How Adoption Helped Our Family Understand Itself (an ADD/ADHD Story)
My brother shared this article on Facebook today:
We Do More For Our Kids Than We Do For Ourselves
First, I have to say how proud I am of my brother. He and his husband jumped through every hoop in California to be able to become foster parents and adopt their foster son. This wasn’t the sort of adoption every couple dreams about. (In fact, I’ve learned from all my friends who have adopted that no adoption is that fairytale adoption.) *My new nephew suffered from serious ADHD. He’s a brilliant kid but he has this condition with which he and his Dad and Pop have to work. My brother became an advocate for his son, and a damned good one too. He did his research and continues to on a daily basis. He knows the condition, the medications, dosages, dietary compensations, behavioral compensations, educational issues…he’s become an expert out of necessity.
One night, about a year ago, he and I were discussing his research into ADD/ADHD and he shared his theory that our father probably had undiagnosed ADHD.
Dyslexia + ADHD = Baby Boomers Left Behind
Our father had never quite learned to read and dropped out of school in 9th grade. I had always suspected that he had dyslexia. You see, as a kid, I would read with him and he would always scramble the letter sounds. I didn’t understand why back then, but when I learned more about dyslexia it all made sense. Our father loved Popular Science Magazine. So when I learned to read, he put me to work reading articles for him. (As a kid, I thought it was pretty annoying, but my reading and vocabulary skills grew like you wouldn’t believe!)
So imagine it’s the 1950’s and you have a kid in your class who won’t sit still and won’t learn to read…what do you do? You make his school environment even more difficult with extra discipline and then pass him on to the next teacher.
Even as an adult, our father pops from one project to another. A carpenter all his life, he is always building or creating something. One time I asked him to make a small kitchen rack for my coffee cup collection and the next thing I knew, he had created a kitchen island. Thanks to my brother, I discovered that this is exactly how ADHD works. He had an idea, then another and became hyper-focused. Knowing what we did about Dyslexia and ADHD helped us finally understand Dad.
My brother expanded on some of the other symptoms of ADD/ADHD in adults and explained that he had developed several of them. His own research had helped him to understand himself a little better. I began to see that I had many of these symptoms too – most of them, in fact. Then my brother started expanding on how many adults are not diagnosed and learn many coping mechanisms as kids in order to get through life. At this point in our conversation, things really started clicking into place.
I remember bringing a book to school everyday in 6th grade. I always grasped concepts and finished my schoolwork quickly (kids with ADD/ADHD are NOT dumb) and, in an unruly class of 30 kids, I’d get bored while the teacher was explaining things to the kids who needed more instruction. Being the bookish, shy type, I’d sneak a book to school and keep it in my lap where the teacher wouldn’t see it. She never would have noticed if it weren’t for my ability to hyper-focus. She had to shout me out of it one day when I was a bit too engrossed. I could tell it was slightly annoying for her when she could call me out of my book and I’d still be able to answer the question on the board correctly without much thought. I did this throughout my educational experience.
College classmates hated me because I’d never take notes, participate in study groups, or start reports early and yet, I always made the Dean’s List. To be honest, unless it was part of the grade, I didn’t even show up to class. If I had to show up to class, I’d bring something else to do while in it. I’d make lists of things to do, play solitaire on my PDA or read books while still retaining all of the information in the lecture. Doing these things was actually the only way I’d retain the lecture. Oddly enough, it was a professor teaching a class on Special Education that pointed out to the class he knew what I was doing and then explained why. (Yes, I’d planned to teach at one point.)
Everything my brother told me about ADD/ADHD really made sense. Even what appeared to be my OCD! After our conversation, I began some research of my own.
The Little Blue Focus Pill
After reading as much as I could, I tried self-medicating. I took an over-the-counter diet pill called Fastin. I found it helped me to focus and a nice side effect was a faster metabolism. After a few months of this, I decided to discuss my theory in depth with my doctor. Here’s how it went:
“I can multitask like crazy.” I said with a grin.
The doctor glanced sideways at me. “Do you mean multitasking or are you just all over the place?”
I shuffled my feet under the chair and looked down at the floor. “OK maybe multitasking isn’t the right word. Um…yeah, I’m all over the place. I can’t finish anything and I never make a deadline.”
“What do you do for work?”
“I’m a multi-published novelist.”
Her eyes opened wide as saucers. “You might benefit from a strengthened ability to focus then?”
I could smell the snark in her question and nodded solemnly. “I think it might help.”
You can read the full blog about my foray into ADD medications here.
In a nutshell, Concerta worked well on an empty stomach with about a pot of coffee chasing it so when I returned to the doc for a follow up, she prescribed a low dose of Adderall twice daily. It works great – especially when I take a double dose. I’ll be discussing that with her at our next follow-up in a few weeks.
Everything Happens For a Reason
In the end, a conversation my brother and I had about the demands of parenting shed light on so many things about ourselves and our family that we hadn’t previously understood. We grew to understand why Dad does the things he does and why we grew up doing the things we do. I also grew to understand my own children and their behavior much better. Thanks to my amazing nephew’s difficult condition, our entire family has reached a new understanding of the dynamics at play in all our lives and that has been a huge blessing.
*Note from my brother on his son’s exposure to methamphetamine in utero *
“ADHD is genetic, but can be exacerbated by environmental conditions, such as a stressful pregnancy. Meth during pregnancy is a logical follow-on after looking at the effects on the brain from meth addiction. A meth pregnancy has not been clinically linked to enhanced ADHD, but I don’t think anyone would rule it out. As yet, there is no ethical way to prove it. One or both of G’s birth parents have ADHD, which could have lead to their self-medication using meth.”