NATALIE

My son was bullied at school in year 6 by the teacher Not understanding this could happen or was even possible in a primary school, especially by a fully-grown man I kept making him attend school. I thought maybe he was just a typical teenager and wanted to get out of school. I spoke to the teacher many times. My son, with genuine fear of attending class took himself to the principal and told them what was happening but by the end of the horrible year, he had a nervous breakdown. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression.

We went to so many physiatrists, looking for one that could help. No medication worked. He was desperate to try anything, and so was I. The only school small enough to help, was the behavioural school and the only option we were given. This wasn’t a great environment and he tried everything he could however, at the age of 13 he eventually ended up in Rivendale house program with other school aged children suffering mental health issues.

My son struggled with many older students at the school, some with alcohol and drug dependencies and I was struggling with him. Many times, and in many sessions, I was made to feel it was my fault and their diagnosis was ‘bad parenting’. I had tried everything I could to get a diagnosis and find him a psychiatrist we could work with. So many times, he ran out of the counselling sessions in tears, he felt he didn’t have a youth, or had lost it. Even at 17 he wants his childhood back and feels his primary school and development years were lost.

I felt blindsided, that was the effect it had on me as a mother. My son was the happiest of children, never angry and always positive. This came out of nowhere, completely avoidable. I made a deal with him that I would never let him down and that’s what has gotten us this far. Our bond is very strong, as we have supported one another through what I like to call ‘our journey’.

I have fallen apart and he has picked me up, he has fallen apart and I have been there for him. Years and years of psychoanalysis and countless appointment have made him wiser yet more guarded as a person.

Finally, after hospitalisation last year and some very scary/traumatic times where tragically he has told me ‘I don’t want to be here anymore, it’s too hard’ we have luckily found a great physiologist. He is on medication and is improving.

He has also found sport. Basketball has helped Joel immensely. I am his coach, teammate and trainer – anytime of the day he wants to shoot hoops I am there next to him trying to bring positivity to him while he is enjoying something he loves.

I think the hardest issue we’ve faced has been the stigma. I’ve had family and close friends tell me to tell Joel to wake up to himself and be harder on him. Most people don’t understand how hard it can be on your child or yourself. When your child is clinging to you and crying telling their mother they don’t want to be here anymore because it hurts too much is something I would never wish upon anyone. I won’t ever let him down, no matter what is thrown at us. I’ve been told countlessly by many professionals that I smother him or that I make excuses for him, the blame has been continuous. I am just trying to keep him alive and get him to a safe, healthy place.

My health has also been affected – I have been diagnosed with very high blood pressure. However, now I am aware of the affects that the stress has had on me physically, I go to the gym daily or go to yoga. I have to clear my head so I can be at my best, and think for not only myself but how to benefit Joel.

Last week at my son’s counselling session he stated that for a long time he felt there was nothing to live for, but now he feels there is! He has a loving girlfriend and basketball. He is still struggling but is pushing himself daily to go to basketball in the hope he can make friends and socialise, however his experiences in primary school have severely affected his confidence and social skills. Every day is a challenge but my son continuous to push himself.

Our journey is still in progress and we have a long way to go, but he will never have to do it alone.