Negativity, Lies & Other Painful Truths about ADHD

Negativity, Lies & Other Painful Truths about ADHD

I had one of those mind-blowing moments last week as I scrolled to an Instagram post by one of my favorite ADHD resources, ADDitude Magazine. If you haven’t read my guest blog post yet about mom guilt stemming from having a child with ADHD, check it out. You could say this simple image with a quote instantly struck a chord with me.

It read, “When the ADHD brain doesn’t have enough stimulation, it looks for ways to increase its activity. Being angry or negative has an immediate stimulating effect on the brain.”

Whoa! That explains a lot, I thought. My son who turns 13 next month has struggled for years with a negative outlook on life that goes hand-in-hand with crippling anxiety at times. If there’s a way to put a negative spin on things, you can bet he will. Common phrases that come from my mouth include, “Stop being so negative,” and “Please be nice,” and “Did you take your pill today?” Because his medication that helps him focus also seems to tame his mood.

He often assumes the worst when we inform him of an upcoming event. He interrogates us like nobody’s business when he hears of plans to attend a birthday party, a basketball game or take a trip to the grocery store. He asks and asks until he knows every single detail that might unfold. Then he plays out the different scenarios in his head of what could happen, and would he somehow become stranded at said place, without a ride home?

He has a habit of nonchalantly insulting his sister, then denying it the minute his sister comes running to us in tears. “Why did you say that to her? Are you stretching the truth or telling us a bold-faced lie?” we ask. We’ve become reliant upon his sister’s word over his own because we feel we just can’t trust him. I’ve learned a lot about his predisposition to lying from this article.

As you can imagine, it’s heartbreaking to experience. We love him to the moon and back, and try so hard to be good parents. We often feel judged when other adults catch him in a lie because it’s not so easy to explain his behavior. It’s hard to say, “I’m sorry, but he has ADHD and that causes him to lie a lot.” People who aren’t familiar with ADHD aren’t as sympathic to these situations, and it can hurt when they don’t understand.

Case in point. My co-worker came up to me last week and announced that her son said my son had told him a story on the bus about being chased on a snowmobile by a ferocious bear. The second she said it, I knew it was another one of his lies. But I knew why he had done it. He often lies to his friends to feel accepted. If he feels that his stories impress others, he gets a high and doesn’t want to back pedal.

I told her I’d heard there had been some excitement during his scout outing, but I didn’t know the full details. I tried to protect his lie as much as possible until I could get home and discuss the story with him, and my husband. Turns out, it was a lie. Then I had to call up my fairly new friend to explain how he is. That’s always fun. It’s okay though. When you’re a parent, your kids find a million ways to embarrass you. This was just a drop in the bucket. Luckily, she is a true friend and laughed it off. And she still allowed her son to come over for pizza night.

I decided years ago through unhealthy amounts of tears that no matter what, I’ll always strive to give him my unconditional love, because love is what he needs most. Most forms of discipline don’t have much of an effect on him. But when we take away the love and make him sit in solitude, that’s the worst punishment of all. And for someone who already feels like he has the world against him, with a brain that thrives on negativity for stimulation, love is what matters most.

Back on the (Bike) Saddle Again

Back on the (Bike) Saddle Again

Over the years I’ve learned how to manage my depression without medication. It takes commitment and focus. It takes consistent exercise, healthy eating, regular sleep and avoiding caffeine at all costs!

Caffeine has been my weakness for as long as I can remember, because as a sleep-deprived mom of needy kids, it’s been the first thing I reach for “to get me through the day.” I never used to be dependent on it, but when I used it as a crutch during college years ago I became hooked. Ever since then it’s been an addiction I’ve been battling and somehow, it always wins.

I’ll go for months without it and then I find myself at rock bottom emotionally and start back up again.  I’ll be driving somewhere and suddenly my brain takes the wheel and the next thing I know I’m pulling into a gas station to fill up a 64-ounce plastic cup of Mountain Dew. It’s happened so many times, more than I can remember.

I visualize all the things on the label that are bad for me as I suck in that first cool shot of bubbly soda–yellow number five, brominated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup and think–I’m slowly killing myself. These additives are going to create cancer in my body and I’m going to wonder why I was such a weakling and gave in to a stupid soda craving. I always feel guilty afterward, because I know I’ve let myself down.

I know that within days I’ll turn into a foggy-brained, irritable and mean mom whose sole thought is when I can get my next fix.Why do I do this to myself, I think? But in times of stress, which have been more often than not, all of that does not matter in the moments leading up to the purchase. I have a FEAR of relapsing every time I quit…which was two weeks ago.

But in the 14 days I’ve been “clean” I’ve noticed a change in my mood, and a change in my waistline. I got on my bike yesterday for the first time since last summer and pushed myself to go farther than I had intended to. The cool morning air, sunny skies and Pandora’s Chillwave station helped me go eight miles.

I need to have alone time to find clarity and I need to be good to my body. This is the only way I can surface the dark pool of depression. I’ve been the happiest today than I’ve been in a while. When I go to a social function and I actually have a good time without trying to or wanting to escape, that’s when I know I feel normal. That’s when I have the most confidence in myself.

I pray I can stay committed to my health and treat my body like a temple from here on out.

The Ominous IEP Meeting

The Ominous IEP Meeting

Since my son was diagnosed with ADHD years ago, I’ve attended a handful of IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings. They usually involve the school principal, the special education teacher, the general education teacher, sometimes the school psychologist and always me. You walk into a room full of people you may or may not know that well to discuss why your child needs special help at school and what classroom accommodations should follow.

In the past, my son’s general education teachers have always been the ones who’ve made me cry. They see my son in a different light and they don’t understand him the way I do.

While we start the meeting discussing his strengths, the bulk of the hour consists of addressing a rap sheet of offenses committed by my son which ultimately inconvenienced the teacher. Your son does X, Y and Z so he needs this, this and this. It can feel like a parenting lecture, even thought it isn’t meant to be that way.

Admittedly, I can be a sensitive person and I’ve learned over the years this is not a weakness. God made us all unique according to his plan. So you can call yourself an introvert or an extrovert to help make it easier for others to understand you, but is it really necessary?

The days leading up to an IEP meeting tend to conjure the ominous dark cloud above me. There’s a tangible FEAR of the conversation to be had and the FEAR of a misunderstanding.

Today I put on a brave face and consorted with the team of educators at my son’s new school. I only teared up once, when the subject of past meetings were on the table. But they offered helpful suggestions and had me laughing afterwards. I loved that the principal lightened the mood when he asked in a serious voice, “I sometimes wonder what psychological testing would say about me if I had it done?”

In a nutshell, they get us. They get my son. I am starting to change my mindset about the whole IEP thing.

How I Let My Kids Ruin V-Day

How I Let My Kids Ruin V-Day

Anyone feeling more crabby than cupid?

You know you’ve developed another phobia when you start a post by denouncing the holiday of love to the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love outings with my husband and after 15 years, still find him extremely attractive and all that.

But I’ve realized the older my kids get, the hype surrounding ALL THE HOLIDAYS has got me feeling blue. I’m pining for the days when my kids were younger and didn’t have such lofty expectations.

They were easier to impress back then. My youngest is easy to please, thankfully, but the older two have a bad case of overexposed commercialism. And it doesn’t help that their friends are feeding into the suspense of what they think they might get for V-Day.

I knew from the moment I walked into the grocery store New Year’s Day and saw that first pink and red display bursting with candies and trinkets that I wasn’t prepared. I had this premonition that my kids were going to lust after something elaborate, and that I wasn’t going to provide them with it. Like a giant $40 stuffed animal. Why do they even make those dang things!?

The FEAR of failure made me sick inside.

Since then I’ve tried my best to steer my children from every promotional holiday display in hopes of warding off any unnecessary tantrums and whining episodes, but alas, the time came when I had to visit the store for some basic groceries. It was at the point where we were out of meal ideas and there was no avoiding it. Since it was after school, they just so happened to be with me.

I don’t need to tell you all heck broke loose, because if you’re a mom, you just know.

I tried my best to make a beeline to the back of the store for milk and eggs. But that required a jaunt through Valentine’s central. I made the rookie mistake of digging through my purse to find my grocery list before we were in the clear.

A literal second of hesitation was all it took.

Since the shopping cart I’d chosen in a rush had a broken belt strap, my youngest escaped the cart by catapulting herself onto the couches displayed near the ginormous stuffed bears. She immediately latched onto the first animal she could grab a hold of like a tree-hugging koala bear. I tried to pry her away from the cursed thing, to no avail. She then pulled the dead chicken move and slumped to the floor. My other two were goners, calling out to me from across the aisle, eyes wide and full of excitement. They were already toting armloads of goods.

That’s when my three-year-old took off running down the aisle.

After chasing her for about a minute and weaving my way through the stampede of shoppers destined to block my path, I finally grabbed her by the hood of her coat. She may have gotten slight whiplash. It’s all good. It took all my strength to keep her locked in my grip because aforementioned dead chicken was in full mode as well as the new and improved slithering snake slide.

I made it to the cart, reigned my three kids in and regrouped. We were on a mission to get what was on the list and that was that. No need to comment on how much whining and crying I had to endure as I tried to get every item on my list into the cart. The miracle was that I made it out alive.

Since that day, I’ve walked the store aisles trying to psyche myself up to buy those coveted gifts for my kids. But when I scanned the shelves, all I could see was candy full of dyes, preservatives and sugar. In my mind, the cheap toys all had a life expectancy of a week before they’d get broken or lost, and the stuffed animals really needed a well-deserving orphan.

In the end, I did what any other broke and burned out mom would do. I used a gift card I’d been saving for myself to buy them the little things they’d been needing or already asking me for.  I thought I’d go the extra mile and write them each a card containing all of the qualities I loved about them. Then I threw the goods in festive gift bags. Done! I mean, they’d already been spoiled by grandma and they still had their class parties to attend.

The big day came.

My oldest daughter seemed a bit melancholy after discovering the tween bra set and sweat pants in lieu of the giant stuffed bear she’d lusted after for two weeks. I tried not to let it bother me, but deep down I was bummed. And then I was angry. Not long after studying my children’s faces and analyzing their reactions to their gifts, I had a revelation.

It was that, actually, I’m totally okay with letting my kids experience disappointment.

The Thirty-Something Math Moron

The Thirty-Something Math Moron

I never realized how daunting a classroom full of kids could be. Until I had to be the one with all the answers.

When we made the tough decision to transfer my son to a charter school, that meant he was no longer in a strictly sixth-grade classroom. The project-based model meant he’d be working with peers in a classroom of fourth through seventh graders. Which meant many levels of math I did not know how to help with, since I’m old school.

His teacher asked me one day if I’d be willing to volunteer in the classroom. I said yes, without hesitation. Then he asked me how good I was at math. Not wanting to sound like a complete idiot, because he knew I had a college degree, I agreed to coming in once a week to assist during the math hour. I’m not gonna lie. That day, a seed of panic was planted, and soon sprouted leaves. But I was determined to not let my FEAR of math stop me from helping out.

Fast forward to today. I showed up to help with with Common Core math and ended up feeling like…wait for it.. a dummy! It’s been a while since I’ve had to use fractions and I’ve always hated math story problems. I am definitely annoyed with the extra hoops Common Core has kids jumping through. Especially for kids like mine who have a hard enough time getting the basics down. But in my defense, his previous school did not encourage parent help with math homework, which pretty much left me out of the loop. Ever since this Common Core business started years ago, I’ve viewed its presence in a negative light.

So I get there and I slowly walk around the room looking for kids to help. I see two kids sitting there with blank stares and see this as my opportunity to jump in. They point to the problem in question and I get a sick feeling in my stomach.

So this is how my son feels every day during math!

Well…what do you do when you don’t understand the math problem either and you’re supposed to be the helpful adult? You sit down and have them explain what they think they are supposed to do while flipping to the back of the book for the answer. Aha! I found it! But now I have to explain how I got there, which is not so easy.

Luckily, there was math whiz mom there I could call upon for help. But that left me feeling dejected. What was I there for if not to help? I found a bit of solace in the fact that another mom volunteer asked me, not five minutes later, if I knew how to do seventh grade math. Not because I knew how, which obviously I didn’t, but because I was no longer the only mom stupified by Common Core math.

But, why?

But, why?

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog about all of life’s moments that cause FEAR. But I haven’t until now. Any guesses why? There were many reasons why I dragged my feet, but the ugliest one was FEAR itself. I worried about what people might think or say if I revealed my inner thoughts about momlife. I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Because, being a parent isn’t always fun and games.

Because sometimes, I really miss being my selfish, single self.

The Truth

Most days I wake up dreading the day’s agenda because Number One: I hate mornings, and Number Two: I’m not the stereotypical, happy-go-lucky Mormon mom who is always smiling and gushing about her children and her life and how much she loves the gospel.

Let me make this very clear. Yes, I love my children. Yes, I love the gospel. But if you haven’t guessed already, I do not exhibit the bubbly, flowery personality that many women I admire do.

I’m a daughter of God fighting internal battles and mental health issues daily. I’m not perfect and I’m totally okay with that, because I’d rather be a truth teller than an imitator who’s always trying to be someone she’s not.

I have three beautiful children ranging in age from 11 to 3. They are God’s gift to me and they are the reason I continue to grow each and every day. Let me tell you about my oldest, because he has been the inspiration for this blog. He has struggled in school since DAY ONE.

The Struggle

The subject of school has been a major source of stress in our home (and our marriage) over the years. Since my husband has a job with an unpredictable schedule, I’ve always been the one to coerce my son into doing his homework each night, as he fought it every step of the way. I’ve been the one lectured by his teachers about his failing grades, forgotten homework, and daydreaming.  I’ve been the one spending countless hours talking to his teachers about how best to help him learn. I’ve been guilty of feeling disappointed in my son for not trying hard enough, for not caring, and for constantly being the source of stress in my life.

But most of all, I’ve been disappointed in myself for feeling like a failure. You could say I felt stuck and unsure of what to do next, because heaven help the public school system, they’re not equipped to handle kids with unique learning styles. All they wanted to do was discuss his below average test results.

The Choice

I’d been so busy pursuing my college degree, I had really put everything else on the backburner. Following graduation, I decided to face my FEAR of the unknown and started to heavily research his symptoms. I was determined to become his advocate, because if I didn’t, who would? He was in third grade now, and it had gotten to the point where something had to change–and fast. His test scores said so. His teachers said so.

After some heavy Googling, I became the annoying mom who kept pestering his teacher to have an evaluation done. What I’ve learned is all teachers are busy and most often they don’t take the initiative to suggest testing themselves (unless the kid is a major distraction to the rest of the class, which my son was not.) After she agreed to start testing, I was hopeful we would finally get some answers.

The Label

I must admit, I resisted Googling his symptoms at first because of the FEAR I had of labels. I didn’t want him to be labeled as the kid who…because he is just as unique as any other kid with a diagnosis of some kind. You hear all the time that a label does not define you. But sometimes, especially with kids, it can feel like it does. I also had a FEAR that he would develop a complex that something was wrong with him, as soon as the testing started. I kept rephrasing my explanations for the reasons why he needed testing. As much as our society teaches us to celebrate our differences, I didn’t want him to feel different from other kids in his class.

The Results

The test results were sent to his doctor, and after our emotional office visit, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Inattentive Type (though it’s important to note there is not “a test” for ADHD). I say emotional because I was on the verge of tears. I hated that my sweet son was sitting there, probably feeling bad about himself, like the world was against him. I actually wrote all of the reasons why I suspected he had ADHD on a piece of paper so I didn’t have to say them out loud and make him feel bad. But his doctor went in to them anyway. I’ve got to admit, I started getting ticked at the doctor after he suggested medication and I asked him if we could try something else, to which he responded “Get him a new brain?”

Yes he said that in front of him. I about died. The only reason I’ve stayed with this doctor over the past few years is because following that statement he explained his son also has ADHD and he knows what life is like with a child who has it. That his brain is physically different and that he will always have ADHD because it is something you can never outgrow.

But you can learn to manage the symptoms.

The Latest

Most recently, the diagnosis has expanded to include Executive Function Disorder after further testing following an unpleasant experience with his sixth grade teacher, in which I pulled him from the public school he was at. I won’t go into details about that, other than to say her military tactics backfired on her.

Getting this additional diagnosis has given me some relief, not only because it has confirmed his prior diagnosis, but also because I’ve been given further information on how to manage the symptoms. Imagine how hard it is for a child to have this and be expected to keep up with the the rest of the class.

Why is it hard?  Well, the main reason having EFD is such a struggle for a kid or even an adult, is no matter how hard you try to complete homework assignments and daily tasks, your brain is constantly tripping you up. You just can’t seem to catch a break and you are constantly being told so, which contributes to lower self esteem and confidence.

You get anxiety and you come up with illnesses and reasons why you can’t make it school. It is a constant battle you feel you can never win. Memorizing things like times tables, and scriptures and spelling words can be daunting because while you instinctively “know them,” your brain struggles to file, store and retrieve the answers you need, especially during a test or assignment. This makes learning new math concepts almost impossible without a cheat sheet of some kind, but even then the struggle is real.

This is my why

To say I’ve felt like a failure as a parent is an understatement. I tried so hard to “mold” him into someone he’s not (along with his teachers), and you bet I feel guilty for that.

But now I’ve realized it’s not my fault that he struggles. I’ve prayed and prayed for this realization. Also, I may have had a counseling session or two. This is a trial God has given him for the rest of his life, just like having depression is a trial I will never escape, until the second coming of Christ. This is the way his brain is wired and I pray that I can be the anchor he needs when the storms of change and doubt overpower him.

Even though I feel entirely unqualified to be his mom, I am determined not to let FEAR stop me from doing my part in helping him. Because aside from his struggles, he is a great kid. He is empathetic and loving towards others. He is a hands-on whiz and can take anything apart and put it back together. He is very loyal to his family and can always tell when someone needs a hug. That someone is usually me.

I’m tired of living in FEAR of will happen or what someone will say. I just want to live without FEAR and be a good example to my children. I want to forget my FEAR and focus on the Lord. Because I know if I put my faith in him, he will guide me and if necessary, carry me until I can start again on my own.