When your kid’s brain works differently than about 83 ish% of the population, there are a few things that tend to happen. Actually, it is more accurate to say that when your kid has ADHD, there is a bunch of other unpleasant crap that may likely annoy you both over time. ADHD kids are good at multi-tasking, so it makes sense that one thing going on in their brain would not be nearly enough. Our pediatrician, Oscar the Grouch, called it comorbidity, but I find that term a bit gloomy (and douchey). Dumbledore would never say “comorbidity”. I think he would call it something like Condiments, cuz he is awesome like that. There are a few Brain Condiments that commonly accompany ADHD. The ketchup to ADHD’s cheeseburger, if you will. Today we are talking about Sweet Pea’s anxiety. Anxiety sucks butt big time. Yay, anxiety!
You can look here if you want to know what some smarty pants scholarly folk have to say about anxiety and people who like shiny things. For Sweet Pea, it means that he hates shots, he’s afraid to go in the back yard alone and he has issues with loose teeth. He can’t sleep if his closet door is open, and he barricades his top bunk with pillows when he reads so he can’t see out. Sweet Pea sometimes has trouble sleeping. I don’t mean that he lies awake in bed bored. I mean that he lies awake in his bed freaking out that he won’t be able to sleep.
Sleep: The first time Sweet Pea had trouble sleeping, we thought it was a behavioral thing and promptly sent him back to his bed. He went, but a half hour later he was back. And then a half hour later, then an hour later, then an hour after that. Husband, Sweet Pea and I all worked ourselves into a right froth with the back and forth that night. It took us a while to stop banging our heads against the wall realize he didn’t want attention. I mean, of course he wanted attention, but this particular event was not attention-seeking. He was genuinely freaking out.
There was one occasion after watching a scary show that he couldn’t sleep right for four weeks. (Note: He watched A Haunting, that show on The Discovery Channel. Have you seen it? It is done like a documentary of real hauntings and they do freaky dramatic
reenactments. It’s really, really scary and I have no idea why he thought it was a good idea to watch it. Husband and I didn’t know, we were all on vacation and he sneaked off. We should have been suspicious that he was being quiet.) Either husband or I had to lie with him at bedtime AND in the middle of the night EVERY night for a week or so, then we got progressively farther from his bed. On the floor, then by the door, then in the hall.
Husband, Sweet Pea and I eventually figured out the best way to handle it when there is a sleep problem. We have it down to a science: (now that he doesn’t have nearly as much anxiety, of course, isn’t that always the way it works?) a little herbal remedy every night at bedtime, some deep breaths and extra hugs if he is having a rough night, and finally one of us will lie with him if he is having a really bad night. It almost sounds ridiculous to me when I think about it. But I remember how bad off he has been, and we have figured out the shortest route to him sleeping independently in his bed. Isn’t that what we really want as parents? I mean aside from having healthy, well-socialized, fabulous children, we want to sleep at night in our own damn bed with as few interruptions as possible. It is certainly in my top five.
Shots: The next situation guaranteed to freak-out Sweet Pea is shots. Oh, Dear God in Heaven, he is a mess with shots. He has asthma, so he has to get at least one flu shot (sometimes two thank you very much H1N1, you suck.) every year. When I think about flu season, it gives me the willies. I used to handle it like any other doctor’s appointment. I let him know when I scheduled it. Hahahahahahahaha! After I told him, he would fret and worry and freak out constantly, making Husband and me insane even faster than usual. The following conversations would happen several times a day every damn day before the shot:
Sweet Pea: Maaawwwwwwmmm… Whyyyyyyyyy do I have to get a shot?! I don’t need a shot. I have never even gotten the flu before, I don’t need a flu shot, I am not getting a flu shot!
Me: Hey, look over there! Something shiny! (Distraction is a powerful tool with Sweet Pea)
Sweet Pea: What? Where?
1/2 hour later
Sweet Pea: Maaawwwwm… Why do I have to get a shot?! I really don’t need a shot. I never even got the flu before, I don’t need a flu shot, I am not getting a flu shot.
Me: I know you are scared. It won’t be as bad as you think.
Sweet Pea: I don’t need a shot. Why do I need a shot? I am not getting a shot. I am not getting a shot. I don’t need a shot. I am not getting a shot.
Me: Sorry, kid. Yes you are, but we will get a doooooonuuuuuut after! Mmmmmmm, donuts!
Sweet Pea: I don’t want a donut! I am not getting a shot, you can’t make me. I am not getting a shot. Why do I have to get a shot? I DON’T WANT A SHOT!!
Me: WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP IT YOU ARE MAKING ME INSANE!!!!
Sweet Pea: WWRRRRAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
You may be able to tell when the wheels fell off the cart. For a couple of years I scheduled the appointment so Husband could go along to help hold him down. Sweet Pea would fret that he would hurt someone accidentally while he was freaking out. It was really sad and kind of unnerving, because he seemed old to be so scared and he was also big enough to actually hurt someone.
At his check up last year the doctor told us he had to have routine blood work, which sent him into hysterics. The thought of taking him to the lab first thing in the morning and waiting in that horrible, crowded waiting room with a hungry, unmedicated, FREAKING OUT Sweet Pea made me want to vomit. But, I have a girlfriend who was a home health nurse (and an extremely awesome person). She brought all the stuff over really early in the morning and we waited for him to get up. Good morning! Surprise! Let’s draw some blood! He freaked out, of course, but we were firm and she was so kind to him. She showed him all the needles and vials and equipment and answered all of his obnoxious million questions. It was the best needle-related experience I’ve ever had and things really started to turn around then for Sweet Pea’s shot worries after that day.
Now that he is 12, he knows when flu shot season is. We decided together that the best way to handle it is for me not to tell him until right before the appointment. That way the freaking out is limited to an hour or so. Even I can be patient for an hour. He doesn’t need his dad to hold him down, but he does sit in my lap and I hold his arms for him. It had been getting a little better every year, but the home-bound blood draw was when things really started to improve.
It turns out that something like 25% of ADHD folks have anxiety ketchup on their ADHD cheeseburger (as opposed to 10% or so for non-shiny folks), so Sweet Pea is hardly alone. I hope those other kids’ parents figured out how to deal with their kid’s stuff faster than we did. Husband and I are a little slow on the uptake sometimes, especially when our sleep has been messed with. It’s a really tough job, parenting. I didn’t realize my kid’s pain would hurt me so much! Yeah, that’s fair. By the way, Sweet Pea has a flu shot scheduled for Wednesday, and for Pete’s sake, don’t tell him. We’ll get a doooooonuuuuuut afterward!! Mmmmmm donuts!