214: ADHD: The Social Nightmare

by | Oct 14, 2021 | Mama Thursday

Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!

Yes! I know this month I’m totally into the skeletons, pumpkins, candy corn… I can’t help it! I just love, love Halloween and the Day of the Dead! So, once again, if you see me wear this shirt more than once, it’s just, I love it! I love it for recording! And once again, I will put the link below if you want this nice, classy skull, skeleton blouse to celebrate the day of the dead.

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So, today, there will definitely be some adult language. Full disclosure. So, if your kiddos are around, you definitely need to send them someplace else because today I’m going to be talking about the ADHD social nightmare.

It can be very challenging raising a child with an invisible condition or disability. What do I mean by that? Especially in a society that tends to over-diagnose ADHD, doesn’t fully understand the challenges of having ADHD, and in our case, OCD and Tourette’s, the social component can be an absolute f***ing hell! I’m going to try to keep the language to a minimum, but I can’t guarantee I will always be able to this time. 

One of the things that really pisses me off is how people always trash my child’s good qualities because they always focus on her challenges. I call bullshit on that because no one, whether they’re “normal neurologically” or divergent, or however you want to define it, no one is just the sum of their challenges or their mistakes. No one should be treated that way. 

Just recently, I was so upset because another teenager said to my child, “I don’t think you really have ADHD, Tourette’s, or OCD. I think you’re making everything up. I think it’s nothing but bullshit, and you’re full of crap. You just need to get over yourself. You’re just doing it to feel important.” 

And of course, I’m listening to my child, and I want to cry, and at the same time, I want to reach out and throttle the other child. How could anyone be so cruel? But yet, people are cruel all of the time. I see this over and over again—no compassion, no understanding in this woke society. There is no room for imperfection. But as human beings, we’re nothing without our imperfections and everything when we include those imperfections in our good qualities.

I call it “the social hell,” not just because people can be so unkind, but because when your child comes to you with these problems, the older they get, the less you can do for them. I mean, my child is so beautiful, but she isn’t malleable. She is who she is. Not who people think she’s supposed to be, and no matter what you do or say, she continues to be her genuine self. And you know what? I would love to tell you that I see that as a negative of ADHD, but I don’t. I see that as a positive. She never pretends to be something she’s not.  But sometimes, when my heart is breaking, and I’m full of anger because someone’s hurt her feelings, I wish she could take my advice and change just a little bit. Just a little bit. I accept her for who she is, and I do my best to help her every step of the way.

Now, the social component can be very challenging for kids with ADHD. I remember a year in which my child “meeped”—literally. That’s how she spoke. It wasn’t, “Mommy, I need this.” 

It was, “Mommy, meep, meep, meep.”

 And it was great because she found another meeper in her elementary school, who also liked to meep, and they fell in love. They were best friends and everything hunky-dory.

My daughter has been blessed with a couple of friends that have loved her for who she is.  This is one of the reasons that parents often decide to medicate their children to help them with that social component. For example, I’m the first to understand that it’s not cool when my child comes in and gets, “Ahhhhhh!!!!” right in front of my face. So, if I don’t enjoy it, I’m certain that another ten-year-old will not enjoy it either, right? So, yes, medications can help, but I’m not a strong proponent of medication as a solution. Your child has to concurrently be learning coping skills. 

And frankly, medications can be as much of a hindrance as they can be helpful. Adderall did not work for us. Pitched it. 

Focalin. Minimal Focalin worked really well for years, and then we hit adolescence. It didn’t work. 

I know a lot of families with ADHD whose child takes Straterra, and it’s the magic bullet. We tried it. It was miserable! Absolutely miserable! And on top of her personality wilting and all of the other side effects that came along with it. I really felt like our doctor failed us in this one because when I said to the doctor, “Hey listen, I don’t think this is working out. She seems to be having a lot of negative effects. This is happening, that’s happening.” 

Our doctor said, “Those are not common side effects of Strattera.” 

Wrong! When I pulled up the list, my child had almost every single negative side effect. So, I say this over and over: a doctor should be your partner. A doctor should not behave like a god because if they behave like a god, you’re trusting in a god with clay feet that will fail you every time. A doctor should be a partner in your journey with your ADHD child. And later, a doctor should be a partner in your ADHD child’s life as an adult.

So, the key to helping your child find a space in society is to find an accepting social circle. Do your best to find people who will be tolerant and accepting of your child’s challenges and appreciate their great qualities. Be merciless when it comes to culling the users, the abusers, and the bad influencers. I had one kid, which my ADHD daughter just absolutely loved. Still, this girl only wanted my daughter around when she felt defenseless, when nobody else was talking to her and when she needed it. Under normal circumstances, she would just dump my child at a party, at a gathering, on a sleepover. 

And of course, there are the abusers, you know, like the one that just recently told my daughter that she was making it all up. 

And the bad influencers. My child found a friend who was so accepting, this seemed like such a good kid, and it turns out she’s vaping. She’s having sex and drinking alcohol. She’s only fourteen years old! So, banned! Especially when my child said, “I think that she has such an amazingly exciting life!” 

I was like, “I don’t need that kind of excitement! You don’t need that kind of excitement.” 

I always try to point my child to people who will positively influence her, and for the most part, she’s pretty good about choosing those people. But there are times when she gets lonely, or she’s struggling, and she will attach to whoever is willing to give her time and attention, and that is just absolutely heartbreaking.

Another thing that will help your child is if you can help people understand her invisible challenge by comparing them to visible challenges. When I was in my early 20s, I had a boyfriend who had severe aplastic anemia. In fact, he didn’t make it to his 24th birthday. His family had money, and he had this beautiful convertible, automobile, and a handicap sticker. We get to the stores, and he parks in the handicapped stall because the bottom line was that towards that period of his life, he had some good days, and he had some okay days, but more and more, they were bad days. And often, he had a difficult time walking any kind of distance. 

So, here we are, and he gets out of this beautiful car.  This beautiful, blue-eyed, lanky, anime-looking boy that everybody in our high school thought was the most exciting, best-looking boy ever (he was certainly one of the more popular ones). And this woman just rips into him! You know she’s yelling at him like, “You shouldn’t be parking in the handicapped place!  You rich asshole!” 

I mean, she is just ruthless, and I could see he was upset, and he was just embarrassed and looking down. The bottom line was, she was ruining the first good day he had had in three weeks. I was so f^%$g angry! I remember him trying to hold me back and saying, “It’s okay… This happens.” 

I just stepped in front of him, and I said to the woman, “If you’re so confident that he shouldn’t have this handicapped spot, you know what? Trade places with him!” 

I remember this bitch looked at me with such a look of surprise and horror as if it had finally dawned on her that not all handicaps are visible.

My boyfriend’s heart was failing. With all of the challenges that he faced, what ended up killing him was strep throat. It went into his heart. He died. One weekend, this incredibly good-looking, exciting, compassionate young man who wanted to spend his life teaching was gone. Why did he have to face all of these incredibly self-centered human beings? Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a challenge there! 

Recently one of my kid’s best friends was just really acting out. Incredibly hyperactive, this gifted girl like you won’t believe, very creative. But just all over the place, she came to one of our parties in our house in the Caribbean. She was dragging my daughters around on the floor, and it was just incredible how hyper this kid was. So, I said to the parents, “You know, have you considered that she might have ADHD?”

And the parents said, “No. We think she’s just busy.” 

And not for the sake of the parents but for the sake of the child, I said, “There’s a difference between busyness and dragging people around on the dance floor.” 

Her parents then started talking to me about all of the challenges they were facing with this girl—social challenges, educational challenges, challenges at home. Just incredibly hyper. But they kept saying, “If we only treat her like you treat a normal child, everything will be fine in the end because just ADHD is just a label.” 

But it’s not just a label. Yes, it’s a label often misused, but it helps that person meet those challenges when correctly labeled. And I said to them, “Would you say to a child with type one diabetes, just act normal, you don’t need an insulin pump?” 

They’re like, “No.”

“Would you ask a child missing a limb to just act normal and not put on a prosthetic?”

They’re like, “No. Of course not.” 

“Then why would you say to a child with ADHD, ‘Just act normal, and you will be fine?'”

The parents looked so shocked, and I said, “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that the challenge isn’t there. Just think about how you can help your child. And asking them to be normal is never the solution.” 

Frankly, I think there’s no more overrated word than the word “normal.” The word normal is just another word for conformity—conform to what society believes is normal. So, my child with ADHD may not need a prosthetic. Still, she does need medication. She needs therapy, primarily behavior therapy, to develop better-coping skills, better time management, better social skills. And, of course, treatment to help her deal with her place in this challenging society that demands conformity from people who cannot conform. As Thumper said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.” 

Like that woman that yelled at my boyfriend—she could have opted for something completely different—silence and compassion. If I saw a young man parking in a handicapped spot, my first thought would have never been, “He doesn’t deserve the spot.” 

My first thought would have been, “His mom’s heart must be breaking,” and “I hope he’s getting the help he needs.”

You know, my husband once said to me when we were at Disney World, and this entire family was getting pushed ahead of us, and my husband said, “Ugh! This is just going to elongate the line more! “

And I said to my husband, “but for the grace of God, go I.” 

I did not begrudge the whole family being together with their child and getting ahead of the line. I’m totally cool with that happening. Whatever the reason—physical, emotional, mental—whatever the challenge, I didn’t mind. I think Disneyland and Disney World are wonderful about accommodating people with physical and mental health challenges. 

Sometimes we get a pass for my daughter. She will just be like, “Ugh!” But she needs that pass because otherwise, she’s going to drive that fifty people in line bonkers! Other times we don’t, because she’s fine. She has a day in which she’s not so hyperactive, and we’re good to go. Frankly, now, between my two busted knees and the fact that I have to be on my scooter to enjoy a park, sometimes I use the handicap accessibility door.  Otherwise, I could not enjoy the day with my family. It sucks! And frankly, I would rather have healthy knees and be standing in line, but it is what it is.

I’m Really Glad that Andy has been Blessed with Friends that Love Her for Who She Is!

One of the other things that I have learned over time, both with my ADHD child and my child who suffers from anxiety due to anaphylaxis to tree nuts, is that I don’t need anybody’s freaking judgment. When people start to give me advice that, number one, they listened to on TED talk or got from Dr. Phil, I stop the conversation. I stop it. If the person’s polite, I stop the conversation nicely. “Thank you for your opinion, but we’re working with our doctor and therapist to do what’s best for our child.” 

When they’re not nice about it, sometimes I’m not nice back, and I say things like, “I would welcome you to keep your opinion to yourself.” 

Or sometimes I get snarky because, you know what, I’m allowed to lose my temper and my patience. And when people are sharing their stupid opinions, and are just really pushing them on me, sometimes I just cannot help myself. You know, like the idiot who told me to feed my anaphylactic-to tree nuts child, tree nuts every day, and she would just be fine. I was just an overprotective mother who didn’t know how to take good care of my child. All because he read about the therapy that is done with peanuts. By the way, it’s only done in hospitals because even a minuscule amount, smaller than the size of the head of a needle, can cause a child to go into anaphylactic shock.  This means their throat closes, they cannot breathe, and they could die. 

Even doctors can be uninformed sometimes. You have to find the right doctor, the right therapist, the right psychiatrist. You really need to take them to a psychiatrist who specializes in dealing with children and dealing with ADHD. I don’t really want to hear their opinions. I don’t even want to hear their opinions about my child. I want strategies. I want to know what I can do to help my child. Opinions are a dime a dozen. Everybody has them. 

Now, I have fought all of my life to keep my temper in control, and it has a lot to do with coming from an abusive home setting. A codependent passive-aggressive mother and a father who would start yelling for no reason or an imagined reason, and an unimportant reason, no reason at all, or simply because he was drunk or on drugs—whatever the case was. But one of the things I’ve learned over time is, it’s okay to lose your cool. And more than okay, sometimes it’s appropriate for you to lose your cool. You don’t have to take the garbage that people want to dump on you or your child.

I always advocate compassion first. I always advocate understanding first. But you know what? We all have a bad day. Like recently, my ADHD daughter has been struggling with the new medication that we were trying. Because of that, she was struggling educationally and socially.  To have someone be so nasty to her, to tell her that she was full of shit and that she didn’t really have all of these challenges in her life and have my daughter go into an attack of Tourette’s, that was so bad that it looked like she was having a seizure, pissed me off! It pissed me off! Of course, I took care of my child. Of course, I worked on containing myself. I had to take a walk. I had to take two walks. I had to take three walks!

It’s okay to get angry, and it’s okay to let the anger out sometimes. And if you lose it? I go back to what I said: practice compassion on yourself. Compassion isn’t just for everybody else. It’s for you too. 

And if you’re the default parent, whether you’re a mom or you’re dad, I cannot stress this enough. Be compassionate to yourself. It’s okay. It’s okay to lose it. And it is certainly okay not to want others to abuse or use our children or disregard them because they face challenges in this life. The bottom line is, we all do, sooner or later. And those challenges, my friends, do not lessen the value or the lovability of our precious special needs children.

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If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, and clearly as you could see, I do, welcome to the Mamma Crew! Till next time! Embrace the joys of imperfections! Toodles!


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Dr B.

I began my journey into motherhood at the age of 40 when I became a mother of twins! Today I am a mother of 4! Being an older mom might be a growing trend, but we are still a minority with our own unique blessings and challenges. Join me in this journey! To contact me directly, email me at oldermoms@entrepreneurialdreamers.com