Q: My son is now 13 and had been diagnosed ED / ADHD since he was 3. I was a single mom the first 4 years of his life, and married when he was four.
I now have two other boys, 2 and 4, and my husband and I are struggling to deal with the oldest’s behaviors. It is actually causing me to be very depressed at times and it is straining our marriage. I’m not sure what I can do, to help him and us. I feel like I’m going to literally lose my mind on a daily basis. I end up snapping at everyone or not dealing with normal issues, because I feel so overwhelmed.
My son’s therapist suggested I see someone, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing I need. Help? I’m afraid of losing my son to his illness, my husband because of the difficulties with son, and my sanity in it all.
A: Thanks for reaching out for help. You’ve hung in there a long time with your son’s illness and it sounds like it’s wearing you down emotionally.
I’m glad to know that your son is in therapy, and from what you’re describing, it sounds like it is time for you to get some help. I suggest specifically being assessed for depression and anxiety. The irritability, overwhelming feelings, and fears you’re describing deserve attention and treatment. It’s common for parents of children with chronic mental health issues to feel discouraged, down, overwhelmed, and scared. It’s also common to feel isolated, alone, and helpless.
After seeking support for you, I recommend accessing additional help for you and your family. Since you already have a relationship with your son’s therapist, he or she may be an excellent referral source for additional support services. Have you discussed with your son’s therapist your need for specific skills to manage your son’s behavior, or requested to include the family in the treatment process? If your son’s therapist isn’t comfortable with family therapy, ask if there are any recommended colleagues who work with marriage and family issues. Also, ask your son’s therapists for book recommendations about your son’s specific struggles. If you haven’t already done so, it may be helpful to read about your son’s illnesses, and encourage your husband to do the same. Gaining more understanding about what your son is going through may help you frame his illness in a more manageable way, help you less overwhelmed, and help you feel more prepared to support him.
Check with your local school district about parenting classes and support groups for children and families with ADHD and other behavior problems. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by my suggestions, ask your husband to help you research additional services to help your family during this time of crisis.
Take good care of you and yours!
Julie Hanks, LCSW
This post was originally published on my PsychCentral Ask the Therapist column