My ADHD Husband and 3 ADHD Kids Are Totally Stressing Me Out

My ADHD HusbandGive me five minutes, will you? Just a few moments to spill what’s really eating away at me. A little while to scrape out the gunky bits that seem to be festering in this wound of alternating resentment, frustration and bitterness that have taken up residence in the pit of my stomach. And yes, of course you can add a whole heap of self-pity to that putrid concoction.

Let me explain. I am married to a man who has ADHD. I have three sons who also have ADHD. They’re not ‘a bit ADHD’ as some friends have jokingly described their kids when their progeny have been bouncing off the walls fulled by a sugar high, a late night or just because they’re, y’know, KIDS. My lot are of the full-on, diagnosed by more than one specialist, medicated every day variety. Thanks for the suggestion but no, early nights, cutting out all additives, being more firm, and the ‘great homeopath’ you know will do nothing for them.

The Verve were wrong when they sang ‘The drugs don’t work’. They do for my troop. In my pantry sits a basket full of different bottles of pills because they’re all on different types and dosages to be taken at different times of the day. Of course they are. I dole them out like Nurse Ratchett every morning because one of the fabulous things about their condition is that no matter how many reminders, charts, lists and ‘refusing to rescue’ strategies I employ, nothing, I repeat nothing, helps them get up and remember to take their damn drugs. Or to do anything else for that matter. Ever.

Some days I can be calm about the never-ending to-do list that comes with parenting three ADHD kids (and an ADHD husband too) knowing that this isn’t their choice and that they really don’t want to be like this. Others? I just want to flush my head down the toilet while screaming. And before anyone suggests ‘tough love’ and that they’ll learn through failure, let me sigh long and loud. They won’t, because neurologically, they can’t. Yet. Yes, the kids might grow out of it by the time they’re 25 or, if they’re anything like their father, they might not.

So for now, all four of them take their pills to get them through the bulk of the day when it really matters. At school or at work, medication allows them to sit in one place, to not shout out answers, say or do what are undeniably inappropriate things and to stay focused on the task at hand. They get into trouble less. They make fewer mistakes. They tell me they are happier. They tell me they hate it when they don’t take their pills. They tell me when they feel their dosage isn’t right because they’ve grown again. They ask when they’re going to see their neurologist again. The eldest describes having ADHD and being unmedicated as knowing what he’s doing is wrong and going to end really, really badly but being utterly unable to stop it. How awful must that be?

As you can tell, I’m all for drugs for my family. Whatever works for you and yours, well, that’s up to you. But for every up, there has to be a down. And for them, that ‘down’ is when they come home from school or work. The drugs have worn off by then and the true extent of their ADHD brains having had to work seven times harder than a regular brain just to stay on track is revealed. The explosions of rage and the complete inability to complete even the simplest of tasks wear me down. Sometimes I joke about having to remind them to breathe in and out. But really, I’m not joking.

In many ways, it’s like having toddlers. Except they’re all much taller, stronger and hairier than me. Plus toddlers grow up.

In the past I’ve tried to explain to friends and family what having ADHD really means. How it impacts on every day life. How it defines relationships, their education, their careers, after school activities and how we socialise. I’ve had to give up. Unless you’re at home with us between 6 am-8.30 am or 3 pm-11 pm when their meds aren’t in their systems, or you have a family member (or two, or three, or four) who is ADHD, you’ll probably never understand why I am quite so deeply, achingly knackered.

My husband was diagnosed last year. I’d known for ages of course. It just took him a while to catch up. He’s ashamed and worried about people finding out. I say be loud and proud but that’s easy when you don’t have ADHD and when you’re not the one who will likely be judged. I don’t have to look at my kids and blame myself for passing the ADHD baton on. He shouldn’t either, but I know he does. How tough must that be?

And yes, I know I am unbelievably lucky. I really do. My loves are not dying. They are funny, clever, kind and caring people who despite all of the above, I adore. There is no one I would rather be with. There is no one I would rather be a mum to and definitely no one I would rather be married to… most days. I recognise that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to access the services they need both financially and logistically. I know all this. I get all this. It’s just that sometimes I need to have a pity party and let it all out or else I really fear my head will pop off my shoulders and roll down the hill outside our home.

I am not always the best mum I could be or the mum which they need. Same goes for being a wife too. I’ve shouted, I’ve screamed, I’ve thrown things. In fact, I’ve been really, really bad at parenting and being married.  And you know what? Sometimes, I just don’t care. Others I just beat myself up and resolve to be a better mum, wife, person. Or I hold a one woman pity party. Like this one.

Thanks. That’s my five minutes up. I needed that. Now, excuse me but it’s dawn and I must start my ward rounds.

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