In 4th grade, Drake was diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Dysfunction. What does that mean? That means he couldn’t sit still in class. He could spend hours, literally, playing video games, but he couldn’t focus long enough to get his homework done. But those are only symptoms. The problem was that his mind was going so fast that the rest of us couldn’t keep up with him, his fingers couldn’t write fast enough for his thoughts, and he sure couldn’t read fast enough to keep his interest in a book. As someone who loves to read and write, this was extremely frustrating for me. For Ed, he just couldn’t understand why Drake couldn’t learn to deal with the problem. Typically, ADHD kids have additional problems, such as learning to mind and learning basic socialization behaviors. Because they want so much to be just like the other kids or they don’t like the way the medication makes them feel, they detest taking the medicine and may palm it if given the opportunity.
So we spent years trying to get a medication that would work for him, one that didn’t leave him feeling “sluggish”, and learning how to deal with our own frustration, anger, and pain. Yet getting Drake the proper help for his dysfunction was our main concern. Getting help for ourselves was not even a thought. We lived with this for years, not knowing that others were going through similar situations all over the country.
We learned differently when we found NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I know, I know, it sounds like we felt Drake was psychotic or something but we didn’t and he wasn’t. NAMI is concerned with educating the public on the brain. ADHD was only one illness. NAMI also has information on autism, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression, OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and Tourette’s Syndrome. Anytime someone mentions mental illness, visions of old-fashioned insane asylums come to mind and there is, even today, a stigma attached to anyone associated with this issue. Yet there are thousands of productive people in today’s society with one or more of these problems and you may know some of them without being aware of it.
Somewhere we saw information on a class the local NAMI chapter was giving and we signed up for it. It was the Family-to-Family Program, a free 12-week course for family caregivers and it was quite an eye-opener for both of us. Not only do the trainers give you information about brain disorders, they discuss medications and side effects, current research, various techniques such as communication techniques, and how to handle a crisis and a relapse. They help you to understand what your loved one may live with on a daily basis and they help you learn how to cope with the frustration, anger and pain you may be going through. They are striving to build a coalition of caregivers who will then turn around and help other caregivers, so that no one has to suffer in isolation. It also helps you to learn to cope so that your loved one can successfully work toward recovery.
Much of what we learned was not applicable to Drake’s situation but every class was interesting and had something that we could use. If you are interested in learning more, you can go to www.nami.org. There are state organizations in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico and there are over 1,200 local affiliates nationwide. Here in the DFW Metroplex, there are local affiliates in Dallas, Fort Worth, Lewisville, and Plano.