Bram is our third child, an easy and happy boy. When he was six, he contracted laryngitis and changed into a scared boy that became angry quickly and did not feel at ease. The antibodies against the bacteria that had caused the laryngitis appeared to have damaged the area of the brain that determines behaviour. This disorder is called PANDAS.
After being hospitalised in a children’s psychiatric clinic for over half a year, he seemed to be doing a bit better but his problems emerged again in the first year of middle school. He had a hard time concentrating, was restless, became angry very quickly and could not deal with changes. Once more, we had to call in professional help and, in this outpatient process, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Our son was first prescribed Medikinet and later Concerta.
He seemed to be doing well for a short time, but after a few months he became more restless, started lying, cheating, didn’t keep his promises and could not deal with authority. He had no respect for us as parents and attacked his father during an argument. We all, his sisters included, felt less and less safe when he was home. He was failing school, his grades were bad and he skipped school a lot. He didn’t keep his jobs because he had a hard time keeping his promises. Money was missing from our wallets and jewellery disappeared.
By then we knew he smoked weed. He regularly promised to do better but was never able to keep that up for more than a day. We could see he wasn’t feeling quite himself, but we weren’t able to help him. He wanted to do things differently, but he just didn’t seem to be able to. Our faith in him and the future had completely disappeared.
We had to ask for help yet another time, because we just couldn’t manage as a family. We were desperate. We had given up on finding the right kind of help within the regular institutions. A single meeting every week would not be sufficient for him. He knew exactly what to say so he could go on doing whatever he wanted after leaving.
Bram, too, realised he couldn’t go on like this. Not for himself, definitely not for us. One evening he showed us one of Yes We Can’s videos. A friend of his had gone there and Bram thought this might be the solution to his problems. My first response was: ‘but we’re not doing that bad, are we?’ Then, later that night, he admitted he had started smoking a lot of weed again, even though he had told us he hadn’t. Despite the large problems and the sense of powerlessness, we registered him with mixed feelings.
After all, ten weeks is a very long time and I strongly doubted whether it would work. Within a number of weeks, he left for the clinic and calm returned to our home. We did not have to walk on eggshells any longer, did not have to hide our wallets and we no longer had to wonder where he was and whether he would even come home. No more lies, manipulation and threats.
It took some getting used to, but we were so very ready for this. Right after he left for the clinic, we all had to write our impact letters. That was difficult, but at the same time it came as a relief to write down what his behaviour meant for us personally and as a family.
We had just gotten used to the quiet when a phone call came from the clinic. We were shocked, because there would only be communications during the first five weeks in case something had happened. Our son wanted to go home. He had had enough and thought we should come pick him up that very night. Thankfully, I managed to tell him we would not be picking him up and, thankfully, that helped.
After that, he fully committed to the program. We were able to put our arms around a very happy son on bonding day. That day was as it was intended to be: a day of connection. We saw he was working really hard and we finally started to believe it might actually work this time.
After bonding day, it was nice talking to him twice a week. Together, we worked on his homecoming. In the meantime, we, as parents found a lot of support during the parent sessions. It was a tough pill to swallow, but definitely worth it. We had to change as well, in order to improve the situation at home. We were heard and understood. We felt that we were not alone with our problems.
The day the fellows returned to Eindhoven was very emotional. We will never forget that scene. Once more, we could experience the efforts the coaches made for our kids. The utmost respect for them.
It was very thrilling to have our son back home those first few weeks. He had changed so much and learned a lot. We almost couldn’t believe it. We kept expecting some kind of outburst. By now, they did happen again, but a lot less intense than they were before.
We are grateful we crossed paths with Yes We Can Clinics. Our son is doing well and so are we as a family. Our son has learned a lot, but we, as parents, have also changed by talking to the clinic’s experience experts. At difficult moments, we practice what we have learned and we find it works.
We still have the parent aftercare to go to. Bram has attended his aftercare sessions, enjoys going to school, feels like himself, no longer smokes weed and attends a meeting weekly. When he gets angry, he knows how to deal with it. In addition, we set our limits. We use the tools the clinic gave us and we see that they work on a daily basis. We have become a family again and feel confident about the future once more.