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“I’m Recovering from ADHD-Induced Mom Guilt”

Being a mother of a child with ADHD can strip you of your worth and make you feel like a failure. You might even feel like escaping—for real. The moment I finally reached out for help was the moment I started recovering.

Never in my plans for the future did I envision my firstborn having ADHD. I assure you that I could have never predicted how effective the disorder was at thwarting life’s happy moments and milestones. When I held my son for the first time in the hospital, I saw only love.

A decade later, I had become normalized to the emotional toll ADHD had taken on our family. It was like an invisible sledgehammer had taken a swing at every personal relationship within our home.

The effects of ADHD extend beyond the family. There is loads of destruction to be had outside the home. Take school, and church, and social gatherings, for instance. It rears its head without warning and usually when important or exciting plans have been made.

Parenting a child with ADHD morphs people who are supposed to be your allies into your enemies. Teachers, church leaders, and relatives lecture you about your child and how he’s not keeping up, or participating, or behaving like he should. You feel like hiding under the covers or moving your family to the other side of the States to live among strangers.

At your lowest, you dream up ways to escape the ones you love. You could check in on Skype if you had to.

Some days you’re so guilt-ridden you barely talk to your spouse. Your son is in bed with a stomachache for the fifth school day in a row. You’re in tears because his teacher is calling and lecturing you about his absences. She says that if he keeps missing school he’ll be too far behind to graduate with his classmates.

Your house is in constant disarray, and your other children seem to feed off the chaos. You crave social media because sometimes that’s the only escape. But then you’re depressed after seeing all the happily-ever-after posts.

Over the years, I’ve felt like a failure as a parent and as a professional because I haven’t been able to mold my son into the scholar everyone thinks he should be.

I worried that his teachers viewed my son’s below-average writing skills as a reflection of my own. I pictured them saying, “Oh, you write for living?” with a confused look on their faces.

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you might be wondering how you can pick yourself off the floor and start smiling again, naturally. This might come as a surprise, but while you’ve been trying to micromanage your child, you’ve been missing a piece to the puzzle.

It’s you. Your mental health needs help, too.

I never thought I’d start a sentence with “My therapist says…” but I sought counseling when I was at my lowest. Because I knew that if I didn’t help myself, I wouldn’t be able to help my son. It took me several sessions, but my therapist helped me to understand I was not alone.

She encouraged me to start journaling every day. Jotting down my thoughts and feelings in a spiral notebook (adorned with happy, multi-colored flowers) released my negative thoughts. The more I wrote, the more I felt the burden lift off my shoulders. I started practicing self-care, and spent many a night pondering my trials in a bubble-filled tub.

I started a blog about life’s fearful moments, because fear prevents us from changing. I went from being in denial, to being angry, to being scared of what others would think if I announced my son’s diagnosis to the world.

Then I realized: What did I have to lose?

I started spending more time reading to my son at night. Even though his teacher told me a sixth-grade reader should be self-directed, I went with my gut.

Those Fablehaven-filled nights increased his self esteem, and mine.

Oh, and I prayed. A lot. As a Mormon who has been taught to ask of God when in need of direction, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d been neglecting to pray for myself. I have to warn you. It’ll be hard for the first few months. You might feel ashamed that you need help and secretive about the help you’re getting.

Eventually, you’ll feel strong enough to share your story with others.

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