If you’ve landed here before reading Part 1 of my ADHD diagnosis story, you might want to step back in time and catch that one before continuing … otherwise, please barrel right ahead! Last “episode,” I shared how, with hindsight, I’m seeing signs throughout my life — symptoms of the ADHD that I had either dismissed or missed entirely because I didn’t really understand ADHD.
“I would judge myself harshly as just too sensitive and in some way weaker than others. I felt different. It was embarrassing. I’d try extra hard to fit in, try to be the real me … into adulthood even, but inevitably I always felt like I was socially off-step, and that I walked with an emotional limp. I felt like an impostor trying to look like I could handle life like “regular” people, and that one day I’d be found out.”
Enter Therapeutic Foster Care
A few years ago, we became a therapeutic fostering family. We went through the entire home study process, including trauma training, and became licensed to foster/adopt in our state. At the time we opened our home, it was us, our son, and our dog, Princess, who was in her golden years.
Then We Waited
It took a while before the we received our first placement. There were several calls we had to decline for logistical reasons, but we also had several “almost” placements. We said yes, on more than one occasion, and even bought and borrowed things for children who were “supposed” to come live with us. Yet, several times, kids we couldn’t wait to meet never made it to our doorstep due to a last-minute change of plans at the 11th hour. This even included a potential pre-adoptive placement that fell through. The pre-adoptive miss was especially painful because we had hoped on it for months, preparing and believing it would happen. We had big, eager hearts — and even though I don’t know if it’s fair to say, to us, the pre-adoptive miss felt akin to a miscarriage. And we hadn’t even scratched the surface of what was to come. This system is definitely broken, y’all.
Eventually, foster children began crossing our threshold. We were able to start providing what’s called “respite” for other fostering families at our agency. Children already placed in stable foster homes would stay with us for a short time (5 nights or less) and then return to their permanent foster placement. This type of respite gives both the foster parents and the foster children a break from each other. It can actually go a long way towards maintaining a successful placement.
Providing these respites was pretty fun. It was like throwing a party for children for a few days, making them feel special, without the stress of digging deep to work through the effects of trauma. (I’m guessing it’s a little like grand-parenting).
Unfortunately, respite is also needed when children are displaced for not-so-great reasons, too. Often, children will need “emergency” respite because their current placement has disrupted or life situation requires they need something temporary until another permanent placement is found.
Well, we decided to provide emergency respite once for a sibling set of 3 for one night in the middle of the night. We only had 2 spare beds, but Children Services allowed one sibling to bunk on the couch for the night to keep the kids together and get them a night’s rest.
One whirlwind later, the children left and returned to our home several times as Children’s Services tried to find a home that could accept all 3 kids longterm. Long story short, they ended up finding a placement for one the siblings (Brad) and we were asked if we could foster the other two (Piper & Danielle) as permanent placements.
A Glimpse of the ADHD Stereotype
We’d provided respite for several children already with ADHD before we met Brad. We’d even seen some hyper behaviors. However, none of those compared to the loud, colorful picture of ADHD Brad painted for us in five intense days. If this had been the only image of ADHD we’d been exposed to, I would likely have never discovered my own. Brad definitely fit the stereotype. He was a little firecracker (and I’m sure still is) who impulsively got into everything, including trouble. In fact, we realized very quickly he needed constant supervision. However, when things were quiet and it was just the two of us, he was really the sweetest thing. He was so engaging, adorable and wickedly curious. He was just so inquisitive and interested in everything.
Starting with Our First Permanent Foster Placement
There was a steep learning curve that came with real-life fostering that went way beyond our training. But also, starting with our first permanent placement we began our daily lessons in the effects of trauma and ADHD in foster care. We saw first-hand how often trauma and ADHD co-exist. In case you might not know, the statistics for children in foster care with ADHD tower dramatically over that of other children and are highly influenced but the amount of trauma they often endure. In fact, children in foster care are 3x more likely to have ADHD than other children.
Needless to say, over the course of our years fostering, we have learned a great deal about ADHD first-hand, in ways which we never would have otherwise. In our specific experience, all but one of the foster children who walked through our door had ADHD. Just as each child’s personality was unique, so were their ADHD symptoms.
Piper could be physically hyper, in some ways like Brad, but otherwise her ADHD presented very differently. For example, Piper was the only other person I’d ever met who couldn’t leave her fingernails and cuticles alone — just like ME. I think either of us might go mad without access to fingernail clippers. Though, I had no idea at the time this odd little quirk had any connection to ADHD. Since then, I’ve learned that obsessing over your nails and picking at the cuticles is actually one of those easy-to-miss symptoms in girls.
Piper also shared my super power of being able to harvest 4-leaf clovers on demand. She was fierce, brave, beautiful, drawn to nature, terribly athletic, great at math, but had trouble focusing to read. Despite being a wise, old soul this intense, spunky girl was packed into a tiny body. Her ADHD meds, which she really needed, unfortunately robbed her of her appetite. First thing in the morning though, she would be ravenous!
Danielle was the inattentive, dreamy-type ADHD-er. She was much quieter than her sibs. While not as outwardly hyper as her siblings, I’m sure Danielle’s mind was ablaze with constant inner thought. She had plenty of impulsivity though and was definitely forgetful. I think she also had more emotional dysregulation that her siblings. This was often misunderstood and poorly received by her biological family, but she was so much stronger than she or her family gave her credit.
Though math was more of a challenge for her, she was able to read years beyond her level. I would say both girls were highly intuitive, but Danielle was especially empathetic and sensitive … something to which I can completely relate. Danielle shared my great skill at being clumsy, too. Either of us could easily trip and twist our ankle standing still on flat ground.
No Light Bulb Yet
I definitely started picking up on similarities between myself and the girls from that first placement on, but still no light bulb came on about the ADHD in me yet. I just still wasn’t connecting the dots.
What Am I Writing About Again?
And here’s where it’s super hard for me to stay on task and keep focusing on the point of my blog. Rather than going on about ADHD connections … I want to tell you a million-trillion-bazillion things about what a tragically beautiful gift it was getting to mother these 2 angels. Piper and Danielle, though they were troubled, had the biggest most grateful, loving hearts. For needing to unlearn so many bad habits, and needing to learn how to respect and treat each other like sisters and not enemies, it really spoke volumes to their character how they ALWAYS treated our son with the utmost respect. I will always consider it one of my greatest honors to have been given the privilege to love on these wild, sweet girls for the brief stint where our lives collided for those tumultuous months. To this day, it feels more like we spent years together rather than mere months.
Not too long ago, the girls were officially adopted by extended relatives that they came to know gradually over time while they were placed with us. They are in good hands there, and they are fiercely loved and understood — which is a darn good thing — because, I don’t think I’d be able to breathe otherwise. (Oh, and their adoptive momma is ADHD, too, btw. How about that!?).
To Be Continued (again) …
The thoughts that race through my head:
- This is far too long for any ADHD diagnosis story!
- What are you thinking, Imgy?!
- How can you not be done telling it yet?
- No one in their right mind will ever read all of this mess.
The Hubs keeps telling me though, “Just put it out there! It could help someone.” And there ya’ go … that’s all I need. So, I’m continuing on. Part 3 of my ADHD diagnosis story will be coming to you next week.
Stay tuned, sweet peeps ❤️