Shannon Thornton, M.A., LPC, ADHD-CCSP
Certified Clincal Services Provider by the Institute of ADHD Professionals

 
 Specializing in Executive Function Difficulties, Parenting, and Family Dynamics 

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Time Heals, but it Still Leaves Scar Tissue

Posted on May 8, 2019 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Triggers.  We all have them.  The pesky thing about triggers is that we think we know all of them, and then out of nowhere, they show up unannounced.  Triggers are there to protect us because they're stored in our limbic brain.  I'd just assume they stay there and not come out, personally.  Today I was triggered and I thought I'd write about it.  


Today would have been my best friend's 50th birthday.  She died in a car accident when we were 16.  She was my soul sister and even my blood sister.  (some of you actually remember doing that with friends...it would probably be creepy now, lol)  I am still very close with her family, and we named our daughter after her.  I'm very intentional about keeping her memory alive, and I devote time on her birthday to remember the innocent, authentic friendship we shared beginning in the 4th grade.  


There is no time table for grief, even though people will tell you there is.  The thing is, we all process it differently and in our own way.  Grief is any loss- a loved one, a job, a pet, a relationship, or even a big transition like a move.  It is part of the human experience and my thinking brain knows this.  My feeling brain forgets.  My feeling brain remembers what used to be and what I wish things were today.  There are numerous ways we heal from grief, and time seems to be the one thing that helps the most for me.  The wound slowly grows back together in an uneven, broken kind of way; scar tissue builds up around it to protect me from the gashing pain.  And most of the time I'm okay.  And then I'm triggered.  To cope with the sudden impact of emotions, I could talk about it, go somewhere far away in my mind and remember fondly, do an act of kindness in her memory, visit her grave.  Being that close to her is cathartic for me, even though in my faith, I know her spirit is no longer where I sit, brushing off the dust, and arranging the flowers.  


Another thing you can do is process some questions, and I am including them here.  You can journal them, share them with someone close, or just think about them.  Somehow, working through them dulls the ache and brings a sense of peace when otherwise there is none.  So the next time you're hurting, or grieving, or you're triggered out of nowhere about a loss you thought you were handling for the most part, consider answering these questions: 

Name the grief- what are you grieving, exactly?
The hardest time of day is...
I miss...
What is your fondest memory?
My support includes...
I wish my friends would say...
What season holds the most memories?
The things that help me the most right now are...
I can lean on...
I have hope in...


My hope is that this exercise is helpful for you in your grief.  Remember there is no time line, or rule, or "normal" except what is right for you.  The good news is, you will be okay...scar tissue and all.

Peace

I'll Do It MY Way

Posted on April 12, 2019 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)


Would this shirt look great on your kiddo?  Do you hear Frank Sinatra in your head singing, "I Did It My..... Way"?

Then this might help.

You want to know all about her day at school.  You and your spouse ask lots of questions when she comes home because you've missed her and you want to make sure she is happy.  You're trying to stay one step ahead of drama, so you figure engaging in conversation regularly is a good thing.

Guess what?  She feels smothered when y’all ask her about details of her day. My kids are the same way. Teenagers are pulling away and need more space. If we keep asking “did u do anything wrong/get tempted to do abc” too much, it pushes them away. Try letting them come to you a little more and see what happens. It’s hard but it has worked for me.


You're trying to come up with a list of expectations so you stop arguing about every single task at hand.  Somehow, your child can twist and turn things and you never get anything resolved.  So you each make a list of what the expectations should be of the kids in the house.  Your list is logical.  His list makes you think he doesn't want any responsibility and all he wants is freedom. You want to blow your top.  He doesn't understand you!

The lists y’all made- he viewed it as a perfect world/wish list activity, knowing full well most things wouldn’t happen. He was looking for conversation to open up dialogue and compromise. His brain does better with logical explanation than hard and fast regulations.


All she wants is junk food!!!

Only have in the house what you’re ok with her eating. Her brain craves carbs and sugar bc of the ADHD. Cereal and fruit or maybe yogurt/protein shake wb good in the morning. Again we r looking for compromise. These kids are so bent on their way that it is hard. The more we insist on our way, the worse it gets.


The same goes with make up, clothes, hair, etc...THE ANSWER IS COMPROMISE


We always argue about homework and chores

Grades and chores- worst arguments in every house. Best way to handle this is to give her open expectation. Ex: if she is making good grades, it doesn’t matter what her process is as much as the goal of good grades. If doing it at school or finishing a project the night before works for her, I’d let her do it. It will make u crazy bc u (and I !!!) would be freaking out doing life how she does it. But her brain is not like ours. Chores are the same. Try telling her she needs to have abc done by a certain time of day. She will want the freedom to do it when she wants to as long as it is done by the time u set. Dishes sb done right after the meal of course but other things that dont have as much a timeline can be more flexible.

 

Trust me, it is so hard raising a kid w ADHD. I have two. I have learned through experience and years of research that nothing we do will “make” them function “our” way. I had to learn to think bigger picture. My goal was for them to make good grades, know how to take care of themselves, be great people. They do better with flexibility and clear, consistent and communicated expectation. That also includes what happens if they are unable to accomplish our expectation too. Takes lots of patience, prayer, and communication. And creates gray hair lol!!


Peace~


Why do they LIE?

Posted on March 26, 2019 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I know you know this look.  And if you have a teenager with ADHD who is often caught in a lie, it makes you wonder if they are EVER honest with you.  Which makes you think back over all the stories they've told you.  And you wonder.  Then you question.  And you lie in bed at night and decide you're going to hug them everytime they come home from being out with friends to "let them know how much you love them", when you're really just sniffing them to see what they've been up to tonight.  Then you feel guilty.  How could I NOT trust my kid?  Wait, this is not MY fault!  HE did this to himself!  


Yeah.  You're not alone.  I'm a therapist and this still happens to me.  So you are probably wondering why your little darling would ever lie to begin with, even over little or inconsequential things like, "Did you take the trash out?"--- to which he says "Yes, mom!" and as you see the garbage truck drive by your house, you look down and the kitchen trash bag is still overflowing with last night's leftovers.  SERIOUSLY??  Here are some EXPLANATIONS, NOT EXCUSES as to why this may be happening.  

BLAME IT ON POOR EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING.

1. POOR IMPULSE CONTROL Little Lucy might be having a hard time saying no at parties these days, mom.  The school and the parties are inundated with vapes, dab pens, blunts, gummies, edibles, and alcohol.  Our kids can get it freely and get it on the cheap, and it is powerfully addicting.  Add a little RISKY BEHAVIOR predisposal because kids with ADHD don't have enough properly functioning dopamine receptors in their brains.  To combat this, they subconsciously seek stimulation for that prefrontal cortex that is ooohhhh sooooo dark and empty.  This stimulation may come in the form of non-goal- oriented movement, too much talking, irritating others, and yes, trying drugs and alcohol.  I will also tell you that where I live, teens think it's the norm to do one if not more of these things.  They have normalized it to the point that they're not afraid to talk about it or text about "hitting each other's vape", or putting their skills on SnapChat to show friends how talented they are with the things they can make the smoke do, coming out of their mouths.  (It's the weirdest thing)

2. INCREASED ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION Everything above can also be related to their moods which are often dysregulated.  This stuff makes you feel better.  For a little while.  Until you don't, so then you have to get more.

Bottom line is, they may be doing things they're not supposed todo, so they are lying to cover it up.  More lies become harder to remember, so things become sketchy.  Not saying your little darling is doing ANY of this, I'm just saying it could be a reason they are lying.  

3. POOR WORKING MEMORY Little Leroy had a math test last week.  Hearing nothing about it, you inquire as to its results.  "Fine", he says.  "Fine?" you ask.  "What did you get?"  He replies, "A B, mom...it's fine." and he blows out the door with a snack or two or three in his hand as he taps away on his phone to find a friend.  Or win a game.  Or look at memes.  Or whatever it is they do.  So you check online because it feels "off", and sure enough, he got a D.  Why would he lie to you?  You're not that mom that yells about grades!?  Well, tbh, he probably completely forgot.  Like for real.  Never crossed his mind to even find out what he got on the math test.  At this point, he probably doesn't even remember having taken it.

4. POOR COPING SKILLS Teens with ADHD often avoid the truth because, in the moment, it helps put off the shame or self-frustration they would feel if they actually owned up to the truth.  They don't like the fact that they are using substances or failing a class or forgetting assignments, so they just lie to get out of it and make the discomfort disappear for the moment.  They can't see past the the nose on their precious faces, so it's all about NOW.  What do I have to do or say to feel good NOW?  (enter procrastination problems with anything they don't want to do...see the correlation here?)



Unfortunately, they are really good at digging themselves into holes

and then not being able to get themselves OUT.  It becomes a way of life and of coping. 

So, when they lie, here are some things you can try:

(credit: understood.org)

1. Don't count it as betrayal.  Focus more on what the lie was about and less on the lie itself.

2. Anticipate what she might lie about.  Keep dialogue open

3. Never ask them if they did something that you KNOW they did, and expect them to come clean.  In other words, don't put them in the position to have to lie.  If they did something you know about, calmly confront them and deal with it.  Don't set them up for failure and trouble.  Confront them with evidence and get their input on how to fix it. 

4. Remove the shame of lying.  Don't excuse it but let her know you understand the thinking that went into her decision to lie.  Say, "let's figure out what got you here and how to get you back on track."

5. Don't dismiss drug or alcohol use as "normal" teen behavior.  THEY think it's normal, but find out why they're using.  If it's to mask feeling a certain way, figure it out and help them before it gets out of control.

Thanks for reading.  Forward to a friend if you think it might help.

Peace



When They Have Meltdowns

Posted on March 17, 2019 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)



Ever wonder which version of your child will get in your car at pick-up?

Say the same thing you've always said and your child turns into a screaming banchee out of a horror film?

Actually FEEL tension in your body when you know it's time to see you child, or better yet, help them with homework?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are not alone.  Your darling child is still in there, they're just having a meltdown.  They've flipped their lid.  They're having an out of body experience.  And they are impossible to deal with.  Here are some things that might happen in your house when said lid has flipped:

 

  • You may hear "No one umderstands me!" or "I hate my life!" or "Leave me alone!" or "I hate you/my friends/school/this house/ fill in the blank!"
  • You may hear doors slammed, loud music, or wailing and gnashing of teeth
  • There may be uncontrollable crying, screaming, lamenting, or nonsensical talk flying from your beloved's mouth with a forked tongue
  • They might start a fight with a sibling
  • They might get physically violent and smash things, put holes in walls, throw objects, or damage property
  • You may find yourself wondering if their head will spin and vomit will spew from their mouth
Unfortunately this is not uncommon.  Here's why: Emotional regulation is one of the executive functions that doesn't work at full capacity in some people with ADHD.  Imagine you have a shallow bucket of water in front of you and from the moment you wake up in the morning, every time you receive negative feedback of any kind, a ping pong ball is thrown at you and you have to keep each ball submerged under the water.  

At home, before 8:00am:
  • "Hurry up! You always make us late!"
  • "Seriously? How many times do I have to tell you to get your...?"
  • "GET. OUT. OF. BED."
  • "Is your brain attached to your body?"
Then at school:
  • "Why didn't you bring your book?  I told you to do that yesterday."
  • "Pay attention.  Are you listening?"
  • "You are so annoying, stop talking!"
  • "Dude, bring your own lunch money, I'm tired of covering for you."
Is it getting harder and harder to keep all those ping pong balls under the water?  You only have 10 fingers, remember?

Now you're home.  Finally.  And you have everything submerged...the ping pong balls, your feelings of inadequacy, embarassment, frustration, and confusion.  At any minute, you could lose your grip and all the ping pong balls go flying up and it's all over.  You have tried SO HARD ALL DAY LONG TO KEEP IT TOGETHER UNTIL YOU CAN'T ANYMORE.  So your mom or your dad or your sibling does one inconsequential thing, and you are done.  


And the ping pong balls go flying everywhere

This is what is happening to your child.  They lose control of their emotions and everything comes out.  It comes out at you, and not at school, because they know you love them and won't turn them away.  (aren't you the lucky one?)  

This is a critical point for you though.  

Here is what you can do in the moment:
  • Identify their emotion and tell them. "It looks like you had a really hard day."  "You are really mad!" "It sounds like today was rough!"
  • Give them space to cool down and offer them time alone to decompress
  • Provide affirmation you still love them. "I know you're upset.  Let's talk when you're feeling better." "It's going to be okay." 
Here is what you should NEVER do:
  • Raise your voice
  • Try to use REASON OR LOGIC.  They are not using the part of their brain that does this, and nothing you say or do can make them right now.
  • Use shame or judgement
  • Punish or threaten to take things away
  • Get too close/hit/slap
Here is what you can do after time has passed and they are calmer:
  • Remind them what feeling you saw and ask what happened today
  • Listen to what they say.  Don't offer advice or tell them what to do.  Don't interrupt.
  • Ask them how you can help
  • Talk about ways to manage their feelings next time to avoid the outburst again

I can help parents and kids through this with a toolbox of coping mechanisms created just for this type of problem.  If you or your child feel out of control or like your relationship is suffering because of it, call or email me.  I've got you.

Peace.

 

I Don't Belong Here

Posted on March 12, 2019 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

This is my first blog post.  Ever.  Seems odd because I usually have so much to say about, well...most things.  I have a lot to say about living in a household with three people who have ADHD and the first thing you must know is that I don't feel like I belong here.  If you are neurotypical, or don't have ADHD, and live in a household with others who do, read on.  You're not alone, even though it feels like it sometimes when you're at home.


I realized much later in life that the reason God gave me a husband and two kids with ADHD was so I could encourage others not to make the same mistakes I have and to know they had someone to talk to on a professional level who truly understood them.  It is one thing to be a therapist.  It's another to treat people who deal with the same "stuff" you do.  Some see this as a negative issue and call it "countertransference".  I call it survival and comradery.  I know your people's stuff doesn't look just like my people's stuff, and I may not have all the answers, but know this: it is tough being you sometimes.  


I get it.  My brain, if seen on a continuum with theirs, is well...at the opposite end.  My strengths are their weaknesses and sometimes I honestly don't know how they make it every day.  I also realized that their strengths are my weaknesses, so we balance (fairly well) most of the time.  I am naturally organized and methodical.  I am motivated by my environment being neat, tidy, orderly.  I cannot stand clutter and I run and hide where there is chaos.  I thrive in routine, and derive a little too much joy from crossing things off my lists- which remain on paper.  I am in the 21st Century on most things, but no app can quite compare to the dopamine hit I get from completing tasks and crossing them off a list with a perfectly sharpened #2 pencil.  I may or may not have been known to add things to my list after I've done them just so I can cross them off.  No, I'm not neurotic.  I am super cool and together (at least for appearances sake) and if I actually lose or forget something, look for zombies because we are likely in an apocolypse.


I have been pondering the thought of a podcast or blog or ebook...something to help my fellow man without having to make an appointment with me.  Low and behold, as the universe often does, a client confirmed that need today by asking me to start a blog.  Thanks, M.R., this is all your fault, lol.  I will write about ADHD and share tips and tricks and brain-nerdy facts to help you understand what is actually going on in the melon of the people you live with.  I will also likely write about how to deal with anxiety and vent (did someone say rant?) some about why I think our kids are so riddled with it.  Be forewarned, I have a soapbox or two hidden in my office which I may stand upon while writing.  I'll do my best to put a disclaimer in lights at the beginning of an entry in the event you want to by-pass said soapbox.


I'll leave you with this closing thought: We're All In This Together.  (insert obnoxious tune from HighSchool Musical here) :lol:  Until next time-

Peace



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