Giving the Talk (Not THAT One)
Giving the talk about mental illness has been one of the challenges I’ve faced as Bob’s mother (and a therapist). In Bob’s case, it has been teaching others about his ADHD. Teamwork doesn't always happen. There are some people who don’t buy into the idea that mental illness exists. So, I teach them about it. One of those people is my father.
Some background on my father - he’s an old-school guy who subscribed (and still does) to using corporal punishment (spankings) to discipline kids. This was 25 – 30 years ago so it was the norm. He also believed that the way to raise children is to have 100% control over them allowing for no choices or even the benefit of one’s own feelings. I was one of four kids raised mostly or partially by him and my mother. As a child, I was very passive and anxious. And if I was upset with him, I was told that it wasn’t allowed. In addition, I feared him because I felt wary that any negative behavior would result in a spanking. So imagine how I felt not only being under that kind of pressure and not being able to feel my feelings over it.
When Bob began showing signs of ADHD (that I was still thinking I had under control), my father had been helping with school pick-ups. At the time, Bob’s father wasn’t in the picture. Once a week, my father would pick bob up from school and by the time I’d get to his house after work, my father would be in the middle of a fit because Bob didn’t jump to do things when asked the first time. My father had extreme difficulty understanding that Bob’s diagnosis made it really hard for Bob to do things after being told once – not because Bob wanted to misbehave, but he was so inattentive.
Giving the Talk
Today, my father is still a gruff person easily annoyed, but he’s made an effort to understand Bob better. It seems like my consistently providing him with psychoeducation (information) about Bob’s diagnosis has been sinking in. Albeit slowly, but he’s getting it. Somewhat.
In his own words, my father has described Bob as one body with two kids inside or as he put it recently, Bob must have swallowed his twin in utero. I thought that was pretty funny, but it was also pretty accurate before a year ago when Bob began medication treatment. It has taken my gruff old man a long time to give Bob credit where credit is due and show Bob (and me) how much he cares.
I often explained to my father what the symptoms of ADHD were, how food affects Bob (sugar, etc) and even the triggers for Bob’s anxiety, which often caused an increase in his hyperactive and inattentive behaviors. I also explained to my father my parenting style - consequences for behaviors. While he doesn’t totally agree with my parenting, he at least respects it and is able to give Bob the support he needs. Underneath it all, love is the answer to the challenge. I loved Bob enough to stand up to my father and tell him how I wanted Bob to be treated. And because I loved my father so much and wanted him in Bob’s life, I spoke up.
Zalamar, H. (2013, February 20). Giving the Talk (Not THAT One), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2013/02/giving-the-talk-not-that-one