This piece is being presented using a basic timeline.
My unedited thoughts below reflect my feelings at the times when I wrote them, and I hope that you’ll find it interesting and helpful to see them develop.
I’m a parent with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), which I acknowledge and embrace, and today, I’m taking my young child (Grade 1) to psychotherapy for the first time.
It’s so weird.
It’s weird because I could never have imagined having to do it. I feel like she’s still so young and it is like having to face the fact that your child might have cancer or another life-altering disease.
The reality is that, like me, I’m convinced that she has ADHD, but I want her to learn how to manage it before she turns out like me. I would never want her to go through the difficulties that I did, so I am taking her in.
They say that BPD develops from ADHD, and having BPD sucks.
“It is likely that early childhood trauma can exacerbate ADHD symptoms and contribute to the development of BPD. ADHD histories are more strongly associated with neglect and physical and emotional abuse, while BPD histories are more likely to involve emotional and sexual abuse.”
This excerpt is from an article in ADDitude Magazine, one of (what I’ve found to be) the most helpful resources that clearly explains ADHD and offers helpful insight into accepting and dealing with the diagnosis.
As a parent, and one who has knowledge and first-hand experience with these psychological issues, it is my responsibility to care for her. Just as though a parent whose child had a flu, broken arm or massive cut on their leg would visit the doctor to help them heal, I recognize my child’s mental health concern and am taking her to get help.
During the session, although I was happy that she was being treated so well, and I understood the techniques and tips that the therapists provided, I was a smiling (teeth-clenching) nervous wreck.
One part of me feels guilt for taking her there, blaming myself for being a bad parent and modeling a lack of emotional control, which has obviously influenced her to act the way that she does. “If I’d only been able to control my temper…” If I’d just shut up, like a grown-up, instead of yelling like an idiot…”, then she wouldn’t need therapy and she’d be a well-adjusted kid who didn’t have to deal with this. But then the other side of me – the advocating, educated side of me pops up, saying “You know it’s not your fault. This is something you’re born with. The fact that you’re taking her in now shows that you are a good parent. You are teaching her how to deal with this from a young age so that she will have the skills to handle it and not go through what you did. She will have those skills to improve her own parenting methods when she has children, and it will continue on positively for generations.”
But, like many parents and, especially those of us with a personality disorder that’s always making us feel guilty and responsible for everything negative that happens in the world, I can’t quite sit with either explanation.
Here’s a copy of a message that I sent to a loved one, post-therapy.
“Taking her for therapy at [her age] was a little difficult for me. I’m processing it now. I think it’s a great thing, as did the therapists that we saw, and [my therapist], too. It was just a little intense for me. Lots of my feelings about childhood and the fact that I’m scared of her going through what I went through. It has anxiety attached to it.”
THREE DAYS AFTER:
It’s been a tumultuous emotional roller coaster ride over the last couple of days, with my opposing thoughts and feelings bouncing back and forth like ping pong balls in my conscience, causing me significant irritation and frustration as I strive to figure out the perfect/right answer, but…
I’ve had time to process it all and the guilt has gone.
Sure, it would be great if I could easily control my temper and my own emotion dysregulation, but it’s because I didn’t have these resources available to me when I was a kid that, now, as an adult, I have to work extra hard to manage them, and I am, doing a zillion times better than I was, even just a year ago.
Through my guilt I found my pride.
I am proud that, as a person and a parent, I can see what is needed to help another grow and thrive positively, without feeling resentment, frustration, jealousy, complacency or indifference.
I am proud that I took the steps necessary to research, locate and attend a session, despite my own anxiety, so that someone else could get the help that they needed.
I am proud that I educated my child about the benefits of therapy at such an early age, where she was comfortable in the session and, afterward, asked if we could go back again the following week.
As referenced in my previous article, “Bad.”, I discuss the findings of a paper that reported half of all Canadian inmates have experienced childhood abuse, including emotional and neglect.
Not taking your child to therapy is not neglect, but if your child is exhibiting signs of poor mental health, having them see a therapist is a way to ensure that they gain effective coping skills.
Therapy can uncover underlying issues that may be severely detrimental as they grow into young adults. It will also benefit your relationship with them (and the rest of your family, including yourself) in such a tremendous way.
Childhood emotional trauma is a very serious issue that’s been overshadowed by physical and sexual abuse trauma. Each type of trauma is important and it’s essential that effective care is provided, whether the patient presenting is a child or an adult.
In her book, Running On Empty, Dr. Jonice Webb addresses these issues that I’ve discussed, mainly not wanting to repeat the behaviours of my parents with my own child.
When I read the book, I cried. I cried so much because I saw my misunderstood and melancholic childhood unfolding before me and wished that I could get into a time machine and bring this book back for my parents to read.
Instead of remaining resentful toward my parents for the way that they treated me as a child, and using my own child as an egotistical way to exercise my newfound authority as a parent, I remembered what it was like to feel small and scared, with an innocent, hopeful attitude that was often crushed by authoritarian logic and discipline.
“My father always used to say ‘Children are like little animals; they need to be trained.’” My mother told this to me constantly and, when she said it to me in reference to my own child, I had a cerebral crash. It was a major component of why I stopped speaking to my parents for many years, and also kept my child from them; how could I possibly trust them not to pass along these antiquated and unhealthy attitudes to my own beautiful, joyful little girl?
The awareness of my Childhood Emotional Trauma was triggered when I saw a photo of myself at three years old; about the same age as my child was at the time.
Since then, I have read a plethora of books and research regarding childhood trauma, especially regarding emotional abuse and neglect.
In addition to Running On Empty, Alice Miller’s The Body Never Lies, was a tremendous help in understanding how our childhood traumas caused by hurtful parenting can affect our adult selves, both, physically and mentally.
Be aware that these books can trigger a severe reaction and it’s advised that, if you are sensitive, you are in consultation with a therapist.
After reading them, I hated my parents even more than I initially had; however, I took note of my dreams and intense thoughts during this time, noticing that I was processing my feelings toward them through metaphorical scenarios and objects. After each one, it brought me a step closer to understanding my feelings and acknowledging my childhood emotional trauma and neglect, accepting it and deciding whether or not I wanted to forgive them and work toward re-building a relationship with them.
After a long while and some intensive therapy, I made the decision that I was going to reach out to my parents; something that I thought I would never do again.
Each got a straightforward, lengthy email (I’m able to express myself better through writing), honestly and somewhat clinically, detailing my thoughts on my childhood experiences, their involvement via their attitudes, actions and behaviours, and what I expected from them if we were to reconnect. This included compassion and understanding of my diagnoses (ADHD & BPD), and working with me to heal the scars form the past.
I told them that I didn’t trust them – they were my parents, they were supposed to take care of me, but they didn’t – and that they would have to rebuild that trust.
In another piece, I will get into the elaborate concept of Institutional Betrayal Trauma, and how familial relationships can fall under that category; family as a civil institution with an obligation to protect its members. It’s an area that’s very important to me and I’d like to give it the time and attention that it rightfully deserves.
I am fortunate because my parents were very willing to work with me to learn about my mental health and how they could help. They have been apologetic about their methods when I was growing up and even as an adult, which surprised me because I expected steadfast, “We did our best” answers and blame-shifting.
My father, a usually emotionally-stifled and serious businessman and the parent with whom I had the most difficulty, has been incredibly responsive and is the one who has been the most introspective about his parenting of me, acknowledging his errors and telling me that he wishes that he could change them.
He can’t go back in time, but what he is doing is forging a strong, loving relationship with my daughter and trying to be the parent that he feels that he should have been with me.
(I’m crying as I type this).
I couldn’t have asked for a better result and am thankful that I’ve been fortunate to have had this experience. Reconnecting with my family has strengthened my self-confidence and has made me a better parent to my child.
With hard work, research, therapy, introspection, confidence and self-awareness, it has all come full circle, and it is the reason that I am delighted to take my child to therapy sessions, whenever and wherever I need to, because I never want her to feel the way I felt, and I certainly never want her to cut me out of her life.
If you are looking for help for your kids, here are some resources that I have used. If anyone wants to contribute others, please message me or comment below:
Kids Help Phone – http://kidshelpphone.ca/
1-800-668-6868 Text: TALK to 686868 (English) or TEXTO to 686868 (French)
This is a service for kids to call. There is no minimum age limit, so, if your child wants to speak to a counsellor, it can be easily done by phone. It’s confidential and it’s free.
What’s Up Walk In – http://www.whatsupwalkin.ca/
Immediate mental health counselling for children, youth, young adults & their families, and families with infants. No appointment and no health card required. Six locations across Toronto.
It’s very disturbing that the Government of Canada (Public Health Agency) doesn’t have an effective listing of resources.
They present a link to a page “Family-Community Resources” with funded projects, but, shamefully, the list hasn’t been updated since 2008.
Please contact Health Canada’s Minister and your Member of Parliament to encourage more support for Canadian parents…they’ll be hearing from me soon.