Genetics or Not?

Both of my children were diagnosed with ADHD several years ago and are both a textbook case of it.  They have a serious inability to focus mixed in with hyperactivity (always fidgeting, can’t sit still, talking a mile a minute, and, as my husband describes it, are often “shot out of a canon”).  There were times when my youngest was doing gymnastics that I could literally see her bouncing up and down on the sidelines with a look like she was going to crawl out of her own skin if she was told to be still. She literally couldn’t control herself.  She used to get in a lot of trouble in school and at home in her early elementary days because she was just so impulsive.  My oldest has more of the inattention piece than her sister.  She zones out and totally tunes everyone and everything around her out.  This sometimes makes her appear clueless just because she isn’t able to follow along with a whole conversation, process it all, and tune out all the distractions around her at the same time.  Her infamous quote is “I’m so confused,” and that is simply because she missed half of what was said.  Both girls are super unorganized and a total mess.  My youngest is famous for loosing things, and both of their rooms look like an explosion went off in there most of the time.  Anyone around them can tell when they have taken their medicine and when they haven’t because there is such a night and day difference.  They can function so much better when they are on it.  My oldest has figured out ways to cope on her own in addition to her medication and will tell you that she has to chew gum to pay attention in class at school or have something to “play” with in her hands at home.  She always has a small ball that she is throwing up and catching or bouncing off the wall or ceiling while she is on the computer doing schoolwork.  Somehow those things help her focus.  While both of them have come along way from those younger years, they both still struggle with their ADHD.

For years I wondered how they both ended up having it.  Was it something I did or didn’t do when I was pregnant?  Was it a result of our parenting? Was it my fault? I couldn’t see where they got it from.  Some say it is hereditary, but neither my husband nor I have ever been diagnosed with it and neither has anyone else in our families.  If anything, we have always been the total opposite of hyperactive, inattentive, disorganized, impulsive, or any of their other tell-tell characteristics.  My husband will say that he could see that, had it been a bigger thing when we were younger, he might have been diagnosed with it.  I have never seen that side of him, though. He tells me that he was a troublemaker and that he struggled in school as a kid, but that is hard for me to envision knowing who he is now.  I on the other hand was always a good student and was never one to really ever get in trouble.  In fact, I have often been referred to as a “goody two shoes”.  Some would say that I am organized to the extreme and far from hyperactive.  I am actually more of an extreme introvert.  It has only been in the last 4 or 5 years that I have come to think maybe I do have ADHD minus the hyperactivity.  I see myself as more the inattentive type.  I am starting to believe that my over organization and compulsive habits are just my way of coping, much like the gum and balls are for my oldest. It has honestly been since I stopped teaching that I have come to this realization. For so many years, I was juggling a lot and was incredibly busy.  It was almost like that was masking the fact that I may have ADHD.  I was laser focused because I had no other choice but to be.  It is only now that I don’t have as much going on that I realize that I really do have a hard time focusing and that I do little things all the time subconsciously to cope.  I cannot sit and watch a television program without using a coloring app on my phone.  Otherwise, I am distracted by other things and have to constantly rewind the show because I missed whole sections.  It sometimes takes me hours to write one blog post because I catch myself totally spaced out or suddenly doing something completely different.  Sometimes I even have to walk away and come back to it because I have totally lost my train of thought and have no clue where I was going with a particular paragraph.  Just this week, I was on a zoom call for our monthly team meeting and found myself really struggling to pay attention. I was beyond distracted. That is kind of what got me thinking about this subject and making multiple realizations about myself. Maybe it is just a sign of aging or maybe I really do have ADHD.  Maybe I am just going crazy.  I don’t know.  It certainly makes me wonder a lot lately.  Could the girls have gotten it from me? If you would have asked me that a few years ago, I would have vehemently said, “No way!” Now I am not so sure. 

Regardless of where it came from, genetics or environmental or whatever, I no longer see it as a bad thing or something terrible that I may have caused like I did when they were younger. Without it, neither girl would be the unique and totally cool kid that they are now. Yes, it was a struggle at times and sometimes I still want to pull my hair our when they are going 90 miles a minute, but I wouldn’t change a single piece of it. If I have it or not, really doesn’t matter. I have learned to cope with whatever it is without even realizing it. It has caused us all to grow and learn about ourselves and each other and has made us all into the people that we are today, and I just happen to think that we are all pretty awesome (most of the time <wink, wink>). None of us are defined by the label. It is simply a small piece of our story.


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