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Pam Patterson

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Not In Our Family!
by Pam Patterson   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, September 18, 2004
Posted: Saturday, September 18, 2004

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What a shock to discover your 6 and 5 year olds are suffering from emotional disorders! Depression, OCD, bi-polar, anxiety disorder, ADHD? These are babies, for God's sake! They are also struggling. And so we begin the long journey through emotional disorders with our children.



                                               Not In Our Family!


ADHD, anxiety disorder, OCD, depression, bi-polar (in a child, for God’s sake?):  not in my family!  These are challenges that face other unfortunate families.  Well, I’ve joined the ranks of the unfortunate; I’m submerged in the challenges.  Sometimes when I look at one of my sleeping boys it seems like a nightmare and I’ll shake myself or rub my eyes.  But, this is the new reality; it doesn’t fade with the night. 


My daughter and I have known for some time that Connor, 6, has been unduly anxious.  Up until this year we could barely get him into a movie theater.  He didn’t like the large, loud dark.  It was too big, too loud, too much for him.  He didn’t like any new experience.  It took a fork-lift to get him into kindergarten every day for a good 2 months last year.  Each morning was a battle.  I literally had to drag him into the building, kicking and screaming.  After about a week the school counselor took over the task of getting him into the building and into his office until Connor was calm enough to join his classmates.


There were other clues.  He chewed on his fingernails, his shirts, paper and various other non-edible things.  He wouldn’t sleep alone.  It had to be with his mother or me.  He talked about Heaven a lot.  He wanted to know what it was like there.  He began to talk excitedly about not being able to wait until he got to Heaven.  What seemed cute, at first, starting making me uneasy.  Connor began to obsess about not being able to drive when he was old enough.  He worried that there would be no one to take care of him when his mother and I died.  He worried that Sam, his younger brother, wouldn’t be there to do things for him, like drive. 


These worries, these obsessions were always churning.  They were never far from the surface.  Once we got him into the classroom without a struggle he worried that he might not be able to do this or that.  He became concerned about first grade, about high school and college.  The little clouds hovered; the scary future loomed and encroached on what should be a carefree today.  This was a five year old, a child, much loved by his mother, grandmother, brother and other assorted family members. 


Sam, his brother, was turning four at the time.  We would sigh and think longingly back to his relatively benign terrible twos.  It was as if he had some internal switch that flipped on high about the time he turned three. Sam morphed into the personification of the phrase “whirling dervish”.  Taking care of him was exhausting!  He had the attention span of a gnat, needed to be entertained constantly, watched constantly.  By noon each day I was ready to scream. 


At the end of May we realized that Connor had a real problem that needed to be addressed. His pediatrician recommended a pediatric neurologist, who put him on medication and sent us to a psychologist.  Once the rages started that neither his mother or I were able to control, once we were forced to restrain him to keep him from destroying the house or hurt the dog or bite or hit or kick his mom, once we had to have a neighbor help my daughter get him to the emergency room more than once, we were sent to a child psychiatrist who had him tested and placed on different medications.  


Our beautiful, bright, seemingly happy 6 year old was diagnosed ADHD with a number of coexisting disorders:  anxiety, depression, obsessive tendencies and dysgraphia.  We have a child who is so depressed that he can’t get in touch with his feelings to tell us about his pain.  The out-of-control rages are frightening.  He transforms into someone we don’t even recognize. 


Sam, Connor’s brother just turned 5.  Several months ago he was tested and diagnosed ADHD.  In addition to bouncing off the walls, he had no impulse control, hurt the pets, was accident prone and escalated his destructive acts around the house.  We also discovered that he is slightly depressed, although the doctors think his is more situational than deep-seated, like his brother’s.  Sam had more of a relationship with the father he rarely sees since the parents divorced last year.  On some level he misses him, though interaction is minimal.


The boys probably inherited these disorders from their father, who was diagnosed with several emotional disorders.  That’s in addition to the long and continuing history of drug and alcohol abuse.  In fact, from what I have read, drug and alcohol abuse in a parent is thought to create a higher likelihood of these disorders showing up in the child.  This makes me angry; it makes me sad.


We’re getting all the help we possibly can with the boys.  Connor’s school has been exceptionally understanding and helpful.  His medications are still being regulated until we can calm the rages.  Only then can we begin to work on the problems and deal with the underlying issues.  Sam is a different child on his medication.  He can play for hours on his own, happily.  He’s much less destructive and no longer torments the pets.


I love these boys with all my heart.  We’re fortunate to have discovered these problems early.  There is every hope that both children will have bright, productive futures.  It will be a long, hard slog; I know that.  But, this is a challenge my daughter and I can meet and win.  There is no other option.


Pam Patterson ©  2004



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Reviewed by sarah playle
I can only start to understand the struggle. I have a friend who's oldest son is autistic/adhd, and I've seen the struggle she has with him. He is in therapy already and he is only 6 years old.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead
well done
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