One of my favourite words in the English language is the word “discombobulate”. It has it’s origins as an early american slang word that means to confuse, disconcert or befuddle. It also means to cause to be unable to think clearly.
I think I first really came to appreciate this whimsical word when I was working with 2 little autistic girls in kindergarten. The one little girl would emphatically complain, ” I’m discombobulated!!” whenever she was overwhelmed or confused. It was the perfect word to describe how she was feeling and it has become my go to word when I also am confused or overwhelmed. The way it bounces around on your tongue is exactly how my brain feels as everything is bouncing around in my brain. Thoughts are pinging back and forth with no rhyme or reason.
I think this is a wonderful word for us on the autism spectrum. It so thoroughly describes how we feel when too much is coming at us, when we are totally bewildered with the world around us.
I have found myself saying this word a lot lately. It seems my world is ever changing and confusing and as a result I am totally discombobulated. Let me give you an example.
My elderly Mom fell last week and she is getting steadily weaker. She told me the other day while crying, that she didn’t think she could get to the bathroom by herself anymore. I went into hyper-alert mode where I felt something had to be done to address this new state of affairs. I asked for more PSW support, I asked for volunteers from my church to help stay with Mom while I did errands because I did not think I should leave her alone. With some people lined up I felt more secure in thinking I had tackled the problem and Mom would be safer. The next day Mom was in good spirits and told me she could get to the bathroom by herself – thank you very much!! So this is where I suddenly get very discombobulated. The whole scenario has changed. What happened to the way she was feeling the day before?? How do I plan for Mom’s care when things change so drastically from day to day??
I have learned that this is the new normal state of affairs – total discombobulation! I never know which Mom is going to wake up – the weak, struggling mom or the confident, cheery mom. And how do I look after her effectively when each day has the potential to be so different? I have had wise advice that I just go with the flow and do my own thing like I have always done. Continue to do errands when she is napping, get her to go to the bathroom before I go out, remind her she has a lifeline she can activate and that I always have my phone on me.
Even though I love the word “discombobulate” I detest how it makes me feel. It’s like living with pain in your brain. It’s like you are walking on jello. Everything is all wiggly and jiggly. Nothing is for certain or stable. Not a fun state to be in. Looking after Mom is often so discombobulating which just adds to the stress I am under but it’s all part of the journey I am on. Travelling along the road of Mom and me together and suddenly you hit a mess of potholes and you bounce around like those ping pong balls in a bingo machine. And let me tell you, our roads are full of potholes especially this time of year.
Well, so I am anticipating more discombobulation. Comes with the job description. It’s a small consolation to at least have fun saying the word when I am in that state. DIS-COM-BOB-U-LAT-ING!!!!!