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. says

    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.
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    • Shell says

      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. 

    • Shell says

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

  2. says

    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
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  3. says

    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.
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  4. says

    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,
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  5. says

    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. 
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    • Shell says

      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. 

  6. says

    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.

    • Shell says

      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. 

  7. says

    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.
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    • Shell says

      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! 

  8. says

    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!
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    • Shell says

      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. 

  9. says

    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.
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  10. says

    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
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  11. says

    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 :)
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  12. says

    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!

  13. says

    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…
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  14. Sandra says

    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!

    • Shell says

      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! 

  15. says

    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.
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  16. says

    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!!!
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    • Shell says

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

  17. says

    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.

    • Shell says

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

  18. says

    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.
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    • Shell says

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

  19. says

    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. 
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  20. says

    {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! 
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    • Shell says

      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. 😉