or is that only me?

I see so much of myself in Martin’s behaviors, the same behaviors we blame on autism.

Martin dawdles. I dawdle. I seem incapable of moving efficiently from task to task, or focusing on one task. As a corollary, I run late. Virtually always. When I absolutely need to be on time (say, to a deposition or hearing), I comically overshoot the mark and end up half an hour early, hanging out in a random hallway.

Martin remembers numbers and dates precisely, but his episodic and short-term memory are subpar, along with his desire to pay attention. He knows every train station between our home and Midtown Manhattan, the number of moons Jupiter has versus Saturn, the order of his classmates by height, and exactly what we did on November 17. Yet he has no inkling where he left his socks, or what I said we are having for dinner.

Martin has favorite times on the digital clock. They are 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, and so forth. If he happens to see one of these times, he makes a special sound, a delighted “haaaw!”

I recall a conversation once, when I was eight or nine, about the length of movies. I said that Superman (referring to the original 1978 version with Christopher Reeve) was two hours and 22 minutes long. My mother became chastised me, saying I was making that up and could not know the length of Superman off the top of my head. But I did. As part of our subscription to HBO, my family received a booklet each month with the program line-up and a description of each movie. A year or two earlier, Superman was a full-page write-up in the booklet, followed by “(2:22).” The same number, three times. I wouldn’t forget such a thing.

Martin has informed me that, on the digital clock, 4 has four lines, 5 has five lines, and 6 has six lines. I already knew all that. I knew that because I count line segments on the digital clock, have for as long as I remember. 1:11 has the fewest total segments, six. 10:08 has the most, 21. Digital 6 minus one line makes 5. Digital 6 plus one line makes 8. Digital 6 with one line moved makes 0 or 9.

digitalclock   AlarmClockPic

In November 2014 Martin informed me that first Saturday and final Sunday stood alone. He told me this from his bathtub, and although no calendar was nearby, I didn’t need to ask him what he meant. On the paper calendar, November 1 (a Saturday) and November 30 (a Sunday) were each the only date in their respective rows. In February 2015 Martin told me one week was empty. Again, no explanation needed: The last calendar row contained no dates.

november   february

I get frustrated with Martin when he doesn’t pay attention. That’s so unfair of me. When I was in first grade, I took dance class. I never knew any of the steps, because I didn’t pay attention to learn them. I didn’t pay attention in baton, either. I faked the moves and occasionally got caught. Once, at an assembly for baton, a special drawing was held, with much fanfare. I was present but didn’t listen at all. When my name was picked for a prize, I had no idea what I’d won, or what to do. Until someone poked me, I didn’t even realize my name had been called. Did I have autism? Do I now? Maybe just a little?

Should I be treating myself with diet and supplements?

Will I be satisfied if Martin grows up to be like I am now? Or do I want him to be better?

Maybe just a little?

The prize I won, all those years ago, was a fancy new baton, which I was supposed to report to a table to retrieve. I carried it proudly but still never learned the moves.

And you probably will have guessed this already: I just went on to check what that website says about the length of the 1978 version of Superman. According to IMDB, the movie was 2:23 long. Wikipedia says the same thing. Ha. That’s what they say. The HBO guide listed Superman at “(2:22).” I can’t find that guide on-line, but I still can see the numbers in my head.

Remember these things? I searched on-line but couldn't find an image of the one featuring Superman. Any collectors out there?

Remember these things? I searched on-line but couldn’t find an image of the one featuring Superman. Any collectors out there?