About 10 minutes or so into the Blogging Autism panel at BlogHer, the table surface started to get all fuzzy and my eyeballs felt hot. "Shit, I'm not gonna make it," I mumbled to Christina, as we'd already briefly debated the odds of getting through the session without crying.
Nothing had even been SAID yet, beyond introductions to the panelists and the theme for the discussion, and yet there I was, hiding my reddening face behind my conference schedule as the weight of the previous days with Noah decided to drop from the ceiling and land squarely on my chest.
"It's just been a really bad week," I whispered as my neighbors patted my back and scrambled for tissues, probably wondering what the HELL had managed to happen in that 10-minute timespan, because I'd all but floated in like, WHAT UP BITCHES, LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU WITH ANECDOTES AND EXAGGERATED HAND GESTURES. ALSO, MY SHOES ARE CUTE, NO?
Just a few days before, Noah had a panic attack. A really, really bad one. And while we've certainly dealt with anxiety and freak-outs in the past, this was...different. Worse. Especially because goddammit, wasn't he doing so much BETTER, a few weeks ago? We're supposed to be moving forward, onward, upward. So why are we rewinding?
And so I sat there, trying to squeeze the image of Noah's furious balled-up little fist swinging at (and making contact with) Jason's face out of my brain, along with the bewildered, terrified face he had immediately after, his wide eyes desperate with guilt and fear over that involuntary fight-or-flight gesture. A few minutes later, he'd kick me in the chest while screaming NO HANDS, NO HANDS! at the top of his lungs.
A half hour later, his hands would still be shaking, his breathing ragged.
(I wrote a little bit about this night over at The Stir, but for the sake of completeness here: This was all over a Star Wars DVD. One of his little friends had told him The Phantom Menace was kind of scary. We assured him it really wasn't. By the time Jason pulled the DVD out of the Netflix sleeve, Noah's anxiety amped up to the point of no return, as if the mere presence of the movie in our house would bring about a Ring-like curse of death in seven days, or cause Jar-Jar Binks to climb out of the TV and annoy the living shit out of us for all of eternity.)
(Fucking Jar-Jar, man.)
I sat there, as the full realization and possible implications of what another violent panic attack could mean for Noah hit me for the first time, now that we've decided to fully cast our lot in with the public school, where a child who hits or breaks things can be quickly yanked from the inclusion track and tossed in the self-contained "intensive needs" unit. Would this happen again? Will this be a "thing?" A new thing or just a new symptom of his other things? Will he need medication? I don't want to put him on medication. I don't want that attack to ever happen again. I don't want him to be scared. I want him to feel safe. He was doing so well. I know these things are never linear but I WANT LINEAR. BECAUSE HE WAS DOING SO WELL.
If I hadn't been so utterly mortified to be crying in the first place, I probably would have punctuated my internal monologue with an "it's not FAIR" fist bump to the the table.
The discussion, by this point, had turned to the myths of autism -- namely, the uber-negative portrayal we all know from the media, that a Spectrum or sensory diagnosis dooms your child and family to a life sentence of misery, because it's just so "awful" and "sad" to be forever tied to a child who cannot love or laugh or live any meaningful life -- you know, because they're too busy hand-flapping in the corner and calculating out Pi to the 3.000th decimal, while you change their adult diapers and spoon-feed them pudding.
Everyone in the room laughed at the suggestion of the "misery."
And so did I.
Loud, and long, and clear.