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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good Therapy

After weeks of resistance and avoidance, instinct prompted me to not only drive Red to therapy but to be a part of the session. As a result, I ended up with the most valuable insight into the motivation of his behaviors that I've received in a very long time.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that many times throughout an average day I ask myself, what the actual f% is he thinking?  He can be impossible to understand.  Well, therapy gave me a few answers.

For the longest time, I have wondered the point of "talk therapy" for Red.  He loves to go! I've even used it as a consequence. If you don't behave, I will not drive you.  I think because he enjoys hearing himself talk. Other people, including the therapist?  Not so much.  I believe that for the most part,  he only wants to hear his point of view reflected back to him. In the sessions I've attended with him, that's what I've seen. When I ask him about therapy sessions that I don't attend, he isn't able to give me any earth-shattering insight that he gathered.

The ride to and from therapy within itself stresses me the hell out. I'm a captive audience, keyword, captive.  I'm a hostage, trapped in a small space listening to his ranting, arguing and debating.  There have been times when I just pull over until he shuts up!

A month ago, I canceled two of his four monthly sessions because of the long, stressful drive home. That appointment had us driving home through five o'clock traffic. It could take almost 2 hours. Oh.My.God! I wanted to drive off a cliff!

For his last session two weeks ago,  I asked his Community Supports provider Kevin, to take him for me. I felt like the goose that laid the golden egg, and no one else knew how valuable it was.  Score one for me! I saved myself some aggravation.

One of the boundary issues we have with Red is when he hugs me, he totally engulfs me in his arms. I am much shorter and so much slimmer (not) than he is. He puts a lot of his 200 plus pounds of weight on me and won't let go usually until I pinch him or something. He also continually picks up Harry our little 7 pound Maltese.  He hugs him to death or at least until he yelps.  Let's just suffice it to say he is overly affectionate with the dog.  Harry runs when he hears him coming.

Red also seems to panic when I'm leaving the house. Where are you going? When will you be back? Then I get a zillion phone calls while I'm gone.  I come back home; he meets me in the driveway before I can even get out of the car.
Banging on my car window
Anger
Yesterday, I learned that fear, anxiety and a deep need for love and affection are the primary drivers behind many Red's behaviors.  He has a girlfriend, but he doesn't get to see her that much because of her issues and actions with her parents. He only has one close friend, and that friend spends most of his life grounded. It's sad. He does have his church family, and I'm sure that attention, love and caring are primary motivators behind his being so close involvement in his church.

Red's therapist believes that he is panicking because of his fear of losing everything.  That's why he is holding on so tight. He is genuinely afraid of change.  His transition into adulthood involves so many variables; there are many unknowns.  It frightens him.  Red believes that once he walks out these doors, he loses everything. That's why he always references moving out, as being "kicked out." I imagine he sees my foot on his ass as he heads out the door, never to be able to come back again.  

I realize now that we perpetuate that fear. In recent months, his behavior has been so all over the map. Boundaries have been next to non-existent, and we have been close to moving him into a group home. In fact, when he misbehaves, our first line of defense is to say, "That's why you need to move!" Turns out that's not so healthy. It's making matters worse.  I never claimed to be perfect, especially when being driven to the edges of sanity. 

Of course, if we did have to follow that course of action,  it's not as if he would not have any support. But, he can't see through all of that.  He's afraid of losing all of his comforts. Gasp! He may have to struggle a bit, like every young person in America. 

Oh yes, and buying all of the things.  That's another way that he is holding on, tightly.  Buying video equipment is something that he can control when he can't control anything else.  He is buying things in a panic because when and if, he gets "kicked out," he won't be able to buy anything again, ever!  It all makes perfect sense! Why didn't I see all of this before? Duh! 

His therapist also pointed out, that Red sees that his older brother who has been out of the house for almost nine years, hardly ever comes back home. I don't think he knows that we continue to support his older brother when he needs it.

Red may act like he doesn't like us, but he loves us. We are all he has ever known, especially me. I have been his rock, and his crutch. What will he do without that? Of course, he thinks he's going to fall if he no longer has what has been holding him up for his entire life. Standing on his own,  becoming an independent person scares the crap out of him.  He is the bird in the nest; that thinks that there is no way he can fly.  This is a very normal feeling that many young adults go through. It's is only exacerbated by autism and anxiety.
Moments later running from a bug.
Fear

What we need to do (all of us including his dad and his brother) is reassure him that he is loved, right now -today and that he will always be loved.
He will always be a part of this family.
He needs that love and affection to be shown by ALL of us.
We can't continually be angry because he's angry and scared.
We can't let the only attention that he gets be negative. He acts so unlikeable because that's the only way he knows how to get attention.
What he needs is encouragement to know that we are positive that he can do well on his own.
He can fly.
We need to reassure him that we realize that even if he is out of our house, he will continue to need support.
We will be there to give that to him or make sure that he receives it from outside sources until he doesn't need it anymore, just as I have ALWAYS done.
We need to continue to encourage and remind him how well he does in other environments, which is a sign that he really can be happy and independent.
When he travels to see family for weeks at a time, he thrives.
When he has gone away to camp, he loved it and did well.
When he is at work and volunteering at the high school with special needs students,  he is happy and self-assured.
We must continually encourage his strengths and consistently reassure him, that we know he can do this!
He can be an independent person.
Someday he can be a husband, and perhaps even a father.
To get there, he has to be willing to walk through the fear and walk out of our front door.
He also needs to see a visual plan for his life. He needs a roadmap to follow so that he can feel himself heading in the right direction.
He needs to see that it's just one step at a time, instead of becoming overwhelmed by the big, fuzzy picture. I have arranged that his Occupational Therapist will be helping him map things out, creating a blueprint in the coming weeks.

So it turns out that therapy can be a good thing after all. Thanks, doc!

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