I wrote this blog posting a week ago and have been ‘sitting’ on it ever since. I have wrestled with myself every day since writing it over whether I have the courage to post this particular piece of my journey. I have made all kinds of excuses like; ‘it’s too private, people don’t want to read something this gloomy or what if people think I’m depressed?’ I have determined to be brave and allow the darkness that I am wrestling with right now to be exposed. I have decided that if there is one mom or one dad who reads this and feels less alone or less scared, then I have achieved my only goal with Open Secret ADHD. So, gentle reader, I ask you to read with love and compassion in your heart. And not just for me, but for every parent or caregiver who has reached a dark and scary depth and is not sure if they will be able to find the light again.
With so much love,
I had a friend in high school named Rob. I haven’t seen him or even spoken to him in over a decade but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him. Rob was one of those truly remarkable friends who, if you are really lucky, comes along in adolescence and gently shapes who you are becoming. In all the drama, confusion and angst of high school, Rob was my anchor. He was the one who always had a level head and an extraordinarily deep wisdom so rare in a teenage man-child. Rob and I used to spend hours sitting and talking on his front porch; about life, the Universe and everything. When I was getting bogged down with pretence, ego and boy troubles, Rob was the one to whom I turned. Life was uncomplicated for Rob and he didn’t waste time or energy on things that were trivial. It always seemed to boil down to simplicity. The wonderful thing about Rob’s friendship was that he never, ever judged me for getting weighed down. He just quietly held space for me to work through my latest teenage drama and then we’d go play basketball in his driveway to sweat it all out.
It is crack of dawn on Monday morning after a hellish weekend with Michael and I am at a scary breaking point. I am feeling exhausted, defeated, overwhelmed and thoroughly discouraged.
This past Friday was the pot luck lunch celebration at camp at which every camper in the group contributes something for lunch. Unfortunately, the food most campers choose to bring falls into the junk food category. Consequently, over the course of an hour Michael consumed more junk food than he has had since May; chips, gummy bears, wine gums and at least two Gatorades. We all went out Friday night after dinner to the local Art Crawl and as we were admiring an intriguing skateboard exhibit I turned around just in time to see Michael downing a can of Coke- oh dear! Fortunately, I was able to wrestle the Coke away from him after only half the can but between the junk food earlier in the day and the pop at the end, he was well and truly drowning in caffeine, food colouring, sugar and chemicals. I could almost feel his body in full alarm as we were driving home and I felt scared for his delicate system and his tenuous physical health.
I awoke early Saturday morning to a little boy already climbing out of his skin. It felt as if his body was under attack by some invisible and menacing force and I was powerless to defend him against it. Saturday went from bad to worse and, unfortunately, even between the two of us, Simon and I were barely able to manage Michael. As Michael sat at the computer after dinner on Saturday evening I approached him, began to rub his back and asked him how he was feeling. He looked me square in the eye and said; “I am in hell mommy. I feel like pieces of my body are being ripped away and I can’t do anything to stop it.” Michael dropped into bed that night as if he had a brutal hangover and fell asleep almost immediately. As we sat quietly on the porch together Saturday evening feeling completely shattered, Simon’s comment summed up our day brilliantly; “well, that day was nothing short of a train wreck!”
Sunday we were due to go to the first birthday party of our adorable twin God-children. We arrived at the party and all Michael wanted was chips that he couldn’t have (wheat flour and dairy as main ingredients) and pop that he absolutely couldn’t have. Michael was like a junkie wildly begging me for pop and trying to convince me that he was okay and that his body could handle the sugar. As he eyed the beautiful cake on the table he got angrier and more out of control and we bid an early and hasty retreat from the party.
The rest of Sunday was yet another torturous marathon and by the time I went to bed last night I felt completely and utterly exhausted. I also felt scared. What if all the healing that Michael’s body has done is reversed and he ends up right back where he started? What if he simply cannot recover from the onslaught of toxins he consumed on Friday? And why the hell are children eating this kind of food anyway? As I lay there worrying about Michael I got angry. Why are all these shitty foods being produced and marketed to children? Why is it okay that the stores are full of sugar, food colouring, chemical additives and caffeine for our children to consume? How have we come to a place where these foods are the norm? How is this kind of consumption okay? Watching Michael’s body suffer from the onslaught of toxins made me wonder about all the other vulnerable little bodies that don’t show the same outward signs but that are suffering nonetheless.
What the hell are we doing to our children?
Between bitter anger and grave concern I did not sleep at all last night. I finally gave into the insomnia at 3:30am and here I sit alone in my quiet house feeling the sharp talons of panic clawing at me and pulling me down. I feel too exhausted and defeated to resist the pull. I am going down and I am scared. I need comfort. I need a friend. I need to pour out my heart. I need Rob. I need his simple, loving and undemanding companionship so desperately I feel as if I have a gaping hole in my chest with its absence.
I need to know that I can spill my deepest, darkest secrets and I won’t be judged. I need to sit on Rob’s porch and just be still. I need to reach into the vulnerability and pain that is lurking deep in the shadows and give it some air before it suffocates me. I need to admit that I feel way in over my head and I’m scared. I need to say that I still feel so much like the terrified kid even though I am supposed to be the mother. I need to tell him that I feel fatigue so deep it threatens to engulf me. I need to tell him that I don’t know if I have what it takes to help Michael. I want to tell him that I feel guilty for wanting to turn my back on the whole thing and walk away because the work is too hard, the stakes are too high and the consequences of failure are way too forbidding. I want to tell him that I have forgotten what it’s like to feel joy. That I have forgotten what it feels like to have fun and laugh until my stomach hurts. I want to admit that parenting has become a joyless, thankless and completely overwhelming job.
I know that I could say all these things and that Rob would be the one person who could hold it. I would go on to tell him that I spend hours wishing my life away. I would admit that I fantasize constantly about a time when the boys are grown up and Simon and I have peace and quiet to do what we want when we want to do it. I would tell him that I can’t wait for a time in my life when there is no laundry, shopping, cooking, constant money worries, doctor’s appointments, conflict and cloying fear. I would tell him that I just need some quiet and some rest. I would tell him that I am pulling myself through my days as if I am running a marathon; always pushing myself a little bit harder and a little bit further but getting nowhere. I want to tell him that I can’t do it anymore. I am exhausted and I am done.
I want to ask Rob what will happen when I reach a breaking point. Will he be able to tell me if there is one? Will he know if I have actually reached it this morning? Will he stand by me if I get pulled down into the murky depths and can’t get back up? Will he still love me if I can’t fake a smile anymore and just want to cry? Will he mind if maybe I don’t talk at all and simply let the tears just fall unchecked? Will he still respect me if I admit that I am feeling deeply depressed? Will I still respect myself?
I can still remember the feel of my small hand in Rob’s big one. There was always such strength and comfort in Rob’s hand. I need that hand now. I also need the shoulder and the uncomplicated wisdom that was Rob’s trademark. I need his particular brand of magic and his stillness. I need him to tell me that I am not the first, nor will I be the last, parent to feel overwhelmed by the demands of a child with special needs. I need him to tell me that I am not a bad mother for wishing that I could walk away. I need him to tell me that I am not alone, that I am never alone. I need him to remind me that there are thousands upon thousands of parents out there feeling the same excruciating fear, uncertainty and, perhaps, even shame, that I feel today. I need him to give me permission to feel the way I do even though I am not living with an extreme situation; a life threatening illness, poverty, war or the death of a loved one. I need him to remind me that to pretend my dark feelings don’t exist is dangerous. I need Rob to tell me that there is healing in the darkness and that I am courageous and strong to be venturing into the shadowy corners of my psyche.
It is now 5:30am and I have to, as my dad would say, ‘blow my nose and get going’. I have to shower, dress and somehow dig deep enough to get on the Go Train this morning and go to work. I need to sit on a commuter train for over an hour surrounded by hundreds of people and pretend that I am not falling apart. I need to pretend that today is just like any other. What if I break down on the train? What if I cannot teach today? What if I can’t run today’s marathon?
I think the only answer is to keep my beloved old friend close by me today. I know for certain that he will allow me to sit on his porch for as long as I need to and that he will keep reminding me to breathe. Maybe there will be some simple and quiet answers on Rob’s porch. And even if there are no answers there is surely comfort and familiarity.
And right now, maybe that is enough.