Tentative

The Cleveland Cavaliers have forced a Game 7 in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Nobody can deny that the Warriors have dominated the NBA for the past couple of years because numbers don’t lie. Last year, the Cavs faced the Warriors in the Finals and were beaten in six games. Two amazing victories and four heartbreaking losses.

And here we are again.

As it stands right now, it’s 3-3. No team has ever been up 3-1 in the Finals and lost it, so the Cavs are poised to make history in more ways than one. You see, Cleveland hasn’t won a championship in any major sport since 1964.

That’s 11 years before I was born. [this is the 3rd time I have edited this because I have forgotten simple arithmetic]

I was born and raised in Ravenna, Ohio. It’s a sleepy, small town about 45 minutes southeast of Cleveland. Most of the people there support the Cleveland sports teams, and I have never known a professional sports championship from any of “my” teams. In fact, it’s often very much the reverse.

There is “the Drive.” There is “the Fumble.” There is “the Shot.” And then there is whatever it was that fucked the Indians in their World Series bids over the years (I’m actually a Mets fan and have been since 1986, so apologies to my Cleveland peeps for not being with them 100%).

So what do we do now, being 48 minutes away from the end? Do we dare hope that maybe, just maybe LeBron James and his team will do what feels literally impossible and bring a championship home to Cleveland? What does Cleveland even DO if that happens? So much of the city’s identity is built on despair. We’re afraid to hope for the best because we know, at a cellular level, that it will never, ever happen.

But it might!

We have hope. We have faith. Cleveland sports fans are the very definition of faith. An agnostic myself, I’m skeptical of anything I can’t really find evidence for. Sure, there might be a God out there somewhere, but I’m not really buying it. Same with Cleveland sports. There might be a championship out there, but we are none of us convinced. Still, we hope. We show up. We buy tickets and t-shirts and those foam fingers and stale popcorn and we show up. We yell, we scream, we boo, we cheer, we laugh and we cry. We believe. We have faith. It’s tenuous, it’s shaky, but it’s there. We. Believe.

Faith means showing up even when you are convinced the outcome is not in your favor. Faith is Charlie Brown giving Lucy the football because maybe this time, MAYBE THIS TIME, she won’t be a total cunt about it and he will finally get to kick it. Faith is hope.

I honestly don’t care that much either way about NBA basketball. But I understand symbolism and what this would mean to a place that I call home (despite having lived in the wilds of suburban New Jersey for over 17 years). Ohio is shaped like a heart, and that’s where mine is.

So we go into tomorrow, Father’s Day, with hope. It’s the kind of hope that you almost have to deny. It makes your skin hurt, with the apprehension and the heady mix of joy and anticipated pain that we’re all going to feel when Cleveland takes the court in enemy territory. Golden State might have the skill, but I guarantee you that nobody, and I mean NO GODDAMNED BODY in the history of the entire world, ever, wants a victory more than those Cleveland Cavaliers do. Sometimes, wanting it hard enough can make it happen.

I will likely spend tomorrow feeling like I want to jump out of my skin. I probably won’t watch the game, because when I do, Basketball Rachel comes out and she scares children. I’m not into praying, but I might try that. What I probably will end up doing, is the same thing I always do on Sunday nights: I’ll be sat on the sofa, reading a book and checking scores on my phone while What’s-His-Name watches something completely devoid of any cultural relevancy. Whatever happens tomorrow night is up to LeBron James and his teammates. I can’t think too hard about it.

I can only hope.

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Unfinished

A few weeks back, when my birthday was happening, I had a whole post started about how I hate the women’s-magazine trope of “life begins at 40” (or 50 or 60 or when you die). I still hate that.

Milestone birthdays are interesting to me – they mark an arbitrary amount of time passed, yet people ascribe huge importance to some of them (18, 21, 30, 40, 50, etc). For the most part, I have done the same.

I turned 40 last year and celebrated by spending a lovely week in the desert. I’m decidedly NOT a desert sort of person (I require trees with leaves and seasons and the occasional snow, regardless of how much I might bitch about it), but I spent my 20th birthday in the desert too, and both 20 and 40 marked huge changes in my life path.

At 20, my desert weekend helped me find the strength to leave a… let’s call it “unhealthy” relationship and put the fractured pieces of my life back together. At 40, my desert week helped me look back on the previous 20 years and see what picture those puzzle pieces turned out to be. Apparently it takes me 2 full decades to get my shit together, so my 60th birthday should be amazing. Maybe I’ll trek solo across the Sahara or something.

So while I wouldn’t say “life begins at 40,” now that I’m a year away from that I might say that my extremely prolonged adolescence ended at 40. I got rid of a lot of things and relationships and people who weren’t having a positive effect on me. I changed tracks but I wasn’t sure where this train was headed.

Now I know. About two months ago, I contacted all three universities I’ve attended and requested my transcripts. I knew that they weren’t stellar, but they weren’t as bad as I’d feared. I got all three of them and then spent a day just looking at them and making a bunch of decisions.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I re-applied to Rutgers. The application was disappointingly spare: who, where, when. That’s all. No room for me to explain why, at 41 years of age, I am trying to go back to school. No room to explain why I left in the first place and the things I’ve learned about myself and the world since then. No room, really, for bullshit.

And that’s the theme here – there is no more room for bullshit.

So I submitted this very disappointingly spare application and then I waited. AND WAITED. And… waited. I have discovered a remarkable amount of patience in my advanced age. I waited. The answer was either going to be “yes, come back” or “no, sorry, die in a fire,” and there wasn’t anything I could do about it either way, so I waited.

I was really starting to get fed up with this whole hippie notion of leaving it up to the universe when I got the email. “HEY GUESS WHAT YOU CAN COME BACK.” Oh! Okay. I was at work, and while I was processing this news, I logged in to Facebook to announce it to the world (because nothing happens in life until you tell Facebook, right?). Before I could post anything, I saw that Prince had died.

That put rather a damper on my day, to put it mildly, but it was kind of a good thing in that I could put all of my “holy shit” feelings in THAT basket and be more rational about this whole college thing.

My acceptance at Rutgers is conditional. I had to call and make an appointment with an academic advisor before I could do anything else, so the following Monday morning, I did just that. I knew if I put it off any longer I wouldn’t do it and come September I’d be all pissed off at myself for it. So I did it and got an appointment for the following morning.

[Imagine nuclear meltdown klaxons here] OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE THIS IS GOING TOO FAST.

I freaked out about it for exactly one day, then I went to my appointment. The first question out of the Dean’s mouth was “why are you here?” A HA! YES! BULLSHIT TIME. Except it wasn’t: I told her all the things. I told her about my first attempt at college and the barriers I bumped up against crashed into at warp speed. I talked about my 2nd attempt and how well that was going and how I thought it would be fine when I transferred to Rutgers but it was NOT fine and things went badly from the get-go. I talked about my ADHD and the anxiety/depression I have ALWAYS had that I now know is 100% related to it. I talked about where I personally failed and where I was failed. I talked about Jillian and how her diagnosis led to my diagnosis and how both of those things led to a radical re-shaping of our personal worlds. I talked about the programs of study I’d abandoned and what I was planning to do instead and why.

She listened. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t. But the Dean listened to my story and re-activated me as a student on the spot. I still have the conditions to fulfill, but I have so much more knowledge and so many more tools now that I didn’t have before. I also have enough credits for a minor in both Music and Linguistics.

I go back in the fall.

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My ADHD Life – The End of Year One

The cat is licking a hammer.

I was composing the opening line for this post as I walked toward the back door to let the dogs out into the backyard and I happened to glance at the cat. He’s sitting on the ledge next to our basement steps (where things that are supposed to go downstairs are put), licking a hammer that’s been sitting there for oh, a good few weeks now.

If this isn’t a perfect snapshot of what my life is like, I don’t know what is.

Roughly a year ago, we had reached our limit with Jillian and her relationship with the school. We’d been told by two doctors and three therapists that “she’s fine! She’s very smart, she’s bored in school, can you work with the teacher to get her more challenging things to do?” So we’d talked to the teacher, who agreed that Jillian is very smart, but that the challenging bit was to get her to sit down and shut up and stop singing and/or bursting into tears over every little thing.

“But it’s not ADHD, we don’t think.” Oh, okay. I do not have a medical degree, therefore I trusted the second opinion, the third opinion, all the way up to the fifth opinion I got when discussing Jillian’s struggles. Yet, nothing we did for her was effective. Not a damn thing, from rewards/sanctions to behavior mods. Nothing had any effect on her behavior whatsoever.

She was starting to suffer, and worse – she was starting to notice. She had become That Kid, and was being left out of things like playground cliques and birthday parties and other social gatherings that all of her classmates were invited to. The gossip grapevine in this town is VERY strong, and even though I’m not an active participant (I have my three friends and that’s enough for me), I could see that things were happening around her that she wasn’t being invited to.

I snapped. I finally lost it. I had A Talk with the pediatrician, who tried to assure me YET AGAIN that “she’s fine, she doesn’t have ADHD.” Screen her, I said. We have, they replied. Oh, you mean a bullshit 10-second interview about how she likes school? Isn’t there something, oh I don’t know, FORMAL we could try? “We just don’t think her behavior is severe enough to warrant something like that. And your insurance likely won’t cover it.”

Well, thanks, Doc. I appreciate you trying to save me some cash, but my child is having a really hard time and if my instincts are correct (THEY ALWAYS ARE), then perhaps we can get ahead of this thing and HELP HER.

We got a recommendation from a therapist we know and trust and took Jillian to YET ANOTHER DOCTOR to have her checked out. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. From top to bottom, working with this office and this medical team has been a parent’s dream. They were absolutely interested in hearing about our experiences and our struggles and they listened to what we had to say. Bottom line, THEY TOOK THE TIME. The regular pediatrician is more of a meat-grinder operation: get as many people through those doors as possible. This, not so much. They took the time.

A full physical checkup for Jillian was first. Then they gave her a battery of tests, from IQ to whatever else, maybe the SAT and the ASVAB, too. I don’t know, but it was a lot. The doctor observed her while she hammered out the tests, and after that they sent her to the play area to hang out (and be observed) while they scored the tests and talked with us.

I cried twice. I had been so frustrated and upset for so long, it was so amazing to hear someone say “yes, we think you’re right about that.” I’m her mother. I know her inside and out, of course I’m right. After a bit, the tests were scored and all three of us met with the doctor to discuss the results.

One feature of my own personal medical life is that any doctor who has a look at me goes “…wow.” Yes, I know. My body subscribes to the “go big or go home” philosophy (in more ways that one, hahahaha), and when something on me requires a doctor’s attention, it REALLY does. Jillian seems to follow this line as well.

The result: off the charts. IQ? Off the charts (we’re terrified of this). ADHD? OFF THE DAMN CHARTS.

I knew it. I KNEW IT! I FUCKING KNEW IT. Back when she was in kindergarten, I knew it.

And so, a diagnosis was reached. While medication was definitely offered as a solution, I wanted to hold off on that until we’d exhausted every other option available including school intervention, etc. We met with the school’s IEP team and had a nice chat with them and it was determined that she didn’t qualify for an IEP or other “offical” accommodations as defined by law but that they’d do whatever we all thought was necessary to help her out anyway.

A couple of months of that, and things improved a little, but she was still struggling and every day was a battle for her. That’s when we decided to look at medication. There is A LOT of bullshit out there about how kids are “overmedicated” and there is a lot of vitriol directed at parents who apparently jump to give their kids meds because that’s the “easy way” of controlling this kind of behavior. While I don’t doubt that there are parents out there who do this, my guess is that the overwhelming majority of people who decide to medicate their kids do so with a lot of fear and trepidation and regret. It’s not an easy decision to make and it’s definitely not something I talk a lot about because the first person who gets in my face and tells me I’m a bad mother for giving my kid meds, well, I’m going to eviscerate that person and then set them on fire and then drive my car over their ashes before I let my dogs poop on them.

The medication has made all the difference. I used to flinch when an email from Jillian’s teacher would pop up in my inbox because it was NEVER good news. NEVER. Not once. They’d been coming weekly, and it was never good. Now? I haven’t heard from Jillian’s teacher unless I contact her first and the news is almost always overwhelmingly positive. She’s a good student and a good kid and is able to control herself so much more now. You can’t argue with results.

Sure, she’s still a little bit loud and kind of a maniac and she’s got an uphill battle, socially. I know she will eventually find her tribe, but I hope she’s not scarred for life before that happens. But the difference between this 4th grade year and the years before it are like night and day. Whenever I doubt my decision to put her on medication, I remember that.

So here we are, a year later. Some days are better than others – mornings will never not be a struggle because that pill doesn’t kick in for about a half-hour. So every day is still exactly the same. “Get up. No, get up NOW. GET UP. Eat. Please eat. Please stop talking and eat. Are you supposed to be doing that while you eat? GO EAT. Where are you going? Why didn’t you pee when you got up? Get dressed. NOW. It will be cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon. GET. DRESSED. It’s PE today, so where are your sneakers? Why aren’t you wearing pants? Where is your backpack? Are you making your lunch or buying it? Do you have your snack? You have to leave in 10 minutes, GO GET DRESSED. Brush your hair. Fine, I’ll do it, come here. GET DRESSED. No, you don’t need an umbrella. Do you have your house key? Fine, see you later.”

Every. Day. Every day is brand new for her, and it will likely never be an automatic process. She’ll never just… get up and go to school, fully dressed, with everything she needs tucked safely in her backpack. If I don’t steer her, she’ll get up and eat breakfast (maybe) then have a dance party in her room for 45 minutes. She’ll watch the cat watching birds out the window. She’ll get lost in a book and forget what time it is.

All of these are lovely things, but not on school days. Weekends are better, usually.

What I found interesting was that her ADHD diagnosis led to my own ADHD diagnosis. After reading through her test results and having all the bells in my head ringing like a royal wedding, I went to my own therapist and said “let’s see where I land.” Well, well, well. WELLITY WELLITY WELLITY. ADHD all up and down the joint. My therapist said it’s very likely that I’ve always had it and that is probably the culprit for a lot (a very lot) of the various issues I faced in my late teens/early 20’s (also known as The Disaster Years). ADHD is probably the reason for all of it.

WHAT A BREAKTHROUGH. There’s a good reason why I haven’t been writing much on thishere blog, you know. I tend to write when I’m upset or anxious or frustrated or angry, and I haven’t been those things very often since I figured it out. I stopped a lot of self-blame and let go of a LOT of guilt and shame about the fact that I’m almost 41 and I’d be the World’s Greatest Slacker if I could just get around to submitting the forms.

It’s not that I don’t want to or that I forgot to do things – it’s that I just literally CANNOT. It’s not a personality flaw, after all! Oh, trust me – I still have myriad personality flaws, but my historical flakiness isn’t actually one of them. WOO HOO! Or something. It was amazing to me to realize that my inability to follow through on so many things isn’t because I personally suck at life – I have/had this invisible barrier in front of me all this time!

That knowledge has transformed my life over this past year. The anxiety/depression cycle I used to churn around in has abated somewhat. I am almost completely off the anxiety/depression meds I’d been on for years and years, and I feel amazing. I feel things, period. That’s new.

Now that I know the WHY of things, I am better at getting around it. I know that I have a limited amount of fucks to give every day. And once those are given out, there are no more, so I have to apportion them appropriately. It’s getting better. I’m considering medication, but as an adult with ADHD, getting meds is really fucking hard because most of the ones used to treat ADHD are also taken recreationally. That’s a problem, but not one I need to solve at the moment.

As for Jillian, she is improving as well. If you consider every day a race, most people line up at the starting line and go when the gun goes off. Jillian’s normal starting point is about 200 yards back, which means she has to go that much farther every day just to get started. Having the medication available to her put her maybe not ON the starting line, but a hell of a lot closer than 200 yards. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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Modern Marriage: A Scene

A few weeks ago, we used eBay to sell our XBox Rock Band set, since it was taking up space and nobody was using it. It sold fairly quickly and the money went into his dormant PayPal account, because of course it did.

He tried to log in and verify his account and jump through whatever other hoops, but was unsuccessful. That’s where we begin our scene.

*Bling!* (that’s my obnoxious email notification sound)

[It’s a forwarded email from Freddie, regarding his PayPal account.]

Him: I can’t figure this out!

Me: Hang on, let me see what I can do.

I click the link in the forwarded email.

I am asked for his PayPal password, which I don’t know and can’t guess. It’s been ages since he used it. Instead, I click “change password.” PayPal sends an email to him.

I then log in to his gmail account, because I’m his wife and I know things like passwords, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and can forge signatures when needed. I open the “hey, someone wants to change your password” email, follow the prompts, and enter a new password. Easy enough.

Go back to PayPal, go through the various steps of verification, adding a credit card. No need to add the bank account, since I’m shutting his PayPal down as soon as I transfer the money to MY PayPal account, which gets used more often. It’s stupid for us to have two different accounts and since I am the Chief Financial Officer of this company, I get to decide how we manage things.

Meanwhile, my phone is blowing up because he’s forwarding me the “OMG YOUR PASSWORD CHANGED” emails from his gmail.

Me: Stop forwarding me shit. I’m fixing it.

Him: I thought you would need these emails.

Me: I’m logged into your gmail right now. Stop messing with it.

Him: I feel so violated!

Me: It’s not like this is a mortgage or a will! Calm down.

Thirty seconds later, I have access to his PayPal balance. I send it to myself, and all is right with the world. I honestly don’t know what he was or wasn’t doing and why he couldn’t just… change his password and stuff, but as any woman knows, there are just some questions you don’t want to know the answers to. He had nearly a month to figure it out and it took me thirty seconds.

Ah, life.

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The Hard Things

One of the hardest things I am called upon to do as a parent is to stay out of the various playground scuffles that Jillian finds herself involved in. She doesn’t have trouble making friends, but keeping them is a different matter altogether. She’s just exactly who she is and that doesn’t always translate well to interpersonal relationships.

I should know.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that she will be okay. She IS okay. She will find her tribe, and everything will be fine. The ability to be your true self when everyone around you is putting on masks is such a rare thing, and I think Jillian has that. It’s just so hard to watch her tiny face crumple when she comes home from the playground all upset and I ask “what’s wrong?” She’s a sensitive wee soul, and I have worked mighty hard to protect and nurture that. She’s never mean to other kids, and is usually baffled and confused when kids are mean to her.

My poor baby girl. I want to punch those other children. Alas, the best I will be able to do is make a voodoo doll of the culprit and stick all the pins I own into it.

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Squalor

It’s been awhile since we’ve used a cleaning service here at the house. We had a good one a few years back, but they brought us fleas, so we fired them and then spent the next two years (and some) getting rid of the fleas. Life sucks when your cat, who does not go outside (not for lack of trying) is riddled with the tiny bloodsucking fiends.

So the house is maybe not in the cleanest shape it could be. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s that I can’t be bothered, really. Every now and again I will go insane and clean the joint from top to bottom, but that doesn’t happen often enough to make the other people in the house happy.

We’ve tried a couple of cleaning services here and there, but none of them have been satisfactory. There was one that did a half-assed job, which annoyed me. I can do a half-assed job for free, thanks. Then there was the other one, who did a fine job but for whatever reason couldn’t put us on their regular schedule and so we had to call them every time we wanted them to come. That’s even more annoying than them doing a shitty job! PUT ME ON THE SCHEDULE, DAMMIT.

A lot of this ties into the ADHD thing that we’re all living with. We really do need things to just… happen around here sometimes. Things need to be automatic when they can be, because that frees up mental space and energy to tackle the anomalies of modern life, most of which involve dog barf. I’ve got a lot of my bills set up to be paid automatically, which has saved me an awful lot of aggravation. Jillian is on a schedule of sorts, which makes her life easier. Freddie… well, he’s kind of on his own because he’s a grown-ass adult and I can’t manage his life when I have a kid and three pets to wrangle.

But, you know, life goes on with or without a cleaning service. This year has been bad for the dog hair, however. Piper has decided that it is her purpose in life to cover every surface in the world with her hair. No amount of brushing or using the Furminator has made the tiniest difference in how much hair she sheds. It’s not even gross anymore – it just is. That’s just what our life is like now.

Freddie is a huge fan of Angie’s List. That’s a service you can use to get “trusted” reviews of services and businesses for home-related stuff. He used that to find what is going to be our new cleaning service, and the owner came over yesterday for a walkthrough and estimate.

Now… it’s been a LONG time since I’ve done any kind of major cleaning. I broke my foot a few weeks ago and have been trying to stay off of it as much as possible. So even the half-assed cleaning I would normally do isn’t really getting done. It’s not that bad, honestly, but it’s not… great.

So this lady comes in and looks around a bit and I could tell she was just kind of mildly horrified. You’d think that owning a house-cleaning service would make you immune to some things, but to be honest, there was A LOT of dog hair on the floor yesterday because I hadn’t gotten around to sweeping it yet. She just kept saying things like “oh… wow…” and I was pointing out the trouble spots (literally everywhere) for her while she just nodded her head and made notes.

I think it’s going to work out all right, though. Her company seems legit, they have a lot of good reviews, and best of all – we’re going to be on a regular schedule. I’m getting better at dealing with clutter (the File Pile is no more) and this can only help with that.

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Flipping a Switch

Friday ended Jillian’s first full week on 10mg of Focalin. I checked in with her teachers to see what they thought about it, and they were both very pleased with her improvement. She’s closer to the “normal” range of third-grader-ness, in that she gets most of her work done with minimal (that word!) intervention, and the attention paid to her is commensurate with the attention paid to the rest of the class. It’s a nice change from having her in a bright spotlight.

Obviously, we want her to have the full effects of her medication while she’s at school. That’s how this is supposed to work. The downside is that her behavior at home isn’t all that different. The extended-release version of Focalin (which is what Jillian takes) is meant to last about 10-12 hours. So I give it to her at breakfast (7:30AM) and by dinnertime, the effects are starting to wear off and it is noticeable.

It’s like flipping a switch. You can see it in her face, a bit like in Harry Potter when Harry and Ron take Polyjuice Potion and their faces contort and writhe around while they’re in the process of changing to someone else. It’s almost exactly like that – you can see her face change, and then the noises start up again, the inability to sit on a chair correctly comes back, and the talking starts.

THE TALKING.

Since that’s our “normal,” it’s not so bad. We’ve had quite a few years of dealing with it, after all. But it’s never not exhausting, both for us and for her. As with anything, we adapt. As long as she can get through her days, we can deal with the rest.

Overall, I’m pleased with how things are going. I wish we would have started this process earlier, but we kept bumping up against that stigma of “oh, people just throw pills at problems instead of looking for other solutions.” I can’t say I feel guilty about doing this, because I don’t really believe in parenting guilt and also because I know we did so much to try to avoid medication. We tried environmental changes, diet changes, behavioral interventions, the whole thing. But this? THIS WORKS.

Now we’re learning about balance. Today being a Sunday, we don’t have anything planned that we’d need Jillian to behave/focus for. So I chose not to give her the pill today. We’ll have to deal with a chatty, emotional, hurricane of a child, but that’s fine. It’s the weekend.

We’re going to continue with this for the summer because I have zero doubt that it will improve her camp experience, and then when school starts again in September, we’ll cross our fingers and hope these improvements her teachers have seen will continue.

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Two Weeks In

Here we are at the end of Week 2: Better Living Through Chemistry. We increased the dose of Focalin to 10mg (half the suggested dose) and are seeing improvements all over the place.

Just to see, we did NOT give Jillian a dose last Sunday, since we didn’t have anything going on, and the difference was very noticeable in her. She was all over the place (back to “normal”) and a hot mess. Her doctor said that it’s perfectly fine to skip days on this drug, but we might not do that very often.

Mornings are still tough, but they would be, wouldn’t they? She takes her pills with breakfast and they don’t take effect for a little while, so mornings are as they’ve always been. Still, we should see some changes as we go forward, since it won’t take such a Herculean effort for her to get through her days and that energy savings (for lack of a better term) will spill over to mornings. I hope.

With the extended-release form of Focalin, we can expect to get a good 10-12 hours out of Jillian’s day. On Wednesday, it was very obvious when it started to wear off, since we were at softball. Jill was in the outfield and as I was watching her, I could see her revving up. In the span of 20 minutes or so, she went from standing still and paying attention to dance moves and the R2-D2 noises that characterize her need to make sounds.

Those are considered ‘tics’ but she definitely does not suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s just how her ADHD manifests. Some kids need to move around and destroy things, Jillian needs to dance and talk and make all the noises. And talk. With the talking. SO MUCH TALKING.

Overall, everyone is happier now. I think Jillian is doing better with her behavior at school, which was our #1 issue in the first place. I wish schools were a little more open to dealing with kids who can’t sit still, but public school is what it is, and that’s the framework in which we have to operate.

At the end of next week, we’ll re-assess and see if we need to jump the dose up a bit. I think we will, only because she’s a pretty extreme human and we need to reel her back in just a little more. For now. My hope is that she will start to make the connections between her behavior and the results she gets and that the good behavior will be more automatic in the future. Or, at the very least, she’ll have more control and be able to choose how to react to things instead of the full-tilt boogie freakouts we’re used to.

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How We Got Here

Our first weekend with a partially-medicated child is in the books. I say “partially” because we are in the ramping-up phase and she’s only taking about a quarter of the recommended dose of Focalin at the moment.

Initial thoughts: possible placebo effect in place. We explained to Jillian what this pill is and what it’s for and there was a slight uptick in good behavior on Friday and over the weekend. Could go either way. Overall, it was situation normal up in here.

One of the strangest parenting phenomena I’ve encountered is that we have to teach children things we don’t really remember learning. Walking, talking, potty training… all that stuff needs to be learned but very few of us remember learning it so we make up the teaching of it as we go along. And then there are things like hair-brushing. How to take a pill. Things like that.

After two days of it, Jillian learned how to swallow her pill on the first try. We’ll see what happens next week when she has to take two. And then the week after that when she has to take three. The first time, though – I was kind of stumped. How to explain something so basic in a way that a maniac child can understand? That was fun, and we got through it with laughing and water dribbling everywhere, because some people feel the need to ask questions with a mouth full of water.

More than a few people have reached out to me, asking “how did you get to this place?”

When Jillian started Pre-K, I was filled with trepidation. She and I had spent nearly every minute of her first 4.5 years together, and I was anxious about sending her off to somewhere else for a couple of hours every day. I was in tune with her needs and quirks and her Special Snowflake-ness and I was concerned that someone else wouldn’t guard that as fiercely as I would. I worried about My Precious Baby and hoped she’d be all right, make friends, learn stuff, and start taking steps into her own world, and out of mine.

The initial reports were positive: “Jillian is a cheerful and sunny presence!”

Then they got weird: “Jillian tends to… scream when she’s excited about something.”

And more: “Jillian cries easily, and is easily frustrated.”

“But she’s very smart!”

“Jillian cannot sit still in circle time.”

…and we were off to the races. At first, I figured “whatever, it’s Pre-K, they’re all maniacs at that age.” In the very back of my mind, however, the alarm bells were starting to ring.

One of the things I tell new mothers is “trust your instincts.” And mine were telling me that something wasn’t quite right.

I made tentative inquiries: “do you think Jillian is… normal?” Oh, she’s fine. She’s spirited! She’ll grow out of it.

But she didn’t. Kindergarten was more of the same. Every now and then, Jillian would have a particularly bad day and be escorted to pickup by her teacher who would give me a rueful smile and say “Jillian had a bad day.”

Oh, but she’s fine! This is all normal for this age! She’s clearly very smart, maybe a little emotional, but she’ll grow out of it!

First grade: more of the same again, some more. “Jillian is great, but…”

RIGHT.

That’s when we started asking: “Is she bored? Academically, she is doing very well. Could it be that she simply needs more stimulation in that area?”

Wellllll sure. Maybe. So we worked with her teacher to come up with some ideas of what Jillian could do when she found herself with some free time. At first, she seemed really gung-ho about it, but could never quite gain the focus needed to actually DO anything about it. Sigh.

Second grade was when the shit really started to hit the fan. We’d been fortunate up to then with Jillian’s teachers, in that they were all lovely people who understood Jill fairly well and occasionally went out of their way to make sure she was pointed in the right direction. I’m sure they were frustrated with her at times (just like we were), but they never showed her anything but caring and concern and a willingness to help us figure out what makes that kid tick.

So we believed them when they said she’s normal, she’s fine, she’ll grow out of it.

But second grade… ugh. Second grade sucked.

I get it – teachers have a lot of kids and a lot of curriculum to get through. They don’t have the time to be re-directing and re-focusing my child 54 times an hour. Jillian spent a good chunk of time in the principal’s office during 2nd grade, because her teachers simply could not deal with her. Or would not. The tone of the emails that came home was not great, let’s say, and that’s when we decided to have her evaluated for the first time.

First stop: pediatrician. “Nope, she seems fine to us. No, we don’t feel that she needs to be screened for ADHD. After all, she’s a girl, her academic grades are stellar, she’s just high-strung and emotional, that’s all!”

Mmmhmmm.

Next stop: hippie-dippie social worker. “I don’t think Jillian has ADHD. She’s very high energy and maybe you could try some mindfulness work with her. I suggest yoga and maybe meditation.”

Mmmhmmmmmmmmm.

And we tried. We tried everything they suggested, from dietary changes to basic yoga poses to deep breaths to “finding a happy place” to a rubber band on the arm to having a note taped to her desk that says “please work quietly” to rewards to punishments to flat-out PAYING her to behave herself. Nothing worked. Nothing motivated this kid to change her behavior in any way and and and and and and AND!!

Second grade finally came to a close. Everyone was upset and exhausted and frustrated and that’s when I started looking at private school alternatives for her, since it was clear to me that public school just wasn’t working for her. But the options available to us were either not quite right or they were perfect, but astronomically expensive.

We sent Jillian to theater camp that summer. She seemed interested, and it seemed like it would be chaotic enough that her particular brand of zany would be more tolerated. That went VERY well. She had a few bumps along the way, but having the freedom to be as prolifically creative as she can be was a good experience for her. She’s doing that camp again this year, and I hope the experience is as good the second time around.

Third grade started with a lot of promise. I spoke with her teachers on Meet The Teacher day and let them know that Jillian was a bit hard to handle. I know teachers talk and so I’m confident they were already familiar with her, but I wanted to let them know that I knew what she’s like and that we were doing what we could to try to rein her in.

MORE.
OF.
THE.
SAME.

“Jillian is great, but…”
“Please help us work with her on getting her to settle down.”

By November, I had reached the end of my rope. I met with the pediatrician AGAIN and they told me AGAIN that they didn’t see any cause for concern. O RLY?? I got a second opinion, same thing. Saw another social worker therapist, same thing.

But remember those instincts? Alllll my alarm bells were going full clang, and so I finally got a referral from a therapist I know and trust. She referred us to the Child Development Center at Hunterdon Medical. We scheduled a full evaluation on this kid, from head to toe, inside and out. The initial paperwork for this thing was 21 pages long, but we got it all filled out and submitted.

And lo, the heavens parted, and the angels did sing.

We spent 5 hours there. They did a physical assessment first, then the doctor sat with us while Jillian did some drawings (also part of the assessment). He walked us through Jillian’s issues and challenges, step by step. He talked with us about some of our frustrations and some of the walls we’d been bashing our heads against. Then we went to the waiting room and he talked with Jillian.

They also gave her a battery of tests, from the ADHD screeners to the IQ tests, and she scored on the extreme edge of them all. Extremely high IQ (higher than mine, even, and I am a goddamned genius). Extreme ADHD.

Oh.

Well then.

Now we’re getting somewhere. We left that meeting armed with information and resources that were designed to help us get a handle on our tiny maniac and try to get her to… well, if not get in step with the rest of the kids, at least to march in the same band, if you know what I mean.

We decided that medication would be a “last-resort” thing, since we honestly did want to exhaust all other avenues before going that far. We wanted to know that we tried everything we could. So we did! We met with the school and discussed the possibility of getting a 504 plan in place. We didn’t think she needed to go quite so far as to have an IEP, but a 504 definitely seemed like a good idea. A two-hour meeting was held and we left there feeling hopeful that they would at least try to work WITH Jillian and not against her.

Turns out, her ADHD isn’t quite severe enough for the school to put a formal plan in place (which I think is odd, since her doctor was all “whoa, look at this shit” when looking at her screener results), but they would help her with some basic accommodations, such as a gel seat (for fidgeting) and some extra time for tests (due to focus issues).

All that in place and… no change in behavior. These accommodations weren’t hurting anyone, but they certainly didn’t seem to be making any difference whatsoever. So, after about 5 months of this, we decided on medication.

And that’s how we got here. So far, so good, and I hope that a month from now, when Jillian is on the full dose, we can report a night-and-day situation with regards to our tiny maniac. I am a teeeeny bit concerned that medicating her will dim the disco ball that is my child, but I also think that light is strong enough to shine through whatever we put on her.

Time will tell.

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Day One

A couple of weeks ago, we made the very tough decision to put Jillian on some kind of medication for her ADHD. I have a feeling this will be one of those things that we wish we’d done years ago, but oh well – we’re here now.

It was a tough decision, but I’m happy with it. I did a lot of research and we tried lots of other non-medication interventions with her (indeed, we’ve been doing these things for years already with no results). But it was still hard to say “yes, let’s do this.” There is SUCH a stigma surrounding anything related to mental health, and ADHD is no different.

I’m not immune – I barely even believed that ADHD was even a “real” thing until Jillian and I were both diagnosed with it. Once we went through all the testing, it seemed obvious to me that this is what Jillian has been battling for years. Me, too. But… drugs! In my wee child’s body! I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with that.

But! But. Lots and lots of people I talked to who are taking or have taken medication for ADHD have said that it literally changed their entire life. They described a life that was a lot like Jillian’s has been: full of frustration and exasperation and sheer exhaustion from just getting through the day. Lots of these people said “if she were physically ill and medication could treat it, you wouldn’t blink an eye, right?”

Well, right. After all, her eyes don’t work correctly and she wears glasses. This is really no different.

Today was Day 1 of our Brave New World. We have Jillian taking a tiny dose of Focalin, and in a week we will assess her and chat with the doctor and he will probably up her dose. Lather, rinse, repeat until she’s at the full dose recommended for her height and weight. During that time, we’ll be watching her like nervous hawks to see if any side-effects make themselves known. Fingers crossed that everything goes all right. Today was a fairly successful day for Jillian after what has apparently been a rather difficult week.

Her doctor said that ADHD is one of the very few things that has a “magic bullet.” The response rate and success rate of kids on ADHD drugs is SO high, that he’s confident Jillian will be all right. Personally, I’m terrified – her IQ is higher than mine and if we can get her to focus and get her shit together, we’ll all be working for her sooner rather than later.

You’ve been warned, everyone.

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