So I have always known Lauren’s apocalyptic meltdowns leave me feeling a bit, or a lot, woozy. But I haven’t been able to understand why. Once the meltdown subsides you would think a sense of relief would wash over, but it doesn’t. I usually feel downright awful. I thought I was alone in this experience until I read this post by a mom of a kid with autism. She describes what she calls a post meltdown hangover. And that’s it exactly!
The more I thought about it, I began to wonder if my child’s meltdowns are triggering my stress response? And of course they are!
In those moments my body is trying to decide if it should fight, flight, or freeze. And I tend to be a freezer, so that’s what I do. I can’t fight with her because that only makes things worse, I can’t run away-although I certainly want to, so I mentally escape. I leave the moment, at least cognitively and emotionally,because digesting all that is going on seems too threatening to my panicked brain.
Some meltdowns last longer than others, but when it’s over for Lauren, it’s over. She moves on and she is okay. I, on the other hand, feel like I just got stripped down to my underwear and hung out to dry on a flagpole. I want to cry, scream, and eat 1,000 chocolate donuts all at the same time. I have to come back to reality because life is moving forward regardless of if I want it to or not, but my brain is still trying to wrap itself around everything that just happened.
And when it all boils down it’s not the actual fit that has my stress response activated and soaring through the roof. What I am terrified of, absolutely vomit inducing afraid of, is the death of a dream.
A hope and a dream for my child that never involved fits like this. What if these fits of anxious sensory induced rage take her under and keep her from accomplishing all God has planned for her life? And I know God is bigger. But in those moments it seems like He is not. And so I run and hide, because that’s a thought I just cannot stand. It feels like I must escape.
But what if I had a different thought upon the initiation of a meltdown? What if you had a different thought the moment something threatens your hopes and dreams? Because being terrified of losing something never really kept it around. What keeps something around is caring for it. Nurturing it. Watering it, and expecting it to grow. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever get sick, or weak, or need help – it just means we stay present to it in the process.
When we abandon our dreams out of fear we allow them to wither away. And I’m not saying ALL dreams need to hang around. Some need to die. But the ones that are good things, things God would want for us and for our children, we don’t let hardship or crapstorms threaten their right to exist. God knows the plans He has for us, and for His children, and the plans are good. We know they are good. So instead of trying to fight, run away from the threat, or just act like a possum and play dead – maybe we just need to stay present. To let the hardships come and go, let them be what they are in all their weird glory, and know they will pass – but the dream remains. God does not abandon the work of His hands.
So I can’t promise I won’t freeze the next time Lauren has a fit…because I might. But I can choose to come back to the present quicker, knowing that my hopes and dreams for her haven’t disappeared. They still very much exist. And if I water them by spending time engaging positively with her and praying for her, they will grow.