At this point in the COVID-19 situation you’d think we have this daily routine, this new “normal” figured out. You know, the wake up, get-through-the-day, go-to-bed routine. Yet, here I am, still over-thinking every little thing. I have ADHD and so does my teenage son. This lack of normalcy is harder than hard. We thrive on routine and rhythm, and it’s missing. Those of you who struggle with ADHD personally know what I’m talking about. Those of you with kids who have ADHD really know what I’m talking about.
When I was diagnosed with ADHD (as a college student) 25 years ago, I realized that I have to learn some coping mechanisms, some unique and interesting ways of making my scattered brain fit in with a world that doesn’t really give a lot of grace to people like me. Medication wasn’t an option as I didn’t have coverage for the only treatment available at the time, Ritalin. So, I had to come up with some systems that worked.
When our son was diagnosed with mild ADHD about five years ago, I questioned the doctors profusely. You see, he has some visual challenges as well, and I was certain that his learning struggles were because of his vision. I felt the teachers were using a blanket diagnosis to categorize him as a difficult learner. I pushed back against this diagnosis for a while, then eventually allowed the doctor to put him on medication to see what it would do. Within a week, we removed him from the initial medication and called our doctor because his appetite was gone. Literally. Completely. He was already small and scrawny, we didn’t need to fight a food battle, too.
So, we tried another medication. This one changed his personality so severely, even at the lowest dose, and we felt it was a massive negative. At this point we scrapped all medicinal intervention and went the route of having him talk to a counselor. We did that a few times to get a handle on the stigma he was feeling (poor vision, “poor learner”, anxiety, all the things that come from having educators who weren’t given tools to deal with a variety of students—we love teachers, but they simply cannot do it all). It seemed to help and we’ve since stopped going.
But now, we’re at an impasse. Right now, at this point in history, there is no regular school for him, no routine, no rhythm. We are blessed that our school has offered online Zoom classes for the students, but let’s be honest, those really only work well for the self-motivated students, and my son is not that. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be too keen on it either if I was in his position. All that being said, our 11th grade son went from having a really great GPA to a really bad one over the course of three or four weeks. So, being the stubborn, rigid, and regimented mom I am, I went a little crazy one day. We cleaned out his room and made a space for a desk in a place without too many distractions. The jury is still out on whether or not this will work. But, the effort was made and that has to count for something, right?
Don’t get me wrong. I realize he’s grieving this super fun stage of high school (11th grade is great!), but mostly he’s struggling with the uncertainty. We ADHD people thrive on plans (we can course-correct, but we need an initial plan, an expectation). Will there be normal school next week? When will I see my friends again? When will I get to prove myself on the golf course? (He tried out and learned he made the team the day before this all happened.) When will my mom and dad get off my back about homework that doesn’t even matter right now because of a pandemic? Will my family be okay? Why does my mom still have to go to work—she could get COVID-19! And so on. These are just some random thoughts any average teen has, and ones my ADHD son has daily.
A Few Things You Need to Know About ADHD People:
1. We love structure. Without structure we are lost. We tell you we don’t need it and we’ll push back against the machine, but we really do need it.
2. We have a keen intuition about people. I can spot a “bad apple” before the tree can.
3. We need organization—but it’s our organization. I love Post-it notes, planners, lists, etc. But do not mess with my piles. My messiness is my organization. I know where everything is, even if it doesn’t look like it. Just leave it alone!
4. We are forgetful. I lose my cell-phone in my own home multiple times a day. My gloves and my readers are lost regularly, too. I’ve left my son at home as an infant (he’s fine). I’ve messed up details and my son showed up at his 5th grade basketball game at half-time. (He’s fine; it’s fine.)
5. We are fiercely protective of our people. We are loyal to a fault.
6. We set high expectations of others, especially those close to us/our children (not ourselves, strangely).
7. We are full of negative self-talk, so when others get annoyed with us, trust us, we’ve already told ourselves the same things a million times, but we were probably a lot meaner about it. We know we can be temperamental, forgetful, lazy, and unmotivated (which is more of a case of “I’m overwhelmed so just let me do nothing for a bit”). We are disappointed in ourselves all the time. Please don’t pile on.
8. We overthink everything. I saw a quote the other day and it was so profound, “Someone who overthinks is also someone who overloves” (Anonymous). Guilty. I’d like to think there’s no such thing as over-loving, yet, see numbers 5-7.
9. We are highly passionate about things. Do not even get me started about certain topics. I will talk your ear off, convince you of something you didn’t know you needed to be convinced of, and get to you to participate in something you didn’t know you wanted to participate in.
10. We’re really good motivators. Running a race? We’re there to cheer for you. Job interview? We’ll send you a note or text with encouraging words. We want you to be successful because we care.
So, all those things aside, please know we ADHD people have our own set of struggles beyond the usual during this time of pandemic stay-at-home requirements. As with all things right now, love and kindness go so far. Grace and encouragement need to be added to the mix. We’re literally all in this together.
Keep up to date with all the content we have related to coronavirus here!
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