By Guest Blogger Michelle Griffith
My 5.5 year old boy was recently diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I think by now, most people are familiar with ADHD. ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder might be a term you’re not so familiar with. A quick Google search defines ODD as: an ongoing pattern of behavior that is characterized by anger, irritability, as well as argumentative and defiant behavior towards those in authoritative positions. I’m guessing that sounds like every 3, 4 and maybe 5 year old out there to you, right? Well, not so much.
If you go on to read further, this behavior can be something that kids only exhibit at home or at school, maybe not both. Also, it lasts for a long time, and happens quite frequently. More so than your typical child, even toddlers, as crazy as they are. And this is where I’d like share my story of being a mother to a child with ODD.
Before I tell this from my point of view, or use the analogies I’ve been using, please let it be known that I am in no way shape or form trying to demean or diminish or make light of any type of abusive situation. I, myself, have never been in an abusive romantic relationship, nor was I abused as a child. That being said, when I describe to friends or family or coworkers what it’s like living in my home with my 5 year old, those are the words I find myself using quite frequently. “I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with him”.
Let me be clear on what I mean. And before I divulge what is my truth, ugly as it may be, I encourage you to please not judge unless you’ve walked in these shoes. These are very hard truths. Truths that are hard to even admit to oneself.
Most days of the week at this point, I dread getting out of bed to start our day. I dread coming home at night. I dread the most simple of tasks with him. I find it difficult to go into much with a positive attitude, because, quite honestly, I’ve been emotionally beat down. I dread social encounters, outings, etc. I dread staying home with him. I am filled with anxiety at the thought of being by myself with him. I can’t remember the last time I had a “fun” time with him. My life consists of walking on proverbial eggshells, never knowing what will set him off.
You see, with ODD, outbursts, screaming, fighting, and the like can occur at the drop of a hat. One minute, they’re hugging you, the next you’re dodging toys, and listening to blood curdling screams because you asked them to throw something away. And this goes on all day. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
Weekends are the worst. It’s such an ugly cycle. You go into the weekend with sometimes medium to high expectations. You hear your coworkers and friends talk about how they love to spend weekends with their kids. You think to yourself, “Gosh, I’m such a horrible mom, I dread the weekends because I have to be home with my child, what’s WRONG with me”? And then things are bad, and you cry. And you feel so angry, and sad, and resentful. And hurt. You’re so hurt, that the next time your child wants to be with you, hug you, love you, it’s hard. Because you’re a human being with feelings, and it’s hard to let go. So then, you feel guilty. You feel guilty that you resent this child that you do love SO much, but that you don’t feel like “liking.” And then you find yourself pulling away. Because you’re scared of those feelings. So, somewhere, in the back of your psyche, subconsciously, you pull away. Shut down. Try not to feel because it’s too much. You feel alone. Isolated. People don’t understand. You’re even at the point that when someone says, “Hope you guys have a great time/weekend/day,” you feel angry. They’ve said nothing wrong, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH”? But, they don’t really know, do they?
The kick of all of this, at least for me, is that my child is an angel at school. And that’s where I started using the analogy of an abusive relationship. From the outside, things look OK. Here’s this beautiful, thoughtful, highly intelligent little boy, who follows all the rules at school. Literally never gets in trouble. Is friends with everyone in class, and is generous and caring. At home, that same child can be verbally mean, physically abusive, manipulative, and so defiant that asking anything of them is almost pointless. So, people think you’re overreacting. That you’re just overly sensitive to normal childhood behavior. And you start to think that maybe you are crazy. Not good enough. Inadequate. That it’s your fault. And this goes on for years.
Until finally, finally someone (a doctor) gives you the diagnosis. You’ve known all along that something wasn’t quite right. But these things take a while you see, for the reasons I stated above. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation going on. And nobody sees. And you can convince yourself that nobody cares and that you’re not going to make it. And if I’m being honest, I’m feeling like that most days.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending yet. It’s not even close to being finished.
Right now, we’re in the trenches. Fighting every day, living our truth, being honest, getting help, and doing what we need to do to survive. For us, that’s medicine, and therapy. Exercise. Using social media to connect to others going through this. And help. Lots of help.
As of right now I haven’t been able to find a support group locally for this, so maybe I’ll start my own? Right now, I’m treading water, and sometimes find it overwhelming to do anything more, so we’ll see. I hope this reaches some people that are maybe struggling like I am. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Hearing the words, “I know what you’re going through” have such enormous power. As humans, we strive for a sense of community. Hoping I can find mine through outlets like this.
Can you relate? Do you have words of encouragement for Michelle? If so, please leave a comment below!