I am married to a man who has ADHD. Our three sons also have ADHD. They’re not “a bit ADHD,” as some friends say when their kids are bouncing off the walls from a sugar high, they’re all the full-on, diagnosed by more than one specialist, medicated every day variety. Thanks for the suggestion — but, no, putting them to bed early, cutting out additives, and being firm will not help them.
Richard Ashcroft of The Verve was wrong when he sang “The drugs don’t work.” They do for my fam. All of my boys are on different types of medication, as well as different dosages, to be taken at different times of the day. Of course they are. I dole out their meds like Nurse Ratchett every morning because one of the fabulous things about ADHD is that no matter how many reminders, charts, and lists I employ, nothing — I repeat nothing — helps them remember to take their damn drugs. Or to do anything else for that matter. Ever.
At school or at work, medication allows them to sit in one place, to not shout out answers, say or do what are undeniably inappropriate things, and to stay focused on the task at hand. They get into trouble less. They make fewer mistakes. They tell me they are happier. They tell me they hate it when they don’t take their pills. They tell me when they feel their dosage isn’t right because they’ve grown again. They ask when they’re going to see their neurologist again. The eldest describes having ADHD and being unmedicated as knowing what he’s doing is wrong and going to end really, really badly but being utterly unable to stop it. How awful must that be?
As you can tell, I’m all for drugs for my family. Whatever works for you and yours, well, that’s up to you. But for every up, there has to be a down. And for them, that ‘down’ is when they come home from school or work. The drugs have worn off by then and the true extent of their ADHD brains having had to work seven times harder than a regular brain just to stay on track is revealed. The explosions of rage and the complete inability to complete even the simplest of tasks wear me down. Sometimes I joke about having to remind them to breathe in and out. But really, I’m not joking.
In many ways, it’s like having toddlers. Except they’re all much taller, stronger, and hairier than me. Plus toddlers grow up.
In the past I’ve tried to explain to friends and family what having ADHD really means. How it impacts all of our lives. How it defines relationships, their education, their careers, after school activities, and how we socialize. I’ve had to give up. Unless you’re at home with us between 6 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. or 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. when their meds aren’t in their systems, or you have a family member (or two, or three, or four) who is ADHD, you’ll probably never understand why I am quite so deeply, achingly exhausted.
I know I am unbelievably lucky. I really do. My loves are not dying. They are funny, clever, kind, and caring people who despite all of the above, I adore. There is no one I would rather be with. There is no one I would rather be a mom to and definitely no one I would rather be married to… most days. I recognize that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to access the services they need, both financially and logistically. I know all this. It’s just that sometimes I need to have a pity party and let it all out or else I really fear my head will literally explode.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make my rounds with the meds.