My younger kid has severe ADHD. Like, legit severe. Currently we are engaging a battle with that wretched acronym. Once again, it has snuck up on us and has been creating havoc in our lives without us realizing it was the culprit. Like a stealthy serpent in the tall weeds. Oh, how I'd like to take an ax to the head of that serpent.
So I look up and find myself tearfully discussing behavior issues with my kid's counselor, and as I'm listening to the words tumble out of my mouth, I realize that the battle we have been fighting isn't just because my child is making really, really poor decisions. The lightbulb is lighting up in both the counselor's head and my own. It's time to change meds. Ugh.
People that scoff at parents that put their kids on meds for ADHD ("if there really is such a thing..."), well, I want to punch them in the mouth. I want to invite them over to my house in the mornings, before my kid's meds have kicked in. I would love for them to try to get her ready for school and see how their blood pressure rises. I would love to have them over for dinner as her meds are wearing off, but it's yet too early for that nighttime dose....the dose that is the only thing that will allow her to fall asleep before 2 am.
My kid's brain is wired weird. She needs medication. She can't function without it. She has been on medication since she was 4 1/2 years old. It was absolutely necessary to medicate her at that point, before ADHD killed her. What?! Yeah. Her impulsiveness was so unbelievably severe that she had nearly gotten run over in the parking lot of Burger King. Came nose-to-tire with a car as she darted away from me. That incident was the icing on the proverbial cake of ADHD. I sought help, begged for help. We had struggled with this brain-wiring glitch since she was 18 months old. And I can't put enough emphasis on the word STRUGGLED.
One day a few years ago, under the strict supervision of her doctor and counseling staff, we took her off all medications. We were suspecting that the meds she was on were contributing to some anger issues, which is not cool at all. My husband and I felt this was our shot to try the no-meds challenge, just to see where she was at as a baseline. Maybe her brain had rewired a bit? Maybe she didn't need medication, or at least not as much? It was worth a shot. We were hopeful.
Oh. My. Goodness. Lord have mercy.
Above: The day she went off meds.
Below: The next day, back on meds.
This coloring illustrations represents so much. Not just the lack of control she had over her thoughts, but also her motor skills. Her mind, and therefor her body, was being harnessed by a mere, thin thread of control.
When the child psychiatrist says, "This child cannot live like this," then you know you're dealing with a serious issue. It's a bit more than just not wanting your kid to be so wiggly.
Can you imagine being inside of her mind when it was running at a thousand miles per hour like that? Scary! In fact, I asked her how she felt. She didn't like it at all. It was a crazy, chaotic place. That afternoon without medication, I had to take her outside to hopefully burn off some energy before she broke something inside the house. The poor kid just ran around like a caged animal set free. She literally ran into a wheelbarrow, bouncing right off of it and hurting herself. Yeah, she saw the big clunky thing setting there, but couldn't process the "warning: wheelbarrow straight ahead" thought quick enough before she careened right into it.
She pleaded with me to not take her off of medication again. We began with new meds the next morning, and some peace was restored. The dosage tweaking was exhausting and took several weeks, trying to find the right combination of a good non-stimulant with the lowest dose of stimulant added in to balance things out. Every kid is different. Medication is a crap shoot.
So here we are again, struggling with behaviors that we thought were chosen by our hard-headed kid, but which we now are realizing are a little beyond her range of control. This ADHD exacerbates and agitates everything - impulsiveness, forgetfulness, judgement, and self control. Every-friggin'-thing becomes a battle at home. She's holding it together at school for the most part, though she's definitely struggling there, too. But from the second she gets into my car after school, her guard is let down (no longer having the pressure to hold herself together) and I get to have a hand-to-hand combat with the ADHD monster. It is, shall I say, taxing? Yes, taxing on the sanity is a nice way to say it.
I'm not even going to share the thoughts I think and the feelings I feel. I'll just say, it's not a happy Mom place to reside. It slowly eats away all will to parent well. Love gives way to the pressing in of anger and frustration. To say it makes me want to run away and give up on being a grown up is an understatement. And it's got to be an unhappy place for my kid, too.
And then I find myself describing our problems to a counselor, seeking help to manage this kid....and I realize that the ADHD monster, the slowly creeping chameleon that it is, has infiltrated our world again and has been manipulating ALL OF US like puppets. Probably for months. And we didn't even notice it enter the room.
Tell me ADHD isn't real or that parents that medicate their kids are evil....and you better run. Momma don't play nice right now. My patience is shot, and I'm at wit's end. Post those snotty articles on your Facebook page, and I will delete you. Critics don't get it, but they are more than welcome to babysit my kid for a weekend, and will then be a believer. Oh, that's right...critics don't want to actually understand, they just want to spew words of judgement. ((Cue eye roll.))
This life is a journey. A winding path.
(Wouldn't have DARED taken our kid on a mountainous hike unmedicated.)
Why does my kid have ADHD? We'll probably never really know. Doctors and researchers haven't figured it out yet. However, I do suspect that it's genetic and/or related to her birthmother's use of narcotics in utero. (In case you didn't know that adoption is part of our story, now you do. I'll probably soon write about our journey in fostering and adoption.)
This morning, after returning from dropping the kiddo off at school after another morning battle (she didn't sleep last night...no idea why...but we're changing meds around right now, and this is part of the fun, I suppose), I saw this article pop up in my newsfeed:
"Hospitals Treat More Addicted Newborns" Fantastic. More kids that are likely facing battles similar (or worse) than ours. My child fought cocaine while in the womb, at least that's all that we know of. Cocaine is said to be one of the least harmful of drugs to babies. Crazy, right? But then consider what drug epidemics are going on in our region these days. Like meth. That's just insane right there. I'd imagine ADHD will be a lesser of evils that a lot of these defenseless kids will be coping with in the near future.
So there you go. We are struggling, but seeking help. We'll get back on track and some peace will be restored in our home. I am irritable and currently intolerant of a lot of things right now, but especially sensitive to condescending comments about how it's heresy to medicate a child or "play the ADHD card."
To be surrounded by an encouraging and supportive community is priceless. We are incredibly grateful to have our child enrolled in a quality public school where the teachers and administration are extraordinarily compassionate and work with us as a team. It can not be emphasized enough how vital are good teachers. They are unsung heros. Like Ms. M that just sent me a message a few minutes ago to make me aware of how she is dealing with my princess regularly disappearing into the bathroom for 15 minutes (as my kid was secretly texting me from said bathroom to report that she is sleepy). I am forever grateful for the good Jesus-loving teachers that we have gotten blessed with through the years. I can't imagine this journey without them.
Today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we will just keep swimming. That's all we can do, right?