For a few months M was happy at school. He was reacting well to his teachers, and seemed to be getting on well. He was in a good place, probably the best place he had been in for a couple of years. It was lovely to see him happy. He had people around him he trusted enough to let in, I wont quite say he had friends because I am still not convinced he understands the whole concept of friendship. All was settled.
As with all happy bubbles in the world of my kids, when they burst the fallout is beyond belief.
Getting M to school started to become difficult in ways we had not seen since his first year. He would have every possible illness. He would refuse to get dress. He would be unable to find school things for his bag. He employed all sorts of delaying tactics, but once he was at school, he seemed to be fine. He became very clingy. I would get spontaneous cuddles, something I am sure many parents don’t see as unusual, but for a child who generally shuns human contact it was lovely to be on the receiving end, but at the same time I started worrying that he was coming down with something! His display of Mummy love was commented on by his Grannies at a family meal when they both sneered as they said they thought he had grown out of being a Mummies boy. It is when they make comments like that, that it is so obvious they don’t really get him, because behaviour that is seen as out of character doesn’t just happen.
He began to shun the idea of doing anything, and reverted to his own little world more and more often. Going to school was still difficult and on some mornings, he was getting himself in such a state when getting dressed, I had to remind him to breathe. These panic attacks became worse and worse. He missed odd days of school, because there was no way I could get him into clothes, let alone out the house and to school.
Hubby and I talked about his odd behaviour and we both used personal experience to agree that we wondered if there was something more than just entering the transition time at school. It seemed more than just his usual not wanting to be at school. We decided we should take him to the doctors to talk about his mental health. Unfortunately it was 2 weeks before we could get an appointment to see one of the few doctors he trusts at our surgery.
During that 2 weeks, I tried to get him to school, and it was hit and miss, with more misses than hits. Hubby spoke with the depute at the school who was Ms teacher 2 years ago, so she knew him, and understood him. Interestingly relating to her, whenever M did talk about school, he would talk about her, as if he was wiping the time that followed her, and reverting to happier memories – she was brilliant for him and really engaged him in wanting to learn.
As we headed towards the end of term, the new teachers for session were announced. The teacher M would be getting is well-respected, and someone he had encountered in P4 when she taught the other class to his. He was confused as to who she was, so we asked if I could take him in for a meeting with her. It was agreed. He was in a total state at the prospect of going to the school, but I promised him I would stay with him at all times, and bring him straight home afterwards. The teacher was lovely with him, and reassured him that she remembered him, and was looking forward to spending more time with him. Then his worse nightmare was realised as the head took him to his classroom while I spoke with the teacher. He wasn’t in uniform, he had no bag, water bottle, or lunch. She told me he’d be fine. I left the school in tears of worry for him. I collected him at lunchtime, and as he came out of the door, he just leapt at me with a torrent of verbal abuse about how I had lied to him, and worst of all, how I had broken a promise to him when I said I wouldn’t make him stay at school. He hurt like a knife through the heart when he said he thought he could have trusted me. Needless to say, I didn’t get him back to school that day, and he hasn’t been back since.
The day of the doctor’s appointment, he said he didn’t need to go as the only thing wrong was the end of term – it so obviously was more than this. His Dad was working at home that day, so he could come to the doctors with him. At the surgery he sat curled up cuddling me. When he was called in, I stayed with him in the waiting room while Hubby went to speak to the doctor. About 10 minutes later Hubby came out and said the doctor wanted to see him. He held me so tight, as we went in. The doctor talked to him, as he nodded and grunted while staring at me, not even turning to face the doctor. He reassured M that he wanted to get him help to feel less scared with life. He is referring him to the child mental health department at the kids hospital, so it is just time to play the waiting game.
We talked to M afterwards, asking if he understood what the doctor had said. He just sat and flapped. Hubby explained the doctor wanted to help him like he had Hubby the year before when he was diagnosed with anxiety. I think M understood how Daddy became a nicer person once the doctor had helped him so could see there was a positive in this.
Hubby said the doctor said to him that based on the description he was given as to Ms behaviour, if he had been a working adult, he would have had no hesitation to sign him off! That is very worrying that a child of just 10 years old finds the world so difficult to handle. Hubby spoke to the school and the depute was so concerned about what was happening. She agreed to him trying to go in if he felt he could.
The phone went a few days later, and it was the depute. We already knew she would be acting head after the holidays – a real lose to any classroom to make a brilliant teacher into an administrator, but the teacher M had been introduced to as his new teacher has now been promoted to depute so would not be his teacher. The replacement would be a probationer, although not a straight out of college one, so a little bit more world wise. I was worried about telling M, but he seemed to not care at all. I think he has been so used to his teachers swapping about that he wont believe who he is having until he sees who is sitting at the front of the class in August. He agreed to going in to meet her, on the one understanding that he wasn’t forced to the classroom. I am hoping the enthusiasm of a probationer will be good for him.
He went to the meeting, which was arranged for 2.45, so there would be no time to do anything else. Hubby took him, and said he was very unresponsive to the teacher, but did talk to her about loving Lego. He told me afterwards that she was “alright”, so not sure what he actually felt.
He hasn’t made it back to school, as the mere mention of the place and he becomes totally hysterical. Hubby bumped into one of his teachers in Asda, and when he told M, he became so agitated , and took himself off for some alone time.
I took him to the dentist yesterday. The dentist is just slightly further up the road from the school, so only a few minute walk. He flapped the whole walk, only stopping for a moment to pull his hood around his head as we passed the school, but returning to full flap mode. He was brilliant in the dentist, and his teeth were given a big thumbs up. He then flapped the walk home. He was very monosyllabic when we got home.
He is just having problems with coping with basic things. He gets very angry with the slightest provocation, and on many occasions I have heard him having a row and gone to see what is wrong, thinking he is fighting with his brother, but no, he is arguing with himself, feeling he is so negative about everything.
It is so difficult to know how to help him. While he has been off school I have tried to keep him mentally active, while not forcing him to do things that he finds to stressful. We have done a lot of Lego. I bought some of the Architecture sets – do check them out if you haven’t seen them. We have made the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, the Seattle Space Needle, and the White House. The kits are amazingly accurate to the buildings they represent, but the interesting thing is the assembly manuals have information about the real buildings, so we have been reading them and learning as we go. He has also been helping me with cooking, and is now an expert in the kitchen and can fry and egg and bacon without supervision. I have also let him have the down time he needs, with us watching plenty of movies, or rather a few films, over and over again. We have also been trying some mindfulness games, although M doesn’t realise it’s about calming himself. He is thinking about what he is eating, by shutting his eyes to taste and describe the feelings going on in his mouth. He sees it as a game but if it’s a focus tool it has to be worthwhile.
I must say D has been brilliant through all this. He has been jealous of course that M hasn’t been going to school and he has had to, and he has had a couple of paddys about it, but having said that he has been kind and understanding. He might not understand about mental illness – but can any of us understand someone else’s pain, but he has been supportive in helping him through things. There are of course the usual fights and screaming matches, but I see those as normality and not something to be too negative about.
For now we continue to take the lead from M while we wait for an appointment for help.