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.

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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.