I’ve lost a child. I haven’t lost him due to death, but the pain and heartache are certainly as horrible as if it were. This is a very long story, but if you’ve got a moment or two, I’d like to share my experience with you.
On November 12, 1995 at 3:08 a.m. I gave birth to a healthy robust little boy who I named Tyler. At the time I was not with Tyler’s dad and had made the decision to raise this child on my own. I spent months preparing for his birth and I was super excited about it. I was 23 years old and alone, but I had a good job and family close by. Tyler was a week past his due date and this was probably a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Forty-eight hours of hard labour and Tyler finally debuted into this world. They had lost the heartbeat for a bit and they thought he might have lost a bit of oxygen but his scores were good and he was pronounced healthy.
Fast-forward eight years and our little family consisted of me, Tyler (8 yrs old), his sister Kate and their Dad Stacy. Now for those of you that read my blog, you’ll know that I live with mental illness and the illness began to rear it’s ugly head around this time and I found myself finding it increasingly difficult to cope and manage my life.
Around this time, Tyler began to exhibit very aggressive and disturbing behavior. He was prone to violence, setting fires and out of control temper tantrums. Our family was walking on eggshells trying to keep him happy. I was working for Children’s services and I talked to the workers about Tyler and they let me know his behavior was not ordinary and I should get him help. And thus began my descent into hell.
I started out with my family doctor and he referred Tyler for therapy. I got him into a weekly play therapy session and attended all the appointments with him and was dedicating all of myself to helping him. I didn’t realize at the time that the home life I was in was so dysfunctional – there was abuse by Stacy and I to each other, unhappiness, financially a mess – our whole world was chaotic. After therapy, the behaviors settled down somewhat but when Tyler entered grade five, things really turned worse. He no longer would attend school and if I forced him he would become disruptive and walk out. The principal at the school told me that he had never been afraid of a child before but he was of Tyler. He also began to get into trouble with the police for vandalism and troublemaking, so armed with this information from the public about his behavior, I was able to get a referral to a child psychiatrist. Finally! Some help!
Tyler had to spend three weeks in the assessment unit and every Sunday when I took him there it tore my heart out. I had to leave my baby in the arms of strangers and I felt like such a horrible mother. They did every test imaginable – getting a full picture of what was happening. Final diagnosis – Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD and a non verbal learning disability. Well at least I knew what was wrong and could start trying to fix it.
The doctor prescribed some medication and I set out to learn everything I could about ODD and what I needed to do as a parent. He needs structure and routine and consistent boundaries. Something that I had trouble putting in place with my own mental health issues. At this time, I didn’t know I had a mental illness – I was pretty good at stuffing my own crap away and coping. I had to be strong for my children.
Tyler did not respond well to medication and was refusing therapy or aide programs. I was struggling in an unhappy marriage, financial problems were constant and his behaviors were escalating. He began to hit and threaten his younger sister and I felt like I was losing control.
During this time my ex was of no help whatsoever. He was in complete denial that Tyler had some problems and even deeper denial that him and I were unstable. I spent a year in therapy just working up the courage to end the relationship once and for all. And it wasn’t until Children’s services got involved that real change and loss started happening.
To be continued….