This is one of the hardest blogs I have ever written.
As I write there are tears welling in my eyes. The reason as you read will become apparent.
My family, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran in happier times
For those who don’t know Kieran, our eldest son, has Aspergers Syndrome which is on the Autistic Spectrum [AS]. We; Sarah, Brendan (Kierans younger brother) and myself have coped with Kierans lack of a social filter, testing behaviour and all those difficulties associated with having a child with additional needs for many years.
Usually he is a happy go lucky, friendly and chatty 13 year old who listens to loud music and plays strange video games.
This is the Kieran we love, know and want back. Playing happily with his little brother Brendan.
Believe it or not we get praise from other parents, family and friends saying we make parenting for an AS child look easy. I wish that was true. Oh my life I so wish that it was true. If sleepless nights, arguments with Sarah, constant stress and ceaseless worry, dreading the phone calls from the school because Kieran has had a moment is “making it look easy” then Sarah and I are due a medal the size of a frying pan.
In all honesty I do not know anyone, any parent, who in their right mind thinks; You know what – I want to volunteer to be the parent of an autistic child.
I’m not knocking Kieran. No I am not. It’s not his fault at all. We love Kieran with all our hearts and then some. However it’s the hand fate has dealt Sarah and I. All we can do is smile warily and just get on with it. We have no choice.
Over the last few weeks life with Kieran has taken a dark, disturbing and distressing turn. About mid November our Kieran had to be taken to A&E as he was in severe mental distress. He was complaining of dark thoughts and was hurting himself. We had to see a mental health specialist, and soon as possible.
Luckily there was someone from the Mental Health Crisis Team in the hospital to see Kieran. Kieran seemed to calm down after speaking to them. Listening to Kieran talk about his dark thoughts and try to hurt himself was distressing and took its toll on us.
In fact such a toll that I went to work the following morning bright and early as always. I went to speak to my manager and simply burst in to tears right in front of them through a combination of fatigue and shock.
Now I do not do crying. It’s a personal thing, not machismo, I don’t hold it against anyone who gets emotional. Crying is a perfectly natural and healthy thing to do, like an emotional pressure valve. It just not for me.
My manager had little choice but to send me home with instructions to get some sleep.
The day did not get any better. A while later we got a call from the school. There was one of the Teaching Assistants [TA] on the phone. The sound of distress in their voice said everything which they could not say. Kieran was saying things that disturbed and upset them and he had tried to self harm at school.
He had to come home….
In the proceeding days we had meetings with mental health practitioners, social workers and teachers. All trying to solve and fix a problem like Kieran. Unfortunately this is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no easy fixes here. No simple solutions. No magic to be worked.
It’s going to take all of us- social workers, doctors, teachers, teaching assistants, family and us to help Kieran.
It’s a difficult thing as a parent to experience. We had a meeting with a Clinical Psychologist [CP]. Just Kieran, Sarah and myself.
The hardest thing to I have done is to just sit there, do nothing, say nothing and just hear your beloved and cherished child vent their darkest thoughts, frustrations and talk about suicide, self harm and pain. But you have to say nothing; just sit and listen. Letting them release the bile that has been building up inside him. It’s a helpless and numbing feeling. Knowing there is little to nothing in your power you can do. To know all the soothing words, loving hugs and gentle kisses in the world will not ease your child’s mental distress.
Personally, I have had my share of mental health issues with having Bipolar, anxiety and depression. Sarah says I should have more comprehension, empathy and understanding than many others. But this is the sad fact- just because I have a front row seat to how mental health issues play out doesn’t necessarily mean my understanding is any deeper or greater. In fact I think it’s much harder.
It’s only natural that you want to wrap your arms around your child, be they typical or additional needs, and hold them tight to protect them against all the horrors, terrors and darkness that this world has both outside and within.
Then at the weekend things came to a head whilst I was at a works party;
Sarah had to return to A&E with Kieran.
Kieran, our poor Kieran
This is our Kieran. At his most distressed. Suffice to say I dropped everything and went to the hospital. This photo pretty much says more than all the words I can possibly muster.
There is one person we haven’t mentioned in all this melee – Brendan.
Brendan seems to be unaffected by all this chaos and anxiety just accepting it as “normal”. However I think this is an illusion. Friday night Brendan was basically bundled off to his grandparents whilst we focused on getting Kieran the help he needed. In all this stuff that goes on with Kieran it’s easy to forget that Brendans there too. I just hope to the universe that he doesn’t grow up to resent me, Sarah or his brother.
Well, today the clinical psychologist visited Sarah whilst I was at work. The CP has the working hypothesis that Kieran possibly has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD]. I went to see my Team Leader and basically broke down emotionally in tears. I was in such a state that they sent me home again. I wasn’t even in a fit state to ride my bicycle.
I’m supposed to be a tough former soldier so I am unaccustomed to being an emotional wreck. But Kierans our boy, my son.
I think I will leave things at that. I would love feedback from any and everyone. Thank you from me, Sarah, Brendan and Kieran.
Well done if you got this far.