When it’s 2:00 a.m. and you’re wide awake, what are you worrying about? Where is your anxiety hyper-focused so you can’t go back to sleep?
I ask because we all have suffered with one or more of the following questions. Having children on the autism spectrum in a school setting, regardless if the school is specifically for these children or not, is tough.
Possible questions that are keeping you up when you should be sleeping:
Did your child have another “incident” at school and you’re scared they’re going to be kicked out?
Do you think your child might be experimenting with drugs (or already addicted)?
Is your child hanging out with someone new who you don’t feel good about?
Is your child moodier than you’ve ever experienced and are they pulling away from you?
Did you say something you wish you hadn’t said to your child and are you feeling completely guilty?
What about your partner or their other parent? Is that creating a difficult space for you or your child?
Do you fantasize about sending your child away to boarding school to only visit on weekends during the summer?
Are you afraid that your child is going to seriously injure themselves, you, or someone else?
Have you caught your child sitting in a dark room staring at the ceiling more than you would like?
Is your child constantly on their computer or video screen? Are you scared to ask them to stop? Do you have holes in your walls from your child throwing things?
These are things we have to think about and deal with, and when we love our kids and are devoted to their well-being, we can’t sleep at night. We are filled with anxiety and that is no bueno.
I’m proud to introduce you to ALABEL!
Have you met ALABEL (pronounced Al – uh – bell) yet? She’s your new late-night best friend!
Here’s how she can help–just follow the letters of her name:
Acknowledge that your mind is playing tricks on you! You might not feel safe, but it is a perceived threat when you are sitting safely in your bedroom or home. Seriously, if you look around, you might not see anything out of place. You might not be hearing a child screaming. There may be no immediate issue needing your attention.
When I wrote about one of my PTSD incidents, I described my surroundings so that I could acknowledge where I was and help get out of my mental loop. To calm down, I wrote:
In this moment, it is clear that I am suffering from some version of lizard-brain PTSD. I have to get myself through the next ten minutes. I have to breathe. I have to talk myself down from this scary mental ledge. “It’s going to be okay,” I whisper to myself. I breathe again.
I notice my hands on the steering wheel. I say, “I am okay.” I add, “My hands are on the steering wheel.” I continued with facts about my immediate environment, “The steering wheel is gray” and “My hands are holding on tightly to the steering wheel.” “Nobody is screaming right now.”
I continue to say other helpful things to myself so I can calm down. I try to notice my breath. I try desperately to relieve my mental panic mode.
And that is how I acknowledged the truth of my surroundings in that moment so I could get through to the next step, which is to . . .
Listen to the messages your mind is wrapped up in so you can be very clear about the exact cause of your anxiety. These thoughts are important to listen to and understand so we can acknowledge and listen to the fear/worry/concern that you are experiencing in that moment.
You’ll be able to get out of the loop that your brain is creating just by listening to the root of the fear and acknowledging it’s there. Once you acknowledge and listen to your experience in that moment, the next step is to . . .
This next step is so critical. Accept that you are having a human experience. You can say to yourself, “I’m a perfect human being in this moment and I am working hard to be aware of what’s happening in right now so that I can move forward from here. I accept that I am in a mental loop.
“I will work now to calm myself so I can get back to sleep. I accept this moment as it is. I understand I can take helpful actions to help calm my mind.
“I accept the system ALABEL wants to guide me through. I accept that I can calm my fears in this moment. Tomorrow I can take action to help alleviate the root of my anxiety, but for this moment I’m here and I’m OK.”
And while you are doing this, be sure to . . .
Another critical step anytime we are working to calm ourselves down is to breathe.
Breathing is totally self-explanatory, but when we do it with the sole purpose of calming down, we’ll be more in control of our 2:00 a.m. anxiety much faster. Here are a few resources I think will help you:
So we’re acknowledging the space we’re in, listening to what our mind is telling us, accepting that this is completely OK, and now we’re breathing. If you’re still in difficult space, one of the very most helpful things is to . . .
If you’re still working through this difficult moment (and that’s what this is, one moment in time), pull out a notebook, grocery list pad, paper towels, or whatever you can get your hands on with the closest pen or pencil and just start writing.
If you need more guidance than that, you can start out by writing, “In this moment I am experiencing . . . ” and just keep writing. And write. Jab the paper with your pen (as quietly as possible, of course, because other people are probably sleeping), but write down everything that is moving from your mind to your hand. Write down all of the feelings! Or talk to someone safe if they’re happy to help you through this moment, or speak into a recorder, or get crayons out, or take a long drive and talk it out loud by yourself if that’s safe, or . . . just get out what you’re holding in.
Finally, as you wind your way down from this anxious moment, always remember to . . .
6. Love Yourself
I think this is the most important part of our healing process. ALABEL wants you to love yourself as much as she loves you.
I firmly believe that self-love is one of the most important practices for humanity and one that has a deficit on every continent and street corner in the world. The truth is that if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably working really hard at this parenting and life thing. You’ve seen tantrums like nobody’s business. You’ve been scared for the safety of the people you love most. You strive to learn to increase your skill set for not just your kids, but for yourself and your entire family.
Anxiety is natural, and it’s a sign that you really care about yourself and your children (those with and without special needs). You want things to go well and you want to do your best and you definitely want your children to be happy and achieve their full potential in their lives, whatever that might look like. That goal and desire in itself for anyone on the autism spectrum is incredibly loving. It’s a sure tell-sign that you are a lovable human being who’s having a heightened human experience.
ALABEL wants to help you anytime you need her and she’s so glad to meet you!
Again, ALABEL wants you to acknowledge your experience, listen to what you’re scared of, accept that everything is OK in the moment, breathe through the entire experience, express what needs to get out so you can move forward, and mostly love yourself exactly as you are as you move through that difficult space.
Once you are calm and have gone back to sleep, hopefully you will know that you can make any changes you need to make. There are next steps you can do. There is a solution to each and every difficulty.
So if you’re afraid your child is going to be kicked out of school, contact your school administrators and share your concern. You might cry when you talk to them and that is completely OK. At least they’ll know your fear, and they will be able to say, “Yes, one more incident and we will be asking your child to leave” at which time you can start finding another school so you have a plan. Or they might say, “We understand your concern and we hope that we’ll be able to work with your child so they can have a productive, intellectually stimulating time here with us learning life lessons and creating a loving community in the process.” Wouldn’t that be so lovely?
You have power.
You have options.
You are loved.
ALABEL is here to help you anytime you have a sleepless night filled with anxiety and I’m here to help you how I can as well.
Please share anything that you thought about ALABEL and any sleepless nights you’ve been having in the comments below. We are a community of loving parents and Aspies and people on the autism spectrum who are doing the best we can to live fabulous, expressive, full lives. And with that goal come a few sleepless nights. With our lives comes anxiety. Let’s work with the tools we have to make those sleepless nights fewer and farther between.
Huge love to you and thank you as always for being here,
Do you have anything you’d like to share with me? I’m here and happy to listen and share, just hit reply and email me. <3