It’s been nothing short of month from hell for our family. That is not me exaggerating. Even before we tried a new anti-anxiety medication to help Michael regulate and calm down (it only made things worse), I saw his attention, anger and aggression worsen towards us, and even himself. Though there was significantly less anxiety and at school they were seeing a sillier side of Michael who did not know when to quit laughing or fooling around with friends, it was hard on all of us. What was the most difficult was hearing Michael apologize to us right after the verbal or physical aggression looking genuinely sorry, then turn around and do the exact same thing a minute later. He also would make a show of looking at his strategies that he had devised to handle his aggression and anger better, but we could see that his heart was not really in it. We brought in visual schedules but that angered him too. It was all in his head. He did not need to see what was on paper.
As a parent it is heartbreaking to see your child suffering and all the tools you are using not working. Thankfully, a step in the right direction was taking him off the anti-anxiety medication on Friday. Even with that the weekend was a bit about the withdrawal effects of the medication. The verbally aggressive things he was saying were hard not to take to heart, though I found chillingly that I was becoming numb to them at the same time. It’s called exceptional parenting survival. Then on Sunday night I started seeing noticeable differences. He was calmer, listening to us again and not freaking out when we asked him to do something, and then, I was both shocked and overjoyed when he looked at us and said, “I am going to schedule my day Mommy.” And just like that, the schedules came back. He also started actually using his strategies to handle his anger and with the meds gone his anxiety over the dark and nighttime came back. But, I was so proud to see him coming to his Dad and I, letting himself cry in front of us, and then proceeding to use the strategies he used to use to handle nighttime anxiety.
I started thinking where did it stop going wrong and start going wrong? Was it all medication? Was it all blood sugar related? Did Dad’s and my consistency start paying off? Was it due to the fact that we told him he would soon be meeting with a new team to assess him for his attention and anger issues? He had been asking to talk to a psychologist for a while. I think it was all of the above personally. Regardless, my little boy, the one who didn’t go off like a firecracker every second, was back. The PTSD symptoms I felt I was developing each day on my way home for work were going away. I felt happy and hopeful that a combination of good communication, consistency in response, and a good medication match may be the solution we are looking for. He actually told me he wants to listen and not anger us or his teachers. He seems calmer, grounded like a cloud has passed over. This is very common with exceptional kids. They have their moods, their difficult periods, their honeymoon periods. As exceptional parents, we need to be looking at all the clues of what could be helping or hindering them. It is downright exhausting, but worth it in the end to log any strange behavior or any other developments as well as what is working and not working. It is also important to not give up on your child. Michael reminded me that after a hard period with him often comes a rest for both of us. He reverts back to himself. He is growing, changing, testing. He is helping me to stretch myself, and as frustrating as it is to have to go back to the table for more answers as to what other conditions he may have that he needs assistance with, I am grateful for the support of the amazing family and friendship network I have. As usual, they have come through for us in the form of professionals for us to consult, shoulders to cry on, and give me the strength to ask God and the Universe to fill me with the strength I will need on this journey of raising Michael to reach his full potential and do the beautiful thing he is supposed to do in this world.
He is letting me hug him again. He wants to sit in my lap and he tells me he loves me, he loves coming home to me and talking to me. He appreciates his father and I. There is nothing in his eyes that leads me to believe anything other than he is telling the truth. I take him on my lap, hug him, and tell him I love him too and want him to be healthy and happy. We are both ready to turn the page to the next chapter of helping Michael succeed.
Exceptional Parents, what surprises do your Exceptional Children give you? I’ll bet some are beautiful, some not so much. Whichever ones they bring though, remember it can be used to make you both grow stronger and more secure. Your child needs to learn limits and letting go and trusting in your parenting. And you as the parent, need to learn what your limits are and when you need to let go and trust in yourself as the parent. Know that it is OK to be scared, angry and not know. Also believe that your child will surprise you every time and that you need to be ready to go on to the next leg of adventure with them. Remember, you are each other’s guides to growth and becoming stronger as individuals. Until next time.