Two years ago, after a particularly difficult and frightening summer for our family, we received the ADHD diagnosis for our oldest child and made the decision to medicate. I believe it has saved his life, for many reasons, some that I won’t divulge here because he is now older and I feel that some things should be kept private, but it was a very intense two years and a long road leading up to the diagnosis and our eventual decision to medicate.
In short, there were calls home from the school, slipping grades, aggression in the school yard and turmoil at home that made things unsafe for our family. He has always been a smart child and an amazing athlete, but the symptoms of ADHD were hindering his abilities, affecting his well being and the well being of our family.
I wrote the following on the first day of giving my son medication in August of 2017:
Today was the first harmonious day we have experienced in our home in well over a year and I feel like crying tears of joy right now. I’ve been crying a lot lately, mostly tears of helplessness because I haven’t been able to find a way to help my oldest son and we have all been feeling like we are drowning.
Today my son said to me, “I feel like a new me” and my heart nearly burst with joy. He said he felt calm, that he didn’t feel angry, and for the first time in a long time, we saw the boy we knew was deep down inside of him. Today he was happy, agreeable, easy going and helpful. He showed gratitude and patience, and was able to respond to situations in a manner that was appropriate to the situation. He felt good, and it showed.
Today our house was quieter, calmer, there were no meltdowns, tantrums, threats or fights. Today for the first time in over a year, our oldest son didn’t antagonize his younger siblings or call us names, he didn’t fight, act out, ignore us and bounce off the walls crying out that he hates his brain and wishes he was a “normal’ kid. A truly heartbreaking thing for a parent to hear.
I didn’t feel like a terrible parent for not being able to “control” his behaviours or calm him with love and attention. I didn’t cry at night, wondering how I would wake up another day feeling helpless to his struggles and the heartbreaking things he said and did during an emotionally charged outburst. Today I didn’t lose my cool out of frustration or beat myself up thinking how I could have handled things better. I didn’t feel like a terrible mother.
Today we started medication for ADHD and we felt like we gave our son his life back.
I will admit that I used to view ADHD in the way that television or movies portrayed it; as hyperactivity and a lack of focus, but that’s only a small portion of the challenges people with ADHD face. They may also struggle with impulses, emotional regulation, aggression, concentration, organization, and extreme difficulties accomplishing regular tasks of every day life.
The opinions of others made me feel like we had given up by medicating our son, but in reality if we hadn’t stepped in, I feared the worst for him. The truth is, unless you are living in someone’s home, experiencing their lives firsthand and walking in their shoes, you wouldn’t know what is best for their family or their child.
So although I know I will have to deal with the occasional comments and criticisms or skeptical looks from outsiders when they hear about medication or ADHD, I know what science says, I know what my experiences say and I know what my heart says.
I realized that there was no amount of love, activity, diet change, positive parenting class or essential oil that could have changed things for our son, because ADHD starts inside a person’s brain. Without getting into the science behind it, their brains are different, they are lacking certain chemicals and it affects their mental health and wellness.
Although we realize medication is most useful in conjunction with therapy and positive parenting, and that medication is only the beginning of our journey, we feel it is a necessary step to help improve our son’s quality of life and to realize his true potential. To calm the negative thoughts and turmoil in his mind so he can see through the fog and know how amazing he really is.
There are many people in our family who struggle with ADHD, and some of them are adults, so although some argue that it is overdiagnosed in children, contrary to outdated mentality, it is NOT a made up illness. ADHD is a brain disorder, not a behavior problem or a result of bad parenting.
I know this, because today I saw the symptoms of ADHD lifted from my child and when the smoke cleared, a happier, healthier 7 year old re-emerged.
Today was a good day.