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My Son Damaged Our Wall — Repairing It Was a Learning Lesson – SheKnows

My Son Damaged Our Wall — Repairing It Was a Learning Lesson – SheKnows
Written by Publishing Team

My husband Dave installed the hook and eye latch on the inside of our bedroom door – not as a means of protection when the mood struck, but rather as protection against our son’s moods.

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Max was just nine years old when bipolar disorder turned our typically affectionate and caring son into a cross between an NFL running back and an angry bull. I was the red flag. Often it was the most insignificant request – start your homework, put the Legos away, get ready for bed – that led Max to rush towards me, head down, with the intention of knocking me over. Even then, I knew he didn’t mean to hurt me. He was so overwhelmed with frustration he couldn’t form the words to express it so he channeled the fury in my direction.

Max’s ADHD diagnosis first came while he was still in kindergarten. We weren’t so surprised when he was later diagnosed with OCD given his tendency to count ceiling tiles, his aversion to germs and his relentless line of questions about everything. Max was indeed a sensitive, insightful and creative child. Other parents were impressed with Max’s questions, attributing them to his natural curiosity and intelligence. We knew this was also due, at least in part, to a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Her psychiatrist prescribed her a number of medications over the years to treat impulsiveness, absent-mindedness, compulsions and obsessive thoughts. Some worked and some didn’t. It would take five years before we discovered that the drug given to treat one disorder was doing a fabulous job of making another worse.

“Even the smallest amount of homework could trigger Max’s bouts of rage.”

Eventually, Max’s inability to focus on fractions and spelling words, and his excessive need for hand sanitizer paled in comparison to emerging behaviors that would become our biggest challenge: low frustration tolerance, moods unpredictability and physical aggression.

Even the smallest amount of homework could trigger bouts of rage that began with Max knocking over the kitchen chairs and ending with me barricading myself in our bedroom until he was calm enough to talk without hitting or kicking me. spit in the face. His lack of impulse control resulted in patches of peeling wallpaper, holes in the walls, and at least one TV remote slamming into the wall. It was not uncommon for Max to grab a kitchen knife in anger, and there were several times when I thought I should have called the police for help. I have never done. It would have been an admission that I was in real danger and I didn’t want to believe it was true.

One day when he was particularly restless, Max wandered around the house throwing toys and brushing papers on the counters. When he knocked a picture off the wall, I put him in his room for a time out. Later I asked what would make him feel better.

“So that you are not my mother,” he replied.

“OK,” I said, “today I’m not your mother.”

“I wish I had never been born,” he said. “I should die.”

I had spent years dealing with Max’s bites, punches and kicks, and I saw the broken skin heal and the bruises fade over time. But his words, I knew, would leave scars.

“The hole reminded us of the most difficult period of our lives. A time that threatened to break up our family, destroy my marriage and take our son away from us.

After consulting mental health professionals in three different states, the solution to Max’s dangerous moods came in the form of fish oil capsules and soon we were living with a child who was more rational. Less prone to overflow. More in control. He wasn’t a new kid, but one who had been there all along, struggling to stay afloat amid waves of irrationality and aggression. This new regime has given us back our son. Or so I thought.

A year after putting it on fish oil, I came home one day, surprised to find a familiar voice coming from the back hallway. My brother-in-law Matt. Exceptionally handy when it came to home repairs, Matt was occasionally involved in household projects.

“We’re fixing the hole, mom,” Max beamed. “I help.”

The hole Max was referring to was the one he had created years before by swinging a small wooden chair into the wall across from our bathroom, his way of letting us know he was unhappy about having to turn off his star wars video and get ready for bed.

“Hey Deb, I’m showing your boy how to drywall,” Matt said, crouching down.

The hole was the size of the ceramic head of Darth Vader that Max kept on his bookshelf. It was ugly with jagged edges that exposed the innards of our house. When it was inflicted, it threatened to expose the far uglier problem on this side of the drywall. But today, the idea of ​​having it repaired made me sick to my stomach.

As Matt cut around the hole with a saw, shaping it into a neat square in order to apply a patch of drywall, I felt an eerie sensation. Anxiety? Frustration? Although passing this hole several times a day, I had not thought of it for some time. But now, with his impending demise, I wanted nothing more than to put a stop to the mending. It wasn’t something I could explain to Matt or my husband, who was happy to see Max clean up his own mess.

I could still remember the feelings of despair, shame, and helplessness the hole engendered. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to repair the damage. Remove physical evidence of Max’s mental illness. We had decided not to repair it for fear that another splinter would render our efforts useless.

The hole served as a reminder of the most difficult time of our lives. A time that threatened to break up our family, destroy my marriage and take our son away from us. But it wasn’t, and we eventually took control of a runaway train.

We were grateful that Max was doing so well, but I wondered if we risked losing our appreciation for the well-behaved child we now had if all evidence of his former self was erased. Each time he replies or refuses to take out the trash, would we judge these little offenses typical of a tween boy too harshly? Or remember they were way more typical than the punches he threw and enjoy the trip? Over time, would we still be able to recognize the path Max traveled if we eliminated his starting point?

Before Matt finished the drywall patch, I grabbed the camera and took a picture. First, from the hole. Then another with Max and Matt, both smiling at a job well done.

Getting Max where he needed to be was not easy. Like the wall, it needed repair work.

It’s been years since my little kid took a little chair and created a not-so-small hole in our wall. And in our lives. Years since Max’s anger and unpredictability invaded our home, threatening to suffocate our family. For years I’ve been afraid of what my child’s future might look like.

And it’s been years since this hole told only one story. Now it tells the story of a young man who discovered his identity beyond his diagnosis. Someone who doesn’t just function in the world, but succeeds in it. It tells the story of a tennis player, camp counselor, graphic novel collector, loyal friend, and college graduate.

The hole was large, jagged and ugly. Over time it became something more. I might not have been happy when he first appeared. But I was really disappointed to see him go.

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