Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aggression Part 2

In my last entry I explained how Tyler's aggression generally works.  Today's entry will deal with the ramifications all of us experienced and continue to experience.

First I want to add a disclaimer.  We have never believed that Tyler wants to hurt anyone, especially us.  His aggression, we believe, has been rooted in his inability to communicate and process how he feels.  It has never caused us to admire him or love him any less.

With that said, there are very few things more emotionally devastating than having your loved one become physical or verbally violent against you.  Knowing that the one you are caring for is not able to comprehend the effects of their actions is of little solace.  Its something that we can rationalize all we want, but feeling it is an entirely different matter.

In our house, my wife was the primary recipient of Tyler's aggression for years.  I look back and I feel just terrible about that.  She dreaded my business trips because she knew it could turn into a very bad time.  I was helpless because I had to earn a living so I felt like I had little choice in the matter.  My work days were spent holding my breath and looking at my watch....finally able to breathe when I knew Tyler was likely in bed for the night.  I dreaded calling home for fear of hearing the bad news about what I was missing.  I felt guilty about not being there to help, and in fact likely causing more aggression with my absence.  I felt inadequate as a provider and a protector.  I was frustrated that as bad as it was to be on the road, it was worse to have to always hear about the problems at home.  It made me feel alone and defeated.  There were times I felt like quitting, and almost did.

It was 10 times worse for Robin.  She had to endure the anxiety of knowing I would always have another trip coming up.  Even when I didn't travel, Tyler would find reasons to sneak in a kick to the shin or a punch to the arm.  She never asked for or deserved a single one of these actions.  There were times that the bruises on her forearms (and she does naturally bruise easily) made strangers wonder if she was being beaten at home.  She had to take our daughter to a relative's or friend's house each night when I traveled because it wasn't safe for Sam to be with them without me there.  She had to be on edge in a much different way.

Sam was also effected by the aggression.  It still is hard for her to understand why we had to protect her from her own brother.  She beams from ear to ear when she sees him but the feeling is not mutual.  When Tyler would head in her direction she had to duck out of sight so he wouldn't get angry.  It put extra stress on her and it took her a few months after he moved away to realize she was free to move about without worry.

Tyler suffered too.  You could see that he very much disliked feeling that way.  He hangs his head when he strikes out at someone or something.  He loves to smile and be happy, but when he would be in a darker place you could read it all over his face.  He wasn't happy, which made him aggressive, which made him unhappy, and so on.  

The aggression was a battle we were all losing and we were all at serious risk in different ways.  All of us were battling forms of depression and/or anxiety that was doing nothing but fueling the fire.  I would look at Tyler and silently plead with him that if he could just learn to live happily without the violence we would all stay together for many years.  To me it felt like a "simple" thought and yet knowing that its far more complex.  There was no pill to fix it, no magic words, no secret technique.  As the years continued we felt as though our little boy who loved to give massive hugs had slipped further away.

Aggression, whether by a child on the spectrum, or a parent with dementia, is frightening, isolating, and dangerous.  Not only can the aggressor do damage to property or other people, but it lands them at risk for being abused by others in retaliation.  This aspect must be handled with the help of professionals.  You cannot retreat and suffer in silence due to feeling guilty or ashamed.  There are medications, therapies, etc. that can help in the short term, and help open possibilities for the long term.  If you are experiencing this situation you need to reach out and seek help for yourself and your loved one.  Neither of you will survive the long term unless the situation is addressed.  

In the next entry I will address the things we did right, and what we did wrong, in how we dealt with our own circumstances.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

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