So, there’s the million dollar question!
Accepting that there is something different about your child is something that does not come easy to any parent, not easy at all and it tends to send your mind into over drive! Please try not to beat yourself up if it takes some considerable time to admit to yourself that there is something out of the ordinary about your child. It is perfectly okay to struggle with even accepting those initial thoughts that things aren’t quite right and you may even go through a phase of denial. However, please allow yourself time (for however long that may take) to process everything and for it all to sink in. What parent doesn’t automatically and naturally think that when you give birth, to your beautiful bouncing baby, that they will be anything but ‘perfect’?
Coming to terms that your child is different is a journey and process in itself. It is highly likely that you will experience a whole host of emotions from guilt to despair, from panic to one of loss, from fear for the future to concerns about the here and now, from devastation to anger and so on. I’m sure there will also be times that you will self blame and wonder what on earth you have done or not done to find yourself and your family in this situation, I certainly did. All these emotions are natural and totally understandable but please try to remember that this is NOT your fault!
For us, I knew in my gut that the extreme behaviours of aggression, violence, volatile mood, mood switching from happy and content to lashing out and screaming, just wasn’t ‘normal’ (for want of a better word) – I also queried things like why my daughter had such a high pain threshold, why she did and said such random things, why her emotional reactions to situations didn’t make sense to me and even why she ate inedible objects (I will create another blog of all the different types of behaviours that my daughter displayed which were unusual compared to the behaviours of my elder two as they were growing up).
My daughter was just 5/6yrs old when I started madly googling and the conditions that kept popping up time and time again were Paediatric Bipolar (scary right?!) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). She ticked pretty much every symptom for Paediatric Bipolar. I found myself doing hours upon hours of research, completing every check list and working my way through every online test (from ADHD to Schizophrenia!). I even found myself googling ‘is my child a psychopath’! She scored highly on all sorts of tests, my head felt like it would explode!
Hours and hours were, with hindsight, in many ways wasted tying myself up in knots trying to make sense of my daughter’s behaviours. I was no psychologist or psychiatrist nor indeed a specialist doctor, how could I possibly begin to make sense of it all? So I decided to stop googling and instead started to compile a list of behaviours titled ‘what makes my daughter different’ in the hope to have something tangible to take to whichever professional I may be introduced to along the way. Having complied a 9 page document, I felt I had something tangible to base my concerns on. So, off I went down the self-referral route to CAMHS.
Another psychological hurdle
It was only post initial diagnosis that I realised that I had another massive psychological hurdle to overcome and that was having to come to terms that my child had an ‘invisible disability’ – how could that be? I also struggled with the concept of how I needed to change in the way I viewed and interacted with her. I remember a conscious switch in my brain where I somehow knew I had to treat her differently because she WAS different. It took me a while to realise and accept that I had to change, yes me, I had to change the way I was with her. I certainly hadn’t intended to raise her any differently to my elder two girls but there was yet another lightbulb moment when it suddenly came to me that I had to! Once you have come to terms with this massive concept (which was alien to me for some time) then you will find yourself in a much better place to be able to support your child and the fight to get your voice heard begins.
TOP TIP: Use Google as a way of identifying symptoms related to various potential conditions that concern you and make a personalised list. Don’t use Google to try and diagnose like I did!