Kieran, our Kieran

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.




About martinupfold

Hi I am Martin Upfold and I am a father, husband, army veteran, student of photography and citizen journalist. Dealing with bipolar and depression, tackling it head on. I am sustained by my lovely wife Sarah and we have two beautiful sons Brendan, our youngest and Kieran, our eldest who has Aspergers Syndrome which is on the Autistic Spectrum. What I do to cope with my situation is to do photography and occasionally blog about it.
This entry was posted in anxiety, Asperger, Aspergers, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic Spectrum, Bipolar, Bipolar disorder, depression, Mental health, mental health issues, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, parenting, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Kieran, our Kieran

  1. amy mcloughlin says:

    Brave family and open to the whole situation. Childhood mental health is hard the whole experience is eye-opening hard and heart breaking. You as a family as a whole are amazing and warm and wholesome. Keep strong remember to be you throughout have time out to recharge. Keep strong upfolds xxxxx

  2. Joan Hagan says:

    Remember to take some time for yourselves as a family, now K and yourselves are getting some support try and make some happy memories for you all xxx

  3. C says:

    Please make sure he’s not being bullied or abused somewhere outside the home. I’m autistic and nobody would listen to me when I tried to express that I was being bullied in high school, so I started acting out. I got really hostile, violent and angry because I felt trapped. Please, please, please look into everyone who is in contact with your boy outside of the home! Somebody could be doing something very bad to him and he might be too afraid to tell you if they threatened to hurt his family or some other evil thing.

  4. Joanne Beilby says:

    Our thoughts are with all of you Martin! We dread any days worse than our darkest days so far with Autism and anxiety and what we have had to deal with here. We cherish the good times because with those hormones and life with Autism we know it can all change in a second! Really hope Kieron gets the help and support he needs and you all do as a family as well. Xx

  5. Claire Shillito says:

    Aw Martin ….am so there with you , am at a total loss to help and advise , it’s horrendous ….and dealing with others not in the situation themselves is beyond patronising…..but chin up and battle on , keeping going thst is your only option , be thankful for the small things , smile at the ignorants , and hold your head high !

  6. Marilyn Chamberlain says:

    Don said it was one of the most moving things he had ever read.

  7. Rachel says:

    Your an amazing family opening up and I hope someone reads this who can give you all some more help and answers x

  8. I think the praise people give you is in respect of their inability to cope with what you cope with, I believe it’s honest and without pity, rather just a nod to you that “outwardly” at least, you seem to cope well. What happens outside their lives they can never understand or comprehend, the whole “behind closed doors” philosophy if you will.
    Kieran is at that age where he will notice he is different than others, more over, other will notice they are different than him, and so peer pressure may mount. That being said it, it won;t all be from his school friends either, those teachers that aren’t taught to deal with Kierans condition may push him to feel more different than the others. Some people are just not equipped with the rationale that people should be dealt with differently as fits their needs, especially in children, but also evident in adults too.
    Respite care, if you aren’t on it already would be a great tool for all concerned, if you are already on it then maybe see about increasing it? It would give Kieran a special holiday where he get’s to do things that he can come home and tell you about, and it also gives you the chance for you Sarah and Brendon to have some bonding time too. Think of it as a treat for Kieran, and a chance to recharge your batteries to be better equipped when he is home.
    Mental health problems are an arse, and spring from the silliest things at times, as you are aware, I am currently recovering from my latest PTSD breakdown. It sucks. And sometimes you wonder, why do I bother fighting it? What’s the point to it all? I guess the answer is that we will find out at the end of it all mate.
    I don;t think life is meant to be easy, it’s meant to be lived.
    Hope this helps my friend
    Love to all xx

  9. Vanessa Sullivan says:

    I cried as I read this. I have no options or relief to offer. I pray for you guys. It is hard on all of you. My son Ben is 15 and on meds for OCD and autism etc. I love you both and ofcourse your kiddos.
    It might help your younger son Kieran to talk to someone as my Lucy does. Just a thought.
    I am glad you and Sarah have got each other. Hugs to you all. If you ever need to talk I am on Facebook even just to listen ❤

  10. steelcityman says:

    Words fail me Martin … I had tears in my eyes reading your blog…my heart goes out to all of you.

  11. LivingWithTheEnemy says:

    Martin I love you and Sarah to bits. I am sorry you are going through this. If there is anything I can do, beyond reading your wonderful blog, please dont hesitate to contact me. Sarah knows where I am :). What you go through, how you deal with Brendan, makes you super parents. You may feel like you are floundering, You may feel like there is nowhere to go, You may feel like crying. Those acts dont make you superparents, Its the fact that you take the time out, you take a breath and fight on. Every day, you fight with Autism, you work with it, you swear at it, but you never ever give up. Martin, you and Sarah are loved, You and Sarah are not on your own. You have friends and we love you xxx

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