It is uncanny how often I see myself in my son. His stubbornness he gets from his dad (Oh yes I did!!) and his autism, but so many other qualities, like the genetic failures,(uh oh) he gets from me. Or, as my dad likes to say, "The nut doesn't fall too far from the tree."
All my life I've felt crazy. I imagine that is how most people with Autism and ADHD feel. I only recently got treated for my anxiety and began to feel like a real live human! Imagine that! The difference my anxiety medication makes in me is like night and day. Anxiety is also extremely common in children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I decided to look into the possibility that I also have ASD and ADHD. I didn't want to admit it when people suggested it; just like I didn't want to admit I should take medication for anxiety. But the puzzle pieces started forming, then started fitting together, and it was like 'A Beautiful Mind' all over again. Well, not really, but you know what I mean! I was Russel Crowe, seeing all these signs before me that I had never seen before. It was amazing. And scary. But mostly, relieving.
I felt like Mr. Burns from 'The Simpons', tapping my fingers together and saying, "Excellent...." Things I assumed were quirks or personality defects were really symptoms of a bigger problem.
I began by taking all the tests I could find on ASD and ADHD. Funny how in filling them out several times for my son I never once put myself in there.... hmmmmm..... I began to see how many of those qualities I have, and how I have compensated for them. For instance, Caffeine.
Those of you who know me know of my love for Diet Coke. It is a "quirky Ballard family tradition"..... Red flags anyone??? That aside, you may not know WHY I reach for the Diet Coke so often. It has long been my comfort of choice. In stressful situations, in troubled times, a Diet Coke CALMS me down. I smile when I think about how many times I've joked with my mom about feeling crazy and needing a Diet Coke. Researchers have discovered a lot of interesting information about caffeine and its effects on the brain in people with and without ADHD.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals are already using caffeine to self-medicate ADHD in themselves or their children. Many sufferers find it has the opposite effect than it does in other people: instead of making them more active and stimulated, it actually has more of a “calm-down” effect, and encourages sleep."
("Caffeine's Effect on ADHD Symptoms" by Jane Collingwood)
Interesting how the same words I've been using all my life were applied in several scientific studies! But caffeine wasn't all. I started to see how I am fickle in my attention to things. I often tell Cody when he is speaking that I only want "the Cliff's Notes" of what he has to say when it involves too many details. I day dream a lot, and I mean... A LOT. I'm constantly moving at least one part of my body. This is usually a foot. What I thought might be Restless Leg Syndrome (such a ridiculous name) was really ADHD. And HELLO!!! Impulsive behavior?? You know I've got that. Thankfully, maturity and medication for anxiety have really helped me with that. But those of you who knew me as a child and before medication adult know that I've got these symptoms listed under ADHD.
- Be very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
- Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
The tests on ASD were of a similar nature. I seemed to see myself in every page, in every symptom. So much so that I had to honestly ask myself if I was being too liberal with my acceptance. I certainly don't want any more difficulties in life, but I know what I've been dealing with for the last 30 years, and a lot of it ain't all that pretty. And knowing the why behind the problem is actually pretty relieving. I came to the conclusion that I probably have a very mild case, (or at least it has become more mild as the years go by) of ASD. I know that I sure hate loud noises, crowded places, tags on my clothes, and fluorescent lighting.
There are many other symptoms of ASD, and I do not have them all certainly, but here are a few I struggle with:
- Resistance to being touched.
- Difficulty or failure to make friends with children the same age.
- Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly.
- Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches).
- A strong need for sameness, order, and routines (e.g. lines up toys, follows a rigid schedule). Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
- Clumsiness, abnormal posture, or odd ways of moving.
- Difficulty with emotion.
- Visually minded; learns things be seeing better than by speaking direction.
I still sleep with my baby blanket, and I am OBSESSIVELY attached to it. I don't NEED it to sleep, but I sleep a lot better with the smell of it and the feel of it. Usually, it sleeps right next to my face. :)
I enjoy routine, knowing what to expect, and not being unpleasantly surprised. I don't like to feel any more out of control than I have to. This is common with lots of people with ASD. Cody always teases me when I say, "Let's go over the plan." He says, "What plan? Just go with it." I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. I can't really explain why, but I like to know what to expect. It is comforting. I also want to apologize to all those, especially in laws, who have seen me as impatient when in the planning process. I don't mean to be pushy, I just like well founded easy to execute plans. Preferably in advance. :)
It is true, I am a visually minded person. I can do anything as long as I'm SHOWN how to do it first. Verbal instructions are often lost on me. I think this is another reason I struggle so much with math. I can't see forms of algebra or calculus in a way that makes sense to me. Basic math, sure. But after that, that is what calculators are for. :) My son got upset in church the other day because of a question about making his bed. He realized that he didn't know how to do it. He knew how people SAID you should do it, but he doesn't see mom do it much so he didn't know. And he got upset and we had trouble. Because he needed those visual ques. I refuse to apologize however. I still maintain that making beds is stupid and I won't do it more often than necessary.
T-REX is the only one who'll be making beds at my house.
Clumsy? Ha! Just yesterday I broke my toe. And Hyrum runs into stuff several times a day. Oh, and remember when I broke my leg in 4 places and sprained the other leg WALKING down stairs??? Granted, that wasn't my fault, but those things happen to me.
Last but not least; difficulty with emotions. Raise your hand if I've ever scared you with an emotional outburst. Okay, okay!! At least I admit it, right? My son struggles with this too. We just don't understand that other people don't feel as crazy as we do, as helpless as we do, and as vulnerable. I could go on and on with examples in my life, but lets just agree that emotions are a constant struggle in this house hold. Mine are 99% normal with my medication. I hope that someday Hyrum's will be too.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with me all these years and helping me get to this point. Hopefully the beautiful minds in this house just keep getting more beautiful.... or something. And until then, pass me a Diet Coke.