Discovering ADHD

Keeping busy!

I made a surprising discovery about myself just recently. It would appear that I have ADHD – Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For some of you who know me, this will come as no real surprise. It doesn’t really shock me, to be honest, though it has made me re-evaluate the whole condition and how it is viewed. It is odd I have to say, to be – to all intents and purposes – on the receiving end of a condition I normally have to deal with as a teacher at the other end in the classroom.

Last year, my son was having mild issues with concentration in class at LAMB. I always associated ADHD with bad behaviour and my lad is just not like that. He is the best-natured kid – wanting to please, excited about everything, happy in life and loves cuddles. He is always the first to greet new people staying out the Guest house here and has usually given them his whole life story and invited them for tea before anyone else has even found out their name. He’s lovely – but he doesn’t sit still so well. I was very sceptical then, about the suggestion that there may be some ADHD involved – even if it was most likely borderline.

So, when a friend who is a psychiatrist came over to LAMB last year – as he does every year – to assess children and adults with various learning difficulties or emotional/mental issues, we asked him to give a session with our lad just to see what he thought. He concluded that ADHD was the issue albeit pretty mild and suggested that it might be inherited from his father’s side. I was a little incredulous when I heard this – after all, my son just seemed pretty ordinary to me. Exactly what I used to be like as a kid, in fact!

So this year, when our psychiatrist friend came over, I asked him to give me an informal session and see if he really did think I had ADHD and to figure out if I had it as a kid. Whilst he admitted that this diagnosis was ‘something of an armchair’ variety rather than being given in a formal and rigorous setting, there was no doubt in his mind that I had ADHD when I was young, still had it now and that, somehow, I had actually made it work for me.

The symptoms for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder come in all shapes and sizes and are constantly re-evaluated by the experts but fall into three broad areas: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Inattention means having difficulty keeping one’s minds on one thing; getting bored with homework or other tasks after a few minutes; making silly mistakes;  trouble listening and seeming to daydream. However, sometimes one can concentrate on and complete new or unusually interesting tasks for extended periods of time.

Hyperactivity involves almost constant motion, as if driven by a motor. Squirming and fidgeting at a desk in school and getting up often to roam around the room, constantly touch things, disturb other people, tap pencils, and they will talk constantly.

ADHD sufferers are also unusually impulsive, so that they act before thinking. They may run into the street without looking, blurt out inappropriate comments in class, interrupt conversations, and can be unusually clumsy or accident-prone.

Oh boy – does anyone else happen to think this has just described me perfectly?!

Children with ADHD can have severe learning problems because of their difficulties in paying attention, following instructions, and completing tasks. In addition, their disruptive, demanding behaviour sometimes makes them unpopular with peers. Children with ADHD often receive constant criticism and correction from teachers and parents who believe the behaviour is intentional. The combination of negative feedback, poor academic achievement, and social problems may contribute to low self-esteem and other emotional problems.

Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to avoid the worst of these effects. I was always bright and self-motivated and maybe this helped. I did always feel different to others but that is not unusual for youngsters. One way or another though, I avoided trouble at school and – by the time I turned 16 – had seemingly turned ADHD into an asset. In fact, if you offered me a way to get rid of it now I would refuse!

This has happened because something inside me drives me to do and to learn. I have umpteen things on the go, rarely stop working before midnight and hate sitting down and just relaxing (unless I can do it whilst reading a book or listening to some language sound files or something!) I permanently have the feeling that I have lost time today that I will never recover and that drives me on.

The downside is that I don’t suffer fools gladly and tend to be impatient with anyone I perceive as not working as hard as me. This isn’t a “look how hard I’m working” kind of thing – I hate that when I hear it from others. No, it’s more a case of “if I myself haven’t done enough today, YOU certainly haven’t!” Now that I have a name (at least potentially) to give to some of my thoughts and behaviours it means I can start to ease up a little on myself and on others. Maybe it’s not unreasonable when others sit down, have a cup of cha and just chat. Maybe that is actually normal. Maybe I’ll even try it…but not tomorrow – too much to be done.

I do have more sympathy with children who have ADHD now though. I was never one to have issues in the first place, though I’ve known some teachers who don’t believe in ADHD and, privately, speak of how “the child just needs a damned good thrashing. That’ll teach him how to behave”. Seeing the results of a child with ADHD take medication leaves little doubt that this is a serious condition. I am in favour of medication though I sympathise with parents who feel they’ve ‘lost’ their child because with medication comes a loss of energy and a little of character too. I’m grateful my son’s ADHD is so minor there is no need ever for medication. But if his condition was so bad he could not function safely I would give up what I know of him as a person in a shot if it meant he could get through growing up normally.

But that last word has many demons attached. Just what is normal anyway? The psychiatrist who assessed me made the point that we were not made originally to sit all day behind a desk. ADHD is not really the child’s problem but ours as a society. Jeffrey Masson’s book The Assault on Truth is a damning criticism of the psychoanalytic world and the whole idea that we can decide what is sane, what is normal and what is ‘acceptable behaviour’. I’m lucky, my mild ADHD has been my asset and my friend for 40 years. I couldn’t live without it. But just a tad more when I was a kid and I could have living a very different life – one filled with fear, self-loathing and bad memories. This is the scenario for many even in the UK where the condition is supposedly better understood. Here in Bangladesh, it’s not far off being a death sentence.

This article is dedicated to my godson who has also recently found he is a little bit special

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About kenthinksaloud

British freelance writer, editor, musician, educational consultant and all round good egg I hope! I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for five years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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24 Responses to Discovering ADHD

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  9. sarsm says:

    Ken,

    My son, aged 11, has severe ADHD. He’s very clever but without medication has huge difficulties even writing one sentence down. He is extremely impulsive as in he climbs out of upper story/school windows, unscrews doors/furniture actually anything with a screw in it!!
    I could deal with the hyperactivity most of the time (except when he couldn’t sleep any more) because I could give him something to do and I discovered little exercises to help him fidget less.
    But the impulsiveness was terrifying!!

    Finally, last year doctors found a medication that works for him (the traditional stuff only worked for a while) and things have dramatically improved. He was also diagnosed as having autistic and OCD traits. I suspect the new medication masks Tourettes syndrome because without his tics are very extreme (as in hitting his head on the table or his shoulder springing up and whacking him in the face). We were also told he’s bordering on a personality disorder so he currently takes meds for schizophrenia too.

    I know where his ADHD comes from, his dad. As in my ex-husband. My ex seldom has contact with his children, he’s too distracted and constantly forgets to call, forgets birthdays and forgets to buy tickets to come and visit. Years ago I stopped trying to make him do things for his children. My second husband is great with the kids but I really feel for my son. No one and I mean no one ‘gets’ him. I get the OCD (that’s from me) but no matter how hard I try, I often feel like I react wrongly to the ADHD and other stuff.

    I’m happy for your son that he has you. You can really understand him and that will be such a positive influence in his whole future.

    • Dear Sarsm,

      Thank you for sharing so openly on my blog about your specific situation – I am honoured that you did so :)

      You were very gracious in your comment but I worry now that I have given a false impression. I know that medication is the right answer in many cases. I am glad that I never needed it and that my son doesn’t either (though he is borderline and sometimes struggles as a result of what is going on inside). A friend of mine remind me via email that the second ‘D’ of ADHD is ‘Disorder’ and, though I have issues with that word, it does indicate that many struggle with a family member dealing with having ADHD. Sometimes, medication is very obviously the right answer.

      I can understand much of what you are going through, and can sympathise with your son. I’m sorry that his genetic father isn’t there for him. Having ADHD doesn’t absolve you from responsibilities nor give you a ‘get out of jail free’ ticket. Unfortunately, I’ve known many kids, as a teacher, who have had similar dads. No one but you can really know what you are going through and have gone through – but I suspect your son will ultimately be very glad you have been there for him. In the end, there is no one like mom.

      There is much that is good about ADHD but the hardest part seems to be getting through childhood. Everyone I have come across who speaks well of it is an adult and often, like me, discovered it for themselves as an adult. I think we have to do what we can to support our children, get them through the growing years as best we can and then hope that it is enough for them to harness who they are and use it to develop themselves further – whatever they were dealt with in life in the first place.

      Thanks for writing – I have really appreciated your contribution :)

      • sarsm says:

        I don’t think you’ve given a false impression with regards to medication. I wouldn’t have given my son medication had he only had mild ADHD. And I think every parent who goes down this route has different feelings and experiences. In our case, because our son is so extreme, there’s a good chance it has saved his life. We had so many hospital visits before medication, it was incredible. Once, for example he removed the antenna from a remote control plane he had taken from the playroom and shoved it in the plug socket. He knew it was dangerous. But impulse took over.
        Despite all of that, I still had a hard time agreeing to medicate him, but when I did, the transformation was amazing. He told us he was much happier on the medication.
        He went on to have issues with the tablets he originally took, as in, they just stopped working. He went through quite a process. Last week the doctors changed his medication yet again and he wasn’t happy. I asked him to clear and clean the table. A few minutes later he came upstairs and told me he had a really hard time doing the job because it was so hard to concentration the task. He told me he “kept doing nonsense” instead of the task in hand. this was an absolute breakthrough for him. Before he’s never been able to articulate his ADHD like that. We hope that the new tablets are just taking a bit of time to work properly.

        It’s very good for me to read positive feelings from someone else who has ADHD as an adult. As an adult you can look back and reflect and that helps to give us non-ADHD parents who have ADHD kids insight.

        I bet your ADHD makes you a much better, much more understanding teacher. I agree school and making it to adulthood is the most difficult time for ADHD kids. We just have to do our best to support him through that journey.

        I feel very sad about his biological father and I agree, being ADHD doesn’t stop you being a parent. I spent along time feeling a loss for my children and trying to fix it. I still feel the loss sometimes but I realise I can’t be mum and dad just the best mum I can be. The children are really lucky in that they have a fabulous step dad and for the girls that’s enough, but my son has a hard time dealing with his fathers behaviour. I’ve told my ex categorically, on the phone, by letter, through his mum. But it doesn’t make any difference. So we just have to accept and move on and hope that one day my son will let go and properly let us fill the whole left by his dad.

        Thank you for your response. I really enjoyed reading it!!

        • My pleasure and, once again, thank you for sharing so openly. I’m sure anyone coming across these pages will be gaining more from what you are writing than what I have written!

          I can sympathise with your son for much of what you have described. Though I was never medicated, I remember doing similar dangerous and impulsive things as a child – including nearly get run over twice as a teenager when just started running across a busy road without even considering the cars – I was just focused on getting to the other side!

          As a teacher I’ve taught kids on medicines to calm ADHD and, I have to say, it really helps! It is more rare, I think, to find a mum who agrees. Normally we teachers benefit but parents feel they have ‘lost’ a part of their child. It is good to hear that you are not feeling this (or so much, anyway). I still maintain that ADHD is at least, if not more, society’s problem rather than the child’s. It’s not like getting ill or something. 200 years ago, our kids would have been working down the mines or playing hard in the fields rather than stuck in stuffy classrooms. We’re imposing something that is not ‘natural’ in many ways. Doesn’t mean it is wrong, of course, just that we all have to learn to live with it when some of us find it harder than others to stay focused.

          You sound like you are a terrific mum and I am sure your son will know this. I suspect there will always be a ‘Dad’ hole there, but with you around and with a great stepdad as well, that hole will, I’m sure, shrink down and be surrounded by everyone else that matters to him so that he makes it through this. I hope that, one day, his ADHD becomes his friend too. :)

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  11. clownonfire says:

    Thank you for knocking at my door and giving me a link to this post. I am in total agreement with your post. Like you, too, I suspect I have been living with ADHD all my life, and living with my son and researching on the subject have made me come to this realisation.

    There are so many solutions and tools out there to help our kids: exercise, healthy diet, creating an environment with little distractions. It’s unfortunate that we jump so fast on the meds route, even if is some case, it’s beneficial, but too easily revert to when treating AD(H)D.

    • Too right! If you read my next blog – the minipost one on ADHD – it suggests that we should encourage a little ADHD in all children. There is so much energy bubbling there that 300 years ago would have seen it bubbling around on the streets and in the fields and so on. Today we expect them to sit quietly behind desks – not my cup of tea and I’m a teacher!

      Good to have found you – thanks for coming visiting :)

  12. Rachel Denwood says:

    hyperactive, impulsive…..doesn’t sound like you at all!…
    Not shocked I must say. However these traits in you are some of the reasons we loved your lessons! So strangely enough you can say ADHD helped your former students to pass their exams because we only remembered what we enjoyed, ha! x

    • LOL thank you Rachel :) I hope so – You know me and know that, as long as students are learning everything they are supposed to be learning, my only real interest is ‘did they have fun?’ I tried to make sure that happened as much as possible. I take it as a real compliment from you as, if memory serves, your class was not the easiest to teach and I had to do more telling off than I would normally cope with. I hope, from your comment, that I didn’t let too many in the class down too often :)

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  14. Vikki Ford-Powell says:

    It has to be said that whilst living with the both of you can be exhausting, I love the bits of you that are ADHD as much as the bits that are not and would not change either of you one bit. That said, we are in the lucky few who understand what they are dealing with and know where to go with it. At work as a paediatric therapist I see many who do not have that understanding and for them life can be very hard. I just hope that as more is understood and more people speak out like this then life for those struggling can be made easier.

    • True words Vikki and I’m glad you wouldn’t change us (I’ll remind you of that very soon, I promise :P)! I think it must be particularly hard for parents in Bangladesh and I suspect you see much more the difficulties of this with your work than I do in mine. Glad you’re the one doing it :)

  15. Thanks for commenting on my post. I love your post. I’m new to this process but in my work I see a huge need for the understanding of this issue and I’m glad that there are so many out there trying to learn the ins and outs of this. The whole ADHD process is incredibly context and spectrum oriented, as you well thought it out on your post, so every case is not only incredibly individual, but developmental in nature; the symptoms will probably change in time and the context-from elementary to middle school-to high school-for instance-will also change also.

    Regards,
    Jorge

    • Thanks Jorge – I really enjoyed your blog too and highly recommend it to anyone passing through my pages here who is interested in this subject. Yes, I agree with your point entirely – something Masson agrees with too, I think. We’re all individual aren’t we? That’s the problem with labelling – you become a set of ‘stock symptoms’.

      Best wishes to you Jorge – come again!

  16. lizjtoon says:

    Hi ken,
    My son is medicated but it doesn’t take his personality away, it gives him a little more of an ability to concentrate and deal with the stuff he doesn’t like, and therefore can act in a slightly calmer manner most of the time. We have been lucky too in that we dealt with him by keeping him very very active in disciplined sports from the age of 3, also after several versions of his meds we have the right one and the right dose and now he is fourteen he is making more of his own decisions. so things are moving in the right direction for him.
    We have quite a high incidence of ADHD and the linked disorders such as autism within the family, my sister has 2 girls and a son all now diagnosed with adhd, I also believe my little chrissy is showing the distinct traits of it too, although she is 2 years too young for diagnosis.
    It is also probably why you and I got on so well at school too as although i havent the formal diagnosis it is obvious in me too and also in his dad too, which is typical as we do gravitate together. i have also helped one of my ex boyfriends get their formal diagnosis for it too which makes me think i must be a sucker for punishment lol. My partner at the moment is a tad OCD too lol but in the cleanliness and ordered department which suits me fine if he wants to help me clean lol and help me with my clutter habit pmsl, he is a wonderful gentle guy and i love him to bits and the nice thing is both my kids like him alot too, which is a huge hurdle when introducing anything new into their lives as it really can cause so much hassel and worry for everyone let alone having to plan everything with almost military precision which is so not my thing, but it is my sisters which is why she copes so admirably with three.
    We also have a great organisation in this area which helps too called ADHD solutions which provides specialist courses for parents, families and teachers, as well as holiday activities, counselling and some alternate treatment options they really have made a big difference in the lives of many in our area although there are still so many including gp’s who don’t know the help is there.
    Hope everything goes well for you and your family and all at lamb
    much love n hugs
    Liz x x x

    • Liz, I’m really sorry. I wrote a reply to this ages ago but just noticed that the blogsite never posted it up! I don’t know where it vanished to. Please forgive the length of time it took to respond as a result. I only happened to notice as I was glancing over the page yesterday.

      I wanted to say thank you for sharing to openly and personally. I was really encouraged by everything you wrote. I suspect there were all sorts of reasons you and I got on so well at school (not least was you being GORGEOUS of course!) and I am sure ADHD being in the mix somewhere definitely helped. :)

      I’m pleased too that you are well supported both by your partner and by organisations in the local area. Good to hear SOMETHING good about my hometown for once! It sounds like your kids are in good hands to get through this without ADHD scarring them and maybe even it will come out, as it has for me, as a benefit rather than a hindrance. Here’s hoping… :)
      Thanks darlin
      Muchly love n hugs back xx

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