Here it comes. The monster is creeping in and I realize that I haven’t fed it in a few days. With all of the medications I was taking for my sinus infection, I forgot four doses of my daily 25 mgs of Zoloft. I hate that I seem to be stuck taking a pill for the rest of my life to keep the monster at bay. I feel like I’m being held hostage. It makes me angry but I have no one or, for that matter, nothing tangible to be angry at. It simply isn’t worth it to forgo the pill, so I have resigned myself to the fact that it will be an ever present morning ritual. Brush teeth, coffee, Zoloft, breakfast for the kids, school bus… the alternative is unbearable.

This morning Joe didn’t want to go to soccer. An offhand comment was made about someone else’s boys who play and if he doesn’t love it by now etc…well, that comment just hit me in the wrong spot. It fed my monster the wrong kind food which started a downward spiral of self-loathing and a new round of internal ass kicking. Why can’t Joe be like the other boys? What have I done wrong? It’s my fault.

Yesterday, I finally handed Joe’s Vanderbilt Assessments over to his pediatrician. It was his 6 year physical. Joe has been diagnosed with ADHD. I know, millions of kids are diagnosed each year, but I took the diagnosis to heart. I knew it was coming. I privately cried because I know that ADHD often results in depression later in life. I have unwillingly bestowed my internal hell upon my innocent son and I blame myself for passing on my mixed up brain to my beautiful boy. As I spoke to the pediatrician, I watched Joe painstakingly draw yet another intricate monster, absorbing every word the two of us said. He knows his brain works a little bit differently…he’s told me. He is an incredibly smart and observant little boy.

My head has been spinning ever since the assessment was completed and diagnosis rendered at 1:45 p.m. yesterday. As usual, my outward demeanor was composed. I discussed the course of action we want to take (no meds for now) with the pediatrician. I explained that I have the same condition and expressed my fears about his future mental health. Our pediatrician appreciated that I had done my homework on the subject. She is pleased that I can help him through my personal perspective but I’m heartbroken; mostly for him and, admittedly and a bit selfishly, for myself as well. I can already recognize that his comfort level is highest when he is in a small group or alone. Like me. I can already see that he is deeply affected by hurtful words and mulls them over far longer than a “normal” person would. Like me. I can already see his frustration and disappointment if he fails and how he internalizes the shame. Like me. Every time I see the pain cross over his little face (and I’ve already seen it), I feel it too.
To add to my arsenal of information, I went to the website “Healthy Place”. It calls itself America’s Mental Health Channel. There I found the paragraph that I was looking for…what I couldn’t verbalize to Dave, but why I fear for Joe and his future because it was my experience:
“One prominent theory is that the relationship between ADHD and depression may result from the social/interpersonal difficulties that many children with ADHD experience. These difficulties can lead important others in the child’s life to develop negative appraisals of the child’s social competence that are communicated to the child during the course of ongoing negative social exchanges. With increasing age, these negative social experiences and others’ negative appraisals can adversely affect children’s view of their social competence, which, in turn, can predispose them to develop depressive symptoms. An interesting study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology was designed to test this theory (Ostrander, Crystal, & August [2006]. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, and Self- and Other Assessments of Social Competence: A Developmental Study. JACP, 34, 773-787.”
That’s why I beat myself up about him not wanting to attend soccer today. I need to help him focus and, at the same time, I need to help David understand how my, no…our brains function. We need to teach Joe self checking skills, we need to help him learn to focus and stay on course, we need to help him channel his attention before he is left standing on the sidelines wishing he had joined in. We need to help him learn to be a part of a group and contribute to a team. We need to advocate loudly for him at school. He needs us to be his voice or he’ll become invisible. I need to make Dave understand the importance of these things that I know because I’ve been living ADHD and depression for my entire life. My ADHD was undiagnosed as a child. We now know that leaving the condition undiagnosed almost certainly results in recurrent depression (Bipolar Disorder) later in life. The two go hand in hand. What a lovely pair…

So as my façade of togetherness, still holding on from yesterday afternoon, began its slow crumble this morning. I realized that my own monster had awakened. I was suddenly getting caught up in negativity and internalizing harmless remarks. Dave and I argued about whether or not Joe should go to soccer and I desperately tried to impart that things are different for Joe. He’s not just another kid who doesn’t feel like going. My words just wouldn’t form in a way to make Dave understand, so I shut down, stopped coping and the façade crashed to the floor. My monster had broken through the restraints and made its first appearance in months.
Later, Dave called Joe downstairs for a family discussion about what it means to be part of a team and how we are expected to follow through on a commitment. I reminded him of our discussion with the doctor yesterday and I shared that I understand how he feels. On a level that he could understand, I told him that my brain and his brain work the same way sometimes. As he watched my tears begin, his own began to flow. Our eyes met in mutual understanding of the frustration and emotion that seemingly no one else in the house has to deal with or fully understand. He slid off his chair and came to my side of the table where we wrapped our arms around one another and hugged in silent understanding.
I’m off to feed the monster its pill and get it back under control before it becomes strong enough to completely submerge me in the depths of its darkness. Once I’ve beaten it back again, I will wage a war against the monster trying to get my son and try my hardest to keep him out of its reach.

And Further More…

What an amazing summer I had. Epic…cathartic even. I really didn’t intend on sharing such personal information. Historically, the picture that I’ve attempted to present to the world is one of perfection and anything that might be embarrassing was brushed under the rug. Who was I kidding? As if people can’t plainly read the expressions on my face. I’m so bad at hiding how I feel. I can’t be fake.

I guess there’s really nothing better than a simultaneous visit from your long divorced parents to wake up the past and force some realizations. As weird as it was to be sitting at the dinner table alone with my mother, father and baby girl, I almost wish that my brother and sister had been sitting there as well. What would it have been like to share a meal with all of the people to whom I am most closely related? How odd that I would have to ask myself this question in the first place.

I sometimes feel that I no longer know my family. Sitting at the dinner table with my parents on that summer evening, I realized that I am a complete stranger to my entire family. Maybe not a complete stranger, but I often feel that way. I’m not sure they’ve ever really known me or understood me. I’ve always been slightly alien to them. I never quite fit in and at some point, I just stopped trying to. I love them, but I know that I’ll always be the black sheep. The odd fit. To them, I’ll always be a little bit “off”. For the longest time, I thought it was my fault, or just bad that I was unable to fit into the core of the Hadfield nuclear family. I tried so hard to be like them that I was suffocating. I made horrible choices in my efforts to blend in, but always remained an outsider. How sad to be stuck on the perimeter, so doubtful of my self worth and place in the world that I wished to completely disappear. I was so angry that I was born to begin with.

It doesn’t matter how much you love someone or a group of someones, sometimes they just might not get you all. It has taken me almost 40 years to realize that this doesn’t make me weird or crazy. I’m just me and I am finally beginning to appreciate who I am. I’ve stopped trying to make them understand me because it just frustrates and angers us all.

It really is amazing how words affect people. How what I wasn’t able to verbalize 10 years ago is so easily expressed now in my writing. Maybe it’s all easier to talk about now that I have some distance between myself and rock bottom. I didn’t start my blog with the intent of divulging my deepest, darkest places but I’m not going to stop it from coming out. Consider it a bit of verbal vomiting. The best part about my recent bout with up-chucking is that I feel even better. I’ve said what I had to say and I said it for me. In the process, I  unwittingly crossed another hurdle. Either you get it or you don’t. My writing may simply be words on a page or something more meaningful. I’m not forcing you to take a position either way.

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of depression is the lack of education on the subject. If your brother/father/son was diagnosed with diabetes, wouldn’t you read every bit of information that you could get your hands on? Wouldn’t you actively discuss the disease with him and seek the best method of treatment to ensure a good quality of life? Unfortunately, there is still a huge contingent that views depression as complete and utter bullshit. Just about the worst thing that you can say to someone who is suffering from depression is, “Snap out of it” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” Really? Like we want to feel this way? As if we would choose to open our eyes on a random morning to discover that the darkness has settled over us like a suffocating blanket as we slept. Given the choice, I would much rather bound out of bed with a smile on my face and meet my friends for lunch. Instead, when I open my eyes I know that I’ll have to struggle to pull myself out of that darkness enough just to get through the day. The worst part is that the world is the exact same place it was yesterday…when I was perfectly happy. It frustrates me immensely to know that happiness has just slipped through my fingers again. I don’t choose to let it go, it just goes. Thank goodness that I rarely feel this way any more. I choose to take Zoloft to keep the darkness at bay. Thank you, Zoloft and screw you darkness.

Having spent my mid-twenties in a perpetual state of intense depression, I see things far differently now. The world I am living in is a far more beautiful place than the one I inhabited 10 years ago. How lucky my children are, to be growing up with parents who love and respect one another. Dave and I truly have an incredible partnership and our children get to witness this. With the exception of my Uncle Joe, I’ve never known a man so filled with love and support. Do we fight? Sure. We’ve had some good ones. Who hasn’t? Have we gone to bed angry? You bet. I’ve been pissed off enough to give him the silent treatment for a few days. I know there has been more than one occasion when he’s been less than thrilled with me too. We’ve been married for nine years. We have three children, ranging in age from one to six. We’re tired. We can barely spit a sentence out without being interrupted. Yet, our children see that we love one another, that we truly enjoy our time together. They see us sharing private jokes and laughter. They see affection and teamwork. They see acceptance and they know that we will nurture their interests without judgment or laughter.

So there you have it. Some verbal vomiting has led me to some brand new self-acceptance and forced me to acknowledge some painful truths. Such is life. My life is incredible and I’m glad to be alive!