Friday, May 16, 2014

How sweet it is! (Part 2) also by Francesca Amendolia

(Start with part one here.)

The riptide looked like this: my autistic son hit puberty and went to pieces. We tried him on a medication that made him manic and suicidal and proclaim allegiance to the great Sock God (we stopped the meds, obviously). I started to spend more time sitting outside his classroom than I did at home. My husband was facing down the last months before his tenure review, and my daughter was feeling neglected. I was trying to work forty hours a week, write a book, and I was in a pared-down, six actor touring production of Romeo and Juliet. I coped. I staggered on. Every day I got up and did the job in front of me and then went to bed and then got up and did it all over again. Every day.

Then we decided something had to change, so we enrolled our son in cyberschool, which, by the way, is a fancy word for "homeschooling with no control over the curriculum." Every day I sat with him for six or seven hours, struggling to help him focus, to help him regulate himself, breaking down tasks into steps he could manage, holding him when he melted down, sobbing in my lap like a toddler. I cut down my work hours, but I still worked at night, on weekends. I stopped writing. It was incredibly intense and difficult (and ultimately, very rewarding), and while I saw him for all the moments of all the days, I saw no one else. I stopped going out. I stopped talking to people. I used up everything I had and more, until I had nothing left to reach out with. I had no energy to ask for help.

But you know what was ALWAYS there? Always comforting? Always ready?

Or cake.
Or chocolate.
Or sesame bagels toasted and spread with butter and cream cheese. Maybe two.
Leftover Halloween candy.
Homemade challah.
Homemade any bread at all.

And little by little, I found myself again in thrall. Once again, I found myself regularly wandering through the kitchen looking for comfort, something to help me through the next hour. Once again, I wasn't choosing what I ate. I ate what I craved. And I consciously fed my exhaustion. Sugar was my safety net, and I was falling into it over and over.

Still, everything that had been true about sugar was still true, and now I felt like I was consciously choosing to poison myself. Which, you know, is kinda insane. So I decided to stop. Again.

This time, it took months. Every day I'd start, every day I'd surrender. Then the click happened (I never know why the click happens when it does. It's like those little pop-up suction cup toys that you press down really hard and then wait for them to spring up into the air with a POP, hopefully missing your nose.) I stopped.

And braced myself for two weeks of feeling like complete crap. But I didn't. Almost immediately I began to feel better again, less depressed, less overwhelmed. Less mean. Less (thank the gods, because I could hardly stand myself) needy. It was shockingly easy. My inner Catholic girl was almost irritated. Where was my penance, damn it? Luckily, my sane outer adult took charge, and I decided to be grateful instead. And eat more brie. Lots more. Hooray! I thought. I'm back on track and now I'll be good forevvvvvver. And then I nearly smacked myself because I am not a CBS Afterschool Special, and nothing is ever fixed. Nothing is solved. Nothing stays the same.

Maria's dealing with a particularly traumatic detour right now, but here's the thing. Life is all detour. We aim at things, we forge paths through our personal wildernesses, we might even find a bit of really well-paved road and think that we've finally found our way. But our way is all the detours and forged paths and bits of paved roads and cliff edges and deep pits and blockades that we wander along or around in our lives all strung together. What looks like a detour is really just another piece of our journey.

So whither next? Who knows. I'm just putting one (for now, sugar-free) foot in front of the other.

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