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ADHD

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Does It Even Matter?

by Heather Loeb
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We finally got an appointment with a play therapist for Eli last week, and oh my God, he was wonderful. First, he has ADHD, too. During the first part of the appointment, he talked to my husband and I about our histories and what was going on at home. Usually, he said, he gets bored with neurotypical people, but he wasn’t bored with us. Granted, I’m not exactly neurotypical because of my depression and anxiety (and other fun mental health conditions). Then he asked, “Ok, so which one of you has ADHD?” My husband quickly answered, “Neither.” But I bit my lip. I’ve suspected I’ve had it ever since there were rumblings that Eli might have it in Pre-K. Now, my brother has it, which makes at a higher risk to have it, but I also read that having depression and anxiety puts me at a higher risk, too. There are other things as well. You might start thinking that I’m not hyperactive, but ADHD is different in older women.

But here’s the thing…Does it even matter if I have ADHD? I take Adderall anyway to help with slow days when it’s hard to get out of bed. It doesn’t change anything. I already feel like I relate to Eli because both of our brains are “unique.” But does it matter? Another acronyms on my laundry list of diagnoses? Aren’t I “unique” enough? When I write them down or divulge them when I’m speaking or presenting, it makes me feel so vulnerable.

Major Depression Disorder

People are accepting of one of two mental health condition but 6 or 7? Nah.

Persistant Depression Disorder

It’s really embarrassing when I go to the doctor or ER (which happens quite a bit).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

It probably scares people, and maybe scares people who don’t know me that well. Surely, it doesn’t scare my friends anymore. They know they deal.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

I bet it was a shock to my parents. I’m sure they didn’t share it with the rest of my family.

Binge Eating Disorder

Especially the ones related to substance abuse.

Opioid Use Disorder – Moderate

I guess by now it shouldn’t bother me. I am recovery, but just like when I share what medications I’m on, there’s always some nurse who comments that “This is too much” like, hello, I just left one of the best psychiatric hospitals in the world.

Sedative, Hypnotic or Anxiolytic Drug Use Disorder – Moderate

I thought to ask my psychiatrist about it, but seriously, what does it matter? I can still relate to Eli, there’s no medicine change (if I do have it), it doesn’t affect my daily life, etc. And really, I don’t want the extra diagnosis. Call me vain, whatever. A girl can only handle the stares and turn red so many times.

So I guess it doesn’t matter. I guess it’s a compliment that the doctor wasn’t bored with us. Definitely not me, because I’m neurodivergent. David’s the “typical” one for a change, lol.

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My Son’s Diagnosis

by Heather Loeb

In the past week my son has hit me twice and bitten me, bringing on a dark purple bruise on my arm. All were done during a meltdown. He screams and cries, indignant and out of control. The slightest thing can set him off.

Combined with his hyperactivity and lack of focus, I knew he had ADHD long before a psychologist recently diagnosed him last week.

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The doctor said Eli’s ADHD isn’t severe, just a “mild case.” It doesn’t feel mild, to me or Eli’s teacher, who has been so supportive through this journey. She told my husband and I that we should consider getting him tested late last year. I had already seen him in somewhat of a classroom setting and he couldn’t sit still. He didn’t look anyone in the eye because he was so distracted by the toys, books and desks.

I haven’t observed him in his classroom, so I don’t experience the worst of his hyperactivity. But I have witnessed his impulse control many, many times. I’ve been hit, slapped, screamed at and more. He blows in my face because he knows it will annoy me, but he apologizes for all of this behavior soon after he calms down.

I realize he can’t control it. He doesn’t mean to do it; he just needs to figure out how to control his emotions, which is hard for a 5-year-old, nevertheless one with ADHD.

It would be easy to take all of this personally. When his teacher first brought ADHD up, I felt terribly guilty. I was so sure Eli was experiencing this because of my diagnoses — two types of depression, anxiety and a personality disorder. I went home and googled it, sure enough ADHD kids often have mothers with mood disorders. Obviously I don’t want him to struggle with this. I’ve struggled almost my whole life, and it’s no picnic.

I know it’s not my fault, but it’s hard to shake the guilt and shame that all moms experience.

The only thing to do is learn everything I can, modify our parenting, consult experts and just accept it.

I have to accept it. I have to accept that both my children may have inherited the illnesses I have. It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. It’s not anybody’s fault.

I’ll do everything in my power to learn more and help him.

But I need to remember: In order to help him I have to work on myself, make sure I’m not pouring from an empty cup. I have to provide structure and routine. I have to set boundaries and actually stick to them.

I’m in recovery when it comes to my mental illnesses. Recovery doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, just that I’m always trying to grow.

I imagine Eli and I will grow together, be stronger because of the paths we’ll walk.

I know in my heart that he’s still the same sweet, loving little boy he was before the diagnosis. He just has his moments.

Lord knows I have mine.

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Everyone Has Something

by Heather Loeb
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This month my son will be evaluated for ADHD, as previously mentioned. We filled out Vanderbilt forms and the pediatrician said the forms were suggestive for ADHD, but my husband wants a formal diagnosis from a psychologist, which is understandable. My son is only 5.

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder this situation. I won’t lie, when Eli’s teacher first suggested he has ADHD I felt so guilty. I just knew it was my fault somehow. I went home after our parent-teacher conference and googled whether there’s a link between mothers having mood disorders and kids with ADHD. And there is.

But I don’t think that’s helpful. It doesn’t matter that there’s a link or that it runs in my family or anything else. It’s not my “fault.” It’s just something he may have, like I have depression and anxiety. Will we have to adjust some things if he has it? Yes. We’ll do behavioral therapy and look into medication if the doctor suggests it. We’ll do what we need to do to make sure he’s on equal footing with his peers. He’ll be in Kindergarten next year and testing for the gifted and talented school, so we’ll help him with that, too.

Still it’s hard not feel guilty, but there’s nothing to feel guilty about. This isn’t something I did to him — nothing is wrong with him. He’s not broken or flawed. He’s my beautiful, sweet, bright boy who loves to laugh and cuddle with his mama.

I’ve always considered my various mental conditions as an albatross around my neck. But I don’t want Eli to feel that way about his possible diagnosis. Everyone has something, whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, problems at home, etc. We’re all dealing with some sort of issue or problem. Such is life.

That’s why we need to be kind and compassionate — you never know what someone is going through. We’re all in the thicket, and we all need support

I’ll be there for Eli, and we’ll navigate this diagnosis together.

It’s nothing more than a bump in the road, but we can do hard thing

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Roll With It

by Heather Loeb

Today my husband and I had a teacher conference about my 5-year-old son. It was no shock when the teacher said he’s fine academically, that she’s not worried about that department, but she did mention some behaviors that need to be corrected. For instance, Eli will walk around and get in the kids’ faces and annoy them. I mean, he does the same to me. He gets up a lot, doesn’t always finish his work and he rushes through everything.

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As soon as the teacher (who is amazing) started detailing these behaviors I knew where it was headed. A couple months ago I took Eli to be evaluated for his stutter. I got to stay in the room during the assessment and was stunned. Here he was in a classroom setting (minus the other kids) and he was squirming, not listening, playing with things he wasn’t supposed to, etc. The speech therapist made a note of it in her paperwork, and I remember thinking, “Wow, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ADHD diagnosis in his future.”

But I put it out of my mind until this morning.

I’m trying (as always) to not put the horse before the cart. We don’t know if he has ADHD. He’s 5 and lots of 5 year olds are like that. We have to do this one step at a time.

Having said that, it’s really hard for me not to catastrophize and assume he has it. Of course I Googled it and couldn’t help search for a correlation between kids with ADHD and parents with a mood disorder. There’s a link. For a moment tears gathered in my eyes. I felt like it was my fault, that genetics have wronged my kids. That I have wronged my kids with not only bad genes but also my behavior and parenting style which is dictated by my depression and anxiety.

I stopped Googling and then thought, “So the fuck what?”

ADHD — and any other mood/behavioral disorder — is not the end of the world. If my son does have it he might need behavioral therapy or medication. Also not a huge deal. We’ll do what we need to do, and it will be fine.

And aren’t I the queen of adapting? There was a time when I thought my life was over because of depression and anxiety., but here I am highly functional, volunteering my time, writing for the paper, and managing the kids and their activities. I’m a different person. I’m not cured; I’ll be living with depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and an eating disorder likely forever. But I roll with it. Any diagnosis he may receive doesn’t define him or ruin his life, just like mine don’t.

He’ll adapt (if he does have it), and I’ll adapt.

He’s still an amazing, loving and sweet boy, and I wouldn’t change anything about him. Not one thing. Through my mom glasses, he’s perfect. Perfectly imperfect.

So we’ll just roll with it and do the best we can do. That’s all anyone can do.

Note: I want to be clear that I don’t have any experience with ADHD and don’t mean to discount anyone’s feelings or experiences. I don’t mean to trivialize the diagnosis. These are merely my musings and do not reflect what it’s really like to live with a child with ADHD.

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