I have read a few posts on Facebook this week about it being "ADHD "Awareness" Week. To be honest I have no idea whether that applies to the UK or the USA but it actually makes little difference. Here, we are aware of ADHD every. single. day. From sun up to sun down - and well beyond. Oh to be "unaware" of ADHD and the impact it has on our family for a brief hour. Such unimaginable bliss.
I've (almost) given up ranting and railing against those who postulate that ADHD is simply "bad parenting". My "Dear Libby" piece was written well over two years ago and even the "Horizon" documentary did little to dispel the persistent myth that parents are responsible for this disorder. Society is blind to what it is reluctant to acknowledge, or has no answer for.
You would think the three children I have apparently parented "well" would provide some kind of evidence for those who seek to judge, but no. When H was younger a mum from his class actually had the gall to say to my face that since I "clearly couldn't control my son I shouldn't have been allowed to have more children". I can't see her saying that to the mum of a child in a wheelchair, but that's the problem with invisible disorders.
We are shockingly poor at acknowledging disorders of the mind in the Western World. The stigma attached to something we cannot see or easily prove is abhorrent, it often seems that blaming someone is the default option. But there was a time when bacterial infection could not be proven, the dark days of the Middle Ages when Bubonic Plague swept across the known world were scary times - but parents of children with ADHD, and those suffering other mental health issues are still to a large extent living in that world. A medical diagnosis carries little weight in the eyes of the majority, you just can't tell people what they don't wish to hear.
So more than awareness of the very real disorder that is ADHD, I would rather have acceptance. Acknowledgement that it exists, that it is no one's "fault" and those living with it are not failures, bad parents and in any way to blame for their children's condition.
I have four children, one of whom has ADHD. He actually has quite a large collection of diagnoses, none of which are anyone's fault. He was given a rubbish hand in the lottery of life in several respects, but most of the time I choose to focus on his strengths - which are far greater in number but all too often get drowned out in the ASD/ADHD noise which surrounds him.
Understanding why your child behaves as he does IS important, incredibly so. But coping with it - living with it day in day out is another matter. H didn't sleep through the night until he was nine, and "bedtimes" are still ridiculously late. To be honest, I have no idea whether he sleeps through now at almost 12 but he no longer gets into bed with us or comes in multiple times to inform us that he can't sleep. He used to wake around 5am (irrespective of the hour he went to sleep) but thankfully it's later now. He is either difficult to get out of bed, or goes screaming and yelling round the house in search of someone - or some cat - to chase or annoy. He has described his head as "fizzing" and "jangling" and I can well believe it. Without medication he would not be in school, with it we walk a precarious tightrope between fixed term exclusion or internal isolation and just about hanging-in-there-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth. But we cope. Just about.
When he was younger we had to instal catches at the top of every door upstairs to restrict opening whilst not closing them to keep his younger siblings safe. He has trashed his room multiple times and broken doors whilst kicking them, lying on his back on the floor. Now he is older he does calm down much faster, but the raging hormones of adolescence mean the outbursts have taken on a new strength - plus he has grown hugely over the past year. I have had to take a Unisafe Course to learn how to keep myself and his siblings safe in the past, and even when completely unaggressive he has landed himself in A and E several times because he can be search a whirlwind of hyperactivity. This inattentiveness and impulsiveness has metamorphosed from a physical to mental type with age, so his mind flits constantly. Better than his body perhaps, but this denies him the satisfaction most children on the Autism Spectrum gain from a deep obsession over a favourite subject. H will become the world expert on a specific subject - then drop it for something else. Constantly.
So each night as I go to bed and prepare for the next day I wonder if I can get up and do it all again, because without a doubt mornings are the most difficult time of the day. By the time you see me, even at 8am outside school I will have been up over two hours and battled for most of that time to get him ready and out of the door, feeling like I have run a marathon, climbed Kilimanjaro and towed a bus. If I snap your head off, take something the wrong way, or appear to ignore you it is because already at 8am I am over-loaded, over-stressed and over-emotional. And that's only one reason why it's such an isolating condition, and not just for me but for H and for the whole family. Never mind the difficulty going anywhere, the stares and looks of pity and or disapproval as your child fails to behave as society expects. He's only been to one birthday party in his life, until recently had no play dates, and has had to leave activity and activity that we have tried to involve him in. There is support for so many disabilities these days, but the invisible ones are all too often still neglected.
So having told me it was "too hard" to try and behave this morning, after making one of his siblings cry and lashed out at another, thrown objects around the room and wiped his breakfast down himself and the sofa, chased the cat outside in bare feet through the mud and having been cleaned up, dressed and ready to go H asked me-
"Are you cross Mummy? It wasn't the worst morning. It could have been a LOT worse".
Yes. It could.
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H and Dorothy Whiskers review Belvita Morning Biscuits here, thanks to BritMums for our free samples!