Roles reverse when a doctor seeks his patient's advice about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).
by Frank South
In last week’s post I left off in the middle of a routine physical with my general practitioner, a pleasant soft-spoken guy. He’s quizzing me in depth about my ADHD history -- when I was diagnosed, my symptoms, treatment history, my meds, and my reaction to them, other psychological symptoms, and the disorder’s effect on my education, and other life hurdles. Since I’m not here with any ADD/ADHD complaints or any complaints at all, I’m getting uncomfortable. When he asks about my kids’ ADD/ADHD and their prescriptions, I’m convinced that this doc has got some obsessive anti-ADD/ADHD med agenda going on.
The other thing is that I don’t trust doctors, especially when they’re in their offices or at hospitals. I’ve learned to be careful around these people on their home turf -- power corrupts and all that. I’m not even sure I trust my psychiatrist poking around in my brain every month, and I’ve been with him a while and my scrambled neurons and misfiring synapses are his area of expertise. They’re not this GP’s area, and my kids are especially none of his business, so I clam up.
Then he leans back against the wall and says, “Sorry...I’m only curious about all of this because of my son. I’m concerned about my son. I wanted to get an idea what helped you handle things...as a patient and with your kids, too.”
“Has your son been diagnosed?” I ask.
“Not officially,” he says, “No. You’d think I would have, but he just seemed like a really energetic boy growing up. Things really didn’t get difficult for him until high school. Now he can’t focus, he dropped out of college, and he’s not interested in getting any help...Was that your experience at all?”
I tell him that it’s difficult to find any real norm for ADHD. I was a basket-case from kindergarten on through to the present, while my son started similarly, but grew less so as he got older. My daughter and I are almost symptom twins, but that doesn’t mean I understand her any better than my non-ADHD wife does.
My doctor and I trade stories about the unrelenting stress ADHD can put on a family and he asks how we handle it. I shrug. Sometimes well, sometimes not so well.
“But, we’ve found as parents, and I’ve found as a patient," I tell him, "that when things get tense, that something as uncomplicated as going with the ADHD individual’s flow, but helping them simplify it and slow it down to reduce overloading, can help.”
He listens as I tell him that there are all kinds of practical info available at ADDitude as well as other sources including Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). I also give him my therapist’s name, because he should really get his son to talk to a specialist.
“Cripes,” I say, “You’re a doctor, you know that.”
“Yeah,” he says, “But he’s my son. I wasn’t looking at him as a patient.”
One of my favorite surprises is when someone who is just playing a normal role in your day breaks the accepted rhythm and then, in front of your eyes, changes into a completely different and fleshed-out human being. Now, as I talk with the doctor I’d been so wary of a few minutes earlier, the exam room ceases to be anybody’s home turf. Because he’s just another dad like me, just looking for a way to help his kid.
How can you not trust a guy like that?