Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Comfort Zone

I was talking to my aunt over the weekend, explaining some of the obstacles Monster Man faces after she'd asked about Tourette Syndrome, when my mom reminded me that I needed to explain to her about being Monster Man's "comfort zone".  I realized then that I've talked a little about being his comfort zone, but I haven't really explained what I mean when I say that I am his comfort zone.

Those with Tourette Syndrome often try to suppress their tics, their rage, or their anxiety.  Rather than letting others see their struggles, they hold them in as long as they can.  After all, the public isn't always as accepting of their tendencies as they should be.  As the tics and emotions are held inside, they build up more and more, just waiting to be released.  Then, when the Touretter can't hold it in any longer or gets somewhere where he or she can release the tics or emotions without worrying about being judged, the bottled up tics and emotions come out ... and they come out much stronger and much more severe than they would've had they initially been released.

That safe place to release the tics and emotions - that place where the Touretter knows that he or she will not be judged by the tics, the rage, the anxiety, etc - is his or her "comfort zone".  The comfort zone isn't just a place, however.  It is often times a person or a group of people.  In Monster Man's case, his comfort zone isn't at home; it is anywhere that I am.  He knows that my love is unconditional, that I won't stop loving him when he lashes out at me or when he shakes his head so hard it makes him dizzy.  He knows that, when he finally calms down (sometimes hours after his rage starts), I will always be there for a hug.  He knows that, no matter how many times he tells me he hates me, I continue to love him and I know that he really does love me.

Sometimes, being the comfort zone is a hard job.  It isn't easy to hear him call me names, to hear the hateful tone in his voice, and to have him blame me for all the struggles he is facing.  It isn't easy to have him aim all that anger directly at me.  But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I know that he really does love me, and that he's only aiming his aggression at me because I am doing a good job of loving him and letting him know that he is loved.  And I know that all those harsh words will eventually be followed by hugs, apologies, and a much happier, more loving Monster Man.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The End of a Good Break

Monster Man has had such a good break from some of the worst problems he faces with Tourette Syndrome.  After about five days in a row of panic attacks, which were also days filled with many episodes of rage, as well as about two weeks of a really bad head-shaking tic, he has managed to have almost a full week with no rage, no panic attacks, and very few mild tics.

Of course, Tourette Syndrome seems to like to throw us all for a loop.  We had some storms come through last night that evidently brought back some of Monster Man's anxiety.  He didn't come downstairs to let us know that he was scared, so he instead stayed in his room where he didn't sleep well last night.  Of course, that has affected his attitude for today.  We've already seen the start of what easily could've turned into episodes of rage had we not been able to get him calmed down before they worsened.  To top it all off, the storms started while we were at church last night, with us driving home in the storm, which set off the head shaking tic and also brought back his 'painful tic'.  As Monster Man's nerves were getting hit harder, his head was shaking faster, his eyes kept looking up in opposite directions, and he'd get that really wide smile.  Between the eyes and the smile, he had quite a headache when we got home.

It is so sad to see him go through these sudden changes, when even Monster Man isn't sure what to expect with each passing moment.  Sometimes, he asks me if he is 'losing it'.  Other times, he asks me what is wrong with him and why he can't learn to control the tics, the anger, and the anxiety.  I still don't have all the answers he needs, so all I can do is hug him and reassure him that everything will be okay.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Panic Attack!

I knew anxiety pretty much goes hand-in-hand with Tourette Syndrome, but it still didn't prepare me for the major scare that Monster Man gave me Tuesday morning.  It was early in the morning.  Little Man was playing the Wii and Angel Baby was still asleep.  I was taking advantage of the quiet, lazy morning.  I sat on the couch, working on my computer, doing the first required assignments for my online classes, which were due to start the next morning (I like to get ahead as much as possible).  When Monster Man woke up, he came downstairs and curled up next to me on the couch, his head resting on my shoulder.

Within a few minutes of walking down the stairs, he started shaking uncontrollably.  He balled up almost in the fetal position, still keeping his head on my shoulder while bringing his knees to his chest.  He continued to shake like that, gasping every few minutes.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said he didn't know.  All he did know was that he didn't feel right and that he was struggling to breath.

He'd been experiencing some problems with anxiety the night before, so I figured the whole episode was anxiety related.  I had him breath deep, having him copy my examples in an effort to calm him down.  I considered calling his pediatrician, but I knew if I was advised to bring him in that he would never let me get him in the car and drive him there.  He wanted me to hold him, to reassure him that he'd be okay.  Instead of getting up to make the call, I decided to continue the breathing exercises with him, all the while running my fingers through his hair and keeping one arm wrapped around him.  After what seemed to me like forever but was probably only a matter of minutes, he fell asleep in my arms.  He stayed there, sleeping in my arms, for about 15 minutes before he woke up feeling a lot better but still exhausted.

In asking for advice, I discovered that panic attacks are not uncommon in those with Tourette Syndrome.  I also found out that his behavior during the attack was pretty typical for those who have experienced them or have children who have experienced them.  It was a huge relief to find out that this was just another normal part of the TS, and that he isn't (as he started worrying after he had it) 'going mad'.  He's had two more panic attacks start to appear since then, but he has been able to control them with breathing and prayer before they got as bad as that first attack.  If he ever has another bad one, I've received some good tips on how to handle them:  deep breathing, warm showers, massages, and distraction techniques.