ADHD Our Story

Our Story  ~ Our story begins many, many years ago. It is interesting to go back over this blog and remember everything we have been through, what we go through now and thankfully, the improvements that have been made. ADHD is well known as an "invisible" mental disorder that affects focus, self-control (impulsive), learning, Executive Functioning Skills, social skills and the ability to link actions with consequences (cause and effect). Most often, ADHD comes with a variety of other challenges (also known as Alphabet Soup) including but not limited to sensory processing issues, anxiety and depression and ODD, or Oppositional Defiance Disorder (if you are looking at the sky and comment on how blue it is, he will argue, impressively that it is green). For us, the ODD has also blossomed in the form of runaway attempts, belligerence, intentional button-pushing and defiance toward everyone in our family. Sounds like pretty typical child-like behavior yes? True - but to another level that leaves parents feeling exhausted, exasperated, hopeless, helpless and can be severely straining on their mental fortitude as well. Parenting is difficult enough without having a kiddo that appears totally normal but struggles in so many ways. 

So, what does it really mean to have ADHD? It definitely is not something written off as, "Oh my kid
can be so ADHD." It is life-changing and takes extreme patience and determination. DON'T EVER GIVE UP.   From a young age, my little fellar was emotionally erratic which intensified with age and with the increase in demands made on him. He struggled with transition and threw frequent tantrums well before and beyond the 'terrible two's.' His inability to articulate his feelings and go through seemingly 'automatic thought-processes' lead still to outbursts and complete and utter meltdowns. He didn't understand how to get attention in a positive way which also affected his relationships with his peers and there was no sense of personal space.  He was extraordinarily unpredictable and it had an enormous daily impact on the family. Don't get me wrong, he could also have moments of empathy and compassion and would often say prayers asking for help to be good, not get 'think times' and to think before he did something bad. That was the tough part - he knew there was something wrong, he just wasn't sure what it was or how he could do better. Parents - so much of this is out of their control and sometimes it helps to remember that they are struggling with their behavior just as much as you are.

Once he started attending grade school, I started to see that I had long, tough road ahead of me. Staying on task in school was immensely difficult for him; I eventually came to class twice a week just to help him with his work and stay focused - he was getting into trouble. This was when I received my first phone call from the principal. I never thought that I would come to speak with the principal regularly, but a reality I soon learned to radically accept. He would act impulsively out of "white hot anger" or "just because" to get a rise out of other student. I even had the school bus parked in front of my house (on more than one occasion) to have a chat with the bus driver. Can that actually happen? Yes - yes it can. (The good news is that apparently, we weren't the first!). 
He eventually started meeting with the school counselor weekly one-on-one and also in a group to help with his social skills.  I thought that come summer time being out of school, things would lighten up a little because he would have more attention from me and I could monitor his behavior more consistently. To my surprise and chagrin, his behavior escalated rapidly. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't cry. 

I was overwhelmed and exasperated - it was time for some outside help. I took him to see a The psychologist recommended putting an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, into place with the school district. Weekly therapy for behavior modification, and books and classes on effective parenting skills for me as the parent were also recommended. I took two 4-week parenting classes - Love and Logic and 1-2-3 Magic, both of which have proven imperative for raising a child with an invisible disorder (or any child for that matter) and in saving my own personal sanity. I started fiddling with his diet (which was no easy feat - these kids take picky to a new level and their craving for sweets is off the charts), oils, herbal supplements, trace minerals, tuna omega oil and less television and video time.
neuropsychologist and with some official diagnoses, I had a starting point from which to operate from. I immersed myself in understanding what this diagnosis meant for my little guy and our family.

Then I bit the bullet and tried a few different medications - a low-dose Zoloft for his depression and Concerta for the ADHD. The meds did help for several hours of the day until  the cornucopia of side effects, the 'off hours' and lessening effectiveness of the drugs left me considering new routes; some issues and behaviors had been exacerbated by the meds. I began to read more about the long-term effects of medication along with understanding that to maintain effectiveness, dosages had to be increased regularly - this was difficult for me to swallow. I was referred to a podcast with Dr. John Gray (author of the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus books) in which he outlines a specific supplementation regiment that I started, along with some other dietary alterations, in December of 2011. My kiddo experienced a good 6-8 weeks of horrendous withdrawal (both behavior and stomach upset) but once seemingly detoxed of the meds, he made tremendous strides. He was gaining weight, sleeping at night and for the most part, manageable. Years later as grades dropped in middle school and his focus was non-existent, it was time to take another look at meds. This was again, a hard pill to swallow (pun-intended). But, in the end, I had to look at what was going to be most beneficial to him and if there was something out there that we hadn't tried yet that might help, I was all for it. We started with a non-stimulant med, Strattera, which has made a huge difference. As a Freshman in highschool he started getting A's and B's, made the honor roll and decided to join the Track team (his own decision). 

ADHD is very real and often-times very heartbreaking; there is no one-size-fits-all method or treatment to this disorder and I find myself constantly rotating through various approaches with him. He is a work in progress - but then again we all are. He knows that he has this diagnosis but I remind him often that it isn't a crutch and that he has to live life in this world the same way the rest of us do so he better pony-up and figure it out. I also point out that many famous and successful people are famous and successful because they learned to channel the characteristics that make them different. As cliche as it is, you can do anything you set your mind to and everyday the progress you make comes from the decisions you make. 

In the end he is still defiant, has emotionally erratic moments but his baseline continues to shift. Many of these kids 'out-grow' the symptoms that come with ADHD, but I believe that is also in part due to what you as the parent are doing; giving them tools, being their biggest cheerleader and dedicating yourself to figuring them out. The psychologist once commented to me that "it is human nature to cycle" through dispositions which accounts to the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde waves we have ridden. I've seen this in my own life and it is a valuable point to recall when the tough gets going and to simply offer a little grace from time to time. We also all have 'off' days or simply wake-up on the 'wrong side of the bed' -the goal is to have more good days than bad and to pick carefully -very carefully - the battles worth fighting.Ultimately, the relationship is most important and that CAN be maintained while standing firm in your expectations.

This is our ongoing journey; I started this blog to share what I learn and hopefully open a forum to other parents in my situation to share their own experiences. Many heads working together are better than one going it alone. I've also learned that I have to take care of myself first and foremost. I'm not much good to my kids as the Wicked Witch of the West (they'll just be secretly hoping that a house lands on me!). More than anything, these kids need someone in their corner, a mentor, advocate and lots and lots of love and patience from you. There is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel my friends! You just have to trust that it IS there, even in those moments when you can't see it.

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