Learning Not to Say “I’m Sorry”

“I’m so sorry!!” I looked at the clock behind the receptionist. Late again. How many times today had I had to apologize for being late? Car seat in tow along with another child running around somewhere, I looked back on the day thinking of how I could have possibly done things differently.  I had made Herculean efforts just to show up!  Yet still, I felt the need to apologize because I had made one mistake, misplaced one thing, had a diaper change come up that I hadn’t planned for, or whatever.  My inner critic would insist, “You can’t keep being late for everything!!  It’s so rude.”  Cold wash of shame.

I’ve started challenging the shaming messages that come with having ADHD.  Shame can become a habit, and mine is pretty ingrained.  Maybe that’s why I wasn’t totally comfortable with this video from Jessica McCabe.  I had never considered how apologizing for my inability to be neurotypical impacts my feelings about myself.  “I’m sorry,” implies that I’ve done something wrong.  I didn’t care enough.  I didn’t try hard enough.  Truth is, I try so hard.  It isn’t enough, but that doesn’t mean that I’m to blame.  I deserve credit for my efforts just like everyone else.  Just because I start the game with two strikes against me doesn’t mean I’m not worth having on the team.

With ADHD, and a mother of children with ADHD, I’m not going to manage my symptoms and my children’s symptoms perfectly.  Even neurotypical moms of young kids have trouble keeping a schedule.  Shame is not a healthy way to manage symptoms.  At the same time I know how much my ADHD impacts the people I love and the relationships I care about.  In fact, my inabilility to manage my ADHD perfectly causes me to socially isolate myself to avoid damaging those relationships.

“Oh, there’s a babyshower next week,” or “My son has a birthday party tomorrow,” or “maybe I should set up some playdates,” or “I should sign up to bring cupcakes to the ward party next week.” Those all turn into another list of things for me to fail at; presents I forgot to buy or wrap, another appointment to put on the calendar that I will probably show up late for, another group of people to apologize to.  I’ve thought about quitting the choir I love because I’m worried about being late.  I don’t want to take risks because I know I’m most likely going to fail.  Those failures don’t just impact me.  They impact everyone who is depending on me.  That makes me feel awful!

As I’ve thought more about the ways that the shame around my ADHD has drained my life of the joy and happiness, the more I think Jessica McCabe is right.  I need to stop apologizing for being ADHD.  Instead, I’m going to start thanking my friends and family for their patience and love in spite of my disability.  To all those who have seen the value in me in spite of my ADHD, I say, thank you!  Thank you for seeing me for who I am and loving me anyway.  

I started a bullet journal last week.  Jessica McCabe has a whole ton of Youtube tutorial videos on why this style of planner is great for ADHD.  You can access them here.  It has really helped me so far.  I can’t believe how much I have been able to get done!  I’ve started thinking, “Wow!  I could start looking like that Mom (fill-in-the-blank) that has it all together!”  Then I have to remind myself that I’m me, and that’s the best.  I don’t have to be together and organized to have value.  If this planner helps me to be more productive, that’s awesome, but it doesn’t define me.  

I find myself grappling with the structure of the planner.  My perfectionism starts rearing up.  In fact, my daily schedule today doesn’t include my blog post I’m writing right now.  I’m cheating on my schedule!  I have to give myself permission to color outside the lines because that’s what I do.  That’s who I am, and I’m giving myself permission to be who I am, just maybe with a couple of extra tools to help out.

Jessica McCabe’s videos have done so much to help me and my kids.  I suspect Devin thinks she’s hot.  He seems especially keen to watch her videos.  All three boys resonate with what she has to say.  We watched this video on Sunday.  It’s about using a glitter bottle to calm the brain down during an ADHD meltdown.  They all want one now.  

So if you hear fewer apologizes and more thank yous from me, know that its intentional.  I’m choosing to have more compassion for myself and choose self-love and gratitude instead of shame!  Hopefully I can pass on this habit of positive self-image to my boys.  I’m way too hard on them most of the time.  They struggle with the same stuff I do, but the habit of self-flagellation is the only strategy that I’ve consistently used to manage my symptoms.  When I think about it, its not that surprising that they have self-esteem problems.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Fortunately, its never to late to start being a good example to them!  I’m so grateful for my Savior who is guiding my recovery.  I know that together, we are unstoppable.  Salvation is real.  Hope is not in vain.  

 

This is the calendar page for this month. It is soon to be filled with all the end of school activities!!
I’m redoing my chore chart, and this is going to be the tool that’s going to make sure that I get everything on it! Am I going to have a clean house??? Anything is possible!
All ADHDers know that keeping track of the many projects we start can get overwhelming….This section is going to help me get them all done!
Daily planning can get a little too structured for me. Still, I’m caught up on my laundry in the first time in forever. I’ll take it.
This is the page I did yesterday for one of my boys with ADHD. I plan to do one for all my boys.
This section is where I write about what has worked and what hasn’t.

Go in Peace; Confessions of a Mom with ADHD

I found a new series of videos on ADHD.  A woman named Jessica McCabe made them after struggling to reach her potential for many years.  She gave a TED talk where she explains her journey.  It sounds so much like mine!  You start out so hopeful and full of promise, and then ADHD just gets in the way and you end up lonely, ashamed, and frustrated.  The biggest thing that Jessica figured out was that speaking out was the key to overcoming shame and loneliness. 

I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, after my second child was found to have a severe case of it. Having ADHD is challenging, but then you are also likely to have children who also have it. Parenting ADHD children as an ADHD parent is extra challenging.

King Tantalus was punished by being eternally tormented with hunger and thirst while surrounded by food and water.

Being atypical is always hard.  Ask any left handed person.  Being neutrally atypical is maddening.  I’m always comparing my own perceptions with everyone else as a frame of reference.  As a result, I am getting conflicting and confusing messages about who I am and how I’m supposed to behave.  Jessica says it is like being both the smartest person and the dumbest person in the room; and being the most motivated and most lazy person in the room.  That really sums up how I feel about myself and my kids.  There is so much potential there; we are so close to success we can almost taste it.  But like King Tantalus, it is constantly and maddenly out of reach.

It’s brutal on my self esteem to feel like no matter how hard I try to be on-time, stay on-task, manage a schedule, or even pay attention to my husband when he wants to talk to me, I just can’t do it.  ADHD impacts every aspect of my life in ways that even I don’t totally understand.  I function fairly well when it really matters, but what a lot of people on the outside don’t see is the coping strategies I use to make it all work.  I’ll use one example.

When I was a new mom, I went to a store with my newborn in a carseat.  I got distracted with the shopping and forgot my baby sitting on the floor sleeping peacefully.  I left him as I completed my shopping, went through the checkout, and left the store.  At some point before I drove off, I was overcome with panic remembering that I was a mom and I didn’t have my baby.  I will never forget that wash of shame, the panicked dash back into the store, and the mumbled excuse I gave to the cashier without meeting her gaze.  Some people might just see this as the typical behavior of a sleep deprived new mother.  I knew it was more than that.  It was the beginning of eighteen long years of responsibility for another person that would acquire attention and focus that I knew I was incapable of.  I knew that this was only the first of what would be countless episodes of danger that my child would experience because of my brain problems.  How could I make myself pay attention?  How could I ensure that I would be a good mom and keep my baby safe? 

Me holding my newborn baby. Nothing is more important to me than my four boys, but I know that with ADHD I face unique challenges as a mother.

I would regularly subject myself to shaming sessions where I would rehearse the fear, panic, and devastating grief that would happen if I didn’t focus my attention with my child and something horrible happened.  I knew that forgetting my child that day at the store was not that big of a deal.  He was sleeping, and I remembered him within a few moments.  What if I forgot him in the car in the heat of a Texas summer day?  I would vividly imagine my baby screaming in pain as he slowly died of heat because I forgot about him.  That was the way I motivated myself.  It has worked.  I have a very ingrained process of opening the back door when I stop the car, even when my kids aren’t in the car.  I have coped, but at what cost to myself?  And whenever I slip up, I’m reminded of the truth; I will never be a good mom.  My children will never be safe with me taking care of them.

It’s no wonder that I’ve avoided social interactions as a mom.  I’m convinced there is no more judgmental and critical group of people in the universe than mothers of young children.  Except for maybe their grandmothers.  Being with a group of young moms at a playgroup is torture for me.  I’m sure that they will see the truth, that I am a mess and their children are not safe with me no matter how good of an image I try to project.

Emotional and psychological torment along with social isolation, are two coping strategies that have traded ADHD problems for problems with anxiety and depression.  I’m so afraid that I will leave my child in a hot car, I don’t want to go anywhere during the summers.  I’m so afraid of being judged by other moms, I avoid playgroups and close relationships with other moms.  I’m lonely and ashamed of myself.  My kids, who are also ADHD, learn from me that the way to handle their problems is avoidance and shame.

I still don’t have all the answers for how to deal with these issues.  All I know is that I can’t bare them alone anymore.  It makes the people around me feel better to think that I’m a great mom who has it all together, but the truth is, that’s just a projection.  The real me knows that I’m not the mom my boys deserve.  My medication helps in the morning, but by mid afternoon, it starts to wear off.  I have a mid afternoon slump just as my kids come home from school, which makes it difficult to keep track of everyone and keep everybody safe and on task.

Last week I was in one of my crashes.  I was in my room watching crime shows on Amazon Prime.  Wesley and his friend were at the school playground that is just down the street.  Austin was upstairs with Layne.  Until he wasn’t.  He walked out the front door in nothing but a pair of shorts and walked over to the school playground to play.  It isn’t the first time he’s done this.  I knew it was only a matter of time before someone called the police.  Wesley came to get me to tell me that Austin was at the school playground and that the afterschool care lady wouldn’t let him leave without a parent.  The officer was there to meet me.

I don’t need any pity.  I know I screwed up.  Yes, I’m grateful he’s okay and I understand why people are concerned.  It still hurts like hell because there are no easy answers.  And that’s what I felt as I considered all the ways I was incurably flawed and how I would never be able to be the mom my children need me to be.  Shame.  Burning hot and painful as hell.  Hell that never ends.

Except that I have a Redeemer.  He knows my heart.  He knows the effort I put in that no one sees.  He knows that even though I am flawed, that He is enough!  And He loves me; and my boys.  He has paid the price.  The police officers, the judges, and the critical mothers of this world fade in importance, their power dimming as I ponder on this truth.  He is all that matters.  I am not enough.  I was never expected to be.  That’s why I need Him.  That’s why I love Him.

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power,
When Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

The Master taught the Pharisee that the person who is forgiven a few pennies worth of debt isn’t as grateful as the one forgiven a fortune.  I need Him.  Not a few pennies worth of Him, but a fortune.  I need Him like I need the air to breathe.  And so I love Him.  I come to him as she did, with oil in my hands and tears to wash his feet.  I beg for his mercy and plead for his forgiveness.  He says, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, because she loved much……Thy faith hath saved thee.  Go in peace.”

Taking a Break

It was a four Zanax night last night. Granted, they were a ridiculously low dosage pill, but still. I haven’t had to take that many in a very long time.

It has been a pretty good week overall. We got a lot of yard chores done over the weekend. Ben and I have had some very productive fights, that became sharing sessions, that led to us understanding one another on a deeper level. So what happened last night?

I think everybody has their limit. In raising four ADHD boys, I have a pretty high tolerance level for noise, chaos, and mess, but even that deep well gets exhausted sometimes. Easter candy, plastic eggs, candy wrappers, and baskets everywhere; fights over whose candy is whose and making sure the dog doesn’t get into the chocolate; and of course, the sugar high that everyone is on, followed inevitably by the crash and crankiness. Today all the Easter stuff is going into storage or into the trash! I’m done.

Austin, my three year old, didn’t take a nap yesterday afternoon. Instead, he decided to jump on and chase the puppy. The puppy would run in between my legs for protection and then Austin and I would engage in a game of keep away where I tied fruitlessly to calm both animals down, keep them apart, and coach them on civilized behavior.

Austin massacred his chocolate bunny. The residue is still all over my room three days later.

Pepper has begun to really be afraid of Austin. Today he was chasing her and she planted her little paws on the carpet and barked at him repeatedly, hoping desperately that her little puppy warnings would deter my toddler tornado. She bit him yesterday in the car. It happened to be while I was driving, in traffic, in the rain, and the windshield wiper had just come off. That was stressful. She didn’t hurt him, but she had just had enough. I get it.

I love Pepper and she loves me!

Austin punches and kicks and yells at her despite my firm instructions and timeouts. Now that Pepper is finding her power, I have to make some changes to make sure everyone is safe. I’ve been overthinking the situation, as I always do; unable to make a decision about what the best course of action is. Trusting my own instincts to protect the ones I love and allow myself to make mistakes is hard for me to do. It’s also hard for me to see the good I do.

My roses started blooming!

I spent much of the day yesterday on Twitter. I follow several people who are similar to me in their takes on the political scene. It feels good to know that there are others who are trying to build bridges between the parties, encourage dialogue about difficult things, and speak out about the dangerous trends we are seeing. Still, the little voice of discouragement gets me down sometimes. Sometimes I like a post that is a little snarky, or has too many swear words. Sometimes I post something that is a lot meaner than I would say in real life. Honestly, the person I am on Twitter is not my favorite version of myself. Sometimes I check my activity feed, just to make sure that I’m self aware enough to know if I am being a part of the solution or a part of the problem. It’s so easy to become what you are fighting against.

So today, no Twitter. There are two parts of me that war within me, kind of like the shoulder angel and shoulder devil in the cartoons. One side of me thinks that I have to be connected 24/7 to my Twitter feed to respond to every idiotic post and be informed about every trend. The other side of me thinks the whole thing is a big waste of time and energy. The truth is, both are wrong.

I think my Twitter activity has made that online space a better place. Do I screw up? Yes. Do I add some valuable insight? Yes. I’ve learned so much from Twitter! There are some really smart people on there with some really good ideas. Twitter is America and the West unfiltered. It’s ugly, it’s raw, it’s real, it’s honest, it’s painful, and it’s beautiful in it’s own weird way. Kind of like motherhood. Still, breaks are good. From both.

I’m a nurturer. Whether plants, or kids, or puppies, or countries, that’s what I do best. Sometimes I forget that what I do matters. The forces of God’s creative power reside in my hands. These little people in my home are forgetful, hyper, competitive, and selfish; but they are also curious, loving, hard working, and growing up to be amazing men. Every meal I make, every mess I clean up, every owie I kiss, every heartfelt prayer I offer, every parenting article I read, every strategy I try, every bedtime story I read, every pat on the back I give, MATTERS. It matters to him.

Austin feeds Pepper his peeps.

The scriptures counsel us to not be weary in well doing. I think it means, don’t listen to that voice in my head that tells me that I’m not worth anything unless I earn a paycheck, that my efforts don’t matter to anyone, that I’m no one and nothing. I matter. I matter to Him. I don’t think it means that I can’t ever take some time away and nurture myself for a while.

Today I’m going to read some scriptures, meditate, and connect with my Savior. I’m going to spend some time in the sunshine planting flowers, not because I have to, but because I want to. Its going to be a day to recharge and refresh. The country and Twitter will survive a few days without me.

Grapevines and Family Trees

Three springs ago, I planted a grape vine. It was a dead looking stick that I hoped would someday grow into a vigorous vine that would produce delicious grapes and save our family money. That first summer I carefully tended to each delicate shoot. It made painfully slow progress and would droop pathetically when the Texas heat came. Eventually it gained strength in the roots and started putting out strong vines, but no fruit since it was the first year. We pruned it during the winter, but we didn’t prune it as much as was recommended. I knew that the fruit would be produced off the old wood, and I was eager to get as much fruit as possible.

The vine took off that spring and quickly had covered the trellis. Blossoms came, and then tiny grape clusters. Unfortunately, there were so many vines and leaves that the grapes were unable to mature as the plant was putting its energy into producing leaves and vines. The sunlight was also unable to get to the grapes, so they didn’t ripen. Although the vine produced probably fifteen grape clusters, we didn’t get a single edible grape. I was disappointed.

You can see the clusters of grapes hidden at the bottom of the vine. It produced a lot of fruit, but none of it was good.
Dad is helping me build a path. Thanks Dad! In the background you can see a massive vine. This was in May. It had grown over the entire trellis and the backside too.
These grapes ended up never maturing and stayed small, green, and sour.

I don’t like failure. I take it personally. I don’t like to think about my failures because it’s painful and I prefer to distract myself with other things that bring easier rewards. I busy myself with projects and once I face an obstacle, I start another project. The chaos that ensues tends to sap my energy and contributes to my depression. As I have become healthier, I have reflected on this part of my core personality and I am working to challenge some of my views about failure.

We learn more from our failures than we do our successes. One of the worst things to do with failure is ignore it or avoid it. Failure is a gift that can lead to success at hard things; and hard things often bring the greatest rewards. So I looked at that hairy mess of vines on my trellis the other day and I decided I would do some research and try again.

After watching a few hours of YouTube videos about grapes and pruning, I thought, “I can do this.” I went out with my pruners and a saw and I hacked into my grapevine with no mercy. Where I made my cuts, the vine bled clear liquid, but I knew that in order to get what I wanted, I needed to butcher my poor plant. I cut off about ninety percent of the plant and was left with barely anything. I am also going to prune around the grape clusters so they get plenty of sun. Most importantly, I am going to prepare for another year of failure, because chances are, I have more to learn. That’s okay.

This is the vine after the severe pruning I gave it a few days ago.
This is the pile of vines I cut off. This isn’t even all of it.

Because this isn’t about grapes. This is about me learning how to grow grapes. It isn’t the end result that matters. It is the process. It is the growth. It is about me, not about groceries, grapes, or food budgets. God teaches us through the soil and the plants and the animals. This world was created for us; so that we can fail and learn and fail and learn and in the end we find Him.

The grapevine keeps coming to my mind in my parenting. Parenting is hard. There is a lot of failure. Sometimes my kids look like vigorous vines growing and learning and running wild across the trellis of life. Then it seems that the fruit just isn’t turning out just right. I want to clarify. I don’t mean that they are bad kids or anything. I just mean that I sense that there is more potential in them than they are expressing. Just like the vine. The vine was good last summer. I did a lot of things right with that grapevine. It didn’t reach its potential because I was shy with the pruning. I made one mistake, and it effected what the vine was able to do.

Like the grapevine, I need to not be afraid of my failings as a parent. In fact, I need to look carefully at them. Success for my children depends on my willingness to face my failures and learn from them. Just like I did with the grapevine, I need to do my research. Last Sunday I was studying the church library on my phone and I came across this marvelous resource. It is a book published by the church in 2006. If every parent in the church would read and follow the principles outlined in this resource, we could change the world in a couple of generations. it is called Strengthening the Family, an Instructor’s Guide. I read the first session which is about parenting principles and practices. I’m thinking this book is for a stake parenting class or something? I’ve never heard of such a class, but I think it’s a great idea. Anyway, what I have read is excellent and gave me some good ideas for adjusting some of my parenting practices. Just like the YouTube videos and horticulture sites I learned from about the grapevine pruning, I can use the massive amounts of good information about children and their development to become a better parent and bring the potential out in my children.

Failure as a parent is excruciatingly painful for me. This week I had several painful failures. Tuesday I brought Austin home from preschool and carefully snuggled him to sleep on the upstairs couch. I planned to shush Wesley as soon as he came home from school to ensure that Austin would get a good nap. Wesley exuberantly walked through the front door and flipped it closed with a smack. I heard wailing from upstairs. So much for that.

When Austin wakes up on the wrong side of the bed from a nap, it is torture for everyone. He screamed for an hour in spite of my many solicitous efforts to stem the tide of toddler fury. Then he went on a tornado rampage across the house, climbing to get cookies that I had told him he was not allowed to get, playing with things he was not allowed to play with, and making messes everywhere. I started getting overwhelmed and I went to my room to calm down. Of course, they eventually made their way to my bedroom. It’s like gravity. They find me.

So my irritation continued to mount and I started yelling at Austin to stop crying. I knew I was going to hurt him if I didn’t calm down, so I told him and Wesley that Mom needed to take a timeout. I herded them out the door and locked it. Austin was not okay with that. Of course. He screamed and screamed pounding at the door.

Anyway, it was a mess. I was supposed to be making dinner. I had counselling and a parent meeting for track and a STEM showcase. I prayed, I called Ben, I calmed myself down. I unlocked the door. Austin had wet his pants and as I took them off, he chided me. “Austin very angry! Austin so sad! I was crying.” I comforted him and praised him for naming his feelings. I was still crying at that point and he patted me on the shoulder. “It’s okay Mom,” he said in his parent voice. “You gonna be okay.” He grabbed a tissue and started wiping my tears. I had him give me kisses for my owies and I smiled for him to show him he had made me all better. He was delighted. Eventually, with the help of an angel friend and my husband, I was able to pick up my son late from track. I missed the parent meeting. I also missed my other son’s STEM showcase because it conflicted with my counselling appointment.

I tearfully apologized to Layne for missing his special day. He had the sweetest expression of compassion on his young face. “I understand Mom. It’s counselling, and you need it. It’s more important.” Of course, that made me cry even more as I told him how proud I am of his work at school and how much it means to me.

Devin had his first track meet yesterday. This was his first meet and he was actually pole vaulting. I didn’t realize it was a forty minute drive to Ft. Worth, so I was late. I thought for sure I had missed the whole thing. Parent fail. When I got there, I ran around in the cold searching faces, trying to find Devin. There were hundreds of kids and at least four schools. If I had gone to the parent meeting the day before I would maybe have a clue, but I didn’t, and now I was paying the price. I hadn’t put on any makeup, and I felt like a total looser. Besides that, there were so many African Americans. Even after living in Texas for nearly two decades, I am still irrationally afraid of them. Other people blithely say, “I have lots of friends that are black.” I only know a few black people, and I feel awkward and wrong footed around them most of the time. On top of my normal level of social anxiety, I felt on the verge of panic in this environment. I tried timidly asking a few people for help finding Devin, but no one knew. I went back to the car to warm up, thinking of the hurt expression on my son’s cold face when I finally found him. I was devastated.

I eventually dried my eyes, screwed up my courage, and went out into the cold again, determined to face my fears and find the coach. The sun had gone down at this point, and the wind was cutting through my sweatshirt. I wished I had worn a coat! I fearlessly asked the strangers with Wester sweatshirts. “I need to talk to the coach.” I was directed to a large black man with massive shoulders and a confident stride. I paced for a few minutes, then pushed down my terror.

“Hi, I’m Bridgette Burbank,” I said firmly, “I’m looking for my son and I can’t find him.” My voice didn’t even shake. He flashed a bright smile that contrasted with his ebony complexion. “Yes, Devin Burbank and pole vaulting. He would be over there,” he pointed out the pole vaulting event, hidden behind a set of bleachers. As I walked to the event, I got a tender mercy from the Lord. I saw Devin’s lean lithe form run down the track and gracefully vault right over the bar. It was beautiful! That was my son, and I got to see him vault at his first track meet! I didn’t miss it after all. I watched him vault again a few more times, but he was unable to clear the bar as he did that first time. We ran to the van and warmed up. Then we got some Arby’s and drove home. He wasn’t angry at me at all, and we had some good quality time together. Most of all, I think he saw that his mom drove across the metroplex and froze her face off to come support him in something that was important to him. That made all the failure worth it for both of us. And when I got home, Ben had put the kids down for bed, and some angels had come helped me clean my house. Thank you YW!!

The good news about parenting and grape vines, is that you get lots of chances to fail and learn and try again. Apparently, it’s really hard to kill a grapevine, so chances are good that I will have many more years to try and fail at growing this one. It is also really hard to kill your relationship with your kids. Kids love their parents. They want us to succeed, and even though we make a lot of mistakes, and maybe some that are pretty bad, we can always try again. No matter how old we are, or they are. If I can face my failures as a parent, you can too. Honestly, you’re probably doing better than I am.

Even though it is has been a rough couple of days for me, I haven’t had any suicidal ideation. That’s some real progress. My counselor was very pleased and encouraging about the way I am dealing with my challenges. I get in that negative mindset where I can’t see anything I’m doing right, but the truth is, I am making progress in real ways doing very hard things. Celebrating those successes and learning from my failures is key to getting through this depressive episode.

Often this is how my path feels. Thankfully, I have the Savior to guide my steps.

It’s really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Jesus Christ loves me. I feel like such a mess! It seems like everyone else has stuff figured out and I am just flying by the seat of my pants screwing up everything. The fact is, he created me in all my scatterbrained, ADHD, passionate, over-analyzing, oversharing glory. For some reason, he loves me. Maybe I give him some comic relief as I live my crazy life! I definitely add some variety to the world. Most of all, I hope I am becoming the woman and the parent God wants me to be, whether or not I ever run a well managed home and schedule.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

ADHD; Embracing the Alien Brain

It was a fourth grade classroom and my mentor, the fourth grade team lead was sitting in front of me with a stern expression telling me some difficult things.  It was her job to tell me the concerns that parents had about a first year teacher, but I loved this woman!  She would take a bullet for me and I needed her to like me.  I had done everything I could do to be the person she would accept and here was the inevitable unfolding before my eyes.  Rejection.  I knew it would happen because it always does.  Eventually, no matter how hard I try, I would be rejected because I am all wrong and I can never hide it forever.  The familiar tidal wave of emotion came over me.  “Don’t do this…..” she said.  I couldn’t help myself.  I slipped into a meltdown.  An ADHD emotional meltdown.  

Think ADHD is only about attention and hyper little boys?  It’s not.  It is a biological reality that you never grow out of.  It is slippery disorder that is often confused for something else.  My son Layne is one of the most extreme cases of ADHD I have ever seen.  He has been very tricky to diagnose.  I took him in to a speech pathologist when he was three and she suspected severe developmental delays.  I took him into the district for an evaluation and they gave him much higher scores.  The difference was that they engaged with him and observed him much better than the other diagnostician who only asked questions which he disregarded, behaving much like a young autistic child.  Even so, the district found him to be autistic.  I took him to the Child Study Center in Ft. Worth to see a child psychiatrist that works extensively with autistic children, and she said it was clearly ADHD.  After observing Layne and learning as much as I can about the disorder, he is a classic case.

We started treating him with stimulant medication starting at age four just before he started a special preschool class for language delayed children.  The medication made a huge impact on his ability to perform in the classroom.  He made enormous strides that surprised everyone.  years passed and he was showing himself to be an excellent student.  Unfortunately, he had a hair trigger temper and was extremely sensitive to criticism and teasing.  He would regularly, almost daily, have major meltdowns that would end up with both of us sitting on his bed while I spoke softly and soothingly, trying patiently to keep his mind from endlessly ruminating on his painful emotions by distracting him.  Sometimes it would take him hours to calm down.  His distress was so great, that he starting having suicidal thoughts.  At school he never had a single meltdown.  He was six.

My Momma heart was in tatters.  My baby was having the same problems I had and there was nothing I could do for him.  All my life, for as long as I can remember, I have had an explosive temper that has eluded every effort to manage.  Telling me to control my temper is like telling someone not to pull their hand back when they touch a hot stove.  You don’t decide, it just happens.  I knew that Layne would need more than just lectures about self control.

Thanks to God’s intervention, I happened upon an incredibly competent pediatrician for my boys.  He is stooped and gray and full of an indomitable energy.  He never tires of playing silly games with his little patients and they adore him.  Austin calls him Dr. Strange.  “Very fierce!”  He knew just what to do when I called him about Layne’s tantrums.  He prescribed guanfacine.  How did he know?  Perhaps because he is unusually perceptive about treating ADHD patients because he has it himself.  How he managed to become a doctor with his ADHD, I don’t know.  I’m just glad he did.  He told me that his treatment was black coffee and a leather strap when he was a boy.  (Winking and smiling with a twinkle in his eye)  

Last night I came across a new theory about the emotional component of ADHD.  It is called RSD or rejection sensitivity dismorphia.  It literally means you can’t bare rejection.  The very thought that maybe somehow some way someone you care about is rejecting you, is so acutely painful, it can result in suicidal ideation in those whose anger is directed at themselves, or impressively explosive rage at another person if it is externalized.  This pain is so much greater than what is called the “neurotypical brain” that people that have never experienced it, can’t really understand it.  It comes on very suddenly and can be gone just as quickly.  It is like a supercell Texas thunderstorm.  Wait an hour and its gone.  The roof might be gone as well, but the storm is over.  Like it never happened.  This RSD is highly correlated with ADHD.  Some people, like Layne and me, it can be one of the most problematic aspects of the condition.  It is extremely difficult to manage as it is difficult to anticipate a trigger.  It can wreak havok on relationships and jobs.

Layne now takes Clonadine which is helpful to control the RSD aspect of his condition as well as helps him to sleep.  The ADHD brain continues to surprise me as new information about the many facets of this remarkable subset of the population are revealed.  Of course, viewing ADHD as only a disorder is insultingly simplistic.  ADHD brains are no better or worse than other brains, just different.  As we  understand and learn to treat ADHD, we can have more compassion for those who are neurologically atypical.  I dream of a day when the human environment can be adapted to embrace these differences in our brains and accommodate them rather than medicate them.  In the meantime, we will soldier on with our stimulant in one hand, our mood medications in the other.  We will speak out.  We will learn from one another.  And together we can find ways to survive and thrive in an alien world full of “normal” people.

The Broken Haidmaid

As a teenager, I had a seminary teacher named Brother Ramirez.  He taught my Book of Mormon class and it was in that class that I developed a deep and abiding love and testimony of the Savior.  I had a full length mirror in my room and I put a card at the top that said, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord.”  Like Mary, I wanted more than anything to be the woman he wanted me to be and to live my life in his service and whenever I looked in the mirror, I wanted to see that.

cropped-img_20181021_223419Although my life has turned out much different than I expected in those days, I have had many opportunities to serve him and testify of his healing grace and loving mercy.  All he wants from me is my broken heart, and he has it.  I am his broken-hearted handmaid.

All he wants from me is my broken heart, and he has it.

In this blog I hope, more than anything to raise awareness of the suffering that hide among us, unseen and unloved.  Many of us who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses have a carefully crafted facade behind which we hide to avoid judgement and stigma.  In choosing to speak about my illness and my experiences, I hope to inspire others to find their voice, share their pain, and come to the Savior to be healed.  I also seek to inform my friends of the things they can do to help those with mental illnesses.  There are medications, therapy, and spiritual resources that have helped me and others find relief from the racing thoughts, suicidal ideation, self harm, and abusive relationships which tend to plague our lives.  There are also many things people do and say that might seem helpful, which are really harmful and painful.  Reading my blog can help you know what is really helpful for people who struggle with these issues.