Sunday, October 28, 2007

Living With ADHD

My son has ADHD.

There's a certain isolation in having a child who's been diagnosed with ADHD. There are those who blame the parent for not being "firm enough", and there are those who understand completely what you're going through (they are usually the ones with kids who have ADHD, or who have a relative with a child with ADHD). The relief of knowing that it is an actual, physical disorder is indescribable. Yes! I have something tangible I can fight!

But not everyone sees it that way, and that can be both frustrating and painful.

ADHD is a disorder that involves how the brain processes chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters:

"Dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behavior and cognition, motor activity, motivation and reward, regulation of milk production, sleep, mood, attention, and learning."

"In the central nervous system, serotonin is believed to play an important role in the regulation of anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, vomiting, sexuality, and appetite. Low levels of serotonin may be associated with several disorders, namely increase in aggressive and angry behaviors, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and intense religious experiences. If neurons of the brainstem that make serotonin—serotonergic neurons—are abnormal, there is a risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."

Thank you, Wikipedia.

Now isn't that scary?

I just read the most incredible article on kids with mental disorders; it almost made me cry, because it hit exactly on the isolation a child and parent feels when they're dealing with a mental disorder (like ADHD or bipolar disorder). It talks about the hard decision a parent must make on whether or not to medicate, and all of the consequences, both good and bad, of either decision.

When people like your pharmacist tell you that "all you need to do is be firmer with him", it makes you feel terrible, like you're a lousy parent. Why can't I help my child? Why can't I make him stop hurting himself? What am I doing wrong? (By the way, that pharmacist no longer makes personal comments like that to me, not after I told him that at least now my kid wasn't a danger to himself anymore.)

But I know I made the right decision. He's happy, well-adjusted, making good grades and friends and is no longer trying to hurt himself. So it was kind of comforting to see that my child isn't alone; that other parents have struggled with this decision, and with the knowledge that there are those who judge them for making either the decision to medicate or the decision to not medicate.

Does having a child with ADHD make me a better writer, a better person, a better parent? I have no idea. I know I'm less likely to sweat the small stuff now. Dishes not done? Carpet not vacuumed? I'll deal with it when I get to it. Kid needs help with his homework, or wants to talk to me about a problem with a friend or why someone thinks he's "crazy"? I'm all over it.

These days, I count any day when my son doesn't punch himself in the face a good day.

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Favorite Quotes

"I had the right to remain silent, but I didn't have the ability." Ron White

"So let me get this straight. You want me to kill the little guys, kill the big guys, crowd control those I can't, buff the team, debuff the boss, keep myself alive, AND keep you alive, all while waving a stick and dressed in a towel?" - Anonymous Role Playing Gamer

"I think that statue over there is a statement on modern life. The statement is, "Well, shit." - Varric, Dragon Age II

"Why is it all claws and guns? Can't we piss off a fuzzy planet? Still dangerous, but hey. Bunnies." - Joker, Mass Effect

"Last night, I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky and thought to myself, "Where the heck is the ceiling?" - Dilbert

"Aim at the high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you'll hit the bull's-eye of success." - Annie Oakley

"It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly." - Flemeth, aka The Witch of the Wilds, Dragon Age 2

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.'” - George Carlin

"I hear there's a wild bridge tournament down the street. And you know Bridge. It's a lot like sex. If you don't have a great partner, you'd better have a good hand." Barry Weiss, Storage Wars

"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe." - Marcus Cole, Babylon 5, "A Late Delivery From Avalon"

"I aim to misbehave." - Capt. Malcolm Reynolds

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

“If you think you can or think you cannot, you are correct.” - Henry Ford