It has been a dark week at our house, both literally and figuratively.
The skies have been overcast and dreary, and Bud has been unable to rebound from last weekend's bone-rattling thunderstorm incident. He has spent the week with his eyes riveted to the skies, watching for signs of an imminent storm and perseverating on the possibility.
All day every day this week - and I am not exaggerating here - ALL day, EVERY day, ALL week - from the time he woke until the time he fell asleep, Bud verbalized the rollercoaster of anxiety he was experiencing:
There's no storm. Is the storm is all gone? There is no thunder. Just clouds. Just dark clouds. Is the storm coming? There's no storm. The storm will not come. Just what? Just cloudy day. There's no what, Mama? There's no storm.
This stream of reporting, with just a hint of anxiety, would continue for hours, building slowly in magnitude, it's force swirling below the surface, until suddenly and without warning the levee would break:
MAKE THE CLOUDS GO! NO DARK CLOUDS! MAKE THEM STOP, MAMA! MAKE THE STORM STOP! MAKE THE CLOUDS GO AWAY! MAKE THE YUCKY STOP, MAMA! MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!
Then he would cry, sometimes loudly, sometimes quietly, but always with a heartbreaking intensity. After some time, that phase would pass and Bud's anxiety would return to a slow rumble:
There's just clouds. There's no storm today...
As the week progressed Bud became increasingly nervous and tuned-in to sounds and sights. The washing machine. A light flicking on. My husband's footsteps. The flutter of fluorescent lighting. A door closing. The flicker of the computer screen. A truck rolling by. The everyday sounds we hear all day long; the shadows of sights we usually filter out. Every single one of them triggered Bud's startle reflex - "WHAT WAS THAT?"
By the end of the week, we were all exhausted - without question, Bud most of all. On Thursday he started coming down with a cold and the combination of feeling sick and living on an emotional edge resulted in a hard day at school. Thursday evening was very difficult, with Bud's perseveration and anxiety at full-tilt.
It was no better when we woke on Friday. There was mist and fog outside, and Bud sobbed and pleaded with me to make it go away. Instead, I called the school to let them know he wouldn't be coming in, then bundled on his raincoat and boots over his pajamas and took him for a walk through the neighborhood. As I had hoped, the quiet misty neighborhood was quite lovely at 6:30 a.m. and the long walk temporarily calmed Bud's anxiety. I brought him to work with me for a few hours, but the fluorescent lights and copy machine/printer/co-worker noises were just too much for him.
In the afternoon I called the doctor's office. I knew Bud's pediatrician would be out of town until next Tuesday, but hoped maybe somebody else could talk to me and give me some shred of helpful advice. I ended up with a nurse, who chided me for calling at the end of a Friday afternoon, when no one was available to talk with me.
"Maybe you could distract him with a favorite book or some music," she suggested.
She asked if I could "make it" until Bud's doctor was back on Tuesday. I couldn't even answer her (define "make it.") She told me to bring him to the ER if it got too bad. I told her to leave a note for the doctor in red ink with a lot of exclamation points. She hedged a bit at this directive ("Well, I'm not sure what else the doctor will have on her schedule when she returns...if you don't hear from us by Wednesday..."), so I'm composing an e-mail myself.
I'm concerned about this specific round of anxiety, of course. And I want to be prepared for future incidents of bad weather. But, more than that, I want to investigate what this means. This is brand new. This is not something we've ever seen from Bud before. So what is it?
Is this what OCD looks like in a young child?
Is this an anxiety disorder?
Is this an indication that his Strattera dose is too high? (If Strattera is helping him focus, would too much make him hyper-focus on the wrong things?)
The sun came out today, and Bud's internal storm waned as the external one departed. We've been awake for three hours and Bud has only asked about a storm five times, each time with decreasing intensity. He has shifted his focus to his birthday party, which we'll be having this afternoon, and I have spent the morning thanking God and the universe and the angels who watch him for letting him celebrate his birthday under sunny skies.
We've got a reprieve, and we plan to infuse it with a mega-dose of joy. Maybe we can somehow build our emotional reserves - squirrel away as much of the happiness and the calm and the carefree spirit as we possibly can - and save it for a rainy day.