At eleven years old, our son is more than halfway to becoming a man, and yet he still has an uphill battle left to get there in one piece. He’s slipped through the cracks all this time. He’s been mistaken as a shy and quiet, but overactive child. I’ve been blown off as a paranoid mother by his pediatricians, despite repeated pleas to get him tested.
My documented list of symptoms and concerns were brushed aside with the reassurance that he was a typical boy who happened to be on the introverted side. Everyone kept telling me that he would find his own way one day and not to worry. Even my son’s teachers were all too willing to make exceptions and changes to their classroom management and teaching policies to allow him wiggle room to get by. Overloaded with IEPs from other students with diagnoses on file, it was a relief to see their interventions worked well enough to pass him on up without validating my concerns.
The whole while, my husband was on the side of those who agreed that formal intervention wasn’t necessary. The kid could laugh at his own jokes and get his work done with thorough instruction and the right setting, so he obviously was coping.
But a mother knows.
We see through to the heart of our young and read what’s hiding behind their eyes with ease. I knew my son was different… I knew I’d passed down the cursed gene for mental illness to him. This poor kid was so much more than shy. I knew it in my heart of hearts.
At home, he acted incredibly pained to be around his siblings and avoided gathering with us as a family unit. He constantly complained the noise levels of the daily hustle and bustle hurt his head. He couldn’t stand any of the tags on his shirts or seams on his socks. He hated the texture of soft food, rough towels, and the carpet.
Music of any sort was torture to his ears. On top of it all, his moods would bounce from extremely high to low in an instant. One minute, he’d be thrill-seeking by climbing onto the garage roof or scaling my floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Then, in the next, be sobbing uncontrollably with rage I have never seen in a child before.
Whenever we had guests, he refused come out of his bedroom. Yet, in despite of all the negative reactions and emotions consuming him, he would never sit still. He had to be moving in some way all of the time. Constantly fidgeting and bouncing around, you would get dizzy trying to stare him down.
At night, when the house was quiet and everyone was fast asleep, I would go in to check on the kids before turning in and find him crying into his pillow. He could never tell me why, and now I know, there never was a reason; it was merely the mental illness taking control.
It was only a matter of time before someone else finally saw the difference in my boy.
Over the years, I brought my feelings to my husband time and time again, just as I did with the many different doctors and teachers. The one person I counted on to have my back dismissed me just like everyone else. “He is not YOU, my dear,” my husband would remind me during each discussion.
Those words made me seethe with anger inside. It took every ounce of self control not to grab my husband by his shoulders and shake him until he understood what I was trying desperately to convey about our son.
My son was broken and I was helpless to do anything about it. I was forced to watch him deteriorate from the silly family comedian he was as a toddler to the ornery, always anxious, young man he had become. I began to believe that maybe I was the crazy one for seeing through his exterior defenses into the darkness that brewed within his soul- until we reached fifth grade, that is.
On open-house night, just a mere few weeks into the school year, his teacher approached me and requested a parent-teacher conference to discuss some observations she had noted already regarding my sensitive little boy. It was at this meeting that she confirmed I was far from crazy and she wanted to get him tested immediately because he would benefit greatly from therapeutic interventions.
That is when our son finally received his diagnosis of Social Anxiety, Major Depressive, and Sensory Processing disorders. However, my husband was ready to tell me it was all in mine and the psychiatrist’s heads… our son was going to be just fine and I was making something out of nothing.
He immediately deflected the long-awaited answers for every unanswered question we ever had and it truly infuriated me; made my blood boil. Ten years worth of our son’s uncontrollable mood swings which created tension thicker than the humidity of a late July afternoon within our home, and he STILL wants to argue that this is typical kid behavior and I should let pass without intervention.
After all the pain we’ve faced trying to understand our son, you would think he would put aside his false beliefs and educate himself on the facts, but, no. Instead, he wanted to keep on fighting the truth staring him square down his nose. His fear of the stigma which comes with mental illness control his opinions, as irrational as they are.
The contradictions between us are tearing a rift between us as we continue to struggle with seeing eye to eye on the well-being of our son.
We have seen a remarkable difference in our son since everything fell into place with his diagnoses. His grades have come up, his outbursts are fewer and less intense, and the crying at night has almost completely stopped. My son has finally been understood by almost everyone in his life and it is a beautiful sight for this mom.
If only my husband would come around and join the diagnosis train. It is my greatest wish, now, to have him in our corner, cheering us on as we progress through this new chapter of our son’s life.
One day, maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to have that wish come true… but for now, I am satisfied with the one wish that did come true the day my son’s teacher validated everything I had already known about my extra sensitive boy.