I didn’t expect the moment to happen, but it did. It happened in a big way.
I was enjoying some alone time after a very hard day of parenting my son with special needs, watching a TV show that is usually a wonderful escape, something that doesn’t resemble my own life in any way. I thought I was safe, thought I was in a world apart from my own, able to relax and not have to think about what all had taken place on the other side of my bedroom door all afternoon.
Then it happened.
A scene between two characters, one explaining to the other that the man she was in love with suffered from a very real mental disorder, and no matter how much she loved him, he was never going to get better. No matter how much she loved him, he’d always need his medication. No matter what the intentions were, he would always suffer and struggle, and that meant that she would likely suffer and struggle, too.
I paused the show and melted into writhing sobs.
The man they were describing could very well be my son. Some day it may actually be.
My son has been diagnosed with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, DMDD for short. It’s usually a place-holder diagnosis until a child turns 18 and can then be diagnosed as bipolar. We don’t know yet if he’ll end up with that diagnosis, but the odds are a pretty clear hint that he will. My mother is bipolar so I’m not without experience, and he’s not without a predisposition towards it. Right now, though, DMDD is the name of the dragon we battle.
I love my son. I love him so much and so fiercely it makes me ache. I am his greatest advocate. His lack of social skills has made me his best friend. His lack of control has made me his teacher. He is so explosive I am one of the only people left in his circle, one of the only people who love him, invest in him, spend time with him.
Because I spend almost every moment of the day with him, I get to see the good parts of him, too. I see his humor, his creativity, the twinkle in his blue eyes when he’s planning a prank, or the intensity in his eyes when he’s learning about something interesting. But because I spend so much time with him, I also see him at his worst. I’m the closest when he lashes out, and the last person to walk away from him. I hold him while he sobs, and I hold him when he threatens to hurt.
I am his safe place and his punching bag, his advocate, and his victim.
I love him more than anyone in the world ever will, and I wonder now . . . will anyone else ever love him at all?
Will he charm someone with his wit, only to drive them away with his rage? Will he appear tortured enough for sympathy at the beginning of a relationship, only to end up torturing someone else he loves in the end? Will I ever have to sit and explain to someone else on his behalf, No matter how much you love him, it will not fix him?
I want him to find love. I want him to feel the acceptance and excitement that comes from someone being in love with you. I want him to have a love story and a partner. But will he have that? Will anyone love him?
He knows he’s different. He knows what causes the difference and why he reacts the way he does. He knows not to compare himself to everyone else because he’s just never going to be like them, but that doesn’t always soften the blow of difference. Having a diagnosis doesn’t make it easier any more than being on medication guarantees peace. He feels the crushing loneliness. He knows he pushes people away. He is utterly trapped—fully aware of what is happening inside him, but almost powerless to control it.
He’s had crushes on girls. He tells me about who he finds pretty, what traits he’s drawn to.
I know he’s capable of love . . . but will anyone be capable of loving him back?
I love my son, diagnosis and all. I’ll do the work he needs done and extend him the grace he needs offered for as long as I have breath. I know he’ll always have me. I know he’ll always have God. I know he won’t die unloved, and I know a healed life awaits him in Heaven. But until that time comes, when he grows into a man and is surrounded by people with families, children, friends, and love . . . will he have anyone else to love him?