When the Bully Strikes

It happened on a Thursday.

A regular plain-Jane nothing special Thursday.

Or so I thought.

Except this Thursday would prove to be different than other Thursday’s.

This was the Thursday my 10-year old Autistic/ADHD son’s therapist told me my son wants to die. He was thinking of ways to hurt himself and he wants to die.

There are no words for what this does to a parent. I can’t possibly express the horror, the anguish, the devastation, or the heartache adequately. No parent should ever have to bury a child and no parent should ever have to hear their child wants to be buried.

But, when I set out to do this blog, my main goal was to help other Mental Health Mom’s going through similar situations so I am going to try my best.

Let me back up a bit.

My sweet son Alex is 10-years old. He is mildly Autistic (high-functioning) and has severe ADHD. As the nature of his disorder would imply, he deals with extreme anxiety in social situations. Interpersonal communication skills do not come naturally to him.

He sees the world in black and white. There simply is no understanding of gray areas.

Words are taken literally, every time.

For the last five years Alex, and his 11-year old brother Adam, have attended the same summer camp in our neighborhood. Many of the kids, and counselors, are the same every year creating a social safe-haven for Alex.

Except this year. This year the camp had a bully. A kid who spent most of his days flexing his muscles and intimidating kids. Despite being written up for being physically aggressive towards Adam (and several other kids), this bully was allowed to remain in camp by the camp administrators.

One day Alex was playing a game on the gym floor with a group of kids, including the bully. The game required them to crawl around on the ground and make split-second decisions on where to go. One such quick game decision led Alex to accidentally (lightly) kick the bully in the face. The bully’s response was to immediately flip Alex over and bend his leg back towards his head until he was screaming in pain and the counselors had to come and pull the bully off of him.

Logic would tell you this child should have been removed from camp altogether. Yet, all he had to do was sit out of the game for awhile and was then able to resume play.

By allowing him to continue participating, the bully was able to sneak up behind Alex and whisper in his ear TWICE during the remainder of the day, “Alex, you know I can snap your little neck in half and kill you and believe me I’m going to do it.”

Now you and I know this punk kid was just trying to scare my sweet Alex, but Alex didn’t know it. Black and white. If someone says they are going to kill him then he believes the literal translation.

He believed he was going to die and, on that Thursday I will never forget, Alex told his therapist he would rather kill himself than let the bully kill him.

Alex was so terrified when it happened, he didn’t tell the camp counselors for fear of retribution from the bully.

The worst part is Alex was so terrified he didn’t even tell us, his parents. The ones who love him unconditionally and would relish in the opportunity to hold him, comfort him, and help him see the gray area. The ones who could talk him down off the ledge like no one else can.

This happened over a month ago and, to this day, Alex still has never said one word to us.

He swore his therapist to secrecy and begged her not to tell us. I believe Alex will take this secret to his grave.

With that said, I want you as the reader to understand why I wrote this article. It is not so you will feel sorry for Alex. It is not so you will feel sorry for me as a parent.

It is, quite simply, so something good can come from this horrific experience. If my willingness to talk about one of the hardest moments in my life to date helps start a dialogue that could save even one other innocent child from feeling the same way Alex did, then enduring the pain of writing this will be worth it.

As a Mental Health Mom, I cannot stress enough my belief in mentors for our children during the years they are the most susceptible to bullying. It doesn’t have to be a therapist (although I highly recommend them) but is does have to be someone they are comfortable talking to, opening up with.

We want our kids to feel comfortable talking to us about anything. But the truth is sometimes they aren’t . No matter how bad we want to be their confidant during these impressionable years, we have to have the strength to acknowledge the person they want to share their deep dark secrets with may not be us.

We have to embrace this normal, swallow our pride, and do whatever it takes to ensure our children have someone they can confide in when they don’t want to confide in us.

It can be a sport coach, a children’s minister at church, or a favorite uncle. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as it is someone you trust. We have to help our children find this person, help them to cultivate the relationship, and allow them the time necessary to grow the connection.

I cannot even imagine what might have happened to my amazing Alex if he didn’t have a therapist he was comfortable confiding in. The end result may have been very different. Very tragic.

As a parent, what will you do when the bully strikes…?

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