Emotional Pain vs. Physical Pain

When I was a kid if I stubbed my toe I yelped then cried.  If I had a tummy ache I held my tummy and acted sick.  Headache?  I avoided loud places and went to lay down.  When someone asked what was wrong I could usually say “my toe hurts” or at least point to the ouchy spot.

Last week I had a refresher course in the uniqueness of a child with Autism.

My sweet Rosebud and I have been working specifically on keeping our hands and feet to ourselves among other things.  Last week it was like she had reverted back to the three year old who needed attention and used her hands to get it. Hitting, poking, grabbing people.  Geting in others faces and yelling loudly, spitting, screaching, and laughing at FULL VOLUME.

Thursday she was mildly annoying. 3 minute time outs were down to 28 minutes, including cleanup time.  By Friday the behaviors were obnoxious, plus now she was reverting to wetting her pants every hour.  By Sunday her obnoxious behaviors became downright dangerous (throwing hard objects at people’s heads) and a 3 minute time out stretched to just under 2 hours.  All day long it was wailing and crying from one child or another…and sometimes from myself!

Mommas you have been there, haven’t you?  You do x, y, and z that the ABA Therapist tells you should work.  You get a good measure of success but then something happens.  It all falls apart and you think “What could I be doing wrong? This SHOULD be working! It has been working” and you blame yourself for failure.

I was in a very frail emotional place Saturday night after several hours of being the non-reactive, calm parent.  I locked up everything Rosebud could get into, left her with her older sister, and took the younger 4 children out of the house for a drive in the torrential rain.  Begging God to help somehow, a song came on the radio by Matthew West:

“I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be. I give up. I’m not strong enough. Hands of mercy won’t you cover me? Lord right now I’m asking you to be strong enough. I’m not strong enough.
…I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  I don’t have to be strong enough.”

Sunday morning there were no clean pants left in the entire house for Rosebud after her three days of incontinence.  I told her to wear an old pair of pajama pants, and went to church.  I left her in the care of a nice lady in childrens church who was given instructions to not let her near enough to her siblings to touch or harrass them, and to take her to the bathroom every 30 minutes just in case.

I went in to worship God.  The pastor spoke about being on fire for the Lord even through our hardest days.  He shared a story about a friend’s faith even though his daughter was medically fragile from birth.  Anothers faith through a separation.  And as the sermon went on I told God that I give up, I’m not strong enough.  But you would never guess what happened next.

Service was over and I went to gather the children.  Rosebud had made it almost all the way through the service staying dry.  Almost.

On the way home I had an “a-ha!” moment.  I asked Rosebud “does it hurt when you pee?” And she got all teary eyed and said “YES!”

Rosebud was suffering from a very real, incredibly painful urinary tract infection.  Because of the way her brain is wired, she could not tell me.  It was real physical pain that brought her good behavior to a screatching halt!  There was a real, definite cause to her seeming “reversion” to when she was younger (incontinence, massive hours of meltdowns, hurting people).

I stopped blaming myself and started begging God to be strong enough for both of us.  I give God the credit for this one folks!  He brought the UTI possibility to my mind.  He loosened her tongue and tears when I asked her if it hurt, so she could give me an accurate answer.

After a trip to urgent care Sunday, her medicines started working and she is just about back to her gregarious, fun-loving self.  She is back to responding well to the ways I’ve learned to encourage proper behavior.  I’ve got my Rosebud back!

Thank you Lord for being strong when I am weak!

Here she is (with her siblings and schoolmates) singing this very same song:


One thought on “Emotional Pain vs. Physical Pain

  1. I recognize your strength, fortitude and resilience. I want to offer you praise for how you have been dealing with things and encouragement that things will eventually get better. Words are trifling at best and are extremely insufficient for how I feel about you and how proud I am of you. Know that God sees all that you do and loves you all the more for your obedience to Him.

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