Lazy. Stupid. Uninterested. Irresponsible. These words are just a few that many people use to negatively describe their friends, siblings, co-workers and sadly their children. They are words I heard in regards to myself on a regular basis growing up. And they are words that I will never utter in reference to not only my children, but also anyone, ever again.
From the outside looking in, I was all of those things. I struggled in school, bounced from hobby to hobby, lost everything from keys to cash and had a difficult time making friends. After a while it just became the norm, it's who I was. If you're told something enough times it becomes your new reality and my new reality was, I was lazy, I was stupid and I just "didn't care".
After High School, life began to be a blur of events, from dropping out of community college (twice), to jumping from job to job, to losing contact with the few friends I actually did have, all while impulsively spending money on hobbies that lasted all of two weeks. Life was just happening and I was just there letting it happen. Putting up false fronts became second nature to me. Look at me, I'm successful, I'm living the life, I'm the happiest person on earth… but on the inside I was lost. Grasping at straws and hoping something would come along to get me to my next venture. The blur that was my life was accelerating at an overwhelming speed. No motivation to continue on a career path, drowning in credit card debt, lying to my wife about money and if I had done certain things, life was spiraling out of control. All of this deception and failing was eating away at me, I wanted to work towards something I could be proud of, I wanted to give my wife the husband she thought she married, the responsible career oriented husband who was none of those words that were engrained in my head. But I couldn't. I was fighting myself on a daily basis. Fighting to not only stay focused on a career path, but to accomplish mundane every day activities like showering, eating, walking the dogs or sleeping. It was a fight I was losing and with a baby on the way it was time to seek help.
After a long emotionally filled discussion with my wife, the true me was out in the open. The facade that everything was OK no longer held any validity and she saw into a part of me that she'd never seen before. I figured she would be just as judgmental as everyone else; she would just call me lazy, irresponsible and immature. To my surprise she was understanding, accepting and helpful in finding someone to speak to about the issues that were taking place. After a few weeks of seeing doctors and specialists there was an answer. ADHD.
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects not only children, but roughly 4.7% of American adults as well. Some symptoms include an inability to remain focused on certain tasks or events and the over production of a person's impulsive behavior. Speaking to the doctor about this disorder and doing my own relevant research on it was not only eye opening but also heartbreaking. With symptoms of the disorder usually appearing in those affected prior to the age of 7 with signs of restlessness, impulsiveness and lack of focus, how did this go unnoticed?
I couldn't help but think of how different my life would have been if this had been detected earlier. If instead of being labeled "lazy" I was taught ways to deal with a disorder that I have no control over. Now I am in no way blaming all of my failures, impulsiveness and immaturity on my ADHD, but I do feel that with the proper diagnosis at a much earlier age, the road to a passionate and fulfilling life would have been… well, less bumpy.
A few weeks went by and the inner struggle of "what could have been" began to fade. I was given a low dosage of an ADHD medicine to see how my body, and more importantly my brain reacted to it. Within the first 2 hours of taking the medication I felt as though the world that seemed to be passing me by at an unimaginable speed had slowed down. As the weeks went by I noticed I was able to listen to people without losing interest, able to think before speaking or doing things. But most importantly, I was able to concentrate and accomplish tasks without being side tracked by outside distractions. It was as though I had entered a new world, one that I could contain and a world that I was excited to take hold of. But just when I thought I had it all figured out, my daughter entered that world.
Having a child of your own is without question a joyous occasion. It's of course a time for celebration and happiness, but it's also a time for hard work. Work that consists of; late nights, improper diet, lack of sleep, learning on the job and staying focused on the greatest gift in life, your child. I became aware rather quickly that lack of sleep and not eating properly wreaks havoc on ADHD, with or without medication. The daily struggle I had experienced prior to my diagnosis returned. Remembering to do certain things, or to continue a task like sanitizing bottles and binkies was becoming extremely difficult. I would literally have to talk myself into continuing to rock her to sleep so my wife could get some rest. Remembering to burp her after she ate, to put ointment on her while changing her all became things I was forcing myself to remember. Her presence in my newfound world took me back to the world of warp speed. The stress and worry that she too will be afflicted with this disorder and have people call her those painful names like lazy or stupid, all because of me, was bringing tears to my eyes and making me want to give up. But if there is one thing that having a child teaches you right from the get go, it's that you need to keep going no matter what and work with your partner to be the best parents you can be.
Support is important in any walk of life, but when you have ADHD having someone who is supportive and understanding of the disorder is imperative. Your support person needs to know that you're lack of focus and/or commitment to certain things (not all things) is quite literally out of your hands. They need to understand that planning and schedules are extremely helpful and that if something disrupts that schedule it's a monumental task to get back on track. Luckily for me, my wife is not only understanding and supportive but she's also extremely patient. She knew that I was struggling with focus and concentration since the arrival of our daughter, but she didn't yell at me or become aggravated with me, she calmly reminded me of things and didn't hold any misstep I made against me. Her support and patience with me during the transition into fatherhood made the entire process less hectic, and the fact that she knows it's a never ending adjustment makes the transition even easier.
We continue to try to get an adequate amount of sleep. We try our best, when the little one lets us, to eat healthier and less greasy foods. I've made a conscious effort to make checklists of tasks that need to be completed and my wife helps hold me to it. We are enjoying our beautifully entertaining daughter to no end and know that we are doing everything in our power to be the best parents we can be. But at the same time we know that the daily struggle that is ADHD never goes away. My daughter may have taken me back to that warp speed of a world, but WE adjusted, WE survived, and we know there is going to be more bumps. The terrible 2's, potty training, additional children, the pre-teen and teenage years etc. etc. So our fight continues.
For more information on ADHD please visit: http://www.add.org