ADHD, Medication, and Homeschooling

Last week I had promised that this week I would post fresh sewing content, but my little brain just isn't ready to veer away from the topic of ADHD yet. So check back next week if you are here for the crafty version of me, I sewed a Stasia dress this week (and made my first shoulder/sleeve cap alteration), and finished another silk camisole that I'm dying to tell you about.


So last week was reeeeeeaaaaalllllllyyyyyyy interesting for me. On Thursday I tried a new anti-anxiety medication that my psychologist had recommended, and it went horribly wrong starting about an hour after I took it. When I was in my 20's I regularly took MDMA and ecstasy (I'm not proud of this, I was really messed up after a traumatic divorce). This medication affected me very similarly to bad ecstasy, except with out any of the fun bits. I was shaking, I was feverish, I was clenching my jaw involuntarily, my vision went wonky and my pupils dilated, I was exhausted but unable to sleep, my heart was racing. I had kids at home that I was supposed to be homeschooling, but all I could do was lie on the couch under a blanket and wait for it to pass while my partner kept the kids occupied. I called my doctor and she said it sounded like I was having a serotonin reaction, and that I should stay away from all SSRIs and SNRIs in the future as my body was hyper sensitive to serotonin.


The very next day I had a bottle of the lowest dose of Adderall XR waiting for me, but I waited a few days to try it to give my body a chance to balance back out, and frankly I was really nervous to try another new medication without knowing how it was going to affect me. Saturday was very challenging for me because I realized if I don't find a medication that works for me I am always going to struggle with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and sensory issues and when I'm spending so many spoons every day just trying to stay internally balanced, it leaves very little wiggle room for handling my emotions around my daughters.


Sunday morning I started out our day with a home school lesson to catch up a little bit from what we missed on Thursday. I took my girls for a walk back to our pond and we did a nice deep dive into the world of frogs. We started the morning by Feeding cabbage moth caterpillars to the little frogs living on the edge of the pond. After that we looked at the frog life cycle in our Nature Anatomy Book by Julia Rothman.



Next the girls grabbed some nets to catch small frogs and tadpoles and look at them up close in some plastic containers. Finally, when we get back to the house they colored in their frog life cycle pages and make scientific observations in their #pondnaturejournals by @raising_up_wild_things about their up close looks at the frogs.


While the girls were coloring, I kept walking over to the medicine cabinet to pick up the bottle of Adderall, and then put it back down like it contained hot lava. I had so many fears. Would it change me? Would I get angry like I had heard other people claim it had affected them? Would I lose my creative spark? Would I turn into an emotion-less zombie? How could a stimulant calm me down? I watched 5 or 6 YouTube videos of other people's first experiences taking PRESCRIBED Adderall.


By 11 am I decided to just do it. I ate a large meal anticipating I was going to lose my appetite (again based on other people's experiences) and wanted to prevent pill induced nausea and chucked the little capsule down my gullet. And then I started the wait. What was going to happen? After 30 minutes I still felt normal. An hour later I felt calmer somehow. My mood began to improve. Little noises that used to irritate the crap out of me, like loud trucks zooming down the road in front of our house, didn't bother me. I felt more collected internally. All my thoughts and emotions were still there, but it was like they were suddenly organized instead of spinning around like an brain tornado. I had the same amount of energy I always do, but I was able to use it more effectively.


As the day wore on, I kept wondering when the medication was going to wear off. I started to feel physically tired around 9 pm, but my mind was still cranking away. And then 10 came, and we decided to go to bed. I lay there in bed until 2 am, I was still wide awake. I started to get upset, but realized I was so deep into the medicine at that point all I could do was ride the wave and hope it wore off eventually. Sometime after 2 I decided to focus on just my breathing. I did not get upset with myself when my thoughts began to wander, I just kept bringing them back to my breath. In, out. In, out. I did this for 10 or 15 minutes, but my mind kept wandering. It took too much thought to concentrate, and was making me feel more awake, not less. And then my moment of insomnia genius hit. I started making up insomnia affirmations and repeating them to myself in my mind.


I can go to sleep.

I can sleep peacefully and deeply.

I will wake up feeling rested.

I'm allowed to relax.


It worked. I only did affirmations for a few minutes and before I knew it my alarm clock was going off. It was 5 am. I decided to double down on physical exhaustion for Monday night, and got up with the alarm clock even though I only had 2.5 hours of sleep. I got up, kissed my incredulous boyfriend (why are you getting up if you didn't sleep?!) and got dressed for a run. My thinking was that if I tried to catch up on the sleep I missed, I was just going to set myself up for a groggy, grumpy day. I wanted to be up before my kids got up at 6. I wanted to go for a run to trick my body into thinking we were good to go for the day (BTW, I haven't run on purpose in about 10 years). I wanted to be hungry, make myself breakfast and try again.


The results from the medication the previous day were positive, the insomnia was just something I was going to have to find a workaround for. So I stayed active all day. I homeschooled. We went for a walk, I worked in my garden. I took my medication again, an hour earlier than the previous day. I was mentally prepared for another sleepless night, but I made plans to do all the sleepy things leading up to bed. No coffee after noon, stay active, hot shower before bed, no screens an hour before bed, drink a cup of hot tea and read a book in bed.


I'm happy to say that even though my sleep was more broken up than normal, I did manage to sleep about 6 hours last night. I had to get up at 430 the following morning for work, but I still felt pretty good.


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Yesterday was supposed to be my planning day for week four of homeschool. I have started listening to podcasts and watching various TED Talks about ADHD and parenting and homeschooling and unschooling.


The last 3 weeks of homeschool have gone simultaneously better and worse than I expected them to. The girls and I are enjoying learning together. They are learning. They are having fun. They are doing really well with the routine we have figured out. And at the same time, things have not gone as expected. Realizing why Abby has struggled in public school so much has really been eye opening for me. Especially because she struggles so much with some of her home school lessons. The curriculum we have invested in is not 100% perfect for her. It's great in some places, mostly helping me with lesson planning. And my little kindergartener loves the Waldorf approach. But the social studies lessons for Abby are so boring. She is not enjoying it at all, which means it is taking longer each week to get her to finish these assignments. She does not want to learn about fictitious Hebrew boys that lived 3000 years ago. She doesn't want to write about lessons she doesn't care about. I know she is bright, but these lessons have got her feeling like she is no good at school work.


We also had to deviate from our math program. She loves math, but because of Covid, she missed the end of 2nd grade math, and was not even close to ready to pick up with 3rd grade math. So I picked up a Singapore Math book for 2nd grade and we are starting with a thorough review to get her self-confidence back up. I expect that as fast as she is working through the workbook, she is going to be ready for 3rd grade math in no time. The final hurdle we have come to is that Abby really struggles with noise interference when she has writing assignments. She, her sister, and I all sit together at the dining room table to do homeschool together, and Sparrow is a typical noisy little sister.



So I am skipped my planning day to ruminate on how to adjust things to accommodate Abby's learning challenges. I want her to be excited to learn and explore her interests. I don't want her to dread reading or writing, I hate seeing her cry every single day because she is frustrated. I love being there for her and loving her, and telling her we will figure it out together. She is worth fighting for. I did set up a little desk for her in my office, which has glass doors that can be closed when she needs quiet to think, but doesn't want to feel separated from us.


I'm really considering leaning into unschooling so we can do more deep dives into her interests, and pull multiple units together into something she is excited about.

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