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When My Son’s Special Interest Affects His Mental Health

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Sometimes being a mum to a child with additional needs can feel like being at the funfair. There are moment of immense joy and excitement, thrills and laughter. Those are moments behind the memories we treasure forever, the moments that give us strength. But then there are also moments of fear and anxiety, self-doubt and even worry.

Some days I am the smiling mum waving proudly as my kids ride the carousel. Some days I am the driver in the bumper cars, knocking obstacles out of their way. And some days, like today, I am sat behind them on a rollercoaster with no control over what’s happening, wondering how we are going to get through this. This is the situation I have found myself in.

You see, my son’s special interest has decided to take us on an unexpected rollercoaster ride into the unknown. No one talks about this. It’s become all-consuming and life-changing.

I have always encouraged and celebrated my son’s special interests. They are what makes him unique, and they are very much a part of who he is. I have never seen them as a threat before. They have always been a way into his world for me. They have allowed me to share precious moments of connection with him, and they have always been a way of engaging him with the world around him.

But over the last few weeks, his all-consuming love for animals has opened the doors to obsession. It has quickly seeped into every aspect of his life, filling him with fear and anxiety.

Why do humans eat animals? Why is there such cruelty in the world? How can we let this happen?

His obsession and anxieties have stopped him interacting with people, made him confused and angry and taken away his ability to function in school.

How could I let this happen? How did I not see the warning signs?

I feel like I am the top of that rollercoaster, useless and scared. How can I help him see that his obsession is making him feel so sad? His love for animals has become something I now fear. He won’t eat, he can’t talk about anything else, and I feel like he is losing himself. The special interest I respected and admired has become an obsession that has affected his mental health drastically.

Services around mental health and autism are chronically underfunded and not often talked about openly, which often leaves families like mine feeling helpless and alone. I know there are many parents like us in the same position — scared, overwhelmed and worried for the future.

I know I have to ride this rollercoaster with him. And I know that I somehow have to find the strength to fight for services to help him feel better. I will do all that because I love my son. My children are my world, and I will never give up no matter how insecure and alone I may feel.

My son’s mental health is important, and it should be taken by seriously by the government and policy makers. Because there are thousands of families like mine who are put on waiting lists and are left struggling to do the best for their child. Struggling to help them with their mental health, feeling alone and isolated and often battling with their own mental health issues as well.

And I know deep down that I can’t beat myself up for not seeing this coming. All I can do is my best.

So for now, I will hold on tight and keep going. As scared as I may be, I will never give up, I will never leave him to face any of this alone. Because I am his mum, his safe place, his home.

We’re on this rollercoaster ride together, my darling boy. Hold on tight, buddy. I’ve got you.

Follow this journey on A Slice Of Autism.

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Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 17, 2016
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