Yesterday morning I was determined to get the post up about George Osborne parking his Chelsea tractor in a disabled parking bay before I went to work. My morning routine’s already pretty rushed so this meant even more pressure than usual.
I was staying at Leftwing Idiot’s because he’d kindly stepped in at short notice to cover a gap in my overnight care arrangements. He’d made me a lovely breakfast and a cup of tea. I’d eaten my breakfast while I worked on the post, but I hadn’t been able to drink my tea.
I’d wanted to drink it but I kept thinking if I just get this up, then I can sit and drink it calmly. Predictably everything took longer than I’d thought and when Zoë, my Access to Work support worker, and the cab arrived I’d still not drunk it.
I’ve got a reputation for not finishing tea that’s been made for me and as I knew Leftwing Idiot would comment on this I asked Zoë to empty my cup and wash it up. But just as she was doing this Leftwing Idiot came into the kitchen and as I’d predicted said ‘There’s the un-drunk tea getting wasted.’
The growing tension and rush of the morning erupted, and I became distressed. I’ve written lots of times before about how I overreact when I feel any heightened emotion and this morning when I hit out it was at the bedroom door which I was sitting next to.
Leftwing Idiot has old wooden doors and the panelling cracked when I hit it. I was deeply ashamed and sorry for what I’d done, and my feelings were overwhelming. I struggled to stay calm and stop over-reacting. I could see and feel that Leftwing Idiot was understandably furious but despite this he helped me calm down and follow the plan I have for times like these.
This is what my overreacting plan looks like:
Early warning signs may include:
• A sudden pause in activity or change of facial expression
• Repetition of a single word over and over again in an agitated voice
• Repetitive stereotyped movements, like rocking or flapping arms
If I notice any early warning signs I’ll say ‘I’m finding this overwhelming, can you help me stay calm by … (I’ll then describe what I need in that particular situation) and if possible, by removing or stopping whatever triggered the behaviour? If the trigger is a conversation, please help me get into a safe situation before continuing. This might involve holding my hands.
If I over-react and bite myself, lash-out, or throw myself down, please remind me that I’ve decided not to over-react.
Please pass me any appropriate protective clothing – gloves, arm guards, and possibly my helmet.
Ask me if there are any calming strategies I could try.
Please do not respond to any negative self-talk, for example ‘I’m such an idiot.’
If I appear distressed by my behaviour please remind me that this happens sometimes and say, “Let’s carry on.”
I’ve decided not to apologise when I overreact. I trust my friends, family and support workers to know that I wouldn’t choose to behave in this way. Saying sorry can fuel my feelings of distress and embarrassment. If I do say I’m sorry, please remind me that I don’t need to apologise.
If I’m struggling to calm down and move on, or if I keep re-visiting the same issue, please say, “Let’s end this now and move on.” Please distract me or start a conversation on a different topic.
This morning if I’d followed this plan more closely during the ‘Before’ stage, the outcome might’ve been different. What happened was that with Leftwing Idiot’s support I was able to calm down and move on reasonably quickly and get to work on time. I put the incident to the back of mind but throughout the day it would drift back into my thoughts and I felt sad and frustrated that I’d not been able to control myself.
After work Leftwing Idiot, Zoë and I went for some food and a drink. While we were eating Leftwing Idiot mentioned how sad he felt about his door and later, as we walked back to the castle, we talked about it in more detail.
Leftwing Idiot said he understood that I couldn’t stop myself lashing out in that situation, but he pointed out I did have control over some of the circumstances that had led up to it happening. He was right of course – I’d only overreacted because I was very tense and rushed. If I’d been more careful about the decisions I was making and how much I was trying to do, we would all have had a calmer start to the morning and it’s very unlikely I’d have damaged the door.
I’ve worked supporting children with challenging behaviour for many years, and professionally I know that looking at what happened before an incident occurred is key to finding out why it happened and to putting measures in place to help prevent it happening again. But as with many other things, I hadn’t managed to apply this knowledge to myself. But I have now!
I assured Leftwing Idiot that I’d be more mindful about what I try to do when time is short. I asked him, whenever he sees me trying to do too many things in a rush, to prompt me in a non-judgemental way to think about whether they’re all essential. He also recognised the role his comment about un-drunk tea had played in escalating the situation and he undertook to be more aware of this in the future.
Leftwing Idiot’s door isn’t the first door to be a casualty of my poor impulse control. The bathroom door at my parents’ house has a hole in it from where I kicked it many years ago.
My disproportionate response to any sort of excitement, tension, pressure, sadness, anger or frustration is the element of Tourettes I find hardest to deal with. I’m always very annoyed with myself afterwards and find it very hard to let myself move on. I don’t want to damage property, myself, or most importantly to me, friendships.
The incident this morning was upsetting but it’s also reinforced the responsibility I have to myself and to those around me to ensure that I make sensible choices and don’t create situations I’m going to find hard to manage. I hope that doing this will reduce the likelihood of damage, and that doors near me can feel safer on their hinges from now on.