I didn't realise that the stress is still there
This week I had a break.
My parents were kind enough to take Bright Eyes to their place for three nights while he went to an RDI-based 'social skillls' program in Sydney, and my husband took our seven year old away for two days on a road trip, so I found myself in the unusual position of having a full twenty four hours at home with only two children and no jobs to do.
We did some sewing and hung out together and my big girl had a friend to sleep over. It was relaxing and fun. But I noticed a couple of things.
First, it became clear that during the day I have a regular worry that pops up and tells me things like this: "What are the kids doing? What should they be doing? Should I send them outside to play? Am I doing enough to interact in a good way with Bright Eyes? I shouldn't just let him sit there with his obsessions - I need to do good things with him."
Basically, I carry this pressure with me all day: "Am I doing enough? Could I do more?"
Secondly, I noticed just how much pressure I feel with Bright Eyes in the house. It comes from things like the repetitive conversation, the funny noises, the inability to stop moving. I had thought that we were past all that stress; that because he was so much better and easier to live with, I was relaxed now. It turns out I'm not. It's still here. Yes, of course, it's a lot less than before, but it's still more than I thought it was.
Lastly, I noticed just how much pressure my other son is under because of his brother. He visibly relaxed and blossomed over the three days on his own. It reminded me that it will be important for them to continue to have their own separate spaces, especially as they get older.
This post is really hard to write because I don't want it to sound like, "whinge winge, I don't like my child." It's not that. It's just that the pressure of living with what the ASD brings is real and it's hard. And I noticed it all over again because I managed to get away from it for a day.
I once read about chronic stress as being like holding a rock. It doesn't feel that heavy when you just pick it up. But when you hold it for a long time it gets heavier and heavier and it becomes a real weight that affects everything else you do. When you put it down you feel better. But as soon as you pick it up again the weight comes back and it takes a while to get used to it again.
Of course, the difficulty with having a break is that it ends. You have to go back to normal at some time. Let's just say it was hard to get out of bed this morning, and it wasn't just because of the rain. My 'rock' was weighing on me a little.