Loving Eric: A story about Adoption, Attachment, Autism & ADHD
I did not set out to write a book. I started to write as a way of managing my situation at home. My husband and I adopted 3 children who are now 18, 17 and nearly 15 years old. Our youngest child – who I call Eric in the book – is extremely complex and has been given a multitude of labels that can help others to understand his view of the world, but they also highlight his differences. He has an attachment disorder, Autism, ADHD, Pragmatic Language Impairment and, I believe, Pathological Demand Avoidance.
This ‘cocktail of issues’ meant that our life at home was always far from calm, and most days were met with anger. All of the labelled conditions that Eric had to deal with on a daily basis were exacerbated by anxiety and so, life for our son was just one stress piled on top of another. This resulted in temper outbursts, vile language and threats to the whole family, but mainly to me as the figure of attachment. As Eric’s attachment figure, I was the lightning rod that he used to conduct away all his angst and all that was wrong in his world. The fact that I am his attachment figure is a sign of deep trust and need on his part, signifying how important I am to him feeling secure; however, as the recipient of all that he aimed at me, it felt like abuse.
By 9am most mornings I had been subjected to behaviour that few people experience in their whole life. I then had to ‘rebuild’ myself in order to welcome Eric home after school – a day that had usually been torture for him. Children who do not fit in are isolated, baited by other children and feel a sense of deep shame. Thus, his challenging behaviour bubbled over the minute we interacted after school. I realised that I needed to develop many coping mechanisms.
I found that writing a journal really helped. The words often flowed out of me as a stream of consciousness, a way of venting my feelings safely. I would sit and write until I could not think of anything else to say. I then emailed it to my sister, Elaine, as a mode of communication that meant I did not have to verbalise how I felt. Elaine would receive my email, sit down with a coffee and read it. The act of bringing someone else into my world felt soothing to my frayed nerves, and knowing that she would take the time to digest what I had to say, made me feel heard.
It was in fact my sister Elaine who encouraged me to turn my journal into a more fully-formed book, but I felt that I could not publish a book and share my world with a wider audience, because at that time, I had pain but had no answers. My main driver is to help others, hence becoming a counsellor, but until I could help people who were in a similar situation to me, I saw little point in publishing my words.
After years of battling for support for Eric, we finally found some help for him that began to make a real difference. He had Lifespan Integration Therapy and he went into a small nurture-centred ‘hub’, a class within a class at a special school. His teachers liked him, they just seemed to ‘get’ him, and then he started to take medication for his severe ADHD. Finally, I had some answers.
I knew that if I published my book, it would be via the self-publishing route. I did not want our experience to be changed or shaped in any way. The editing that I did receive from The Write Factor was insightful and valid. When I first submitted my book for editing, I felt exposed, but with thoughtful feedback the process was surprisingly painless. Revisiting my writing was challenging at times but helped me to reflect that things had improved; my son ‘Eric’ was moving in the right direction at last. This validated the fact that I did have something to say, that I could help others facing similar trials and that the book was worth publishing.
Laura Morrissey – author of Loving Eric, which is now available in paperback and ebook
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