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Friday, July 15, 2011

Walk a Mile in my Shoes

Everyone has an opinion. We are all welcome to those opinions as well. I don't know why anyone does what they do unless they have shared that information with me. I may wonder why people do what they do from time to time, but it's not for me to decide what is right for them. I ask that same respect. It's easy to tell someone how to live their lives, raise their kids, deal with their significant other, but in the end it still gets to be the decision of the person whose life it is. Until I have walked a mile in their shoes, had their experiences, know their feelings, understand their thought process, who am I to say what they should do.

I have three amazing children. They are spirited, willful, and brilliant each in their own way. Noah has a servant's heart and would take care of any of God's creatures--big or small. His kindness and thoughtfulness are so pure and unassuming. Matthew is deep, emotional, and wants to heal the pains of others. He would rather consume their pains that watch another person suffer. Gabby can take the things others cannot put into words and process what goes on around her and explain it when others find it hard to verbalize and understand. I do not see their ADHD or mood disorders as burdens or problems, I see it as challenging and difficult at times while it is a blessing at others. I may not be able to be as detail-oriented as some because my mind and mouth move too fast, but I can take in a lot at once and make something of it all. I can make decisions based on a wide-breadth of information very quickly while others may hesitate. When I look at my children, I see future problem-solvers!

All three of my children have been diagnosed with ADHD. My boys have co-morbid mood disorders. My ex and I spent a year in therapy when my oldest son was in Kindergarten to ensure the issues were not environmental. It took over a year to get a formal diagnosis from a doctor who was a child psychologist in one of the foremost practices in Cleveland. The issues were happening at school, child care and home. It is part of the criteria that a child have the appearance of the behaviors associated with ADHD not just in one setting. That was the case with Matthew. Of all three of our children, his is the most severe; he is also very bright. He doesn't have the classic case of issues with reading comprehension like Noah does or like I did. Matthew's ADHD is the impulsive-hyperactive type. Noah's is the combined type which adds inattentiveness to the mix. Gabby's is impulsive-hyperactive, but with no associated mood disorder and hers is the least severe.

For Noah, I fought for many years against a diagnosis because his wasn't like Matthew's so it didn't appear to me to be ADHD. He was highly aggressive, had trouble learning, and was in trouble during preschool often. Finally, we looked into the possibility of bipolar with him. While no one in either of our families has ever been diagnosed with bipolar, I have lots of alcoholism on both sides of my family plus depression, anxiety, and other neurologically-based disorders on my mother's side of the family (epilepsy, head tremors). I had him in a mood study at University Hospitals which was where we'd taken Matthew to participate in the same study a few years earlier. Neither of them shows the manic portion of bipolar, but both do have mood-related disorders. Finally, after we landed in our recent therapy practice, Noah was diagnosed with ADHD formally once they could prove to me that his behaviors from school and home met the criteria on the scales that the teachers and I filled out regarding him.

Gabby's issues being the most mild were ones I pushed back against until this year when I conceded. She was in second grade this year and the teachers continued to voice concerns over her behavior. Her report card looked very much like my own stating that she wouldn't remain in her seat, would speak out of turn, not raise her hand, etc. She, like Matthew, is very bright. None of this is to say that Noah is not, it's just harder for him to learn as quickly as the other two do; I relate to his plight all too well having myself grown up as a middle child between two super-bright siblings. She has taken a low dose medication and has done well in school. Last week their dad called to tell me she scored so high in the TerraNova tests that she is now considered gifted in Mathematics. She LOVES math. She has me quiz her on her times tables. As a girl, I am super proud of the fact that this is an area in which she excels as I believe more young women need to get into the science and math fields. There is something fantastic when you can mix logic and emotion, concrete and abstract, left- and right-brained thought processes together in a single mind. Gabby may not have to be medicated forever.

I have often come up against family, friends, and other parents who believe they know what is best for all children and specifically for my children. If you ask any of my children other than Matthew how they feel about themselves on medication versus off, you will know that the choices I made on their behalf was in the best interest of them and giving them an opportunity to succeed. Matthew hates to take pills and doesn't like feeling like he is different from his peers even though he's almost always taken his medication at home and not at school. I did not have the benefit of medication when I was growing up and I struggled terribly because of it. I did learn how to deal with my challenges and created methods for working within the confines of my learning difficulties and behavioral challenges. Not every child will live the life I did and have the opportunities or abilities to overcome these challenges without the aid of medication. As an adult, I have had periods where I have taken medication for my anxiety, and then a medication that treated both my mild depression and anxiety. For almost 2 years now, I have been off medication, but there have been times that I have been ready to go back on when the weather didn't break and my exercise routine was so inconsistent that it was no longer there to help me manage them.

Medication is not for everyone and there are methods of managing these issues through many means. Therapy alone is not effective for children with ADHD until they are in their teen years when cognitive-behavior therapy can be combined with medication for successful outcomes. I am not an expert on any of this, but I have experience personally and with my children. I have done the research on the methods of management, the medications, the therapies, food choices, exercise, everything. Why? Because I am an advocate for my children and I will not allow them to be lab rats. If I am going to want the best for them and the best means having to have chemicals to assist with their body chemistries, I am going to ensure I can make the most educated decisions on their behalf. So, to anyone who wants to question me on how and why and wants to impose their ideas and thoughts and beliefs on me, don't bother. I've heard enough. You are welcome to make these decisions for yourself and your children and let me continue doing my job as the advocate for myself and my children. Anytime you want to walk in these shoes, I'd be happy to give you a tour!

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