Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mariah's Life Lessons - Rules to Live By

In our house we like to say that ADD/ADHD is a gift with a heavy price tag.  You have learn to manage that uniquely wired brain to unlock the gifts that come with it.  One of Mariah's ADD/ADHD gifts is definitely a quick whit, a wonderful sense of humor which she has developed and used to help her manage the frustrations of life.  It has benefited us all, bringing much needed comedic relief.  Of these "life lessons" that she has been writing and posting,  #24 is one of my favorites.  Ironically, it was posted today while I was writing on a blog post about self-awareness, self-monitoring, and self- advocacy. It was just the humor break I needed.  Enjoy!
Life Lesson #1: just because it looks absorbent doesn't mean it is
Life Lesson #2 just because you CAN fit a person in the giant driers at the laundromat, doesn't mean you SHOULD.
Life Lesson #3 morning classes should be avoided at all costs. Even if you're a morning person, most people aren't... that includes professors.
Life Lesson #4 the rule " first come, first serve" applies to almost everything... this includes hot water. Check before you bathe... *shivers*
Life Lesson #5 when it comes to the holidays its important to remember not to hate it for the exploitation and commercialism of the Christmas season, but rather, to hate the people behind it.
Life Lesson #6 there is a song about everything... even when there probably shouldn't be.
Life Lesson #7 cough syrup with codeine works really well, no coughing all night. Downsides? WEIRDEST DREAMS EVER.
Life Lesson #7 if you're going to chop onions it is a good idea to wait to put on your makeup until afterwards. *sobs*
Life Lesson # 8 people who can't cook frequent the land of casseroles, that usually, regardless of the recipe, style, or type, include massive amounts of canned corn.
Life Lesson #9 sometimes it gets to the point where crying won't help you any. All things in life happen for a reason. And crying can help you work through these things, it can help you process you're emotions or express the things you can't find the words for...the important part is remembering to dry your eyes... stand up... and keep going... because in the end crying won't fix anything... it will just give you a headache.
Life Lesson #10 any "good idea" you have at three o'clock in the morning is NOT a good idea.
Life Lesson #11 it is never a good idea to light incense when you have bronchitis.
Life Lesson #12 watching crime shows obsessively can definitely make you (more) paranoid.
Life Lesson #13 if you push yourself too hard when you're still sick, you'll get worse.
Life Lesson #14 sometimes specifics really don't matter. For instance whether you ran out of propane, or one of your siblings used all the hot water, you're still sitting in the shower, drenched, freezing cold and very, very unhappy.
Life Lesson #15 a chocolate allergy is God's way of saying "I hate you."
Life Lesson #16 keep calm and carry on.
Life Lesson #17 obsessions, however invigorating and satisfying, are extremely unhealthy. Once you realize this obsession you are responsible for correcting it and once again finding balance and harmony in life. Therefore remaining in a state of euphoric, unbridled bliss is the best way to go. I find denial works brilliantly in these cases.
Life Lesson #18 if it doesn't look edible.... DON'T EAT IT.
Life Lesson #19 you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Life Lesson #20 Just because you CAN doesn't mean you should AND you can publish a book about anything.
Life Lesson #21 there are different ways to judge the safety of your current location, one way I've found very effective: count all the white kids with dreadlocks...if there are more than five....it's time to invest in some pepper spray.
Life Lesson #22 during the first two weeks of every semester it is imperative that you show up early. These weeks are crucial to establishing alpha status and/ or dominance a.k.a. pecking order ( and of course this means seating arrangements) chances are if you show up early, you'll will get a good seat and if you are persistent enough you may just be able to keep that seat all semester long.
Life Lesson #23 when you're very, very sick and its four o'clock in the morning and you'd rather DIE than swallow, you seek comfort in things like a cup of hot tea. REMEMBER this is a GREAT time to use the microwave. But BECAUSE it's four o'clock in the morning you don't. You use the stove and you CATCH YOUR BLANKET ON FIRE.
Life Lesson #24 it is considered socially unacceptable to throw a bowl at someone's head in public.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sorry, I'm Un-Medicated

We walked into the face to face teacher meeting and Hunter immediately announced that he was un-medicated.  I am not sure if it was an explanation or a warning to our home school supervising teacher.  He did, however, prove that it was probably both.  As he spouted random facts, stopped randomly and rubbed his head really hard, stood,  squatted on top the chair, vibrated,  marched his fingers in patterns back and forth across the table.

On the plus side, I thought to myself, maybe his teacher will have a better idea of what I mean when I say he can't focus in the afternoons and I have to work on what he can work on, not necessarily what I want him to work on.  It is not cut and dry, not as simple as giving directions and watching them being carried out.  She has had no experience with ADD/ADHD before our family.  That has been hard for me to comprehend, maybe because I am neck deep in it.  I see it everywhere. 

Un-medicated is not an acceptable excuse in our house though it does carry with it a measure of understanding and a little extra tolerance.  It is usually met by the following learning experience, "You are not always going to have medicine, there are times when you may not have access to it or it may have worn off and you still need to function. You have to learn coping mechanisms to help you keep control even when your medicine is not working."  

Believe it or not, this day I thought he was pretty much under control for him. Pretty pleased with what un-medicated was looking like.  There was a time when without medication he couldn't remember his alphabet or read.  He was staying in the same general spot and was redirecting himself, he was telling his teacher when he lost focus and getting it back.  The movement, the fingers across the table, all were just side line distractions to keep his brain on what they were talking about. Occupy part of the brain so that the rest of it can think.  Not perfect but really pretty good.  I am not under any impression that coping mechanisms are skills that are learned over night.  I am grateful for steady progress and I see the progress.

It was a couple days later that I noticed a theme,  I was hearing this statement a lot, "Sorry, I'm un-medicated."  First it was Hunter then Jaren.  Bustling through the Christmas rush, hyped on excitement, and well past the 8 hours of effective Concerta dose; Jaren was bumping into shoppers in Target.  He was being a goof, acting silly and speaking in accents.  He blurted his sincere apology, "Sorry, I'm un-medicated."

His older sister, who was shopping with him at the time, reported back the look of shock on the shoppers face.  No one was mad at him, some chuckled and moved on. It was, however, not lost on them that this was not the usual apology from a 10 year old - I'm un-medicated.  I have to wonder what they thought as they walked off.

Our two youngest have grown up knowing they were ADD/ADHD.  They both started medication when they were very young; one in kindergarten, one in 1st grade.  We have gone out of our way to help them understand how their brain functions and what we know about why.  We have gone out of our way to listen as they explain to us what their experience is and what it feels like for them.  I want them to be comfortable with who they are, their strengths, their struggles.  I have no regrets in the choice to raise them that way with that understanding.  They do not struggle nearly as much as our oldest, who were not diagnosed and medicated until they were older.

I am not sure I took into account moments like those above, the "I'm un-medicated" moments, when I set out on the path to teach my kids to be aware of their differences.  I had to stop and think about it.  Obviously, they were very comfortable and accepting of the differences in how their brains work.  They have no problem talking to people about their ADD/ADHD and the other issues that accompany it.  They are advocates for themselves and others.  I have watched, pretty amazed at times, at how well they defended and explained the disorder to peers and adults who made off hand remarks about it.

The question became, was I comfortable with this warning/explanation - "I'm un-medicated?" I wondered, do people see it as self awareness or do they see it as an excuse?  That is probably what would bother me the most.  I don't want them to use it as an excuse and I don't want it to be seen as an excuse.  If it is used I want it to be understood for what it is.  I'm pretty sure that is impossible to guarantee.  But, none the less, that would be what I would want.

"Sorry, I'm un-medicated," should be a warning and an explanation.  It says, I am not at my best, but I will try my best to keep my mind on track.  It says, I may look like I'm distracted and not paying attention; sometimes I have to keep one part of me busy so that my mind can think.  It says, be patient with me; it's really hard to not be extremely random.  I may toss out information that seems totally unrelated, trust me, it's related in my mind.  Somewhere in here is everything you are talking about too.  It says, I may not be as observant as when I am medicated, I don't mean to bump into people or not be respectful of their space.

"Sorry, I'm un-medicated," works for me even if others don't understand all the meaning behind it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taking a New Year's Leap

I wish that they sold courage.  It is one thing that I find myself running short on quite frequently.  My kids and husband with ADD/ADHD don’t seem to have that problem.  I think that their impulsiveness works faster than they register fear.  By the time their fear registers they’re already half way through the action and it’s too late for it to dominate the day.

I’ve really enjoyed writing the blog, sharing these experiences, our experiences with the world.  I have seen how it has helped my family; I have seen how it has helped others who are dealing with similar issues.  I’m not ADD/ADHD and what was a little bit of fear when I started the blog turned into a tornado when one day I started thinking about where I was headed with the blog and our plans for a book and documentary on ADD/ADHD and its multitude of co-occurring conditions.

I was paralyzed at the fork in the road.  Do I continue with things as they are?  Do I step it up and take things to the next level; write the book, make the documentary, go from a simple blogspot page to a website?  Believe me when I say that I’ve really given it a lot of thought, too much thought.  I think I’ve looked at it from every angle, picked it up, turned it over and over, and examined every possible outcome.  I lined up an impressive number of “what ifs.”  

“What ifs” feed on fear, my fear was never hungry. My fear was an over-eater.  In fact, I went from do I keep things the same or do I press forward with the book and documentary to a third option.  I could just walk away.

I kept thinking, and to be totally candid, I kept praying and searching.  

As seems to be the case the answer came not in the wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire.  It came in simple everyday experiences and by a much quieter guide that is hard to hear or see over the loud voice of fear.  (1 kings 19:11-12)

I wish I could share every story that made up my decision but I can’t – in part, they are not mine to share.  The fact is, they are different circumstances but the experiences are the same.  We are parents who feel overwhelmed, lost, and alone in our day to day struggle to help a child who is different.  We are broken hearted as we watch our children compare themselves to kids who get it faster, focus easier, perform better in the scholastic world. We feel their pain as they compare themselves and in their eyes come up short over and over again.   We fight that sense of failure, frustration, and pain trying desperately to help that child see what we have no problem seeing.  We want the world to see this child the one that we know and love.  But the world gets the over stimulated, frustrated, volatile child with insufficient social skills.

We don’t want to be chased down in the parking lot by the irate 1st grade teacher daily.  We don’t want to be called by the principle over and over again.   We don’t want to be looked at with disdain, implying we are negligent parents.  Especially, because in reality we are doing all that we know how to do while searching desperately for the something more that might tip the scales in our favor for once.  

The answer was I didn’t like feeling alone.  I don’t want others to feel alone either. I feel it strongly enough to put my fear on a starvation diet.  I feel it strongly enough to try and learn from my courageous impulsive family. 

It is time to leap before I look.