Imagine being wakened up in the morning by a stranger calling your name? That was how my story began for me, my Mom, and my Billy (my nickname for my Asperger’s Syndrome).
The stranger standing in the doorway was one of a few who had stopped when they saw my 85 year-old Mom fall on the sidewalk in front of our house. The picture of her on the sidewalk grimacing in the pain is etched in my brain. What had happened was her wheeled walker she was sitting on while bending over to do yardwork had come out from under her.
It took some “trial and error” for me and my youngest of two brothers to get her up the three porch steps and back in the house. Her right hip had taken the direct hit and I feared she had broken it. She initially wanted to wait for my other brother to arrive before doing anything.
One of my “Billy” traits is my first response is less likely to be one that my fellow neurotypicals would have taken. I have a better track record in situations where I have time to mull it over in my head. This wasn’t one of those situations.
My out-of-state brother advised me on the phone to call 911 since it would take nearly three hours before he would get there. After about a half-hour, she told me she was in a lot of pain. Finally, a lightbulb went off in my head. I asked my youngest brother to do what was too much for me to do – call 911, deal with the paramedics, and follow her to the hospital. That was not a small thing for my brother because he has mental illness issues. And, I have my “Billy”.
I was impressed at how my brother did a good job. Maybe one blessing in disguise of my Mom’s fall was upon being asked, my brother could follow through and in the process feel useful. He just needed direction.
I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The thought of going gave me such anxiety to the point of nausea. I confided in a dear friend of how just the thought of going to a hospital, an unfamiliar environment, felt. The picture in my mind was of riding a roller coaster inching slowly up to the top knowing the big drop was coming that would turn my stomach upside down. I told my Mom before the ambulance arrived about my anxiety and she was most understanding.
Her hip was indeed broken and required surgery. It didn’t require replacement and that was good news since she had one artificial hip as it was. My other brother arrived and took over in keeping her company at the hospital and communicating with medical staff. His daughter and other family friends who lived nearby pitched in with visits as well.
My Mom went from the hospital to a rehab center close to home. It took some talking by her doctor and my sensible brother to talk her into it. She’s a firm believer in no place like home. My Billy is a fellow believer in that, by the way!
During her time at rehab, a social worker left a phone message for me to set up a conference call to discuss my Mom’s care. This brought on ANXIETY big time! My brother is better at handling such calls while I’m better at keeping my Mom’s house in check. He told me not to bother with them and he would handle it. I was so thankful for him to do that. It came easier to him than for me in dealing with strangers over the phone. All in all, it was a family team effort with each member working from their strengths!
Someone who gave me tremendous comfort was my Mom’s best friend and someone I affectionately call “my second Mom”. I was on the phone every day with her during my Mom’s stay in the hospital and rehab center. She not only wanted to know how my Mom was doing but how I was doing too. In many conversations with her, I talked a lot about “Billy”. I told her if I revealed all my autism “secrets”, the things I do and think that I don’t tell a single soul about, she’d see even more how “Billy” impacts my daily life.
A family member reported one day after visiting that my Mom did “group therapy”. In one session, group members passed a ball around to each other. The evening session was even more fun. They played “BINGO”! I imagine my Mom hasn’t played that game in I don’t know when, but her lack of experience didn’t keep her from winning the last game! . I was not surprised my Mom would take to group activities like a duck to water. For me, though, my “Billy” takes to group activities like a deer tangled up in a wire fence.
My Mom returned home almost two weeks after her fall. I was so thankful for my niece who brought her home and helped to get her settled. She was so glad to be home! She plopped in her recliner with utter delight! She came with a host of instructions. My “Billy” was agitated with those instructions coming at once. After I adjusted to the new routine of my Mom’s medicine and such other things, Billy settled down as he usually does after a new routine sinks in.
In hindsight, my Mom’s fall brought to light to family members that my “Billy” is not a figment of my imagination. I was forthcoming to family as to why I would not visit my Mom. My Mom never asked me to come visit or asked why I didn’t. Since she came home, she has been more patient with me. Maybe she gets it now too.
I wrote this blog because maybe someone who lives with a “Billy” reading this has been through something similar.
Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about living with Autism in the U.K., known as the “girl with the curly hair”, once wrote:
It can, at first being very isolating taking a path nobody else takes. But it’s far, far more isolating taking the path everyone else takes (because it is not the right one for you.)