A Rant a Day Keeps the Straight Jacket Away - ADHD edition.

Have you ever heard the saying "A rant a day keeps the straight jacket away"?  No?
That's because I just made it up now.

You know how, in my previous post, I suggested that exhausted mom's find something they enjoy doing and make time for it?  It turns out that my new hobby is ranting about stuff that threatens to steal my last shred of sanity.

I'm only kidding.  Sort of.

Today's rant is about crap we find on the internet and spread around as if it's actually real information.  I find the biggest culprits of this sort of thing are supposed natural health websites that are often simply PR for selling "natural" products.  It's a racket.  What I despise about it other than the quackery peddled is the constant fear mongering.  Big Pharma, vaccinations, GM food...the list goes on and on. If you can create a big bad enemy to fear and disdain, people will open their wallets to the alternatives that you are peddling.  Rather than getting into all the specifics of various positions on the above issues...which could end with my being chased by an internet lynch mob,  I 'm going to focus on one particular issue that keeps popping up all over the internet.

ADHD and how "fictitious" it is.  Often mixed together with obscure and confusing claims about "big pharma" and how it's all just a money grab (even though these very same sites are peddling their own products marketed to fear and desperation).  Too often I see the claim that ALL mood disorders and psychiatric conditions are made up.  Tell that to someone with clinical depression, OCD, or bipolar disorder. I don't think it's very helpful to suggest to someone who has schizophrenia or some other very serious and complex psychiatric condition that "big pharma" is just trying to take their money and they should go off their meds.  In fact that's just plain ludicrous and dangerous.  In fact it makes me wonder who is sponsoring and creating these web sites.  So much of the "psychiatric conditions are all fictitious" nonsense sounds an awful lot like the whack cult of Scientology.  If not directly linked there is similar ignorant and dangerous information being spread.

Can we please, PLEASE, stop stigmatizing people? Their parents? and the families of these kids? So much of this stuff merely heaps suspicion, and scorn upon parents who decide to use medication to help their child.  This is sometimes literally a matter of life and death. It's the difference between seeing your child suffer and slip away, and seeing them thrive.  Can we please stop alienating and guilting parents who are in the trenches and dealing with stuff that most other parents have absolutely no clue about?

There are people who live with invisible disabilities, disorders, and conditions that most of the population knows nothing about.  I would suggest that unless you live with one of these conditions yourself, or live in a home filled with an alphabet soup of quirks and disorders, that you proceed with humility and gentleness when it comes to judging the validity of these disorders and coming up with your own theories as to what causes them.

I can assure you that ADHD is not caused by my imagination, lack of parenting structure and effort, lack of discipline, or a poor diet (although without a doubt those things can aggravate what is already there).

 I would guarantee that most every parent that uses medication for a child with ADHD has tried EVERYTHING else, every behaviour modification technique, every fad diet, every nutritional supplement, every form of discipline, read many books, talked to professionals....and are at the end of their rope.  We are not imagining something that consumes every aspect of our daily life.

 If I was going to imagine something I would imagine myself on the beach alone with a good book.

I get it.  I get that people are skeptical because "back when we were kids no one was diagnosed with ADHD".  It's true.  You just called them stupid, retard, imbecile, incorrigible, space cadet and trouble maker.  Instead of understanding how that child is wired, seeking to appreciate their uniqueness and gifts and trying to better equip that child to thrive and function in a one size fits all society...kid were given up on, ridiculed, kicked out of school, and pushed to the edges of society.  The same thing goes for kids now known to be on the Autism spectrum.  A few decades ago they were just called weird and antisocial.  Kids on the lower functioning end of the spectrum were hidden away in institutions.

So is the "label" of ADHD any worse that what we have historically used to label these children?  We categorize and label anyway...why not do it with some accuracy and understanding? I honestly care very little about the label or ever term ADHD, it's the understanding, equipping, resources, and support that come with that diagnosis that is helpful a life line to a parent.

I don't have the time or patience to describe what actually goes on inside the brain of a child with ADHD, or the specifics of behaviour, but I will say that it is not "made up".   I could go into how it's almost always genetically linked and runs in families along with other closely linked psychiatric and mood disorders (as does ASD)....but I wont' because this is a simple rant and not a scientific essay on the topic. Its easy enough to research.

I get that it's over diagnosed by some family doctors who likely aren't qualified to diagnose the disorder or who are in fact getting kick backs by drug companies.  I get that "drugging" our kid shouldn't be the first line of action or response to every behavioural issue.  Those things seem fairly obvious.  Trust me when I say scrutinizing, self doubt, and questioning everything you are told is just standard procedure when it comes to parenting a child with any...quirks.  You are not enlightening parents because we have already gone over every possible cause, possible misdiagnosis, remedy, cure, technique, and diet change with a fine toothed comb.

ADHD is not a disease.  I don't even like the term "disorder".  It's just an acronym of words that is used to categorize kids that all have similar traits and struggles.  It's part of their wiring and sometimes that wiring makes parts of their life really really difficult.  These are also kids who have extraordinary personalities, gifts and creativity.   They are unique, vivacious, bright and curious kids who don't fit the mould our society tries to shove them into.  That doesn't mean that they don't have some very real struggles that other kids don't have.  When we minimize and invalidate those struggles we also invalidate and hold in a sort of contempt the very people who need our understanding and compassion.

My advice is to be careful not to judge kids and parents, because you never know what is going on behind the scenes.  Be careful what you read on the internet and instead of taking it as gospel truth, seek out some actual families who deal with invisible challenges like ADHD, OCD , FASD, RAD, PTSD, ASD or SPD and ask them about it.  If you don't know what those acronyms are you probably don't have the expertise to be deciding what you think of them. It's too easy to make quick judgements about things we don't understand and have no personal experience with.  I know I did exactly that regarding things like ADHD before I plummeted neck deep into parenting it.

Now, if you have shared, believed, liked and proclaimed some of the stuff I've just ranted about please don't think I'm singling you out, or picking on you.  I am not offended by goofy ignorant internet websites and articles...simply because I'm thick skinned and my feelings on the topic don't actually matter.   What matters is the whether what's being written about has merit or not.  At best silly articles can open a discussion and maybe just maybe someone in the trenches will poke their head up and say "hey, wait a minute...that's total crap.  Come and live in my house for a few days."