Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Walls of Our Hearts

It's been a hard few weeks. I don't know which of John's official diagnoses are accurate, relevant, all part of the same thing or which he seems to have recovered from like Reactive Attachment Disorder. Certainly the label of Aspergers Syndrome has been quite helpful in helping our family communicate with each other. I only mention his alphabet soup list of disorders (Bipolar, OCD, Written Expression Learning Disability and Sensory-Motor Disorder on top of the aforementioned AS and RAD) to say regardless of what those mean, you can tell he's got it rough.

Sometimes we experience what I call an emotional death spiral. This has been one of those times. There's been prayer as well as avoiding God on my part. I find myself realizing I'm very fragile. I post (on Facebook) or tell the medical health professionals that I'm have a very hard time, Hannah's having a hard time, we all are getting sucked into the black hole and I usually get a lot of very flattering commentary that I'm exactly who God ordained to be his mother or "Sounds like you are doing all the right things!" in a little doctory sing-song.

The truth is that we aren't drowning. For all of what is going on with John, we are actually doing well compared to others. But, wow, I feel like I've been treading water for a really long time and I'm pretty tired.

Thanks to some intimate talk with a dear friend, I realized I was not casting all my burdens on God. I started reading the Bible daily again, even though I had been not been experiencing the Word jumping off the page for a while. I was in a spiritual desert.

This morning I read Proverbs 25 to match today's date for lack of inspiration to read anywhere else. A verse jumped of the page! "25:28 Like a city that is broken down and without a wall so is a person who cannot control his temper." Theo and I had just talked last night about how God had woo'd us back again and we were needed to change the mood of the house instead of allowing John's moods to be in charge.

I knew immediately this was something to cover during our Bible lesson in school today. But John was having nothing of it, school, that is. "You didn't say we were going to do a full day of school, you just said we were going to do school!" There was more of his typical mix of hilarity and venom.

I kept that Word about controlling my temper in my heart, prayed, and remembered that he is hurting. I remained firm on my expectations while being kind and loving and trying to go out of my way give him gentle touches when he was in his most agitated moments. I also proceeded with our school day, encouraging him to jump in frequently. He slammed the bathroom door into the wall, leaving a hole in the drywall. He hurled a plastic shoe very hard at the glass in the front door. He writhed on the floor and upturned chairs and the vacuum cleaner. As long as I was peacefully moving on with the day while reminding him what was next those fits became softer and shorter. He didn't throw anything toward any people and he didn't touch any of us in his rages. We loved him and waited without paying too much heed to the anger that welled. To engage him or to force him to stop is only to escalate and create a dangerous environment. While this wasn't fun, he was in control enough to keep from hurting those he loves.

He refused to come into the room to participate in Bible and Etiquette but I saw at one point he had been quietly sitting in the other room listening as I taught Hannah. I talked about how bad things could get in a city if the walls were down. Then I talked about the walls of our hearts and how if we have trouble with our tempers it breaks parts of those walls and bad things can then get in.

It took until 5 pm for him to be calm enough to complete all of his tasks. He was still refusing to admit that he had anything to do for Bible and Etiquette because he had listened and, in his mind, that was the only point.

At that point, Theo called. I took a few minutes to talk in private about the situation, plying the older two children with cheese sticks for those precious moments alone. My temptation would be to say that he needed to write down what he had heard because I taught that class once already and without him participating, answering questions, making eye contact I had no way of knowing that he had absorbed the information. My primary goal was to encourage him to participate cooperatively when he is supposed to tomorrow, and other days.

Based on Theo's suggestions and the time I had had to relax, I had a new plan. I asked him to come sit at the white board. I wrote the class names on the board and then did a flow chart, basically. If he chose to listen to me explain something, he could then just tell me what he heard this morning and we could discuss. If he chose not to listen politely, he could write 5 sentences for each subject. One sentence is usually enough to send him into panic.

He chose the easier path. I drew stick figures of tossed chairs and overturned vacuums. I drew pictures of a stick boy sitting in a chair with circles on his head representing open ears. Because he chose to calmly stay, given his options, he was able to absorb the visual information and even giggle about his obviously unhelpful and silly behavior. I kept it light hearted. We talked about what I wanted as far as sitting in class and so on. He was in agreement and repentant. That conversation was a victory in itself.

Then it was his turn to tell me what he had learned in Bible. He had heard some of it and we had a great discussion about those bad things being able to get into one's heart and how the Holy Spirit had helped me this morning with that passage and how I thought it might help him. I told him I knew he didn't know how to control his temper but that if he wanted to learn and asked God to help him, surely it would be done over time.

He was thoughtful and quiet. After a few minutes he made a connection I would never have dreamed of. "Mom, the Bible says God didn't give us a spirit of fear..." John has mind-blowing, hallucinatory, debilitating fears and anxieties. We talked about how the enemy was like a thief coming to steal, kill and destroy. And what we had been given instead of fear was power, love and a sound mind. Wow!!!! What a thought! Those are exactly things that were frequently missing from my boy and fear was left in its place. We both agreed it was time to pray about that temper control to help build up those walls that protect his heart.

Aspergers vocabulary Word of the day: Proverbs 25:28 Like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his temper.

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