Yesterday I broke a plate.
That’s true, but that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is yesterday in a fit of exasperation and fatigue, I threw a plate on the ground to break it. To purposefully break it. There was a split second before I did it where I thought “Seriously? You’re going to do this?” and then I did it. Why. Why did I do that?
Because my ten-almost-eleven year old son was going on minute forty-five of an epic tantrum. A meltdown. A nuclear explosion. And I threw the plate at the floor because I couldn’t take it anymore, and because I’d made him three sandwiches to eat, please god just eat, because things are better when he’s eaten, and I soothed, and I gave him space, and I tried to talk him down, and nothing would work, nothing, and at minute forty-five I threw the plate on the ground with the third sandwich still on it and I screamed. I screamed like Marlon Brando saying “Stella!” and after I threw the plate I was embarrassed and ashamed and filled with joy, because my son had stopped his screaming, probably because he was so shocked.
Let me be more honest. This was not just a forty-five minute meltdown on his part. This was months and months and months of meltdowns. This was a culmination of years and people saying “Oh, he’ll grow out of it” and “You’re not structured enough” and “He’s just dramatic.” This was years of me saying “Something is not right here” and the last six months of him seeing a therapist who says he has a Generalized Anxiety Disorder…and it was me saying “Yes, but there’s something else. There is something not right here.”
This was my ex criticizing me for being too relaxed, too forgiving, too coddling with my son who is constantly in distress and the only way I can seem to soothe him is by being relaxed, forgiving, and coddling. This was months and months of this, years even. This was years and months of my son keeping it together at school and his dad’s, only to fall apart at our house when I did or said anything wrong, and almost everything I did or said was wrong. And, yesterday, I screamed.
I’ve read books and books and books. His current therapist says it’s not Asperger’s though he has all the signs of sensory overload. He’s just anxious, she says. It’s not Asperger’s because he is affectionate and when he walks in the room he can read everyone’s emotions. He can be deeply funny and insightful. He is ‘emotionally intelligent’, but he is also ‘emotionally immature’. He is a boy who cannot handle a change in routine, and is constantly asked by school and his home life to change his routine. He can’t stand certain sounds and smells and tastes and noises, and when people come over or I take him out, I hold my breath in fear of how he will act. Sometimes he does fine. Sometimes he does not.
I worry that this is a mental illness. I worry that there is something wrong with his brain. And I feel like for years I have been asking for someone to help us, to not discount his behavior, to not blame my DNA or my pregnancy when I was sick four or five times everyday while he grew in my belly, to not tell me he will grow out of this because he is almost eleven and he has not grown out of it. To just stop with all of the judgments and blame and to help us figure it out.
But no one has heard me.
So yesterday, I screamed and I broke a plate. And there was quiet. My son and I…we just looked at each other for a while in that quiet.
My son heard me. I heard me. But I’m still not sure if anyone else did.