I can literally break the summer into a couple of segments. I'd call one the "good" and one the "bad" but the truth is that they both have good and bad aspects but they were distinctly DIFFERENT.
Let me back up though.
I was dreading summer. I've already shared that this may have been my last summer as a stay at home mom and I am pretty serious about that, although it also makes me sad to some degree. But the reality is that I was facing two really huge things - 1) Luke's special needs/challenges and 2) The FIGHTING that is nonstop at my house (competitive, relentless, disturbing, non-stop abuse on one another). Neither of these things made me very excited for summer. And I LOVE SUMMER. The weather, sandals, beach, sunny skies, sunsets, cool drinks, beach towels, boat days and more. I LOVE it. And I love time with my kiddos ... but when SO MUCH of the time is spent breaking up fights or dealing with special needs challenges, it becomes exhausting.
The first half of the summer was challenging, but let me back up a bit.
In May we did some more children's Neuro Psych testing for Luke for some issues that just seem unresolved or to be worsening. Luke was diagnosed with ADHD at age 4. I had been asking his Doctor about it since he was 9 months old. He was a tough, demanding, hostile baby who was equally charming & delightful. A real puzzle. Everyone said "it's just boys" but I knew in my heart it was much much more. Having been adopted I knew very little because birth mom revealed very little and didn't name the father.
For years we treated the ADHD but still these other aggressive and angry behaviors, specifically to ME, were happening. He was very very emotionally and verbally abusive to me and it was soul crushing. The smile I had on the outside didn't reflect the devastation I felt inside from being quite honestly a part of an abusive relationship - one that I'd never be free from.
It was when he was 6 that we discovered RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and began therapy to treat and improve this situation. Let's say when we entered therapy, he wouldn't touch me, receive my hugs/kisses, tell me he loved me, accept my affection or kindness. He thought of himself as "unloveable" and a "bad" kid. All self talk as we have NEVER uttered those terrible words.
We did a lot of learning through this process. And we followed the teachings in the book Beyond Consequences which I HIGHLY recommend for VERY hard children. It is a learning process and NOT a natural way to handle children. The basic premise is that all of or actions/reactions to all things as people come from one of two places - LOVE or FEAR. Fear is so powerful and controlling and causes a lot of unwanted behaviors. However the basic way to deal/help is a big fat dose of EMPATHETIC CALMNESS. It's a big learning curve but one that was beneficial for our family.
We received treatment for Luke (mom/Luke or dad/Luke) with the VERY BEST THERAPIST EVER for 18 months. Each week we'd show up to play with Luke to rebuild relationships that we weren't sure he was capable of every having with us - ME in particular. Some weeks felt so dumb. We literally played together in a room watched by our therapist who would interpret his behaviors for us and translate their meaning. Some seemed far-fetched but at the same time ... he was coming around. For the first time ever he was allowing me to hug him and even asking for hugs! Over time at bedtime I was allowed to kiss him. Soon he was telling me he LOVED me and drawing me pictures to express his love. It was a S-L-O-W painful process. Some times it was one step forward, two steps back but we pressed on.
And even with all of that good therapy, something was still OFF.
I reached out to birth mom because I suspected something different and I needed to know some facts. And miraculously, she responded to me and told me the truth. She didn't know she was pregnant until 16 weeks. She had drank up until them, potentially "partied" in that time. She smoked the entire pregnancy. So now, my suspicions of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome were much clearer.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is much like Autism Spectrum umbrella in that some kids are MORE affected and some kids LESS affected. FASD has a lot of physical makers with it and some were becoming more prominent with Luke and a few were things we'd never put together -- a tongue tie, an upper lip tie, palm lines that are odd, a flat upper lip and webbed toes are some of Luke's that applied.
So in May, he went in for extensive evaluation. And when we got his results back, I was devastated to learn that in fact is IS FASD, ADHD, Unspecified Mood Disorder and permanent brain damage due to alcohol exposure & domestic abuse in utero. :( BUT. Knowledge is power. I now had more answers to questions I'd been asking and could move forward.
In June we started Behavior Therapy (literally a talking therapy that has been full of growing moments for BOTH of us) and in July, Luke began anti-anxiety medication.
And the combo of both of those things has been LIFE CHANGING. And THAT is why I can divide the summer in half-Part 1 and Part 2. Because after he started the anti-anxiety meds, he seemed much more FREE. He was/is paralyzed by his own anxiety to sometime a debilitating level. Seeing him freed from that and his beautiful SMILE emerge more has been a form of sweet liberation for us all. He is able to take the advice of the therapist and APPLY it in a useful way without the burden of some much anxiety.
Oh man this road isn't over by any means. But we've taken some major strides over the last year in a good good way. With the mix of helping free him of the RAD so he can accept my love and love me back combined with the anti-anxiety meds - I feel like I have a SON back and my heart feels freed from abuse. Those are gooooood gooooood things.
Just a note. Emotional and mental illness is a REAL THING and affects people SO PROFOUNDLY. I have such a deep appreciation for those that are trapped by Mental Illness. You cannot SEE mental illness. A person looks completely "normal" and may even be able to function in a "normal" manner to some degree but inside they are a train wreck. I'd ask for people to not judge mental illness. Our DNA, our environment and our experience in utero can all determine these things FOR US with NO CONTROL of our own. Let's seek more answers and less judging. And, for the non medicine believers, I feel you. I get it. I TRIED EVERYTHING. Diet, oils, therapies. This medication is FREEING MY SON and liberating him from the pain he feels and for that I am grateful and have peace about it. You do YOU and I'll do me and lets respect each other - no matter how we choose to handle things.
I share this for two reasons - 1) to document our life, our history - the good & the bad and 2) to help others. If I can tell you or reassure you of any ONE things it is this: YOU ARE YOUR CHILDS BEST AND ONLY ADVOCATE. You have to go to bat for them. Pound down those doors and don't accept answers that don't make sense. FIGHT FOR THEM and never give up. As my Sisterhood table prayed over me last spring at a time I felt utter despair and hopelessness I can tell you that the FIGHT is worthwhile and GOD is so good. And if you need a friend to hold your hand, I will be that for you.