I recently read a study that found moms that have children with autism, have also been shown to have stress levels similar to combat soldiers. (I know, very encouraging way to begin this right???)
I have been thinking a lot about it. I often feel a level of stress that I cannot describe, and so many of you have shared that you feel the same.
I decided to do a little bit of research and you know what I found?
Besides all kinds of crazy images of special needs moms looking haggard and being described as superheros, I also stumbled across this term and it started to make sense.
Hyper-vigilance is defined as an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hyper-vigilance denotes a constant scanning of the environment for threats, exhaustion, and abnormally increased awareness. (source)
Yeah. Me too.
Traumatic Stress and Mothering a Child With Autism
Hyper-vigilence is an element of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Because “a constant scanning of the environment for threats, exhaustion, and abnormally increased awareness” is traumatic.
Because getting out of bed, knowing that you have to do it all again today, seems nearly impossible sometimes.
Because you find yourself cringing and tensing up in Target when a baby cries, worried that your son might react to the sudden noise, and then realize he is not even there with you.
Because you automatically turn off the blinker once you enter the left hand turn lane, because the clicking noise can and does cause meltdowns in your moving car.
Because the exhaustion is so real, you feel like you are trying to get over a flu that you never had, but never seems to quite go away.
Having my son sobbing and knocking his head against the wall for an hour, biting me, throwing things at me, trying to hurt himself, wrecking our home, our car, his little brother – it is traumatic.
Some days, this sh*t just gets real. (I tried so many other ways to say that – but they all seemed a little sugar-coated. This is harsh. Harsh language seems the only way to adequately describe it. I did include the * for anyone who might be offended.)
Hyper-vigilence comes from all of this. None of us are surprised that it utterly exhausts us, messes with our thinking, and often has us living with a constant sense of anxiety.
There was a news story this week about a mom who threw her son, who had autism, over a bridge in Oregon. She then called 911 and calmly let them know she had done it.
It’s so awful. The little boy is so cute in his picture. “London was a good kid. He loved hats. And his Dad,” his uncle is quoted as saying.
He loved hats. Oh my goodness you, sweet little boy.
So. Much. Loss.
It makes me cry and get a little sick, every time I think of it. And just a few months ago, this mother made a plea online as her husband was stricken with a grievous medical condition.
“If you are a praying person, pray for us,” Jillian McCabe wrote. “I love my husband and he has taken care of myself and my son for years and years and now it’s time for me to take the helm. I am scared and I am reaching out.”
I have to say this today –
If any of you are feeling like things are too far gone, like you can’t see how it will ever work out or get better… if any of you feel hopeless or angry or both, and are actually considering hurting yourself or anyone else… please, please, please let someone know.
Call your doctor, your child’s doctor, email me, call a friend, ask for help at your child’s school.
Please Tell Someone.
There is no shame in admitting we can’t do this on our own. Because of course we can’t. It would be unrealistic to think that we could.
No one can.
You are not alone. You are not beyond help. You are not somehow worse than or less equipped than any of the rest of us.
I am praying today for that sweet little boy. I am also praying for his momma.
May God have mercy on them both.
And I am praying for all of you. Because I would be devastated to think that I had the opportunity to encourage you here, and didn’t. That you might be here looking for hope, for a friend, for someone who understands, for the chance to feel a little less alone – in the world and in your own head.
I am praying you hear me, believe me, and can’t help but feel better when you read my words.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
You are not alone.
There is a whole community of mommas here, who want to speak the truth and be encouraged just the same.
Please reach out.
I am not sure how we do this. I am not sure what today will bring, or how exhausted and undone I may feel tomorrow. But I am sure of this.
“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good.” Romans 8:26 and 28
When we don’t know what else to do. When we are at the end of ourselves. When we feel bereft and abandoned and alone.
May God help us all.