My friend Em has ADHD. She was diagnosed as an adult and has lived with the executive function challenges all her life. Not knowing why she couldn’t function like her peers. Why she had difficult relationships. Why she got overwhelmed and stimmed. Why she felt a failure and felt she let people down.
Now she knows why. And it helps. It helps her understanding that sometimes she needs support and kindness. Sometimes she needs time out. Sometimes it means doing things in a different way.
It still doesn’t stop her having tricky times. Read this diary entry from last Sunday….
Well that was a shit day…
It’s 10pm and I’m mentally and physically exhausted.
My day started well. I woke up naturally fine with my beautiful ragdoll cats playing at the end of my bed…
By midday I was gone, having spent hours trying to convert my new phone, remember passwords, unlock this, type in that. Youngest calling from his high tower, but time doesn’t wait for this one, “Are you ignoring me?” over and over, I found it easier to just let him do what he wanted for the day. I wasn’t getting into an argument with a smart autistic 12 year old.
As soon as I was done with half a job of phone change, I had no choice but to ask my eldest to stop the one thing that keeps him calm, as I couldn’t hear myself think over the strumming of the guitar, the cats running around playing cat tag and the daily sounds of a full household.
I have had no idea of time all day, which means as a parent I’m failing to sort washing out so the kids have clothes for the week, serving supper on time for Aidan’s routine, I’ve burnt the chicken thighs so spent 5 mins scraping the marinade off, only for him to have a melt down and tell me he won’t eat that and my hands have touched it.
If having ADHD wasn’t hard enough for me to regulate my head and emotions, I have a teenager with autism, a 20 year old with Dyslexia and recently discovered ADHD, with severe bouts of depression and a partner with Dyslexia and currently suffering from SAD, a seasonal depression.
On an average day I can deal with this, well I think I’m dealing with it, but my sudden outbursts of “oh FFS!”, talking to myself and stuttering tells me otherwise.
So back to today, no ADHDer will tell a story in the right order, often it looks like we’re making it up or lying as our recall is like alpha spaghetti.
It’s now 10.35pm, where was I?
Oh yeah, so I’ve already had a meltdown myself, fallen over the smallest cat and I should know better as he is always under my feet for attention or cries, yep he is like a baby.
Oh for f@*k sake, I’ve forgotten to clean the litter trays out and all I want to do is cry as I’m so tired.
Beep beep goes the dishwasher, the washing machine is now playing music telling me it’s time to take it out. Yes I have devices that play music when finished so I know the clothes are either washed or dried. My phone is playing a lullaby telling me it’s bedtime. My heart feels like it’s going to explode….
Breath in, drop my arms down to my feet and with a loud out breath wooooooooooah, slowly rise up standing tall, arms in the air as high as they can go and repeat…
Right I’m back.
You can do this Em, look around, what needs doing first.
Thankfully my eldest walks into the kitchen “you alright there mother? Here let me take the washing out for you. Mum why is there a broken plate all over the utility floor?”
Oh yeah, I had dropped that when I was putting the hot plates away, my fingers had gone numb and parts of my body were shutting down – ears feel blocked – sniffing starts – head is fuzzy – hands start to tingle, no real control over them – all noise around me is white noise, so I can’t hear anyone talk to me – my hip starts to ache. If anyone asks me to do anything other than what I’m trying with all my mental strength, I will end up abusing them with my sharp tongue.
Back to the dropping and breathing. Calm……
My whole day has been a nightmare all because I was overwhelmed at the start of my day. I’m not this monster that comes out, I’m Emma, the funny, creative and full of love person.
Then I stop and think how the bloody hell did I get here? I’m now in the bathroom but can’t remember walking the stairs, that’s it, today is done. I can’t take anymore. Night.
Now this is the upsetting part. As I read this back I realise I was a complete mess yesterday wondering what I was doing in a certain room, what I was talking about, I burnt food and can’t remember what else, but there were loads. Oh and let’s not forget the crying for no reason and dropping a plate as my fingers felt like they no longer worked.
Now I imagine this in the head of a child. Breaks my heart 💔
Em is able to brilliantly reflect and articulate how she felt and how this caused the behaviours her family witnessed. She recognises the physical signs that cause her emotions to overwhelm, then knows some calming techniques to use. She was able to take herself out of the situation and to self-regulate.
But your child may not be able to do any of these.
So all you see are the meltdowns, the rudeness, the crying, the mess, the broken toys. You may see them being horrid to their sibling. You may see refusal or defiance.
But what is really going on?
Stand back and look.
It could be they are overwhelmed and need your love, kindness and support 💛
By the way, you can read an encounter Em and I had over a cup of coffee here!
Also, check out Em’s beautiful page Artful Goose here