A personal story: How we ended up with an ADHD diagnosis

As soon as I stepped out of the appointment and over to the desk to pay, I text Hubby to let him know, “She has ADHD.”

My husband, a man of generally long text messages, wrote just one thing; a crying emoji.

I paid for our appointment and drove home, feeling all the feels, with my little side-kick beside me. My head was whirling with thoughts, wondering if I should explain to her what had just happened or instead continue on as normal until I’d processed it myself. I decided on the latter. We sang to the radio and talked about what we were going to have for dinner.

I arrived home, and life was normal. Hubby was cooking dinner, Lulu was playing, and the sun was setting. I felt his energy though. I could see it in his eyes. I went to the bedroom to get changed and he followed me in, and he broke. He grabbed me, held me tight and sobbed into my shoulder. It wasn’t just sadness, it was heartbreak. It was sobbing to an extent I’d only ever seen before when he lost his parents.

“It will be OK,” I promised, unsure if it would be, but hopeful all the same.

“I know you’re happy,” he sobbed, “But I’m heartbroken.”

“I’m not happy. Not one part of me is happy,” I assured him, “I’m devastated, but I’m also partly relieved. I don’t really know what I’m feeling.”

Do you know what the hardest, most awful thing about my parenting journey so far has been? That I’ve been looking for what was wrong with my child. It actually rips my heart in two. And that’s a horrible thing to write, because I am the mother of the most amazing, empathetic, compassionate, sassy, fun and creative child who I absolutely adore. She is my everything. I’ve also endured some of the most wildly exhausting tantrums, and behaviours that I’ve never imagined I’d have to parent anyone through, and they’re always reserved for me {her safe place} and they occur more often than I can cope with.

For years I’ve met with teachers, and held my breath, waiting for them to tell me how she’d misbehaved or played up {just like she did for me at home}, “She’s perfect!” they’d tell me. And I’d breathe a sigh of relief.

So, for over a decade I resolved that it was just me. I was fucking things up. Perhaps I spoiled her, or worked too much. I wondered if I babied her too often, or should have read to her more. I worried that I should have fed her organic only, or if my traumatic birth to her played some part in how things were. I resolved that I was failing, somehow, every single day and I tortured myself about it.

I saw kids receive reading and achievement awards, but not my girl. I saw kids getting invited to birthday parties and playdates, but not my girl. I saw kids have tantrums, and get over them within 15 minutes, and wondered why I didn’t have the same luck. I read books, watched You Tube videos, and eventually saw a psychologist who told me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I quipped back, “I don’t need you to make me feel good here, I’m really stuffing things up and I need you to tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

“You’re a great mum and I can see how much you love your kids. I think you’re doing a great job.”

I didn’t believe her, so I never saw her again.

I resolved that while I was trying my hardest, I wasn’t doing very well at all, but all I could do was love her, and then love her some more. This was just how things were, and that was how they would be. {And I’m not really ready to share how things really, truly are – and have been – because it’s so raw right now, and I so desperately want to protect my beautiful girl – because I’m aware that this is mostly her story. I also want to share my story too because I so desperately wanted to not feel so alone in my parenting struggles over all these years, and I hope that sharing this story might help others feel less alone. I know that reading something like this just five years ago would have given me great comfort}.

I knew, that while some behaviours chipped away at us and made life at home hard, she was coping at school and that’s what mattered. Until I realised she wasn’t. Little things started to happen. Little red flags started to pop up.

I filled her bookshelves with books in an attempt to get her excited, and tried to read to her at nighttime. When I asked her what she’d imagined from the words I read, I was met with a blank stare. When she’d read books herself, she could never recall what she’d just read. When I read books myself I see beautiful pictures in my head of what the story is telling me, she sees absolutely nothing. It was when we received the results to her first NAPLAN that my gut told me that something wasn’t right. The Principal assured me that the NAPLAN didn’t mean anything, friends played down their own kids results in comparison, and I just felt bamboozled {we were looking at an almost zero score}. I knew I needed to do more, my gut was telling me to search.

So, I floundered. I booked an IQ test, and I started looking for help. I really had no idea where to start {FYI, it wasn’t really the right place to start but I did get some answers}.

Over the following two years, I had more gut feelings, and things were really starting to affect us as a family {and we’re a really solid team, so it takes a lot to rattle us}. I met with my GP, and I cried a whole bunch {I always get Lacey to sit outside when I have to talk about her because I don’t ever want to think of herself as a problem. She’s not a problem}. I begged for help, and finally I found it.

Our first step was some testing {with her teacher and myself}, meeting with a pediatrician {magical people} and then finding the perfect psychologist {we found her, guys}. I met with her teacher and asked to get real with me, and she did. I then asked her to support us in anyway she could.

Part of the solution, for now, is dabbling in medication. This might be just a temporary thing, and we hope it is, we’ve got some catching up to do, some learning and we’re all prepared to put in some hard work to help her get there. This was a really difficult step, that required lots of thinking and discussion.

When I told Hubby on that diagnosis day that I felt almost relieved, it was because of this; I could finally stop searching. I could stop blaming myself {of course I’m not perfect though, I’ve got some growing and changing to do}. I could start helping, because now I almost knew how. We’ve got the hardest roads ahead of us yet, and nothing is smooth sailing, but most of all I can help my girl understand why she feels what she feels, why learning is more challenging for her, and how we {and she} can help her with those challenges {her diagnosis at this stage is inattentive attention deficit disorder, not hyperactive – to be honest I’ve got so much learning to do}.

And I know that we’re making inroads by the smallest things. We found relief in travel {something her teacher and principal have strongly encouraged}. While she didn’t quite fit the mold of the school system {while still being a mostly perfectly-behaved child at school} travel has allowed her to explore, meet people and engage with them, and discover passions by being hands on and curious. It’s allowed us to continue to form really strong bonds as a family. Most of all, it’s allowed her to be her.

On our Japan trip last year, at the end of the day we all lay in our beds and we were talking about our favourite things from the day {something we do almost daily} and then we turned off the lights to go to sleep. Lacey piped up just as we were dozing off, and said, “Mum! You know how when I read stories I can never see the pictures in my head?”

“Yes…” I answered, wearily.

“Well, for the first time ever, I was thinking about all the fun things I did today and I saw pictures in my head. I could actually see pictures!”

“That’s beautiful,” I whispered, and then silently cried myself to sleep. I felt hope. And I knew, that we were going to be OK. She was going to be just fine.

A note from me: I have written about many personal topics on my blog from my self confidence and weight issues, to being a victim of sexual abuse, and none are as raw as writing about this topic; parenting my girl. I have held this story inside me for months, and essentially years as I struggled, and I really felt that it was important to talk about it. Because it’s not something to be ashamed of {I’m trying to assure myself this, because I do feel shame for my parenting fails and guilt too}, and the more open we are, the more supportive we can be of each other.

But also, I am writing this from my perspective {so it might sound like I’m whinging about how hard it’s been for me, and that’s simply because I’m telling my story while trying to preserve her story too}. I’ve sobbed as I’ve written this, because this is so intensely raw, and heart-breaking for me. It consumes me, and my nearest and dearest know that and see it in me daily. I ask that you tread gently and sensitively in the comments {if you feel you want to comment of course} because while I appreciate support, I’m not really strong enough for judgement or shame on this. Thank you. xx