On April 6, 1993, my whole world changed as I became the father to a beautiful son. He was big at 10 pounds. He would grow to be strong in his early years, like me. He liked to eat and was full of energy. Early on, he would show that he was intelligent, with a knack for video games even at the age of 3 or 4. At age 4, he made me so proud as he dominated on the soccer field, where I would coach him for three years. He was everything a father could want - beautiful, big, strong. I still hear his infectious laugh in my mind’s ear. He was the absolute best of me, and I was overflowing in my love for him.
Time goes by, the world turns, and things change. We are human beings, and we can be pitiful and frail. My marriage, and thus our family, disintegrated. I accept full responsibility for that. I will forever be haunted by my failures and the obvious effect they had on my son and his sister. He was diagnosed , as so many young people are these days, with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I’m no doctor, but I understood that these are frequently associated with the dreaded bi-polar disorder. I later learned he would spend his adolescent years medicated and that he would struggle in school with dyslexia. That these conditions and his lefthandedness may also indicate intelligence, and that they run in my family, seem so inconsequential. If anything, they added to the tidal wave of guilt. It all added up to one big stew of difficulty for him. I simply cannot get away from the fact that my son has suffered, and further that I could not be there for him. Could I have been a better father? Could I have spared my son this entropy?
Now an adult, my son and I have attempted to pick up the pieces of our interrupted relationship. Make no mistake, his mental health issues are ever-present and a constant reminder of how tenuous a peaceful life and a healthy relationship can be. It is a gut wrenching assault on my conscience that somehow I contributed to my son’s pain. Perhaps it is pride, but I feel under constant siege by the thought that I have failed my son somehow. Whether I did, he is frequently in pain, and I as his father have not protected him and apparently do not possess the means to do so. I alternately pray to and curse the powers that be.
I want my son to be healthy. I want my son to be happy. What can I do? Please, God, tell me what I must do. I will give my blood or my very life for my son. I will do anything, just help me help him.
I navigate the winding straits of doctors, treatment facilities, medication, and living arrangements. My spirit aches with the resentment that we in this country do not have universal care or sufficient resources to help with these issues. I am often left feeling helpless and so inadequate. As a combat veteran and avid weightlifter, I do not manage those feelings well. I can’t just bear down and try harder - the problem doesn’t go away. The weight doesn’t get easier. The calculus of the situation often has me baffled. The feelings of anger and inadequacy never seem to end.
I always remember that we are a nation full of young people with these issues and parents enduring a common struggle. I have so few answers, but I know as a society we must begin to address this from both a causal and treatment angle. We must develop the syntax to help our children get through this and find what is causing this. We have to develop the processes necessary to assist parents in saving our children. I am praying for help, for some movement for our children’s mental health protection. At this point, all I know is that I cannot do this alone. With all the resources in this country, where is the machinery needed to address this? What book must I read or course must I take to help my son and better understand?
I continue to endure. But I tire of enduring. I am sick of knowing my son is in pain. I want a victory for him. I want that winning goal, that last rep at the new weight. I want to hear my son’s laughter again without waking up and knowing it was a dream.