What flips the switch?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by firehorsewoman, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. What flips the switch in my difficult child? That is my million dollar question. A question I have pondered for about eight years.

    After a very bad Friday, a pretty bad Saturday, today was great. difficult child was a hyperactive, mess-making child that took tons of work and attention but there were zero meltdowns. There was zero violence. It was very nice. On days like this I dissect our day like a pathologist...or perhaps a detective searching for clues. What was different about today? Sure, difficult child got plenty of exercise (3 mile bike ride, 20 minute walk with dogs, two hours of ice skating) but this is pretty standard routine for us. I could not even imagine living with him not exercised and pray daily that illness nor injury ever prevent him from getting tons of it. easy child and I seemed no less annoying or irritating in my recollection ....but no complaints about us today. Same medications. Same sleep pattern. Pretty much the same diet. Same sister. Same mom.

    What flips the switch on the bad days?

    Is there even a switch that gets flipped? I don't know but that is the best way I can describe it. Although he is generally high maintenance, moody, and hyperactive all day long...the violent meltdowns feel like someone has switched him into another person entirely (violent, unreachable, unreasonable, tormented, sad, destructive.)

    I have described my difficult child's behavior troubles "like a switch gets flipped" to each and every doctor from his neurologists to the current group of psychiatrists. They all just nod and listen.

    What do you all think?
  2. bigbear11

    bigbear11 New Member

    That is the million dollar question. And it is just like a switch for us too. Sometimes, one minute we are fine and then BAM she starts escalating and it can go to violent rage (where she doesn't really even remember everything she did) in less than 5 minutes.

    It is funny... I do the same as you... really trying to look back to see what is different. The only thing that is consistant for Trex as a trigger is a really major change. Especially both of us being gone. Right know we are having a bad time of things because my husband and I are going on a trip without her. Big Sis is coming to stay so she will have a blast but TRex is still anxious about our going. Things like this is the only "predictor" of rages with her. It is so frustrating. Otherwise it is just like you said... same routine, amount of exercise, diet, etc.

    One thing that I know is different for us is the way we react to her. We vasilate between "she can't control this" to "she could control alot more than she does". And it really impacts how we parent. Deep down I don't think that there is any way she would behave the way she does if she could help it but sometimes we have a harder time parenting her appropriately.

    Do you think that how you react to your difficult child plays a role in that "switch getting flipped"?
  3. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    It would be nice to have that kind of knowledge. My kiddo is getting better at verbalizing what goes on with him. Things have been horrible for him this year and he is really trying to make some positive changes. It is a very tedious and painful process for both of us. I am having to make changes in the way I react to him as well.

  4. Hi Bear:

    I do think that how I react can affect how long the meltdowns last-sometimes. If I am calm they typically don't last as long but not always.

    Since reacting is just that...reacting....I don't see how it would flip the switch. Also, I am just as curious as to why the flip doesn't get flipped as to when it does. For instance, like today. A "good" day. But good only in the sense that difficult child did not meltdown not in the sense that it was different in any way from our normal routine.

    I think that most of us over time can identify obvious triggers....for my difficult child things like: a call going against him in sports (this will set him off for hours if not days), losing at a game played with easy child, cancellation of something fun that we had planned...then there are the other triggers that are not reality based-not truly negative events but perceived by difficult child to be: easy child getting "preferential treatment", people "irritating" difficult child, etc....then there are the out of the blue, WTH did that come from? meltdowns. I want to know about those...but more importantly, I want to know about the days when the switch doesn't get flipped at all. What aligned just right today?

    Because my difficult child had seizures when younger his meltdowns remind me of seizures in many ways. Yes there are triggers...just like seizures (for him heat and being tired seemed to trigger them) but many times they just come out of nowhere...and many times occur in clusters. Is there something similar going on in his brain that manifests as a meltdown?
  5. Just wanted to add: I often wonder if what we in 2012 call a "meltdown" will be better identified, studied, and treated as a neurological condition sometime in the future? I hope so for all the future difficult children and their parents.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Question... do you keep a journal or a log or a calendar of "events"?
    Sometimes, looking back over a few months or a few years, there can be patterns. Either patterns for good days, or patterns for bad days.

    For example - in our family, the pattern was... September is the best month of school, Monday is the best day of the week, and how rapidly things go downhill mostly depends on how long it has been since the last major school break (plus some very specific triggers). IOW, for us... school was a major drain, and it compounded quickly.

    When we got to the bottom of it all... the biggest school-related drain came from Auditory Processing Disorders (APD). In getting the right accommodations and interventions, we've changed the pattern.
  7. I used to keep a log/journal when he had seizures. I may start to do that again. Good suggestion. Thanks
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    As someone who has these issues I can tell you that rages happen for a reason. yes I still have them. Right now I happen to be having more of them than I have had in the past several years and its because of severe stress. Now my rages dont last hours like some of the kids on here but they can be just as damaging. I have actually thrown Xmas trees out the front door! Right now I tend to be more of the depressed side so I throw things in anger if someone upsets me, then start crying and storm off to my room. That is behavior that I had learned to control several years ago in therapy but the stress going on, losing therapy and lack of family support has me floundering.
  9. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    I am still at the early stage of analyzing what is going on with V. So things are a bit blurry sometimes. But one recipe for a good day: low pressure on him. For example, his therapist was surprised when I told her that our vacation went well (couple of months ago). She thought it would not go well because it takes him outside of his routine. My explanation why it went well: very little was asked from him: he'd play on the beach all day, he could run and scream as he wanted, we'd eat at the hotel's restaurant so we did not have to hurry and out of the door, and things could happen at HIS pace (who cared if he needed an extra 10 minutes to be mentally ready to do x,y and z). The world did not impose on V.
    Maybe you can relate or not...
  10. Janet thanks for your insider's perspective.

    Ktllc, I can relate. On the days I get the kids after school, I figure that difficult child has been holding it together all day long and then erupts where he feels safe. Also, he does not transition well so, I am prepared for that on the days I first get him back. But what doesn't make sense to me are days like Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. Both days were low stress, low pressure, almost identical days (which is rare but baseball is over and we had two very calm days in a row) yet lots of meltdowns on Saturday and none on Sunday.

    Another thought I have had is that maybe difficult child has "X" number of meltdowns that build up in him throughout a day or week...and once that magic number is reached he is good for awhile?

    Maybe I am trying too hard to figure this out but who could blame me? Don't we all want to make things better for our families? Don't we all want more control over the situation and more options than medication?
    Lasted edited by : Jun 4, 2012
  11. TeDo

    TeDo CD Hall of Fame

    Could it be as simple as "baseball is on Saturday" and now it's not anymore? That is also a transition. It's a fairly big change in routine. Things like that could very easily cause problems for some kids.
  12. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Saturday comes after a week of school - and all that goes with it. He's likely burnt out at some level, and not able to cope so well. By Sunday, he's had a whole day to decompress, and is in better shape? maybe?
  13. keista

    keista New Member

    WINNER! This is certainly a possibility. "Normal" ppl think "wow, no more baseball, I can relax now." difficult children think " SHOOT! No more baseball what do I do with myself and how?"

    If there was no structured or planned replacement activity, that could be your switch..............this time.
  14. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    I have been asking myself this for the past several years. I don't think it's random, but I think that it's a mix of long and short term issues that make it difficult to identify. Change of routine, physical discomfort, anxiety, frustration, and dislike of authority are ubiquitous parts of life and yet will precipitate a meltdown in some kids. I have come to see that if I combine tired or sick with any of these other issues, my son is almost certain to freak out. More often than not irritability builds up, but sometimes I have a child who was pleasant just a few seconds ago turn into a whirling dervish!
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Angela, I think you are right on the money... it IS a combination. And... sleep issues, in particular, multiply every other problem very qucikly.

    There are ways to peel back the layers and find out what "the combination" is... except that, by the time we figure part of it out, the difficult child has grown, is in a new stage, and it is now something else added to the mix...
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sleep issues are huge. I have been having major issues with this for the last six months. I either sleep for 18 hours a day or Im up for 30 hours. Sometimes I can go to bed and get to sleep for an hour or so and wake up and cant get to sleep again until 10 am the next morning if then. Sometimes I am up until the next night and will do a repeat so Im only getting at most 3 or so hours of sleep a day. Yeah Im moody.
  17. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Janet: Time for some sleep hygene.

    Now that you have those puppies to look after? You need to get yourself onto a schedule and stick to it. To bed at the same time every night - tired or not. Up at the same time every morning - whether you slept or not. If you want to plan your life to allow for a nap, then get one at the same time, every day, but no more than 1 hour. It will take a couple of weeks before this kicks in, but... lack of routine is one of the biggest contributors to sleep issues.
  18. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have tried that and I have tried just staying up when I cant sleep until the next night so that maybe I will be tired enough to sleep that night but what happens to me is that the more tired I get, the more wired I get. One part is the medications. If I can actually catch them at the perfect point and fall asleep then, I will sleep but if something wakes me up after that, I am awake. I dont go back to sleep. Then I have to take pain medications at about 7 am and sometimes they will put me to sleep if I am lucky. That happens if to me if I am having one of my 18 hour days. I wake up to go to the bathroom and take my medications and I am back out like a light. Its absurd. I do realize part of this is probably depression too.
  19. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Such a great thread. Amazing responses. The topic is overwhelming to me at times because it is the central theme of our lives right now. For me being as quiet as possible helps. turning off everything but NOT ignoring ...that is a trigger. I respond to what he means (but that is not easy always because if through the dozens of demands and name calling he is saying I want my old routine back, I can't make that happen right now). I try to respond to the feelings or intent but often have to give non committal answers (esp when the real answer is NO) or I risk more upset than his not knowing for sure causes (both are bad choices but have to go with the lesser of two evils).

    I (like many of us) use the switch flipping analogy. One can say there is always a reason, but that reason can be internal, external, instantaneous, or a slow build up. Just cant always identify the triggers or see them coming to prevent them (esp. when you have a kid who is having multiple meltdowns)

    I dont have much to add....I agree with everything here. Just so depends. We are working hard on skills that HE can use to help calm himself but the fact is in our situation we adults have to do most of the work to head things off....