Everyone has a good and a bad side, a light and a dark. Mostly people suppress their most negative traits, maybe letting little bits leak out here or there. The odd white lie, the pretending you didn’t see someone to avoid them, exaggerating something to look better. People try to be socially acceptable and likeable. What do you do, when your child’s neurology, along with the deal life has dealt them by the time they reach teenaged years, means that eventually the only visible facets of them are the negative?
It used to be that it was all about extremes. The laughs were really funny, the anxiety was really chronic and the meltdowns, really bad (although less of them in those days). You remember times you laughed at stuff together. You were proud of their achievements and you were behind them every step of the way. But then they morphed into a much darker version of themselves, until it got to the point you don’t know who they are any more. And every interaction with them has become something you actively dread, they feel like an alien, a changeling and the extremes are all on the dark side now.
Yesterday there was another episode. I’ve lost count of how many or how frequent now. They all blur into one. One long, torturous, aggressive meltdown. I recently listened to a podcast in which it was described that PDA children can in fact develop personality disorders alongside their PDA. I wonder whether this has happened. All logic and reality seems to have been lost and so many of the descriptions fit. I feel like I am in a living nightmare that I can’t wake up from.
I know why it’s happened. The demands of life became too much for her. She’s not ready for any of it. She can’t cope with life. I can do scared, I can do upset. Those can be comforted and reassured. It’s the viciousness I can’t do. The controlling and manipulation that’s too much. Someone pleading for help tugs at the heart strings. Someone assailing you with torrents of vile words, lies, bullying and physical attacks, doesn’t. Whoever is doing it, the effects are the same. And it shows no signs of letting up.
Call me human. Call me a failure. I want to run away and save myself.
I tried for so long. I tried so hard. But the system broke me and my own child worked against me, by putting it all on me to solve and pouring every negative thing onto me, all in the four walls of our home. Made me realise the futility of it all. Life is life, you can’t change the world for your child. They have to accept it as it is. You can’t fix someone so broken from living a normal life, some people can’t be helped, for whatever reason. And to try – and when it’s your child you do try – you eventually end up broken yourself. The pain of realising that as a parent, your best efforts to help your child and make it all better like they asked you to, were not enough, make you feel even more broken.
PDA feels like the worst torture that can be inflicted, both on the family and the individual with it. It’s like everything you try gets you nowhere, every suggestion someone makes, you’ve already been there and got the t-shirt. So you realise there is nothing. Every time I think she needs to be an in-patient, I remember that she would go into absolute masking mode in front of professionals to avoid it, they’d probably think I was demented for even suggesting it. Even if she went, I know they wouldn’t understand PDA and I just think of her traumatised by it, and I can’t do it.
If someone had ever said to me years ago, that I would be thinking of walking away at some point, I would have strenuously refuted it and told them I would die first. Everyone has their limits though. They say you have to be kind to yourself, to love yourself. Of course parenting is about putting your children first, they don’t ask to be brought into the world. But this is ‘extreme parenting’. And when you realise that to break your child’s obsession with you, to push them to find new ways of coping, because they have made you part of the problem…well, saving yourself doesn’t seem so selfish.
The alternative, is that I see my life stretching before me, a probably reduced lifespan from the immense stress, in inertia from emotional distress and basically giving up totally on myself. The effect of this on my already precarious physical health, is that I can see me relying on a wheelchair in a few years’ time. Who would want a parent like that. A shadow of their former self. A person so subdued and shattered that they have no spark left. Someone unable to find joy in life. I remember that I have worth too, that I deserve better. Isn’t there a child inside us all? Why does being an adult mean you have to endure such pain without any solution to it?
~ When your child is on the dark side, you reach for the light. You hope with everything you have, that your child will find their own light, you don’t let them drag you both down into the pit.