What If Mommy Has ADHD?
Last year I went to see a therapist to find out if I have ADHD. I was concerned about my lack of interest in doing dishes (I kid you not).
I'll clean, and our house isn't a pigsty (well, not exactly) but I'll always put if off and I always dread it.
Other reasons I went to find out:
- I lose things such as my iPhone and ATM card a lot.
- Ordinary things that appear easy for other moms to do - like packing lunches in a rush - can overwhelm me.
- I have great difficulty reading maps, instructions, or doing puzzles.
- Following a routine eludes me.
- I get lost a lot.
- I have such a poor memory that my doctor had me get a brain scan.
- Some of my friends have been diagnosed with ADHD and are on low doses of various drugs (Vyvanse, Ritalin, Adderall) that have apparently made them interested in doing the dishes.
Note: Does this sound like the Stepford Wives?
When I was a child, ADHD was not trendy or even known about, but I'm pretty sure I had it, and I bet my father did, too. I didn't have the hyperactive kind, the one that makes you fidgety, I had what's known as Inattentive Type, the one that makes you stare out the window and daydream. Other symptoms I had as a kid:
- I was generally disorganized and mischievous (actually, I still am)
- I got in trouble for saying things that other kids didn't.
- I don't know if it's related but I also had great difficulty with math.
- When I had braces, I lost 11 retainers and 3 head gears in 3 years (I would forget they were in my paper-bag lunch and throw it away).
- Although I was bright, in high school my grades would vary erratically from one semester to the next - straight A's to D's.
On the positive side, I had an amazing ability to hyper-focus on something I was interested in, which usually involved daydreaming, plotting a story in my head, and writing.
But that was back in the Dark Ages. Fast-forward to last year, and there I sat, a grown-up mom, answering a lengthy multiple-choice questionnaire about ADHD and talking to the $240/hour shrink who wielded a check-list of symptoms, some of which I had, a few of which I didn't:
- Erratic behavior
- Extreme procrastination
- A tendency to hyperfocus on activities of interest, losing track of time and surroundings
- Difficulties in establishing stable household routines
- Problems with managing money
- Substance abuse
- Having accidents more often than most people
- Difficulty completing things
- Bad driving record, with a history of speeding tickets or other problems.
When I went home I showed my husband D. the "Do You Have ADHD?" check-list and announced that I had finally figured out what's wrong with me. D. is an eye-roller so that's what he did - he rolled his eyes. The first thing he said was, "The title of this check-list could just as easily be "Do You Have Human Characteristics?"
He pointed out that all of the characteristics listed in the flier could be applied across-the-board to most people.
He is wary of America's tendency to over-diagnose and then medicate (just watch the evening news and count the number of ads for drugs), especially children. He is disturbed by the current trend toward medicating kids who are perceived to have ADHD. This is what his response to common diagnoses would be:
My Husband’s Diagnosis
Being a child
Being a child
Over-attachment to certain toys/objectophilia
Being a child
Difficulty waking up in the morning
Difficulty paying attention
The child is bored and the teacher needs to up their game
The child is human and is learning to modulate their emotions.
Probably because he's Irish and the Irish tend to be eye-rollers, he's a skeptic. Probably because I'm Californian and Californians tend towards diagnosing everything, I'm prone towards wanting it labeled. For example, when Fi was a tot she whapped another tot, and I had no idea that toddlers could be so violent (I know that now! but I didn't then!). I was a new mom. I thought: My child has an anger issue!
The next week I found her straddling another toddler and strangling her, so I immediately took her to a play group where moms could watch their kids through a one-way mirror while a child therapist would observe them and narrate their interactions to us. (I know - I'm OTT. I know.)
My husband could not believe I was doing this - in his eyes, she was just being a toddler, and I was just being a comedically neurotic mom.
As I watched her through the mirror, Fi would occasionally whap another tot, and I would say to the therapist, "Did you see that?" The therapist reassured me that this was normal behavior and over time I was able to observe other tots doing their fair share of whapping, too. It's 9 years later and Fi is a peaceful, non-violent and balanced child with no tendency towards whapping anybody.
My husband still reminds me of the "one-way mirror episode," which he still finds highly comedic.
Being an ACOA parent, I'm perpetually guessing at what normal is, so I read a lot of books, and seek outside help when I need it. My husband comes from a non-alcoholic family, so all this seeking of information seems unnecessary to him.
I've spent a lot of time on the therapist's couch in the past - enough to know that although there is a time when it can be extremely helpful, there is also a time when scratching at the clay of your soul and trying to "fix" yourself can become unhelpful. In the case of "do I or don't I have ADHD?" I had a nagging feeling that it was on the unhelpful side, especially since a lot of the "cure" tends to involve medication, which in my case I can't ever tolerate.
When I returned to the $240/hour shrink, she said: "Not only do you have ADHD, it's off the charts."
I wasn't surprised that I had ADHD, but was surprised by it being off the charts. And a little offended. Did she have to say, 'off the charts?' or was this my overly-sensitive ADHD brain just being overly-sensitive?
Me: "But I can't be off the charts," I said defensively. "I don't fidget. I can sit still for hours, and I'm a good listener."
Therapist: "You have what's known as Inattentive Type. This type doesn't fidget or interrupt."
There it was, my label. ADHD.
She recommended some books (such as Driven to Distraction - it's a good one, but I bet if you read it you'll come away from it thinking you have ADHD, too) and gave me a prescription for speed, which is reincarnated as "Vyvanse" these days, probably to make it more socially acceptable.
I tried the speed for a month before realizing it was well, speed. It made me go all bug-eyed and certifiable. My husband and I sat around drumming our fingers waiting for me to become suddenly Stepford and interested in doing the dishes. It never happened.
"I don't want you to become interested in doing the dishes," he said. "I don't think I'd like you as much."
That made me feel better.
I stopped taking the speed because that shit is enough to make you need rehab, frankly. I know it works in certain cases but in my case it didn't, and although I know that ADHD is a real problem for certain people, I'm wary of the frequency with which kids are prescribed such a heavy drug nowadays.
D. said he thought I may or may not have ADHD but really, I'm human and imperfect, and that's okay.
That's when we decided to "treat my ADHD" by getting a better Navigational system, and hiring a housekeeper to do the dishes...and hey, I'm cured.