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 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.

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