ADHD / ADHD and Kids / Coping Strategies

ADHD & Parenting: Wait, I’m a PARENT?!

You should have seen me, digging through my purse like I was looking for mamma’s oxys this morning. Couldn’t find my stimulant meds anywhere. Cursed some gods.

I am the lunch packer for the kids (except on weeks where I’m organized enough to have them do it themselves), and I generally do this in the morning. Yes, I know that doing it the night before would be a great way to make mornings less stressful. It’s also a great tool for hauling myself out of bed really early in the morning. And…last night in particular, I had one of my vertigo migraines. When that happens, the only thing to do is go to bed and pray that I can walk upright in the morning.

I didn’t have time for missing medications, I had lunches to make. Without the meds, however, making the lunches is a much more frustrating process. I angrily massacred some oranges, slapped some cream cheese on some bagels, barely mumbled “outta the kitchen” to the kids as they came to hover over my shoulder to see what I was packing.

I wasn’t much better off last night. Honeybee (our fifth-grader) generally comes home from a horseback riding lesson on Monday nights, very hungry. We all know how that goes. But I’ll tell you anyway…she made an announcement that this had been the first time in two years that any of her parents had sat through a whole lesson (she likes it when we come to watch but it isn’t always possible because the lessons are on a school night and we have other things that need to happen like feeding her brothers and helping them with their homework). This isn’t at all true. If I wasn’t exhausted and my meds hadn’t worn off, and I wasn’t feeling particularly raw about my inability to be a perfect parent this week, I wouldn’t care and I would have said “well that’s great that Daddy could make it for the whole lesson” and put food down in front of her and moved on, because I’m pretty good at not being baited by mere children. Usually what happens (at least at our house) is that the parent picking her up catches the last half of the lesson. However, twice in the past year I have been able to stay for a whole lesson and my husband has also been able to do a whole lesson a couple of times. The rest of the conversation went something like this, and should be cited as an example in a book on how NOT to deal with your ADHD child when they are hungry/their meds are wearing off/they’re looking for a fight.

“Honeybee, that’s just not true.”

“YES IT IS”

“NO, IT’S NOT”

“YES, IT. IS.”

“Honeybee, we have lived in this house for just over a year. Twice, since we have lived in this house, I’ve gone to your whole lesson and daddy has done it too.”

“NO YOU HAVEN’T.”

At this point, I’m 30 paces past my limit. I say:

“YOU WIN”, and go hide in the bathroom.

She says:

“GOOD, I WIN”

I probably shouldn’t even be reinfusing my body with cortisol, reliving this…but anyway, at this point I realized that if I didn’t remove myself from earshot, that the dark side of the force was about to put on my parenting shoes and unleash a can of whoopass. I silently slipped out the back door, and met up with Sonny in the garage. That’s his little hidey spot for about 10 minutes after he gets home. He goes out there to decompress. He teaches all day, and then comes home and it’s really his only break during the day. Normally, I leave him alone when he’s out there, for that 10 minutes. In this situation, naturally, I had to ruin it for him by sharing this obnoxious episode.

I knew that if I left her alone to eat for about 10 minutes that the situation would probably remedy itself. So I did.

This is the definition of parenting children with ADHD. When you also have ADHD yourself. You don’t get the luxury of temper tantrums. It’s the definition of adulthood that you are supposed to “be the adult”. Even when YOU are hungry. Even when YOUR MEDS have worn off for the day. Even when you, too, are perhaps hungry, and tired. Even when your poor husband is trying to hide in the garage for 10 minutes, to affirm his own grip on sanity (sorry dude…I’ll try bitching to the dogs next time).

I have found every way possible to politely tell the kids when I need a few minutes, when I need space, when I’m just not feeling quite right and that it has nothing to do with them, when I’m feeling really grumpy and need to figure out where to direct it appropriately, and I’m good at it, but sometimes, all that energy spent on coping, just exhausts me.

When I’m exhausted, it’s not unusual for me to have one of my excellent vertigo migraines…this loops us back around to the beginning. The vertigo meant that I couldn’t drive to pick up one of my prescriptions (that I had to have), which meant I had to send my husband, who was already tired from driving kids around, and working all day…we went to bed.

And I started my morning unable to find my meds.

Where were they? In the same purse I’d looked in 8 times. Right there. The whole time. And who do the kids ask when they need someone to find something? Me. Why can I find their stuff, but can’t find my own? Apparently, the lesson learned is: Next time, ask the kids to look for the meds while I pack the lunches. They’ll be diggin’ through mammas purse for the pills like champs in no time. That’ll be genius parenting, right there.

I think the best piece of advice my mother ever gave me about parenting, was that it is perfectly acceptable for mommy to sit on one side of the baby gate and cry, while baby sits on the other side. (Alas, no, I was never asked to dig up oxys for her.) Perhaps this is what I need to meditate upon, to pull myself out of this awkward feeling of imperfection. This rejection of forgiveness of myself. This terror that I am not what they need. That I am not up to the task. That tiny feeling that I am just a person, and that I’m not enough as I am.

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4 thoughts on “ADHD & Parenting: Wait, I’m a PARENT?!

  1. I’m enjoying your blog a lot. My wife has been diagnosed with ADHD for a while and I just realized kind of all of a sudden that I very obviously have the same thing. Up till this point my last decade has been extra successful because I’ve been able to do a different thing every semester through undergrad, grad school, and now a sales job where I sale different things that I think are all really fun and challenging so I get to learn a little bit about a thousand things all the time and never have to do one thing for too long. But after 18 months on the job I’m suddenly getting bored and I literally haven’t felt this concerned about myself in a decade — I realize that if I want to appear to be a normal adult I can’t just leave my job when I get bored, especially when I’ve loved it so much up til, like, last Friday, when it suddenly became completely unbearably dull. Ironically it was the same day that a $40,000 bonus hit my bank account because of how well I did last year.

    So I’m 27 and realizing that I have like 6 days to get my shit sorted out before my managers stop giving me so much space and start asking questions like WTF are you doing all day? Umm reading 18 channels?

    Anyway, saw a guy yesterday who said I’m very likely ADHD and set me up for a medication consultation next week. I’m very nervous about medicine because I’ve never ever been on any medication ever. I worry that when I start taking it I’ll set myself up to be less functional when I’m off of it. But that also ignores the reality that in the new Real World where I have to actually do some boring things I’m actually not a superstar like all my managers and professors have always thought I am. I’ve just been very good at appearing to have a fluid progression from thing to thing, and a very quick one. And also I’m very good at math and reading and I like tests, so nobody has ever thought anything other than that I’m some sort of quick learning, high IQ, not-socially-awkward smart kid.

    I think if I don’t get settled it’s going to be bad. It’s like all my tires just went flat.

    Were you nervous when you started taking meds?

    • Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading.

      Yes, I was a little nervous about trying medication – because I’m the kind of person that, until then, didn’t even like taking ibuprofen or aspirin, I preferred to avoid medications whenever possible. However, after doing some more reading, and educating myself more about what to expect, I realized that it might open up new possibilities for me.

      The first med I tried was Strattera – and that one didn’t work out well for me. Because I have prominent anxiety also, I was trying medications for that, too…so between the two things, I tried several medications over a couple of years and finally figured out some that work for me. Don’t be discouraged if the first one you try isn’t a good fit. It can be helpful to try a few to see what does and doesn’t work for you. These days I take methylin which is a form of ritalin (methylphenidate) and I take nortriptyline, which helps with my anxiety issues (my anxiety is NOT cause by my stimulant medication, it’s was there looooong before that) and recently I take a small dose of buspar, also for anxiety (to boost the effects of the nortriptyline, while we figure out why my anxiety is driving me nuts right now, lol).

      Yes, there can be side effects. The majority of people who try the most commonly used meds for treating ADHD don’t generally have awful side effects (doesn’t mean you won’t be the exception to the rule…just remember that many meds, like ritalin, have been tested for YEARS. IN the case of ritalin, since the 1920s, and it’s proven to be safer than aspirin…safety depends on the med and the person taking it, but that information made me, personally, feel much more confortable about trying med options). Like any medication though, you should listen to what your body tells you, see how it’s working for you, and work with your doc to see what might be a best choice for you. I totally respect that some people treat their ADHD in other ways (exercise, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, dietary changes) and that’s GREAT. I just happen to like what meds and therapy were able to do for me.

      That said, it’s also important to understand what medication can and can’t do. This is where therapy and behavior modification becomes handy. Ritalin sets the stage for me to be able to be more focused in how I get through my day, slows my thinking down a tiny bit (which I like) and makes me less easily provoked and irritated by my environment, so I’m less distracted and less emotionally tweaked. However, it can’t make me like doing things I just plain hate doing. Ex: There is no amount of Ritalin in the world that is going to make me want to work with unpleasant people, like I was at my previous job. I knew I had to leave. I did. Now, I’m self-employed, I take my meds, I’m very productive. I sometimes have things I procrastinate on, but I give myself permission to go do something fun for a while and come back to it. There is no amount of Ritalin that can make me, personally enjoy a pure sales job. I hated sales. I had to leave because I knew it was a terrible fit for me. I love event development, event production, events marketing, and community placemaking, so I found a way to make that my job. I also have a small sewing business that I’m restarting after a long hiatus, because I know me, and I know I need different types of challenges to stay happy. Part of the fun has become creating my own safety net (like having a backup stitcher available for when I’m overwhelmed – or scheduling backup co-producers for events, who can fill in for me sometimes on event days). I think the biggest thing meds ever did for me though, was just showing me the difference between what my brain naturally does, and what “normal” brains tend to do more easily. Even if I’d only taken meds once, I now know that difference, and knowing that difference helped me to be better able to self-assess my own behavior, my own life, and my relationships with people around me. It hasn’t changed who I am, it just gave me another perspective, and another tool for deciding how to manage myself. I remember taking my first dose of Vyvanse and thinking “OMG, this is what focus means” and feeling mentally peaceful for the first time, ever, in my life. I also learned that there are higher doses that can make me “produce” like a robot, but for me, a smaller dose that takes the edge off of things is all I need right now. Every person has to decide that kind of thing for themselves.

      I think you’re onto something, when you say that having changing tasks and challenges at work is good for you. That’s something that you can work on even without meds (though with meds, it might be easier to adhere to whatever plan you come up with). Maybe you can invent some new challenges for yourself at work. Maybe you can let your boss know that you’d love to tackle something new. As long as you take the time to make sure you are following through on details, why not try to create new challenges?

      Good luck to you – it sounds like you are already having some great insights into how you roll. Thanks again for reading (now get back to work! haha)

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