The Difference a Year Makes: Pour Your Heart Out

The thick stack of questionnaires sits beside me on my desk.

We’ve been here before.

At this time last year, in fact.

Then, I feel like I cried every day.

I didn’t know what to do to help my Bear.

Every day was so freaking hard with him.

He was kicked out of school, would have tantrums so complete there was no way I could physically restrain him. His outbursts were emotionally and physically draining.

To make it worse, nothing I said or did seemed to help any of it.

Nothing anyone said or did seemed to help.

I felt like I was failing my son.

So we went through the evaluation process for him. Most questions on the pre-appointment questionnaires feeling like another needle prick in my skin, reminding me of how useless I was as a mom.

My pen hesitating before circling the answer that applied to him. Because it all sounded so negative and awful.

And despite it all, he was still my baby and he could be such a caring and sweet kid. What do I circle for that?

But I answered the questions truthfully, heart aching because I hated the picture they painted of my child, wanting to explain his good qualities in there as well.

Reading through his teacher’s evaluation and having my tears turn to sobs as her picture painted an even darker picture of my son.

“That’s not true!” I yelled at the papers after reading her responses to a few of the questions.

Having already felt at the end of my rope, at least I didn’t have any further to fall at that point.

Questionnaires were rated and he went through the entire evaluation process. We were given the results: PDD-NOS and ADHD.

At least from there, we were able to get Bear services and help at school.

Things got somewhat better at his new school- he had an understanding teacher who was willing to work with him as well as support staff from his first day there.

But things were still hard.

Ordinary, every day things that other families take for granted like going to soccer practice or hell… even getting into the van to go somewhere without having it be a whole process.

Then this fall, we started him on medications for his ADHD.

He had new teachers.

We started noticing a huge difference in him. Even his peers started noticing a difference.

Instead of parent-teacher conferences where we heard all the bad, we had one where we heard nothing but good.

There are still challenges. I’m not trying to say that oooh, give him a pill and magically, he’s completely “normal.” Though go a day without and how bad it was comes rushing back.

He still has things he struggles with and he still has quirks. He still needs more one-on-one attention than our other boys do.

But as I fill out these questionnaires this year, my answers are so different. There’s not as much pain in my answers.

I know the teacher questionnaire will look totally different as well.

I don’t know what this new evaluation will tell us. If his diagnosis will stay the same or if it will change.

But I don’t know if I’ll care about what the new diagnosis is.

Because things are so much better.

I wish I could go back to when just trying to make it through the day felt exhausting: like everyday I was being asked to scale the tallest mountain while simultaneously carrying and being crushed by the weight of several elephants. And every day, instead of making progress, I felt like I was going backwards. And each new morning, I had to try to do it over again, without any rest or help.

I don’t wish to go back so I can feel that again. No fucking way.

But I wish I could go back and tell myself that feeling wouldn’t last.

That in a year, our family would still be climbing a mountain but that we’d realize there are bigger mountains than the one we are on. And that the elephants weighing us down would disappear and that on the hardest days, I’d only have to carry a heavy backpack. And that yes, having to do it all over again each morning is just a part of life, but that most mornings, I’d feel like we were starting a little further up the mountain than we had the day before.

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  1. I have a friend in a similar situation and she, too, is protective of all the great qualities she sees in her son. Sometimes, she is the only one who sees them. He needs her to be his advocate. You do that beautifully for your son, Shell. You love him and seek the best for him. Quite the opposite of failing.
    Becky Kopitzke recently posted..Surviving December: Notes From a Type-A MomMy Profile

    • It’s easy to see the bad- and amazing when you can find someone else who can see the good. But yes, sometimes mamas have to be the ones to point out the good. 

  2. what a difference a year can make! I know it probably seemed like a  long long time, but really? for Bear? the amount of progress he’s made in a year is amazing!  You and your hubs are doing a fantastic job…
    Not a Perfect Mom recently posted..She’ll Be a Great Bagger One DayMy Profile

    • Thank you- it seemed like a really long year, but we couldn’t be happier with how far he has come. 

  3. Sounds like hes doing great and can I just say he is soo stinkin adorable :)
    I got a lot from this post I’m not dealing with what you are dealing with but I need to remind myself that these feelings of defeat will pass thanks again Shell for a great post
    brittney recently posted..Happy dance!My Profile

  4. What an amazing year and difference! Yay! Yay Bear and yay Mom. Because you did it together. You’re a great mom, Shell. You fought so hard for him and look how wonderfully he’s doing!
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently posted..Toddlers & TutusMy Profile

  5. What an inspiration he is!  And it just shows you went with your instincts and did what was best for him…and all that struggling and heartache is paying off.  Hoping the mountain continues to get smaller each year!
    Natalie recently posted..Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree..My Profile

  6. It was around this time last year that I started reading your blog. I remember the heartbreak and struggles you were having. I am so happy that you’ve gotten some answers, that he has some fantastic teachers and that things are drastically different now than they were last year.
    Robbie recently posted..Fabulous MeMy Profile

  7. I remember the day we got the diagnosis for our son. A little part of me died inside. Suddenly all my hopes for his future were dashed in one short word. But even though I never knew how far he could go with his autism, we always looked forward. And he is awesome! It will all work out ok. I promise. At some point these dark days will all be in the past.
    Hang in there,
    momof12 recently posted..Christmas LetterMy Profile

  8. You are doing a fantastic job, the fact that you can look back and see how far you’ve all come is amazing. You’ll have more mountains but you will have the faith of knowing you can get through it. Big big hugs!
    Barbara recently posted..Your typical weekend…in ParisMy Profile

  9. Love this perspective and I’m so glad today is so much better than this day last year. A year (and hard work and love) can make so much difference!
    Tricia recently far we’ve comeMy Profile

  10. I”m so glad things have changed for the better and pray that whatever new changes might need to be made, they continue to make things better for Bear!
    Single Mom in the South recently posted..A Gift Amongst the SadnessMy Profile

  11. Been there, done that! I fought the ADHD meds for years – bought into the hype I guess, that the doctors and teachers just wanted to medicate our kids into submission or that they were a substitute for good parenting. You’ve heard it all. But yeah, on the days when the boys don’t get their meds….I look back and thing “How did we live like this?” They’re happier, we’re happier. 
    Tricia Ballad recently posted..You’re Right. I Am A Horrible Human Being.My Profile

    • It was made out to seem to us that ADHD wasn’t the biggest issue and it was other things we needed to work on, so we didn’t think it would make that big of a difference. Turns out that when he can focus, it’s much easier for him to get everything else under control as well. 

      I do think that sometimes, people are quick to jump to meds, but I also think that in a lot of cases, they really are necessary. 

  12. I’m so glad to hear this. I’m so glad you were honest with the checklists. Some people aren’t because there not ready to face the truth, but in order to treat his problems effectively, everyone had to know the truth. There is a huge lesson to be learned here by people just starting this journey. So glad you’re finding improvement and happiness.

    • It was painful to fill those out last year. In the space at the bottom of each page to explain, I practically wrote a novel each time. I do think it was helpful though- it doesn’t do any good to pretend the problems aren’t there. 

  13. Shell – this brought tears to my eyes! I remember reading your blog a year ago. I’m so glad that things have gotten better for your son.

  14. having gone through this with my oldest I completely understand the struggles and pain. I only wish our story worked out like you and Bear’s did. Because of so many other issues the things that would normally work made the other things more prominent, usually the bad stuff, like the rage and depression. I am so glad Bear is doing so good now and you were not nor have you ever failed.
    Angel recently posted..Its my SLUMBER PARTY and you are invited…Happy Birthday to me..My Profile

    • I’m so sorry that you have had such a rough road. There are definitely other things going on with my Bear that the meds don’t help with, but they do make it all a bit easier! 

  15. What a difference a year can make! So glad you and your Bear are in a better place now, surrounded by the right people and resources.
    Kristin @ What She Said recently posted..Full Moon, BabyMy Profile

  16. I’m so glad those elephants have disappeared. Sending love and hugs!
    Megan (Best of Fates) recently posted..If There Were More Cauliflower, The World Would Be A Happier Place {EDITED}My Profile

  17. Oh, I can’t even imagine!!

    You’re an amazing mom.  

    PS – he’s adorable.  ADORABLE.
    Carrie recently posted..O’ Christmas TreeMy Profile

  18. I am so glad your family is living this year and not reliving last year! What difference a year makes!
    JDaniel4′s Mom recently posted..#giftsforkids Twitter Party is Today! Come Join In!My Profile

  19. May the following year be even better for Bear and your family, Shell. 
    Alison recently posted..Not Quite RightMy Profile

  20. I’m so happy that you’re seeing progress and finally finding some answers! {{{HUGS}}}
    Adrienne recently posted..I Sext My Husband {and other marriage tips}My Profile

  21. My brother had ADHD and I know what huge difference the medication can make. I’m glad Bear has made so much progress.
    Venassa recently posted..Being sick means extra cuddlesMy Profile

  22. My daughter has ADD and it has definitely been interesting. She was diagnosed at 6, but we waited til she was in 1st grade to see how she’d do before trying medication. The first 2 we tried had terrible side effects when they wore off at the end of the day. She would have the most awful, violent tantrums. So we stopped and tried something super mild that didn’t really help at all. It took a couple of years before we met with an ADD specialist and felt ready to try a stimulant again. She’s on Concerta now, and it helps her quite a bit, but it’s still not a 100% symptom eliminator. Anyway, I so glad you found something that is working for your son and life is a bit easier!
    just JENNIFER recently posted..I Love These LadiesMy Profile

    • I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I’ve heard a lot who have to try multiple meds. We had to try a stronger dosage before it made a difference. And I know that we will have to adjust as he gets older. 

  23. I feel very privileged to have gotten to know you this year. To have gotten to see the changes and the growth in Bear. You are an amazing mom and it is a testament to you never giving up until and fighting through the pain that he is doing so well. I wish I could go back to the worst parts of this roller coaster and tell myself, “It isn’t so tragic. It will be okay.” What a gift that would have been.
    AnnMarie recently posted..I AmMy Profile

  24. I can still remember so vividly the post you wrote where you were crying in the laundry room. My heart ached for you so much when I read that. Hearing the words that things will get better back then were not what you wanted/needed to hear but I wish I could have whispered them into your heart. There are so many struggles with each of those diagnosis but with them combined it is even more challenging. You are a wonderful mom, Shell. Your love will always find a way to make it better! xo
    Kristen recently posted..Christmas TraditionMy Profile

  25. I’m thrilled to hear about the improvements this year. No doubt it is do to your perseverance as a mother to find the right solutions to help him.
    Lisa @ Two Bears Farm recently posted..Pies for the Holidays (with Giveaway)My Profile

  26. Oh hon. I’m so glad things are better. There is something BIG to be said for modern medicine. Sometimes it comes down to the science of how our brains work (or don’t work). Believe me, I know.

    That thing you said about climbing the mountain . . . I’m so glad you said that. We all have mountains to climb don’t we? But it’s so nice when it’s just a little hill instead of Everest :)
    molly recently posted..Six YearsMy Profile

  27. So happy to hear this from you. I’ve noticed that there has been a change in you just by how you are writing. I could/can hear it. I’m glad that something worked and that your lives have changed for the better. Way to keep fighting for him!

  28. Holy moly. I can’t believe it has been a year already. I remember crying with you that day you poured your heart out. I am so happy to hear that things are improving and that bear is getting the services and help that lets him shine!
    NJ @ A Cookie Before Dinner recently posted..Things I Can’t Say- BraveMy Profile

  29. A mother’s struggle is so intense and I believe the most difficult journey to navigate. I have been there with my daughter’s medical issues. Hopeless and helpless. Thanking God for new seasons that give us new hope and new help. SO glad you are in that season now…
    Chris Carter recently posted..Advent Season is much like Motherhood.My Profile

  30. I am so glad things have changed so much.

  31. Shell, at least you did the testing now, and have saved your son years of misery, and being yelled at my teachers and other kids. I finally was at the end of my rope when my son was 14, and that’s when he was diagnosed with ADHD, and we began the meds. As we were driving away from the doc’s office with a diagnosis, he said to me, “For the first time ever, I feel like there’s hope for me.” One year later for us as well, the kid is in the high 90s at school, and no more phone calls from the teachers. You are a terrific mother because you went through this necessary process as soon as you could! Kudos! Life only gets better and better!

    • Don’t be so hard on yourself. My son had other issues going on aside from the ADHD, so it was very obvious that something was going on that we needed to seek out some help for. Glad to hear that your son is doing well! 

  32. I am so, so happy to read that you’re coming to a good place. (Also? Your boys are all just so stinking cute.)
    angela recently posted..My Forever HeartMy Profile

  33. Oh friend…the pills aren’t magic, we know that. And I know as a mom of a kid who struggles with anxiety, it’s the work YOU put in. YOU were not failing your boy. If you were? He wouldn’t be doing so much better. He wouldn’t have the meds that basically “kick it in the driveway” for him. I’m so happy that everything is going so well.
    MiMi recently posted..Easy Christmas Decor – Using What You HaveMy Profile

  34. I love this post, Shell. I’m so happy that the last year has been a series of improvements for your entire family. That is definitely something to celebrate! Cheers to things getting even better in the coming year. 
    Kelli @ Momma Needs a Beer recently posted..Local News: Stop Scaring Me Into Watching.My Profile

  35. So glad this year is so much better for all of you!:)

  36. I’m so glad things have gotten better. My son also has ADHD and meds help him so much! Without them he seriously cannot focus at all.
    Amber recently posted..Pretending To Be MadeMy Profile

  37. Amazing the difference a year can make!! Hope you all continue to make progress!
    Angie recently posted..The End.My Profile

  38. Picture me, right now, standing on my couch in a huge standing round of applause for you and Bear.  I wish I could say that meds have been as successful for my most challenging child as yours but I know that things are so very much better than without them.  How do I know–because 2 times in the 3 years he’s been on them he didn’t get them and both times I got calls saying, “Who is this kid?”   I am so happy for you both, mwah!!!
    Nicole DeZarn recently posted..The Best Wish I Ever MadeMy Profile

    • The difference really is night and day- and even though they don’t “fix” everything- they do help so much! 

  39. A brave story of success, and fighting the fight through difficult times. He continues to make progress because you continue to believe he can. Never stop.

  40. Shell, I had no idea. I’m so glad to hear your son is thriving. I think we were in tune with this week’s PYHO. Hugs!
    Boobies recently posted..Personalized Gift Ideas From Paper CoterieMy Profile

    • It’s been a very long year- well, really, a couple of years. It seems like we are finally headed in a good direction.

  41. I am so glad to hear that things have gotten better for you, your family and especially bear. If we could only go back in time and tell ourselves that things will get better it would make life much easier.
    Julia recently posted..My Over Achieving Mommy MomentMy Profile

  42. I thank you for sharing like this. It helps me to understand what I don’t know and haven’t experienced.
    I’m glad to read things are getting better.
    Carolyn recently posted..Little Acts Performed to Pay It ForwardMy Profile

  43. I can’t relate specifically, but I can in that less than a year ago when we got my daughter’s diagnosis, I was completely overwhelmed with the new lifestyle we were facing and I wasn’t sure I could do it. We still have challenges (she’ll be in preschool next year. EEP), but like you said, there are bigger mountains and we’re not starting from the bottom anymore.

    It’s great to hear that you’re all doing better and that it’s not a cry-every-day situation anymore.
    Greta recently posted..Carols by CandlelightMy Profile

  44. I’m so glad that there has been such a difference. Many hugs for the you of last year and many for the you of this year, too.
    IASoupMama recently posted..CrushMy Profile

  45. I am so glad to year that things are better this year. I remember reading your post last year and my heart hurt so much. You are an incredible (and damn strong) mom and your love and hard work clearly shows. 
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Stepping up to the barre with Olympian Lashinda DemusMy Profile

    • Thanks, Christine. All of us moms have to be strong for our kids. Maybe in different battles, but we all have to do it. 

  46. It is so hard when you are in the middle of anything to realize there will be a better day and a way out.  I am so glad you have reached and are reaching that place.  So so happy that he is doing so much better and that you have found what you can do to help him.  So happy for you. 
    Emmy recently posted..Proud Mommy Moments: Kissing and MarriageMy Profile

  47. I’m so glad you have been making progress. And I hope that in this next year the mountain continues to get smaller.
    Kimberly recently posted..Beso Rewards Program: Great For BloggersMy Profile

  48. I can’t believe it’s been a year already!  Just think of how big of a difference there is going to be next year now that you know all that you know!  Awesome!  Just for fun how about a few more ‘!!!’.
    Stephanie @ Babe’s Rockin’ Mami recently posted..It’s Hard to ExplainMy Profile

  49. {Melinda} I have dealt with physical challenges (cystic fibrosis) and cognitive challenges (ADHD) with my children and it is SO hard. You do often feel useless and ineffective to make things better. But I have seen so much progress. I think what you said about remembering that the feelings/obstacles you are experiencing at a certain time won’t last forever. That is so hard to do when you’re in the midst of the struggle. 

    So glad your Bear is doing well this year! THAT is a great feeling! 
    Mothering From Scratch recently posted..waiting out the teenage stormMy Profile

    • In the middle of a problem, it’s hard to see anything other than the problem and it’s near impossible to think that one day, things will be much easier. But, it’s true of almost all things.  Let’s see if I can remember that the next time I have a big struggle. ;) 

  50. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable familiarity concerning unexpected feelings.


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