240: Navigating Childhood OCD: A Parent’s Journey, with Brendan Mahan

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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In this episode of Beautifully Complex, join host Penny Williams as she delves into the topic of childhood OCD with guest Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS. Brendan opens up about his personal journey raising a child with OCD and the challenges his child and family faced, and continues to face, along the way.

From the early signs of OCD in his son to the impact of COVID on his family dynamics, Brendan shares the highs, lows, and important lessons learned about raising a kid with OCD. Join us as we explore the complexities of OCD, the power of connection, and the realities of being a parent in the face of mental health challenges. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

3 Key Takeaways

01

Childhood OCD can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for both the child and their parents. It is important to seek help and support to navigate through these difficulties.

02

Prioritizing relationships and connection over other obligations is crucial. Maintaining a strong relationship and trust with the child can have long-term positive effects.

03

It’s important for parents to recognize their own limits and seek help when needed. Parenting a child with mental health issues can be emotionally draining, and it’s okay to ask for support from professionals or other resources. Taking care of one’s own well-being is essential in providing the necessary support to the child.

What You'll Learn

The challenges of raising a child with OCD and how it can impact the entire family.

Strategies for communicating with a child with OCD and addressing their fears effectively.

The importance of accepting help and seeking treatment for OCD, as it can be a debilitating disorder.

The positive effects of finding connection and support within the neurodivergent community.

The significance of prioritizing relationships and connection over other obligations during challenging times.

Resources

Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Episode 250 of ADHD Essentials Podcast

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My Guest

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS.

Brendan Mahan is the host of the ADHD Essentials Podcast, an internationally recognized expert on ADHD/Executive Function, anxiety, and neurodiverse parenting. He is a highly engaging, sought-after speaker, coach, and consultant. A former teacher, mental health counselor, and principal, he helps individuals, families, schools, and businesses manage the challenges of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, and neurodiversity through an approach that blends education, collaborative problem-solving, and accountability with compassion, humor, a focus on strengths and growth, and his trademark “Wall of Awful™” model.

Brendan has been featured in the Washington Post, Bustle, LinkedIn, Understood, Tilt Parenting, How to ADHD, ADD Crusher TV, and ADDitude. He is on the organizing committee for the International Conference on ADHD, and is a board member of the ADHD Men’s Support Group. Contact him at [email protected].

 

Transcript

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:00:03]: Folks with OCD, at least my kid and others as well, become anxious about being anxious and become sort of afraid of the experience of anxiety. And that's really what an anxiety disorder is, is I'm afraid of being anxious. Just the idea of being anxious makes me unbearably anxious, and I don't think I can handle being anxious, which isn't true.

Penny Williams [00:00:25]: Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Beautifully Complex. I'm joined today by Brenda Mahan, and we are gonna talk about raising a kid who also has OCD and what that experience has been like for Brendan and his family, and, hopefully, Those families who are out there who might be navigating something similar will find some solidarity In you sharing your story and some helpful insights as well. Do you wanna start, Brendan, by letting everybody know who you are and what you do?

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:01:21]: Yeah. So my name is Brendan Mahan. I'm the host of the ADHD Essentials podcast. I'm an ADHD guy. So I'm on the organizing committee for the International Conference on I'm on the board for the men's ADHD support group. I host the ADHD Essentials podcast. I run parenting groups. I do 1 on 1 work with folks who have ADHD, And I'm the creator of The Wall of Awful for those of you who have heard of that.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:01:44]: Book is on the way. I started writing it about a month ago.

Penny Williams [00:01:47]: Awesome. Yeah. It's such a good illustrative concept of what our neurodivergent kids often go through. I love it. Where do you wanna start with this conversation about OCD? I feel like we need to define it, really, and let people know kind of what it is and what it isn't. There are a lot of myths out there. I think a lot of people have that very stereotypical idea of OCD, but it could look very differently as well. Right?

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:02:14]: Yeah. So OCD, which stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, is an anxiety disorder, and it basically works with regard to obsessions and compulsions. Like, that's sort of the why it's called obsessive compulsive disorder.

Penny Williams [00:02:30]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:02:31]: And so what happens is Folks who have OCD, and I'm very aware of how not an OCD expert I am because I'm such an expert in ADHD, if that makes sense.

Penny Williams [00:02:41]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:02:42]: But I still know more about it than, like, the average Joe.

Penny Williams [00:02:45]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:02:46]: So the way OCD works is you have obsessive thoughts. You have these intrusive thoughts. Right? And a compulsion comes in as a way to relieve those obsessions and those anxious thoughts. So an example might be, I am anxious and having this obsessive thought that someone is going to break into my house, and I alleviate that by checking to make sure that the door is locked. Right?

Penny Williams [00:03:13]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:03:14]: But not like a neurotypical person might walk through their living room and check to make sure their door is locked every night. Like, you might do that, and that's not necessarily OCD. OCD is I check it and I check it and I Check it, and I check it, and I check it, and I check it, and I check it. OCD takes up a lot of time and a lot of energy, both emotional energy and physical energy. Mhmm. Because the compulsions become ritualistic, and they just eat up a lot of time because you're doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over again.

Penny Williams [00:03:46]: Yeah. And anxiety is such a driver.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:03:48]: Right. Yeah. And that as an ADHD coach, that led to me doing stuff wrong for my kid early on. Right? Mhmm. Because For ADHD, a lot of the stuff that is hard and sort of causing you anxiety, a lot of that stuff is dumb, and you just don't have to do it. Right? So there's a lot of accommodation that you can do for ADHD, and you're just like, alright. Well, then don't do that or then do the thing, like, however that works with ADHD. But with OCD, if you accommodate those anxious thoughts, they expand.

Penny Williams [00:04:19]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:04:20]: So they're like, oh, cool. I don't have to do that. Well, then if I don't have to do that, I probably shouldn't have to do this other thing either. And that means I can't do this, and it goes from I don't have to to I can't. Like, If I do this thing, it's gonna overwhelm me and shut me down and and that kind of stuff.

Penny Williams [00:04:36]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:04:37]: And folks with OCD, at least my kid and others as well, become anxious about being anxious and become sort of afraid of the experience of anxiety. And that's really what an anxiety disorder is, is I'm afraid of being anxious. Just the idea of being anxious makes me unbearably anxious.

Penny Williams [00:04:54]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:04:54]: And I don't think I can handle being anxious, which isn't true. So treatment typically focuses on making you anxious and having you confront whatever it is that causes you anxiety so that you can learn how to navigate that.

Penny Williams [00:05:09]: Yeah. So you can sit with it and

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:05:11]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:05:11]: Move through it instead of trying to avoid. Yeah. Do you wanna tell us a little bit about your story with your son who has OCD? How did that sort of come to be because I've known you for a while, and I know that things got significantly more intense and required a pretty intensive treatment.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:05:34]: Oh, yeah. He was hospitalized for it for 3 months.

Penny Williams [00:05:37]: Yeah. I'm wondering how you got to that point and then have been able to move through that.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:05:44]: Yeah. So it started The summer before 5th grade was really when we started to see stuff that was not great. Right? Both of my kids have had anxiety stuff kinda On and off, we did a little bit of mental health work. We tried our best to navigate it. I'm their dad. I have a lot of skills in this area, so we're able to sorta kick the can for a while. And I have 2 sons. They're identical twins.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:06:07]: Their names are Nathan and Gavin. They're both 14 as of recording. They're freshman in high school. School's going really well right now. All's All is right in our family Yay. After a long road. But going all the way back to the summer before 5th grade, so we're, like, 4 years ago a little bit more.

Penny Williams [00:06:23]: Mhmm. Pre COVID?

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:06:25]: Pre COVID. Yeah. We'll get to COVID. COVID's gonna be a part of the story.

Penny Williams [00:06:28]: Yeah. Yeah. That's why I was asking.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:06:30]: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So summer before 5th grade, Nate is incredibly anxious and hiding in the bathroom for hours at a time. He refuses to sleep in his bed and is sleeping on the couch, right, which is causing Gavin, who shared the bedroom with his brother and loves his brother, they're best friends. Gavin's like, what's going on? How come my brother doesn't wanna be in the same room with me? We don't really understand what's going on except that school is causing anxiety for Nate, and we are now in the summer, and so we're heading towards middle school. Right? That summer, knowing that school was a little bit anxiety inducing, we sent them to a summer camp that took place at the middle school that they were about to enter because middle school is

Penny Williams [00:07:08]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:07:08]: 5 and 6 and then 7 and 8, we have 2 different middle schools in my town. So we're like, let's check out the school. You can go to this program. And I knew that the director of the program was a phenomenal guidance counselor in our town. So I'm like, this will be great. Not great. Mhmm. Nate gets in trouble for, like, Not exactly fights, but they did, like, an improv thing, and some kid got in his face and was, like, barking in his Face as part of the improv thing and, like, swinging his arms at Nate.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:07:34]: Just all sort of pantomime stuff, but

Penny Williams [00:07:37]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:07:38]: Nate was already at, like, a 7 on the anxiety scale. Right? Mhmm. So Nate literally took this kid down and started stomping on him, like, just in a in a fight response. Luckily, the guidance counselor who runs the camp is like, this is a kid who's really anxious. We're not gonna be upset with this. Like, the kid that other kid didn't really get hurt. It's not a big deal. He wasn't stomping on him, like, to break any bones or anything.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:07:59]: He was just, like, getting out of there pretty quick. And, so he doesn't get kicked out of camp, but he does have to go home that day. Was another incident when they were playing with squirt guns that they were not supposed to be playing with. Some kids, Nate, I don't think had a squirt gun, but some kids started squirting Nate with a squirt gun, and Nate Slap the gun out of his hand. So my kid is not, like, a thug fighter kid, but he's so anxious that he's hitting the fight response in fight, flight, and freeze pretty quickly. He also had a moment at lunch where he was trying to talk to the teachers about something and they weren't paying attention to him, so he just threw his whole lunchbox away knowing that that would get the He just mentioned, and sure enough, that got their attention.

Penny Williams [00:08:36]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:08:37]: And then he got what he needed. He was at this time, in sort of in 4th grade, just before this 5th grade, The summer before 5th grade, he was starting to get the lesson that the only way to get the attention of adults in school was to misbehave, was to do something not appropriate. Because every time he tried to interact with adults in appropriate way to get his needs met, they didn't respond in a way that was useful.

Penny Williams [00:09:00]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:09:00]: But when he behaved in a way that was negative, Then he got his needs met because then he got the attention he needed in order to get the need met, which was not a great lesson for him to have, and we've worked through that. Yeah. And he he's not a bad kid. Like, I'm always getting compliments on how good my kids are, but there was a window there where he was sort of taking the wrong steps to get attention, except that they were the right steps to get attention because they were the ones that worked.

Penny Williams [00:09:23]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:09:23]: And the proper ways to get this attention wasn't working. And I share that piece of the story just in case that's your kid.

Penny Williams [00:09:29]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:09:30]: Like, if your kid is constantly getting in trouble, maybe wonder if that's the only way they can get their needs met And what does that mean? Right? How do we navigate that? Luckily, I am who I am, and I'm just saying that to teachers. I'm like, this is what's going on. Like, Y'all can do better, but my kid is doing it right, except that you don't like how he's doing it.

Penny Williams [00:09:49]: Our kids fall through the cracks so often. Right. And so they do sometimes have to really be the squeaky wheel. Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:09:55]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:09:56]: And sometimes that's very negative. Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:09:58]: And so summer before 5th grade is really hard. I had a kid in crisis and probably could have called, like, a crisis unit and had him taken to the hospital or something. But I didn't wanna do that because I didn't know enough about how those Programs worked in my area, and those programs are not always great. Yeah. And I didn't wanna take the risk, particularly because we didn't know what was going on yet and because I had the skills to navigate my kid in crisis. It took a long time, but I was able to navigate it. And a lot of that was me under responding to what he was doing. And I I use that phrase intentionally here.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:10:39]: I don't want it to come across like I wasn't caring and wasn't engaging with him.

Penny Williams [00:10:43]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:10:44]: But what I mean when I say I was under responding is I was not getting anxious and angry, and I wasn't losing it over him hiding in the bathroom or having these struggles. I wasn't taking it personally.

Penny Williams [00:10:55]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:10:55]: There were times when I got really overwhelmed that I absolutely at one point said to him, like, I don't really understand what's going on. If you need me to make you more afraid of me than you are of whatever is keeping you in Bathroom. I can do that, but I don't want to. And in that moment, I understood why parents lose their temper with their kids that are struggling. Yeah. Like, a lot of the time, It's I have reached the limit of my skills, and all I have left is yelling and being scary. And, hopefully, me yelling and being scary will be more scary to you than whatever the thing is that is scaring you into doing what isn't working, if that makes sense.

Penny Williams [00:11:29]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:11:30]: Luckily I'm gonna say luckily, I am who I am a bunch in this interview because it's a massive through line for this experience in my life. Mhmm. I was uniquely skilled to be able to navigate this. I still made mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes, but I was also uniquely skilled as parent to navigate this stuff.

Penny Williams [00:11:48]: Yeah. And

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:11:48]: he was like, that's not a plan. I'm like, okay. Cool. I'm I don't really wanna be yelling at you and losing my mind, so I didn't. We navigated this bathroom moment, and, like, little things happened. Like, I went down to the bathroom one day just because I had to go to the bathroom and he wasn't in there at the time, And I noticed that there was something behind the curtain, and so I moved the curtain, and it's an iPad. And he's in the bathroom at, like, late at night. Right? And I'm like, this is not a Like, I don't want him to just be on the iPad in here.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:12:13]: And I could've confronted him about that and made it a big deal, but instead, I went and grabbed a really Thick graphic novel. It was Spider Man Enter the Spider Into the Spider Verse, or just might just be Spider Verse. And I just replaced The iPad with that graphic novel and went about my day. And then later on that night, sure enough, Nate's in the bathroom hiding, And I go in. He's not going to the bathroom. He's just in there because it felt safe to him. Mhmm. And I go in there, and he's on the floor reading this graphic novel.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:12:42]: Right? There's no conflict. There's no battle. It's just he got my message. He received my message. We moved on. Yeah. So I kept trying to meet him where he was as best I could, And a refrain that came up at the time was I would say to him, look, bud, if you can run if you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:13:01]: And if you can't crawl, I will carry you until you can crawl again, and then I'll put you down because there's dignity and struggle, and, like, it's okay to crawl. There's nothing wrong with that. But I'm here for you. I've got your back no matter what. And it was just this constant refrain of, like, I love you no matter what. Unconditional positive regard. Right? Mhmm. And, eventually, we get him out of the bathroom.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:13:22]: He goes to school. When school comes home, there's some anxiety. There's some tension. We got to the point where he wouldn't sit at the kitchen table except to do homework. He would only sit there to do homework. Other than that, he wouldn't sit there because it was, like, contaminated by school, and then he wouldn't sit on the couch. We didn't really understand why. Turns out a towel from school wound up on that couch at one point, so now the couch is contaminated too.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:13:47]: He would not walk around the streets of our neighborhood because the school bus drove on the streets of our neighborhood. So now we're starting to see obsessive compulsive stuff. Right? Yeah. What Nate has is called emotional contagion obsessive compulsive disorder. Contagion OCD is I am afraid of germs. Right. And I'm gonna try to avoid getting infected by germs. Right? Emotional contagion is pull germs out and plug in, like, anything, just about.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:14:16]: Right? So you could plug in dogs and anything that might be connected to a dog, this kid's gonna wanna avoid. For my kid, his contagion was his elementary school. So middle school is connected in spirit, if not directly. The roads are infected, contaminated because the school bus drives on them. We ended up having to stop going to Boy Scouts because once they went on a field trip to the church that the Boy Scouts meeting happened at, and so he couldn't handle going to that church on a note of healing. We were at that church yesterday. We were in the graveyard behind it for some Halloween events.

Penny Williams [00:14:49]: Yay.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:14:49]: And he went, and it was fine. Like, nothing big deal at all. Right? Totally cool.

Penny Williams [00:14:53]: Awesome.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:14:53]: But that's because we're on the other side of this.

Penny Williams [00:14:55]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:14:56]: So circling back to the horrible challenges that we faced as a family, Nate goes to middle school in 5th grade. There's anxiety. It's hard, but he's able to handle it. Right? He's doing okay. It is difficult, but he's doing okay. That Halloween, we kinda bought back a street because I was like, if you wanna go trick or treating, you gotta walk on this road. And he was like, I'll just hand out candy then. And I was like, no.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:15:17]: You're going trick or treating with your friends. You just have to take 1 road in our neighborhood back so you can get out to the part that's not contaminated in your mind and then just trick or treat over there. So we got back one road at the time. And then 5th grade, March, COVID hits. And now he's coming home, and, like, school is home. Basically, for the rest of the year, they're at home.

Penny Williams [00:15:40]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:15:40]: And we're having some stuff, like brushing teeth is taking longer than it needs to. He's washing his hands more than he used to. That kind of stuff, it's starting to build up. And then in 6th For 6th grade, I had to make the decision, like, what are we doing about school? How are we gonna handle school? At the time, we didn't have Vaccines, we didn't really know what was going on with COVID. We didn't have a clear understanding of it. So my decision, with the blessing of my wife, although she didn't love the idea, was that I would homeschool my kids for 6th grade. The factors that went into that were I knew even if it was hybrid, School was still gonna suddenly come home with no predictability Yeah. And that I was gonna be impacted by that because school was dictating The schedule, like, this is when the thing is due, this is when you have to do that and this and that, and I couldn't always get my kids to meet those schedules when I was doing it for 5th grade.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:16:32]: Right? Right. I also knew that in 5th grade, what they were taught was not that great. It was, like, thoroughly okay, and I knew that I am licensed to teach and have taught English and history at the middle school level, specifically 6th grade. So I was like, I already have the curriculum for 6th grade, the grade they're going into. Yeah. Like, I have all my old stuff from when I taught. So it's sort of a straight line. And I also knew that when school came home, everything got a lot harder.

Penny Williams [00:16:59]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:16:59]: And that school would be coming home when things were virtual. And if it was hybrid, it would sometimes be coming home with lack of predictability. So I was like, if I'm homeschooling them, it's not school coming home because school is home. So I decided to homeschool. My business took a ton of hits. My business, like, really, really shrank over the course of this process.

Penny Williams [00:17:18]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:17:18]: And this was the beginning of the shrinking. But I had the luxury of being able to do that. Like, my wife has a job that can mostly cover us financially, so we were lucky in that regard. At least it could cover us back then. With inflation, it's not really covering as well, and I have to be money. But back then, like, we could float on her salary alone. And so I homeschool them, and my business is, like, in the I wake up, meet with clients from, like, 8 o'clock to 10 o'clock. Then I teach my kids, and then I might have had, like, a 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock client, and then we'd be done for the night with only a few interruptions.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:17:52]: And then every Saturday, I'm doing my podcast. I was out straight. I was working really, really hard.

Penny Williams [00:17:57]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:17:57]: That's, like, all day long, it's, like, 8 AM client, 9 AM client, kids until 4, and it's homeschooling. It's not like we're hanging out. Like, we're doing work.

Penny Williams [00:18:05]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:18:06]: And then with a couple interruptions for parent groups. And then 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock, straight to 6 o'clock, I haven't stopped yet. There were plenty of days when I wasn't really even eating lunch and stuff. Usually, I got breakfast and dinner. And then All Day Saturday is my podcast. With the idea, though, that we're gonna get back to school in 7th grade.

Penny Williams [00:18:24]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:18:25]: At the same time, My kids have mental health clinicians. Both of them are having anxiety stuff. Nate, we know, has OCD at this point. I leveraged my podcast. I interviewed the president of the International OCD Foundation pretty much just to get a referral. It worked. We got referred to one of the best OCD clinicians in the world. Her name is Denise.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:18:44]: She's great. And then that led to him getting better and things going fine and, like, okay. Cool. We're good. We go back for 7th grade. We're gonna back to school. We're trying to navigate this. They go back to school.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:18:56]: They're wearing masks. They're really anxious. Nate's OCD is starting to get a little bit worse here and there, here and there. The masks especially are concerning. Both of my kids are, like, putting their hands on their masks all the time and constantly messing with their masks and, like, hiding in their coats and shying away from people and trying to avoid being in the hallway and all this stuff. So Wow. It's as much anxiety about COVID and getting infected as it is about Nate's OCD in school, and Nate's super anxious about school, which is, of course, making Gavin anxious about school. Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:19:28]: Gavin's got pointed more at COVID. Nate's was more at school. Nate during 7th grade didn't eat lunch for, like, 3 months 2 or 3 months. Just didn't eat lunch. Because if he ate lunch at school, he was, in his head, eating the contamination of school. Wow. And that means he could never be clean as far as he was concerned. So he didn't eat lunch.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:19:49]: Consequently, he is 2 inches shorter than his identical twin brother, and it has had some, like, delays on puberty.

Penny Williams [00:19:55]: Wow.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:19:56]: We're working on it. We're meeting with an endo an endocrinologist on Monday, in fact, which is, like, the 3rd visit. But that's a consequence. Right? Like, just not eating lunch At that critical time of 7th grade, he's, like, 12, 13 years old. Yeah. 12, I guess, 12 years old. And so everything progresses and gets harder and harder. You can really tell from my podcast.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:20:15]: My podcast publishes weekly. Yeah. Right? And you and I had this conversation. You were like, how are you so consistent on your show? Like, you just Post weekly all the time. I posted weekly for, like, 4 years, and then it just tanks. All of a sudden, it's gone. Right? There's all of a sudden these huge gaps because

Penny Williams [00:20:32]: Life happens.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:20:32]: Nate mattered more. Mhmm. Then navigating Nate just mattered more, and that was all there was to it. Yeah. So Nate spiked Huge in February of 2022. It's 2023 right now. Mhmm. February 2022, he has this massive spike, and the OCD starts getting worse.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:20:47]: He's standing at the kitchen sink washing his hands for 40 minutes at a time, crying because he doesn't wanna be washing his hands. He doesn't wanna do that, but he Has to. Right? Suave Ocean Breeze soap was the only soap he could use to be clean. We would literally clear out CVSs in our town and and the surrounding towns. There was a period where he was going through 3 4 bottles a day. Wow. It got so bad that he had chemical burns all over his arms and legs just from because he was showering with it too, taking showers that were way too long, his hands were all cracked, Dry skin, burning skin. We we tried to moisturize them, and it would just hurt.

Penny Williams [00:21:26]: Poor kiddo.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:21:26]: And so things are getting worse and worse. At the same time, because nothing is ever easy, nothing is ever straightforward. Right before he spiked, my wife Worked for a company that got purchased by a larger corporation. She was vested, so she got all of her stock options came in, and we got this load of money. So All we wanna do since we moved into our house 15 years ago was redo the kitchen. So we're gonna redo the kitchen because it was awful. Right? Our neighbor across the street is our tractor. He's a buddy.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:21:54]: He literally lives across the street from us. So we placed the order for the kitchen, and then, I don't know, a month later, because there's you gotta wait for these things, especially with COVID at the time. About a month later, Nate spikes. Nate is deep in this spike when we get a call from Jimmy, our neighbor, or I do, and he's like, Brendan, good news. Your kitchen is ready. I cleared all of next week to come and do it. And I'm just like, We we can't, but we have to. Like, there's no there's nothing good about this because all it's gonna do is spread that contamination all over our house.

Penny Williams [00:22:27]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:22:27]: We are in line at this point. We're because we went back to working with Denise. We're in line to go to McLean Hospital and get Nate the support that he needs, but we're not it's like a that's a waiting list too. Our living room was all cabinets for a while. Our refrigerator was in our living room for I don't know how long. Yeah. The contamination that was in like, mostly we kept it contained in our den. There was 1 little corner that was school contaminated corner and everything else was okay, But then that gets spread because there's, like, boards and power tools and stuff that are touching that rug that is contaminated, and that means wherever the cord goes is contaminated, and It's spreading for Nate.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:23:04]: Right?

Penny Williams [00:23:05]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:23:05]: And it's also that's the way they come into the house. They walk through the kitchen to then take a shower because at the time, it was like, They would come home from school. They'd come in the house. Gavin would shower. Nate would stand on that rug until Gavin was done showering, and then Nate would go and shower. And now they're clean and they can go about their day, and they're not contaminating the rest of the house. We, for a while, had school clothes and home clothes, So, like, whatever Nate was wearing to school, he would not wear in the house Right. Or wear anywhere else, which meant we had 2 winter coats.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:23:36]: We had 2 pairs of boots. We had 2 pairs of sneakers. We're really 4 because both of our like, Gavin had to do it too even though he doesn't have OCD, but Nate was insistent. Yeah. So 4 winter coats, 4 pairs of boots. Everything is already doubled in our house because we have twins. Now it's quadrupled. Right? Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:23:53]: Like, it's surprising how expensive it gets too.

Penny Williams [00:23:55]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:23:56]: As well as the time commitments. And so now things are worse. Right now, we're spiked, and the the showers after school are taken, like, 2 3 hours.

Penny Williams [00:24:04]: Wow.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:24:05]: It's just it's Unbearable how long all this has taken. And, eventually, the kitchen is finished, and, yay, and school ends, and we go on a summer vacation, and that gave us a huge relief. A lot of the pressure dropped then. And then that July, Nate got into McLean Hospital, and it was in McLean from July through October. Actually, this Thursday, so 2 days from us recording, is 1 year of Napier being home, so we're gonna go out to eat and celebrate. I have my kid back. Like, I've got my kid back. It's great.

Penny Williams [00:24:35]: That's amazing.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:24:35]: It was a really, really, really hard road. My episode 250 of my show is my family and I sitting on the couch telling this story from all of our perspectives, and they got we go into more detail on what that experience was like. But it it was brutal. It was such a challenging period of my life.

Penny Williams [00:24:52]: Of course.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:24:53]: And I did stuff wrong. Like, I yelled at my kid more than I've yelled at anybody. If you take everyone I've ever yelled at in my life and squish them all together, I yelled at Nate more in, like, a 2 month span than I did at all those other people, and some of that is I'm not really a yeller. But I was overwhelmed. I was at my limits of my skills as a dad.

Penny Williams [00:25:16]: Watching it, it feels so irrational. Right?

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:25:18]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:25:19]: You know, I have anxiety. I have kids with anxiety. And at times, when you're not anxious, their anxiety feels so irrational, and you just wanna help them so badly To push through and get past it that we end up going about that in ways that we wish we didn't.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:25:38]: Right. And from my yelling thing, my when my little yelling phase there, it was when Nate was at his peak spike.

Penny Williams [00:25:44]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:25:45]: Right? So things are really stressful anyway. I'm watching my business die on the Vine, and we have a kitchen that's a train wreck, and, like, our fridge is in our living room, like I said, and and there's a limit to what we can even do in our house. And my kid who used to be able to do these things suddenly can't. Yeah. Like, now he can't get out of the shower in a reasonable amount of time or whatever. Mhmm. And what put me over the edge was I ended up Amy tried to help. My wife's name is Amy.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:26:12]: Amy tried to help. Me help Nate. Right? So I'm trying to help Nate get out of the shower. Amy's trying to help me, and I ended up yelling at Amy. For some reason, That was the moment that I saw myself from the outside.

Penny Williams [00:26:24]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:26:25]: And was like, this is not who I am, let alone who I wanna be. I gotta fix this, and I know how because I teach parents how to not do this. Right. So I literally sat down on I went into the bedroom right next to the bathroom, the guest room, sat on the bed, and went through my slides for my parent groups in my head and was like, the answer is here. I got to the 2nd slide and was like, everyone is doing the best they can. Everyone wants well your kid wants to please you, and I was like, that's what I'm doing wrong. And I just went back into the bathroom and apologized to Nate, and I was like, look. I'm doing this wrong, and I'm asking you to do things that you just can't do right now because you're so anxious that it's affecting your executive functions.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:27:01]: We talk like that in my family. And it's making it harder for you to do stuff that you used to be able to do. And I was also anxious, and it was affecting my executive functions and my ability to do the things that I know how to do. And it's not gonna happen anymore. Like, as the parent, it's my job to help you. It's not your job to, like, meet my unreasonable demands. So just to let you know, like, I'm gonna meet you where you are, and I'm gonna change when I'm asking of you, and I'm gonna be more patient. I'm not we're not fighting anymore.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:27:28]: I'm not yelling at you anymore. He was like, okay. And I was like, cool. And we have not banged heads since. Like, that was the end of that. It just didn't happen anymore because I decided, and I also knew that I was doing it wrong and why. And I just proceeded to meet him where he was and we moved on. And It wasn't easy, but we got to where we needed to be once McClain happened.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:27:48]: And I can remember days when he was like, dad, I can't wait till I can go to the hospital. I I don't wanna be doing this. I don't wanna be standing at the kitchen sink washing my hands for 40 minutes.

Penny Williams [00:27:57]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:27:58]: And his hands were chapped, like, his whole hands.

Penny Williams [00:28:01]: And I'm just imagining, like, all the emotions that you, as a parent, are going through.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:28:07]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:28:08]: Watching your kids struggle, Not being able to help. Mhmm. Right? Not at least to the level that you wanted to be able to help him.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:28:16]: Right.

Penny Williams [00:28:16]: And then having to Contemplate hospitalization, which is such a difficult decision for parents. There was just so much extra on your plate.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:28:28]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:28:28]: That was also going into this because we're human beings. Right? And so trying to navigate your own emotions and not having that Creep into what is happening with your kid and, you know, not spewing it all over them sometimes just isn't possible.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:28:45]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:28:46]: Which is what was happening. Right?

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:28:47]: Right. Absolutely. And 2 kinda pieces to that. I'll start with the one that's a little bit easier and quicker. I had no issues with bringing Nate into the hospital. That was not a thing that I even batted an eye about. And I bring that up because if parents don't feel like that's a hard choice, It's okay to not feel like that's a hard choice.

Penny Williams [00:29:04]: Mhmm. Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:29:05]: And here's why it wasn't a hard choice. One, I trusted Denise, And I still trust Denise, his clinician.

Penny Williams [00:29:12]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:29:13]: I knew that Denise had helped to write McLean's curriculum. That's the Tier of person I was able to get. She helped write McLean's curriculum. Also, we were able to tour McLean. We were able to go and look at it because it's only an hour from my house, thankfully. Right? That helps. And I am a former summer camp counselor, former principal, former middle school teacher, Former guidance counselor, licensed in teaching and guidance counseling, former mental health clinician. So I'm steeped in what's good for kids and mental health and education and those Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:29:46]: And camps and stuff. Right? So when I toured McLean, I was doing it with all of that prior knowledge, so I knew what I was seeing when I saw Signs on doors that kids had made and, like, how the kids are interacting and what they were doing in the hallways and stuff, like, I was able to read the vibe of that place pretty deeply Right. Much more than most parents, and I was not walking through it as an anxious parent. I was walking through it as a professional Mhmm. And looking at it. And so that helped. Right? And I can't speak to any other program, but I can tell you if you're on in line for McLean, have no hesitancy. That place is awesome.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:30:22]: Amazing. And I bring that up because we often say, like, that's such a hard decision for parents. Mhmm. And I just wanna be the other side of that, and, like, it doesn't have to be a hard decision. Like, you don't have to Put a lot of pressure on it if you know that you need this support and you need this help, which we certainly did.

Penny Williams [00:30:36]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:30:37]: So there's that. And then the other piece to this is Something that is, like, its own topic kind of in all of this, and I we don't have to go there because we're talking about a CD. But at the same time that all of this was going on, my dad is going through cancer treatment.

Penny Williams [00:30:53]: Right.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:30:55]: So I also had this sandwich generation thing happening for me Yeah. Where, like, that homeschooling thing in 6th grade, and now the boys are going into 7th grade to go and go back to school, and I was like, oh, finally. Like, I can...

Penny Williams [00:31:11]: Breathe.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:31:11]: Have some relief. Like, I can get some of my life back. Right? Professionally, I can get some of my ADHD professional life back. Right. And then my sisters, both are teachers, And my sister Lauren, who was taking my dad's cancer treatments every Friday, was like, Brandon, I can't like, you gotta take over dad's cancer treatments because You're the one who can control a schedule and Dee and I can't. So all of a sudden, I have 4 days that I can work during because my entire Friday is taken up Driving to my dad, picking him up, driving him to cancer treatment, which takes forever, driving him home, and then driving back to my house. Right? So there goes Friday. I'm down to 4 days.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:31:47]: And then in short order, I'm picking Nate and Gavin up from school because Nate can't handle going on the bus. So now my regular days are ending at, like, 2 30, 3 o'clock Yep. Yep. Which means now I'm working maybe 30 hours a week I'm getting in, and with ADHD, it's more like 20. And so all of a sudden, these dreams I had of, like, rebuilding my business die on the vine. It was probably 20 hours a week because I lost all of Friday. So it was, like, 20 hours, maybe 15. Now my business is, again, a part time job

Penny Williams [00:32:17]: Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:32:17]: Which it's supposed to be a full time job again, and so I'm navigating that stuff. And then that eventually led to, like, my dad had some alcohol issues, which made things even less predictable because all of a sudden it's like, no. We just have to take dad to the hospital tomorrow, and I I can't take on new clients because I don't know when I'm gonna have to take my dad to the hospital and this kind of stuff. So and that's in addition to, like, what was going on with Nate. The only reason I stopped taking my dad to cancer treatments was because I just couldn't anymore, and I had to call my sisters and go, Nate's OCD is overwhelming, and I just can't. Yeah. And they had no idea because OCD is also incredibly isolating. Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:32:55]: Because it eats up so much time and they're, If we invite someone over, are they gonna somehow do something that will cause Nate to be unwilling to go to some part of the house because that kid spread contamination, which happened. Nate couldn't handle middle school clothing. Like, if someone came over with a sweatshirt on from his middle school, it would cause a lot of problems.

Penny Williams [00:33:15]: Wow.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:33:15]: That he would try to hide and cover up? And how do you say, like, your kid is welcome to come over and hang out in the backyard because it's COVID, but they can't wear their sweatshirt from the middle school. Right. So, like, some of the families we could do that with and some of them we didn't, and I always did it behind Nate's back. And there were some kids that we just couldn't invite over anymore because they always had middle school stuff on. Uh-huh. And, like, of all the reasons to not have that person be A close friend anymore, but that happened. So OCD is an incredibly debilitating disorder. Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:33:48]: And there, it can be treated like Nate is no longer our family's no longer debilitated, but you've gotta be willing to get help and to accept help, And folks with OCD are not always willing to, so yeah. I don't I feel like I should let you ask a question because I've been bam on a lot.

Penny Williams [00:34:04]: No. I mean, just sharing your story can be so powerful for other families who are going through it. And, you know, you had, like, Everything in the world happening at one time and could've hit your own breaking point, you know, and somehow you were able to Push through and navigate and get back to a good place. And I think, you know, there's so much hope in the story that you're telling, Partly because you're telling it now. Mhmm. So now you're on the other side. You've been through it, and you can get to a better place. And I think that's, You know, part of the message of you telling your story is that you are illustrating that things can be Really, really, really challenging and overwhelming, and you can get to a better place.

Penny Williams [00:34:52]: Things can get better.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:34:53]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:34:53]: Yeah. And, You know, I think that part of your background helped you to be able probably to be a little more hopeful and optimistic in the midst of that, where Maybe some other parents aren't able as much to do that, but you have that background in training And mental health, I think, helped you to remain more calm even though it was still a challenge at times.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:35:18]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:35:18]: But I think, you know, you're illustrating above all else to me that you can go to the depths, and you can make it through that, And things can get better.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:35:29]: Right. Yeah. And, honestly, I think COVID helped in some ways because one of the things that happened for me with COVID was I was like, we're all stuck in the house together.

Penny Williams [00:35:40]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:35:41]: All of us. Like, as a as a world, right, not just my family. Yeah. And in initially, in COVID, like, people were looking to me because of who I am and my podcast and my the role I play in in some circles with ADHD and stuff. Folks were looking to me for, like, what do we do? Like, you're a parent guy. You're a neurodiverse guy. Like, how do we handle this? And so I had to think about that, and I was like, we gotta prioritize relationships and connection over all the other stuff. Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:36:08]: And that bled into Nate's crisis, And it led to conflict between me and my wife because Amy was like, the way to treat this is to just make him do the thing. Right?

Penny Williams [00:36:19]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:36:19]: And I was like, yeah. But if we force him to do this stuff that is totally overwhelming and shutting him down Before he can buy into resisting the OCD, we're gonna destroy our relationship with our kid because because we're gonna constantly be making him feel unsafe and, like, he can't trust us, and it's not I think it's gonna work to our detriment. In the short term, it may or may not work because we're not clinicians. Right. But in the long term, I think it's gonna undermine our relationship

Penny Williams [00:36:49]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:36:49]: And make things a lot harder. I may or may not have been right about that, but my wife went with that lens and was like, okay. Like, I'm willing to let you take point on this. I don't agree with you, but this is kinda on you, right, with sort of how it landed. And, thankfully, it worked. It took a longer, and it was a lot harder than it maybe needed to be, but I don't even know that it was harder. I think it would've it was just different hard. Yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:37:12]: If we were always fighting with Nate about, like, doing his laundry because at one point, the laundry machines got contaminated, and he didn't wanna do his laundry. Mhmm. Like, it would have been stressful in a different way. Yeah. Yeah. Even that stuff. Like, there was a lot of stuff Nate wouldn't do that Gavin ended up doing, and Gavin carried a lot of labor for Nate. And it looks like he's trying to avoid these tasks, but he's not.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:37:34]: It's OCD that keeping him from doing the thing.

Penny Williams [00:37:37]: Yeah. I'm a 100% camp relationship first.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:37:41]: Right. I mean, that that was just the way that I went. Like, that's because that's kinda my philosophy. Yeah. And, thankfully, that helped him feel safe and helped him buy in. In the long run, it worked. But it also speaking of relationships, like, this impacted my relationship with Gavin.

Penny Williams [00:37:54]: Of course.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:37:54]: Because I was point on Nate. So For however many months, 6, 7 months, I didn't really see Gavin. We didn't hang out much. Yeah. Amy spent a lot of time Gavin, but I didn't because I was constantly trying to help Nate navigate his OCD Mhmm. To the point that when Nate went into the hospital over the summer, I made it a point to hang out with Gavin. I did not go, it's the summer. Now I can rebuild my business now.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:38:23]: Instead, I was like, The business can wait through the summer so that I can have time with Gavin. I still did some stuff, but I didn't put a lot of effort in Yeah. So that Gavin and I could go, like, to the beach and do stuff. And it was good because we got to hang out and we got to reconnect, and that that was useful. But it was still really tricky. And Staying with Gavin and my relationship with him, you said that, like, I kinda made it without hitting a breaking point. I totally hit a breaking point.

Penny Williams [00:38:49]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:38:50]: And I think this is an important story, and it's kind of a guy story. I think that this might ring true for some dads out there. This was before everything got really bad. Things are still bad and confusing, and I'm like, I don't know why I can't help my kid. It's because I'm an ADHD expert, not an OCD expert, but I didn't wasn't getting that part yet. Yeah. I think it was the summer before 5th grade. I just, like, broke down 1 morning.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:39:15]: Like, I was just like, I I don't know how to help my kid. And it was especially hard for me because my identity is wrapped up in helping kids. I've been a teacher. I've been a summer camp counselor. I've coached parents. I've worked with kids. Like, I'm the guy who helps the kid, and now I can't help my own kid. And I just 1 morning, I was totally overwhelmed.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:39:31]: Whatever was happening that morning, I don't remember. And I ended up, like, kinda crumpling onto a ball on the floor and crying in front of my entire family, right, because I was so overwhelmed.

Penny Williams [00:39:42]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:39:43]: And, like, that led to Gavin going, I will never have a problem ever because I don't wanna do that to my dad. No. I don't want it my dad to ever have to not be able to handle it. Right? Which meant I was like, okay. Cool. I can never break again. Like, I have to coach Gavin on being willing to have problems and need support, But toxically, paradoxically, I can never have problems that need support, at least not in front of my kids. Right? Like, I can never that can never happen again.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:40:16]: I can never hit the point where I'm overwhelmed and it's too much even temporarily. Right? And that's what men A lot of men are in that camp. Yeah. Like, I I'm not allowed to break. Like, that's not a thing that we get to do. And I was trying to go with, like, it's okay to model Healthy emotional responses even if they're really hard ones. Like, real emotional responses are okay as opposed to, like, toxic button up. Right? But that was not a plan.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:40:42]: It didn't work for Gavin, and Gavin we're still working on that with Gavin and undoing that. It's not just that moment that kinda has Gavin so Tightly wound. It's also everything with his brother and all the trauma that he witnessed for Mhmm. Like, 3 years. But that's a component to it, and I have to carry that. And that led to, like, a moment in the bathroom with my wife where Nate is now out of the hospital. Gavin is having all kinds of trauma responses because, like Mhmm. Of what was like, Nate came home.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:41:10]: Everything is safe. Now it's Gavin's turn kind of a thing.

Penny Williams [00:41:12]: There's space for him to fall apart.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:41:15]: Right. Yeah. Right. So now he's falling apart. Yeah. In some big ways. In some pretty big ways that he typically does not want me to talk about, so I'm not gonna bring it up. I'm thinking of every story that I could tell, and I'm like, nope.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:41:26]: He's on my show. He was like, I don't wanna talk about that. I don't wanna talk about that, so I'm like, oh, call all that stuff confidential then. Yep. And at the same time, my dad is now, like, sick enough heavily due to alcohol consumption as opposed to just Sickness. Although he had a CPOD, blood cancer, my multiple myeloma, kidney failure, heart failure, and at the time, a broken leg and a broken knee. Wow. So, like, apparently, I come from Hardy Stock because that's a lot, and he's not dead.

Penny Williams [00:41:55]: Wow.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:41:56]: Right? And, also, was drinking to sort of navigate this stuff to the point where his body lost its ability to process thiamine, so his muscles were atrophying. I didn't know alcohol could do that, but apparently, it can. Takes a lot of alcohol to do that. So I went to my dad to take him to the hospital, and On a regular basis, he can't leave the house because he's physically unable to get down the stairs safely. Right? Like, I guess, I guess we're not leaving. So now I'm losing days for a kind of no reason. Like, in my head, I'm like, but dad needs company, and me being here is helping him and that kind of stuff, but also, like, There's things I really needed to be doing at the time that I wasn't doing. And there was one day I went to my dad, didn't take him to the doctor's because he couldn't leave the house, And on my way home, got a call from school that was, like, Gavin's having some stuff, you gotta come help.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:42:44]: Right? And so I I'm helping Gavin all in one day, and I was in the bathroom one day, and Amy's, like, talking to me about how, like, there's still a lot going on. I'm like, it's fine. I can carry it. Like, it's fine. I can carry it. I can carry it. And that day, she said, yeah. My whole world is falling apart, but I can carry it, and it's fine.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:43:03]: Sure. Okay. And she stormed out of the bathroom?

Penny Williams [00:43:05]: Mhmm.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:43:06]: And I needed her to step on me like that because I wasn't I was, like, not seeing where I was. Yeah. Right? Like, of course, I can't carry all this. Of course, I can't. But what choice do I have? Like like, I kinda have to. Right? And so I did my best and everything, like, we're in a much better place now. The boys started high school smoothly. Everything is going swimmingly.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:43:27]: Nate's having, Like, he's behind in some classes, but whatever. Like, that's not a big deal. Gavin is not the most social kid. I wish he was more inclined to talk to other kids. He's We're the introverted, but whatever, we'll get that. We'll we'll navigate that too. At we're at the point now where we are no longer healing, we're growing. Like, we've entered growth stuff instead of healing stuff.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:43:48]: Awesome. And that is nice because growth can have a longer time line than healing can Mhmm. At least in my head. Like, Yeah. Healing, you gotta kinda keep moving forward, and you don't wanna backslide, and you wanna, like, get through it with some degree of speed if you can. But growth, like, if you plateau for a little while, it's not a big deal. Yeah. And I can look at the longer time line that way.

Penny Williams [00:44:09]: Yeah. You need time just to be. So yeah.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:44:12]: So I'm I'm really proud of both of them.

Penny Williams [00:44:14]: Yeah. It's amazing. Yeah. Everybody's really been through it in your family.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:44:18]: Mhmm.

Penny Williams [00:44:18]: And, You know, you were able to get through it.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:44:21]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:44:22]: Not without incident, right, because we're human beings. But Mhmm. You know, you made it. And I think that, you know, your boys saw that you're a human being also. You know, so often, we, as parents, Think that we're supposed to be perfect in front of our kids, but it sets a bar that they can't attain. Yeah. And, really, it's just detrimental, In my opinion. So, you know, they need to see that we're human beings and that we, sometimes can't manage our emotions either, but we get through it.

Penny Williams [00:44:53]: We figure it out. We Keep going. And I think that's, you know, one of the best examples that we can give. I thank you so much, Brendan, for sharing your story. I know How difficult it could be sometimes to be really open and transparent with what's going on in your life, and I also know how empowering it is for those who listen and hear that story. And I think that's why we both do what we do And why we're both so open about our own parenting journeys and our kids as well, those of our kids who allow us to share because I have one who also doesn't, and we respect that. So that's just where we are.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:45:34]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:45:35]: But I thank you.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:45:35]: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Penny Williams [00:45:36]: And I will Put in the show notes for everyone, links to your podcast. I've made a note to make sure we link up episode 250 for people who want to hear the whole family talk about The experience.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:45:48]: And I should add, that was the boys' idea. It was Nathan and Gavin's idea to do that. It was not no pressure from me at all. Love that. Yeah. Yeah. Some of that is, like, the 50 episodes often involve them, so it was, like, 250 was common, and they were like, that sometimes we do it number 50 episode. Can we do this? But it was not my plan.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:46:07]: I was not gonna even ask. They brought it up.

Penny Williams [00:46:10]: Yeah. That's amazing. They, I think, have learned from you how to be a helper in the world.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:46:16]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:46:17]: By sharing what they're going through. Show notes are at parentingADHDandautism.com/240 for episode 240.

Penny Williams [00:46:25]: I just wanna thank you again, Brendan. I always learn so much in talking to you and appreciate our collaboration in in the neurodivergent world.

Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., MS [00:46:37]: Yeah.

Penny Williams [00:46:37]: And I will see everybody in the next episode. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses And parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thank you!

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Hello!
I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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