Monday, December 12, 2011

“The Butter is Having a Meltdown”

That’s the best quote I’ve heard in a long time.  It comes from June’s 9 year old autistic son who was watching the butter melt in a pot as his mom did some holiday baking. 

I had my own meltdown this weekend and I’m not proud of it.  I got pretty cranky with Robert which always tells me it’s time to step back and take a break (although, I wish I could figure this out before I start snipping at him!). 

There are all kinds of reasons (I’m not making excuses) for the meltdown:  work is super busy this time of year, there are the extra tasks associated with the holidays (don’t get me wrong – love the holidays but adding holiday cards, parties, decorating, shopping and eating mounds of chocolate to an already busy schedule can be a bit stressful).  Then there’s all those lemon bars my body is trying to decide what to do with (is this junk food or does it count as one of the five fruits/veggies a day?). 
It was a short visit with Robert but packed full of activities.  I picked him up mid-morning on Saturday and had him change into his pajamas for a Christmas PJ party (my giant cow slippers were the hit of the party!).  I could have asked New Home to already have his pajamas on but there’s always the possibility Robert would put on pajamas that aren’t, um, clean.  Alright, they might smell.  He has a tendency to not notice if he’s wearing clothes that suffered through a protective brief leak and then dried.  I can’t have Robert wearing smelly clothes.

People already are wary of Robert because of the walker and the helmet and the slow speech and the seizures.  The last thing I want to add to his resume is “I smell like pee.”

I arrived to pick him up, had him change into some good smelling pajamas and we went to the party.  We were late but not late enough to miss out on any of the activities.  Robert won a prize (a set of Spongebob mugs with packages of hot chocolate mix) and grinned from ear to ear.
It was a full day and we all took it pretty easy when we got home that afternoon. 

So where’s the meltdown? 
Later in the evening when Robert was getting ready for bed, he had some bathroom issues.  Let’s just say he had trouble cleaning up (I think I’ve mentioned before that Robert likes to use one square piece of toilet paper to clean up.  No amount of me telling him I can afford to buy as much toilet paper as necessary seems to convince him to use more.)  I’ve even bought him wet wipes to clean up and told him he can use as many as he needs but he is determined to save some trees. 

As any caregiver will tell you, it is sometimes necessary to step in and help.  It was at this time I realized I didn’t have any gloves so had to resort to supervising the clean-up.  It was not going well because Robert was not listening to my instructions which were pretty clear:  USE MORE WIPES!  During this chaos, Robert’s pens that he had removed from his shirt pocket and set on the bathroom counter fell into the wastebasket along with all the used wipes. 
I wasn’t about to go fishing for them.   

He continued to get cleaned up (and not listen) and I could feel the crankiness well up in me and I was snippy with him while he finished up. 
(That’s not the meltdown).

Robert finally was settled in bed and I was able to relax too.  I still didn’t recognize that I might be a little stressed out.
Robert woke up the next morning and informed me he hadn’t slept all night.  He wanted to go back to bed.  This was extremely unusual but it was a weekend so I let him go back to sleep.

Right after giving him his morning meds and making him change out of his soaking wet clothes.  And changing his sheet pads.
He slept for a few more hours and was ready to face the day except there was a problem.  He didn’t have any pens.

I found him a couple of replacement pens but they were blue.  I explained they would have to do because his other pens fell into the garbage can the night before.  Robert looked at me for a long time without saying anything which is what he does when he’s unhappy with something I’m telling him.  He took the pens but clearly was unhappy with the situation.
After breakfast, he watched church on television and then I decided he should start his Christmas cards.  Last year, it took him weeks to finish his cards but I thought if I was supervising him and keeping him on task, he’d be able to finish much quicker.

He finished three in the first hour.
I should be making him do Easter cards so they’ll be done on time.

We took a lunch break and then he picked up speed.  Apparently, he needed the energy that only a PB&J, Cheeze-Its and holiday sugar cookies can give someone (you didn’t think I’d give him my Lemon Bars did you?).  He made quick work of about eight more cards. 
We are on a roll. 

Before long it was time to take him back to New Home.  Hubby tagged along for the ride so he could fix the Velcro bag on Robert’s new heavy-duty walker.  On the way out to the car, Robert heard hubby talking about going to a store for the Velcro and Robert stopped in his tracks.  Midway down the driveway, I’m trying to balance his belongings, his walker and keep an eye out for him to have a seizure and fall backwards and Robert stops. 
“Can you stop at the 99 Cent Store to buy me some pens?”

Robert, get in the car.  We’ll talk about pens later.
“But, can we stop at the 99 Cent Store to buy pens?”

Get. In. The. Car.

Hubby silently loaded the walker in the trunk and I stood by Robert to be sure he made it into the car without falling down. 
Everyone was buckled and we were off.

“Can I get some new pens?”
Robert.  I gave you pens.  You have them in your pocket.  Can you use them for a week until I can go to the store?

“They’re blue.”
Now the Butter is Having a Meltdown.

I told Robert he has pens and he can use them until next weekend.  I told him that he used to like blue pens.  I told him that I absolutely was not going to stop at the store for more pens when he had perfectly good pens in his pocket. 
“But I prefer black.”

Robert!  We don’t always get what we prefer.  (At this point, I was pretty adamant that I was teaching him something about being flexible, going with the flow, not always getting what we want, being happy with what we have).
It probably would have worked if I hadn’t come across as a mean beatch denying her disabled brother black pens. 

We stopped at the craft store for hubby to get Velcro.  Next door was a drugstore.  I went in and bought black pens.
Robert was ecstatic and I realized I just might need a little break.

(Postscript: Of course, all day today I felt guilty for losing my temper with Robert.  As luck would have it, he called me tonight to ask for my help in putting his basket back on his new walker.  Once that was explained to his care worker, Robert talked to me about his day and asked how hubby was and told me everyone loved his new walker and he loved it too.  He told me to have a good night and ended with several “God Bless Yous.”  I’m pretty sure he had no recollection of how frustrated his sister got about a couple of pens so I think I can let this guilt go).


June Sockol said...

Love the title of your blog today Trish! lol

I got upset with Garrett earlier tonight trying to get him ready for bed. About 15 minutes later, he got out of bed to apologize for not listening. I told him I was sorry for getting mad at him. He smiled and gave me a big hug then went back to bed. I still felt bad but he had already let it go.

We love our special family members but sometimes we get frustrated and blow up. Caregivers have a tough job and some days we just lose it.

Maybe have a small box with some extra things for Robert, such as black pens, cards, 7up, etc. That way you are prepared for the next time something happens.

Let your hubby know that you're feeling stressed and need some time to yourself to unwind ~ maybe a warm bath, hot cocoa, or let him know you need to talk it out. Don't beat yourself up, we've all done it. You're doing the best you can, and you really are doing a great job.

Jane said...

Hi Trish:

You are just so funny :o) I love reading your blogs.

Your "meltdown" sounds like the one I had on Sunday evening.

Robert sounds so much like Nicole but not in the respect he will use one little square of toilet paper Nicole will use what seems like too much. She is like this with a lot of things... I don't think use sparingly is in her vocabulary :o) Nicole does sound like him in the sense of his pens and wanting new ones. This would have created much stress for Nicole especially with her OCD issues.

It is very difficult being caregivers and I am a newbie at this compared to you.

I think that you are doing an excellent job and I know Robert thinks so too. If only we could move on and let it go like Robert did :o)

Jane~mom to Nicole, 17 yo, VSD, PAH, Eisenmenger's, BHJS

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

June, Thank you for your words of encouragement! (and many thanks to Garrett for such a wonderful title). I usually do keep extra supplies on hand, especially since Robert has such specific requirements (brand name, black ink, etc.). I just got caught short-handed this weekend (there's no excuse for being without gloves). We just do the best we can and move on! I love how both Garrett and Robert let these things go while we still obssess about them. :-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Jane, I appreciate you bringing up the OCD issue. I really think Robert has these tendencies because he is so routine driven and "needs" to have a certain kind of toothpaste, underarm deoderant, etc. It's impossible to convince him to use something different. The brain continues to fascinate me! I'm sorry for your meltdown on Sunday. It's clear we all have them and have to forgive ourselves and move on. Enjoy your day and give yourself a break too. :-)

Joan Oliver Emmer said...

This is a meltdown, ?????

Come to the East Coast and I'll show you a real Native-New Yorker melt-down, complete with bad words and hand gestures!!!

(Sounds like Mr. October totally sweet-talked you Trish!).

G-J said...

First, lemon bars count as a fruit. Second, it takes energy to eat mounds of chocolate! Third, you are an amazing sister and everyone should be so lucky to have a sister like you! :)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Aw, shucks, G-J! You're too sweet and thanks for clarifying the lemon bar question. ;-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Joan, I always wanted to be a native New Yorker but, sigh, I'm a native Nebraskan. I think we midwesterners boil on the inside. You are so right about Mr. October! How can I deny him his black pens? :-) (Thanks for stopping by!).

Unknown said...

Anyone who has ever been a caregiver should easily relate to this insightful post. I have meltdowns with Jon now and then. "Why can't you remember?". He has them with me, "Why can't you walk?". I edited out the swear words.
Sorry it took longer than usual for me to comment. I have been consumed over the passing of our friend, Atticus. I loved him as if he were my own. Same age as my Charlie.

Kathy Lowrey said...

This shall be my new phrase when I find myself a little overheated, shall we say! ;-)

You know, once I set my butter on the top of my microwave. Without knowing it, I caused the butter to have a melt down by just heating up a few things totally unrealted to the butter.

So I guess the story here is, especially during the holidays, it's not difficult to find ourself in the middle of a meltdown especially if enough gentle heat has been applied unaware.

I think your entitled to a melt down every now and then, I'll hold your lemon bars while you experience them. I'm a good enough friend to do that for you ;)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Kathy you are both wise and such a good friend. Not many friends would hold my lemon bars for me. :-) Thanks for giving me a smile!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Bill, No apology necessary for any delay - I understand your grief over Atticus. Meltdowns occur and I think the lesson I learned from Robert is that it's okay to let these go. No more guilt.