When I was diagnosed with ADHD late in life, a series of tumultuous emotions washed over me, from relief to regret, from anger to embarrassment, from shame to sorrow. It was several years before I realized how undiagnosed ADHD might have affected my beleaguered adoptive mom.
Not being a mother myself, it was a bit of a leap to put myself in her shoes. As a young adult, I’d had to focus on dealing with an oversize heap of emotional baggage of my own via a hit parade of assorted therapists. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and rebirthers – all had taken a crack over the years at cracking open the leftover feelings of rage and resentment I had from my childhood experiences.
Aside from realizing that my mom’s own parenting must have been less-than-perfect, I’d never understood how challenging raising a child like me must have been. On a subconscious level, I must have had an inkling, as I often quipped, “Thank God I never had a child like me to raise.” Still, it wasn’t until I understood ADHD that I began to understand how truly difficult it must have been– especially when my family knew nothing of ADHD as I was growing up.
This realization added a substantial amount of guilt and regret to the post-ADHD-diagnosis emotional train wreck. Although I couldn’t have done any better, none of us could, I temporarily felt huge regret at having been such a handful as a child.
This is one of the reasons reading Dr. Rita Eichenstein’s recently published book, Not What I Expected: Hope and Help for Parents of Atypical Children, was such a bittersweet experience. If I could have a life do-over, I’d want my mom to have a copy of Dr. Eichenstein’s book.
As an adoptee, I grew up well aware that I was definitely not the little girl my mom had expected. I was quite different from the rest of my adoptive family, in appearance, mannerisms, abilities and so on. Being the only one in the family with ADHD set me apart even further. My adoptive mom was ill-equipped to deal with the whirling, hyperactive dervish of a daughter that was me.
Eichenstein speaks to parents of kids with ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, anxiety, giftedness, and a wide array of differences which lead to raising an “atypical” child. I can’t help but think that Eichenstein’s book would have gone far to alleviate my mom’s challenges by reassuring and validating her in her quest to be the best parent she could be.
It is too late for me and my mom (she passed away when I was 26, long before my ADHD diagnosis), but I would urge any parent who is struggling with a special needs child to pick up Not What I Expected. You’ll be encouraged to savor the rewards, and sustained to withstand the challenges, in dealing with your surprising, unexpected child.
To learn more about how to take care of yourself while parenting a special needs child, please join me Monday, April 27, as I host a free Psych Central webinar with my very special guest, Dr. Rita Eichenstein, pediatric neuropsychologist.
Register for the webinar here.