I have been labeled “a Problem” on both sides. As a just-barely young adult (18 years old) I developed Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar and Anxiety and (self-diagnosed PTSD). I was a problem to my parents, siblings and the few friends I had left.
As an adoptive parent of two brothers aged 2-1/2 and 6-1/2 years old who both have ADHD; one with Reactive Attachment Disorder and one with Fetal Alcohol Effects, and Sensory issues I have been on the receiving end of their issues as well. Because of the tremendous 24/7/365 stress of dealing with my two boys’ mental illnesses I developed secondary PTSD and a negative attitude toward my situation and my boys. I still loved them, but I didn’t like them (something I didn’t understand until I experienced it). They were hurting me everyday and I was largely powerless to help them or me.
Enter a 24-year-old “girl” fresh out of MSW grad school as my son’s therapist. I decided to be totally honest with her about my feelings toward my boys. She did not have children, she did not have adopted children, she did not have special-needs adopted children. But she knew she knew more than me. RAD kids are experts at lying. I told her exactly what my son would say to her. He did. And she believed him. And she labeled me “the Problem.” She then proceeded to teach me how to parent using her experience with her dog disobeying her as her illustration.
What she didn’t know was what she hadn’t experienced. Without experience it is easy to cast blame. Social Workers had/have a mantra that “it is never the kids’ fault.” They have perpetuated the myth that “it must be the Parents’ fault.”
Contrary to the mantra when my son deliberately defied me for the ten zillionth time he was making a choice. The situation kids have been handed in their lives can be seen as not “their fault.” The influences those situations have had on their choices are not “their fault.” And they need to have new positive experiences to help them make healthy choices. But their choices are their responsibility. Out of fear from his out of control past my child was trying to frustrate me and gain control of the situation. He had studied me and knew my weaknesses (my buttons). What I learned later was that he was afraid no-one was in charge. After years of abuse and neglect from birth parents he wanted someone (emotionally, physically) stronger than he was to say to him “I am ‘in charge’ and I will protect you!”
Mental illness made me very afraid. I needed healthy strong people to understand that I needed them. Caring for the mentally ill can drive you “crazy.” You can be depleted of all your reserves very quickly and there is no break in sight. The mentally ill didn’t choose their mental illness. The care-givers of the mentally ill didn’t choose their loved one’s mental illness. But the rest of us can choose to help.
Don’t shame/blame the mentally ill. Don’t shame/blame the parents’/the family either. Yes, both are responsible for their actions but that is not the whole story. Use your knowledge to accept both and help both. The 24-year-old MSW told me she couldn’t help me, she was only getting paid to help my son. She said to go get help on my own. I did. And it helped. And I was better able to help my son.
What you have read here I didn’t know when my wife and I were told we were adopting “two active boys.” Learn from my mistakes. Learn from our successes. If you still want to blame, blame satan or Adam or Eve. That’s how far it goes back to.
POST post-script: The more I treat my son with respect and kindness (even if I am not feeling it at the time), the more the negative feelings I have against him go away. I am beginning to see the 24-year-old “girl” MSW as being right about me. Unfortunately she was right about the “log in her own eye,” that is, she was right about my faults. She did not remove her log to see clearly to remove the “speck” in my eye,” that is, my brokenness and need. Who do you have something against? Who has something against you? Are you seeing their fault? Can you rethink them and what happened and see their brokenness and need? If you can you may be able to love them back to wholeness. If you can’t you will experience the frustration and pain of seeing their fault, that is, a log in your own eye, just as I have been frustrated and in pain about the actions of my son and the 24-year-old girl MSW therapist.