BLAME. Brady has been one of my greatest treasures, and greatest challenges. He has always been quick to anger and easily frustrated. When he was little we blamed it on his inability to speak. “oh, he’s just frustrated because he’s not talking yet.” And then once he was talking, it was “he’s just frustrated because nobody understands him.” It was always something.
“He’s cranky because he missed his nap.”
“He’s getting new molars.”
“He didn’t eat much for breakfast.”
“He hasn’t pooped since Wednesday.”
“He has a tough time transitioning from school to home.”
IGNORE. I thought I had it all figured out. This past school year we had our struggles, but I didn’t think it was a huge deal…because of course….I had an answer for why he was acting out. But somewhere behind the veil of all day school, a secret monster was growing. I would catch little bursts of his monster on the weekends, or when he came home in the afternoon…but the monster was tame. Small. I could easily defeat it with Pokemon cards.
MONSTER. Once summer came I had to face the tough reality – I wasn’t just dealing with a “normal” disobedient boy. Whatever was happening inside my sweet boy’s brain, was driving him to grow a monster inside his belly that would lash out. Instead of a small monster, I was wrangling a demon sent to test every ounce of patience and love that a mother can have.
RESCUE. I had to check out from most of my life to try and save my boy from this monster. To bring Brady out of the very deep, very dark hole the monster had dragged him into I had to step away from everything that was keeping me sane. I haven’t touched my tools in months, and my weightlifting has been whittled down to once a week at best. And like the prison break from Shawshank, the monster dug the hole so slowly that I didn’t even notice it was happening until it had swallowed him whole.
CANCELLED. The summer I had planned in my head went out the window. I had visions of road trips, water parks and lazy days spent building sandcastles. These visions were quickly swapped with a marathon of discipline, a heaping mountain of patience, and a metric fuck ton of time outs. And after enduring two months of escalating behavior, we reached the breaking point. It was a trip to Meijer to buy school supplies, and it ended with me getting my lip split open by Brady’s wicked right cross. I left the kids with Bill, and I walked home sobbing.
ZERO. I’ll spare you the details of Brady’s behavior. Honestly, it is too emotionally taxing for me to give a play-by-play. But it was on my walk home from Meijer that I realized something was definitely wrong with Brady. His little brain wasn’t firing the same as other kids. His language. His lack of impulse control. His defiance. He wasn’t just “naughty”, he actually appeared to have zero control of how he behaved at home.
HELP. Oh, that’s the other thing. He ONLY acts this way at home/with me. His teachers adore him, his playdates at friends houses ended with praise for how sweet he is. I was like, “Um….yeah. Great. So, what did he break while he was here? Nothing?? That’s weird.” My walk home from Meijer led to a lot of soul searching, which brought us to seek out a psychotherapist. We needed professional help.
TESTS. We found a doctor here in McHenry, and she put Brady through hours of testing. And while we don’t have all the test interpretations back yet, there is one thing that is certain: Brady has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). And there it was. A name for his monster. Something concrete to hang onto. Something to google and read about. Something to reassure me that I am not a complete fraud as a mother. ODD. Brady is the textbook example of the disorder.
LIFTED. I wish I could say that his diagnosis lifted some weight off my shoulders, but it really didn’t. It has given me a new perspective on how to handle his behavior, but day in and day out, my life still feels….heavy? Yeah, I guess that’s how to describe it. I feel heavy. “School starts soon, and that will help” is what people keep telling me, and I wish I could believe it. It will help in the sense that I will get a break from Brady. But it also fills me with dread that maybe this year, his ODD will manifest at school as well. Sweet Lord, please don’t let this manifest at school.
TREAT. Like other behavioral disorders, there is no magic cure for ODD. It isn’t something that medication can cure. It will all come down to consistency, and alternative behavior therapy. In other words my friends, I am currently on a very long and very shitty journey. So to my friends, family, neighbors, church people, strangers in public….here is my request to you: Please be patient with my journey. There are “good days”, and there are terrible days, but I am hopeful that somewhere down this path, we will find Brady again. We will help him regain control of his brain and his body, and my sweet boy won’t be just a fleeting glimpse, he will be with me all the time. But I can’t do this alone. I need the love and support of ALL my people to make it through this tough journey. My natural tendency is that I am not going to make anyone else suffer with us on this journey – but I promise you I need you. I need your text messages, your phone calls, your emails, and your prayers. So wherever you are, and however we know each other, please don’t let me journey alone.