I am lucky. And, I am grateful. I have been blessed with a second chance to be a good mother to my son and make up for some of the shortcomings in my “first round”.
I am a biologically well-programmed healthy mammal and as such my maternal instincts to protect my offspring were activated the moment D., my son, was born. I turned into a You-mess-with-my-baby-I’ll-mess-you-up (honey) badger mom that would have jumped at anyone who came too close to him. Why badger mom? D. loves badgers (and so do I), the common badger for its chubby-charming-clumsy appearance and the honey badger for its fearless audacity.
But there is more to being a parent than just protecting your child from harm.
Being a good parent means being the type of person you want your kids to become, in other words, setting an example. If you are positive, stable and handle problems in a mature way, that’s what your child will see and learn and do. Discipline and clear limits provide stability, security and the tools to become an independent individual.
I was one of those parents who would have definitely needed a parenting course.
I mean think of it, even a cashier in a supermarket has to go through more schooling than a parent (to-be) who has to master the most challenging and responsible project of all, Raising a Child, i.e. molding a soft and easily deformable mass of cells, nerves, flesh, blood, bones, feelings, senses, and physical & emotional needs into a content grown-up who knows how to cope with life.
Here is some valuable advice on the subject:
The first months after D.’s father and I separated and I moved out with my 2-year-old son were tough. I felt lost and lonely. I remember myself often gazing at the warm homey light coming out of other people’s windows in the evenings and a hurting envy would overcome me. It seemed like everywhere I looked there were only happy couples and harmonious families.
It took a while until the pain faded. And then I realized: Hey, I am free! Well not really. But YES, I was.
My new life was an exciting struggle, mainly with my unstable and irrational self. Adrenalin rushes fuelled me and my child was in the middle, between me and myself. I loved and love D. more than anything in the world and I wanted to be the best of mothers, but often I stood in my own way. I felt the need to break free. I had days with extreme highs and then there were the downs. Not an ideal setting for bringing up a child.
When I (uneasily) ask D. today what he remembers of his childhood, the only negative things he comes up with is that he was sad we didn’t have cable TV and that kids in school would tease him; bad enough that I didn’t know about the teasing at the time, but not as bad as what I had expected to hear. He does also remember good things, like the trips we made together, the places I took him when he was crazy about birds, knowing many of their names in Hebrew, English and German… and a few more nice things he does recollect …
All along my son was suffering from psychotic OCD at different severity levels and he received various treatments, some effective others less.
Shortly before being drafted D. tried various types of “light” drugs, nothing that really worried me because I did not see any extreme effects on him. Until one night when he came into my room in panic, his heart was racing and pounding strongly and we were both frightened. It was the effect of cocaine. While I tried to convince him that we should go to the hospital, his heartbeat returned to near-normal. From then on he lived in hysteric concern for his heart. He no longer touched any drugs or medication, not even regular painkillers. He stopped smoking and drank only caffeine-free drinks and no alcohol.
Despite his OCD and the various treatments he had received my son was drafted. The army asked for his medical records, so they knew about his psychiatric history. D. wanted to join the army. Obviously he didn’t serve in a combat unit, but still, being a soldier meant having to obey rules and orders and being punished if not. The fear of coming late and thus sometimes not sleeping several nights in a row, and the stress of constantly being concerned with hiding the symptoms of his disorder took their toll on D. Eventually, he couldn’t bear it any longer and asked to leave the army. The IDF wasn’t going to take any chances and released him immediately.
D. had served for nearly two years (in Israel the duration of basic military service for men is three years), which I think deserves respect, considering his background. He says today that the time in the army was the happiest of his life.
After his release from the army D. spent a few months at home not really doing anything. He wanted to “relax” for a few months. In these short months his problems intensified extremely and reached a point where life became unbearable, both for him and for me. He had visions of himself torturing others and he heard voices, which he tried to drive away loudly in the middle of the night. He spent hours washing himself and sometimes, exhausted of washing and washing and washing, he would just sit on his bed with disposable gloves on his hands so as not to touch anything since everything around him was dirty and full of supernatural powers. He would throw clean clothes to the dirty laundry, just because they had accidentally touched something “impure”; he gave me orders which things not to touch because they were “infected”, which was about everything! I felt like a prisoner in my own home. But poor D. was a slave of his irrational mind and that was far worse. He would knock his head on the wall and break furniture, in despair, and say he couldn’t bear it any more. He cut lines in his skin with a knife, to punish himself. We were no longer merely dealing with OCD here: https://heilablog.com/home/ .
And still he was not willing to take medication out of fear for his heart.
I saw only one solution: I had to get my son into a psychiatric hospital (Luckily we have the best in the whole country right around the corner) and because he wasn’t willing to be hospitalized voluntarily, I needed to find a way to force him. It was a very painful road I had to take and while I am writing these lines I feel a lump in my throat.
I involved the district psychiatrist, the police, and the court. Thanks to a dear and very determined friend who stood by me all along, holding my hands when I couldn’t control the shaking, and thinking for me when my mind just couldn’t focus, I managed to get through those hard times in one piece.
And we made it: D. was hospitalized by court order.
Of course in the beginning my son was mad at me, upset, scared and felt shitty. I visited him nearly every day, brought him what he asked for and tried to convince him that this was finally his chance to get better and lead a normal happy life. And I hugged him. As soon as he let me.
The medical staff didn’t want to force D. to take medication. They gave him time. Time which they also needed to establish a correct and comprehensive diagnosis. Then, after more than a month, D. had to either agree to take the pills or he would receive medication via injection, by force if necessary. He felt so bad and frightened to death, literally. This was when his former IPEC therapist came to visit him at the hospital and calmed him down, and convinced him that taking medication will not do any harm to his heart.
D. agreed to take the pills. Another hurdle was overcome.
There are many types of psychiatric and anti-psychotic medicines and finding the right one or the balanced combination of several different products, and adjusting the dose to best suit an individual patient in regard to optimum effectiveness and minimum side effects can be quite a lengthy trial-and-error process.
To be continued…