What is “normal”?

I don’t often post about Abby…but something happened yesterday that got me thinking a lot about what is normal, and what isn’t.

A topic about ADD/ADHD came up on my parenting board.  One of the mom’s is concerned about her daughter, and another mom posted an article of symptoms of ADD and ADHD in girls.  A THIRD mom posted that “she could fit herself into any one of those categories at some point in time or another.”  So I got to thinking about that.

The third mom talked about having 3 or more sewing projects going at one time…and they would get finished when they got finished.  I guess I think that’s pretty normal.  Now, I’ll use ME as an example.  I often will have several CHORES going…because I get distracted while I’m cleaning my half bath (you know…a sink and a toilet…not to hard to clean in one shot) and start doing something else, when I get distracted and start something else, and before you know it, my entire house is partially clean, but not one single thing is FULLY cleaned.  THAT doesn’t feel normal to me.  Or a child who is so distracted by just about everything, that they can’t finish one worksheet…all day long, not just occasionally, that’s when it becomes not “normal.”

She talked about running off and forgetting her purse…or as a child, forgetting her boots when she left school.  THAT to me is normal.  My friend’s story about her daughter coming home from school with only one shoe. (and no boots, there were no boots involved in the story.)  THAT isn’t so normal.

In the space of writing this post…I was just gone for a least 20 minutes.  I stopped to do something, and completely forgot that I was writing.  Normal for something like that to happen occasionally.  I’m embarrassed to admit how many times something like that happens to me.  Twenty minutes…I don’t think it’s ever been that FAST before.

Racing thoughts?  Sure, everyone has times when they can’t shut their brain off.  However, my brain, literally, never shuts off.  It’s like being in a crowded lecture hall before class starts.  I have a constant buzz going through my head.  Thoughts then “cross my mind” and I have to expend time and energy to decide whether it’s something I need to focus on.  Was I remembering that I forgot to turn off the oven, or was I remembering and reliving the embarrassing conversation I had with someone 7 years ago.  Yep, I do that…I don’t seem to ever really “forget” anything, AND, I get anxious and sick to my stomach thinking about them, as if they happened 10 minutes ago.

I feel like I have to justify my decision (for lack of a better word) to put Abby on Adderall.  For some reason, ADD and ADHD have been classified as character flaws, rather than a medical diagnosis.  Not only that, it’s considered a character flaw for the PARENT as well as the child…or maybe rather than the child.  As if we parents don’t beat ourselves up enough about the genetic Molotov Cocktail we’ve passed on to our children.  If it turns out that our children need medication to function normally in school and at home, it’s because WE don’t want to parent them.  It’s because WE’RE too lazy to take the time to TEACH our children how to function.

I didn’t realize we could TEACH the brain to use neurotransmitters correctly.  It’s like saying it’s time to teach the Pancreas to use insulin correctly.  Sorry, Sally…your pancreas doesn’t work correctly, but we’re going brow beat and bully it into submission.  You won’t need insulin…you just need to teach it to work.  (it’s been pointed out to me that apparently, my comparison of psychiatric meds to insulin isn’t a valid one, because no one is going to DIE because they didn’t take ADHD medication…but, oh well…I’m going to continue to use it)  Or, perhaps I can TEACH Mariella’s stomach to move food at the proper rate…then she won’t need medication, or teach her lungs to move air efficiently.  No one seems to question my “decision” to medicate her PHYSICAL ailments, and yet people think it’s OK to not only question my “decision” to treat Abby’s ADHD (and her depression, but that’s neither here, nor there) but to demean me, question my desire to parent, and basically make me feel like crap. (because I don’t do that to myself, or anything)

So…what IS normal?  Every spring, I have a certain conversation with my girls.  We have several tulips (I think) that grow in a most inopportune spot of our lawn.  Abby gets mad because we mow them down…telling me that they are flowers.  I tell her that any flower that grows where you don’t want it is a weed.  It’s not that it’s not a pretty flower…but if it’s where you don’t want it…it either needs to be moved to where you want it, or it gets mowed over.

So, while most people have symptoms of ADD and ADHD at some points in their lives…I’d say that’s pretty normal…but when the symptoms begin to impair function, then it becomes not normal.  Someone might be *clinically* quite severely affected by ADD or ADHD…but if it doesn’t impair their life or ability to function…then it’s not a “disability.”  It’s normal FOR THEM.  I’d be quite happy for them, that they were able to learn coping techniques, etc.  Not everyone can do that, and it’s not fair to say that they should have to.

Anyway…I’m afraid I’ve gotten rambley and probably off topic.  I’ve been distracted and torn away and come back several times.  I’m not sure it even makes sense.  I had to get it off my chest.


9 Responses to “What is “normal”?”

  1. 1 kerri October 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    You would have loved the speaker we had in education last year who discussed ADHD from the perspective of both a parent AND an educator. And, within that, the fact that it’s a DECISION whether to medicate kids with ADHD or not.

    I think there’s HUGE misunderstanding and misinformation about ADHD in all circles, and that’s something that’s gotta be changed.

    Did you argue with this parent, or just not waste your time?

    • 2 mommato2beauties October 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      I say I “decided” to medicate…in as much as I “decided” to medicate Mariella…it’s not really a choice.

      Having not gone the medication route immediately, we tried behavior modification and other strategies first. She was diagnosed at 3, and didn’t start medication until age 9…and SHE noticed, and appreciated the difference in herself. I think THAT’S a sign of treatment success.

  2. 4 mommato2beauties October 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    *Everything is in degrees, and I agree with you (I think I actually SAID I agree that ADD and ADHD is over diagnosed, AND over medicated.) BUT, perhaps unless you live with, and love someone who can barely function on some days because they can’t focus on what needs to be done…until you’ve watched your child hysterically cry because yet again, they’ve forgotten their homework, or agenda or other necessary item for homework at school (and not because they’ve been yelled at or even spoken to about it…because they are angry at themselves for doing it) or when you hear your child, amidst their tears because they’ve gotten in trouble AGAIN, for doing something that was impulsive and really not safe…and they cry that they TRY to be good, and they just can’t…they must be broken…and WHY did God make THEM wrong? Perhaps it’s just not something that someone can comprehend, unless they are living it.*

    that was my final statement to her. I didn’t really argue at all…though if you ask her, she would probably say I was horrible…*I* thought I was very respectful. I closed with saying “I guess I’ll have to respectfully agree to disagree with you on the subject of ADD and ADHD

  3. 6 Amy October 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I’ve told about my relative with an autistic son – well, he also has ADHD, and she was at a dinner party a few months ago where a woman told her she didn’t “believe” in ADHD.


    Now, I don’t think this woman knew my relative’s son had been diagnosed with it, but still.

    When people say they don’t believe in a documented condition, I don’t even know how to respond to that kind of thinking.

    And the thing is, their reasoning behind the non-belief is usually not just faulty but outright ridiculous. My personal favorite? “Well, ________ didn’t even exist 20 years ago, so how come so many people have it now?”

    Right. That makes sense.

    Because the world never changes or anything. And we never see new illnesses or conditions or anything. I mean, what do people like that think of HIV/AIDS, which didn’t exist until one day, it did?

    • 7 mommato2beauties October 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      this ladies response to me was “when more people are diagnosed with it than aren’t I question it’s validity”

      I SHOULD have been diagnosed with ADHD when I was a child…but way back when…I was considered a brat who didn’t live up to my potential. I wonder how many people who are my age or older…the ones who “tried college” but decided it “wasn’t for them” (especially girls) actually have ADD or ADHD, but it wasn’t diagnosed…because when I was a kid…you had to literally be climbing the walls before you got a diagnosis. It doesn’t mean it’s a new diagnosis..it just means that we KNOW more about it. Just like Autism…more people are diagnosed with it because more is know about it, etc.

      Anyway…thank you. I’m in a pretty good place now…but occasionally, something like this happens, and it hits me in the gut.

  4. 8 Amy October 7, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I know! The fact that more kids are diagnosed is a GOOD thing b/c then hopefully they can get help and not just categorized as “bad” or “lazy” kids.

    I think people resort to these kind of comments partly b/c they’re scared. As numbers climb for autism, ADHD, and even asthma, it’s terrifying not to know WHY and probably, to fear a similar diagnosis in your own child(ren). If they can tell themselves that the conditions are over-diagnosed, maybe they trick themselves into not worrying, you know? Because if you don’t “believe” in something, then you don’t have to fear your child has it.

    In my relative’s case, the woman who didn’t believe in ADHD was pregnant with her first child.

  1. 1 CERTIFY NOT, BUT INTERPRET CAN TRY. | Run 2 Win Trackback on October 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm

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