I, Too, Took My Mental Health Seriously For My Kids
A few days ago I stumble across this article. It was written by a husband and father who told about his struggle with ADHD and anxiety and his decision to go back on medication so that he could homeschool his kids. As I read, I continued to nod my head in agreement and see much of myself in his story.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and I have been on and off medication for most of my life. As a child, my family couldn't agree on the use of medication. As an adult, I stopped both times I got pregnant. After my second child I didn’t start taking the medication again. I'm not sure if it was the language used by the adults around me while I was growing up, or the fact that my ADHD care began and ended with medication, I have the feeling that I wasn’t given the tools I need to be successful. While pregnant with my youngest child I stumbled across YouTube channels and blog posts discussing these tools that help with ADHD. Armed with these new tools and with my dissatisfaction with the ADHD care I received as a child, I took matters into my own hands. I swore off medication.
The tools I had gained helped, a little bit. I was able to keep my head above water. However, I still struggled with household chores. My lack of homemaking skills routinely turned into tension between my husband and I. After being called out for my lack of help, I would take all the focus I could muster and would focus on getting the house clean. This would last for a little while until something else would steal my focus. Then, I wouldn’t do much. This cycle continued for years. I also struggled to stay present with my kids. It felt like I started each day with a half-sized tank of focus. Once this tank was empty I wasn’t able to focus any longer. My kids always had their needs met but there were some days were I didn’t have enough focus to give them the extra attention I desired for them. Even then, I told myself I was doing the best I could. I kept my head above the rising water. Until I couldn’t.
During the summer of 2020, with the uncertainty of whether schools would be open or not, we decided to take the leap we had been talking about. I would homeschool our two kids. With a new task and the desire to give my kids the best, I planned our homeschool. It was meticulous. I had the best of intentions and so much excitement. Then the daily grind set in. First grade reading and third grade math wasn’t stimulating enough for my brain. My kids flourished having a self paced curriculum and flexibility. I did not. I found my tank running out very quickly each day. What started out as a robust curriculum, turned into the bare minimum. We would barely get through phonics, math and reading. I found myself needing to zone out and stimulate my brain. I wasn’t present and I snapped at my kids. I was no where near the mom I wanted to be. I felt like a complete and utter failure.
Each day I woke up and told myself I would try harder. Each day ended the same. After three months, I broke down. My husband noticed my irritability, the disaster of a house we lived in, and the unused curriculum. He called me out. For the first time in 7 years, I admitted I needed help.
This is what I have learned since going back on ADHD medication,
- My house is still not always clean, and that’s okay. The needs of my children and my self care will always come first. I now have routines and lists in place to help me get things done. So if I am having a day where I miss the cleaning, I know it will get done tomorrow. The stress is gone and I can keep our house manageable.
- Self care is critical for me to be my best. For me this looks like telling my kids I need a break. Setting time aside in my week to let my brain relax, this includes no medication and time for me to zone out. I came up with a weekly project where I can be creative and work with my hands. Hello, Scrapbooking!
- ADHD medication is best paired with tools. My favorite tool is making a list, pen and paper all the way, baby! Being able to quickly write something out of my brain is a huge help. Also, I use routines regularly. My routines and lists do nothing without my ability to focus on them. My ability to focus doesn’t help if I haven't determined what to focus on. I just end up daydreaming.
- Demonstrating self care is good for my kids. Over time I started expressing my needs to my kids. I would use simple terms like, “ Mommy needs quite time” or “ Mommy can’t concentrate, would you please stop?” At first this was awkward and I worried I would mess up my kids. What happened instead is that my kids have learned to respect me and my needs. They are also learning how to express their own. As time goes on, “I need to be alone for a little bit” and “ I’m frustrated, I’m going to walk away” are becoming more and more common. My kids are recognizing and advocating for their own needs. This is the biggest win in my book.