Oppositional defiant disorder Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorderReactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder

Letters from Mothers

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Will, 13, and Kevin, 16

I remember driving home from work one day, putting the car in the garage, and just sitting there. My home life was miserable. I did not feel I could relax when I entered my house; instead, I felt anxious and fearful of walking in the door. But eventually I had to go inside. I couldn't sit in the garage all night.

If I was lucky, there would only be a few fights between my children and we would mostly keep to ourselves, like strangers living in the same house. If I was unlucky, some minor infraction would set off my younger son, Will, who was in his early teens. Doors would be slammed, holes punched in walls, tables overturned, and papers strewn about. Just thinking about it made my stomach turn.

When Kevin was challenged, it often resulted in attacks. He pushed, shoved, tripped people, screamed in your face, and threw things. I was often intimidated, overwhelmed, and afraid for myself and my other two children, especially my youngest son. My older daughter, June, and Kevin had physical fights when she tried to control him. Our home life was horrible and out of control.

To make matters worse, my younger son, Will, had serious developmental delays and learning disabilities. His behavior was often bizarre and uncontrollable. Kevin's outbursts would get Will going, and then I would have two obnoxious and scary boys to contend with.

I had no privacy. Phone conversations were impossible. I stopped having visitors over, and we were no longer invited to our friends' homes. My husband had died suddenly several years before, and I was very isolated. Because my friends did not have similar problems with their kids, they had a hard time understanding why my family was so out of control. I was sure that if I tried hard enough, I could fix the problems, but the harder I tried, the worse everything got.

I went to conferences, I read books, and I consulted with many therapists, but things continued to get worse. The basic message I got from all my sources was that my situation was hopeless. If I had been wealthy enough, I would have sent my sons far away to some boarding school.

I couldn't find joy or comfort in my family life. I dreaded the holidays, family gatherings, and birthdays. When I saw families spending time together harmoniously, enjoying each other, I was filled with sorrow and envy. That was the family life I had planned to have; but instead, I was caught in a nightmare.

A friend must have noticed how my life was falling apart. She invited me to dinner, and we talked. Her support and understanding gave me hope.

She told me about a therapist, Aaron Lederer, who specialized in helping parents with difficult children. I immediately made an appointment and was relieved to find that this person seemed to know what he was talking about. More important, he knew what I was talking about.

The longer we worked together, the more confident I felt about his skills. His recommendations lessened the tension in my family and helped me bring order to the house. Progress was slow, and the steps I had to take were painful for me, but over time, I have regained control of my family and my home life.

Now, at the end of the treatment, Kevin is transitioning out of Special Education classes and has settled down quite a bit. Outbursts are rare, and we are building a relationship based on trust and respect. Will is in a residential program where they can help him with his emotional problems. I am hoping he can learn to be independent.

As for me, I am looking with excitement toward a future in which I hope to build a life filled with satisfaction, love, and peace. That seemed impossible a few years ago.

Two years later, Will, now sixteen, is able to control his behavior, can carry on conversations normally, and is respectful of others, though he's still somewhat depressed and is still convinced that nobody loves him.

Kevin, nineteen and living at home, is self-sufficient, cooperative, and more respectful and is mostly likeable, caring, and helpful toward me. I couldn't have lived with him any longer if he hadn't changed. He holds down a full-time job that he likes and at which he's liked and appreciated. He goes to a local college in the evenings.

As both my sons have improved, I have paid closer attention to my own life. I quit my low-paying job at a nonprofit organization and accepted a much better paying job as a school counselor, which I love. I have more time for myself in which I can pursue my interests, and life is immeasurably better than it was four years ago.

Thank you, Aaron Lederer.

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