Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thunder is dogs times ten

I'm afraid of thunderstorms.

I'm afraid of thunderstorms because Bud is afraid of thunderstorms.

No, that's not right.

He's afraid of dogs. He is terrified by thunderstorms.

His anxiety has been building all summer, and it has gotten a little worse with each storm we've experienced. For the past month, his anxiety has started surfacing at the sight of dark clouds. In the face of actual lightning and thunder, his anxiety turns to outright terror.

We had a thunderstorm yesterday, and Bud worried and obsessed as the sky darkened. He pleaded with me to tell him that night was coming, and that there would be no storm. The rain followed and we could hear thunder in the distance. Bud started to cry.

As the storm moved closer, Bud's fear grew. By the time the lighting and thunder and pouring rain were outside our house, Bud was in a raging panic - sweating, crying, shrieking, shaking. His heart was pumping so hard and racing so fast I was afraid he might pass out or go into cardiac arrest. After each crash of thunder he pleaded with me to tell him that the storm was over.


I wanted desperately to tell him that the storm was gone. But I couldn't. It wasn't. It would be worse if I lied to him.

"I think it's almost over, Bud. I think it will be gone soon."


I think Bud thought I was making a choice - that I could make the storm stop, but I wouldn't. Or maybe he realized that I was as helpless as he was and that terrified him even more. All I know is that with each round of thunder, with each failure to receive reassurance that the storm had stopped, Bud's fear escalated. He trembled, he gasped, he screamed, he sobbed. It was terrifying to watch. It was heartbreaking to experience.

We did the only thing we could think to do. Nana, Papa, Daddy and I formed a tight huddle around Bud. I dropped to my knees and put my face near his, and while he shrieked and wailed I talked softly, trying to comfort him, hoping that he would focus on my voice as we waited for the storm to end. My husband got a pillow and we wrapped it around Bud's ears as we sheltered him. Nothing seemed to help.

The storm finally passed, and Bud slowly calmed down. The rest of us continued trembling for several hours. Since then, we've been trying to come up with a plan for next time. We haven't thought of one. My only plan is to pray for good weather.

But I'm really afraid of thunderstorms.


Anonymous said...

oh, mom-nos! poor bud! poor you! i wish i could wave my magic wand and make all the thunderstorms stay far far away, at least until bud finds them less terrifying, which, i'm SURE he will someday. after all, look at him go! at school! at home! go, bud, go! he is making leaps and bounds.

in the meantime, i will brainstorm and investigate. maybe we can all put our heads together and come up with a strategy for next time. er, what about those headphones? is there a way to shut the blinds and turn up the music? i know. not really. i will keep thinking and sending calm sky thoughts your way. xx

kristina said...

A social story? What happens on a nice sunny day when you talk about thunderstorms?

Or perhaps you could make a book (a Bud book), with the whole thunderstorm narrative (including the 4 of you "circling the Bud," so to speak), from noisy start to quieter finish.

Hugs to Bud and everyone!

JenF said...

How about earphones - but the kind that you use to protect your ears while mowing the lawn or using a chainsaw? It won't help with the biggest thunder cracks - the ones that shake you and everything else, but maybe it could filter some of the worst of it out.

Kaethe said...

I feel so sad for all of you. Although the image of everyone huddled around Bud is very comforting.

Good luck. I hope you or Bud or someone can come up with a way to make thunderstorms more bearable. I shiver to think what it would be like for him at school.

mumkeepingsane said...

I've been in similar situations with Patrick, both of us with tears streaming down our cheeks, me whispering soft nothings to him to try and calm him.

Just reading about your experience brough tears to my eyes. What a circle of love your bud is surrounded by.

I'm sorry I have no helpful advice. Hugs to both of you.

gretchen said...

I, too, wondered about the iPod. Not enough to block out the sounds? There actually is a feel to the air when there's a storm, and I'm sure Bud is just as in tune with that as he is hearing the sounds/seeing the rain and lightning.

The social story is probably a very good idea. We have had good luck with asking Henry's teacher to write a story about a negative situation. Henry retains the story and refers back to it.

Gosh, this really makes me sad because I LIKE storms. I wish I could transfer some of that to my friend Bud somehow. XXXOOO

MOM-NOS said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions (and, of course, the support). My first instinct was to use his iPod, but though he'd keep the headphones on he kept turning off the music. I guess he needed to keep listening so he would know when it stopped.

I stopped in at the special ed office after I dropped Bud at school this morning, and had a good brainstorming session with his SLP and we came up with a lot of the same ideas as you all have. She gave me a book of social stories, and we talked about how to modify one for him that we can use both at home and at school. I'm also going to try buying foam earplugs and industrial sound-blocking headphones so that we can practice using them and build them into the social story.

Kristina, he talks about storms a lot these days, even when it's warm and sunny. It's mostly out-of-the-blue statements like "I don't like storms" or "It's not going to storm" or "Storm is too loud."

Gretchen, it's interesting because both Kristina and I have written before about how we can often tell that a storm is brewing because of the way that Charlie and Bud are acting. It makes me wonder if the storms are actually causing a physical sensation for him (beyond the fear sensation and the loud noise.) This morning my mom was reminding me that throughout the episode he kept saying "Help Me," which made us wonder if that was his anxiety about what was happening inside his body as much (or more) than what was happening outside the house.

Anonymous said...

The answer to you and Gretchen is yes!I suffer migraines...big time. When a thunderstorm is approaching, I feel anxiety for about an hour, with no other explanation, and then the "throbbing" begins. My neurologist tells me that it is a bio-chemical change that happens with the electro-magnetic change that happens with a thunderstorm.
You know how small dogs are paired with individuals who have epilepsy...they sense the bio-chemical/eletrical change within the body beofre the seizure happens and warn the person. It's the same premise. Some folks are acutely sensitive to the changes and I suspect Bud is one of them. I do deep relaxation and bio-feedback when I can, and it helps.
**If it were to happen at school, I would suggest going into the gym where there are no windows and it's generally insulated enough that you can't hear the thunder.

Anonymous said...

Oh, mom-nos, I had the worst anxiety last night. We were at a church dinner in a hall when it hit. I was trying to determine whether it was situational or not, when we walked outside to see lightning flashing in the distance.
all I could think of as we drove home was your Bud. It was so loud and racous it shook me too.
I hope you have peacesul weather for a while

MOM-NOS said...

fwiw, though I imagine that must be terrible and I'm sorry that you have to deal with it, it's incredibly helpful to hear you give voice to the feelings that I imagine Bud has, but doesn't have words for. Or maybe it doesn't occur to him to describe the feeling because he doesn't know that what he's feeling is different from what other people feel. Either way, it's helpful.

What is biofeedback, and how do you use it?

Anonymous said...

I know this is 'past-due' and you have already received a lot of suggestions, but I keep thinking about you guys and have a couple more possibilites. When my Thomas was scared during his first thunderstorm of the summer, my mom was here, and she sat with him and would name the different thunders with him. "Wow, that was Boom Thunder." "That sounded like Crack Thunder." I think there was also "Rumble Thunder" and maybe one more. He was still a little uneasy, but it helped him to focus on another aspect, and she was teaching him that it's okay.
Another thing that might help is counting. Count how long in between rumbles, and maybe that might help him figure out that they'll go away? The other thing I would do is pray. For Bud and with Bud. I don't know if that's something you regularly do, but maybe he would get some comfort from it.

Anonymous said...

Bio-feedback is a technique that some psychologists or neurologists use to train the body to "do" a particular desired skill through mind over body controls.
For instance, I have been trained to slow my heart rate, ground myself to allow for normal blood flow into the brain reducing the migraine pain. I use music (as it has a deep soothing effect on me) that has waves played over the music. As the music plays, I visualize the vessels in my head opening and allowing blood to flow. I also visualize anxiety as an entity rather than an abstract. Once it "is" something then I can visualize removing it.
I recently saw a news piece from a hospital here in Edmonton where bio-feedback was used to train individuals who have ADHD to control the parts of the brain that cause them to be off task. Through a video game, hooked up similarly to an EEG, the patient concentrates on flying a space ship through space. As the attention wanders, so does the ship and it is only through concentration that the player is able to get the intrinsic rewards built into the game. It is showing tremendous possibilities for individuals with ADHD...with or without use of medication.
For a child with fears or even medical conditions, controlling pain and anxiety can be approached by recalling an event that was happy or pleasurable. Given practice, one is able to remember the pleasing event and bring forth those emotions and physical conditions during a stressful or painful time.
I guess it is almost like a hypnosis treatment. The physician monitors things like brain waves and heart rate and is able to help you achieve that same condition each time. Once you have been trained, then you can do it all on your own.
The neurosurgeon who is doing part of my facial reconstruction wants me to do bio-feedback to eliminate my clenching my jaw and risking refracturing it once it has been healed.
It has lots of possibilities. Hope this gives you a bit of an idea about it. I don't think Bud would necessarily need to verbalize the feeling at first. You could likely identify the feeling for him and begin facilitating an exercise. Eventually he would be able to initialize it on his own...I see dark clouds,must be a storm coming... now I need to go put on my ipod and listen to....