This morning at 5:45am I jolted awake. I had been dreaming. It was the same dream that seems to be on a loop in my brain these days. In this dream we have moved back to our first home we purchased. It is a small four level back split that is not, and could never be, wheelchair accessible. Everyone but Matthew can live comfortably in this home, and in the dream our other boys, indeed everyone but me, seems to be settling in reasonably well. In fact everyone else carries on with life except me. I spend the dream running around in a frantic display of rage. I am The Hulk on steroids. Everyone else in the dream sees my anger, but cannot understand it. And so they walk on by. Or tell me to calm down.
The home of my dream is different than the one we purchased 20 years ago, but somehow I know it is a home we once owned. What always stands out about the dream is not the house itself, but my anger. In this recurring dream I am always seething with an anger that I never express in my real life. I am mad at everyone and everything and the anger boils out of my mouth and body in such a way that I don’t recognize myself. But yet I know this raving frantic woman is me.
I am no Freudian dream analyst (if there are any out there please feel free to chime in!), but the dream itself doesn’t seem all that surprising. We are beginning to assertively work through Matthew’s transition to adulthood, which will likely include an eventual move to a group home. Yesterday I consulted with Matthew’s lawyer about a funding question related to Matthew living elsewhere. Today we will head to London to attend Matthew’s first medical appointment as an “adult”. Late last week we chatted with the home where Matthew will eventually move. Matthew is presently in respite which is also probably stirring my emotional pot. There are all sorts of signals in my daily life that we are knee-deep in a huge life transition that will fundamentally change my role as Matthew’s mother. And while in real life I appear composed and logical about this transition apparently my deep-seated emotional self really isn’t crazy about all this change. I have always thought Matthew’s move was sometime in the future, so it is clearly jarring me that we seem to have caught up with this hypothetical future.
The dream seems to be telling me things. The fact that I return to a home I have previously known seems important. The place is familiar, but not. I know my way around, but yet still feel lost. Other people in the dream seem to settle in quickly, but not only can I not settle, but I carry a rage that cannot be contained by my body. In this dream-house I want to break things. I want to kick things. I want to throw a Herculean sized temper tantrum that would put all three-year olds on the face of this earth to shame. In the dream the home is lovely but the only thing I can see is that Matthew is not there and cannot visit because of the damn stairs that are everywhere. But for some reason, a reason that is not evident in the dream, we need to live in this house. The others in my dream know this too, but seem less bothered. They tell me to calm down. They tell me that Matthew is nearby and I can visit. They tell me that we can deal with the fact that he cannot enter this house. But this only fuels my angered frenzy. For me, the rage only settles when I wake up, and even then there is a bit of a dream hangover.
I have always known that there is a good chance Matthew might move away from home. Sure we spent years thinking we could keep him at home forever, but in recent years as he has become larger and more difficult to care for, I have known a move was probably in Matthew’s future. In the last year in particular it has become clear that even with the extraordinary support Matthew receives his care is reaching the point where we need a team of caregivers to ensure his safety. Matthew is too big, his care too heavy and complex, to be managed by single caregivers these days. At least not without risking the caregiver’s safety and well-being. Keeping him at home would meet my need to have him close by, but in the end would be in no one’s best interest. My head knows this. My heart still seems to be working through the issue.
So these days we are working hard with a group home to develop a slightly less traditional way of living in a group home – one where Matthew will continue to be deeply involved in his community and with his family. The group home leadership has impressed me with its commitment to working with us toward achieving this goal. I am moving forward with great hope, though it is clear that my unconscious is still grappling with some issues.
Deep down I know that once Matthew is settled and I know he is happy I will likely calm down. The dreams will end and we will learn to live our new normal – a life that might be healthier for all of us. I will develop a new way of being Matthew’s mother, caregiver, and main advocate. But right now we are in a protracted period of transition, part of which involves learning to share Matthew with others, which I clearly find very unsettling.