Screaming. Yelling. Kicking. Cursing. Name-calling. Threatening. And he’s only six. When would the drama end?

This is life with an anxious autistic son. He gets overwhelmed with life and explodes. Time pressures, fear of failure, or a dozen other triggers can set him off. I never know when it’s coming. Sure, I can look back after the fact and see what I could have done differently, but in the moment, I’m never sure if he’ll choose to do a calm-down activity or go off the deep end when he’s escalated.

After one of his outbursts, it takes me days to relax again. I’m constantly on edge waiting for the next outburst, feeling guilty about pushing him or wondering how my daughter is being affected.

Life wasn’t always this way. The idea that something was wrong with my son started when he was almost one year old. He screamed for fifteen minutes after a play date. I felt confused. What was going on with him?

It would be six years and many more unexplained and increasingly violent outbursts later until we finally had an official diagnosis. My son had anxiety, autism and ADHD. I was glad to know what was going on, but now we needed a plan for treatment. How could we help him cope with life and reduce the terror he caused in our home?

He started seeing a therapist who specialized in autism, attending a special school and going to a therapeutic after school program. I started counseling, too, to help me cope with life and handle my son in a calm way instead of getting upset, too.

These measures all helped me figure out a few shocking facts about me.  I’m anxious.                                                                                                                                The signs were there since childhood. I remember picking all the fur off my stuffed animals or retreating into a corner with a book to escape a fight between my parents, a large family gathering or someone teasing me at school.

As an adult, I sometimes stay home instead of going to a social outing where I’m not sure if I’ll know anyone. I don’t call people on the phone. I run to my computer when my kids fight or my husband argues politics. I yell at my family when I feel out of control.

I need help.

Ironically, advocating for my son pushed me to get the help I need. His therapists and behavior specialists gave me tips for easing his anxiety. Activities like deep pressure, hard work and alone time helped his senses relax and his body, mind and emotions recover.

To help myself, I started using the same tools.

  • I wash dishes, scrub the toilets or organize my desk when I feel overwhelmed or angry.
  • I journal when I’m feeling scared.
  • I call a friend for encouragement when I’m feeling anxious about a social situation.
  • I pray and visit my therapist regularly.
  • I look for ways to be nice to myself everyday because a favorite shirt, flavored coffee or friend time does wonders for my mood and emotions.

Like my son, I’ll probably always struggle with anxiety. But it doesn’t control me. Thanks to him, I’m facing my anxiety and finding tools that work for me!
By Guest Blogger Jennifer Turner

Jennifer Turner and her family live in Lancaster, PA. She ghostwrites for local, national and international clients. In her free time, she advocates for special needs kids, drinks coffee, and reads mysteries.

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