The Lethal Cocktail of ADHD And Depression

Deutsch: Cocktail
Deutsch: Cocktail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve had a bad week with Kurt.

You might remember that in my last post I caught myself foolishly romanticizing about how fantastic life was – it was like I’d discovered God or something and would be joining those rockster Christians in our local church on Sunday for a non-alcoholic drink and a session eulogising the joys of ‘giving’.

But anxiety says that dumb attitudes like that always precede a big mother fucking fall, and inevitably the euphoria was short-lived as reality banged rudely on our door once again.

ADHD can be a bitch like that. The only positive thing you can say about mental illness, is that it’s certainly never boring or predictable.

I sat in an ADHD support group last week, trying not to laugh hysterically as I listened to this fantastic speaker, Caroline Stevenson, reaffirm what life is truly like with ADHD kids. She talked of highs and lows, sinking and swimming – drowning a lot.

As she pointed out, ADHD is a very different animal to other mental disorders. Where other mental illnesses provoke pity, caring and support, ADHD is much more reactive and controversial. These kids can test your limits all the time – they can be angry and make you angry, oppositionally defiant, sly and (as she put it), fucking ‘annoying’ at times. (I might have added the F word).

Sometimes, they are very hard to love.

Mix depression into that blend, a pinch of anxiety and the general horrors of full-blown teenage-dom and you have the recipe for chaos.

After the fallout at the beginning of the year when we first arrived in Gotham City, (and the shit hit the proverbial fan), things had settled down recently to a suspiciously calmer pace. Kurt had tried and tested the delights of Glee School and its bounty of illicit goody bags and girls, and I assumed that the novelty of city life had worn off to a steadier grind.

The old man and I breathed again.

Kurt has been ‘happy’ of late, aided by a concoction from his psychiatrist, although he has put his outlet of music on the back burner while focusing for the first time on the social side of his life and new school.  He objects to his medication, saying that it thwarts his creativity – but at least those terrifying angry outbursts which often led to cutting, (which is terrifying as a parent), had dissipated for the time being.

He continued to hyper focus on the 27 Club, of course. He soaks up everything about his idol Kurt Cobain, and is as admiring of his behaviour offstage almost as much as his music, sadly.

But then something snapped.

It can be the tiniest trigger with ADHD – a falling out with a mate, me being less patient than I should be due to the balance of work and parenting or putting my own needs first, or simply from tiredness towards the end of term and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of relentless assignments, (that he has no hope of completing).

He buys sharpeners with my money and unscrews the blades to cut his arms. This is the same boy who screams in pain when I tweeze his mono-brow or put his earring back in.

And then I freak out and blow everything out of proportion because I am his mum and that’s what mums do and I can’t bear the thought of life without my ‘mad’ son. And that triggers the old man to become Mr Angry because he doesn’t have the emotional tools to deal with a child he can’t understand. Which in turn triggers NC to defend her Dad, and get all bitchy because her loony brother is taking over again and the family revolves around his needs like stars orbiting in the Kurt solar system.

He’s not actually ‘OK’, you see, if you measure ‘ok’ on the sanity chart with ‘conventional’ being ok.

And he probably never will be.

Suicide is my biggest fear. We all know that ADHD mixed with depression has the potential to lead to suicide.

I try to undo the damage caused by the missing Dopamine in his head at every opportunity, but sometimes the sheer frustration of not being able to get through to this human being that I created turns me into a mad woman too. When you are terrified that your child will hurt itself, the parenting rules go out of the window.

How can I punish him or shout at him? What if he does something stupid?

God, I would miss him. He is part of me, a huge part of me. It would be like someone opening my body and ripping out my insides. I am so like him. There is a bigger connection than normal, (almost perversely so), because genetically we have many of the same traits, only mine are not as extreme as his – perhaps my wires are not quite as tangled as his or I was able to develop the coping strategies to manage my shit better.

I want him to understand the preciousness of life and how much we love him, but I can’t get through to him. He smiles sympathetically when I try to tell him my fears, but I know that he doesn’t understand them.

On a good day, his ambition in life is about making his mark and leaving the world on a high. Which is what he thinks Kurt did.

On a bad day, he can’t even see a way out.

Mental illness sucks. I defy anyone to say that eventually a ‘pull yourself together’ attitude works. There is a chasm there, a black hole of chemical imbalance that defies logic.

If only my biggest fear for my teenage son was his HSC score or him drinking too much alcohol, rather than him taking his own life. If only I could be certain of that suicide cocktail not becoming lethal.

The Girl With The Burnt Orange Hair

It has been a roller coaster of a week emotionally, with RUOK Day, the anniversary of 9/11 and the lead up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A week to reflect on the people no longer with us and a week to make sure we show those who are in our lives, how much we care. A week to remind ourselves not to sweat the small stuff and to focus on the privilege of living instead.

And all that mass of tightly coiled, confused emotions were well and truly rammed home to me on Tuesday, while waiting in the orthodontist reception, (as the ADHDer was once again convincing the Ortho that he really does wear the ‘bands’ on his braces, even though I know that he actually creates mini sling shots out of them to fire at the dog).

Because while I was hiding in awkwardness behind the latest edition of Famous Magazine, trying to digest the full ramifications of this life-changing article entitled ‘Is this too skinny?’, (complete with bikini-clad images of skeletal celebrities who normally look….well, skeletal), I looked up and noticed this woman sitting opposite me who was wearing the funkiest orange retro wig I have ever seen, (outside of a Vivienne Westward fashion runway or circus-themed party). It was a brave and feisty look on a woman in her forties, and it smacked of attitude.

That wig said, ‘I’m a fighter’.

And she reminded me of all those friends of mine who have bravely fought their own breast cancer battle, who sometimes I shamefully put to the back of my mind, so embroiled do I get in the minutiaie of my own petty existence, and I felt instantly humbled.  Even though, I must add, most of those women are the strongest women I know, because if I have learned anything about breast cancer, out of adversity evolves true warriors.

Personal battles do seem to fortify us humans, whether the battle is a health issue, a death in the family or even a divorce. And the inner strength that develops from pain becomes compellingly visible to those who witness it. I was drawn to the aura of that woman in the waiting room like a moth to a flame. I felt sheer admiration for her bravery.

She was about my age, and was unquestionably beautiful, in spite of the ‘in your face’ brassiness of that wonderful tangerine wig. And she made me question if I would have the same strength of spirit to carry on with my day to day responsibilities if those tumultuous dark forces threatened my being?

Was she truly coping? How do you cope when you are a wife and a working mother and your whole world is suddenly brought crashing down by a few dodgy cells?

The rest of us need those reality checks occasionally to remind us of those people confronting life-threatening situations on a daily basis, to put our own pathetic little grievances, (that I still find plenty of time to whine about in spite of this incredible insight), into some sort of perspective. My son refusing to brush his birds nest of a hairstyle or my husband communicating with me via the dog are obvious irritations, but they are totally inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

English: Breat Cancer ribbons
English: Breast Cancer ribbons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And as wonderful as it is that celebrities such as Giuliana Rancic and Sheryl Crowe reveal their breast cancer to the world and create a public platform to educate and gain support in the fight against the disease, I think that many people still have a very warped perception of the traumatising reality of this disease.

Because real women are not back in the workplace within a few weeks of invasive surgery and treatment. Normal women would never conceive of adding to their family in the same period as their diagnosis. Normal women do not regain control over their bodies in the first few months. Real women suffer physical and mental scarring and above all, a pervading fear that takes a long time to heal. Real women have to rebuild their lives after the ravages of cancer.

And yet, in spite of that dark period in their lives, these wonderful women do fight and they do heal and they and their families eventually emerge from the tunnel with the sort of passion, and strength and zest for life that we envy them for.

The girl with the burnt orange wig showed me that strength at the orthodontists. And if I’d have been half the person that she is, I would have asked her RUOK?

‘Without the disease, I might have just plodded along this life not really appreciating the beauty of every breath’ Jacki

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