When You Just Want Off the Rollercoaster

It’s been a long time that I’ve been a passenger. I’m just along for the ride and I’m definitely not in the driver’s seat. I absorb every twist and turn without any idea of what to expect next. I hang on for dear life when it all goes upside down. My knuckles are white and hands hurt from holding on so tight. I never thought I’d describe myself this way because I’m a very structured, organized person. I plan. I plot. I don’t passenger. But here I am in the front row of this rollercoaster life that is parenting my Complex ADHDer.

For too many years I’ve had cortisol pumping through my veins like gas through a gas pump. Adrenaline rushes are part of my every day. My face feels permanently contorted from wearing extreme emotions too often. I just want off the rollercoaster. I can’t do it anymore.

I told myself those last two lines recently. I said them out loud. And I meant them. We are smack dab in the very middle of the very last year of high school in what has been more than a tumultuous ride and I am just done. I’m barely army crawling. Put a fork in me. I officially have no more feelings left to feel. So I did something I really wish I would’ve done way back – like when my ADHD+er was in the second grade. (In my defense, there was so much shine still left in those days – how would I have known better?) I found PERSPECTIVE. You know, that lens we see everything through that helps us decide if the world is really ending or if it’s just another Monday afternoon?

I wish I would’ve paced myself. Seen the whole course ahead of me and not just the next few sprints. I wish I would’ve seen things for what they really were and focused on only the BIG stuff. I wish I would’ve taken steps to protect my heart and mind a little more, and definitely my ADHD+er a LOT more. Hindsight is easier to find this many years in, but it’s also never too late to salvage some things. We can choose to gain perspective at any time and we can choose to use perspective every time.

We can choose to gain perspective at any time and

we can choose to use perspective every time.

For me, getting perspective meant measuring everything against the absolute worst case scenario – after I’d thrown out what I THOUGHT was the very worst case scenario and replaced it by death. Yes, you read that correctly – DEATH. Every time the cortisol was starting to rush and my eyebrows would begin to furrow and my hands shook I would ask myself IS ANYONE GOING TO DIE? And you know what? That was exactly what I needed. I needed to remind myself that all the things I kept thinking were earth shattering were not equal to death.

Those young pre-k years when he wouldn’t wear undies and I was convinced he’d catch himself in a zipper? They did not equal dead bodies. The years and years and more years of no tooth or hair brushing? Nobody died. The missed assignments and lost library books and constant calls from teachers? Nobody flatlined. The attitudes and constant arguing and med side effects? No eulogies spoken. The near failing or actual failing of classes? Not one funeral plot was purchased. But it was the continual slow death of the even pace of my heart and the kindness of my words and the patience I had to give.

The reality is there are a LOT of things a parent will not be able to control on the white knuckle journey of parenting a Complex ADHDer. A lot. And we know it goes far beyond not wearing underwear and failed classes. It isn’t easy to navigate every hairpin turn – and there are too many of those to count. Unexpected 90 degree falls are going to ignite our fear. Hanging upside down will make us feel crazy. We are human. But here’s the thing, much like riding a roller coaster, if we remember that NOBODY IS GOING DIE we can actually ease up enough to enjoy the ride. And if we’re enjoying the ride instead of hanging on for dear life then we are free to do the one thing that REALLY matters, and that’s protecting and nurturing our ADHD+er’s heart. That’s it. That’s the one thing that has to happen.

If we’re enjoying the ride instead of hanging on for dear life then we are free to do the only thing that REALLY matters, and that’s protecting and nurturing our ADHD+er’s heart.

While the “parent of an ADHD+er” life can typically feel topsy turvy and out of our control we can be assured that all the things will eventually even out. Our kids will most likely be wearing underpants on a regular basis at some point in their lives. And even if they don’t nobody will die. I continually remind myself that the stack of things that cause my hand wringing in the day to day doesn’t compare to having a new chance tomorrow with my kid.

You’ve got this. We’re cheering you on.

Do You Know How Tired You Are?

You may not think you’re tired. You may actually feel full of adrenaline as you’re running from thing to thing all day – every day. You’re checking things off the list. You’re owning the day and feeling super effective! And then, while getting your teeth cleaned, you fall asleep. Like REALLY ASLEEP. You’re actually snoring and drooling in public! This is not a hypothetical – it’s my very embarrassing and very true story. I’d had no idea how deprived of real rest I was and this was my wake up call.

Parents are busy, but parents of ADHD+ers work overtime all the time. Even when we have “down time” our minds are constantly working trying to piece things together, run interference and plan ahead. There’s always a running list in our minds to attend to. So, how restful is our rest REALLY? When was the last time we considered whether it was enough? Is our gauge the fact that we’re still able to keep doing all the things and haven’t collapsed? That was my gauge until I noticed that every time I sat someplace quiet – a waiting room, a brow wax, car line for school pick up – I WAS FALLING ASLEEP.

Once I got this wake up call I really started thinking about things. It was glaring that I was coming up short on rest, which led to quickly noticing that my temper and patience were typically running short too. Here I was thinking I was getting all the things done, but the reality was: I wasn’t doing them as well as I could and I wasn’t treating myself as well as I should. I knew things had to change.

First, I resolved to build in adequate sleep time to my day. People vary in what they need, but I gave myself fifteen – thirty minutes to wind down then eight hours of solid bed time. THIS WAS HARD! It’s so tempting to use those quiet hours after everyone is put to bed to start doing all the chores staring you in the face! It’s hard to resist that 9 pm second wind for a laundry marathon! But those consistent late nights build routine and a definite rest deficit that is easy to become accustomed to.

Second, I starting taking two breaks in the day for myself. This is also VERY HARD! It’s not scroll through social media or email mindLESS time – it’s actually mindFUL rest. Sometimes I’ll walk the dog and enjoy fresh air and other times I’ll just sit in a quiet room. It was jarring for me at first. All I could do is think of things to be done. That’s when I realized I’d forgotten HOW to rest. Rest is NOT just sleep! Think back to all those routines we did like reading times and quiet play back in the day with our littles to avoid tantrums and meltdowns. How could I so easily forget!?? We all need this! The more I took the time for these breaks the more refreshed I actually felt for the rest of my day. I also tend to feel less stressed and more patience overall when I take time in the day to unplug.

Resting appropriately can feel like a luxury you can’t afford because there’s too much to do. It can also feel unnecessary if you haven’t fallen asleep in public – YET. But when is the last time you really thought about your rest routine and considered what you REALLY need? Maybe never since having a family? Well, it’s a new year which is a great time to think about doing some new things for YOU.

We’d love to hear how you might be embracing better rest for yourself this year. Please share your ideas or what’s been working for you. We can’t wait to hear from you. We’re cheering you on!

‘Tis the Season

This year I noticed so many lighted trees through windows before Thanksgiving. It’s like the uncertainty and worry of 2020 had us all craving that which is nostalgic, familiar and HAPPY and we couldn’t have it soon enough. Making merry always calls for overtime – especially for those of us with Complex ADHDer’s who are on hyperdrive in December between heightened school demands and all the festivities. But THIS holiday season can definitely feel like a major drain due to altered family traditions, cancelled events and the stress of keeping everyone healthy. Is it even the holidays if it doesn’t FEEL like it?

Six years ago, after decking the halls to the hilt and prepping perfectly to welcome loads of extended family for a Christmas stay I started feeling not so great. Just hours before their cars pulled up in the drive I sat in the doc’s office and heard him say “You have the flu and need to quarantine in your room for the next five days.” I was really foggy but I knew that math wasn’t adding up because he was basically telling me I HAD TO MISS CHRISTMAS THAT YEAR. It couldn’t be true, because I’m the queen of making merry and everyone had matching pj’s and I had everything perfectly planned out. Well, except for getting the flu.

It was that Christmas that I realized something that is coming in REALLY handy for this crazy, weird, not quite right, 2020 version of the holidays. Laying in bed alone for all those days, hearing the merry hoopla unfold without me just outside my bedroom door, I learned that Christmas is actually perfect all on its own. My menu didn’t matter nor did a perfect place setting. The kids getting along and actually behaving didn’t either. None of the things that I’d worked so hard on to make for a “perfect Christmas” had ANY bearing. Christmas actually stands alone. It needs zero from us.

My faith reminded me that Christmas is the celebration of the greatest gift given to mankind in the arrival of Jesus. Whether my turkey emerges from the oven golden brown or charcoal black – nothing can change that glorious fact. I was also reminded that the joy we have in our hearts for each other can fuel the merry. That joy doesn’t have to evaporate because of circumstance because NOTHING can take away the ties that bind. And there’s also the magic of years gone by because memories are everything and it’s amazing how the past really does seep into the present when we let it.

So if you feel like 2020’s draining you this holiday season because it is SO EXTRA and and it’s demanding so much more than you feel you have to give – it’s all good. Rely on the beauty and truth of your own family’s belief’s and traditions to carry you through. I promise they’re strong enough. So if your tree is only half up, and you have twelve teacher emails on missed assignments from your ADHDer and your extended family is staying away due to Covid – just keep moving along. Do what you’re able and don’t let anything steal your joy.

We’d love to hear about your family traditions and how you might be adapting them to accommodate the 2020 factor this year. We know you’re working extra hard to make all the things happen! We see you and we are cheering you on!

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

Anyone else exhausted? You know how the grind of managing school woes and mood woes and med woes and wrangling it all day after day has just taken it all out of you? The pushing and prodding and cheering on and managing is such a constant that it almost becomes an even-paced, depleting autopilot setting. Until there’s a crisis that sets you off running hard again. And there’s always a crisis that springs up every now and again, as if right on cue.

Parenting a complex ADHD+er is hard. There are seasons that really wring you like a sponge. As Norrine says to me sometimes, she’s learned to become a psychiatrist, a nutritionist and a teacher among other titles just to manage her child. We’ve all been left flapping out in the wind more than once to untangle crazy messes that not even the most sought after professionals seem to understand. It can be really hard and lonely work. And the thing about it is, there’s no finish line in sight. There’s no: LET’S RALLY HARD BECAUSE WE ARE ALMOST THERE! cheer. The reality is we’re managing hard on the daily and navigating deep, torrential waters often enough with zero breaks – knowing all the while that THIS IS A FOREVER JOB.

The reality is we’re managing hard on the daily and navigating deep, torrential waters often enough with zero breaks – knowing all while that THIS IS A FOREVER JOB.

That reality may make you want to just lay in the road some days. We’re human. We get tired. We don’t have all the answers this journey demands and the stamina to keep up can be elusive. It’s hard to live with the daily pressure of facing all these challenges – seemingly all at once some days.

We’ve found it’s important to remember that this is a marathon. Finding our even, steady pace is the key to continually moving forward. There are days where the sprint is necessary – a flurry of calls to get meds switched out, tracking down just the right tutor or shepherding our ADHD+er through emotional woes. But it’s our everyday regimen of keeping these kiddos on track that reminds us the steady pace is where it’s at. Moving forward. No stopping. No giving up.

There are no fast lanes in this parenting marathon. No shortcuts. Norrine and I have found that it’s in the steady pace where we fuel ourselves up that we have the most stamina. There’s joy and peace to be found in that pace – even though we are huffing and puffing to keep up. Take in the smiles and the hugs and the breakthroughs – celebrate them BIG! That’s fuel. Look for the bits of progress and glimmers of future success, that’s fuel too. Running is all about staying hydrated, so remember what keeps YOU fulfilled too and do those things OFTEN. That’s necessary fuel.

The road can be hard and the journey relentless – but it’s in the even pace of moving forward that we can savor the landscape and even look forward to what’s ahead. You can do this. We’re cheering you on!

Stuck In The Hard Places

Ever get into a rough patch that feels like quicksand? The one or two things that started going south now seem to have tainted all the things and the whole ship feels like it’s going down. Fast. It’s in those moments that fear gives way to a feeling of monumental failure. Whatever grip we thought we had is slipping and we are questioning ourselves. We’re counting our missteps. We’re feeling like the mess we’re looking at is a reflection of the job we’ve done.

This is a cycle we can find ourselves in often because when you’re parenting a complex ADHDer you’re either coming out of a rough patch or can anticipate soon being in one. It’s just the way it goes. It’s so critical to keep our heads above water to avoid not losing our way in these times. It’s also hard to do because when everything feels hard and we’re hitting our head against a brick wall we can’t really see anything beyond it.

That’s where we’ve found it really helps to have a friend. Norrine is my constant life line that reminds me of the couple of truths I need to get unstuck in the hard places. First she’ll always help me find the next logical step to take. This always helps to feel productive and see light at the end of the tunnel. She’ll also pry my eyes open to be on the lookout for progress – because it’s easy to miss but makes all the difference when we notice it – no matter how small it may be. Lastly, she’ll remind me that the job I’m doing is not reflected in what I’m seeing today. That’s a big one. WHAT THINGS LOOK LIKE TODAY ARE NOT A SUMMATION OF THE EFFORT I PUT IN EVERY DAY. Anyone need to hear that?

WHAT THINGS LOOK LIKE TODAY ARE NOT A SUMMATION

OF THE EFFORT I PUT IN EVERY DAY.

Anyone need to hear that?

Hard places are inevitable in parenting, but they’re a consistent guarantee when parenting complex ADHDers. Not getting stuck in those hard places is what’s important. Pulling out of the quicksand and pulling ourselves together for the next logical step is where it’s at. Keep moving forward and keep looking for any sign of progress. Remind yourself, the job you’re doing – the showing up and giving 100% day after day – it really does make a difference. You’re doing the hard stuff day after day you do not have to stay stuck in the hard places too.

Anyone relate to feeling stuck sometimes? Anyone squirming their way out of the quicksand today? We’d love to hear your story. We’re cheering you on!

How Did We Get Here?

There are deep dark holes that families may find themselves in when they have children that struggle with mental illness. Places they never imagined they’d be. Places they can’t see a way out of. Places that feel completely separated from what could possibly be real. Among the avalanche of what ifs swirling in their minds is the million dollar question: How did we get here?

It can be a short road from the everyday familiar struggle to the unthinkable. A missed diagnosis, med changes, life changes – nearly anything could serve as a catapult. Sometimes it’s sudden and sometimes it’s a slow but steady drift – but even the parents who are on top of it all are not safeguarded from a free fall. These are not broken legs or soaring temperatures. Parents will be hard pressed to find a concrete answer when the question lies in mystery of the human brain. And when you have more questions than answers lights can get dim.

Sometimes it’s sudden and sometimes it a slow but steady drift –

but even the parents who are on top of it all are not safeguarded from a free fall.

Have you been here? Are you familiar with the numbness that takes over as your mind and body try to protect you from absorbing your reality? Have you known the despair that takes over when your child is unrecognizable to you? It’s the loneliest, scariest most helpless place for a parent to be. I’ve been there and people I dearly love are there right now.

For me, clinging to light was the only way through the dark. I’ve found my mind is NOT my friend when the world goes upside down, so clinging to absolute truths is an anchoring lifeline. In my life that means clinging to my faith in God. It also means allowing myself to receive the care people who love me want to give. It’s easy to push all of that away, but that’d be like refusing the very air we need to breathe.

The parenting journey can take us to places we never imagined. How could we have known those precious babies we once held would need us even more desperately as they grew? While we don’t have all the answers and can’t know what lies ahead there are things we can know for sure. We are not alone and we don’t have to do this alone. Even if the people in your life don’t understand – and most will not unless they have the same struggles – they can still love and support you. Accept their love. Draw strength from it.

And all the hopes and dreams that swelled within you while holding your baby all those years ago? They’ll seemingly evaporate right in front of you – but don’t lose hope. Your child’s story doesn’t end today. There is light to be found on the other end of this darkness. Trust this and keep going.

Looking back and it all makes sense

This past weekend I took some time to visit my dear aunt who is turning 80. We have loads and loads of memories together because she always took the time to round up all the cousins for park dates and craft times, which probably helped break up the monotony of caring for her own four littles. This pic is just a few of us after making easter baskets. There’d already been melt downs and tears and tantrums galore. I’m the one cheesing hard in the Mets cap, thrilled to be out having fun.

Looking back got me thinking back to those years growing up together in a time before labels existed. There was no ADHD. Hyperactivity was just redirected or punished. Big emotions were met with the reminder that if we really wanted something to cry about – the adults would gladly take care of that. Anxiety was squelched with a reprimand or a harsh look. There was little to no attention paid to kid feelings or what might be causing them. I always felt loved but there was zero room for nonsense – and anything out of bounds was nonsense. “Extra” wasn’t tolerated.

The youngest of us is now in her forties and when we’re all together we sometimes talk diagnoses – our own and those of our collective twenty one kids. I find it interesting that we’ve each mostly journeyed privately to find our own diagnosis – more than a few of us have ADHD and anxiety is a very common thread between us. It’s clear that growing up with unaddressed issues leads to keeping them close. It’s only been since raising our own children that the floodgates of sharing have opened between us. Nearly all our kids are touched by ADHD or anxiety in some way, among other labels sprinkled in here and there.

It’s clear that growing up with unaddressed issues leads to keeping them close.

It’s more than helpful to me to know what they’ve experienced in themselves and with their children. Looking back together we see how it all makes so much sense now – it’s not just helpful it’s healing! Confusion and misunderstanding fade when the full picture is revealed. Here we are all these years later and we’re understanding the past and piecing together the future for our own kids.

I struggle often with feeling the weight of making sure my kids navigate through their struggles well. There’s a constant push on my part to help my ADHDer feel understood and for him to understand himself. What an absolute turn around from our own journey as kids. For that I’m glad. But I also needed the reminder from the past that although it may be a rocky road you’ll eventually find your way.

Just Give Me a Smile

Have you ever had a season in parenting your ADHDer where – somewhere in the constant pushing and pulling to get things started and finished all day every day you notice – your child has lost their spark? They’re sad, maybe discouraged and they’re not even reaching out for help to make sense of it all. Seeing your child lose their joy is by far one of the greatest hurts a parent can have. It can also give us some needed perspective on what’s important.

In our home we’ve been navigating through a really tough time. Med changes at the start of the school year sent everything off the rails. Our ADHDer was not himself in ANY way and he was completely disengaged and hurting. All the school deadlines and senior check lists went quickly to the waste side. The very tasks that had become the centerpiece of our every day and every conversation became meaningless. Connecting with and understanding our son was all that mattered. We’d given anything just to see him genuinely smile and feel joy.

It’s been a really hard time. I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience it, yet I know that if you’re parenting an ADHDer you’ve probably been here at some time. Norrine has said to me for years “The most important thing you can work on is bonding with your kid.” Her words have never been truer. There is truly nothing worth more than a strong connection with our children and seeing them experiencing life with joy.

Norrine and I have both been navigating through expected tough seasons with our children. We hope it’s been a better start to the school year for you – we’d love to hear how you’re doing. We’re cheering you on.

Walking the Tightrope

Any parent of a complex ADHDer knows that in a day’s time you’ll probably feel most of the feels. Overwhelming frustration is common, since – you know – ADHD. Joy and pride will pop up since you’ve made a habit look for the good stuff. There’ll be plenty of exhaustion from keeping things from going off the rails. Don’t forget the trepidation as meds wear off and witching hours brew. It’s an all hands on deck non-stop job that’s continually managed while we go about a regular day day. But what about the OTHER days. The ones with the BIG FEELS – like when we’re left wondering “are they going to make it” and “is it always going to be this hard”? There are tough seasons when things just aren’t going well and our kid isn’t thriving and we’re left wondering “how is all of this really going to turn out?”

Norrine and I have been stuck in this mode for the last handful of weeks or so as we’re each experiencing set backs with our kids. While our circumstances are different there are plenty of similarities. It’s hard. It’s troubling. And we both find that in the moment – when the avalanche of reality is hitting hard and every emotion is swirling – all of it gets absorbed. Our racing minds and wondering hearts are hidden in the light of day. They’re overshadowed by care giving and picking up the pieces. It takes so much sometimes to just take the next step that falling apart is just not an option. We can’t let ourselves feel everything we’re actually feeling or let our minds wonder everything we’re actually wondering because we know THAT IS QUICKSAND AND WE WILL BE EATEN ALIVE IF WE DON’T JUST MOVE FORWARD.

And so we walk the tightrope, balancing feeling all the feelings and boldly moving ahead. Don’t look down. Don’t look around. Just one step ahead after the other. It’s survival. The reality is whether it’s a regular day or our hardest season yet – we’re all on a tightrope. It’s a constant balancing act for us all – weighing the what if’s and the moving forward.

We want to remind you you’re not alone out there hovering hundreds of feet above the ground on your tightrope. We’re all out here together. It’s not easy but we can make it. Just one step at a time.

We’re cheering you on.

Can I Return This Please?

I hear a lot of people talking about ADHD being a gift.  In my experience, I don’t see it that way.  Maybe what they mean is something like one of the following.  “It’s not the end of the world.  It’s not the worst thing that could happen.  You can cope with this.  The challenges don’t mean there won’t be joy.”  I agree with all those statements.  It’s just that a gift is something you wanted, something that you prefer over other gifts.  I’m not sure that’s the case for ADHD, especially complex ADHD.  ADHD comes with a lot of challenges that it’s important for people to understand. 

When I see my child struggle to self-regulate his hyperactivity and I see that hyperactivity interfering with his peer relationships, that’s not a gift.  That’s a struggle.  When I see my child shutting down at the very idea of math, that’s not a gift either.  When I see my child getting average grades despite being gifted, that’s not a gift.  The challenges my child faces because of their neurodevelopmental disorder do not enhance his life.  

The lessons we all have learned as a result of coping with complex ADHD are a gift.  We’ve learned a lot of science, tons about how to communicate with others, and, most of all, compassion.  I appreciate those lessons but, for a “gift,” I’d rather have a house in the mountains.  

I understand where people are coming from when they ADHD is a gift and I appreciate the can-do, positive spirit behind it.  My children are a gift.  They themselves have many talents and strengths.  But is ADHD a gift to them or to me?  I would say no.