I often hear about how much my son is the spitting image of my husband.
They have the same piercing blue eyes and dimples you could lose a dime in. They are both as tall as the day is long and shopping for their shoes will always be a hassle. Taking a brush to their hair is an exercise in futility and their cheesy grins are contagious. Their similarities aren’t just physical, either. Blake and Cristian both have an affinity for professional wrestling and anything Disney-related. Both are fantastic mathematicians but are two of the reasons why spellcheck was invented. They are both loud and passionate and impulsive which makes a lot of sense because they both have an ADHD diagnosis.
I know that ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder. I know that Blake was diagnosed as an adult and Cristian was diagnosed when he was 6. I know that both take different medications to help them throughout the day. I know how to navigate a Section 504 meeting and advocate for Cristian’s success in school. I know how to play to their strengths and how to help them adapt to and power through their weaknesses.…most of the time. I know that being both the mother and wife to two amazing guys with ADHD can be so very difficult but all the more rewarding.
October is ADHD Awareness Month. Even though I am very aware of the reality of ADHD on a daily basis, I don’t know what their brains go through. I don’t know how the medication helps. I don’t know why certain accommodations are vital to a good day at school.
I do not know what it is like to live with ADHD.
I am so very lucky that both Blake and Cristian are secure enough in their diagnoses and are open enough to look me in the eye and tell me exactly what they’re feeling when I ask the following question:
“What is living with ADHD like?”
Blake compared his brain to a computer, which makes total sense if you know my husband. He said that without his medication and other interventions, his brain collects thoughts like a computer browser collects tabs without closing them. After some time, his brain fatigues and eventually, like a computer, it shuts down and stops working. His medication, his lists and his routine help him focus and remember to close tabs after he’s done with them. It all helps his brain operate consistently.
Cristian took a different approach, but one that embodies his daring spirit. He said that it feels like he’s on a roller coaster each and every day. Without his medication and the interventions we have in place, he reaches the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He told me that he feels like he is being tossed around in the roller coaster car and no one can hear because it’s too loud and going too fast. After his medicine kicks in, or after he sees his therapist, or after he has time to regroup after the school day, he exclaimed that he can finally get off the ride. He told me that the people who support him are like the ticket taker or the person with him on the roller coaster who help him to be less afraid of it all.
Know that by hearing these stories of two people with ADHD, you now only know the stories of two people with ADHD. Each and every person who has ADHD is different in their abilities and how they process things. An intervention that works for my son or a process that works for my husband may not work for another.
It is truly amazing how two very similar people can produce two very different but powerful answers to the same question. It made me truly realize that the word “deficit” in their diagnosis could not be further from the truth. There is no deficit in their self-awareness or in the power of their brains.