Soooo, as you know, my seven-year-old, Micah is.... an angry little fellow. We've talked about this before, dear reader. This isn't a surprise.
His angry, volatile, often violent demeanor has definitely taken a toll on our family. It's exhausting and difficult to be a sibling or a parent to a kid who is constantly hurting others, crying, screaming...he's only happy like 1% of his life. He's unhappy, and as a result, all of us are unhappy.
People who are just meeting him here in Bend are like, "Well, you guys have been through a lot of stuff this past year...Maybe he's acting out..." True dat on having been through a lot. But Micah has been pissed off since he was born. We kept thinking it was a phase, or that he was just more of a willful child. We've been consistent in our discipline with him. It's not from lack of guidance or parenting. I can say that with a clean conscience. We've tried so hard. Soooo hard. With all of our kids.
I finally decided to talk to his doctor about it. I felt like my health concerns were under control (mainly), so I felt ready to tackle this. He referred us to a child counselor. He and I have gone probably...six times? The first four times, I was like, Ummmmm... I mean, a lot of childhood counselors use play-based therapy. Which I completely support and understand. And she uses a lot of art-based therapy, which is right up his alley. But for those first four visits or so (and she invited me to go in with Micah for them), it was, "Wow, Micah, you made a really pretty picture! How do you feel about that? Doesn't it make you so happy to create something beautiful?" "Micah, what a great bead necklace! You are so good at making bead necklaces!" And I was like, dude....
There was something nice that she had us start - every night, Micah and I were to sit down together, and he was to think of a success he had that day, and also a strength that he has. And then I had to come up with two of those, as well. I felt that it improved things a little - it moved the attention from negative to positive. I think it was a good exercise for both of us in that way. And when we were in Portland that one weekend, man, he was our MVP. So kind. So much fun. Such a good attitude. I was really hoping that the change in our focus was making a difference.
But then Micah kind of regressed back into the violent and angry behavior. It's especially difficult because all of us are exposed to it all day long, now that it's summertime. And it's not from boredom. We do our city's library program (he freakin' hates reading, P.S.). We do our city's Lunch and Learn program at one of the local parks. We got a free swim pass for our family at our local swimming pool and are using it liberally. He ain't bored.
So when we visited with his counselor for his fifth session, I was like, dude. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. So I painted a more thorough picture for her of what our home life was like. Micah was right there, so I kind of used...careful vocabulary. "His behavior is very...volatile. He causes...bodily injury to his...siblings...almost every single day. It makes us feel...despair. He is very...antagonizing...the...majority of the time."
I think she finally realized that we were dealing with something pretty difficult. She had us make two charts that we keep on the fridge. One is the "Making Up for It Heart," and one is the "Kindness Necklace." In the heart, we write the things that Micah does to "make up for" hurting his siblings, either physically or emotionally. So let's say he kicks Sadie in the knee, causing it to hyperextend (Yes, that's an example from real life). Then he has to do a service for her to make it up. Like scrub her room. (He had to do that today.) With the Kindness Necklace, he gets to color in a bead on the necklace every time I catch him doing something kind for others. I have us write down the kindnesses he did next to each bead. Once the beads have all been colored in, we get to go the bead store and get a couple of dollars' worth of beads. (Bead necklaces are his current passion.)
The charts are effective, but they don't seem to be making as large of a difference as we'd like. He is still hurting someone almost every single day. Honestly, I feel bad for my other children. Having to grow up always worried about getting hurt all the time...not the best thing. Something really big needs to happen.
We went to therapy yesterday, after Gage's speech therapy and occupational therapy (it's exhausting keeping up with all of these therapies...). As we further discussed Micah, the therapist opened up a book of...emotional disorders? Psychiatric disorders? I don't know what the PC term is for it. We looked up "anxiety." Micah only exhibited one symptom for "anxiety." As we further tried to put our finger on what is bothering him, the therapist thought to look up ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. As she went down the checklist of symptoms, I was like, "Yep, yep, yep, yep..." I asked to take a picture of the page to send to Ben:
We're taking him to a child psychologist to see if she can do some evaluating and testing to see if this is what we're dealing with. And what we can do to help him. Our counselor did say that often, if ODD remains unaddressed, the child with ODD becomes an adult with Antisocial Disorder (a sociopath) or Narcissistic Disorder.
That kind of freaked me out. I watch Investigation Discovery, dude. True crime TV. Do you know what a lot of these really, really bad dudes have? Antisocial or Narcissistic Disorders. Yowza.
So, I'll let you know how it goes. The counselor said that ODD often goes hand-in-hand with ADHD or depression. I know he doesn't have ADHD. I have a son with ADHD, and Micah ain't it. But if he is also diagnosed with depression, there may be medications that can help him.
And you know what? I'm at the end of my rope. If the psychologist said, "Hey, he has depression, and I think he would greatly improve and be a lot happier if we tried a medication for him," I would be like, "EXCELLENT. GIVE ME THE DRUGS." Because that's how desperate the situation has become.
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. Just...keepin' it real, I guess.