The autism recovery path is so jagged—so many ups and downs—that the key to longevity is managing my own emotions. Well, one key. Other keys are financial stability, a supportive co-parent, close friends, a cooperative school district, available therapies, access to organic foods, home ownership or other opportunity to create a cleaner living space, and let’s face it, we’re talking about innumerable keys. But certainly managing my own emotions is one. I struggle not to pin my mental state, any given day, to Martin’s transitory condition. Martin has good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months. I don’t mind the elation when Martin feels well and performs well. Giving into despair when he doesn’t is a recipe for driving myself crazy.
That being said, it never ceases to bewilder me when Martin looks near-typical one day and strongly symptomatic the text, without any obvious intervening factor.
Two Fridays ago Martin earned his yellow belt in taekwondo. He didn’t perform exactly as well as the other eight-year-olds being tested but nonetheless paid attention and made the correct moves and legitimately earned the belt. We went out for sushi to celebrate, and Martin went to bed early. He spent that Saturday in New York City with his uncle Eddie. By all reports they enjoyed themselves and Martin’s behavior was stellar. Saturday evening we had dinner at home; Eddie (who eats meat, occasionally) and Martin had organic roast turkey, Brussels sprouts, and brown rice pilaf with vegetables and sprouted pecans. Martin, exhausted from his day, again went to sleep early and without incident. That night he slept 11-and-a-half hours.
Nothing, except that Sunday morning Martin was antsy in church. He rocked around during children’s time and, I learned later, disrupted Sunday school with incessant talking. That afternoon he became crabby. Sunday night, alternating between anxiety and cracking himself up, he had trouble falling asleep. I dropped off close to 11:00 pm. He was still awake.
Monday’s school report was—less favorable than one might hope.
Tuesday’s report was—disastrous. After school, Martin looked goofy and distracted at taekwondo class. At church Kids’ Klub, in front of all the children, he called the teacher a “liar” when she misspoke and said “tomorrow” instead of “next week.”
By Wednesday evening, following a trombone lesson that made me ask myself why I’m still paying for trombone lessons, Martin was running back and forth. Remember that? Run from sofa to stairs, stop, turn, space out, then jump and pa-dap-BUMP, run back to sofa, stop, turn, space out, then jump and pa-dap-BUMP, repeat. Classic repetitive behavior. Haven’t seen it in months. Months. Before Wednesday, I would have put “running back and forth” into the “so far gone” bucket.
There were other behaviors too, both at home and at school, that for Martin’s privacy I’d rather not document here.
On Thursday, Martin started to reemerge from the mystery fog. Thursday’s note from school said, “Martin had a better day. :-)” Friday, which was a parent-teacher conference day with no school, Martin had a successful play date with two friends and focused well at taekwondo. Saturday afternoon he worked three hours on a Lego project with Adrian, without complaint. Sunday he hosted a home play date for three friends.
The Friday-Sunday update is based on reports from Adrian and Samara. I was away for the weekend, with six girlfriends from high school. Some of them read this blog. Thanks, ladies. You sustain me.
So why did Martin, without any apparent external stimuli, tank for several days? I don’t know.
And why did Martin’s Wednesday ROOS, combined with a Friday parent-teacher conference about behaviors that are causing fellow students to alienate him, send me into a tailspin, albeit a short-lived tailspin? That I do know, and I’d like to find a way to change the answer.