Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Plain as the nose on your face

This year, my fall has been defined by the weather. Specifically, it's been defined by Bud's anxiety about the weather. Rainy days - even those unaccompanied by thunderstorms - have been horrible, because in Bud's mind they all bring with them the potential for thunder. But even clear days have been a struggle this fall - because any cloud in the sky might be the wrong kind of cloud, and because every clear day ends with dusk. And dusk means that the sky gets dark.

Just the way it does before a thunderstorm.

In recent months, Bud's anxiety has been so intense that it led to a trial run with a new medication that is (so far, fingers crossed) having positive results. These days, Bud is not as anxious about the weather, but he is just as conscious of it. A few weeks ago, Bud jumped at every noise - real or imagined - after nightfall: "What was that? Is that thunder? Is that a storm? Is a storm coming? Are the lights flicking?" But these days, the anxiety has been replaced by mere preoccupation: "That's not thunder. That's just the dryer. Is that you, Nana? That's just Nana making some noise. Don't you worry, Mama. There's no storm. That's just a truck." It's not as troubling, but it is just as constant, just as ever-present, just as nonstop.

I've tried every approach I could think of over the past few months to respond to Bud's weather preoccupation. I've tried reassurance, negotiation, rational explanation, scientific analysis, myth and fairy tale, joking, ignoring, and (in my less proud moments) grouching and whining.

Nothing has worked.

This weekend, however, I began to see a glimmer of hope. Bud was doing his now-typical "it's-not-a-storm" commentary, and I was continuing to vary my responses in an ongoing trial-and-error way, until, finally, I was approaching wit's end.

Bud asked, "There's no thunder, Mama?"

And, with no game plan and no good ideas, I put a silly look on my face, zoomed across the room to Bud, put my face in his, and bounced my nose against his cheekbone.

Bud laughed.

He laughed.

I crossed back to the other side of the room and resumed what I'd been doing.

Bud asked, "There's no storm?"

I dropped what I was doing, zoomed over to Bud, and wordlessly bounced my nose against his face.

"What you did to me, Mama?" Bud asked, giggling.

"That's what I'm going to do from now on," I said, keeping the silly look on my face. "When you ask about a storm, I'm going to do this {zoom-nose-bounce} and that means 'no, there's no storm.'"

I began to walk away, then heard from behind me, "That's just the wind?"



I walked away again. This time I heard the laughter first, then a giggle-filled sentence asking "There's no storm today?"

Zoom-nose-bounce. Laugh together.

So far, the slapstick comedy of zoom-nose-bounce has carried us through three days - three rain-free days, of course, but three days nonetheless. Its effectiveness seems to be diminishing a little as the weather preoccupation regains its foothold, but unless it's my imagination, I think that maybe - maybe - the intensity of the perseveration is diminishing a little, too. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'll keep following my nose, keep my fingers crossed, and hope that the skies stay clear.


My Life As It Is said...

That's adorable! Hope it continues to work and you can carry it over to his next worry too :)

Delilah said...

Brilliant! I will have to try this with my daughter who asks obsessively and anxiously every night as soon as it gets dark, "Is it going to thunder or lightning or rain tonight?"

Niksmom said...

Whatever works, right? :-) Let's hope Bud doesn't zig when you zag...OUCH. ;-)

Glad to hear about the laughter. It's the best, isn't it?

Ange said...

We have anxiety off medication and preoccupation on medicine (which causes aniety for me!). He doesn't run screaming from bugs, but is very very aware of them, picks at himself, inspects his body and surroundings if anything makes him think of a bug. And of course lots of questions that I have no idea how to answer. Distraction by humourous activity is a good idea though. I think it works for us, but I never put two and teo together. Thanks!

kristen said...

As we begin our seasonal perseverating fear of the clanging, banging radiators, this post is well-timed. I think I've tried everything but humor to address the constant anxiety, so I'm going to take a cue from you and give it a try.

I sometimes think I managed better when he was anxious about everything. Now that he's coping better, I find I perseverate on the fact that he's perseverating. Does that make any sense?

Wendy said...

That sounds like it could get physically exhausting for you very quickly! Not to mention the fact that you'll never complete a task because you'll be too busy "zooming". :)

Not trying to be all...I think your tactic is cute and it's obviously working. I just know that when Caden finds something that will elicite a very strong reaction in us (which usually makes him giggle) he will do it over and over and over.

I'm sure you've already thought of this but have you tried getting him interested in He could check the weather every day. He could even look at local radar to see that no storms are coming. I suppose this could make him even more anxious though if they're even calling for rain (which, in my neck of the woods, typically means we aren't going to get any. When they call for clear skies, we end up with a foot of snow).

MOM-NOS said...

It does make sense, Kristen. It's interesting - I've tried numerous times before to intervene using humor, to no effect. I'm not sure what made this more effective - that it was nonverbal, that it was physical, or that it was unexpected and took him by surprise. Maybe it was a combination of the three.

Delilah, it sounds like you are exactly where I am. Unfortunately, I don't get home from work until it has started getting dark, and we leave for school in the morning just as it's starting to get light, so almost all of the time I spend with Bud on weekdays is consumed by the darkness-driven fear of storms.

MOM-NOS said...

Wendy, you're exactly right - I'm getting nothing done and he is going out of his way to elicit a response, but so far it's been worth it. We're both operating on so little sleep these days (another post for another time) that the added physical exertion is barely registering. (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not..)

I don't want Bud to find out there is such a thing as I've thought about showing him the sunny sky pictures in the forecast in the newspaper as "proof" that it will be a sunny day, but I'm certain he would then start checking the paper religiously and would escalate from perseveration to panic the first time he saw the picture change to a raincloud.

Daisy said...

You're changing the script one line at a time. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting how sometimes the silliest/simplest techniques are the most effective? There isn't a doctor, a educational specialist or expert anywhere who can explain why things like your game work, but what a treat when they do.

My kids are teens of course, but they still have silly games, sayings or rituals that we did when they were smaller to work on some issue or another. Today, I actually sang the math rap song to my Grade 6's because no textbook has made enough sense to kids for "operations". I am sure my kids would be horrified to know I sang 'our' song in public, but it worked! And as the kids finished their morning, they were getting on their coats and rapping away. Whatever works!

Fingers are crossed for continued success!

Maddy said...

Those fixations drive me completely batty. We troll through a similar 'play list' of coping skills. Delighted to hear that the 'technique' that is so often the last I think of, was successful.

I usually think of it last because I've tried everything else - sort of, if I don't laugh now, I may need to crawl under a very small rock.

Best wishes

drama mama said...

BRAZILLIANT! Look! Over there! My favorite diversionary tactic. May it continue and then fade. Along with the storms.

Mom without a manual said...

Zooming sounds like fun!

We are also overwhelmed with the "what is that?" shrieks. So far JP isn't focused on the weather...his current anxiety is the noise of the toast springing out of the toaster. Atleast we know when that will occur. Thunder and lightning would be exhausting!!!

Keep on zooming!

mommy~dearest said...

Isn't it great when diversions work? Unfortunately, when Jaysen realizes it's a diversionary tactic, he gets sooo angry at me!

MOM-NOS, what do you mean you're getting nothing done? You're exercising! At least that's what I'd call it- hey, it counts in my book! ;)

Casdok said...

we do have to be inventive dont we?!

Lisa said...

My husband has taught me to put Jared to work when he gets stuck - our thing is "go to the zoo, mommy?" "ready to go to the zoo?" Z-O-O spells zoo, can we go? etc.etc. leads to "Jared, put this in the trash for me." "Jared, fill up the dog bowl" the tasks have to be simple and nearby, and he can't be frantic. If he is frantic - I resort to rasberries and my own silly talk. Then there are times when I repeat my answer "No" and walk away. (again, not if he's frantic)

Weather does not seem to be an issue for Jared. Whew, thank goodness, that might be problematic in New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

Filling Bud's brain with new and funny ideas re thunder and lightning is a good idea Humor is oftentimes the best medicine!....I personally have a lot of anxieties that are ridiculous (I say that now in the comfort of my own home with none of my pesky perseverations to bog me down!) and I found that when my son started to have many of the same fears I forced myself to suck it up and "act as if" I weren't paralyzed with fear. Being brave for him has helped me not act as crazy.
In fact I may be less afriad than I was a few years ago. So maybe if there is someone he can be brave for he will handle the storms better.
My definition of brave....doing something you need to do in spite of being afraid.

KC's Blog said...

Hi there, you are such an awesome Mommy! So glad to hear it's working well!

David said...

Very nice post! I happen to agree with Bud about thunder and lightning. More so the lightning. It's just too darn much energy. The place we used to live in was at the end of a road and the last utility pole was behind the house. We had lots of close lightning strikes, with one of them actually causing our interior telephone wire's insulation to ignite. Had we not been home to put it out our house would have burned down.

Our little Bud (a.k.a. Daniel), probably about 6 or 7 at the time, took it all in stride. Anxiety was not really one of his problems- he had Down Syndrome. But diversionary tactics like your zoom-nose-bounce were very dependable techniques when he became "oppositional".

Anonymous said...

Hi there my names lisa! is where you can find me. My 8 year old has a thing with bad weather as well. He read about tornados so now he thinks obseses about them when the weather goes bad. My 5 year old has a thing with grass. He refuses to step on the grass this is a new one. Hope all goes well~lisa