One of the most challenging aspects of managing behavioral disorders (ex: ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, etc) is other people’s misconceptions about the disorders along with the misconceptions about the children & families affected by them.
Unlike other mental health disorders that present physical symptoms, disorders like ADHD, ODD and conduct disorder (CD) present themselves externally in the form of behaviors that, for many, are just socially unacceptable. Examples include defiance, arguments, tantrums, disrespectful language, etc.
Over the years, I have observed all kinds of people, including those whom I thought were closest to me, judge or criticize me because my son was acting out in defiance, especially in school. They distill the behaviors down to an uncontrollable and undisciplined child raised by a bad parent – because if the child were raised by a good parent, using discipline for example, the child wouldn’t be acting out.
But this could not be further from the truth, as we know. Any parent raising a child under these circumstances knows the persistence of behavioral disorders. It is a reality in our daily lives and it breaks you down. Sometimes so much so that you yourself start to believe what others say and think.
My journey has been a long one. Along the way, I have learned a lot about so many things – mental health, the medical and psychiatric communities, family dynamics, parenting, laws & law enforcement, education systems, faith & spirituality, et al. I have also learned lessons about my son, his needs and how best to raise him based on those needs. Most of all, I have learned and continue to learn about me – my flaws and weaknesses as well as my strengths and my unapologetic grit. Years ago, embarrassment, guilt, shame, a sense of failure were all stories I told myself. There are still moments when they try to whisper in my ear but it has taken a lot of work on my part to finally get to a place where I am OK and there is a lot of hope.
I can tell you this – only you know the legitimacy of your own story and what’s best for you and your child. No one can ever tell you either is right or wrong. And no one should ever make you feel ashamed of your child’s disorder, of yourself or of your circumstances. Yes, there may be times when we all could handle situations differently but so long as you are doing the right thing and doing your best, then that is all anyone can expect of you. That is all that you can expect of yourself. You’re doing a great job – even during the toughest moments. Always remember that.