Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Bullies?

Aidan has complained about being bullied since he was in Kindergarten. It's the first thing he says when I ask how his day went. They call him names, laugh at him, mock him, push him around, and generally make his life at school a living hell. He's begged, cried, and even faked sick in hopes of getting out of school. The boy will even ask if it's time for his 3 month blood draw to check levels on his epilepsy medicine. He begs to go to the dentist just to avoid the mean kids at school.

Now I do understand that a lot of kids with high functioning autism/asperger's syndrome have trouble with bullies. They are the children we all know who are just enough "off" that we know they're not typical, but aren't all out mentally retarded and therefore off limits for teasing. These kids are the geeky bully magnets. I've always felt pity for my son and begged the teachers to help watch out for him. When these teachers have claimed to have not witnessed any of this behavior, I've questioned how they could have possibly missed it. I've gone as far as arguing with these educators about how poorly anti-bullying laws are truely being enforced.

With Aidan being inpatient his academics are being transfered from the school to the hospital. While speaking with his lead teacher about the move, I ask her what I could do to make sure other kids aren't bullied to the point of wanting to take their own lives. Once again I was told that there has been no bullying. I was stunned! This woman has seemed to truely care about my child, his education, and his well being. How could she, of all people, not have seen this daily torture? Then she informed me that if there was any bullying happening, it was Aidan who was dishing it out and had never complained to her about anyone picking on him.

Nine years into his education I finally heard the teacher. Many had spoken to me over the years, but I never really heard what they were telling me. Aidan percieves that the kids talk about him, laugh at him, and mean him harm when they joke with each other. But what about the bruises? Then I remembered what he said the day he checked in the hospital. When the voices in his head tell him to hurt other people and he doesn't do it, they do "bad things" to him. Aidan told the therapist and I that the hallucinations told him to hurt classmates, but he refused so they kept pushing him up the steps. All this time I just thought he was clumsy. My son is paranoid and delusional on top of the hallucinations.

I felt like such a failure. How could I have not seen this? All of this time Aidan has been fearing his what his own brain is making him believe. Those poor teachers that I left in my wake. We've seen symptoms on and off since Aidan was 5, but I always convinced myself to believe the easiest answer. The bullies had to be doing this, not his paranoia. The teachers just needed to pay attention. The hallucinations were just dreams or imagination like the doctors and therapists kept trying to convince me. He's had all of the symptoms of schizophrenia since he was 5 and I had my head in the sand far to much.

Yes, we are getting him the best help I can find. It just doesn't relieve my guilt. Aidan is doing well tonight. When he first went to the hospital he complained of bullies, but now that his medication is adjusted he has friends. Once again I'm left looking for that silver lining and as usual, it's there. The other kids weren't really picking on my son. The teachers were giving him the attention he needed. I was assuming that the other children were the enemy, but it's really the illness. The bullies aren't bullies, they're friends. Aidan is ill, but he's happy now. We're going to make it, in a happier world without the bullies.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anger Is Motivating... in case you didn't know.

My heart aches so profoundly that I can't even cry myself to sleep. Aidan, my oldest son, is sleeping miles away in a psychiatric hospital. At any moment I can check him out, but I have to convince myself every moment of every day that he is there, that this is for his future... for his life. My own pain doesn't matter. If he doesn't get the help he needs now he'll never have much of future. You see, Aidan is 13 and the voices that he hears told him that if he didn't jump off of the roof of his middle school, that they would make bad things happen to him. He believes the voices. When he's refused to hurt other students, Aidan believes the voices have pushed him on the stairs at school. His knees are covered in bruises and scrapes from the times that he's protected others from his own mind. Aidan's a good kid. He's the kind of boy who puts his own allowance in the Salvation Army bucket and runs to help our elderly neighbor when his dog runs out the front door.

Aidan also has reason to be so sad that he would listen to the voices in his head. He was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy at 3. When he was 5 the hallucinations began. He became so overwhelmed in the first grade that he began to lash out when he couldn't communicate his needs to teachers who didn't take the time to understand his differences. He was moved to a small class for kids with behavior problems. Even though the teachers could help him, the class full of bullies just saw a target. Over the years he's struggled to keep up with academics while fighting with his own mind.

Now he's 13 years old and in the 8Th grade. He's to smart for the special ed class, but just far enough behind that he's failing in the typical classroom. Being an awkward boy with poor social skills, Aidan is an easy target for any of the other angry middle schoolers looking to let out some angst. The stress of academics and peers is enough, but he also has to deal with a little brother. Oh, he's not just any little brother. Korbin is 9 and is known all over town as our "little Rainman". He's brilliant, but doesn't understand the simplest things. He's a sweet, loving boy, but can't stand to be hugged. Korbin has Autism and Tourette's Syndrome. As long as Aidan can remember, we've had to plan our lives around Korbin and his rages. Aidan loves Korbin, but he also hates him most days. I understand and accept this. Korbin can be hard to love sometimes and it can't be easy for a 13 year old with such severe issues to accept the many moods of Korbin.

So here I am. It's the middle of the night and I can't sleep past my own tears... again. Aidan's current diagnosis is Major Depression Severe Recurring with Psychosis. When I checked him back in the psychiatric hospital for children (it's sad that one should ever have to exist) he had a full plan on how he would end his life. We have schizophrenia all over the family so I won't pretend we don't know where this is headed. When I have the strength to get out around other adults, some will ask, but it's always in a quiet voice. No one asks when others could possibly hear. I realized after coming home from a family birthday party that no one, not even my own parents, ask how Aidan is doing. It was in a public place. My aunt and uncle didn't even ask where he was. I'm sure someone told them beforehand so the subject didn't come up at the dinner table. Instead we all laughed and had a nice party, which did take me away from my own reality for a moment.

I sat at one end of the table not discussing my own son. At the other end of the table sat my uncle, who's son (my closest cousin) took his own life in 1994. We don't talk about Chris' death. My uncle sees a therapist to talk about it because he can't otherwise, even with his own family. I will not sit in silence. I am not ashamed of the psychiatric and neurological differences that effect my family. As I sit here typing my hands have turned to stone. Each keystroke I dissociate a little more because the pain is so intense. But I will fight it. I have to fight. My sons need help now and understanding in the future. We are not the only ones. The latest statistics are showing that Autism is effecting 1 out of every 97-110 kids. Early Onset Schizophrenia is uncommon, but it is happening more. They may even be genetically related. Does this mean that there is another mother like me crying in the middle of the night as her sons fight their own brains? I hope not, but odds are that I'm not alone.

I will not sit in silence and allow schizophrenia to take over my son's mind. I will not sit in silence and pretend that his suicidal thoughts never happened. I will not be silent about my cousin's death, the autism that controls Korbin, the tics, my mother in law who died because schizophrenia made her fear doctors. I will not sit in silence about my own dissociative disorder, depression, and anxiety. These are all just as real as the honor roll your child brought home or the fungus on your hubby's toenails. It's real, we're here, and I will NOT sit in silence.

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