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September 11, 2007

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Bernard Guerrero

I feel your pain. Alex has a bit of the "squirrelly" thing, herself. Scares her friends, sometimes; they want to play dolls and she'd rather be doing laps or having lightsaber duels or something.

Doesn't quite rise to the Ritalin level, but getting her to do homework last year was painful. I sympathize with her, having gotten beat-up by a nun in 1st grade because I refused to do penmanship homework. Drag-city!

The New York City Math Teacher

When I was eight, I was reading Twain, Tacitus, and Robert K. Massie's biography of Peter the Great.

In the middle of that year, I had to do a five page report on a body organ for my secular studies teacher, Janet LeRoy. On the brain. I didn't do it. It was late. I got an F.

I had a stack of my father's med-school texts, plus encyclopedias and other books, and spent the next twenty hours in a hysterical fit. I couldn't do it. It took four hours to write six lines (two sentences).

I know now that a lot of the trouble I had completing drudge work assignments requiring long-term focus would have been as dew in the hot morning had I actually been medicated for my ADD, instead of the dietary control methods my mother employed.

It's not like the Alan that emerges under medication is an alien creature - they are impulses, desires, and thoughts that exist while he's unmedicated - the Ritalin just allows him to act on them.

I can't tell you about the screaming fits and drag out fights that occurred when, for example, my mother would send me downstairs to the storage room to get an item, and I couldn't find it. Or steady chores, like raking the lawn. Or the homework problem, which got far, far worse in middle and high school (and college) when I could no longer complete an assignment in seconds.

That was misery, and I wanted to die when I was twelve.

claudia

Thank you, from my heart. You almost made me cry. ADHD is a strange thing - and yes, I know it's not my fault, I'm not a bad mother (not in the respect of having caused this, anyway), but... there is this thing that if only I got a little more structure into his day, never broke down on the Cheetos, didn't allow him TV, then everything would magically get well. Part of it is the surroundings ("but he doesn't have ADHD, he's just an active kid!", "this is like tranquilizing him", "ADHD does not actually exist"...). Part of it is mother's guilt. No, I know on an intellectual basis that this is nothing I can influence to the degree it needs to be influenced. The nagging voice in the back, though, that's always there.

But again, thank you. You and Doug are my shining lights to show me what can become of my little boy. I just tend to forget that sometimes.

The New York City Math Teacher

Claudia, I was unmedicated until I was 22.
I could read and retain hundreds of thousands of words per day, and yet I could not pass a parcel of stupid intro classes in my second major, because I hated, hated, hated the content and couldn't summon up the will to actually do the work.

The worst part of it was, I thought that I was an evil, lazy, self-indulgent bastard. Who cared how bright I was, when I couldn't hold down a job long term, complete assignments for a course, or followed through on my social obligations?

Here's something else - my mother decided to rely on diet. My father is a depressive overeater who ate himself obese after his father died, and who insisted on there being sweets and junk food in the house. How could she control my diet at home, let alone school? So when I took sweets, candy, or junk food, I became a gluttonous thief. God, the complexes involving food. I have problems controlling junk food intake to this day, which I try to mortify.

And absent the experience with the medication, it wasn't clear to me that I wasn't an evil, lazy, contemptible self-indulgent parasite.

There was this one time, the summer after my freshman year of college, when I sat on the sofa of my summer rental for six hours trying to tie my shoe-laces, to walk up the hill to my chemistry lecture. I missed the lecture and the lab, of course. And then the terror took over.

This is where twenty years of therapy for depression come in. On and off, from six to twenty-five. Garber, Dimond, Hartmann, Hamlisch, Miller. Hands out, $100 a pop, antidepressants by college, talking therapy. Nothing changed. The self-loathing amplified and magnified.

Oddly enough, I stopped therapy right about the time I figured out my required dosage level. I had been unhappy because I had no ability or outlet to success - my unhappiness was not some emergent property of a brain lashed to a unworthy damned soul.

With appropriate dosage - bam. Magic. Life. Career. Marriage. Future.

Alan's scary bright. I remember being scary bright. I'm so glad that unlike my mother, you allow for this when he's a young boy, when it can make a greater difference, because he will go far.

st

Hi Claudia...I too went through some tough times as a kid with my brain chemistry. My issues didn't really blow up until I became a teen and then the only treatments at the time were draconian so I avoided them after seeing what it did to others. It's a wonder I made it out of my teenage years alive, though, given how far I swung at times. Things are better now, I've found how to control my chemistry through diet and supplements and well, I'm not a teenager anymore either which helps.

I know Alan is 5 and this is probably optimistic (I don't have kids yet) but have you ever asked him which way he preferred things and why? I mean, not in the way one would ask an adult, but giving him some control might help both of you feel like it is a cooperative effort. I am probably going to pay for this optimism someday... :)

Anyway, I've read the blog(s) a long time and you sound like a great mom. Thanks for sharing with us, it's very interesting and helpful!

Doug M.

I flunked out of my first year of college. Much the same story. Self-loathing and all.

In retrospect, I think it helped that my Mom was patient. Uncharacteristically so, in my case. And very determined. Also, while she didn't know from ADHD, she'd lived with my Dad, who was much the same if not worse.

"Finding stuff" is still an issue, and still drives Claudia nuts sometimes. "I don't see it." "It's right there! Next to your hand! No, your other hand! THERE!!"

Although, in my defense, this is exacerbated by Claude's occasional detour into Pronoun World: "It's in the thing on top of the other thing, next to, you know, that. Up there."

Yet somehow we get by. So.


Doug M.

lala

hello, Claudia.

my child who was recently-enough 5 for me to remember what five can be like always wanted to help. she was the helpiest helper around. that age group in its typical countenance has a trend toward a. loving the law and b. maddening helpfulness.

I say that to offer to you as solace that his wanting to help is maybe not exactly due to a pharmaceutical boot on his throat. I think (& you know this) that medication and diet and all those things free them up to exercise their best wills in different measures. he might feel a great relief under its thrall -- had you asked him?

don't let the mom guilt get you down, really. shake your fist at the sky -- "mom guilt! fuck you! right up the ass!! I have enough on my plate!!" and then feed them cold cereal for dinner while you paint yr toenails. internet hugs, etc, to you.

Patrick Banks

Oh the hell of being undiagnosed. Sure, my parents noticed early on there was something a bit ... squirrely about me and I saw many a specialist in my youth. But they could never pin down a precise diagnosis, and anyway by late elementary school I was deemed normal enough to not require any counseling or remedial handling. In fact, my teachers typically described me as a bright young lad. Around the age of 10 I developed a strong aversion to confrontation of any kind and thus became extremely withdrawn. I never had much of a social life with my peers until well into my 20's. Much like NYCMT, I also had a strong aversion to homework as well as an inability to plan ahead. I made it through High School just fine, but college was a different story. It was a 7 year slog, the end result was me not quite graduating. I tried and tried and tried and ultimately failed to juggle class with grownup responsibilities. Finally I couldn't stand it any more and moved to Portland, Maine. It took me a while to find a job here, and when I did, I failed miserably at it. That's when I acknowledged that there might be something more to my problems than mere laziness. After discussing the matter with my mom, we self-diagnosed the problem as Aspergers. That turned out not to be the case (but not before I loudly advertised it. Oh the embarasment.), as when I finally opted to get tested this spring, the result was what my doctor described as a form of ADD that is more in line with a nonverbal learning disorder, depression, developmental delays, and executive functioning inefficiencies. I have yet to try medications. (Worried about the cost and side affects.) But my life doesn't suck - I'm in the process of taking my remaining classes here in Maine, I have an active social life, and the occasional freelance writing gig. So in the twilight of my 20's it would seem I am finally becoming an adult. I still feel like I'm climbing a steep learning curve, though. Still, NYCMT's anecdote of "With appropriate dosage - bam. Magic. Life. Career. Marriage. Future." gives me hope. I'm glad Alan received a concrete diagnosis at an early age and I think he'll be able to avoid the hell that someone like I or NYCMT went through.

Randy McDonald

Early diagnosis is a good thing. Thank you, from someone who wasn't so lucky.

Carlos

Huh. you know, I worry about the pathologization of childhood quirks in general. I was subject to a lot of well-meaning but silly &/or destructive guidance as a boy, because I was angry and smart and really out of place, and no one thought that those problems could be externally addressed (or if they did, they couldn't be bothered to).

Anyway. Not much has changed, except now I have a nearly limitless contempt for that sort of thing, tempered only by that it seems to work for other people. It's a little bitter-making to realize that I was the neurotypical one all along.

(though Carrie says I have a touch of OCD. this is only because all my posts, when rendered into hexadecimal ASCII, have to be divisible by large prime numbers. it's true!)

claudia

Well, Carlos, I don't know from OCD (although I like the prime number concept) but Alan is here next to me and asked me what I was doing.

"I'm writing to Carlos."
"Tell Carlos him that I love him."

What else is there to say.

Michael

Neither of our kids has ADD or ADHD or whatever, although I sometimes wonder about the boy, so I'm at best a clueless bystander -- but yeah, mom guilt is just guilt. The fact that you question your actions at all puts you in the 99th percentile. Don't worry about it.

The meds are a tool. If they help Alan, use them -- if they don't, back off. I know a guy who was on ADHD meds as a kid, came off them later in life, and felt like he was being allowed to use his brain again. But obviously NYCMT has had the opposite experience -- I think the important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be (and are) sensitive to whatever it is Alan needs most to function best, and don't be afraid to know more about it than your doctors.

It's not fair you have to know more about your kids' neurology than other parents, but from the sound of it you'll figure it out.

Bernard Guerrero

Ok, then, books, food _and_ an extreme aversion to homework! Another piece of the puzzle that is the HDTD population is added!

Carlos

Dude, I loved homework.

Bernard Guerrero

.....No Comment.

Carlos

Yeah yeah, I know. I still get bergeroned when I play Trivial Pursuit with the family.

Bernard Guerrero

They make you wear a rubber-ball on your nose?

I managed to get through H.S. doing maybe 5 hours' worth of homework, tops. Detestable stuff. Work is sacred, Carlos, don't touch it!

Michael

I hate it when people verb nouns, but especially when they deproperize them concurrently.

I loved homework so much that I now work at home. What does *that* say about me vis-a-vis the HDTD community?

Noel Maurer

Five hours of homework?

You know, I know that I had homework in high school, and I know that I did it, but I can't remember ever actually working on anything save one single report about the Soviet Union.

And creative writing. I remember that. On an IBM Selectric. Hooah!

I know that I hate homework now, and f--k do I have a lot of it.

Noel Maurer

Hating homework is why I'm here while watching the Bosox-Tampa game. 4-3 in the eighth, so if the Sox lose and the Yanks beat Toronto, then the division comes back into play. Okajima at the plate, so I'm worried.

Carlos, want to go to Yankee Stadium before it closes? I could go to NYC later this month; we certainly have enough work to justify it. (BTW, one Phil Hoffman is excited. Yes, him.)

This damn powerpoint refuses to create itself. Bah. Dave, I am that awful fellow that you only feared you were.

Doug M.

I inherited my Dad's IBM Selectric, but it was too massive to bring to college. So I used a little manual typewriter. When I got home, the Selectric was For Special.

God, that thing was great. Weighed about 40 pounds and was painted battleship grey. Touch the key lightly and CRACK the striker would /lash/ out and put a letter on the page, faster than the eye could see. When I used it I felt really grown up.

-- One of my earliest memories of my Dad is of him sitting at the dining room table banging away on the Selectric. I might have been perhaps seven, eight years old. And he turned away from the machine to talk to me, and /kept on typing/. He could type without looking at the page! So awesome!

It's only in the last few years that I've been able to do that, a little. Whenever I do, I'm instantly reminded of him.

(Why yes, I'm off Ritalin all this week. Why do you ask?)


Doug M.


Doug M.

Carlos, I was a terror at games. Good at them, but unbearably annoying. ADHD will do that. When it wasn't my turn I'd wriggle, twitch, make stupid jokes, fiddle with the pieces, and generally make a nuisance of myself. My family avoided playing with me, partly because they didn't love games like I did, but mostly because I was just such a pain in the ass to play with.

Trivial Pursuit: my distance from popular culture would handicap me there. Still, you and I should play Settlers sometime.


Doug M.

Bernard Guerrero

"Five hours of homework?"

As a total for four years, I'd say that's not bad. Any less and they'd have had to start flunking me no matter how good the tests were. Nearly got nailed the last year, anyway; the office miscalculated how many days I'd skipped and I got hit for an impromptu trip down to AC. I knew they were short, too, but I'm incurably greedy and I thought I was getting a freebie. Old habits die hard.

Bernard Guerrero

Doug, how is Settlers for kids? We were thinking about getting a copy. I've come to the realization that "Empire In Arms" may be a not-so-easily acquired taste.

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