About five years ago, my son was diagnosed … and so began our journey with ADHD.
There were always signs from the time he was a baby, but specialists were reluctant to give a diagnosis at pre-school age.
I frequently asked myself, “What am I doing wrong? Why do all these parenting books that I read not work?”. As a parent, it’s common to find that you are doubting yourself, your parenting, your knowledge, your abilities.
It has been challenging for my son to fall asleep, to wake up and get going, to go out of the house, to stop playing and go back home, to listen to a book I was reading until the end, to manage his frustrations, emotions and many other things. It seemed that life was hard for him.
Before the Diagnosis
My heart would break each time I saw my son struggle with the daily, mundane things of life, things that other children seemed to find easy.
The doctors kept telling me he was a healthy boy, but there was something they could not see, that only my husband and I could. It was only later on I found out that ADHD was called the ‘invisible disability’. People do not see, so many times they either jump in with unhelpful advice or just judge. It has been very painful at times, very lonely, and there has been many tears.
My son finally got a diagnosis when the demands of primary school, both socially and academically, made the struggles and symptoms more obvious. It was bitter-sweet. I finally knew that there was an explanation and support for that invisible, unexplained struggle we all had as a family. But it can be a real challenge coming to terms with the fact that your child has a chronic condition that needs constant management.
Things started to get easier from then, as I started to learn about ADHD and found ways to help with managing and living with the condition.
ADHD is highly genetic, so it was no surprise when my husband started to recognise the symptoms that he’d had throughout his life, and still struggled with in adulthood.
Another Diagnosis in the Family
He was diagnosed with adult ADHD, not long after my son received his diagnosis. In my husband’s case, it was easy to miss because the symptoms were mild, yet it still had significant impacts on his life. People just don’t realise how much harder the individual with ADHD needs to work, to try and persevere in all areas of life to achieve the same results.
Pursuing a diagnosis and coming to terms with it will be a different process for each person. It may bring relief but also grief (you can read more in my other article, Lesser Known Symptoms of ADHD in Adults).
After receiving a diagnosis for both my son and husband, and through reading and learning about this condition, we were coming to terms with its realities which meant accepting the fact that some things they would always find more challenging. This process included adjusting expectations, as they re-defined themselves as a person who has ADHD, without letting it take over and become a label, excuse or an obstacle.
Although we all still experience occasional frustrations and challenges associated with managed ADHD symptoms, my son’s and husband’s ADHD has also become a source of humour in our family and a way to see the lighter, more positive and amusing side of life with ADHD.
For example, when visiting friends, they would jokingly tell my husband: “Please sit, relax and don’t clear the table, we know you want to,” straight after finishing our meal, knowing full well that he would be the first person to leave the table and start cleaning up. This is one of those symptoms in the Hyperactive/Impulsive type of ADHD, when the person has excess energy and has the urge to be doing things, not able to sit still. This has a positive side – they can use this energy in productive ways and channel it into meaningful activities such as work, exercise, taking care of the household, playing with kids, etc.
Since then I have started to incorporate my knowledge, learning and experience into my professional practice and psychological therapy. I have been working with clients who have been both undiagnosed and diagnosed adult ADHD, as well as people who have a loved one with ADHD. This is now my area of special interest and personal passion.
So what is this condition?
A Definition of ADHD
ADHD is a neurological condition which is highly genetic. It is a kind of information processing disorder which impacts all areas of life, including memory, relationships, parenting, career, and self-esteem.
The main difficulty is with executive functioning which is responsible for how we process information, organise our life, regulate our attention and even manage our emotions. One of the most important things to understand about ADHD symptoms is that it is not about choice. These are not things that people with ADHD do intentionally; this is who they are.
Living with a Person who has ADHD
People who have a loved one with ADHD may find it very challenging as well, especially if there is no diagnosis and support.
Life with a person who has ADHD can feel chaotic, inconsistent and intense due to inconsistent attention and emotions, incomplete tasks / jobs / projects, and the ineffective coping mechanisms that people may have learnt to deal with their challenges.
People who live with a person who has ADHD frequently report feelings of frustration, hopelessness and even loneliness. Many times this is due to the fact that people with ADHD find it challenging to sustain attention and may seem to be not emotionally present or attentive to their partner or significant other. This mental and emotional absence can be further interpreted by the partner as lack of care or interest in them or what they have to say.
Many times this interpretation is not correct, because it is one of the symptoms of ADHD, which are involuntary. This is an important issue that should be addressed between partners and/or in therapy, and more effective management strategies should be attempted so that both partners find effective ways to communicate about important matters in their life while feeling understood, cared for, supported and accepted.
Once the person gets diagnosed with ADHD and gets treatment and support, life can start feeling a bit more predictable, safe and manageable. This requires both partners to be on board and learn about ADHD, what to expect, what to accept, how to manage important life areas, what works and what does not. This involves good communication, and the desire to understand and support one another with the tools that the person has. Meeting each other in the middle is an important aspect of a good dynamic in the relationship.
One of the processes that family members of a loved one with ADHD are likely to go through is coming around to the idea of accepting the person/child for who they are. It may involve grieving for the person you wished them to be.
Seeking support and space to talk about the frustrations and difficulties of life with a person who has ADHD is a very important part of self-care. If you or your loved one are struggling with ADHD and need support, I welcome you to book a session with me.
Author: Ilana Gorovoy, B.Arts (Psych), B. Arts (Hons.)(Psychology), MPsych (Couns.)
With a Master’s in Counselling, Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy draws on therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Existential and Strengths-based approaches, Person-Centred and Positive Psychology, to assist her clients to become conscious of their strengths and difficulties, design and reach their goals, live a life of meaning and purpose, and reach their full potential.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy, try Online Booking – Wishart. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology (Wishart) on (07) 3088 5422.