Bad Days, Part 2: Coping Mechanisms

Today I walked Foxtears to work, hung around the office a while for them to settle in, then sat in on a chat with one of the office seniors. I was there, we briefly explained, because Foxtears was having a bad time. I might be necessary if their verbal skills temporarily disappeared.

The meat of the conversation was brief and went smoothly enough: Foxtears wants to be back at work, but it takes effort to get back into things, and the open-plan office environment is extremely taxing in and of itself. The noise, the size and shape of the space, the constant movement of people around and especially behind Foxtears. We discussed potential accommodations, and Foxtears stayed coherent, but stress had triggered a familiar response: they itched, all over, and the stimulus was unbearable.

As we left the building to take Foxtears home, they said to me, “You know, at the Judge Rotenberg Centre, they use aversives to stop self-injurious behaviour. But whatever they did to me, I don’t think I could stop right now.” I’ve seen Foxtears clawing at their own face and arms before; it’s not easy to watch. It’s easy to understand why a parent, particularly of a small child with limited communication, would be desperate for it just stop. But it’s inconceivable for anyone to think that the right way to manage a stress response is to punish it, rather than address the stress.

We took the long way home: did some nonessential shopping, spent some sitting in a safe space, then finally tucked ourselves under a blanket on our sofa. Distracted and comforted Foxtears as much as possible, removed them from a high-stress environment to somewhere comfortable, and had patience.

It hasn’t been a good day. But bad days not a problem or a failing. They’re normal and human, and we dealt with it – like any humans – by making it better, the best ways we knew how.

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