Into the Great Wide Open

Life…it’s changing.

We came to a decision recently. We are flying home to Oregon on Thursday evening.

Just to clarify, we are not going home because we are scared of the virus. In fact, Thailand is an incredibly safe place to be during this time. For the last few days, there have been zero cases in the entire country. No, we would not leave Thailand for safety reasons.

We are leaving for Braden.

You probably read my last post about the lockdown experience with him. Well, it’s gotten much worse.

Our poor guy is miserable. Here are some examples of our current situation:

We have no ice:

All freezer items have been deemed evil, apparently. About three weeks ago, Braden dumped all food and ice packs (and vodka) into the trash. Why would he do this, you may ask yourself? A very good question indeed. We have theories. Braden has Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He often puts ice packs on his stomach when he is in pain. Could he equate ice with pain? Maybe it’s chicken? Maybe he equates the chicken with getting sick? Or maybe it’s his OCD? More on that in a bit.

We have no food:

A few weeks after the freezer incident, the refrigerator became his main focus. So now he goes into the fridge and dumps out all our food. If he would simply take the food in its wrapping or container and dump it in the trash, it would be okay. But no, he takes it a step further. He opens the food up and then dumps it in the garbage, making it unsalvageable. So yeah, having no food in the house makes life just a little complicated. Mike and I have taken to hiding crackers and peanut butter in our bedroom drawers so we can snack on the sly.

He has no more clothes:

Braden has now torn apart all of his shorts and most of his shirts. He is now wearing his swimsuit full time (until he rips those).

He has no recognizable skin on his legs:

Now back to his OCD. God, I hate OCD! Braden has had some traits of OCD for years, but lately, it has gone off the charts. With food, he has to either eat it or dump it. It must be “all gone.” Then, he will name the item and tell us it’s gone for hours (yes, hours) after getting rid of it.
“Carrots are all gone. Daddy, carrots are all gone. Carrots are ….(wait 3 seconds) all gone.”

When he has a glass of water (the only drink he is allowed due to his IBS diet), he either drinks it in one gulp or pours it all over himself so it will be finished. If there are any drops left in the bottle, he will continue to dump it into his hand until finished. And then begins the “Water is all gone” speech…lasting hours.

The latest OCD routine has him standing up, walking about two steps and then falling to the floor straight on his knees. We have no idea where this came from or why he is doing it. Still, it has caused open wounds on his knees and shins that will not heal due to his other need to pick and scratch at these wounds. The intense humidity of Thailand does not help with the healing process.

He is violent:

So we have no food, nothing frozen, and Braden needs an entirely new wardrobe. We can deal with all this. We have dealt with it…we have put things into place to stop the food throwing. We’ve taken what is left of his clothes and have stored them in our bedroom so he can’t tear them apart…we’re making it work.

But hurting himself? Hurting others? This is tough. It’s too hard. Over the last few years, he has gotten violent several times, and it has been a source of worry…a tremendous source of worry, in fact.

However, his anger outbursts are now much more frequent and volatile. There have been multiple occasions when Mike says, “Go lock yourself in our room. I’ll let you know when you can come out.”

The level and intensity have amplified. And that’s all I’m going to say about this subject, as it’s quite painful…both emotionally and physically. We are always stressed…always worried…not sleeping and not functioning very well at all.

And so…

So for the reasons above and about 10,000 others, we are leaving. Our hope is that Braden will see our Sunriver home as “vacation,” and it will reset his mind and body.

We also have some hard realities to face while there. We need to explore what the future could look like for Braden. We have a meeting set up in a few weeks for assessments and to discuss options. After this year, it has become abundantly clear to us that we need more support for him, and we need to know what that can look like.

Our plan is to fly home and self-quarantine for 14 days. Madi will join us in Oregon. Our university graduate is now entering the entertainment industry…and the entertainment industry is currently not at work. So we shall call this our bonus time with our girl. She will help us with Braden while Mike and I teach our students virtually at very random times of the evening and early morning. (I’m really looking forward to 2:00 a.m. staff meetings!)

We have flights booked to return to Thailand on July 20th, so we can quarantine for 14 days on this end and be ready to start school on August 3rd.

Ah…but therein lies the rub. Thailand is currently not allowing foreigners back into the country!

Our school, and other international schools around the world, are in quite a predicament. Most have told their teachers that they are not advised to travel to their home countries for their summer as they would typically do. If teachers choose to go and cannot get back into the country, they are at risk of losing their jobs. The school wants teachers to be there for the start of school. That’s tough to do if we are stuck in our home countries, unable to return.

There is always the chance that Thailand will open back up for people who have work visas in July. However, they said they may not allow us to bring dependents. Braden is our dependent. So we can’t bring him back! Let’s say then that they do open it up to people with work visas AND their dependents, there is still a problem. They have a government-run quarantine. This entails being locked in a hotel room for 14 days. I don’t think I need to explain the many reasons why this would not work with Braden! Can you imagine? Part of me wants to say, sure, go for it. Put Braden in a hotel room by himself for a day. Let’s see what happens. But I might have to pay for that damage for the rest of my life!

What are the chances of us returning to Thailand in time for school to start? If we don’t make it back in time, Mike may lose his job, and we will lose Thailand as our home. I am not in danger of losing my job, thankfully, as I can do my (new) job from anywhere in the world. So at least there’s that…

I want to acknowledge that we are not unique to stress, experiencing the unknown, and high anxiety about our future during this time. We know that we have been given a choice, while many others have had no choice and are suffering greatly because of it. We hurt for those who are hurting; for people who have been laid off, for people who are small business owners struggling to make ends meet, for other families with children with special needs who are struggling at this time. This is our journey. We are but one family telling our tale in a tome for the ages.

We are leaving Thailand Thursday. We don’t know if we can return. We don’t know if Mike will keep his job. We don’t know what we should do with our stuff. What do we do with our dog? How do I say goodbye to people when I can’t actually see them? Should I be saying goodbye? Are we leaving Thailand for good?

What … is… happening?

Life is so strange.

All I do know is that leaving poses many risks…but we are taking them for the possibility that our son will be at peace once again.

For now, I’d like to leave you with this video taken of us during better times. I want to thank you all for your positive thoughts as we start our journey home and into our unknown… the great wide open.

The sky was the limit
Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

-Tom Petty

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