As the idyll of April drew to a glorious close and I had narrowly escaped the clutches of ADHD, I felt euphoric and hopeful. The constant gnawing anxiety about Michael getting into trouble at school was fading and I was confident that we were heading into the best summer ever. My mom came out to visit for the day on May 4th to help me hang pictures and unpack boxes. Sitting in a beautiful tea room over lunch we celebrated the fact that our move had been a resounding success and we toasted a new chapter for Michael.
Shortly after returning from lunch a phone call came from our school principal gravely informing me that a child had been badly hurt on the playground at recess. Suddenly the tsunami that had been quietly gathering force struck land. It hit hard and it hit fast and even as I write those words I can feel the terrifying sensation of drowning throughout my entire body. April had been a short respite from the heartbreaking truth and it suddenly seemed that May was to be my Day of Reckoning. All the hiding, all the pretending, all the maybes and all the desperate hope was gone in one phone call.
I wrote ‘Scared and Confused’ at 4:00am the following morning after a long and sleepless night. Stripped bare of all my defences and utterly terrified I turned to the comfort of unchecked words flowing from my fingers…
Scared and Confused
There are always two sides to every story and I am no exception. The outside story of my life is that I have three beautiful sons with gorgeous curly hair, blue eyes and infectious smiles. They are fun, active and bursting with a zest for life that dazzles me. There is never a dull moment in my house and every waking second is action-packed. They are the kind of kids I always dreamed of and I love them with every fibre of my being. They are funny and loving and anyone who knows them collectively will remark on the fact that they are ‘great kids’. When we leave the house they are a formidably united front and always have each other’s backs. To observe me you would think that I am a great mom who handles her wild brood of boys with exquisite dexterity. You would see me smiling broadly as I walk them to school in the morning, my heart bursting with pride as I get a glimpse of how they must appear to the outside observer. You would look at me and think that I am a woman who has it all together, that I am one of the lucky ones.
That is the outside story. The inside story is an entirely different read.
My family is slowly sucking the life out of me and I don’t know where to turn. I am so utterly exhausted by the demands of my life I just feel like yelling; ‘stop the ride, I want to get off.’ I am not the kind of mother I always dreamed I would be; I am impatient, frustrated and angry. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t yell at my children to the point that my throat hurts afterwards and it is hard to talk. I resent my family for being so difficult and I would like to know how it feels to have a family I can live with. I would like to experience just one day without the relentless conflict and violence in my house. I would like to know what it feels like to drop my kids off at school in the morning without a huge knot of fear in my stomach. Or to know what it feels like to simply relax and enjoy time with my family because I cannot. I dread the things that most people long for; weekends, family holidays, parties and summertime because they are all just too fraught with conflict and stress. Sometimes I dream about my marriage breaking up because then I would only have to parent part-time. How’s that for a solution?
This is not the life I had hoped for and dreamed about; it is demanding and hard and I am tired of the whole thing. I want out!
My middle son, Michael, has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He is so difficult to live with there are days when I feel as if I cannot continue to live with him under the same roof. Michael is an easy person to love and a difficult person to like. He is impulsive, unpredictable and demanding. His behaviour is a constant challenge and to be around him is like trying to live with a tsunami. I am in constant danger of being drowned by my seven-year-old son and I am scared. Michael is prone to violent outbursts that seem to come out of nowhere. He will openly admit when he has lost control of his body and will always insist that ‘it’s not my fault’. I used to think that was a poor excuse for bad behaviour and punish Michael severely with time outs and harsh consequences. It turns out that Michael is right, it is not his fault. His attention deficit makes it impossible for him to control his impulses.
The question is; how can I let him leave the house every day when I know that he is a ticking time bomb? What if he hurts someone? What if he really hurts someone? That is the possibility that keeps me awake in white fear night after night. That fear has its cold hand lodged around my heart 24 hours a day and makes it almost impossible for me to function. I cannot live this way anymore and I am at my breaking point.
I spend every moment of every day with a knot of anxiety in my stomach. When Michael is away from me I worry about what kind of trouble he is getting himself into at school. By about 2:00 every afternoon I feel the anxiety turning into dread as I anticipate the report from Michael’s teacher about his behaviour that day. Underneath that constant anxiety is the fear of a phone call from the principal that there has been serious trouble. That phone call came yesterday afternoon to inform me that Michael had been involved in an incident on the playground that sent one of his adorable little friends to the hospital in an ambulance. The principal did not know whether it was an accident or a deliberate push but she made it clear that the time had come to get Michael some help. As I listened to her describe the incident I could feel my own defensiveness coming to the surface. I was furious with her for her unspoken accusations even as I knew in my heart that it was probably Michael’s lack of impulse control that had caused the accident. I was not only angry with the principal but also with Michael for being so difficult and making my life so hard. All I could think was; ‘why can’t he be more like his brothers? I never get phone calls about them.’
So here I am feeling more alone than I have ever felt. I am struggling to live this life and I am scared. I know it is time to get some help but I don’t know where to turn or how to start. Even though I am someone who does not generally believe in pharmaceutical medication, I am so desperate for some relief from the constant struggle that today I just want ‘the magic pill’ for Michael. I want it so much that I feel like a junkie looking for a fix. However, the question of medication opens up a whole other can of worms and once again I am overwhelmed by questions that seem to have no answers. I want someone to tell me what to do because I am too tired to figure it out. I am so exhausted I just want to run away or climb into bed and hide until this all blows over. However, it seems that this storm is here to stay and no amount of hiding or staying in bed will make it disappear.
Now my dirty little secret is out and I feel exhausted with relief. Where do I go now? What do I do? I feel as if I am facing an epic journey with no map. I don’t even know where the journey begins and I am just so tired I don’t know if I can put one foot in front of the other to find out. I dread the sounds of my family slowly awakening this morning because it means I have to face another overwhelming and exhausting day. Despair tastes bitter in my mouth and my heart aches with the disappointment of my life. This was not my dream and I feel ashamed to admit that I want to walk out the front door and never come back. I have that choice in the back of my mind every single day and some days it is harder than others to make the right one.
The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I can ‘jump ship.’ I can leave at any time without a backward glance. Michael, however, does not have that same choice and must live in a torturous body that is relentlessly churning with unchecked energy. If I choose to turn my back on my child and abdicate responsibility then he has no hope of navigating these stormy waters alone. I am the mother, I am the adult and Michael chose me. I am the reluctant shipmate on this crazy voyage but I will not abandon Michael to the elements. I must trust that I will find what I need when I need it and that I have enough strength left to turn into the eye of this storm and fight for Michael’s life.
A terrified little voice inside me asks; what if this storm kills me? What if I don’t have what it takes to weather this direct hit? What if I go down and take the whole ship with me?
I suppose only time will tell.