If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m cathartically documenting the journey of parenting (for want of a better word) my 11yr old son who has a sub-type of autism known as Pathological Demand Avoidance. The latest phase of this journey can only be likened to navigating the various, shifting lands of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. For those of you unfamiliar with the story; a group of children climb an enchanted tree, meeting some magical characters who live in it along the way; Moon Face, The Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot and the Angry Pixie. At the top of the tree, there’s a ladder leading to a magical land. This land is different on each visit, because each place moves on from the top of the tree to make way for a new land, obviously! Some lands are extremely unpleasant and others are magical, like the Land of Do-as-you-please. Apologies, I digress…..
Finn started on the anti depressant/ant anxiety med, Fluoxetine just over four weeks ago. Word on the street is, it takes 4-6 weeks to properly kick in. Two weeks in and we entered the Land of Agitation, with Finn on the throne as King Skittish. There was no reading him; he could go from enchanting to enraged, flying to flailing in seconds. Thankfully this land ‘did one’ and was replaced with the glorious Land of Half Term, thriving in a ‘no school’ atmosphere with the added bonus of halloween on the horizon. He relishes in halloween – I can only surmise that it’s down to his penchant for role play, the opportunity to spend time with friends and the freedom that comes with it…..carve whatever you fancy out of a pumpkin, wear what you want and eat chocolate at will. He chose to be the Grim Reaper complete with a one way mirrored mask and armed with a scythe – what could possibly go wrong?
For starters, I made the grave mistake of not managing expectations (when will I learn?) Based on past precedents, Finn was expecting a neighbourhood halloween party or at the very least, for a few friends to be joining him (his sister and a couple of female friends from the street were not cutting the mustard, as lovely as they are). The downside of the mask was that his vision was impaired so he kept falling over, on one occasion indignantly exclaiming “Who puts a tree stump in the middle of a driveway?!” Thankfully it was dark enough to hide my amusement. There were some lovely interludes: he removed his mask when an older lady answered the door and he made a young ‘trick or treater’s’ face light up when he pretended to be terrified of him. This didn’t stop Finn proclaiming it as ‘the worst halloween ever’ but all was not lost; I witnessed him clawing control back from the jaws of a meltdown, which constitutes improvement and given that he was brandishing a scythe, a colossal relief too.
With the start of the second half of the school term, came the Land of Uncertainty, dotted with distressed reactions to anything that involved making a decision but scattered with glimpses of a happier boy. It’s all in the smile and a twinkle in his eye which I’ve missed so much –
One nil to Fluoxetine.
We’re a little stuck in this land, uncertain about Finn’s future; will he ever manage to go back to school, where will he go to Secondary School, will he manage to make peace with himself, will he end up hurting someone really badly one day, mid meltdown?
Amongst all the uncertainty, are some consistent certainties; my boy is capable, caring and courageous on one side and confused and crestfallen on the other, but we are all muddling through together and doing the best we can, and sometimes, when the going gets a tad tougher, that’s just going to have to be enough.