Last week I got so upset at a friend of mine that I was forced to get up in a packed restaurant and walk out as to prevent from having a full blow public meltdown: The kind of meltdown that is NOT a tantrum, but a GIANT emotional response to my feelings of being hurt, judged, misunderstood and totally overwhelmed at the injustice of it all.
I’ve lost it before. Primarily in doctors’ offices when advocating for my kid(s) was being completely missed and my impulse to protect and defend my boys was pushed to the limit. Then, I am happy to speak my mind. Which is usually met with less than the best of results. :-/
This time the boys weren’t with me. This time it was just one adult, who for all practical purposes meant well (don’t they always?) and was attempting to make a point – just as I was doing.
The difference is that my boys and I do not live in the philosophical world that non-special needs parents often do. We do not have the luxury of philosophical debate. We do not live in the land of ‘ideal’ and the place of judgment so many parents who simply have not been down this road do. I live my life. Not someone else’s. Not even the one I thought I would have. But the one I actually do have.
Now you’re wondering what the issue was, right?
What started out as a friendly discussion about whether or not to medicate children turned into war when I was challenged with the blind statement that children don’t need medication, including my son – who has Pediatric Bipolar Disorder I. The justification for the blanket statement relied on my friend’s personal experience with a family member’s children (nieces/nephews). The argument was that we as a society over-diagnose and over-medicate our kids, and yet that isn’t an issue other countries, but rather something associated with the US.
I wasn’t going to argue that. Whether or not we over-diagnose, over-medicate, or have lazy parents who want a ‘pill’ to solve their children’s problems here in the US (or abroad) is not something I’m interested in debating. Mostly because quite simply it has no impact on whether or not *my* child needs medication.
And then I was told that in order to prove I was right about choosing to medicate my son (like as if I have a choice), I needed to provide documentation in the form of articles, medical journals, and books. I was told point blank that no matter what research, information, doctor’s opinions, experiences from other parents, or books *I* had researched on the matter, simply relaying that information was not good enough – I needed to provide it to my friend so that it could be vetted all over again. That is if I wanted agreement – and by agreement I mean approval.
I don’t normally have a problem with proving myself. God knows that I’ve done a billion hours of research to make EVERY decision I have been forced to for all three of my boys’ medical care, so I clearly need to ‘prove’ my decisions at least to myself already. So, what really set me off was being doubted, questioned, and judged, by someone who knows my character and who has never been in the position to have to make these kinds of heart-wrenching, no-right-answer, decisions. I couldn’t help but internalize what was being said – I want everyone to think for themselves – but why doubt me those that have gone through it? Isn’t personal experience more valuable than any book? Why on earth would I medicate my child if I did not think it was IMPERATIVE to his survival?
This conversation had me flabbergasted, annoyed, pushed, and usually I feel ready to strike when such things happen – but this time – this time I was so hurt that my friend didn’t believe me, and couldn’t see past his own personal experience to simply trust my judgment – that I left – in a hurry and in tears.
I was totally flooded with emotion, frustration, anger and the desire to throw tables over in a restaurant while screaming at the top of my lungs, “WHO THE F*CK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!!”
Instead the next day I showed my friend the videos I have on my phone for my son’s psychiatrist. They show Gabriel having a psychotic break. There are many of them. No more than a minute or so long each. But the most recent ones at that time were of my son jumping on his bed, screaming and crying, yelling that he hated me that he was going to kill everyone, attempting to kick his dresser over on me, biting himself, screaming at me, ripping at existing holes in the sheet rock and eating what he pulled out, running through the house hitting the walls with his fists, and finally collapsing on the ground exhausted. Totally normal behavior for my son this time of year.
My friend immediately recanted everything that was said and every judgment that was passed previously, and apologized.
And I felt it was one small step forward to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness – both for those who have it – and for those parents who struggle every day to keep their kids safe.
I may not have thrown the tables, or yelled at the top of my lungs, or even broke down in tears (although you know I did when I showed the videos), but I moved one more person’s thinking forward. That has to be a win.
Here’s to all of you who have a challenging child, you’re not alone. :-)