Don’t Put Their Light Out: Part 2


“It’s like everyone in my class is a house and I’m just a table.”

“I’m not made for school.”

“I wish I would just die.”  

His self-talk had progressively begun to deteriorate.  By the time winter break rolled around, this happy, bright-eyed, eager learner ended up in a heap of tears wishing he would not exist.  While we were busy talking to doctors and going to intervention meetings at school, he was extinguishing his own light.  The conversations about his struggle to focus and succeed in school were no longer private. They had taken center stage in his mind and he knew that he was labeled as different than the others.  His already fragile self-esteem was weathering more than he could handle and we could tell that it was time to do more.

A month earlier, we had completed a medical evaluation and to no surprise, received a diagnosis of ADHD.  We agreed that he learned differently and that he had demonstrated this since kindergarten.  However, we didn’t yet feel ready to explore medication until his self-talk took a sharp downward turn.  We were invited to yet another intervention meeting at the school to discuss his progress (or lack thereof) and their outlook was alarming.  The behavior modifications were not enough support and he was not keeping pace with the others.  My ears rang with the words “candidate for retention” as I left that meeting and called my husband.  Winter break was starting and we decided it was time to see the pediatrician and determine if medication could help.

Our son’s outlook was positive – he understood that he learned differently and seemed to find some relief that we had another tool to try.  The side effects would likely be present, mostly lack of appetite and trouble sleeping, but we could manage.  A few days into taking the medication, he was still feeling positive but the side effects were out in full force.  On the third day, all Hell broke loose.  The day started out fine, but by around 3pm, something happened and he could not stop talking.  I’m not kidding – like, question, after question, after question.  FOR HOURS.  It intensified and you could almost physically see his mind racing.  He knew it too.  By 7pm, we were finishing dinner and he was beside himself.  “I know you think I’m talking too much Mom, but I need to ask you one more question.”  “I’m so sorry, but I need to ask one more question.”  Then he would hold his head and say he didn’t feel good.  My husband and I were exchanging horrified glances across the table as we watched our son rattle on as if he were possessed.

I laid in bed with him to try to help him calm down, but it only got worse.  He was digging up memories from the depths of his mind, crying, asking questions, mourning the loss of a baby blanket I hadn’t seen since he was two and wishing he could have a funeral for it.  A stormy wave of self-doubt rushed over me as I fought back thoughts that threatened to undermine my confidence as a mother.

This is what I was afraid of.  We made the wrong choice.  I should have been more of an advocate for alternative interventions.  But I’m too tired and overwhelmed to research all alternative interventions.  But I love him enough that I would do anything.  That’s it, we’re going on a whole-food, gluten free diet and the TV is going out with the trash.  I wish I wasn’t so moderate about everything.  Why can’t I be more passionate about this and find some holistic guru that can fix him?  I’m not even convinced he needs fixed.  There are worse situations – this is mild compared to what other parents have had to tackle with their children.  I should be grateful.  But it’s all relative, damn it.  My job right now is to make the best decision for him and he appears to be having an exorcism in his bedroom because of a choice we made on his behalf.  I suck. 

Needless to say, we called the pediatrician and scaled back the already low dose even further.  His side effects waned and we have continued on hoping for the best.  And then the dreaded letter arrived home inviting us to ANOTHER intervention meeting tomorrow.  I can’t believe it’s time already.  I swear it was just the end of December when we all sat around that table agreeing that we’d try medication and follow up at the end of February to determine if there had been progress.  I need more time!  He needs more time!  I swear he can show you that he’s a good student – we just need a minute.  But there are no extra minutes when you are racing against a school clock set on a testing and state standards schedule.

So, I’m giving myself a constant pep talk in preparation for tomorrow.  I’m not much of an emotional person, but for some reason, I can barely keep it together during these meetings.  I just want someone to tell me that they see what I see.  He’s KIND.  He’s BRIGHT.  He’s INTERESTED in the world around him.  He’s FRAGILE.  He’s SMART.  Damn it.  He’s SMART.

Then there’s the other one.  Stay tuned for Part 3…

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Carla T says:

    Emily you have a beautiful gift of writing. Your words have brought me to tears. Your honesty is refreshing and it’s safe to say mothers and fathers have all had these private conversations in our heads about one thing or another. Thank you for articulating so beautifully what we can’t.


  2. Jess Wilms says:

    I can sympathize with your son. As a child I was on ritilan for my ADD. I never liked taking meds because the message I was receiving was that I was not normal. My mom wasn’t able to advocate for me. Being a thoughtful mom has me always questioning my choices.


  3. Nanci Ballantyne says:

    I’ve been there Emily. After a summer break from medication, we would begin each school year waiting anxiously for the call that always came 3 weeks later. There was so much guilt around choosing medication for your child but in retrospect, Peter would
    not be the man he is today without it. We had ups and downs and he was finally ready to try his own coping strategies successfully when he was around 12 but those years with medication allowed him to develop a strong sense of self-esteem. Hang in there and remember that those with ADHD become creative leaders and innovators. You may be raising the next Thomas Jefferson


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