One of the things I truly struggle with, when it comes to Monkey—still—is that he is pretty much a black belt master in rationalization. He has an answer, a justification, an explanation, for EVERYTHING.
Most of the time his conclusions make no sense whatsoever. They come off as elaborate, implausible lies invented by someone who is the world’s worst liar. I often look at him and wonder HOW someone so smart can think that what he’s saying makes any sense at all. But then I (slowly, and with many internal “DUH!”s) realize that this is what life with Asperger’s is like for him; so many things make no sense to him. What we tell him is “right” sometimes feels ridiculous, so the stuff he invents as explanation seems plausible to him, because what is real-world plausible feels similarly ridiculous. (Did that make your head hurt? It made mine hurt.)
Sometimes the things he says totally delight me, because they’re hilarious. Other times they scare the hell out of me, because the conclusions he draws (particularly before/during/after meltdowns) are dark and dangerous. And other times they give me tiny little priceless insights.
Like, take today. I don’t know if you’ve looked at a weather map, today, but Atlanta and the surrounding areas are in the grips of a SNOWPOCALYPSE! School is canceled. The university is closed. Basically the town is completely shut down, because we have seven inches of snow and now it’s sleeting. Those aren’t ideal driving conditions even in New England, but in Georgia it’s a major crisis, you know, because we don’t have salt or snowplows or anyone who has any idea of how to drive in crappy conditions.
Monkey was to serve his suspension today, and was delighted, last night, when the news that school would be closed came through. This means Chickadee is home to play with him! And Otto, too! Hooray!
I think he made it all the way to about, oh, maybe 8:30 before he asked if he could have Lemur over to play. Because ISN’T IT GREAT that no one else is at school, either?
I explained that the reason no one else was at school is because the roads are treacherous and no one is driving anywhere, which would make having a playdate… impossible. This was a complete news flash to him, that there might be a reason not to get in a car. He was very disappointed.
Later, Chickadee asked if she could go to a friend’s house this afternoon. I told her that was fine. Monkey became IRATE… until I pointed out that said friend lives within walking distance. Again, it was as though first, this had never occurred to him, and second, once it was made clear, surely it was a plot by the universe designed to make his life suck more, that his friend lives a few miles away and Chickadee’s is only around the corner.
Now. When I try to explain to people about Monkey not processing illness like a neurotypical person, it’s usually met by confusion and maybe even skepticism. I’ve seen it here, even, where I struggle to explain how he is and I can see that there’s an undercurrent of “that cannot possibly be true” reaction.
All I can think is that if you are constantly bombarded by that which makes no sense and/or feels weird, you grow comfortable constructing explanations that support a position of “this is perfectly normal and I’m just being weird.”
So. This morning Monkey came to show me something he was building out of Lego. He brought it into the kitchen while Otto and I were getting coffee. With a flourish and a giant grin, he held it out for us to admire.
And his hands were shaking.
“Monkey, are you cold?” I asked him, mama-senses tingling.
“What? No, I’m fine,” he said. “Thank you…?” he added, unsure if this was a time to use good manners to thank me for my concern.
“Are you sure?” I pressed. “Here, let me have this a minute.” I took his Lego creation and set it down. “Put your hands out in front of you like a zombie, please.”
He giggled and complied. His fingers shook and twitched of their own accord. His arms waved up and down, just slightly.
Otto and I exchanged a look.
“Are you sure you’re not cold, pal?” asked Otto.
“Nope, I’m good,” he answered, while I pulled him close and felt his head.
“No fever,” I said, mostly to Otto. “Hey buddy, how about you go put your robe on for a few minutes, and then I’ll come take another look at you, okay?”
He shrugged, but agreed, and went off to put on his robe. He wandered back downstairs into my office a few minutes later, and I asked him to hold out his hands again. He was still shaking.
Now. Last week we were directed to up one of his medications; I did a quick Google search and tremor seems to be a not-uncommon side effect with that particular med. I’m not going to tell you I wasn’t freaked out, because I was (am), but I also know that it’s probably the medication. I called his doctor and he wasn’t terribly concerned; discontinue the med, symptoms should resolve in a couple of days.
On the other hand, we still have the unexplained seizure. We still have the oh-maybe-this-weirdo-sinus-infection-from-hell-is-pressing-places-on-his-brain-it-shouldn’t worry, and here we are on a day when our town is literally iced into a standstill, dealing with a new symptom that is probably a medication side effect, but what if it isn’t?
And then, in the midst of all of that, we have Monkey. Dear, sweet, rationalizing Monkey. “It’s okay, Mama,” he says to me, reading the concern on my face. “It’s nothing. I think my hands have been doing that for, I dunno, maybe a few days or a week already. It’s not bothering me.”
As I gaped at him I had one of those “DUH!” moments. He is so utterly unable to notice/understand his body and its goings-on that he’ll just backward-construct an explanation that seems plausible to him. Like that it’s been happening for DAYS, maybe a whole WEEK! And it’s no biggie! Don’t sweat it!
I know it only started today, because we spent all day yesterday together. Yesterday I was lounging on the couch watching television while Otto and Chickadee ran some errands, and Monkey quietly sat down next to me, then stretched out and draped himself over my lap and fell asleep. In the middle of the day. I had rubbed his back and stroked his hair and marveled at how calm he is in slumber, when his waking moments are sometimes so stormy.
Yesterday his hands did not shake. Today they do. And Monkey not only didn’t notice it today, he’s perfectly willing to assume he hasn’t noticed it for quite a while. Because his reality, every day, is composed of things that make no sense to him. (Which leaves me wondering what ELSE isn’t quite right, that he doesn’t notice or cannot talk about, and we are left to puzzle out or overlook. On Friday, when he lost it and freaked out, his hands didn’t shake, but was there something else?)
It’s the meds. I’m sure it’s the meds. In a couple of days he’ll be tremor-free again. Because it’s pretty cold comfort knowing that even if he’s not, he’ll probably have an explanation for it.