Me, Duncan and December-itis

by Bill Brenner on December 11, 2012

I’ve had a lot to say lately about my own efforts to manage winter’s depressive effect on my brain, but this is also a challenging month for my younger son, Duncan.

Mood music:


I’ve written at length about Duncan and my struggle to help him when his ADHD comes crashing into my OCD. I’m proud of who he’s becoming. But no matter how much progress father and son make on our mental health, December may well remain the month that throws us for a loop.

I feel like I’m having an easier time of it this year. I have depression, but it’s just the tired, memory-challenged kind. So far I’ve mostly escaped the feelings of sadness and outward crankiness of past years. Yesterday I visited the nurse who manages my medication and she doubled my Wellbutrin intake for the winter.

Now it appears to be Duncan’s turn for such an adjustment. His teacher has been praising his behavior all fall but, like clockwork, he started experiencing difficulty in class as the calendar switched to December. We’re hearing about the usual winter outbursts. He’ll argue with classmates, his temper comes to a boil easily and so on.

It kills me every year when this happens, because I know he inherited his mental health challenges from me and my side of the family. It’s not his fault.

The good news is that we’re getting better at anticipating his behavioral changes and responding faster. This afternoon I’m taking him to an appointment where his medication might be adjusted. We’ve also been blessed with some outstanding, nurturing teachers. I was particularly fond of his first-grade teacher, who was there when Duncan first got his ADHD diagnosis. She worked closely with us to make adjustments in the classroom that helped immensely.

His teacher this year is another gem. She meets with us whenever we ask and keeps us informed of Duncan’s progress by email. When he started acting up a couple of weeks ago, she invited us to call her at home in the evening. Few teachers do that these days, and we’re grateful for it. Duncan also has terrific classmates who cheerfully help him stay organized. And when he has a mood swing, they’re patient with him. Impressive, when you consider they are all under the age 10.

I chalk it up to the loving environment of the school. The place is far from perfect, as I’ve noted before. But as time goes on, I’m more convinced he’s exactly where he should be.

The trick now is to get him — and his teacher and classmates — to the other side of winter in one piece.

Duncan and Bill

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