Autism, The Internet, Cyber-Bullying & Suicide…
It’s been, well, forever since I’ve put a blog post. Long story short for the catch up, we made the move to California and love it here, but our world as we knew it got turned upside down once we did. Which made it difficult for me to write for a long time.
I’m writing now because a recent event that has happened here was so hard and painful, that it gave me pause and cause to wonder if it’s happened to any of you. Or if our experience could help you in some way. I’m typing this literally through tears, so please forgive me if it is less than coherent. But if I don’t get it out here now, I know ME well enough to know I never will.
I need to start out by saying, I never really wanted my son on the autism spectrum to be online. In my mind, it just had trouble waiting to happen written all over it. But my son got Spore & he wanted to get online with it and his dad saw no harm and got him set up. And it was fine, for a little while. Until he got bullied, and put some things back in response that even though we as his family knew what he meant & where his intent was, he got reported as something else and got banned. Okay, fine, I didn’t want him on there anyway right?
He was also at that time part of a really cool site where you can post & share art, write journal entries & talk with others who are into the same art as you. I monitored that as much as I possibly could (this is a situation where he knows more about the tech than I do). I had seen some things where the same person who was giving him a hard time on the Spore site was giving a hard time there and enlisting others to do the same. I was going to address it but he begged me not to. It’s a fine line between following your mother-bear instincts to protect your child and respecting their independence (even when they don’t have autism), it’s an even finer line when they actually are on the spectrum.
Well, apparently in the past couple of weeks, things had spiraled pretty bad. My son’s dad had emailed me a link with his latest entry and it was all, just too much. My son was typing things that he had no business knowing about, let alone typing, in response to things that had been said and sent to him. I’m not going to go into all of the details, but some pretty graphic things had been said to him, so he responded back & more than a few people on there had told him he should go kill himself.
All things combined, that was it. I did the only thing I could do (it was beyond going in and cleaning it all up) and had to deactivate the account. THAT is when all hell broke loose. By the end of it all, he was threatening to kill himself & I was beside myself with worry, anger, and straight out grief. I won’t give you the blow-by-blow, because that will take forever, but it wasn’t pretty.
I did get him calmed down. We have hidden anything he could possibly hurt himself with. And he does have an appointment next week with the Behavioral Psychologist over an hour away to be seen and get him back on track. I know where he’s coming from and why he feels this way, that’s not the issue. The issue is making sure he’s okay & getting him back on track to feeling like losing one account is not the end of the world.
If there’s anything I would stress here, it’s these 5 things:
1. If you’re child, on or off the spectrum ever talks about killing themselves, take them seriously, always.
2. Don’t over react or panic. You are the parent for a reason and even if you feel like you’re breaking on the inside, you really DO have all you need to get through even this hurdle.
3. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. I spent all day on the phone & even driving into our Primary Care Physicians office today while their phones weren’t working. Yes, it took all day to get to someone who will see him, but in the end, persistence pays off.
4. You are not alone in this. Somewhere, out there, there is another parent going through this same exact thing right now, or they already have been in your shoes. So while you may be physically alone in dealing with it, you are still connected with those in the same boat. Feel that connection and draw strength from that when you feel like you can’t from your own inner reserves.
5. Remember your child is just hurting, not trying to hurt you. So even through the 500th “I hate you I wish you weren’t my mom (dad, sister, brother, etc.)”, love them through it and be there for them with your arms wide open to help ease their pain.
So, that’s what’s new and exciting here. I will give updates once we’ve seen his doc so that you can know what to look for and what pertinent questions to ask should you find yourself in the same situation. (I hope to God none of you ever do.)
p.s. Oh, & just so no one worries, anything that my son could use as a danger to himself or anyone else has been removed from where he can get to them or would know where they are. This Mama doesn’t play around. My children and their health & safety first, foremost, & always.