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Celebrating 8 Years With My ADHD Child

Eight years ago, we brought our adopted daughter Natalie, who has ADHD, home from Russia. For the first time, I’m not just celebrating the anniversary. I have finally embraced the symptoms and treatment of our medicated, hyper, disorganized lives.

February 12, 2011, was my daughter Natalie’s Gotcha Day, the eighth anniversary of her adoption. We adopted her at 2 and a half from an orphanage in Russia, and she came to us with a variety of special needs, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sensory processing disorder among them.

In a sense, Natalie’s eighth Gotcha Day is a first anniversary for me. You see, on each of the previous seven, one of my strongest feelings (second to giddy levels of love) on this special day has been desperation. The thought that ran repeatedly through my mind was, If I would have known that things would still be so hard a year later, I don’t know if I could have done it. Of course, I would — and did —to do it. I kept going, kept loving, and kept living. What choice did I have, really?

But this year my feelings are different. This year I’m secretly shouting on the inside, I can do this! After eight years of having this spitfire in our lives — of being more exhausted and overwhelmed than I could have imagined — I’m doing more than just surviving.

It’s weird, but it’s the littlest things — things that I can finally handle again — that make me happy. I have time to sit down with the calendar and write in my 14-year-old son’s basketball schedule. I have the energy to take my vitamins. Don’t laugh at me! It’s sad, I know, but I’m serious.

So how did I get finally get here? What changed since last year? I think the biggest change came simply from Natalie maturing. At age 10, she’s finally past needing a toddler’s level of supervision — although she still demands constant entertainment and can’t play by herself for any length of time.

And it takes handfuls of medicine. Stimulants reduce her hyperactivity and impulsiveness and improve her focus. She takes meds for sleep, meds to reduce aggression, and meds for anxiety. And those are just Natalie’s! About this time a year ago, I had to add a dose of Wellbutrin on top of the Paxil I was already taking.

The third factor is having help: Nat attends an after-school martial arts program three days a week and I also have regularly scheduled respite (this is a free service we have received since applying for Iowa’s Children’s Mental Health Waiver) — which means I have guaranteed blocks of time I can count on having to take a break and spend time with my oh-so-neglected neurotypical son, Aaron.

Eight years! I feel like throwing my hat in the air, like Mary Tyler Moore, and singing, I’m going to make it after all!

This post first appeared on the Easy to Love but Hard to Raise blog.

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