I’ve had a few messages on my Facebook page from people extending their sympathy but also gently reminding me that Jacob’s episodes are not about me but about him. I want y’all to know that I get it and I do appreciate the thoughtfulness. It’s really not about me and I can see how a comment can come across as snarky and self-absorbed. Having said that, I have decided to write a quick blog post explaining exactly why I often dread the mood swings but also how we handle them.
I am a firm believer in finding what works and using that until it has outlived its usefulness. Thankfully, laughter is still the best solution to what ails Jacob (or any of us for that matter) at any given time. My sense of humour isn’t all that great and I tend not to think on my feet very well but all is not lost because I have a husband and my youngest son whose sense of humour could diffuse the Hulk at his worst.
We’ll start with a simple definition of Jacob’s primary condition.
Bipolar disorder (also known as bipolar affective disorder, manic-depressive disorder, or manic depression) is a mental illness. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of an elevated or agitated mood known as mania, alternating with episodes of depression.
Jacobs official diagnosis is Mixed Bipolar which basically means that symptoms of mania and depression occur simultaneously. Simply put, Jacob could be bouncing off the walls and appear happy but be completely upset about anything and begin crying or become destructive at the slightest provocation. His mood can go from calm to nuclear in 4.5 seconds flat. The moods don’t slow him down and can be difficult for him to deal with physically and mentally, oftentimes leaving him confused about what he is feeling or how he should be feeling. This leads to more obsession and upset.
To make matters worse (or at the very least more complicated) is the fact that Jacob is on the Autism Spectrum and mentally delayed so he is basically a child with a 3rd graders understanding of the world. It’s hard for him to know the right response to any given event in his life and it’s usually a sure bet that he’ll overreact, whether it’s a good or bad situation. He has no edit button and the question is usually How and in which direction will he go when he fails to understand his surroundings.
Now I’m not trying to make light of his condition but I also don’t want to be a ‘Debbie Downer’. Not every day is bad and there are definitely more good days than bad. On the good days, he is more aware of his feelings and does his best to articulate them. Other days, he simply cannot cope with the world.
Since being diagnosed at age 9, Jacob has improved tremendously. We still have days where I want to throw him under a train and I’m sure he’s thought about doing the same to me but more often than not, our good days outweigh the bad and humour gets us through. It’s easier now to see the humourous side of his personality and also see the humour in the things he does and what he says. Honestly, if I didn’t laugh, I would curl up and die from drowning in my own tears.
The past few days, Jacob has had quite a few episodes that I usually describe as “manic” on my Facebook page. I only say that because it’s quick and most people get it without me having to explain it in detail.
Manic does not necessarily mean that he is having a bad day. More often than not, the kid is thoroughly enjoying himself. 99% of the challenge lies in the fact that he becomes WILDLY inappropriate. He will take the simplest of things and turn them sexual. He will laugh and laugh about it, completely oblivious to my reactions and/or attempts at disciplining him. Other times, my attempts will be met with a turn in personality from happy-go-lucky to you-are-satan-spawn-and-I-hate-you-for-wanting-me-to-stop. I find myself walking on egg shells and thinking very carefully before I speak…That is when I am calm enough to think straight. Sometimes, I just deal with the meltdown calmly and let him take the lead. Other times, what I say or do has absolutely no bearing on his mood. He will meltdown regardless and nothing will help stave it off or stop it.
Clear as mud? Ya…LOL I’ll give you a little rundown of the other day which happened to be Valentine’s Day and maybe you’ll get a better picture.
He woke up this morning and the first thing out of his mouth (upon learning that it was Valentine’s Day) was, “Hey Mom, are you and Dad having sex today? You know you’re supposed to because it’s the day for lovers.” Completely inappropriate and certainly none of his business and I told him as much. Thankfully, he took it in stride, laughed it off and went on with his day. I made a note to myself not to take him out in public unless I absolutely had to and went on with my day LOL
That’s pretty tame and truthfully, I am grateful for those times. I can share it with his father after work and we’ll both have a good laugh and a face palm then be done. Other times, he gets fixated and anyone within hearing distance is subject to his “jokes” that may or may not be funny but it doesn’t matter. There’s a desperate itch that he must scratch and who cares if you don’t like it.
He watches Robot Chicken quite often. I watch it sometimes and sometimes, it’s good for a laugh. Our DVR is set to record all episodes so it basically amounts to 2 or 3 episodes per night. Jacob will watch them in the morning and every once in a while, a sketch will stand out like the one where a man was getting a massage. The obviously Asian woman asked the guy if he would like his “Happy Ending”. The man, looking horrified, denied it and ran off with the masseuse giving chase, repeating, “Happy Ending?” At the end of the sketch, the battered and bloodied man is cornered at the bottom of a dark stairwell. The masseuse asks again, “Happy Ending?” and hands him a burrito. Bah Dum Bum… (It might have been a taco…)
Cue the lesson on why it’s NEVER okay to say that in public. EVER.
Anywhoo…The other day, Jacob was watching a sketch about Buck Rogers. The aliens involved were calling him “Fuck Rogers” and begging him for his help. This did not go over well for dear old Buck so he lost his temper and began shooting everyone in sight. The end of the sketch revealed that a robot was responsible for the attempt at creating humour. Since the sketch had a swear word, albeit bleeped out, Jacob fell in love with it. Gee, what a surprise. Of course, I had to hear about it over and over or at least what I could comprehend through bouts of hysterical laughter.
There’s sometimes a moment I could swear seeing the wheels turning in that kids brain and the light bulb flashing over his head when he thinks of something clever.
After torturing me with repetition all day, the light bulb did indeed go off and Jacob grinned ear to ear. I am still perplexed at how he could get the sentence out so clearly through his insane giggle fit but I heard it, plain as day…
“I bet Fuck Rogers would like a happy ending!”
In the words of Emmet from The Lego Movie,
G. O. S. H.”
What do I do? Do I scold him for it and risk a meltdown? Do I laugh and risk that he’ll repeat it for days on end and probably while we are out in public?
This is what I live with on a daily basis. I have to weigh everything carefully. Is Jacob primed for a meltdown or will he lose consciousness from hysterical laughter without me ever saying a word? How was his mood 5 minutes ago? How was it an hour ago? How has it been all day? How did he react when I told him to take a shower? How did he respond when I said that it was time for him to take his meds? Will my reaction send him into a rage or make his laughter worse? Can I redirect him? What if I can’t redirect him? What if my attempt at redirection sends him into a rage or meltdown or hysterics? Will I ever be able to take him out in public again? How safe is my furniture? How safe are my walls and doors?
How important is it that I react to his joke at all?
So many questions run through my mind and this is just one incident. I am mentally exhausted 24/7 from thinking too hard about what Jacob will do next. It’s my life.
It turned out that with this particular joke, hiding my face in my shirt and telling Jacob that I wasn’t laughing was enough of a response. He called me a liar, fixated on his cleverness for the next hour and let it go before I lost my mind. Whew!! If only every day was like this but sadly, I have to live with the times that he cannot be consoled and my house turns into his personal punching bag.
I never really know from one day to the next what mood Jacob will be in. I wish I could gauge the entire day based on how he woke up in the morning. Most days are good so I have that hope to cling to and it makes it easier to roll with the bad ones. He truly is so much better than he was even a couple of years ago. Medication has helped but I also think that he has matured somewhat and is more able to recognize his own moods and articulate them to us.
Humour is a big part of how we deal with Jacob and we use jokes as ammunition against him during some of his tough times. The trick is getting it in at just the right time; usually before he shuts down his brain and in between shouting spurts LOL.
This joke is one of our current faves. One line can be brought up at the first sign of a meltdown and most likely help to diffuse a bad situation.
The whole joke is as follows:
“While out hiking in Alberta Canada with my girlfriend we were surprised by a huge grizzly bear charging at us from out of nowhere.
The ferocious grizzly must have been protecting her cubs because she was extremely aggressive.
If I had not had my little Beretta Jetfire with me I would not be here today!
Just one shot to my girlfriend’s knee cap was all it took… the bear got her and I was able to escape by just walking away at a brisk pace.
It’s one of the best pistols in my collection.”
Since then, many a major meltdown has been avoided simply by reciting “One shot to my girlfriend’s kneecap was all it took…” He’ll start laughing (even if he doesn’t want to) and the crisis will be averted for the time being. Timing is everything, however.
Humour is a huge part of our lives and though I sometimes forget it and go off the deep end myself, it truly is the best way to live in a house where everything is so unpredictable. Laughter can definitely be the best medicine when it comes to Jacob.