One thing I never considered, when thinking about aging, was how someone else's pain could completely minimize mine. A full disclosure moment: I can be remarkably self-centered. I don't mean in a look-how-fabulous-I-am sort of way—it's more of an I'm-so-emotional-therefore-I'm-suffering-more-than-the average-person stance and because of that, at times it can be hard to feel what others are going through. Or, perhaps because of all the drama and pain I've experienced, I've shut those valves tightly and don't let myself feel. Mostly likely, it's a combination of both. I keep to myself, I reign it all in insanely tightly, I don't open up often and then, out of the blue, I snap and get carried away in hurricanes of crying spells, so intense I can only sit on the floor and sob until there's nothing left.
One of those out of left field breakdowns hit me last night and I realized, after the fact, the it wasn't my pain that set it off, it was the agony, the frustration, the searing knowledge that my child was suffering and I can't help.
And I don't know what to do.
Jack is a remarkable kid. Funny. Smart. Insanely creative. He's also driven. Dictatorial. Singe-minded. I've been told he'll make a fabulous head of a company one day and should always be the boss. Anyone who knows him well gets that about him. He's musical, artistic, has a designer's eye. He's athletic without trying. He's cool without effort. He's so beautiful he takes my breath away. He's also insanely sensitive which he keeps well hidden—no one has any idea how strongly he feels, how emotionally deep he runs.
He's had stuff for much of his life. Not major stuff, but enough that sets him apart. Seizures when he was little, more emergency room visits before he could really talk than anyone should have to go through. Hospital stays. Crazy tests. He's been diagnosed with sensory integration, which explained why he didn't feel pain like other kids, how he could take off his shoes at the end of the day, toes bleeding and not notice they were uncomfortable. Why, and this is my theory, he'd be able to swim in freezing cold water, until the point of hypothermia, come out of the surf and pass out in the sand. Now, when he says the water's too cold, I silently cry with relief, knowing this beach trip I won't be shaking him to keep him from slipping into unconsciousness.
But, the thing that seems to have created problems that he's grappling with now, is speech. He started speech therapy when he was just about 3 and for years, it was really hard to understand him. I'd have to ask him to use another word, to show me what he wanted, to repeat what he was saying, and I got him far better than anyone else. And that lack of being understood, that inability to communicate (and this is my theory again), shut him down from building relationships. While he speaks beautifully now, his last sounds clicked last year, he's so used to not being "heard" he doesn't try. He doesn't know how to. He desperately wants people to listen—he has so much to contribute—but the tools aren't there for him to engage. He talks out into open air, almost as if he's a radio broadcast waiting for people to tune in. And when they don't, which is most of the time, he's sure they hate him and then get gets pissed. Acts act. Dissolves into angry tears.
Last night, for the first time, instead of lashing out in frustration, he just sat and sobbed in my lap. Curled in a ball, consumed by body wracking sobs that felt like they'd never end. Holding him tight, tears poured out of me, I hurt so much for this other being. Writing this now, tears are spilling over, again, at how much this child was feeling, suffering, hurting. And how helpless I was, and am, and will be.
I remember when Iz was little and I was a completely overwhelmed new mother, thinking nothing in life could ever be this challenging, a parent of an older kid told me I was in the easy part. That it only gets harder. Navigating the emotional pitfalls, relationship issues, cliques and groups, hormone shifts, made babyhood look like vacation. I thought, at the time, they'd just forgotten what it was like to live with a toddler.
Now I know those were words of wisdom.
I would do anything to help Jack cope, to get things to a more satisfying place. I wish I had answers, could provide comfort, or guarantees that things will get better.
Instead, all I can do is watch, listen, hold tight, reassure, search for support, hope with all my heart, pray (and that's something I never do), meet with teachers, set up playdates, provide a safe place.
And talk. Ask. If anyone out there has ideas, guidance, experience, please let me know.
I need your help. Because I don't know how to help right now and this pain is unbearable.