Behind starburst eyes

Corona’s Effect on Mental Health

It’s been months since Covid-19 became a worldwide epidemic, and while I am truly, deeply thankful that my family has not experienced this virus directly, sadly it still has had an impact on my children through their mental health.

He used to be gregarious, he used to be fearless, he used to be happy and confident…Used to be…

It makes my heart ache to see the changes in him, to see how scared he is to even leave the house because as he puts it “It’s invisible, I can’t see it, I can’t fight it” He used to be thrilled to pop over to the store for me, and he’d always ask if he could pick up something for dessert for everyone in addition to the bread or milk I was usually asking for. Now, his first response is “Or I could not go” with a pleading face as he says it. He used to love going for runs, now he says “there’s too many people”. He would rather forgo takeout or new toys if he has to go outside for them.

So instead I don’t ask him to go for me, but I do ask him to go with me. I’m willing to walk with him, because I’m determined to make him go out (while of course allowing precautions such as a mask and hand sanitizer) because he can’t stay locked inside for the next however long. It’s not healthy for him.

I know this might be a long road for him, but I remember when he was 2 and would have uncontrollable meltdowns when we’d walk different routes home from Airzone, he’d cry that it “wasn’t the right way home”. Back then I knew he had to learn there were many ways to get to somewhere, physically and metaphorically. I would hold him and tell him over and over he was loved and safe and I understood and he was my wonderful brave boy as he cried for hours even after we got home.

This is no different, I’ll be there each step of the way offering him love and support as I help him walk this hard path. I love him enough to do the hard things because he always has been and always will be worth the effort to help him thrive.

Leave a comment »

The Art of Being Still

I never knew how much I would need to develop the ability of just being still before I had children. Now it’s a gift when one of my sons are close to having, or have teetered off the precipice into a full meltdown due to sensory overload.

To speak, move and “flow” as if one is still, as if your very breathe does not flow further than your own lips is something I have honed over the last almost 9 years. It’s served me very well during tumultuous times with my boys. I use that to help temper the situation, to help them to know they are loved, safe and that it’s okay that they’ve had enough. That I get it and that I can be their safe place during the storming onslaught of their emotions and senses.

If you read about Zen practices one of the key components (that I’ve found) is that the art of being still calms the mind. Each meltdown that my sons have is intrinsically linked to a sensory overload. By not reacting to their meltdown with increased energy or movements, but with stillness, quiet words and slow breath my beautiful boys who’s natural inclination is to mimic those in their immediate surroundings begin to mimic me. In their mimicry of my own actions they too become still. They too slow their breath, their movements, their excessive synaptic impulses slow too.

95% of all information received from the 5 senses is discarded before the brain tries to process it in a neurotypical brain. The amount that is automatically discarded from a brain that has autism is a great deal less than that, and so they often suffer from sensory overload as the brain tries desperately to process most of the data that it receives from the senses. This is due in part because of them not knowing what is vital information and what isn’t.

By bringing them back to stillness during these sensory overload times it helps their neurological sensory filters to come back “on-line” so to speak. Which in turn allows them to regain their own emotional equilibrium. It is not easy in the beginning to be still when faced with the fierceness of emotions and frustration that often accompanies their sensory overloads. But with time it becomes easier to switch with one breath from being full of movement, sound, and energy to being still for them.

As my eldest has gotten older I have taught him to see the signs within himself that he is becoming overloaded and to find a quiet spot within his own mind and let that stillness and peace  flow throughout the rest of him before he has a meltdown. He’s not always successful at seeing it before he has a meltdown, but he’s only 8yrs old, so even half the time is fantastic to me. The other half, well that’s what I’m here for.

As my youngest son gets older, I know he too will learn how to access the stillness within himself, but until then I will continue to utilize my ability to be still and present within myself to help ease his storms.

1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: