Saturday, May 14, 2011

Facing the Mother of All Anxieties

For a long time, Pamela's number one anxiety involved selling. Back in October 2006, I blogged how just saying phrases like "sell the dogs" (when my husband talks on the phone about selling products that are clogging up inventory). Two months later, we moved into our new (actually old Edwardian era, Victoria style) house, and the new fear was about selling the house. The last time we sold our home was in 2001. Even though she knew the signs of preparing to move (dejunking, cleaning, organizing, etc.), hearing the words sell and house together triggered a screech out of her.

I first noted her fears about selling the house in May 2008, but her screeching had been going on for a long time. The first issue we addressed was separating herself from others. Through RDI, we helped her to see that just because someone else was selling a house didn't mean we were selling ours. Six months later, we addressed the second issue: having insufficient information. She screamed as soon as she heard "sell" without hearing the whole conversation. So, we applied the whole-part thinking she learned in math to her listening skills. For a few months, we had conversations about selling things until Pamela stopped freaking out at the word sell.

Getting upset at that word probably has to do with the fact that we moved often: Pamela was born in Adak, Alaska. She has lived in California, Florida, Louisiana (two different homes), Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alaska (two different homes), Minnesota, and South Carolina (two different homes). That is a whole lot of moving for any person her age (twenty-two), much less a person with autism, who find change more difficult than the typical person. We have lived in South Carolina since 2005, right across the street from my parents, a blessing we have never experienced. We have lived here for almost six years, a record for the Glasers.

Pamela had other anxieties too that caused her to control David and Steve. For a year-and-a-half (from April 2007 to November 2008), she instituted the sacred hour in which she banned David from the television room from noon until one o'clock. She let go of that as her anxiety and control issues wained thanks to RDI. She tried to control Steve through his work schedule, which was always unpredictable, therefore increasing her meltdowns. Not only did she tell him which car to take and which highway to drive, she would stalk him until he left the house if he were running late. From January 2009 through August 2009, we addressed thinking flexibly about his schedule. Life certainly improved once we guided Pamela out of her anxieties thanks to the Whac-a-mole campaign.

Steve has been ready to try another industry and an opportunity opened up for him recently. Unfortunately, the location is the midwest. We have many reasons for not wanting to sell our home, in-state tuition for David being one of them. So, the big question was how to tell Pamela without having a nuclear meltdown. Because uncertainty plays such a large role in her anxieties, we took the route of "less  is more" by only telling her what we had to at the very last moment. If anything, it would shorten the length of time she had to stew over the future.

Steve's last day of work was in April, and he took a month off, enjoying life as a handyman and all-around-good guy. When Pamela asked why he didn't go to work, Steve told her the truth. He was on vacation. Whenever we had conversations about his future job, we talked in code or made sure we were well out of her hearing. I had one lapse two weeks until D-day, and I smoothed it over with stretched truth: Steve was heading out there to work. A week before his first day of work, Pamela read one of his emails and, thanks to a brilliant download from God, Steve simply explained that he was getting a new job and we were going to have two houses.

I'm sure Pamela went back through her episodic memories of previous moves and realized she saw none of the signs. She showed absolutely no trace of anxiety, smiled at the thought of having two homes, and ran a victory lap. I felt like Snoopy Dancing because you have no idea what kind of uproar it would have caused four years ago!

Pamela is adjusting well, thanks to her hard-won flexible thinking. Wednesday was quite busy and, before we headed out of the house, Pamela asked, "What about dinner?" I told her that David could pick up some food for her when he takes her home. She said, "Just like Dad." I agreed, "Yes, he's man of the family right now." She smiled at the memory of us reading the book by the same name many years ago.

Steve headed west exactly a week ago today, and he is thriving. He loves being back in an engineering atmosphere, yet able to apply the business and computer skills he has mastered in the past two decades. This morning, I pulled weeds, picked up sticks discarded by the pecan trees after two lightning storms we had this week, and slew some ivy crawling up the brickwork. David took over his father's Saturday morning ritual of picking up breakfast at McDonald's and plans to cut the grass and edge later today. Unfortunately, David woke up too late for breakfast this time, but he will learn.

Between my volunteer efforts at ChildLightUSA and doing all the things Steve used to do on weekends, I will keep trying to blog what I can when I'm not sweating outside getting dirt under my nails, making repairs, and caring for the cars. And, those of you who know me well can stop laughing now! :-)


Di said...

Hi there Tammy
Phew, this is a tough one for you all. You are so going to miss your hubby.... :(
I like your new revamped blog!
Enjoy the rest of your week - take care of those nails! :)

The Glasers said...

It's been ten days and I still have nails! Steve is coming home for David's graduation! Woo hoo!!!!

Di said...

Love :)