Inside Our Family’s Battle with ADHD
Every family has their trials, they have their ups and their downs. Simply because life is not always easy, and at times it can be cruel. Our family is made up of our oldest, who is an eleven-year-old girl, Mckenna, Brennden who is five, Isaac is four, Russel is two; then there’s my husband Rus and myself, six total. My oldest son, Brennden, recently was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. ADHD also known as, Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and ODD – Oppositional defiant disorder. When paired together you have a very hyper and defiant child, one that is almost impossible to live with some days. Our family finds it a challenge to find balance on a daily basis. As the parent of a child who clearly struggles to establish a sense of self, it’s difficult to understand how to guide them. When we first noticed Brennden’s behavior wasn’t like other children his age, he was around two years old. At first, we observed that his tantrums were excessive and long, and it didn’t take much to set him off. Later on, when we had multiple toddler age children it was difficult not to accept that something was out of the norm, and we knew we had to take action. First, we needed to explore why things were more difficult for Brennden than our other children. At that juncture, we had two younger children watching his every move, and by nature, we knew they would want to follow in his steps, good or bad.
With Brennden’s diagnosis came clarity. We had some idea that he suffered from something that had his mind and his body constantly going. But we had no idea our little guy was struggling as much as he was. When we got home that evening after getting his diagnosis and the plan for the next steps, we found ourselves trying to process what our son had. We probably read every single article published on ADHD and it was very common that in children ODD came as part of the package. His behavior some days is just outrageous, and we find ourselves stretched to the extreme. While trying to support our son and guide him through his outbursts we also have to adjust our reactions, align ourselves with his love language(s), all while parenting three other children. Most days it feels like it’s five against one in our home.
Our other children suffer at the expense of all the energy we have to put into Brennden. Our middle boy, Isaac, in turn, struggles with what we call as, the “middle child syndrome.” He is always looking for attention. We believe it’s because a lot of our focus is on Brennden, so often we have to be on top of his every move. So whether it’s negative or positive attention Brennden is getting most of it, and Isaac has noticed. Therein lies another issue we have to conscious of.
Most, I’m sure, has heard of ADHD. Let me tell you it certainly surpasses the stigma. It’s more frequently been diagnosed in children, but some adults get diagnosed too. But how many of you have actually ever came face to face with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? The name itself speaks to its definition, kind of makes it obvious. But when you understand its true identity, its authentic face, then you’ll understand what families like ours go through. Day after day, we face an argumentative child who expresses hostility and disobedience, and we love him with every inch of our hearts. Watching him act out in a vindictive tone, not because he wants to, but because it’s his hard wiring, its torturous for us. My husband and I often ask ourselves, ‘what did we do wrong? Why does he act this way towards us, and other adults, authoritative figures?’ We had our answers there, but that opened up another set of questions. Like, ‘what are we going to do now? What’s next?’
According to American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, one to sixteen percent of school-age children have ODD. Most of them also have another mood disorder associated with it. All children have a defiant side to them. Every child tests their parents’ patience, to see just how far they can push adults. But where is the line that differentiates between normal defiant behavior and a mood disorder? It’s a hard line to see. We want Brennden to have the best quality of life. Just like our other children we want him to be able to experience himself and the things around him. Watching Brennden, knowing his mind is moving so quickly, his mood is unstable, that as of right now neither of us as his parents, have the skill sets to help him function normally. Nor the skill sets we need to not go crazy ourselves. It’s a work in progress.
Recently, we started his treatment with a therapist who is going to help Brennden with what’s called play therapy. In addition, to play therapy, research has proven to be highly effective with Occupational therapy in children with ADHD and ODD. Naturally, traditional medicine always recommends medication, and my husband and I decided that we would respectfully decline, for now. Because of Brennden’s age, (five), the only medication approved by insurance is an amphetamine, Adderall. With the wrong type of personality type, Adderall can be highly addictive. Our main goal is to give our son the best quality of life, and that may not be possible if we force a highly addictive medication on him at such a young age. So, for now, we’ve turned our back on that, and are hoping that with the combination of both therapies, and family therapy teaching us how to control our reactions, that we can get him under control.
We are only at the beginning of this very long journey. I want to invite whoever thinks it helpful along the journey with us. Maybe we will meet others along the way who are just now facing the reality that their child also has a mood disorder or learning disability, or maybe you’re someone who is further along in the healing process. Together we can share our experiences, and I am sure that things will differ for us each, but it may be helpful knowing others are right there with you. One thing we will share in common, hopefully, is peace of mind, peace at home, and peace in our children, and we can be thankful for that.
See you out there!