For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a mom. I loved my Cabbage Patch Kids dearly and played with them constantly; changing their clothes, braiding their woolen hair, feeding them delicious-looking plastic peas and pork chops. These children were perfect because I was the perfect mother! They ate all their vegetables, went to bed on time, never talked back and loved me unconditionally.From this experience I knew, without a doubt, I was meant to me a mom.
Now, I am a mom and it’s nothing like my childhood me thought it would be. It’s….different, definitely different.
My daughter, Rian (pronounced like the boy’s name Ryan), was born 13 years ago and from the moment she took her first breath she let you know she was around. Rian suffered from colic, screaming at the top of her little lungs for the first six months of her life, and for those six months I was completely sleep deprived. The only way to get her to sleep was to lay her on my chest where she could feel the rhythm of my breathing and the beat of my heart. These are my fondest memories of her babyhood, lulling her to sleep so that I, too, could sleep. Colic was only the beginning – there were bigger things on the horizon.
Things went pretty well with Rian once the colic subsided and we were both getting enough rest. She had the attention span of a gnat but I figured, she’s busy, right? My doctor told me “she’s exploring her environment” so I didn’t worry, at least, not too much.
It was when I was six months pregnant with my son that the next major issue reared its head. Rian was 18-months old and she had the sweetest little blond curls. I’d waited so long for her hair to grow in, she’d been bald for the first year, and her hair was baby soft and just perfect. Apparently it was tasty too because she began eating it, literally ripping it out of her scalp and eating it. She would lift her little hand to her head, curl her chubby fingers around a hunk of hair, tear it out and pop it right into her mouth. Every time I hear Velcro ripping apart I’m reminded of the little bald patches on her little head. I took her to the doctor and the only solution we could think of was to shave her head. So I did – goodbye cute, blond curls hello buzz cut. She still plays with her hair to this day but she no longer consumes it, thank God.
My son Alexi (pronounced with a short “a”-lex-ee) was born six months after the “hair incident” and he was the quietest baby in the world. I would often set him in his bouncy seat in the corner of the kitchen and forget he was there. This was a dream come true!! I slept better, Rian was potty trained and I loved cuddling with both my babies.
The years passed, too quickly I’d like to add, the kids were both busy toddlers and inquisitive preschoolers. Rian had slowed down a little when we got her her first pair of glasses but Alexi didn’t slow down at all and we worried about his hearing since he never seemed to hear us call him when he was busy playing but the doctor assured us that his hearing was fine. As far as I was concerned they were both healthy and as happy as they could be.
Rian started school at age 4 and Alexi went the following year at age 3. Their kindergarten teachers felt there might be issues to keep my eye on but the kids were too young at that point in time to diagnose, and truthfully, I didn’t want my kids to be imperfect because that would mean I was imperfect, that I had done something to “break them”, so I was in no rush to seek a professional opinion.
After a very troubling grade 1 year, I acknowledged that Rian needed more help than I could give her. We took her to a child psychologist and she was diagnosed with Childhood Anxiety. She continued to visit the child psychologist during the summer and I felt the situation was well in hand. Then came grade 2. Rian became increasingly agitated and aggressive and, after much pushing on my part and the part of her poor teacher, she was co-diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I put her name on a waiting list to see a counselor at The Child and Family Counseling Centre (now OECYC see link under Blogroll) and we put her on a low dose of Concerta, a stimulant medication in the Ritalin family, used to control symptoms of ADHD.
Grade 3 was a much better year for Rian but not for Alexi. This was the year he entered grade 2 and he continued to have difficulties in class. He would wander around the class room, regardless of whether the teacher was instructing the class or not. He continued to “ignore” everyone around him when he was playing or colouring or reading or concentrating on anything. Fortunately my experiences in the last year with his sister, and all the research I had done regarding ADHD, made the decision to take Alexi in to the doctor much easier. He, too, was diagnosed with ADHD and put on a low dose of Ritalin.
The summer between Alexi’s grade 2 and grade 3 years was pretty eventful and led to a few other discoveries about my children’s mental health. It was that summer that their father all but abandoned us and I was finally able to accept that he was an emotionally, mentally, psychologically and environmentally abusive man. I know I had suffered because of his behaviour but so had the children. Both children were then diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) before starting grades 3 and 4.
It’s been over 3 years since he left and the kids and I are doing better all the time. Rian has had the diagnoses of PTSD removed but has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Depression. So, to recap: my daughter is diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, GAD & Depression; my son is diagnosed with ADHD, GAD and PTSD. I have also been diagnosed with ADHD and DID so there are a lot of letters floating around my house. I wonder if I can start putting them after my name as a form of credentials….mmmm, something to consider, I mean all this life experience has to add up to something, right?
To summarize, my main concept in keeping this blog is to let other parents of kids with mental illness know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I also want to provide links to services and information that may make parenting easier for all of us. Lastly, I want to share some of the craziness that happens in my home because, let’s be honest, kids with mental health issues can be absolutely hilarious.