Tuesday, January 31, 2012

If it wasn't happening, I wouldn't believe it...

It has been a cracker of a week.

When I say 'cracker', I do not mean we won the lottery. I mean we may or may not have lost our minds, on all sorts of levels.

If you read this blog a lot (thank you), you will know that since we began mainstream intervention in Billy's chronic GI issues, he has developed new mental health (for want of a better word) manifestations - namely mild anxiety and very mild OCD. There was also the matter of copious quantities of bile vomit, but that had more of an effect on my mental health (his physical health took a mighty hit too).

In previous years, while Billy was always a reticent (sensory defensive) child, I would not have described him as an anxious child. He stood out from many of his ASD peers in the sense that he seriously couldn't care if you came along and put a gigantic dinosaur in the middle of a carefully created Thomas the Tank Engine scenario and made it dance the macarena. He would simply roll his eyes and remove said dinosaur. He did not need things to be 'just so'. Ever.

Over the last eight months or so, this has changed.

We have seen a gradual increase in anxiety. We've seen more and more questions of the 'is this banana good?' or 'did you wash your hands?' (quite confronting for his grandmother, as she emerged from the toilet at Christmas time). It's been an ongoing worry for us (and clearly for Billy, maybe also for his grandmother). We mentioned it to his GI doctor (rolling eyes, not possible, he is autistic after all) and we mentioned it to his GP (a slightly kinder and less obvious eye rolling style reaction).

This gave us two impressions - 1. we should worry less, and 2. we should stop thinking doctors actually give much of a crap, and start telling cab drivers about Billy's health instead.

So, fast forward from Grandma's Confronting Christmas to last week.

Billy had some blood tests to do. He has had close to a bazillion-gazillion blood tests in his lifetime (if my meticulous filing system serves me correctly). Just before the end of last year, (among increasing questions about toileting habits and general anxiety) he refused, point blank to have any more. We convinced him he had to complete these tests last week, and so he did. It was not easy. It took a few staff, and a millisecond's worth of restraint, but he did it.

He was relieved. ('I'm alive!' he pronounced at the end). We were relieved. He thanked the nurses profusely. They hugged him, and gave him two teddy bears as compensation. All good.

We headed to the movies, to catch up with friends, but we made it to the car park of the movie theatre when Billy started wretching. We apologised to our friends and went home (still haven't seen Happy Feet 2, must see if we still can...) and Billy took to our bed. The next 24 hours were seriously some of the scariest hours we have ever had.

In waves, Billy was consumed by OCD and tics. He would not leave the bed, he wanted all the computers in the house turned off. He moved constantly. His body was wracked by tics, flicking, jumping, shifting. His face was taken over by tics occasionally as well. While he was twitching, he was somewhere else, not with us.

It got so scary we started videoing him, wondering where the hell this was heading. He was consumed by anxiety, endlessly repeating phrases in a cruel parody of his usual echoalia, often in whispers. He was jutting out his jaw, and swallowing compulsively with a far away look in his eyes. He did not eat for most of this time, but he drank litres of water. He complained of reflux pain, but refused to consider any medication. His legs hurt a lot.

Of course, this happened on a public holiday, so our choices for medical advice were an open-all-hours GP clinic where no-one knew him, or the ER. We considered the ER, but knew turning up with our autistic child and saying, 'Um... he is acting weird...' was not going to get us too far (or perhaps it would send us too far...) Who knows?

So we rode it out until the next day. We saw his usual GP, who proclaimed it a 'mental breakdown' and suggested we see his diagnosing psychologist for recommendations to manage anxiety. She also gave is a referral to a neurologist, but she had to be convinced.

Right. That's it then? A 'mental breakdown' at 8. Wow.

We took Billy home (almost back to normal) and sat down to regroup. It was then that we noticed the neighbour's yard.

You may remember the stories of the McMansion construction next door. It's almost complete, thankfully, only the odd dude turns up to rev his truck in the pre-dawn hours these days. In fact, they have begun landscaping. They started this process by killing everything green in the whole backyard with Roundup (glyophosate) two days before Billy went for his blood tests. We found out the details when I was busted taking photographs over the fence, and the neighbours wondered why.

Like autism, pesticides are interesting to search on the internet - lots of conflicting 'evidence'. One site says you could sprinkle this stuff on your cereal, the next says don't even look at a bottle of it unless you are prepared for a mutant spleen to grow out of your forearm.

Billy doesn't have a good history with chemicals. Adverse vaccine reactions, reactions to homeopathics, crazy drug reactions... so maybe, he has reacted to Roundup in the air. Maybe. Who knows.

What we do know, is that the tics, the OCD, the extreme anxiety... are all gone. They left, like they came - gradually over 12 hours or so.

When we go back to the GP for other things, I will mention The Roundup to her. I am expecting more eye rolling. We will watch Billy incredibly carefully for a re-emergence of any of the extremes we saw in those scary couple of days. We will see the psych and talk about anxiety, and we will go to the neurologist and do a full check.

Part of me thinks we should push him into something stressful just to see if he really is living on the edge of a 'mental breakdown'. But while we are in this perverse (and totally not going to happen) part of the universe... can I say, 'Really?' again. Seriously? A blood test pushes him over the edge?

The child who is driven to tears daily by the sound of dogs barking. The child who cannot learn in a  school because the sound of other kids sends him into a zen-like free fall. The child who has been admitted to hospital more times in his 8 years than me and my six siblings combined in our lives. He is the one who has a breakdown over a blood test. Really?

He lives with a level of stress that could strike down a racehorse. He is a regular rider on the autism roller coaster. But a very short struggle, followed by immediate acceptance that he was just fine, pushes him into a 'mental breakdown'...? And the same 'mental breakdown' disappeared as quick as it came...?

Really? I know that the three events (Roundup fest - blood test - 'mental breakdown') are linked. I do not know how.

I know I have to accept that perhaps my 8 year old had a mental breakdown, but I know I'm not thinking of marinating tonight's dinner in glyophosate either.

1 comment:

Di said...

So hectic, really sorry for Billy... and you. Who knows? It is all so confusing! :(