Tag Archives: ADHD

We’re Not Typical

I’ve written about my learning disability a few times in this space. As I get older, I am actually struggling with my ability to read and to tolerate a lot of stimulation. There is a strong correlation between my stress level and my ability to process information and tolerate stimulation. How I’ve made it through the last few years is a mystery to me.

I’ve been trying to spend a bit more time resting and practicing self-care. I mean it’s the healthy thing to do right? But I’m finding that as much as I tell Hope that sometimes her brain needs to rest due to her issues, my brain also needs downtime.

I have a list of books that I’d like to read that’s several miles long. Yes, I could subscribe to Audible, but the way my pride is set up…Also, I listen to so many podcasts to uptake information that adding books to that list will not make the list shorter.

[Don’t ask how I manage to write so much for work and in this space. I don’t know. I don’t understand. It does take a lot out of me, but it seems I’m better at output than input. #shrug]

Sometimes I talk to Hope about my own issues with dyslexia and stimulation processing. I try to explain to her that my issues are kind of the “opposite” of hers. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was in college, and never asked for accommodations after undergrad. She has wrestled with her challenges for years, while when I was her age, this wasn’t even a passing thought. I try to explain that I have a sense of what she’s going through. Neither of our brains are typical. We’re not neurotypical. We’re atypical.

In other words, we’re special.

I try to encourage her to take breaks, to get some exercise, and to do things to help her brain run optimally.  I try to model these behaviors since they help me. One day she might start listening to me.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I usually sleep on planes. They close the doors, and I nod right off. I try to pretend that I’m not, that I’ll be somewhat productive. I will download magazines and maybe a book on my Kindle app with the intention to try to at least flip through a little bit. But I almost always fall asleep. The best we can hope for is playing solitaire before landing…until last week.

I actually read a book. It was a 31-page book, called, Runaway: How a Slave Defied America’s First President. It was about a woman named Ona who was enslaved by George Washington; Ona escaped her enslavement. Apparently she was the only slave who successfully escaped from Washington, and he desperately tried to retrieve her.

Thirty-one pages may not seem like a lot for most adults, or even middle schoolers, but for me, in one sitting, these days? Well, I might as well had read half of War and Peace.

When I got home from my trip the next day, I took Hope out for our Friday night dinner.  Over wings and nachos, I told my daughter that I’d read a book.

“A whole book?”

“Well, it was a short book, but yeah,” I demurred.

Hope held her hand up over the middle of the table. I put my hand up, and she high-fived me.

sigh

Sometimes, I wonder whether she really listens to me, and then she does something like this. I delight sometimes when there’s clear evidence that she hears me, that something I’ve said means something to her. It meant a lot to me that I could share that small accomplishment with her. It meant even more that she understood what it means for folks with brains who work differently.

I feel like this is some common ground that we’ve found.

I also get a chance to see how kind my kid is: whether she truly gets how hard reading is becoming for me, she was kind to acknowledge that it was significant to me. Hope has a big heart. I see it often. I’m so fortunate to have seen it in this moment.

So, I celebrate our moments of being a non-neurotypical family.


We are Successful

When Hope’s English grade bottomed out a few weeks ago, I found myself having to really make some hard decisions about what my next chess move would be.

For the last year, I’ve been just focused on giving everything I could to help Hope with her school struggles.

Testing.

Tutoring.

Accommodations.

Constant contact with teachers.

Meetings with social workers and counselors.

Observing classes.

Medication management.

If I could think of it and afford it I threw it at the wall and assessed whether it could and would stick. I tried just about everything.

The day I got her progress report I nearly cried because none of it seemed to help. I felt like I failed; she felt like she failed. We both felt like isht.

So, here’s what I chose to do:

I laid down my king on this chess board.

I dumped the tutor for the rest of this semester. I backed off talking about it. I vowed to myself to stop emailing the teachers and counselors for the next few weeks.

I chilled out, and focused on just loving Hope.

And, she loved me back.

It’s funny, whenever I focus on attachment above everything else, Hope thrives. You’d think I’d simply maintain that focus. The reality is that with so many issues to juggle, sometimes I end up just going through the motions with the attachment thing.

I feed her, tidy up, make sure the laundry is done, make sure all basic needs are met. I go to the multiple band events, the multiple medical and dental appointments. I’m meeting with the teachers and the music coaches. And that’s just Hope’s stuff.

Sure we are affectionate. I tell her I love her every day. I try to hug her every day.

But it just is hard to focus on attachment in the middle of the whirlwind that never seems to end..

But the last two or three weeks, I did. I focused on doing things that mommies do: I fixed her hot breakfasts (that were portable); I packed her yummy lunches. I meal planned and made sure we ate dinner together every night. I asked about life. I hugged her. I teased her with my secret pet name for her that she loves but pretends to hate. I watched Korean dramas and music videos. I listened to her teen girl problems. I offered no criticism; just positive direction and reinforcement.

Did it work?

Well, yesterday, we went shopping, and it was everything I thought it would be. We were a mother-daughter duo who had fun, giggled, went way over budget and went for a diet busting bite before the long drive home. She randomly hugged me. When a booth vendor accused Hope of scratching a patent leather purse I mama-bear growled at him ferociously to my daughter’s quiet delight.

We felt loved, both of us. Yesterday will be one of my great mommy memories.

We talked about school. I learned to keep my pie-hole shut. I know she wants to be successful, and that she wants do see if she can do it her way. I want to give her the space to try.

And if backing off means I might get more days like yesterday, well, heck, I might never call the school again.

Hahahahah.

Of course, I’m going to call the school again, but more judiciously. I want her to be successful, and if her way works, then how wonderful would that be.

That English grade hasn’t gone up one point yet. But all the other grades have gone up; so there’s that.

I love this kid so madly, sometimes my heart hurts.

I will continue to focus on attachment. I will also focus on redefining success…and acknowledging that most days, we actually are successful.


Prioritizing Attachment

School sucks.

I was briefly so excited about the start of school.  School keeps us regulated. It provides Hope with some social engagement. It makes us (me) feel productive.

But the reality is that it all just sucks.

School is hard for Hope. Like really hard. Like really, really hard.

She’s smart, but she’s got some limitations and despite wishing really, really hard, she’s not going to be a valedictorian. She’s an average kid.

I don’t do average. My issue, not hers.

I’m an overachiever. My sisters and I pride ourselves in doing and being better than 100%.

This overachiever/perfectionist thing is a problem, but that’s a whole other issue.

So, realizing that getting Hope on honor is like me scaling Mt. Rushmore has been hard to accept for me. Heck getting her to do reasonably well in each of her classes consistently is like me roller blading in spandex pants with just a bra top on the beach. I mean, it can happen, but it won’t be pretty and I’d probably end up with a couple of broken bones.

I’ve hired tutors and sent Hope to a commercial learning center.  I regularly visit the school counselors. I check in with her teachers. I schedule visits with her docs to make sure that medications are managed. I pay for private testing so that we don’t have to wait months and months for data that will inform educational decisions. I have nagged, I have begged and pleaded to get homework done. Hell, I’ve even written a 9th grade essay just to get us across a finish line (this is particularly painful as I was my university’s honor code chair in undergrad. Look what parenting does to you!!!) #hangsheadinshame

I have done everything I can think of, and I’m exhausted. And so is Hope.

And you know what?

Hope’s grades haven’t budged upward.

Not at all, not even a little.

If anything, things are harder than ever.

And I’ve fallen into a really negative rut as I try to pull her through assignment to assignment, quarter to quarter, semester to semester.

About two weeks ago, I found myself pondering what must she feel like in the midst of all my interventions.

I see and feel the resistance and the resentment.

I wonder if Hope thinks she’s disappointed me. I wonder if all this effort to ‘help’ her has hurt her. I wonder if I’ve undermined my efforts to build her up. I wonder if I’m just another parent in a long line of parents who have tried to ‘fix” her.

I then starting running over the last few months and really evaluating the state of our mother daughter bond.

It’s ok; I mean, there’s always room for improvement.

Thank I wondered how all my academic efforts might have hindered our attachment. I mean, if I was Hope I might pull back from all the criticism and all the effort to make me perform something that is so hard for me for any number of reasons.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve made a decision.

After the next holiday break; I’m stopping the tutoring and learning centers. I’m going to still touch base with the counselors and teachers. I’m going to encourage her to breathe and know that she’s not defined by this academic thing. If she needs more time, then she’ll get more time. If she needs more coaching then she will absolutely have it.

I’m going back to prioritizing our relationship over her academic performance. It’s simply more important. She can take more time academically; but we can’t get this time back.

It’s just more important.

I love her, and while I want the best for her and I want her to benefit from all of the things I can give her, I think she really needs love, attention and encouragement.

We’ll come back to the schooling thing in time, but for now, she needs to know I love her just as she is.

She’s perfect.


Case Managing as Parenting

I could really use a personal assistant. Of course at this point I couldn’t afford one, but that’s beside the point, really.

I could use a family case manager, scheduler, minder person, robot, something.

So, I’m at a professional meeting, but I’m in the back of a room, tethered to cords in a power plug.  I am paying attention at about a level of 37.4568%.

Work email responses are taking up about 15% of my attention.

Do you want to know where the rest of my attention for the last two hours has been spent?

Case managing me and Hope.

Let’s see, where did my adventures start?

Grade check in since several assignments were turned in. I needed to see if any had been graded and grades posted.

I responded to an email string about scheduling a meeting with the guidance counselor and the teacher for next week.

I updated the family calendar.

I checked the grades and progress in lower priority classes. Hmmm, assignments are missing.

Several emails to various teachers about missing assignments, class behavior, levels of engagement, what is salvageable.

Confirming medical appointments.

Emailing the family therapist about current concerns in advance of next appointment.

Responding to teacher emails, some good news, some bad news.

Making another medical appointment.

Updated my work “paid time off” account because clearly I’m going to be missing some time in the next few weeks.

Logging on to Blackboard to see what assignments are coming up.

Logging back on to the family calendar to put upcoming assignments on Hope’s part of the calendar.

Looking up how to control the family Chromebook remotely, so I can better supervise Hope’s online activity.

Looking up whether I want to waste money on getting a FitBark for Yappy, because #stressshopping and of course my dog needs an activity tracker…#nohedoesnt.

Confirming another medical appointment.

Researching silent migraines and teenagers.

A google scholar search on teenage neuroscience, because #nerd and #journalarticlesrelaxme

Check to see if Hope has updated her Amazon wishlist.

Contemplate whether I might be able to swing a holiday getaway.

Email Elihu to remind him to check the family calendar and update holiday availability.

Try to schedule time to baby shower gift shop for an event this weekend.

Email the tutor an updated schedule and confirm our assessment meeting for later this week.

Pay the nanny.

Check on Yappy through the wifi camera.

Send text to the housekeeper apologizing that the house is likely a hot mess more than usual.

Grab another grande iced coffee.

Some aspect of this happens nearly every day.

I know I’m not the only one. Managing a family is hard work. It’s consuming; it’s exhausting.

Managing a family with a member who has some unique concerns and/or special needs just sucks up time like a vacuum cleaner.

I could easily spend one full business day a week managing me and Hope. This is actually a light week because we only have one two or three appointments. Some weeks we have more like 4 or 5 appointments, not including regular tutor times, standing band practices, home games, other band performances or standing therapy appointments.

There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t take a few hours off. I’m fortunate to have a super supportive office and I usually just make up the time somewhere else.

But there’s never a break. Even to take a break; it’s got to be scheduled. A lot of appointments have to be rescheduled or stack scheduled.

It helps that the tutor is in walking distance to the school, and the psychiatrist is next door to the tutor. The therapist is in the same building as the orthodontist. My therapist is near my office. The primary care doc is less than 3 miles from the dentist and therapist office. These are all great providers, but I’m not going to lie they were selected based on location, taking our insurance and specialization was frankly last on the list. It’s about managing and I can’t do that if I provider is outside of the 6 mile radius that I have created for us.

All support systems must be accessible if I were running a 10K. I don’t run, but that’s beside the point. If I might start running again, I should be able to hit every office during my run.

I gotta admit, that I was so naïve when I started this journey. I didn’t imagine that I would be a case manager as much as a parent. I see why some folks believe that kids should be in a two parent household—I don’t think it’s essential, obviously—but dang if I need a body double to help out.

The demands are unreal.

Are there services for this besides typical concierge/personal assistant services? I swear this is a money-making market opportunity for some enterprising person.

I need a family case manager.

 

 


Me, the Struggle, the Couch & Yappy

I have resisted tears all week long. Just willed them back up into my tear ducts and dared them to come out again.

My anxiety is high. I can feel cortisol secreting in my body.

I have fought to just exist this week, which is funny because last week I was doing my own personal systems check and wondering if I might be able to come off my anti-depressants.

This week though…ugh.

I have been having a rough time at work with some things, and home? In the words of Donald Trump, home feels like a DISASTER.

It’s not, but it feels like it.

Hope and school…is just an torturous experience.

There is a lot of work. There are higher expectations. There is are a lot of challenges, but there are also a lot of resources and support. There is a huge amount of pride.

I now understand why pride is one of the seven deadly sins. I totally get it now. And that proverb, “pride cometh before the fall?” Yeah, it should read, “Pride straight up triggereth the fall.”

We are two weeks before the end of the first quarter, and I weep because as to be expected we are not in a good place academically. And as usual, there’s all this anxiety to *finally* do the work that should’ve been done weeks ago.  Looking at grades might as well be looking at binary code—grade, zero, grade, zero, grade, zero.

Hope is stressed. I’m stressed. Yappy has now joined the rest of us with his Prozac prescription for his separation anxiety, so he’s also stressed.

It’s all so predictable, and yet, here we are. This is our 11th quarter together and it’s always the same.

I must be nuts to believe that my best attempts at putting up academic guard rails will change anything.

I’m so tired and dejected. And I’m feeling like a failure. Not just because some part of me takes it all so personally, but because I’m doing everything I can, everything I can think of  and the progress just isn’t happening.

I know that I have to get back to looking at the long game, but It’s hard to pull back up to the 30K level and assess the situation.

I can’t do that when Hope ate 32 yogurts in a secret 3 day binge, and left the empty box in the fridge, adding insult to injury. She’s currently trying to hide a granola bar binge; I’ll be surprised if the remaining box of 60 will last the weekend at this rate. Oh, and I finally had to search her room to find all the wrappers because you know…#secrecy.

This is sucks a$$.

And it’s really, really getting to me. While I have threatened my tear ducts not to betray me, my ability to pull myself off of the couch is almost non-existent. I mean, my brain is tired. My stomach is in roiling knots. I can barely keep it together. My face even feels tired.

I have another business trip on Sunday and I’m eager to go do something I’m good at and get some positive feedback from people who like or at least respect me. I’m not getting that at home with Hope.

So, I’m on the couch, clicking through Amazon TV, Hulu, Netflix. I’m drinking cheap wine from a can, and trying to decide if I can start the gigantic bottle of sangria that’s on the counter tonight. And woman’s best friend, Yappy is tucked beside me.

I’m sure this is not good for his separation anxiety, but I presently do not give one damn. His presence calms me. His unconditional adoration of me as his lord and master human is just what my soul needs…along with cake. I could really use some cake, the kind with the stiff butter cream/sugar frosting like on birthday cakes. (Gotta be specific since cake is my favorite food group, closely followed by all things carb.)

And this is what anxiety and depression look anf feel like. I just need this evening to practice emotional escapism, in an effort to gather my marbles together tomorrow and do it all again.

Next week we have an educational meeting and I’ve asked the counselor and social worker to invite Hope. She needs to hear what we are saying, what decisions must be made and be given an opportunity to say want she wants and what she can and will do to get it.

Last night we tried to have this conversation over dinner and I lost my ish because she seems defiant in her refusal to acknowledge that the options on the table for her next quarter do not include her desired option.  We didn’t have our food yet and I asked for the check and pushed us out to eat at home in angry silence.

It just feels like there is no way to get through this without emotionally feeling skinned just about every couple of weeks.

WHY??? Why do people do this?  It’s got me questioning why I became a parent; do I really feel fulfilled, if I made a mistake of sorts. Then the overwhelming guilt crushes me when I’m already sinking into my couch.

It just feels so no win; it feels hopeless.

I know it probably feels that way for Hope too, but dammit.

I’m over this.

And I’m back to willing the tears to stay in their place. My face is tired and my eyelids are heavy. I just want to curl up with Yappy on this couch and forget for a little while how hard it is.

The struggle is so real.


School Drama

We’re one month into school and the proverbial ish has hit the fan.  The grades are nosediving.

They are falling for lots of reasons. There is a lot of work, and the work is hard. Did I mention that there is a lot of it? Hope hasn’t asked to use her much needed accommodations, and high schoolers have to ask as a part of being trained to be self-reliant. The problem is that the reason she has accommodations makes her have problems remembering to ask to avail herself of said accommodations.

I’ve reached out to each of the teachers. They seem nice enough.

And now, I’m struggling to figure out what my role here is, what is this mama bear to do?

I am Hope’s advocate.

But there is a clear expectation that Hope begins to advocate for herself.

There’s also a need for her to accept her responsibilities, since her recitation of academic concerns are all externally triggered.

I am guessing it’s going to be a long time before we turn this corner, and then I have no idea what’s on the other side of it.

I encourage her. I take her to tutoring. I make sure that I’m *that* parent who visits the school, reaches out to the teachers, and makes sure that Hope has access to support. I ask about homework. I check the school sites for assignments and grades.

I think I am doing everything I can.

It’s hard to watch the slide; I think we both feel helpless.

There are some things that Hope can do, but the motivation isn’t there.

There’s a lot of emotion, and I fear a lot more on the horizon.

I’m not sure what the next move is to help her, to at least help her help herself.

I am afraid for her. I want so much for her.

It’s moments like these that I really get a sense of what must go on in her head…the sense that she’s just always trudging uphill, that there is no end to the drama, the hard times, wondering if she will ever be conventionally successful?

There’s such a mixture of defiance and fear, defensiveness and anxiety, and hurt, just lots of hurt.

I wish I could make it better.

I’m doing everything I can; we’re at a place where her success is dependent on her active self-advocacy.

I wish she was able to step up. I pray that she will be able to step up soon, but I’m trying to brace myself for her inability to do that yet.

And it feels terrible.

The only thing worse is fearing that she thinks I think less of her because she is having a hard time.  I’m trying to be reassuring, to not apply too much pressure, to encourage her. But I fear that all of that is being interpreted as thinking she’s less than. I am heartbroken by the fact that it took me so long to understand her struggles. I fear the damage that I caused in all those months of not understanding.

I’m not self-loathing and I can forgive myself, but none of that makes up for the time loss in building Hope’s trust in me.

I can only keep doing what I’m doing.

 


The Throes of Frustration

So, moving heaven and earth to help your kid is hard work. This weekend I took to my couch like I haven’t done in nearly a decade. It was delicious.

Sunday evening rolled around, and the weekly drama of getting back on schedule begins to unfold. I do laundry and wash hair and cook, all the while Hope begins to get spastic about homework she neglected all weekend…sometimes homework that was due last week sometime.

And my internal kettle begins to simmer.

By Monday morning, she has a rotten attitude because as usual she didn’t finish much homework because she was “tired,” and my endless nagging about being on time and moving through the morning routine begins. By the time she saunters into the kitchen for breakfast, I’m nearly undone and throwing my lunch in my briefcase and ready to give Yappy his calming drops.

Then we go through the morning ritual of playing chicken with catching the bus.

Have I mentioned yet that my internal kettle is thisclose to whistling? #imalittleteapot

Now, intellectually I really am learning how the ADHD brain works, but from a practical perspective, dammit, why the hell won’t she just do what the eff I tell her to do when the eff I tell her to do it???

Seriously, we would all be in such a much better place if She. Just. Did. What. I. Told. Her.

OMG.

I fantasize about one day not having to nag her because she will be able to do things in a timely matter, thoroughly.

I also won’t lie, I also fantasize about popping her one good time in that smart mouth. #dontjudgeme

Each week there is a snarky “What” or eye roll or bold face untruth that forces me to use herculean strength keeping my hand at my side. Oh, I do buy into the whole don’t use corporal punishment, but the truth is, that my sisters and I turned out great with it. Now, we probably could write some righteous country songs about skinny belts just getting out of the shower, but the point is that we would ne’er have dreamed of talking to my parents like any of this. I know that this isn’t the best way to parent Hope; I know that, but #realtalk my palm is a little itchy.

The waves of frustration with Hope overwhelm me sometimes. The times when we have just nice tranquility are so amazing…and so rare.

It’s hard to tell how much of this is just routine teenager stuff (in part because I was *not* allowed to do some of the things I feel like she gets away with), how much of it is trauma related, how much of it is ADHD related and how much of it is just a reaction to my own parenting.

I just don’t know, and it probably doesn’t matter.

I think what is really the hardest part is knowing that I’m doing everything, everything I can. I’m constantly researching “solutions.” I’m constantly kicking over rocks and finding nuggets of information that help me get to a new level of understanding or to gain a new tool to help us. In the end, I have a lot of information and a lot of tools and in my own way I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks and nothing does.

I hope that years from now something I’ve done will make a difference in Hope’s life, but right now, it’s not even guilt or failure that I feel; it’s just utter, unrelenting frustration. The frustration that hardly anything ever seems to go right is just hard to sit with for so long with no end in sight. I’m frustrated that I can’t fix this right now.

But raising a kid is a long haul kinda situation, so immediate feedback in the form of her behavior, her desire to achieve, her desire to be whole and more…well all of that is always elusive. I’m realizing that ultimately it’s this kind of feedback that is all that matters to me. It is a nod that things are going well. A tell that Hope has bought into my vision and value for her. It’s the recognition that she wants something for herself besides a bag of Taki’s.

There is guilt though. I’m aware enough to know that it’s still much too soon to expect this of her. She’s lived a harder life in her few years than I have in my 43. And we’ve only had a little over two years to course correct. It’s not fair to expect her to be *there* yet.

So, in the end; I am always feeling…off. I am working so hard and the one person who I want to chase the gold ring, still could not care less, not even a little. I’m still not sure after two years what to do with these feelings. It is hard to balance them. It’s hard to push them behind all the feelings I’m supposed to be feeling about how awesome motherhood is supposed to be.

Well, Hope actually caught the bus this morning. I suppose that’s one less thing for me to be frustrated by or about today. But it’s only 8am; I’m sure the day won’t disappoint.


A Place of Patience

I am not patient…like at all.  Parenting has changed a lot of that since Hope and I can’t exactly exist in my angry, petty place forever while I’m waiting for her.

Ok, that’s a lie, we hang out in my angry, petty place quite a bit.  The truth is that I seethe sometimes because I’m constantly waiting for her. I’m waiting for hair, makeup (which takes an unholy amount of time), for her to put on her shoes, pack her backpack, walk down the hall, go to the bathroom.  It’s not even like she’s snail-like, it’s the million ways in which she becomes distracted and derails off to something else.

It’s maddening at times. I try to just keep my mouth shut since I’ve beeotched about it so much.

Doing a lot of this research lately has really helped me understand that she really can’t help the distractions. Her struggles are maddening to her too. I’m learning how she has internalized her struggles and my nagging. I’m learning how deeply she hurts just from operating so differently in this world.

I get it.

And I am choosing to be more gentle with her. I am choosing to show her grace. I am choosing to practice patience.

I’m focusing on saying positive things to her, even and especially when I’m correcting her.
It’s not easy and I can already see her pushing the boundaries to try to punk me. She remains unsuccessful, as evidenced by her being cold busted on the regular and losing some of her privileges.

And so things in the house are calmer. I’d like to think this is progress. I’m not as stressed out. I imagine that me not going crazy over a bunch of things has reduced her stress level too. I hope so.

I have moved a lot of cheese pieces recently to try to bring in extra help for us. She was resistant at first, but I think she realizes that I’m doing it because I’m trying to help her and not hurt her. Her softening gives me hope that she will be increasingly receptive.

For once, I’m willingly trying to practice patience in order to keep the peace and create a sanctuary. Time will tell if this space will truly evolve into something more tranquil for us or if we will just continue to do engage in these ridiculous battles.

I just want us both to feel good about ourselves and each other.


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