Drugs! It took a little while to get back to my cure for autism blog. The reason being that I feel a lot of anxiety about this because it will be the hardest cure to write about so far. In retrospect, I am not sure we could have coped any differently. Back in my day we didn’t have blogs, the Internet, or even many books on how to cope with a violently autistic family member. There certainly were not any books written by siblings for siblings. How does a dysfunctional family cope with almost 2 decades of constant stress and daily episodes of violence? We lived in fight or flight mode for almost twenty years! Twenty years!! Doctors could only offer one basic solution to our constant stress, medications to treat our symptoms. Every single person in our household was medicated at one point or another.
Besides being autistic, Matt had a myriad of mental and physical health issues. He was given several different anti-psychotic medications. Some made him like a zombie, limp like a rag doll. Mom couldn’t stand that. Others didn’t seem to do much of anything or had side effects that were intolerable. One drug made him stiff as a board and he needed assistance doing simple things like walking up stairs.
My dad had several ulcers. He was impatient, angry, and seriously depressed. I often worried when I came home to a completely quiet house that I would find that he had killed himself. He was distant, dispondent, or storming around the house angry about something. My mom was was always full of worry, anxiety, and self-doubt. Always afraid to make the wrong decision, perfectionistic. Her teeth were constantly clenched.
Then there was me. Outwardly, I had it all or so most people thought. I turned down the opportunity to have a career in modeling to go to college which was paid for in full by my family. I always had my pick in men. I drove a red firebird in high school. I can honestly say that I had someone pass a semi in the pouring rain in a no passing zone on a two lane highway just to try to get my phone number. Do you hate me now? Most of the other girls did.
Inwardly, I was a mess. I couldn’t sleep at night. I would go long periods of time without eating much. Every time I ate I would feel nauseous and my stomach burned. My grades dropped because I couldn’t concentrate in school. I was put on a high dose of amphetamines which did help my ability to focus but was like drinking 10 cups of coffee. I started scratching my skin, picking at scabs, pulling out my hair. I had issues with anxiety, hyper vigilance, and obsessive compulsive tendencies. I was seriously depressed. I was prescribed the highest doses available of anti-depressants. I felt like a zombie, totally numb to all feelings. Some drugs made me sleep 18 hours a day, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, but nothing made my environment change. I could tell when the medicines weren’t working for me when I had nightmares. I dreamed that cats were clawing up my body or birds were pecking at my skin, my skin crawled. The worst thing that happened was that I was prescribed the highest dose of Prozac and became downright unconsolable. I grabbed a bottle of pills, locked myself in my room, threatened suicide, and ended up spending a couple of days in the psych ward. But I wasn’t the only one in the house thinking of my own demise. Mark was also very depressed and was having problems focusing in school. He would hang nooses in the tree next to our house for my mother to find in the morning. He was quiet in school and at times was a target for bullies because of it. He really wanted the pain to end, perhaps even more than I did.
Luke was hyperactive and couldn’t concentrate in school. He was always moving around in his chair, tapping his pencil, and annoying the teachers. He was medicated for ADHD. Luke dealt with the stress by partying hard. Sometimes my parents would find him out in the yard in the morning. That was if he even came home at all.
Still no cure, not for any of us.
(We are all living relatively happy lives now. I promise I will write about something light and fluffy tomorrow!)