The Backstory

I don’t even know where to begin. I have no idea how my life has become what it is, but here I am, just trying to process everything.

I suppose there’s no better place to start than at the beginning.

From a very young age, I always felt the impression that I would be the mother to a special needs child. In my limited knowledge, I assumed I would be dealing with something along the lines of Down Syndrome, because that’s really the only mental disability I had been exposed to. At that point in my life, I had no idea what lurked in the dark corners of mental disorders.

As a grade school child, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I didn’t really understand what that meant, but I knew that, because of it, I had a more difficult time in school than my “typical” peers. While many children “grow out” of ADHD after puberty, it’s something I still deal with today. As a matter of fact, I literally wrote that sentence, my phone buzzed, and I then scrolled, liked, reposted, and commented for about 20 minutes. I wonder if I could get a timer to record my writing. Like, after every fifty words or so I suddenly took a five minute “break”.

Also, none of this will be grammatically correct. In my formal writing and in my speaking, I am a grammar nerd. In my casual writing…meh.

SQUIRREL

Moving on…I struggled throughout my entire childhood and youth with academics and social situations. My home life was less than pleasant, and looking back I believe I probably caused the majority of it.

I {barely} graduated high school with extraordinarily low self-esteem for reasons hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, I’ve been able to sort out. I married super young with absolutely no post-secondary education under my belt, worked for a few years, and then started a family.

Totally and completely unprepared for what lied ahead, I celebrated with an ignorant bliss. Clothes were bought, crib put together, three baby showers, freezer meals, and everything else I could think of, was completely under control. Ha.

I was thrust into a dark world of severe Post-Partum Depression, bordering Post-Partum Psychosis. There were days I couldn’t get myself out of bed, let alone into the shower or out of the house. When I was home alone I would often avoid the kitchen because there were knives in there. I never loved the cry-it-out method, but I forced myself to utilize it because, let’s be honest here, no baby ever died from crying…but how many have died at the hands of over-extended, exhausted, operating at max capacity mothers who finally snapped? My little bundle of “joy” was never happy. Ever. If he wasn’t eating or sleeping, he was crying. He was born completely uncomfortable in his own skin. Dozens of doctor appointments, and a hundred sleepless nights later, I got the dreaded catchall diagnosis for perpetually pissed off babies – colic. I’ve never understood this diagnosis. How is it possible for so many babies to be suffering for absolutely no reason?

Things began to calm down at about the six month mark, I was finally on a good medication for my depression, and slowly climbing out of my own fog. We would get out and about almost every day, even if it was just a run to Target. My little one still wasn’t ever very happy, but at least our outings wore him out a bit and he’d nap a little longer.

As we found our routine a little better, we were able to make our days somewhat enjoyable. Once he was able to move around freely, things improved. He could run and explore, climb and jump, fall on his face and dust himself off. Looking back, it’s the unstructured outside moments where he was at his happiest.

We were fortunate to live in a state that offered free preschool for all four year olds, so for three hours a day he was somebody else’s problem learned in a structured environment the very basics of the alphabet and counting, as well as how to interact with his peers. At least that was the hope. It didn’t take long for the daily notes to come home, the forlorn look on his teacher’s face at pickup, and the overwhelming realization that I had failed at the mom-thing, to sink in.

I dreaded pickup because it didn’t seem to matter what we tried at home or what the teachers did at the school, more often than not, he was causing some sort of problem. It was around this time that I could see there was something a little *off* about my son. He appeared to lack compassion for others, and couldn’t seem to control himself when he got the urge to hurt somebody. Nothing too extreme, and as isolated incidents wouldn’t have even raised an eye. But I was noticing a pattern and became even more concerned.

Even after the hell that his infancy was, I ended up pregnant with my second child, born right before preschool started. At first, Michael seemed to be a sweet big brother, always hugging, singing to, doting on, and playing with his new little buddy. He was a very proud big brother.

Once James started walking and talking, the tides turned. It felt like it was almost a game to see how much of a reaction he could get out of his brother. I remember one incident where James was in the shower and got soap in his eyes. He was in agony and crying hysterically. Michael began laughing in a way I can only describe as maniacal. I could not get him to calm down and, in a moment of desperation that I am not proud of, I slapped him in the face to shock him back to reality. It wasn’t hard or out of anger, but I still hate that I reacted that way.

From that point on I became acutely aware of Michael’s need to be in control and feel powerful. It has been more than six years, and I still haven’t figured out a way to help him consider other’s feelings. He is incapable of comprehending anything outside of himself. If it doesn’t impact him in a way he deems beneficial, it doesn’t happen. Similarly, if it affects him in a negative way, he refuses to do it.

As a very minor example: There was one day last year he was walking home from school with James and another friend. He ended up with three cookies in his hands and, instead of giving each companion a cookie, he kept them to himself. Had that been James or the other friend, each other boy would have been offered a cookie long before being asked. It breaks my heart to see him alienating his friends. Not surprisingly, said friend never comes around anymore. They get along fine at school, but other than polite acquaintances, their relationship has ceased to exist.

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