Tickle’s Monster has had a severe aversion to sleep for quite some months now.
Tickle already has melatonin to get him off to sleep (for which we are eternally grateful) but keeping him asleep is quite a different matter. For most of the summer Tickle’s internal alarm was set to 4.30am, and once he was up, he was up.
Some days were better than others. Some days he would play in his room (relatively) quietly, or watch cartoons on my iPad. Other days he would stand by the side of our bed and scream. Or he’d hit us until we woke up and talked to him. Or he’d bang his head against our bedroom wall.
This half term Tickle has had a meltdown of epic proportions. I’m not quite sure what triggered him; perhaps it was just the fact that he’d got settled back in to class with a really supportive teacher, and all of a sudden school was disappearing for a week. Perhaps the fact that he’s just started therapy didn’t help. Perhaps it was just the phase of the moon. He has been bouncing off walls (literally), jabbering nonsense, laughing like a hyena, and generally refusing to engage with the real world, usually for at least 50% of the day. It’s quite hard to describe that level of dissociation to someone who’s never seen it, but it genuinely is like he just disappears inside his own head, and his Monster takes over and tries to distract us by screaming, spitting, and shouting nonsense. It’s virtually impossible to talk to Tickle in that state; he just isn’t *there*. I haven’t seen him dissociate to this extent for well over a year.
The other day, Tickle woke up at 12.30am, just as Husband and I were going to bed. It’s silly, I know, because we *know* T will be up early, and usually at least one of us will head up much earlier – but sometimes we like to actually spend a bit of time together, maybe enjoy a film or a couple of episodes of our latest box set. (Incidentally, we’ve just done the whole run of ‘New Tricks’ and loved it so much that we’ve gone back to the beginning and started again!) Tickle usually settles a bit better for me when he’s in that state (and Husband is much better at getting up in the morning!) so I went in to soothe him and get him back to sleep. By 3am, I had just about got him calm enough to sit and watch cartoons on my iPad. I’d given him more melatonin, I’d given him Calpol, a drink, a foot rub, I’d sung to him, held him, rocked him…
The dissociated state lasted at least 45 minutes, during which *nothing* I did made any difference. I tried ‘wondering’ what he might be scared of; usually when I hit on the right thing he calms down. He talked a bit about his birth family and his fears of being hurt, but that still didn’t stop the Monster raging. Somehow, I don’t even remember why this came up, I brought up the subject of the friends we’d seen earlier that day who had a small baby. Instantly the Monster was offline and Tickle was back in the room. He wanted to talk about this.
We talked for nearly an hour about the baby. About what it eats, what it drinks, what it can and can’t do. Tickle wanted to be a baby. I said we could pretend, but that wasn’t good enough – he wanted to be a real baby. We talked about how you grow up, but not down, and he didn’t really get it. Earlier that day when we’d seen the baby he had been so sweet and attentive; mopping the baby’s chin when they had dribbled, stroking their hair gently, trying to get the baby to join in his jumping game..! It felt like that night it really hit him for the first time what we have been trying to explain to him about how his birth parents couldn’t look after him; like he finally realised what that actually means. He saw me cuddle the baby and feed them; he helped with the bottle. Who did that for him? Who cared for him and made sure all of his needs were met? Who made sure he always had food? Maybe he saw it from the other side all of a sudden; he saw a baby that was properly taken care of, and realised what he had missed.
Anyway, by 3am I was exhausted, and having calmed him enough to watch cartoons I slunk back to bed in the hope that he would drift off in front of Postman Pat. It took me an hour or so to unwind, and just as I was drifting off I heard the crazed laughter start up again, and the tell-tale crashing sound that his bedroom wall makes when he throws himself against it. I turned to Husband and whimpered. He got up for his turn. I dozed in and out for the next couple of hours. At 7am I text Gran. She turned up at half past, and whisked Tickle off for the day.
Thank goodness for Gran.