Sunday, January 23, 2011


Clark was well into adulthood before it dawned on me that certain behavior and looks I had seen during his lifetime was anxiety. It is usually when we are out in public that he responds negatively to a comment made by someone he doesn’t know. “I’m telling the bishop (head of our church congregation).” He used to threaten to tell Mr. Harndon (a high school teacher). It is made when he doesn’t like or understand a comment or it is unkind or it is an unfamiliar situation. I wish I could say I always handle his anxiety with patience and kindness but often it is with impatience as I try to snap him out of it immediately and always failing with that approach. Clark brought this picture home a couple of years ago that someone at Special Olympics had taken. I hated it and put it away so I wouldn’t see it. I am glad I didn’t throw it away because I’ve come to understand better that he is looking very anxious. Now as I look at the picture I wonder what happened to him. What was he thinking? What had he done? What had he said that alienated others? We see daily his anxiety. Now I recognize it. I know there is prescription medication for it but because Clark takes about 20 pills a day for his seizures I am not ready to add one more. I’ve had two experiences with Clark recently that prompted this post.

I did not tell in the previous post that when Clark and I went to Macy’s he sat outside the dressing area while I tried on clothes. When I came out of the dressing room Clark was calmly waiting but he was not smiling. When we walked to the counter to purchase some items he started muttering about telling the bishop. It was then I realized that someone had tried talking to him while I was trying on clothes. It was the salesperson. I am sure she was frustrated and confused with Clark’s behavior. I quietly but firmly told Clark to stop talking. He finally did.

The other experience happened this past week when I took my car in for an emissions test. I took Clark with me. It was while we were waiting for our turn that I realized that I had never taken Clark before. We watched the car in front of us and then it was our turn. The man told me that I would need to get out of the car for a few minutes but, pointing to Clark, “He can stay.” As I turned my head and looked at Clark I realized that this could be a very anxious moment for him so I asked him if he would like to get out of the car with me. He smiled and said no. “Are you going to be okay while I sit over there?” “Yes.” He smiled again. I got out while he sat with the stranger. All went well and he was still happy when I got back in the car.

So—in the future when I take Clark with me will I remember to talk to him about a potential situation? I don’t know but I hope so. I am going to try.

1 comment:

  1. One of the times snaps might work is for praise and encouragement.

    (As in Legally Blonde 2, where Elle Woods and her company have "snaps" - not "snap out of it".

    Good things can be anxiety-provoking too as well as the obvious (to me) being talked about, having attention put upon you when you don't want it.

    Is he anxious when he initiates an interaction?

    And I know that anxiety really begets anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

    Telling the bishop is good because it creates a virtuous circle.

    And I did think that anxiety was pretty generic to the phenotype but hard to see in Clark.

    Do try.