This life can be so hard to process, can’t it? It’s moving faster than I am and I don’t have time to catch my breath, let alone ponder the past or the future. It’s all about the present.  I find myself wanting to share tonight not because I’ve finally found the time to catch my breath, but because today made me gasp, and that’s a sort of breath in its own right.

We were on our way into the bank. Javan had had a very good morning AND a nap, so we had a better than average chance of success. But on the way in, Javan stepped in an anthill in the sidewalk. He is deathly afraid of ants. His scream was so intense that it sent that instinctive emergency-grade motherly protection through me instantly. I saw that the anthill was empty: no ants. He couldn’t process that. It didn’t make it okay. I got him calmed down and we went inside. He was clinging to me in a tight hug as we waited in line for the teller to advance us to her station. Then he was hiding from her behind the “please wait here” sign. And then she called me forward. He rushed at her. This is what he looked like:

Image from

Thumper the Grasshopper.   Image from

I knew with a clarity I normally don’t possess in the middle of…that…what was going on. That’s Thumper the Grasshopper! From the movie “A Bug’s Life!” Do you know who Thumper is terrifying in that picture? An ANT. The teller represented an ant to him: a threat. He had determined this to be a dangerous place and so she must be a dangerous person. He was protecting me. By the way, the sound Thumper makes is this snarling, growling sound. Very intimidating. Not really your typical bank noise. So, I manage to coax him into a seat, explaining that she was safe and we were in a safe place. He didn’t buy it. I gave him a sucker. That worked somewhat better.

What I didn’t do, that I normally would have, was scold him. I told him we can’t make faces or sounds like that to other people, but he wasn’t in trouble. Because I saw this situation through his eyes. I knew that he was responding to a perceived threat. I saw the anthill and the ants that weren’t there. And I wondered, how many times do I miss the anthill? How many times do I yell and berate and, you know, other things I shouldn’t do, or even justifiable punishments like time outs…because I don’t see the anthill that’s so huge and obvious and threatening to him? I only see his actions as actions, as choices, rather than what they may really be: reactions. Reactions to things that may not even be real to me. And how must it feel to him when I punish him for reacting to the ants? Maybe even reacting to save me from them? No wonder he gets so angry with me. No wonder he sometimes refuses to trust me. To him, my behavior and reactions in those situations must make no sense whatsoever. To him, it must feel so unfair when I punish him. He doesn’t know I can’t see the ants.

It’s so easy to see his hitting, growling, rudeness, and just punish. And I’m not saying I won’t or shouldn’t punish. I’m not actually sure “should” will ever exist for me or my family again. I’m just saying I wish I could see better. I wish I could see the anthills and the ants that he sees. The threats and the things of this world that he perceives so differently. I wish I could understand.

But Javan’s version of reality will always be different from mine, and as much as I strive to see what he sees and understand his version of the truth and what is real, and as many tiny glimpses as I get into  his world, I’ll never really get it. The truth is, his version of reality seems to be getting farther and farther from the norm. More and more of the things he does are so completely out of the norm that comprehension totally fails me. Some of them are dangerous, some are hurtful, some are just different. More and more of the thoughts he thinks seem so bizarre and I don’t know where those thoughts could possibly be coming from.

Things seem more dire right now because his medication just isn’t working to keep these – delusions? – at bay. We’re in week two of a six week medicine change, weaning off one med and slowly introducing another. The medicine change could possibly help. It could also possibly make things worse. Whatever is happening, his psychiatrist does not feel that it is autism related. It is most likely the bipolar mood disorder. We go to a new specialist in two days to do three and a half hours of psychological testing to determine Javan’s level of reality testing. That means, can he tell what is real and what is not and how often can he tell those things? Maybe this will at least give me some clue as to how many anthills there are, even if I can’t see them.


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