An ADHD diagnosis, what does this mean?
Unreasonable. Stubborn. No wait… Obstinate. Impulsive. Definitely defiant. Or maybe all of the above describe how my son is. He is also, when he’s in the mood, humorous, witty, caring, compassionate and kind. He is such a bubbly little boy with an amazing gift for maths and making us laugh. For a lot of the time though his ways and personality have been diagnosed (by a highly qualified psychiatrist) as being ADHD with anxiety and ODD (opposition defiance disorder). Together with this mouthful of a diagnosis, which I may add was thrown at me after an almost 3 hour assessment; I was given a script for Concerta (similar to Ritalin), epilim and some Omegas. The script is still lying in my drawer, unused.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t an easy choice. Some days I feel like pulling my own teeth out, most days pulling his teeth out and other days I just crawl into bed, glad that the day is over. Every single thing is a struggle with him. Getting him to wake up for school, brush his teeth, wear his clothes, eat his food, tie his own shoe laces… You get the gist. He can’t play with his siblings, he can’t lose a game, he can’t sit still and he has the memory of an elephant. He. Doesn’t. Let. Things. Go. There are feelings of resentment, frustration, guilt, self-pity and more self-pity. Everyone bears the brunt of the tantrums and the shouting (mine not his). Everyone gives in just to keep the peace which is very unfair. So why not just give him the medication and save ourselves the agony, right? It’s like a magic potion, a solution in a pill, that will fix the bad behaviour.
I’ve done a lot of research about treatment of ADHD, I’ve met with people who have experience in this field and read volumes of opinions on the subject. I had moments of agreeing with each side of the argument. One of the things I came to realise is that ADHD can be genetic and in our case it is. And no surprise here, he gets it from me. Granted I’m not hyperactive (that would be funny) but I have many of the other symptoms of ADHD. And therein lies the difficulty. It’s my inability to remain calm, to be patient, to be rational and reasonable. To realise that he is 7 years old and that I am an adult. To not engage in a power struggle. That he is a kid and he is meant to want to push boundaries. That he does have difficulty concentrating and that we are both highly sensitive. So the best person to understand what he is going through is me.
We’ve decided to take the alternative route, the more difficult, it-takes-longer-to-see-results route because we don’t want to fix my son’s behaviour. Instead we want to embrace who he is and the way he expresses himself without using mind-altering drugs.
We have some natural supplements to help with concentration and to help calm him down. We’ve changed his diet and incorporated more exercise into his day. I give him time to relax and watch TV for a little while before we get onto homework because that’s what he needs. I admit that I tread more carefully with him than I do with my other kids, to avoid an outburst. I give him more time to complete a certain task and the instructions for the task are given one at a time. We play mind games without him knowing, to strengthen him, help him focus better. I’ve changed my mind set and way of dealing with him. I sometimes feel devious because I do things in a sly way but you know what, it works. For all of us. I’ve definitely seen a change in the past 6 weeks since we started the ‘campaign’ and aside from his treatment, I think it’s because we understand him better and act accordingly. It’s exhausting and can bring me to tears some days… but I feel wholeheartedly that I am doing what’s best for him, not what’s easiest for me.
I know that I’ve made this decision because he is only 7 years old. I don’t want him to be dependent on drugs. He can be his true self and when he is old enough to decide for himself, he can decide if he wants to take medication for ADHD. I acknowledge that it is a lifetime disorder that changes its nature as he ages. I know this from experience. I also know that as his mother, as the person responsible for his well-being, that my instinct tells me I’m doing the right thing right now. I know that if he had diabetes or cancer that I would weigh up options differently. I may change my mind at some point, can’t say I never will but right now, I feel that this is in his best interests.
This article was originally written for Jozikids by Fatima Kazee in 2015.