Gratitude

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There are ti8a9b0051ce9f960096191b970a470ff0mes when despite all the everyday rubbish which makes you want to tear your hair out, you realise you’re doing something right as a parent and are in fact succeeding in raising wonderful human beings.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours laid out on the couch in and out of sleep as I try to  manage a migraine (spot the end of term burnout I have ). Hubby left for work at midday and I realised the best option for everyone was just to let the kids have an afternoon of computer games – a rare over indulgence opportunity. But short of turning them into grumpy little goblins, they dutifully turned the screens off this evening, served up dinner including mine, organised dessert and brought me some, were polite and respectful to each other the whole time, put on ‘Deadly 60’ so we could watch together in the lounge, then cleaned up (even taking my dishes up to the kitchen) scraped plates, put the dishwasher on, fed the dogs, brushed their teeth, got hot water bottles sorted (even mine) and got themselves to bed. All I had to do was say goodnight and tuck them in. And THEN when I got to my room, I found my bed had been turned down and the heater had been put on for me so the room was warm.

Just amazed. What gorgeous, gorgeous children I have. So blessed.

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Getting the wrinkles out of the irony.

irony_definition_the_opposite_of_wrinkly_t_shirt-r99af3ef9de814db5875c17aaeb54b9ef_8nhmj_324I have a strong desire to keep the posts here positive, in an attempt to provide some inspiration and perhaps support to fellow-ADHDers, but if I’m to provide a true picture of what this life is like, then that’s not always possible. In fact it would be the equivalent of all the fake ‘check out how together my life is’ pictures I know so many people post on Facebook.
Fake is something I’ve never been.

So at the moment I’m going through a bit of a blue patch. It happens. It seems to happen about this time each year and leaves me always feeling that I really need to just suck it up, stop whining and get on with things. I put it down to work stress or the lack of sunshine this time of year, low vitamin D or iron or…
But I’ve been trying to shake it for a couple of months now and still I’m constantly a few seconds away from tears on most days if I pause long enough to feel.
And I thought no-one could tell, but then a colleague I don’t even see too often saw me today and said she could tell I need holidays as she hadn’t seen me smile in ages.

I smile – always at my students throughout the day to welcome them, chat with them, console them etc etc. But I’ll admit it’s been ‘work smiling’.

I think something that really hit today was that another colleague, whom I always support and who always needs supporting, asked for a favour today and I had to offer it in another way as I was spreading myself too thin. I sort of explained a few reasons why things were a little rough at the moment and the person was pretty dismissive and uninterested.
It just made the aloneness feel bigger and also made me make a mental note not to invest in this individual anymore – a conclusion I seem to have reached later than anyone else as usual.

I’m battling the same things as always – feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. I’ve been ill on and off again for months, the kids are just hard everyday – not a day goes by without some sort of conflict which leaves us all absolutely drained. I wonder sometimes if they’re on the spectrum because there are enough traits. I’m just so tired, worn out, burnt out.

Today, to add to this,  I found out the new paediatrician we have to see (the other one resigned) is going to cost us an absolute fortune! And THAT makes me angry too – especially the fact that families like ours have to cover these costs ourselves with no funding or support while others with similar issues that happen to be ‘funded’ disabilities have the costs covered.
ADHD families surely have enough stress in their lives without additional financial burdens.
And then there’s the irony of the downward ADHD spiral I’ve been in.
Putting off my own psych appointments (despite needing to refill a prescription) because of the financial issues, which made me stress that I would run out of medication before then, so I’ve been rationing the tablets…. and thus my ADHD has been poorly managed the past few months, procrastinating and getting stressed and not coping as well as I could with everything, being tired again…. and then feeling horribly guilty about being so miserable , ungrateful and piss-weak and no fun for my kids etc etc when I have so much to be grateful for in reality and….. well, it goes on. And let’s not forget those niggling thoughts of, ‘Well, I haven’t died/been sacked/had anything terrible happen despite not taking my medication so maybe I don’t really have ADHD – I’m just a bit pathetic…
Yes, those thoughts still manage to intrude even though it’s been 2 years since the diagnosis and I’ve learnt enough since to know there’s little doubt. I meant to go to the ADHD support group meeting this week…. and forgot! (of course!) Oh the irony!

Today panic set in that my licence depends on seeing my psych every 2 years at least and that was coming up soon, and that the holidays was a good chance and I’d left it so late I’d miss that chance etc….. so that spurred me into action and I just called (even though the internet site said they were closed) and what do you know, a receptionist picked up and got me in, in 2 weeks.
So now I know I can be properly medicated for the next couple of weeks and funnily enough by the time I see her, I’ll probably be feeling happy and well.

And if the irony of that wasn’t enough, my day job predominantly involves supporting kids and their families with strategies to manage their ADHD! Ha!

Tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow will be a medicated day, the last day of term, and less ADHD tainted day.

Tomorrow I’ll write the positive post I’d hoped I’d be able to write.

You can’t be ADHD…

“You can’t have ADHD, Miss. You’re smart.”

“You’re too organised to have ADHD.”

There are more. People who genuinely dismiss the idea as though I’m being silly.

Then recently, I came across this; “ADHD is not an excuse; it is an explanation — a totally physiological explanation,” Dr. Littman says. “The smarter you are and the better you compensate, the more people will doubt you. The harder you struggle to cope, staying up late at night to pull things together, the more people will doubt your ADHD. They don’t see that the cost of your success is terrible depression, anxiety, and burnout.”

Dr. Littman pretty much nails it. People don’t see the worst of ADHD because those of us who have it cover it up as best we can. Why? Because given that so few people understand the condition (or even believe in the condition), the inevitable outcome when they see ADHD behaviours is the labelling – lazy, stupid, reckless, unmotivated, undisciplined, ‘blonde’, rude, stubborn, weird, anti-social etc. And who wants to be seen in this way?

So ADHDers try their best to act ‘neurotypical’, succeed a lot of the time and with no need for understanding, compassion or sympathy being deemed necessary are thus locked into that pattern of trying their bums off, and weeping quietly on their own in private when they fall in a heap every once in a while.

This is why advocacy and education is so important.

Passion Planner – Perfect!

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I’ve used a lot of planners/diaries over the years. LOTS! But I’ve finally found one that is working better than any I’ve used before, the Passion Planner.
Passion Planner

I used to have a work diary and home diary and inevitably forget to write appointments in both etc and forget things. The Passion Planner is brilliant in that it combines work and home in the one place. I take it back and forth from home to work, which means I see it frequently throughout the day and don’t forget things! (Well, fewer things anyhow!)

I also love that it asks you to determine the focus of individual days, and months, that it has monthly reflection points, a spot to write down the good things that happened (keeps you focused on the positive) and best of all… shows you how to build Passion Planner maps.
The maps are a visual tool to help you take a bigger goal and break it down into components. It goes through the process step-by-step and just makes so much sense.
I’ve planned big things before, but not like this. Not with built-in accountability.

It’s almost as if this planner was especially written for ADHDers! Recommend it to anyone!

(And no, I don’t represent the company or anything. Just love their product.) 🙂

Anxiety, ADHD’s sidekick.

It’s been interesting going to ADHD support meetings and meeting people who have significant co-morbid conditions. I’ve wondered whether they attend meetings for the other conditions or just the ADHD meetings. Do they feel the ADHD is the bigger impacting condition? So many questions. And it’s made me for a time feel incredibly grateful that I seem to only (only!) have anxiety as my co-morbid condition (with a bit of seasonal depression, but that’s for another post).
I was feeling very lucky, even guilty, that I don’t suffer as much as they must…

Well, last night’s topic was all about strategies, procrastination busters and motivators.
I shared my Passion Planner and admitted to spending a good part of this holiday preparing for the upcoming year, as the anxiety was creeping in as the new school year got closer.
One .participant said to me, ‘You’re almost too organised to be ADHD.’ Ha! Isn’t that the crux of it. So many people would never guess, that I’m NOT organised, and that’s why I have to do so much to attempt to be organised.

But here’s where I got an ‘Aha! moment’. The question was asked, ‘What motivates you?’
It was interesting reading other people’s responses to this, and how mine differed.
My motivator, sadly, is panic. I realised that so much of what I do is fear driven.
I’m madly making and storing ready made meals because I’m terrified of the overwhelm I get during a typical term week and my inability to gather the inspiration and energy to cook meals amidst the chaos of after-school sports, homework, housework and schoolwork in the evenings.
I’ve decluttered madly and organised some help this weekend to do a total clean of the house because I know I’m not going to cope with keeping the house in order once I go back to work full time this year.
I’ve organised a secret little budgeting stash because with the kids school fees, I’m scared that things will get tight and we might need a little boost to pay for the youngest’s uniform and books etc at the end of the year going into his new school.
The fees have me panicked about about how well we will need to budget to afford them too, so much of the meal planning is about saving money.
And the decluttering I’d put off for ages, got done over the past couple of weeks as I sold items to help with the money situation.
I’ve also planned a couple of days of solid school prep when the guys are away this weekend and to go into work a few days earlier to get organised because I know I won’t cope otherwise with the intense workload that hits us as we start the year.
And I’m going to spend some time revamping the ADHD presentation I’m doing as I’m terrified of not doing a good job of it as my boss will be in the audience.

Everything, is utterly fear driven.

Not everyone lives like this.

I know others who have just chilled out and enjoyed their summer holidays and will cruise into the year in much the same way.
So now I’m starting to wonder if the anxiety, which in my mind I’ve always written in tiny letters alongside the ADHD, as though it’s ADHD’s sidekick, is actually playing a much larger role in my difficulties than I first thought.
There came a bit of an epiphany last night as I shared my awesome planner, feeling I was actually clearly coping better than the other participants as I had things sort of under control etc….. that they might actually feel sorry for me, as they were not the sort of people to ruin their summer holidays with this sort of work. ‘Poor lass, anxiety is running her life’ they might have thought.

And they might have been right.

 

 

 

Moral and Mincemeat

Desmond Tutu“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 
― Desmond Tutu

A difficult situation has surfaced at work. I was called in as a support person for a colleague who has had a grievance made against her. The grievance is unjust. Very unjust. And without someone else to stand up and back her counter claim – which I am able to, having witnessed the very things that have led to this, she will be left wearing the grievance. Morally, I have add my voice to this and speak up.

The trouble is, speaking out for what’s right is exactly what has landed her in this position. And if I support her, I am going to be in the thick of it with her. She is now applying for other jobs, and I will be left working with the people we’ve rattled along the way. People who can make life very difficult.

I feel sick.

Partly, because of my horrible anxiety over this, and partly because of the guilt I feel over not being brave enough to just do it without hesitation. And the hesitation is justified, because I’ve seen what has happened to other people in this situation. It wasn’t good.
We’d like to think the good guys win and natural justice is served, but life is not a fairytale.

The most frustrating part of this, is that there are other people who should have spoken up for themselves. And haven’t.

The bullies bully, the cowards run away, and the brave souls who try to stand for the weak and what’s right don’t survive the ordeal.

I know I will do what’s right, because not doing what’s right feels worse than feeling scared. But this sucks.

Windows of ‘Normal’

A thought struck me as I was driving home this afternoon (well, ok, a particular thought struck me, amidst the other gazillion that were competing for attention as my meds were wearing off!)

After that wonderful ‘trial’ we all went through (when we suddenly got a window into the world of ‘neurotypicalness’ and experienced flashes of a ‘normal’ person’s existence for a couple of weeks) we no doubt all had thoughts that now things would be like that all the time.

I’ve come to realise, nearly a year into my journey, that it isn’t that simple. I find that I have to remind myself often, to be kind to myself, or else I find myself chasing the ‘normalcy’ and feeling frustrated on the days when it is more elusive.

The medication helps heaps. Gosh, does it help. But I do find that if I’m tired, stressed or in the midst of a progesterone drop (4 days a month) the meds aren’t as effective and I find myself slipping back into ‘old me’ feelings.
It’s a curious thing to feel. Most days now, if I manage myself well with sleep, food and stress, I feel as though I’m steadily going forward and chewing through my workload, but on those ‘other’ days, it’s as though I’m having to run with a treadmill beneath me, and I have to work SUPER hard to get anywhere.
It’s on those days I’m reminded how much harder we ADHDers have to work compared to NTs and I feel all the more tired for it. I know we all have ups and downs with energy levels and such, but I crave consistency and the noticeable differences from ‘effective’ days to non-effective ones are frustrating – a constant reminder that ADHD really is a problem for me and one that I have to work on all the time to manage.

I guess there’s a little disappointment there, in that I thought that the meds would ‘fix’ it. But it’s more complicated than that. The meds help to manage it, but even coupled with effort and strategies, they aren’t a cure.

I feel like every few months I reach another turn in how I feel about it all. Windows of normal are nice, but it’s hard not to want more of it once you know what’s possible.

What no-one tells you. It can be a lonely journey.

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This month started on a high. I was asked to present to a group of graduate teachers with regards to ADHD/ODD to help them understand the disorder and help with strategies that would work in their classrooms. It was apparently very well received and I got some nice feedback which suggested it had hit the mark and is potentially going to be a difference to children in the classes of the participants. I was even asked to return to do a longer more in depth one, and be part of the next Mental Health Network meeting for the area. Awesome really.

But reality has hit with the past few weeks of dealing with my own kids’ experiences in their school – an ongoing battle that I think has finally beaten me.
They’ve had PD, they’ve had a Principal come down hard and enforce some change, and as soon as she’s away, it all falls to mush, highlighting again that there is no desire to actually help, and that the strong judgments I was told existed against our family, are indeed true. We have made the decision to see this year out then shift schools. I am tired of fighting.

And this coupled with careless remarks from ‘friends’ indicating they don’t really understand and can’t support us in the way we need them to, has just left me broken.

I am overwhelmed with work – where my raison-d’etre is to support kids and their families who struggle like ours, cater as best I can for all my students (extending and supporting where needed) advocate for our students against the effects of funding cuts and just get through the normal chronic workload.

And overwhelmed at home, where though a few help out, no-one actually understands, and we in accepting the help have to tolerate the other stuff that comes with it.

I have a growing resentment of the fact that I work so hard for others’ children, and yet have so little being given back to mine.

And hearing the remarks and attitudes expressed this week from ‘friends’ have had to take a real step back and question the value of those relationships.

And I’m realising how very small the circle of loyalty, trust and compassion is. And it’s lonely.

Really lonely.

 

ADHD kids suffer. How much they suffer depends on us.

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And by us, I mean their parents, teachers, family… All the other people around them who either offer a soft place to land or don’t.

In my role as a Learning Support Coordinator in my school, I work with a lot of diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD kids. It breaks my heart to see our Student Services Centre fill up with them on a daily basis. Great kids, but not able to be managed in a classroom setting. What bothers me most though is that I teach all of the kids I saw in the centre today and I don’t have a need to send them there during the lessons they have with me. Luckily the YC is a pretty soft place to fall for them, but they sit there resenting the teacher who sent them and resenting themselves.

It’s just so sad.

The reason I was there today was because I’d brought down a student who’d been buddied out of his room and refused to leave. The teacher had had no option but to call the YC as he wouldn’t budge. Two other teachers had tried together to intimidate him there but he ignored them. I heard the commotion and calls to the YC for help and offered to take him.

I found him outside, alone, in quiet corner sitting hunched on a bench. I know this student well. I taught him years ago and luckily he trusts me. I sat with him and we talked. He told me this week had been crap. He’s out of meds and had no hope of getting more. His mum, based on his great behaviour over the last 12 months, had decided he didn’t need the meds. And she’d heard Ritalin causes schizophrenia, so that was that.

He was devastated. He’s been working so well, after a chequered history, and this week was a reminder of what life was like without meds. He wants so much to succeed and this was a blow. He feels scared that he’s going to get suspended or worse. He hates making a spectacle of himself and hates not being able to do his work. I sat and listened, offered to chat with his mum, and work with his teachers to get some strategies happening in the interim. Then we walked together to the YC without a problem.

He’s not the only student whose parents are impacting on them. There are others in denial, who refuse to medicate. I look back and realise I was one of those for a brief time. Luckily, I eventually listened when my child was hurting and put my prejudice aside to explore options, but I suppose if my fear had been bigger than that, I may have been one of these parents. In a way, being diagnosed myself so soon after the kids was a blessing. Having experienced the difference – living an unmedicated and now medicated ADHD life – I could do nothing else!

And so my mission at the moment is to talk and educate parents and teachers alike. I’m getting quite passionate about it, because doing so means creating a softer place to land for all these kids. They suffer enough. We shouldn’t be making it any harder.

Bubblegum and Stickytape – A Teacher’s Rant

stickytapeBubblegum and stickytape. That’s pretty much what’s holding our public school system together.
A day of PL with a representative from the Dept who was completely out of touch, followed by a terrific presentation on the amazing potential of IT use in our clasrooms, delivered by someone who works out of a private school just left me completely demoralised.

The Dept’s rep came to tell us all about how important assessment was, particularly formative assessment and shared some examples of better ways to assess. Apparently we all still ask kids to raise their hand in response to questions (ahem, really?!). She shared some ‘better’ ways and explained that in dealing with our tricky kids we should be doing one-on-one assessments to ascertain each child’s PZL.

Can you imagine the collective silent shaking of heads in disbelief?

I was just blown away that anyone would think any of this needed to be said. We are all passionate educators who are WELL aware of the importance and various methods of assessment. The information presented today was 20 years out of date. Even the graduates are taught all of this in their uni modules.

The problem is NOT a lack of awareness or desire. The problem is a lack of resources to make it happen.
When 90% of your Yr 8 class are operating between Year 2 and Year 5 levels but you aren’t allowed to treat them as a focus class and HAVE to somehow get them through the new national curriculum, what do you do?
When you have no educational assistants in your room and 30 high needs kids (and the associated behavioural issues that have come from years of task avoidance and insecurity) when exactly do you remove yourself and a single child to do said testing? 142+ times (because that’s how many students we have) several times in a year?
The problem is one of logistics.

Our funding has been cut to the quick. We know where they’re at. We know what they need but we are not equipped to teach these kids how to read when we have such high demands on us to get through a program. And that’s where we’re all doomed to fail, because how do you get kids through a program when they can’t read the texts or communicate in writing the things they need to?

Our staff are so badly overworked, it’s crazy. Aside from the bubble gum and stickytape, goodwill is the other thing that holds things together as best as possible. And frankly, that’s not good enough.

I’m sad and tired. We teach to make a difference and for a few we do, but for every kid we help we’re painfully aware of the 29 we’ve let down.

And then there’s the IT issue. Oh gosh.
We were asked, ‘How do you use IT in the classroom.’ It seems very few people in the room do. I shared what my class does – as I’m keen for IT use – but pointed out that this only happens when we can access the computers, and even then half of them don’t work …. on a good day. So….

The conversation continued like this:

Presenter: Well you just have to get more creative in your approach to MAKE it work. At MY childrens’ school, laptops are just on the book list and every kid just bring their’s to school.
Me: Um, your kids go to a private school right?

Presenter: Yes.
Me: Hmm. Yeah. We couldn’t do that here. Our families can’t afford laptops. Some don’t even have a single old computer at home.
2nd Presenter steps in: Well, at OUR school, we use the BYOD (Bring your own device) method. The Yr 5/6s bring them in everyday now. (Ah – a primary school!)

Me: Well, in theory that would be good, I guess we could lend some to some of the class, but how did your parents react to that? With regards to the risk of theft and damage.
2nd P: Well we have guidelines. They have to keep them with them all day so nothing happens. We don’t have any theft problems.
Me: What about during PE? They have to leave their bags unattended. We are a very large school and theft is a significant problem.

P: Well then you have to get creative in your thinking…. the PE teacher just has to lock them in his office.
Me: 90 bags in a teeny office? (Our classes have PE at the same time)

P: Well, then you get those special lockers that we have – very slim ones that are purpose built for laptops.
Me: Aren’t those expensive?

P: Well, yes, but you tell your admin that THIS year, instead of buying new laptops/computers you want to invest in a set of the lockers. Really, it’s all about getting more creative in your thinking instead of finding excuses why things can’t work.

I was quiet after this. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we were not a school who gets new computers every 12 months. In fact, we are lucky to get upgrades for our software every 5 years. Different worlds. He just had no clue.

And I cried inwardly thinking about the gap that widens with each passing year between the haves and have-nots in our education system and the impact it has on our students’ futures. And the fact that teachers working in the public system KNOW the limitations, and we are hushed again and again by politicians who ignored the Gonski report they funded (because it told them things they didn’t want to hear) and tell our country that we are brilliantly resourced and that everything is fine, and that teachers need to stop whining and  get on with the job of teaching. That WE are the cause of the dropping rates in literacy and numeracy and the loss of our competitive edge in the world of technology.

And I guess that’s that. Pass the sticky tape, will you?