Three years ago, when we first went through all of this behavior stuff with Jacob, I cried a lot. I was always just one thought or one conversation away from becoming a blubbering idiot. I felt like an exposed nerve, where the slightest thing just set me off. I was so overwhelmed, so upset with our current state of affairs, and I walked around for months in an emotion-fueled fog that made our lives seem like some sort of bizarre alternate reality. It didn't seem possible that this was our life. I was pretty much guaranteed to break down during Jacob's sessions with the behavioral therapist, as I talked about how our relationship was a shadow of its former self and how hard it was to watch him melt down and be unable to do anything about it. The most random song could trigger a crying session during my commute, and I eventually started carrying makeup with me on days when I thought there was a greater risk of a breakdown. It was exhausting and definitely one of the hardest phases of my life, if not the hardest.
Fast-forward three years, and I can't say that life has gotten any easier. No, the meltdowns don't look like they once did, and [most of the time] it does not take an hour to get Jacob dressed. But the daily onslaught of issues and concerns is still very intense and our daily lives feel anything but typical. There's a lot of yelling--both at the kids and in general to be heard above the din--and a lot of mental notes as we file away the latest incident for our next therapy session or our own personal psychological analysis of our child. It is still exhausting, maybe even more so because the troubles are almost constant when he's in a room, as opposed to the days of nearly-daily meltdowns interspersed with a heavy dose of general defiance. If you were to graph the frustration and worry, I feel like it would look like this:
Notice that our baseline is higher than it used to be, as his frustration and dislike of his brother is an almost constant presence. The stress of the meltdowns of the past was intense, surpassing our current baseline, but the current peaks concern me more--possibly because he's older and the quick fix quest or the "he'll grow out of it" hope isn't as hopeful anymore. I see things that scare me as I worry about how more testosterone and the usual teenage drama will impact the things we're currently seeing.
Anyway, my point here is that it shocks me sometimes to realize how "normal" our current existence is. We're at a more intense baseline right now, and yet I'm not in the same kind of raw-nerve fog I used to be. The only times I cry tend to be after a particularly stressful encounter, when the reality of the depth of his issues (and my inability to manage them) hits me square in the face. It's shocking what we've learned to live with, and I think my three-years-ago self would look at this and be both tormented and amazed.
And yet sometimes things come out of left field and catch me off-guard, like this morning. We had an appointment to formally start discussing medication as an option. It's clearly not something we've wanted to do, as it's been more than three years since we started this process and we haven't gone there yet. The side effects can be scary, and without a formal diagnosis, we didn't quite know what route to take anyway. You can't really medicate a kid for ADHD when there's no proof he has it, right? And for a long time I really wasn't sure it applied anyway. Yes, he had attention issues. Yes, he had trouble sitting still. Yes, it's clear he has a lot running through his brain at any given moment. But lately it's becoming clear to me that he has too much excess energy, he has too many other things in his brain (and too many make it out of his mouth, as well), and it's starting to interfere significantly with school and home life. His teacher has been vocal about her concerns, and some nights at home we're at a loss, too. His lack of control is surprising.
Ultimately we just want him to live a successful, happy life. We want him to do well in school and have the capability to get a job and have meaningful relationships. If it takes medication to make that possible, then it's something we need to consider. But there are many fears about side effects and effectiveness, and it's such a scary reality. And I think that's why I started to tear up when the doctor asked me what we were hoping to get out of this. I explained that we want to take the edge off so he can function at school and be a contributing member of our family. We don't want to completely reprogram him, but we need help. And for whatever reason, just putting that into words made me very emotional, and that emotion lasted most of the morning. Why did it hit me right then? I have no idea, but perhaps it has been such a long road that any sort of light at the end of the tunnel is overwhelming. Or maybe rehashing all that we've been through is just too sobering a reality. We're tired, we're sad, and we're at a point we never wanted to get to. But here we are, and this may be our best option.
For now the doctor is going to talk more with Jacob's teacher and try to figure out how anxiety fits into this picture, as that is treated differently than ADHD. We'll go back in a few weeks and reevaluate things, at which point we could be making some hard decisions. We're still incredibly torn on this, but we can't deny that it's time to cross this bridge and see what the view looks like from there. Even still, this morning's emotion caught me off guard after all we've been through, but I suppose it's also a reminder of how far I've come from those early days. Parenting is not for sissies, but man, we could use a break.