My son breaks my heart.
I haven’t posted much (if anything) here about what we’re going through with Damon right now. I was posting little snippets on Facebook a while back re: his doctor and psychologist appointments, and I was told (by more than one person) that maybe it wasn’t “safe” and/or appropriate for me to post about it. So, being the people-pleaser that I am, I’ve kept quiet. But, I just decided that this is my blog, he’s my kid, and I want to post about what’s going on… so I’m going to. Among other things, this blog is my own form of therapy and sharing my thoughts/feelings about any given thing with my three readers makes me feel better. And, right now, I need to feel better.
So, where was I? Oh, yes… my son breaks my heart. In the last few months, I’ve sat in front of a pediatrician (twice), a psychologist (five times), and most recently, a psychiatrist. They’ve all asked me the same question: “So, Mrs. Witschey, what brings you here? What’s going on with Damon?” I wonder if any of them realize how difficult it is to answer that question?? How do I sum up 9.5 years of behavior and emotional issues in the 10 minutes they’ve allotted for me to tell our story??
But, every time I’ve been asked that question, I’ve tried to answer. I always walk out of their offices feeling like I’ve failed miserably… like there’s no way in hell they really “get” what’s going on by the little bit of information I was able to give in such a short conversation. But, so far, no one has slammed a door in my face. No one has looked me in the eye and told me that my son is perfectly normal and I’M the crazy one for dragging him from appointment to appointment, specialist to specialist. So far, everyone has agreed with me that something is not quite right with my son, that his behavior and emotions are not “normal” for a 9 year old.
And “what’s wrong” is just as difficult to explain here as it is in the doctors’ offices. My typical short answer is that Damon is sad and angry and that I worry about him. How long has this been going on? (That’s always the next question.) Well, probably for a long time. But, the older he gets, the bigger and stronger he becomes, the worse it seems… to me, anyway. He’s now beginning to lash out physically, and that’s a new development. He’s figuring out that he’s a big, strong kid and that he can scare people with his physical anger. I know he scares the bejeezus out of me when he lunges for his little sister just because she’s annoying him. I can see him becoming the bully in the neighborhood/at school. And, it just wasn’t that long ago that he was the smallest kid on the playground and I was concerned about bigger kids ganging up on HIM. Now, Damon’s the angry, frustrated kid who doesn’t know his own strength and has no idea how to control his strong emotions. I do think he’s always felt this way, but a few years ago, it was “okay” for him to cry when he was upset. Now, at 9 years old, it’s not “okay” for the biggest kid in the neighborhood to cry when his emotions get the best of him.
Anyway, that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for pages and pages, trying to describe everything that’s going on with this kid right now. Aside from being angry and easily frustrated, Damon is extremely negative… about anything and everything. He’s definitely NOT a “the-glass-is-half-full” kinda person!! And, in his mind, he’s ALWAYS the victim. Always. No matter what the situation is… the world is out to get Damon. If he gets in trouble at school, it’s because he was blamed for something someone else did. And it’s always unfair, and he’s always the one who gets blamed. If he knocks on the door at his friend’s house down the street to see if he can come out and play and no one answers? Well, it’s not because no one is home. Damon convinces himself that they’re there, they just don’t want to open the door to him. It’s always a huge conspiracy. The world hates him. Damon’s life is pretty much one big pity party.
And, on one hand, I want to roll my eyes and tell him to get over himself (and sometimes in the midst of my own frustration, I do that!)… but, on the other hand, I think this is NOT normal. A child should not feel this terrible all the time. He should not be near tears and feeling victimized every second of every day. And then, my heart breaks when I think of how it must feel for HIM. I know that he tries as hard as he can to keep his emotions to himself. Sometimes I look at Damon, and I can SEE the battle that’s going on in his own mind. He’s upset or angry about something, but he knows that if he reacts the way he wants to, I’m going to look at him like he has six heads and say something like, “Really?? Seriously, Damon??? You’re this upset about THAT?? Is it really worth crying/screaming/wanting to hit someone???” He knows from our reactions at times that his feelings are a bit over the top (understatement of the decade!)… so he tries to keep them to himself. And, honestly, that scares me more than anything. If he doesn’t yell, scream, cry, hit something… if he doesn’t LET those feelings out, then where do they go? What happens to all of the craziness if it stays trapped inside of him?
And, the bottom line is that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help Damon at this point. I can’t fix him. That is the MOST heartbreaking part. Nick and I have talked until we’re blue in the face… we’ve tried every strategy we can think of. We’ve been easy on him, we’ve been tough on him, and we’ve been everything in between. We’ve made an effort to get more involved with Damon’s daily life, making sure Damon has special activities (Scouts, baseball, etc.), trying to make sure he feels loved, that he knows we care about him and his happiness. As a result of that, sometimes I think we’ve done more harm than good. Now, not only is he a bit on the crazy side, but he’s also turning into a spoiled brat… who suddenly has this ridiculous sense of entitlement. (And, let’s not even talk about his little sister who is all but neglected because we’re so worried about making DAMON happy!!)
So, something is wrong, and I don’t know how to fix it. Most of the time, I worry that we’re doing more harm than good. One day a few months ago I finally admitted these things to myself, and I called the pediatrician. He referred us to a psychologist for a full evaluation. She concluded that Damon is suffering from depression. The pediatrician agreed with her diagnosis but didn’t feel comfortable treating depression in a 9 year old, so he then referred us to a psychiatrist. Again, the psychiatrist agrees: Damon is depressed. Now, the million dollar question: What do we do about it?
The psychiatrist gave me the option of starting medication right away, along with appointments with a therapist, or starting with just therapy to see if that might help on its own. Although I’m not thrilled with the idea of medicating my child, it would be rather hypocritical of me not to consider it, right? I know what a difference medication makes where my own mental health is concerned. But, the psychiatrist was quick to tell me that depression in children is often different from depression in adults. He said that, often times, there is a noticeable change in children after just a few sessions with a therapist. So, I agreed to go that route. Damon has a few sessions with the therapist scheduled for next month. Then, we’ll meet with the psychiatrist again and go from there. If I don’t see much change, then he’ll prescribe an antidepressant for Damon at that point.
At this point, I have incredibly mixed feelings about this whole process. I feel like it’s been a whole lot of “hurry up and wait.” I’m tired of telling this sad story over and over again. I’m frustrated because, even though we’ve been at this for several months now, not much has happened. I do know that we’re getting closer, though… and I just pray that something works. Whether it’s therapy or medication or a combination of the two, I just want my little boy to be happy. At least once a day I look at Damon and I remember when he was about 2 feet tall and had a head full of soft blond hair… and he SMILED all the time. He was the sweetest, happiest little thing with his whole life ahead of him. I hate that I look at him now, at only 9 years old, and I can’t find that happy child anymore. Now, I look at Damon and my heart breaks and I want to cry.
I hope that one day soon I’ll be able to look at my son and smile again. More importantly, I hope that he can look at HIMSELF and smile.