IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG By Niklas Hedlund
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
Niklas Hedlund experienced intense aggression and anxiety as a very young boy and didn’t know why. He would receive the typical “time out” but soon it wasn’t enough. Nik began to break every toy he had. He liked the strength and power that he felt in destroying things even though they were his favorite toys. Punishments became a regular occurrence. He began to believe that he stopped getting Christmas presents because of his behavior, but he couldn’t control it. He began to have very uncomfortable thoughts followed by tremendous guilt. He hurt animals because it gave him the feeling of being superior. He was soon spiraling fast emotionally no matter what his mother did to help. Nik was 6 years old when he started taking medication for ADHD and Bio-polar disorder, he is now 16. He has been sent to 5 different treatment centers, not all have helped. Some of his experiences in treatment were so intense that he still can’t talk about them. It wasn’t until he stayed at the Parry Center that he had a breakthrough. That event and the help of the correct combination of medications has helped Nik to live a calmer more productive life. This is Nik’s story from his point of view to share with other kids and parents who might not understand what’s happening. He wants others to know that you don’t have to suffer alone. Nik titled the book “If I Had a Broken Leg” because no one could see the pain inside of him with mental illness, if he had a broken leg it would be obvious that he was in hurting.
If I Had a Broken Leg I was a very “rambunctious” kid, that’s what my family thought at first. I was in constant motion. I couldn’t sit still. I had
trouble playing quietly or nicely. I was easily distracted and couldn’t finish tasks. One of my earliest memories was breaking pieces off of an antique dollhouse that had been passed down through the family. I didn’t understand why I did this. I knew right from wrong but I couldn’t control my actions. When I was 4 years old I broke a Christmas plate at my grandma’s house trying to get a cookie. I was anxious and couldn’t control how my body felt. I wanted the cookie and nothing else mattered. Unfortunately the plate was a very expensive antique. That was the first time that I was sent away for my behavior. My mom was so exhausted, this was obviously not the first time I had done something wrong. Just breaking a plate seems silly but you have to understand it was the last straw for her. I know now that my mom was
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
trying to help me but at the time it was horrible and I couldn’t make the connection that I had no control over my actions. I had blonde hair and blue eyes and everyone thought I was so cute – my mom wasn’t so sure about that. She was about to go crazy herself trying to keep up with all my troubles, chalking it up to the terrible twos, but my madness was more than the terrible twos.
My mom worked really hard at a full time job and a couple of other part time jobs to pay our bills so we could have a nice house and a good car, food and fun stuff to do. And since I was so bad, she needed a break. If my grandma couldn’t take care of me, she would call a respite person named Mary Claire. It was kind of a temporary foster home. I really didn’t like that place because I couldn’t have any privileges until I earned them. The first time I was sent there I cried all night not knowing what was going to happen next. I had to mop the floor and clean the toilet and other things that were a real drag. Sometimes she made me clean the house with a toothbrush inside and out. Well, it worked for a while, I was very scared. When my mom came back in the morning, she was always really happy to see me. Everything was wonderful in that moment, I jumped into her arms and felt her love. The good feelings didn’t ever last long. Soon my mom was telling me to shape up or else she’d have to call Mary Claire, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t help being so bad and really didn’t think I was
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
being bad. I told her to just give me away, but she told me she couldn’t do that; we were going to figure this out. Soon after that I bit my nanny’s hand because she would not let me run ahead to the park and play. I was mad and could not control my anger. I wanted to hurt her. I felt this anger and needed to hurt or break things almost daily at that point. I remember preschool and how easily I would get upset with little things like not being able to put my shoes on. It was not like other kids and I knew it. My dad is an alcoholic and was too sick to help me. He would tell my mom that I was just a hyper boy and boys are different than girls. He thought my mom was the crazy one for taking me to doctors. He really didn’t want to deal with my problems. I was 4 or 5 when my parents divorced. I didn’t totally understand what was going on. People would say that this was the reason I was acting out all of the time. It was more than that and I knew it. I had friends who’s parents divorced and they didn’t suffer such highs and lows like the ones happening inside of me. Of course I got really upset with my dad for not showing up when he said he would. Then I was mad at my mom and wished I could be with my dad, but he couldn’t even take care of himself let alone me. Everything was so sad, why does this have to be me I thought? No one understands me. My mom wanted so bad to help, she took me to so many doctors and everyone had a different reason for my behavior. I was put on medication.
One doctor asked me if I could have anything in the whole wide world what would it be? I said I wish I could go back inside of my momâ€™s tummy and come out and have my mom and dad married again. I guess most kids would say that they would want to go to Disneyland, but not me. I hated everything; everything was dumb or stupid to me. I just wished I could die, but my mom said that wasnâ€™t an option, I was too young and she loved me too much. But after being in
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
counseling I knew it was more than the divorce. If I had a broken leg, people would know I was hurt, but no one could see the pain inside. I couldn’t control my emotions, it was getting worse. The medications were not helping. I didn’t want to eat and I started to look anorexic. So then I was forced to eat. Some meds made me angrier, some made me eat more. I tried to throw the meds away because I didn’t like the taste or the way they made me feel. My dad stole my meds once. I knew he did it, I didn’t confront him about it. I use to be cruel to animals, but I didn’t know why. I would burn ants just to watch them on fire and pull wings off of butterflies. It made me feel powerful. I’m really sorry about that now, but I use to be so mad, I wanted to catch the whole world on fire. I actually did catch a field on fire once with fireworks when we lived in Tumalo. Luckily It was put out in time. My mom would to have to get up every night because I was yelling in my sleep. She kept notes on my bad dreams. One night I woke up because in my dream someone cut off my legs with a chainsaw, smashed my head and cut me into pieces. My mom started to keep a list of the things I would do; ”Niklas smashed his new truck, cut Buzz Light years voice battery out of him, took a hammer to the Curious George collectible tin box, dismantled every game in the bottom drawer, cut a hole in the sofa, tossed things from upstairs off the balcony, and called me a bitch, took a hammer to the cd player.” Then I told her I wanted to live down under the ground in hell. The list went on… I hit the dog with a branch, jumped on the dog, pulled her tail and legs. Then I told my mom that I wished I was dead and just wanted to die. I really thought that
mom hated me, which I now know wasn’t true. I told her the only reason I wanted to possibly live was that I’d miss dad if I died. I was only 5 at the time. My dad always made me promises and never kept them. He would promise to pick me up to take me fishing and I would wait and wait and wait and he never showed up. I told my mom it was her fault and she probably told him not to come. I got so mad and then started breaking things again. I should have been nicer to my mom, I knew it wasn’t her fault. I don’t know what made me want my dad so bad.
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
If I could ask for any wish from God, I would ask him to give ADHD to someone else. Actually, I’d ask him to not make anybody have ADHD at this severity because it’s a hard thing for kids to have. I thought I had no choice but to die, to end the misery. My mom always bought me cool toys. She really wanted me to feel better. She bought me a robot – two of them that punched each other. Then I ripped them to shreds. She bought me a remote control car, but I smashed it. Then she bought me a shell necklace and I broke it bead by bead by bead. She got so mad. At school no one wanted to play with me and I was so sad and yelled and yelled. I would shout cuss words and had to go to detention. I use to scare my sister with knives. She was so embarrassed to have me around her friends because they thought I was weird, she stopped having friends over.
One time I stole one of my grandpa’s Cuban cigars and burnt my eyelashes. I tried to smoke it under the deck. We were about to leave on a trip and everyone thought something smelled funny in the car, so I ended up being in really big trouble…..once again! I actually tried to blame it on the dog.
Fred and my mom took me to the police because of the things I did, they needed help. Everyone was telling her that I’d have to be in a heck of a lot more trouble before any place would help me. She took me to so many different doctors but they all gave me different pills. Nothing was working. One doctor even gave me pills that made me angrier and I got suspended from school. My mom kept trying to tell me she loved me and was only trying to help me be happy. She took me one place in Seattle that tied me up in a chair and I cried and screamed for hours…that sure didn’t help. My mom had to sit and watch me through a glass window like something in a crime unit. I cried and cried. I still remember them, it was the Attachment Center and their names were Tom and Beverly - they were so mean. They would yank you and tug you. She only took me there because a doctor in Bend told her that I suffered from attachment disorder and this was the best place for help with that problem. Turns out that was not at all what my problem was and that place sucked. They didn’t know how I felt. The problem was, nobody in my little town knew exactly what was causing all of these problems, not my doctor, not the mental heath department – everyone gave me a different and incorrect diagnosis. I think they made me feel worse. Another doctor said it was just oppositional defiant disorder, then it was just ADHD, then it was obsessive compulsive, then it was I don’t know what but the Parry Center sure did. It wasn’t until the Parry center that someone helped me. They treated me with respect and taught me how to talk about the things I felt inside. I use to feel dumb and stupid but they showed me a new way to think. I was there for 7 months.
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
Having ADHD and finally getting help does not mean the troubles go away. My mom was always working so hard to keep the bills paid. She had to take a job that caused her to travel and was gone a lot. I felt so alone even though my step dad Fred was there to take good care of me. He never let me down and was always there for me at every game and school meeting. My dad rarely showed up to anything and if he did it was for ten minutes and then he’d disappear again, his girl friend and booze were more important. He was sent to jail for 4 DUI’s and was in jail at the same time my mom was out of town for work. I was so angry about being left by both of my parents. I wanted to make someone else mad. I decided to jump out in front of a car. I didn’t care about the consequences. My mom got the horrifying call explaining what I had done. My behavior was out of control again. I needed long-term constant care and help. I almost caused a big accident but luckily the driver stopped in time. I just wanted to die that’s all I knew. She came home as quick as she could. I’ll never forget her saying “NIk we need to talk”. I told her I knew what was going to happen, just send me away again… I’ll pack my bags now. I just didn’t care. We drove through the night to get to the farm home. The first thing they said to me when I got there was that they would help me get better. I’ll never forget that.
The doctors somehow knew how I hurt inside. I was one of the best kids there once I figured out they really were trying to help me, and as soon as I listened to an adult for a change, things got better. There was a little girl at the farm home that was burnt in a fire at a young age. She’d wake you up in the middle of the night crying and banging on the metal door in the “time out” room. I felt so sorry for her but I’d get so annoyed because I couldn’t sleep.
They used a leveling system that ranged from 1 to 3 for behavior. 1- You had to be in a facilitated room no privileges until you proved that you could be in level 2. 2- You were able to do go outside to play but no TV or video games. 3- Freedom to do all activities watch TV play video games at certain times. I did great in school there. The doctors fixed me up with medicine that worked. I got beat up by a kid I shared a room with. He freaked out because I stepped across on to his side of the room. He punched me in the face, lucky for me he got arrested, and I didn't have to share a room with him anymore! I’ll never forget this one time that my mom visited. She surprised me by bringing my friend Tosh. When she drove up he was hiding in the back seat and scared me. We hugged even though we’re guys, It was amazing. My mom and Freddie came to visit on the weekends. It was a long drive for them, I knew they loved me and that’s why they came all that way.
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After a while I got to go home on a long weekends and then I finally got to go home for good. I told my mom now that I am better, I don’t have to take medicine anymore. Of course she said that isn’t the case, I will always have to take medicine. Since I have ADHD, I forget things, so she has to remind me to take my meds. My teachers know when I have forgot my medicine. They know right away and would send me to the office to take it, then I can sit in class without being disruptive. I went back to my regular school thinking everything was going to be great. I had gone through this huge experience at the farm home that made me feel so good and back on track. But kids made fun of me and asked why I tried to kill myself, I had no clue how they knew that. I was not prepared for this emotionally. Thank God I still had my best friend Tosh and he was cool and stuck up for me. The teachers at school treated me special too and made sure I was always ok. But it made me feel horrible in front of the other kids, I felt like a baby. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else and not singled out. I did okay at my studies but didn't like being there with kids knowing I went to the farm home. I was able to change schools. But the new school was weird I didn’t fit in. I didn’t like the way they ran things. I wanted to go back to my other school but my mom and Fred said I had to stick it out to finish the year there. I did meet two normal kids who treated me as one of the guys and part of their group. But I hated the school so I purposely got into trouble so they’d kick me out. Well it worked, I got sent away again. It’s too embarrassing to tell you what I did to get into trouble but it was extreme and not good! I had to go to more doctors and get different medicine. Then I got into even more trouble. The big one! I was sent to juvenile
detention for pulling a knife on my step dad. I had to stay for the weekend and then go see the judge on Monday. He wasn't very thrilled with me and told me to shape up.
My mom tried so hard to be patient with my problems but this time she was really mad at the stupid choices I made. I was sent to Sage Walk for a month. I was blind folded on the way there so I couldn’t run away. It was a 2½ hour drive with total strangers. I had to go to the bathroom so bad, I told them and they ignored me. They would not stop. I peed on myself and they could care less. I spent a month walking in the middle of nowhere with a group of kids. I had to use a bag to go to the bathroom in. The lentils gave me the squirts and that was so embarrassing. We ate a lot of rice and beans. I actually liked the powdered milk after awhile it was so delicious. I hiked around 49.5 miles in 30 days. But the worst was waking up to a coyote sniffing my sleeping bag. Man was my heart pounding, it was like my life was on the line. I could hear the pack as if it was whispering in my ear. I laid still and tried not to breathe. It finally went away. I got no sleep that night and was exhausted the next day. I got so tired hiking every day and they’d let me drag behind. I would see vultures circling above. I was crying and had endless fear and pain. They made us eat everything at snack time. If you didn’t finish you’d have to stay until all of your food was gone even if you had to throw up. Through out those weeks I made 11 fires with a stick, string, wood, rock and sage brush. Every day was hard, we had to brake down camp in less than 30 minutes no matter what, it was not an easy thing to do with so many kids. I witnessed a kid run away and then get tackled bye 3 grown men. I’ve heard so many war story’s about kids getting shot with rubber bullets. They said the bullets would paralyze you for 3+ hours. I never saw this happen.
IF I HAD A BROKEN LEG
Overall it was a mission that I would have never done if I had an option. I was so angry. I learned a lot about myself and my life. After 30 days and the long trip back to headquarters I reunited with my parents. They were stunned at my loss of weight, 30 pounds. They took me to eat right away to a Mexican food restaurant, after 30 days of food that should have been feed to horses, that was some treat! After getting home and seeing my fresh made bed with teddy bears I realized my life had started over again with a clean state. My mom was stunned at how well behaved I was. I took some weird behaviors back with me like how to ask for things when you’re in the camp setting. I asked if I could water a bush meaning I asked if I could go to the bathroom. I had to change some things. It was a brutal way to get wisdom and learn manners. I was able to focus on one thing at a time and complete tasks. I sat a dinner with my napkin in my lap and no elbows on the table. I still get angry like anyone else but I try to focus on an activity that helps me to calm down and let the anger pass.
I use to feel really sad because I never made many friends until the right doctors and counselors entered my life. The medication has helped so much. There were other kids along the way that were even angrier then me. I finally saw what my mom had seen for a long time. I didn’t want to be like those bad kids, so I got to work and wanted to get better and get on with my life, and I did. Before they fixed me, I use to do such bad stuff and got really nervous to go places. The tags and seams on socks really bugged me, just getting dressed was a real problem for me. I had so many fits. I thought monsters were going to get me and I couldn’t get out of the car if it was at night. I wet the bed until I was 10 years old and still wore diapers. I didn’t stop wetting the bed until I was 16 – imagine that embarrassing situation when you want to have a friend over. I was a real mess. But I feel like I can succeed now. I use to dream about taking over the whole world, now I just want to have friends to hang with, thank goodness I will always have one good friend, Tosh – he understands.
I wrote my mom a letter one time and it said, â€œdear mom, I love and miss you but I know it is only two days until you visit me so that makes me happy. I am not mad at you for sending me here anymore and am happy you did.â€? I also know when I need to take a time out because I start to feel angry about something. So now instead of smashing something to smithereens, I take a deep breath and sit someplace by myself until I cool off. My teachers are proud of me for doing this now too and I havenâ€™t been in trouble for along time. My artwork use to be of people gushing with blood and holding guns and knives. Everyone in the pictures looked really mad. Now I draw pictures with rainbows in them and maybe a cute little dog or something. My mom says I start to talk baby talk when I know I am doing something wrong, so I look for that as my red flag. Counseling and The Parry Center taught me about red flags. That is a very helpful thing for me. I still talk about inappropriate things sometimes, but I am trying not to. I want to help other kids like me get better like I did. I am going to invent things and go to college and get a job and maybe even be president. I can do that now instead of wanting to die.
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This is my familyâ€Ś the ones who have been fighting this illness along side of me. Thank God they care so much !