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Archive for July 19th, 2021

For the past few months, I’ve been waking up frightened, as if from a nightmare…but no nightmare that I can remember. Just writing about the fear brings it back in a palpable, physical way. Nearly every morning, I awaken and am immediately freaking scared. My heart thumps and skips, racing off the beat. My shoulders raise up high, every tendon stretched taut. I feel my jaw tighten and my neck stiffen. My breath can’t catch up to itself, the fear multiplied somehow in the knowing there’s really nothing to be afraid of.

To move past it, I play my Serenity app meditation, following the guidance of a woman with a soothing British accent for 10 minutes to breathe and practice silencing the mind. Some days it helps, other days it just takes the edge off. Sometimes I have to take a 1/4 of a klonopin. Sometimes I can distract myself with an audio book or a movie. Usually the fear dissipates as time passes, but some days it sticks around, relentless. Breathing helps some. By that I mean deep breaths with affirmations attached – breathe in the calm, the love, the peace….breathe out the fear, the anxiety, the hurt. It can feel overwhelming and exhausting.

I’ve had more successful visits with Boo, at least.

In this photo, Jonah almost looks like a regular kid visiting with his mom, maybe on his college campus during his sophomore year. Maybe he’s telling me about a professor he loves, or a person he likes and wants to date. Maybe we’re going out to dinner with his dad.

In reality we have just returned from a campus walk, and he’s about to go back into his residence, and I won’t see him again for a while. He can’t tell me about his teacher, or what he’s learning, or how he feels about anyone. But I know what songs he likes and doesn’t like, because on every visit I hand him my phone, after I’ve opened YouTube and put on Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles to start. He holds the phone and it plays related songs as we eat at the picnic table then walk the campus. The app has created a playlist he enjoys.

During our last visit, however, he must have selected something by accident because Led Zeppelin started playing. Within 5 seconds he frowned, handed the phone back to me, and said help. I laughed. Jonah is definitely not into classic rock.

One morning last week he had another violent aggression, this time toward Briana and another staff member. They were walking him up to campus from the residence and Briana was dealing with another student who was acting out. I guess Jonah saw an opportunity and went for the other staff member while Briana was distracted. They ended up in a puddle on the asphalt, struggling to free Jonah’s grip on the staff’s hair. He bit and scratched and Briana had to scream for help. Luckily someone heard her and came running to assist; they brought a mat to put under Jonah’s head. Still, everyone got hurt. Briana told me later how unnerving it was that he growled like an animal and had “dead eyes.”

From what I understand, there was supposed to be someone (or a few people) from the school to walk down to the residence and help with transitioning between the residence and school building – and they were not there. I was very upset and called the assistant principal to talk about how to prevent this kind of situation in the future. She said they would find out what exactly happened, and added that staff is equipped with walkie talkies to call for help. If you’ve ever been attacked by my kid, though, you know there is neither time nor opportunity to reach for a walkie talkie, let alone press the correct buttons and request help.

Jonah’s attacks are instant and severe, like a seizure. I suggested they provide staff with something like one of those life-alert buttons you wear around your neck. Desperate times call for inventive measures. And though I was assured someone would be calling me back, no one has contacted me yet. I know there are serious staffing shortages, and I’m glad Anderson has put a policy in place where no staff makes less than $15 an hour. But there’s got to be a better system when you’re dealing with a person whose history includes violent aggressions. Jonah shouldn’t be left in the care of two female staff members for any length of time. I’ll give the school a call today to see what’s what.

I got Jonah some new Sketchers sandals, but he prefers these clunky slip-ons with ankle socks. Go figure. He has been swimming in the campus pool this summer, thank goodness, as he still loves the water and is happy when in it.

I want Jonah to be healthy and at peace. I want to know everyone around him is safe. I want to let go of the aching fear doggedly pestering my every morning. Is the fear related to Jonah? I don’t know. I haven’t been the same, really, since October 9 of 2002 when my best friend Gina suicided. Jonah was just 7 months old then, and I was already suffering from post-partum depression.

When Gina left the planet, everything kind of caved in. Andy was forced into the impossible position of keeping our family functioning. And then our baby son wasn’t developing normally, and that of course became a bigger and bigger problem. Fast forward to the beginning of this blog, when Jonah first said “swat” and everything reaaaalllly started falling apart.

I don’t feel like I’ve taken a stress-free breath, or felt comfortable inside my body, or felt “normal” mentally, in nearly 20 years.

Now, new symptoms like the fear are arising – a twitching in my left eye, heart arrhythmia, and a strange feeling on my left side just beneath my ribcage like something is growing or “extra” in there. I went for an ultrasound on Thursday and am awaiting the results.

As much as I am afraid and for whatever the reason, I remain grateful for what I – and Jonah – have. And I’m going to see Guster at Red Rocks in Denver soon, so there’s that to look forward to.

I have friends who also have the morning fear, or pervasive anxiety. I wonder how much is Covid related, given the upside down existence we’ve all been living and its impact on our lives. If you have the fear or anxiety, please know you’re not alone. Take deep breaths. In with love and peace, out with fear and pain. In, out. Repeat.

May today be an excellent day, friends.

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