I Wish I Could Die

My son always had some struggles with peers, the need for constant limit-setting, and an immense amount of energy.  Despite doing well in school and no major problems that we were aware of, he would cry for hours at night about not wanting to go to school the next day.

We had tried therapy twice before, with limited success.  He knew he had big feelings that he needed help with and eagerly practiced different strategies for calming his body (e.g. weighted blanket, distraction, visualization/meditation, guided imagery), but he could not access these in the moments when he needed them. 

Over time, things got worse until nearly every night he had a rage-filled episode. Each one longer than the last. How had my smart, funny child turned into this unrecognizable monster who was tearing my home apart? 

I felt so alone in it. I did not want anyone to know this was happening in our home. What would they think of him?  And us? The only other adult who knew was my husband, but we disagreed about what he needed.  I tended to be overly nurturing while he was a stricter disciplinarian.  Neither approach really made any difference. 

One day, during an outburst, I grabbed him in the biggest, tightest hug I could muster. He initially resisted, but then he melted into my arms and sobbed. “Why did God make me like this?!? I wish I could just die,” he said. 

My 8 year-old.

My 8 year-old said he wished he could die. We cried together. He eventually settled enough to fall asleep, and slept in my arms all night so that I could make sure he was safe. 

There was no longer any question we needed help. He was not going to simply outgrow this. Given the severity, we sought a psychiatrist, and after a thorough assessment, he knew exactly what was going on.  My son had unaddressed ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that had begun to negatively impact his self-esteem. 

I always thought that if he had ADHD, the school would recognize it, but he did relatively well in the predictability and structure of school.  He was bright and found strategies to compensate for his struggles in his classwork, until the work just became too hard.  By the time he would get home, he was exhausted from holding it together all day.  And the afternoons and evenings would be filled with gentle redirection, but almost constant, as he struggled to transition home.  This constant redirection when he was working so hard only served to reinforce for him that he was a “bad” boy incapable of making us happy.  This could not have been farther from the truth, but it is now easy to see how his little mind came to that conclusion.

Fast forward 6 months.  After some trial and error (and a lot of feelings to work through), we found a low-dose of medication that works really well for him.  No more tantrums.  No more rage.  No more talk of wanting to die.  His output at school has not changed much, but the amount of effort it takes is much less draining.  His self-esteem is improving every day, and the relationships within our family are repaired.      

The decision to use medication in general is a personal one, and especially when children are involved.  I did not think this would ever be our reality, but I know we made the right choice for our son and our family.   

The medication has not changed him.  He is not a new person. But it has helped to bring the sweet, funny boy that was always within to the forefront for the world to see. And most importantly, for him to see.   

12 thoughts on “I Wish I Could Die

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Our son had an attention-seeking episode in 2nd grade and wrote out the steps on “how to die” several times for a school lesson on how to do something before he was diagnosed as gifted with ADD. At that young age, he was thinking, get a gun, point it at your head, pull the trigger. Fast forward several years, medication and therapy, and he is now a thriving 16-year-old junior on the path to college, talking to college rowing coaches and thriving! There is hope and a path forward.

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  2. My heart hurts for you and your son. I’m so glad that you finally received a diagnosis and your son is starting to heal. My daughter is 13 and has been struggling for years with anxiety, low self-esteem, inability to maintain friendships, etc. It’s been a terrible struggle and has gotten really bad over the past year or so. Her therapist thought she might have ADHD (inattentive type). We had a neuro-psych evaluation done last summer and they tested her for it and said she didn’t have it and that she just had severe anxiety. She was finally diagnosed by a new psychiatrist with ADHD this summer and is on a low dose of medication, which helps a bit, but because it went undiagnosed for so long, her mental health is completely shot. I don’t think people realize what ADHD does to your overall mental health when untreated; they think it just means your kid can’t sit still. I know my husband and I had no idea and it was shocking and heartbreaking knowing the toll it’s taken, and how hard it is going to be to help heal the damage that’s been done to her mind. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. It is such an important topic, and hopefully it will resonate with another parent who might be in a similar situation as you (and I, and so many of us) have been in.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry it took so long to find the right path. I had no idea ADHD could get so bad until it did. It sounds like your daughter has a mom who doesn’t give up and she will be better for it. It will just take time. I hope you and I sharing our stories can help others before it goes unaddressed too long. Sending love to you anf your daughter.

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  3. This is such a good post. Sometimes we need a reminder that ADHD or any medical or unaddressed disorder is not a weakness. Mental health and caring for it is not a weakness. My son struggled with ADHD for so long and still is. I often remind him this is not a battle he is facing alone, and it never will be. Thank you for sharing this experience.

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  4. Thank you for this perspective. I am sorry your son (and your family) had to go through this but I am SO glad you found something that works for him. Medication isn’t for every family but if it helps a child live a more fulfilling life, isn’t that the goal?

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  5. Thank you for sharing! Most people do not know how disruptive ADHD is to the child and the rest of the family. It goes so far beyond just being hyper or having trouble paying attention. I am thankful that you were able to get your son the help he needs, as with the right supports, these kids can thrive!

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  6. I just wanted to say I relate to this as we experienced something similar with our 7 year old son. He said he wished he wasn’t on the planet anymore. It was the most heartbreaking experience and I totally understand the isolating feelings that brought. Thanks to therapy and low dose meds, we have our boy back! Thanks for sharing and know you aren’t alone!

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