We were invited away for lunch yesterday and on Saturday evening I casually mentioned to Dean that I need to text his sister to see if we are supposed to bring place settings.
A short while later Joseph's began giggling hysterically, a sure sign that something is wrong. I asked him if he has big feelings but he denied that he does, so I told him to sit on a chair and tap. Tapping gets the two sides of the brain to work together and sometimes the child can then figure out what is bothering him. Joseph wasn't impressed because he honestly had no idea what he was feeling.
I asked him to tell me some of the feelings he has sometimes. He started with worried, which supported my hunch about what was bugging him. With my help he was also able to list mad, sad, scared and happy.
I asked Joseph if there is something that is worrying him. He said there isn't so I asked him to tell me about some things that do worry him. He immediately said, "When we go away and there are lot's of people."
"Can you tell me some places where there are lot's of people?" I asked. He said, "When the whole family gets together." Meaning mine and Dean's brothers and sisters.
"Did I say anything about any of them recently?" I asked and he thought for a bit before shrugging his shoulders.
"I said something about them when we were eating," I said. "Do you know what I said?" He shook his head but then he said, "They are probably coming here." I assured him that they aren't and his face brightened. Let me clarify that there isn't anything about our extended family's that give him big feelings, it is groups of people that unnerve him. Even going to church has been upsetting him lately, it seems being in a crowd drains his brain of it's ability to function.
People with FASD often have a hard time understanding their feelings. They need someone to come alongside them, someone to help sort through their emotions and reactions to situations. Joseph would have gone to bed tonight overwhelmed with big feelings and most likely he would have thrown a tantrum because he didn't understand the anxious feelings he had inside.
Because of their inability to define individual feelings, they are all jumbled into a ball we call "big feelings." Big feelings can be brushed under the carpet but trust me, they will return with a vengeance at a later time. When they return they bring along all kinds of additional feelings that were attracted to the ball of undefinable feelings. Then you have to pick them apart, kind of like un-knotting a string that has multiple knots, if you pull to hard on one knot or big feeling, the whole mess just gets worse. The key is to catch those big feelings and lay them out on the table before they have a chance to grow. The trouble is, who feels like beginning a chat that has to potential to last hours?
I wrote this post on Saturday evening then left it as a draft, never completing it. After this hair raising day I came back to it and was reminded that there are bright spots in this ongoing challenge called trauma parenting, amazing how quickly I can forget them!