There is no doubt about it, childhood can be rough. With all the changes and growing that needs to be done, sometimes things just don’t click. As parents we sincerely want to do what is best for our children, but somehow, in some way, we usually screw it up. I was once told, “Parenthood is like an exam you can never pass. Even if you get a 99%, you fail.” So, basically, we get to look forward to finding out we’ve failed our children in some way.
“Savage!” As my kids would say. But at least I got your attention.
It really isn’t all that bad. We might miss a step or two, but in the long run it honestly doesn’t have the negative impact many new parents fear it will. Now, this is based on typical child rearing from a typical parent that typically loves and nurtures their offspring. But, as you must know by now, this blog isn’t about anything typical.
Having to raise a child with ADHD makes things that much harder. Because now we have to learn a completely different aspect of our baby and try to find a way to protect them while possibly finding a solution to make their life more tolerable. Not only do we find ourselves worrying about their present day issues, but we eventually end up stressing about issues that aren’t even issues yet. We are ever so concerned about how they will function in life socially, psychologically as well as academically. We try to bury the fear that all these issues they have difficulty overcoming at the present moment will be just as bad or worse in a year, a decade, their lifetime. All we really want to have them see themselves as we see them. We want them to be able to stand up when life gets them down and find the strength to move forward (I am SO watching Rocky Balboa after this. Best monologue ever!). The important thing is to to make sure these little sparks of life do not see themselves as damaged or broken. That there is nothing about them to be considered ‘wrong’. We don’t want to break them before they’ve even had a chance to grow.
Now, how many of you are sighing because you don’t remember it that way? Yeah, me too.
In a previous post I made a short and light hearted comment about how it is being a child with ADHD. (I think it was something like finally-bought-that-huge-lollipop-from-Disneyland-and-are-minding-your-own-business-walking-down-the-street-when-some-jackass-comes-along-and-smacks-it-out-of-your-hand-shattering-it-on-the-ground-like-some-metaphor-of-your-childhood-dreams-leaving-you-nothing-but-a-short-stick. But I can’t be sure….), but in truth I really didn’t know how to describe it. At least, not until recently. However, before I explain the life altering truth that I’ve discovered (Now you’re paying attention! So stop playing on your phone and read!), allow me to take you back to the days when I was a child with ADHD. Back in a time where the disorder was hideously misunderstood and denied. (because it’s so well accepted today…)
A typical day for me would be needing to literally fall out of bed just to wake up. Then, as soon as the ‘ol cerebral motor got running, the engine guns full speed ahead and I’m out the door before I even know where I’m suppose to be going. Yes, I often started to leave and forgot where I was supposed to go. (School brainiac!)
Then, I get to school and immediately have to try to keep a low profile because the bullies are out in force today. Just like yesterday. And the week before. And…always. However, I fidget like a crack head and my imagination takes off if so much as a breeze catches my attention. This often gets me in trouble with my teachers. Oh the annoyance of the little Italian boy. to make matters worse, they would typically scold me in front of the class, probably in an attempt to ‘educate’ me through humiliation. Then comes the ridicule of my peers. I’m telling you, kids can be cruel. One time I was told by another kid they literally would just wait until I did something stupid so they could harp on me. They were literally looking forward to debasing and humiliating me. (I mean come on. Get a hobby. Or an addiction…)
And then I have to deal with the schoolwork. Yes, I got the concepts. I understood what was taught to me if I was able to pay attention long enough. But then give me til the end of the day, or an hour later, (or 30 seconds later) and something in those steps you taught me are gone. Just…gone. Panic usually ensues because I certainly don’t want to ask the same question I asked just two minutes ago to get it down. Teachers get irritated and students just hate on me all the more. So I shut my mouth and pray I can get that help from someone at home. (I lived in quite the fantasy world.)
School’s out and it’s time to get home. I survived another day of school and those meanies that just didn’t understand me. Of course, most of it I would love to tell my single mother. Maybe get some empathy for the hard day I had at school…again. A bit of parental nurturing letting me know that some might misunderstand me, but at least I have somewhere safe to land at the end of the day. And some help with these damned math problems I understand but don’t understand. You understand.
This is going to really suck to read. Mostly because so many will relate to it.
We all know that the nurturing I was seeking is no fairy tale. It’s an absolute necessity. However, what I usually got was an annoyed parent that simply wished I would just stop doing whatever stupid things I do to piss people off. She would attempt to educate me on why it is that the bullying happening to me was really my fault. She even told me once she wished she could be a fly on the wall so she could see what I was doing and actually help me see why they don’t like me. Now, don’t get me wrong. My mother was very convinced I had ADHD. And back in the 70’s (Go ahead, make your age jokes. You won’t come up with anything my kids haven’t already copyrighted.) so little was known about the disorder it seemed to me that the doctors were really just guessing on what the cause was and how to ‘cure’ it. And believe me, my mother wanted a cure. I cannot begin to tell you how many shrinks I visited hoping that one of them might actually have stumbled on the ancient secret to get my brain under control. Guess how many knew what they were doing? It was embarrassing to watch.
And then getting help was very difficult because it would take time that nobody really had. Maybe if I had paid attention in class I wouldn’t be so lost. (I can actually feel the sinking feeling in my stomach I used to get just reading this.) So I get left to read over the material and try to figure it out for myself. I will admit that it strengthened my logic and analytical skills greatly. And I did get myself through every grade without being held back.(Although I firmly believe some teachers graduated me just to get me the hell out of that classroom.) But that does not get to be used as a ‘silver lining’. Because this is not the way to teach someone self sufficiency, empathy nor self-esteem. There is no excuse for this. Period.
Now, I’m certain many are wondering why I’m publicly bashing my mother on my blog. Maybe I’m looking for some sort of catharsis in finally blasting my dirty laundry all over the interwebs in hopes that I finally can move on. Or maybe I’m being vindictive and ‘overly-emotional’ (I can literally see many out there gritting their teeth over that one) and just want to get some payback.
Nah. I’m not that shallow.
The reason is because most of us who have suffered this kind of life either;
- Can barely put into words the way it made them feel. I mean, seriously, the gambit of emotions that come from all those decades of pain are simply too much of anyone to identify. And you’re asking someone with ADHD to just pin down one. Anyone ever try to catch a plastic bag in a hurricane? (Not really sure why anyone would want to…)
- Are simply too ashamed to even acknowledge what happened to them.
You see, what was done to me, and most others, was that I was taught that I was an annoyance and burden to those that have to deal with me. I was shown that the only way to have any place in this world was to own the fact that I was broken. That nobody wants to deal with it nor wanted someone as damaged as me in their lives. I was taught to apologize for my very presence because I was ADHD. Read that again. I was ADHD. I was the disorder.
And I learned it well. I spent the majority of my life apologizing to everyone for my being…well, just being. (I still do it to my friends from time to time). All the while despising myself because I was ADHD. And when I tried to express this personal disdain to my family, I was commended for acknowledging it.
Now, I’ve since outgrown that frame of mind. I have found an inner peace that let’s me realize I am NOT ADHD, I have ADHD. (Read my tagline for this very blog. It’s an acronym, not a definition.) But that doesn’t camouflage what was suffered in childhood. We struggle so hard to be heard and seen as valuable that we sometimes cannot actually realize what it is we’re asking for. We seek others to value us so we can see it within ourselves and possibly identify that empty feeling that shreds through our very soul every waking moment. But we desire this confirmation from other sources outside ourselves. We simply cannot self soothe in this situation. That is likely because we were devalued as children. We were denied the basic sense of self worth because our disorder was our label, and there was never a positive spin on it.
Today, when I excel, instead of being appreciated I’m treated as either a threat or an intrusion. In the workplace, that exposes itself as discrimination. At home. It’s straight abuse. And that is a fact that most of us probably hadn’t even contemplated. Even on a non physical level, we cannot ignore the damage that was done. We must accept the fact that we were abused children.
The medical definition of abuse states that one definition of emotional abuse is:
“any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”
Research has shown that children with ADHD are significantly higher risk of neglect (60%!) and psychological abuse (35%!). Such a staggering number of children with this disorder being mistreated, whether consciously or not, cannot be overlooked or ignored. I know that I tried to brush it off or explain it away in order to avoid some of the trauma being done to me, but that’s simply not possible for a child. Try to imagine solving a Rubik’s Cube, but every time to make progress, someone snatches the cube from your hand and remixes it up. That’s a bit like trying to explain away being degraded for having ADHD. And with our emotions being two to ten times more unstable than the rest, you can imagine (actually, you may not be able to. Not sure I’d want you to) the impact it can have on the fragile little ego of a child.
Now, while I did, in fact, survive those years, I can personally tell you I see the damage that was done and it’s long term effects. Relationships are difficult for me. Trust is not something that comes naturally. Yet, I still will open myself up to anyone that is in need simply because I love to help people. It’s a lovely little merry-go-round that, due to my condition, spins at a rather dizzying pace. Getting compliments is very hard to accept because I expect something to follow that will just remind me that I shouldn’t get excited and that I’m still damaged. (Oh, those closest to me get SO aggravated at that.)
It may come to pass that one day someone comes along and sees you for what you really are, and loves you for it. Then the real fun begins. But that’s for another post altogether. (We’re so close to being done with this one. It’s almost 2am, but I can keep going if you want! Don’t tempt me….)
Then there’s the other area where someone like myself will encounter an abusive environment. My recent post shed some light on the subject of discrimination in the workplace. This is a real problem because, as I’ve explained before, it’s so hard to pinpoint and express where the abuse is coming from without sounding ‘dramatic’. (I even hate typing that word.) However, that is exactly what is done. Maybe your work is demeaned even for the tiniest flaw.Or your efforts go unnoticed, or even worse, are criticized for being unwarranted. Possibly your strengths and abilities are bypassed in an effort to keep focus off of you for the sake of another worker. (Am I relating something specific here? I’m not sayin’ nuthin’.) It could be a plethora of moments that seem like typical every day actions. But it wears on the ADHD soul. Because it reminds us of how we were treated as a child, and that just debilitates us further.
Okay, so I’ve given you examples of just a few traumatic experiences I’ve had to handle. And let me tell you, my childhood is not the worst story out there. There are those that have suffered vastly more than any of us. But I felt that expressing some of mine might make it easier for those reading this to face theirs and maybe even acknowledge it and seek help. I did. I was pointed to a therapist to help me gain some sense of self worth so I could accomplish something instead of just living in fear and regret. (Oh man was THAT session a party!)
I’ve been asked why? Why expose such a sensitive topic from your life for all to see? Well, did it help you understand your situation? Or maybe you’re a parent trying to desperately understand their child and are afraid you’re doing exactly what you don’t want to be doing. Or an educator that just doesn’t know how to handle the little tornado in the third row. Or a boss that suddenly realizes you’ve been slighting one of your best without even knowing it. Whatever the effect, if what I’ve suffered helps just one person see things more clearly and helps them overcome, then it’ll be worth it. And, as my nature demands, I want to help anyone I can.
The end game here is simply to show that, if you’re still in the suffering mode, there is a way to handle it. You’re not doomed to being a useless broken person simply because you forget, get fidgety or get distracted. In fact, you’re secretly 15% smarter than most of those around you. (Don’t tell them though. Egos get bruised very easily.) Step up, seek help, and realize. You’re one of us. You’re creative, smart and capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to. Just write it down because you’ll end up setting your mind to many things. But be proud of who you are. I know I am.
One more thing. There might be a few out there that might pity me for what they’ve read. Let me tell those tender-hearted readers that I do appreciate such sympathy, but there’s not really a need. Just the fact that you are trying to understand is enough to satisfy someone like myself. All we really ask is that we are accepted just as we are. Allow us to grow and achieve at our own pace (which is gonna be way faster than you realize) and give us the space to make our mistakes, learn from them and not feel bad for it.
If you are brave enough to try for that little tiger you have in your life with ADHD, kudos. You’ll see the rewards rather quickly. you’ll know it because a child with ADHD will smile quickly and often. And when that happens, each smile is a gift. And it’s given to you at no cost.
Just for fun…
Yeah, from Rocky. What’d you expect?