I've been writing about our struggles with Philip and Ruth and thought it was time to sound off our latest great success. JT is our eldest son (younger than only Miriam who is much younger developmentally) and he came to us at 2 months of age. He was a ball of frenetic energy even at that young age - bouncing up and down, up and down, up and down...for the next 11 years. By the time he was 4 or so we were at wit's end with his energy level and mood swings and that's when we discovered the Feingold program. That helped him for years - particularly the removal of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup from his diet. As he got a bit older we found that even a small amount of corn syrup would cause screaming, raging fits. He would beat himself on the head, scream, foam at the mouth and tell us over and over again that we should just kill him now. It was bad. Very bad.
It evened out for a time and then grew worse again. About 3 years ago we started discussing meds and finally went that route in addition to following the Feingold program strictly. He eventually worked his way up to 100mg of Strattera a day - a liberal adult dosage for a 9 year old. The Strattera helped tremendously but we found that it was a delicate balance. If he went without it for even a couple of hours his old behaviors and moods would return.
JT's pediatrician was willing to prescribe the medication but urged us to find a good counselor as well. It took about a year of calling around, hemming, hawing and then finally deciding we just can't live on pins and needles anymore before we bit the bullet and traveled 40 minutes away to a fantastic (but pricey) counselor. For about a year and a half the counselor worked with JT - and with us - to get him to feel like part of the family, to get in touch with the fact that he was detached, lonely and angry. Early on JT was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (in his case caused by an emotionally distant birthmother during pregnancy). His moods would get better and then worse...some days much worse. One day I went into his bedroom to find him sitting on his bed with a rope around his neck. After that, any time he got angry and stormed off I fretted about going to look for him, afraid of what I would find. Somehow, even through all of his trials and the many, many battles, JT has had my heart tightly strapped to his. I have never had to struggle to love him or show him my love and his behavior was slowly killing both of us.
But day by day JT has been emerging from the chaos within him. Changing churches was an important first step. Then this past summer he saw a dream realized. He has always wanted to play travel soccer but was never permitted to because of Tad's ministry schedule. With the family schedule freed up quite a bit he was allowed to try out for the team - but didn't make it. He was invited by the coach to come to a practice after which he was asked to practice regularly with the team and play with the team as a guest. He didn't have his dream handed to him. He's had to work his butt off to get there. Every practice he has to go out there and prove that he can be a member of the team. And it's been the best thing for him ever. Now he's on the soccer field 6 or 7 days a week and keeping his eye on his goal of becoming a professional ball player.
With the help of his counselor he's been able to realize that he is an important part of the family and he does belong here. He's been willing to let his parents be in charge of his life. He's learned to trust, to open up and to relax. Two and a half weeks ago he took his last dose of medication. He's been without it ever since. Every day he is able to try new foods, moving into the second stage of the Feingold program which most kids reach after just 6 weeks - he is now reaching after 8 years.
And the beauty of it is that even with all of these helps lifting he is doing better than ever. I don't know how many times the past few days I've asked myself, "Who *is* this kid?!" Yesterday he played basketball with me and his sibs - all of us against him and he won 10-8. But, more importantly, he *enjoyed* the game. I've noticed him pulling his younger brothers into his lap and playing with them or just snuggling. He was on John Michael's soccer field last week trying to coach him from the sidelines. Even Betsy and Miriam have been the recipients of his recent beneficence. It's funny sometimes to watch. He really wants to engage with his siblings now but he's never really done it before without all the venom and fear so his attempts are awkward and sometimes strange but oh so wonderful for this momma's heart! He's even begun to thank me for little things I do for him - unprompted! He's smiling a lot more and trying to maintain eye contact when he talks with others. Situations which at one point would have caused a week's worth of angst he now blows off quickly and is able to move on. Every morning I pray for my children...Lord have mercy on JT....and lately I've simply been thanking God for his mercy, for if this isn't His mercy on JT then I don't know mercy looks like. God, in His great mercy (for He is good and loves mankind!) has seen fit to watch over JT and heal his deeply troubled heart. Miracles do still happen, folks!