This is a subject that has been heavy on my heart and mind for a while now, but I haven’t been able to take the time to articulate what I wanted to share with readers about this. But it is a subject that is important and needs to have an open discussion and honest dialogue, and I would like to share my own personal experience in hopes that maybe someone can take a nugget of knowledge or feel there is something they might be able to relate to. I’d also like to add a forewarning that there may be some triggers in this post relating to suicide, so please proceed with caution if that is a sensitive subject to you as a reader.
For starters, in the past week I have amassed a collection of visitor’s stickers from Golisano Children’s Hospital that I’ve been sticking to my bathroom door frame (I’m missing a couple because I accidentally tossed them in the trash; oops!) and we also now have a growing collection of non-slip hospital socks as well. I have a child with special needs, a child with mental illness who needs a level of care that is out of my area of expertise and I am turning to the experts, the medical professionals who have studied this kind of stuff and who can guide me in the right direction.
My 7 year old son has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD since the age of 4. He has been on several different medications to help his brain be able to slow down and focus, and has undergone several tests and screenings, seen therapists and doctors and specialists, and as a parent I have tried to do as much as I can to ensure he receives the support he needs to be successful and healthy. Unfortunately, even the parents with the best intentions and who scour the internet until their eyeballs are ready to pop out often don’t find all the answers and end up feeling like they’ve failed their child. I am that parent. My son has had a rough school year. He doesn’t like to do school work that involves writing on paper and using a pen or pencil. He prefers to type. He is often bored in school because the work is too easy for him (he was tested and has a brilliant IQ; he’s a very smart kiddo!) so when he is bored, he will break pencils or destroy classroom materials, or refuse to do the classwork required of him, or lash out angrily. To an outsider who doesn’t know his story, he might appear to be a “bad kid”; a “rude jerk”, disrespectful, someone who isn’t worth teaching or wasting time trying to be kind to. But he is so much more than that. What people don’t see is the sweet boy I love, the boy with the long beautiful eyelashes and freckles across his nose who still likes to snuggle up in my lap and be close to his mom, and tell me he loves me “to the moon and to the back”, who wants to talk about math and science and has quick, witty comebacks and a giggle that will warm your heart and make you smile.
This boy is currently in the hospital because he has expressed a desire to take his own life. He is only 7. He isn’t being bullied at school; he just has a difficult time with his brain and although he is extremely intelligent, he lacks social and emotional skills and often doesn’t completely understand the magnitude of what he’s expressing. I’ve taken him to the hospital several times since October when he speaks of those thoughts. Most recently, I have advocated to have him admitted for longer term inpatient psychological care. His suicidal threats have become more specific, which is alarming for anyone to hear, and I’d rather be safe than sorry and have him in a place where he will be kept safe and monitored by medical professionals to receive a higher level of care. But oh, how my heart breaks to have my family in this current state. My husband works overseas in Afghanistan for several months at a time as a contractor, so I am home taking care of our family and the day to day operations completely solo. So now I have a husband halfway around the world, a son in a hospital away from me, and my 2 other sons still at home who also require love and care and attention, so my heart feels as though it’s split in all kinds of directions. I see a therapist for myself and also am starting family therapy with my other 2 sons so we can try to heal and they can have their questions answered by a professional as well. I want all of my sons to be healthy and to be home with me, so I will navigate this road as mama bear to do whatever I can to help them.
I just want other parents to know that mental health is SO important and nothing to be ashamed of. Kids with special needs, whether it be ADHD/ODD, a child on the Autism spectrum, or any other type of need are absolutely deserving of love and support, and it’s so important to build your tribe of support as well, because no parents should have to navigate these confusing avenues of specialists, doctors, tests, therapies, and everything in between alone. Be patient and kind with a kid who may seem like an energetic royal pain; their family may be going through a lot to help their child. I know my son has felt rejected often, through various sports and activities and by other parents who simply did not understand what he’s been through. The more rejection these young kids face will impact them in the long term. A friend of mine shared a quote the other day that said “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways”; and truer words have never been spoken. I would be more than happy to be a support or listening ear to anyone who needs it or has any questions regarding children and mental health, and I leave you all with the request to always choose kindness and love.