Sunday, December 22, 2013

Aspergers and Holidays

Holidays are busy, hectic, pleasant, and practically the only chance I get to see my family. It didn't used to be this way until several years ago when my parents moved away for work. It was great because my brother got the chance to go to a Christian school, which was important to all of us, and was really good for him too.

I don't remember clearly about every detail about Christmas. I know that one of the best gifts I got every year was the ones that people got me that I had specifically asked for. I had one uncle and my grandma who lived next door who would usually do that. I don't remember being the kind of kid who shook presents or snuck them open or anything. I wanted to wait until Christmas. I also remember the feeling of let-down when it was all over. I thought it was because I was sad that it was over, and I guess that is part of it. The other part, that I now understand as an adult, is that the anticipation builds and builds and I get overwhelmed with the anticipation and the activities and the people and business and then when its over, its like a drop of excitement, and its all over. One year just a few years ago, I woke up Christmas morning just sick - my head was spinning and heavy, and I just felt sick. a few more hours rest did the trick but I am careful to try to remember to relax and take it easy after that.

This year I'm discovering that my son has issues with Christmas and presents and anticipation. He seems as if he cannot control his anxiety. At first he was sad because we told him that his presents weren't here yet. He was sad that they weren't under the tree, and he hoped they would get here in time. So I thought that it was worse for him to have no presents under the tree, so I put them there (against my better judgement). The next morning, he got up and cracked open every present that had his name on it under the tree. I was furious and sad! I missed out on his reaction and what he thought of his gifts! It turns out he didn't realize what some of them were, but he completely opened one of them that I was really excited about because I had one when I was a kid too. 

Well, luckily, some of his presents weren't here yet either, so we do have quite a few that he doesn't know about.
He got a package from someone recently that had presents for him in it. I right away put them on an upper shelf in my closet. As I came back from the closet, he had the stepstool, and I told him that he'd better not. I thought that was it. Nope. He went down there, got them down and under his bed he opened them. I didn't find out about it until midnight when I was in the closet trying to do laundry, and saw the stepstool. 

So, I'm going to have to up my game! But it brings to my attention the anxiety and anticipation over Christmas and presents causes him so much discomfort that he is for some reason unable to keep it a secret. See, surprises are an issue for people with autism. I remember being disappointed about presents, but I don't remember if I ever got in trouble over that or not. I would say I was probably polite but because I was told to. We do tell our son to always be polite when receiving gifts, even if he doesn't like them. But it's the fact that he can't leave them alone and let them be a surprise. He is very uneasy about anything being a surprise. I can't surprise him with a trip to town or anything either. He gets rather agitated and I have to give him time to adjust to what is seen as a change in his plans for the day. However, even when I try to give him advance notice he still freaks out, even if it's days in advance. He used to get so sick he would throw up when we traveled to my parents'. We could never figure out why. And I got hives one time as well. He gets hives too! We're a mess.

I wish I could just rid us of these things, these negative, illness related symptoms. They are not fun. But there are so many other parts of us. My son is extremely sensitive and caring. He watches commercials about saving starving children and dogs and hands me his money. He cries when his sister is upset. He cries when he's happy, he cries when he's sad. He is very sensitive to criticism or anger. He has changed me for the better because of it, and I'm glad I was able to listen to those cues and find places to support me to change and encourage and help me along the way. I'm far from changed, but I am at least aware. The worst part has been not changing the yelling or being overly angry, but the criticism, nagging, shaming and guilting. Those are "more innocent" things. 

I'm getting of track here. Is that an autistic trait? It may be, because I have seen other aspies write in little bunny hopping circles too.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the holidays can be difficult for people who are autistic. You have to give us some help! It's nice to want to surprise us with something you think we'd like, but you should always ask us what we would like first. I have been given gifts that I kept out of guilt but never used. There's nothing I dislike more than useless things around my house (I'm a purger). I feel bad because it's lying around my house unused, but also because someone spent money on me in a way that I can't use it. Apparently I have to change my tactics with gift buying, or something. I can't stand this part, trying to figure out what would best suit my son's needs so that he isn't sick on Christmas from anticipation. So that I'm not worried about him being sick from anticipation. So I don't have to see him so "out of control" the whole season. When he's out of control, it sets me out of control and I feel unstable too. I think it's because I'm already overwhelmed, and him being overwhelmed overwhelms me too. So it's like being doubly overwhelmed. See? 

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