Monday, February 23, 2015

Finding our Joy

A quick bit of history for those not in the know: Mad Natter started preschool at 3. It was about three weeks in (at two days per week) that we started hearing rumblings about perhaps ADHD. Skeeve and I knew there was something amiss, but we didn't know precisely what. All we knew was that our child, from the age of 2.5, no longer seemed to meet a certain subset of developmental milestones - anything doing with delayed gratification, impulse control of any kind. Once he got into preschool, and things needed to be done on a schedule that wasn't 100% his own making, we learned that he had a distinct inability to follow directions on top of the impulse control.

At three, I wasn't terribly interested in pursuing a diagnosis of ADHD, something that was completely supported by everyone involved with Mad Natter, including his preschool teachers. But, he was evaluated in classroom, and given a definite diagnosis of SPD. This was the same time we discovered he is also gifted. At the same time as we got information on SPD, everyone involved with his testing also spoke to us about ADHD, or eminent researchers in the field. We were starting to think maybe there was something to this, as we'd tried a fair number of non-medical options to try to help Mad Natter's impulse control, activity levels, and direction-following skills. None of it helped. We began filling out forms, trying to get in to see a pediatrician. The pediatrician, ignoring Mad Natter's own words of "I like to be sick because it slows my brain down so I can think" sent us on our way with a bogus diagnosis (which we refused), and off to a psych who determined that Mad Natter was obviously "perfectly normal and average." Needless to say, this didn't mesh well with the things we saw at home, or that his teachers reported, so we kept trying. We had another meeting with another doctor who told us Mad Natter likely had SPD and ADHD, but they couldn't do anything until he was seven. Several months later, we tried another GP. She initially told us she would be willing to listen to our concerns regarding these issues, and that she would be open to helping us. She gave us the same runaround (complete with "come back when he's seven") as the last doctor, and when I burst into angry and frustrated tears, she signed me up for a 24h turnaround psychiatric evaluation (big surprise, I'm as normal and well-adjusted as people ever are). She could get ME care within a day. My child needed to wait two more years. This year, we went to see our regular family doctor. I told her I understood Mad Natter was still too young (after all, this doctor was willing to tell me up front that she, personally, wasn't comfortable with diagnosing children with ADHD, or having the conversation until they were seven), but when we did have that conversation, what should I bring with me? She saw the switch flip. She watched as Mad Natter went from interested and engaged to completely disconnected and bouncing off the walls. Literally jumping off the exam table.

She told me she would do her best to get him in with a pediatrician, she had one in mind. He had been practicing for over 30 years, and his attention to detail would work well with my analytical mind. He would appreciate my paperwork, and I would appreciate his thoroughness. She'd see if she could get us an appointment within the next two weeks. The very next day, we got a call to schedule an appointment the following day with the pediatrician. I cannot express how much I love our GP.

Mad Natter was wonderful during the entire physical. He talked to the doctor about how his body worked, how the stethoscope worked, how he'd made one at home, how he plays hockey. Then the doctor sat to talk to me. Despite having his DS on hand, Mad Natter's switch flipped. Growling, shouting, jumping on and off of things, practically swinging from the rafters behavior ensued. The doctor looked at Mad Natter, listened to the history, listened to what I had to say, and paid attention when I told him what Mad Natter had been saying for so long - that his brain doesn't let him think. The doctor sent us on our way with several forms to fill out, and a requisition for a blood draw.  Once the bloodwork came back clear, we plastered everyone who had contact with Mad Natter for their help filling out the rating forms. Skeeve and I returned to the doctor less than a week later with eight sets of forms, all of which rated highly for attention issues, hyperactive/impulsive issues, or both.

At this point, we went over what we'd tried. The diets, the parenting changes, the structures, the charts, everything. We'd been through everything we'd ever heard of, trying to find something that worked, and in the end, nothing had. The doctor listened again. He told us that he was going to recommend medication at this time. We'd tried all the alternatives he had heard of, and he would like to try Mad Natter on a very low dose medication.

This was what I'd feared. I didn't want to drug my child. I've been in classrooms with the drugged-out zombies that were the children recently diagnosed with ADHD. I didn't want that for my Mad Natter. Not in the slightest. But, if it was going to help him - help all of us - could I really begrudge him that? We went along with the plan. We still have several medication reviews ahead of us, but from the first pill, the changes have been absolutely astounding. In the week or so since he started the medication, we've had more good days than we had the entire month prior. It's still not perfect, but you know what? I don't care. This stupid little pill - the one I've been railing against, the one my friends would look down their noses at me for giving to my "he's just a boy!" child - it has given me back my son. I knew my son, but I hadn't really seen him - not in years. What we saw were glimpses of him when he was able to think well enough to focus on things. Few and far between, those glimpses were. And now, my son is back. He's no longer rampaging through my house knocking things over, destroying things, crashing into walls. He's not screaming at the top of his voice, he's not unable to walk through a store. He's come back. He's sweet, cuddly, creative, artistic, curious, and a little sponge, and it's only now that he's back that I realize just how long he was gone, and just how deeply he was buried.

I spent years avoiding this diagnosis. I spent years avoiding the medications. We all know ADHD is overdiagnosed, so really, there's no point to looking into it - they slap that label on anyone who comes in and doesn't fit their mold, right?  I couldn't have been more wrong. And instead of listening to my gut and my son, I listened to everyone else. And I shouldn't have. And then, when I finally got my head on straight and tried to help him, we were turned away at every door. I might have failed this child not seeking the ADHD diagnosis the moment it was offered, but the medical establishment failed him far longer than I ever did, refusing to treat him because he didn't meet their arbitrary age category. Happily, I'm in a place now where I can say, "You know what? I don't care. I have my son back, and that's all that matters." We might need to fine tune the details, but my Mad Natter is home again, and that is the greatest gift I could ever hope for.