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I am often asked how I got into holistic based work. For those of you who don’t know, I was once a “mental”. A “mental” is someone who likes to be 100% analytical (left brained). I loved solving problems and chose a very analytical-based career as an engineer as a result. I also had a knack for thinking up creative solutions to problems and thinking outside the box. It would be the ability to think out of the box that would save my relationship with my middle son and put me into holistic work.
Looking back, I am grateful my personal journey with my son led me out of my head, into my body and back into my feeling self. The journey back into my body started when I was in my late 20’s when I became a mom to my second son. A few weeks prior to his due date I was rear ended by a car on the freeway. I was thrown into a median where I spun 1 1/2 times before the car stopped. I was 8 months pregnant.
As a result, my son was born a couple weeks early and came into the world very quickly. There was no time for medication once labor started; the pain I felt was excruciating. But despite all the chaos and pain during the birth process, I was feeling pretty confident about being a mom. I really wasn’t worried about adding another child to the family because my oldest child had been so ‘easy’ to raise. I figured the second would be more of the same.
But I was wrong. Oh so wrong. My second son did not behave in any way, shape, or form like my eldest. He was different from the beginning. He was so different, in fact, that it would be years before I understood why he acted the way he did: he was noisy, he was wiggly, and he was unhappy.
I kept thinking his “mood” was temporary. But it became harder and harder to appease his cries. He was very cranky. He was born with a grumpy look on his face and he cried all the time. And when I say “all the time”, I mean all the time. Especially at night. Night time would bring about long hours of crying, which meant little to no sleep for me. He would cry for hours on end and nothing seemed to help. He didn’t want to be held. He wasn’t hungry. He didn’t need a diaper change. I was getting upset.
I asked doctors and relatives for their advice. But all I kept hearing was “he’ll grow out of it.” They were wrong, his behavior didn’t change much at all through the years. I found it hard to take him places because I never knew what would “set him off”. Was he tired? Sick? I didn’t know. Most mornings I’d have a fight on my hands. It was hard for him to stay on track and he screamed when I brushed his hair. He wriggled away when I tried to touch him. His behavior was very confusing for me.
I felt helpless. What had I done wrong?
When he was two, he was sent off to day care. I was a working single mom and tending to both my boys solo was hard. It was even harder with my youngest in day care. I was constantly interrupted at work. The day care called me at least twice a week. My son was having a hard time adapting to the environment, they’d say. He was fussy and he wouldn’t settle down.
I’d have to go to him because they didn’t know what to do with him. Many times I’d swing by the facility to find his face all red from crying. This was just the start. When he got to preschool I was told he wasn’t going to make it in that environment and they wanted me to find another place for him. I was devastated.
I didn’t understand why he had a hard time with people and places. I could tell you all the things I went through to find a “solution” to his problem but I will save that for a longer piece of work. Let’s just sum up his childhood as “difficult” and “challenging”. It wouldn’t be until I suffered many years of confusion and guilt that my son would be diagnosed with ADHD. He was six.
He exhausted his teachers and I was politely (and not so politely) asked to put him on medication because he was having a hard time being still and quiet. But I refused to medicate him because I didn’t feel it was the solution. My decision not to medicate him was met with much opposition and many times it was suggested that he go to the alternative school for kids with behavior problems.
But I knew he wasn’t a bad kid. I felt that he deserved more from life. And in order to keep him off meds, I vowed to work with him on my own. I was going to find a way to help him get through school. I knew he was a bright kid, a kind kid, and he was amazing at sports. He excelled at every sport I put him in. He’d watch the coach demonstrate a technique and pick it up immediately. He was MVP of many of the sports he tried because he could learn the movements so fast.
He struggled with teamwork, though. He was very cranky and it was hard for him to get along with other kids. This is something we saw in his school environment, too. It seemed he preferred to spend time with adults and spent most of his time in school getting to know the adults rather than peers. I am pretty sure that’s why he’d end up in the administrators’ offices so often. ?
Getting him through a “normal” environment in school was very challenging. I was exhausted a lot of the time. It wouldn’t be until he turned 13 that we would finally find someone who could help. By strange circumstances, we found a wonderful child’s advocate who pointed us in the direction of natural alternatives for my son. She had been ADD growing up in a time when ADD was not diagnosed so she knew what it was like to be in my son’s shoes.
And she came at just the right time. By that time I was desperate because with every passing year, the school “suggested” I medicate my son or he’d have to go somewhere else. Desperate to keep him off drugs, we tried a series of things from nutrition changes to herbal supplements and behavior modification systems. They worked some, but we still hadn’t found an answer.
With the child advocate’s help, we found an organization that catered to my son’s issues by addressing his neurology. It would be the first time in my son’s life that I would feel hopeful. We signed up to do a 12 week “brain training” course. I was relieved to find people who seemed to understand my son’s issues and they believed they could help him.
With a level of hope I’d never known, I started learning more about the brain and how it worked. I read everything I could about ADD and ADHD. I wanted to learn whatever I could to help him succeed. I made adjustments to his home environment so he could focus better, (he was extremely sensitive to noise and touch). The brain training gave us the information we needed to help him focus for longer periods of time in school. I wouldn’t say the brain training cured him completely but what it did for us was give both of us a new way to talk about his “condition.”
By the time he finished high school, the school finally got to see what I’d known all along. He was very intelligent, so intelligent he was bored. He was also sensitive and very non-linear in his thinking. This meant he was highly creative and very nurturing. One of the things I’m most proud of was his ability to babysit autistic and children with extreme behavior problems with patience and love by the time he was 16.
What I learned from raising my son has been invaluable. I learned that ADHD meant my son processed the world differently. Because he did, I had to also. As I imagined his world in a body that was highly sensitive to sound and touch, I could begin to understand how easily his mind distracted him. And I was glad I didn’t buy into the “diagnosis” the school was giving me. He wasn’t trying to be difficult, he wasn’t bound for prison. He was simply trying to live in his physical body in a noisy world.
Working so closely with him gave me an insight into his unique experience and, as a result, I’ve developed a deeper level of compassion for people with challenges. The frustration I felt with him was my gateway back into my feeling self and I am so grateful to him for giving me the gift of feeling again. And because his situation didn’t make sense, I had to move out of my mental mind into my feeling and creative self in order to help him.
In addition to the brain training, I worked with him using NLP, hypnosis and Reiki. The longer I worked with him, the more I understood how hard it was for him to navigate through his environment. This meant he had anxiety and we’d have to change processes often. But we made it. He’s now 19 and lives on his own. It took extra time and effort to raise him but it was totally worth it.
Today he is doing things his own way, (looks kinda chaotic to my linear mind), but he is a productive and caring citizen in the world. I am so proud of him. And as a result of being his mom, a good portion of the work I get to do now is geared toward helping adults and children with ADD, ADHD and sensitivities. How cool is that?