Nothing makes me more sad than rereading emails between myself and the high school during the time Luke was there. Yes, I still have them. Those emails tell the sorry tale of a momma just trying to help her kid find his way and make it through the teen years as painlessly as possible without pissing off every educator that crossed his path. Sigh. Spoiler alert. The ending will make you cry.
I have written previously about Luke’s freshman year at Wachusett. It was not a stellar beginning. Soon after, November to be exact, Luke ended up with a diagnosis of ADHD. John and I never really understood the diagnosis at the time. We were parents, not practitioners, and the ins and outs of ADHD were a bit beyond us. We thought ADHD was those “hyper” kids who couldn’t stay still in a classroom setting and that was definitely not Luke. I know we filled out some sort of questionnaire at the doctor’s office, and Luke also rated himself, and those results were used to determine the diagnosis. Luke was in the care of a therapist or psychologist, or something. I’m not sure what the official title was, but it was someone parents assume know what they are talking about. The problem was, when the doc made this determination, he didn’t know my child. He had only just met him. He used these checked boxes or the lack of checked boxes to decide what Luke was. And he may have been correct. Again, I am no expert. What I do know is we were surprised. We were expecting an “obstinate child” diagnosis. lol Is that a thing?
So, here is my boy with ADHD. I’m thinking okay, maybe this will solve our problems. Maybe we will try meds and the school will make some changes and we will *fix* Luke. But it didn’t. The anxiety and health issues continued, the arguing with teachers continued, the sleeping in class continued, the lack of motivation around school work continued, the not sleeping at night continued. He didn’t get better not because we all weren’t trying, but because there was more going on than we realized.
Depression is one sneaky bugger. If you’re not careful, you might think you are just feeling down…. for a really long time… because you suck… so why wouldn’t you feel down… and you can’t sleep… thinking about how hopeless you are… and how much better everyone else is… and then you stop caring…. but then everyone thinks you are unmotivated…. and you don’t care…. but you do. And you blame your self for all of this, or life, but no seventeen year old, heck, no ADULT would call it what it is: DEPRESSION.
If you do a Google search using the terms Depression and ADHD you will find lots of compelling evidence around how the two are tied together or misdiagnosed for one another.
Truth be told, when Luke was going through high school, we weren’t talking about mental health the way we are now, just four years later. I used to get caught up asking myself why. Why didn’t any of us think that maybe something was “mentally” up with Luke? Surely his teachers knew his behavior was off – why didn’t they sound the alarm? But depression is one sneaky bugger. And maybe, just like John and I, they didn’t know what to look for. Because sometimes a smart aleck kid who sasses you and sleeps all period and doesn’t do his work in your forty minute block is just a smart aleck kid. But sometimes, it isn’t.
So here’s what I need you to know: Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better” and folks, we know better. Mental health issues are not a fad. Anxiety and depression are on the uptick. And bad news, friends! A child can have multiple diagnoses. As reported, Depression and ADHD could both be contributing to your child’s struggles. As a parent, if you are seeing behavior that concerns you, ask questions and use a professional to help you get to the bottom of it. If you are an educator and you are seeing behavior that concerns you, please, PLEASE talk to the parents, to your peers, to the psychologist in your building to determine how to best help that child. It’s going to take all of us, talking about it, working together, to make a difference, but we can do it. I’ve got my eye on you, Depression, and I am saying “WE WILL NOT BE TRICKED AGAIN!” #NotOneMore