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As you well know if you’ve been following Uninspired, this is a blog for twenty-something women. And Mental Health Monday is a series to help twenty-something women keep their wits about them while they build their futures. It’s crazy how much pressure there is on us to appear perfect, even when we know it’s impossible.
As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, this intense pressure can lead us to some pretty dark places if we’re not careful. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and worse depending on your situation. This part, you guys probably know by heart at this point. The part that we don’t focus on– the part I want to talk about today– is how your mental health can affect your family.
The guest blogger we have today is named Lisa from Sugar Loaf Dream, and her son has severe ADHD and other complications she may explain in future posts. I understand that it’s not exactly the same to acquire a mental illness as it is to be born with one, but Lisa’s post illustrates how hard it is to see someone you love struggle, regardless of how it came about. The point we want to make is that when you’re trying to appear perfect even though you need help, think of how dedicated your parents are to your well-being. Think of your friends and loved ones and how they’d feel if you descended into mental illness. They’d much prefer to know that you’re not perfect than to know they could’ve helped you before things got to a really low point.
So now, I’m going to turn it over to Lisa to tell you the story of the great lengths she went to to advocate for her son who lives with ADHD.
My Perfect Boy
“February 7, 1993: a date I cannot nor would want to forget.
You see, this was the day my second child was born. A handsome blue eyed boy. I now had a perfect pair as he had a sister 22 months older. He looked so much like her it was uncanny. She had been a perfect baby and toddler and now she had a little brother to follow in her footsteps. I recognized that he was a boy so he would probably be a little different, but she was so good- no tantrums, hardly any crying- I couldn’t imagine him being much different.
When he was taking a little longer to sleep through the night I tossed it aside as “he’s just a boy!” Looking back, if I had a dollar for ever time I uttered those words, I could be living on an island by now! He was so fussy. Fussy feeding, fussy playing, just damn fussy.
He started to hit milestones at the same pace as his super smart sister, even though I’d read boys are usually slower than girls. But something was just…off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something. By this point he was a year old and still not sleeping through the night. His behaviour was becoming a problem. For someone so small he was extremely strong physically and mentally. He was tearing apart the house and climbing on things his older sister wouldn’t think of, and he was physically hurting her, too.
He would get this look in his eyes.
Even though I loved and adored him, it scared me. He would stiffen, and his eyes would glaze over. Something had to give, and it was so noticeable that my mum, who up until then had remained quiet, agreed there was something wrong. She’d also noticed he would rock back and forth. Being a musical family I just thought he was musical, until I realized he was doing it whether there was music or not.
So I made an appointment and took him to our family doctor. At this point he hadn’t turned 2, but he was causing absolute chaos in the family. My doctor listened, watched him tear his office apart and told me there was nothing wrong with him. I just needed to be a little stricter with him.
So I took him home, certainly not feeling any more comfortable. My mum suggested I take him to her doctor as he has 4 sons. Surely he would know if there was something wrong. So I agreed as I, by this point was at my wits end. Long story short, after being observed for 20 minutes, I was told this was NOT normal and given a referral for a new pediatrician. OK….now what?
So, after a two month wait we finally had our date with the new pediatrician. In the meantime, Id been writing copious notes on sleep patterns, behaviors, etc. The doctor read through my notes quietly, inconspicuously observed my boy, and re-read the doctor’s referral. He then very quietly approached my son and engaged him in a couple questions and testing. Based on what he knew from watching, reading, and listening, he was 90% sure my son had hyperkenetisis, or in modern terms, ADHD.
Finally, an answer!
It wasn’t one that I wanted, but at least it meant my boy wasn’t just the naughtiest in town. We were referred to one of our largest children’s hospitals for an assessment with a Child Behavior Specialist who was a leader in the field of ADHD. He confirmed the diagnosis and I agreed to trial him on some medication.
Medicating your child is a very personal decision, and I butted heads with and lost a few friends over my choice, but the positive results in all areas were outstanding. Except sleep. He was now three and a half and had never slept through the night. Do you think I was tired? Just a tad!!
So, for the most part, ADHD was a good fit, but something was still not right!
Since this was taking place in the early 90’s, I didn’t own a computer, let along know what Google was. Any and all information I gathered came from doctors and books. Once, on holiday to America, my dad kept saying to me
“why do you keep buying another book?”
Well, I kept buying books because the medication on it’s own was not enough. We had to keep increasing his doses. And I was his mum and his advocate. That was my job.
He was becoming angry and violent when he started primary school. And sad as it still is to say after all these years, he was bullied terribly. And not only by the children, because the parents of the other kids were so damn ignorant! Here in Australia at this time, kids with ADHD were shown almost to be the devil incarnate. They would only show the worst of the worst in behavior, which frightened people. Like most behavior disorders, ADHD has a spectrum that runs from the mildly dreamy child to the destructive, angry, malicious one. This is usually because with the worst of the worst, there are co-morbid conditions.
Children learn what their parents teach them, and all I can say is that there were some horrible, uneducated parents out there at the time. The bullying continued for my son right through school from the ages of 6-16. Ten years of hell. No wonder he came to me and begged to leave. And when he did, of course I said yes. It was my job to be his advocate and protector. And at the age he is now, which is twenty-four,
I still am.”