Living with ADHD when you are 8 years old

ADHD is a hot topic; some people don’t believe in it, others say it’s over-diagnosed, some believe in medication, others don’t. There are so many books written on this subject; I know this well. Sometimes I feel like have read them all.

But how does it feel when you are a child, and you have ADHD?
How do you see the world? 
What’s it like living with ADHD when you are eight years old? 

I have also written a book on the subject having gone through it with my daughter. But again, it’s only my journey, my perception, my story. This is what it’s like living with ADHD when you are a child; this is written in Sarah’s* words.

How do you feel in your life right now?
Happy, funny and I feel like I’m not being attacked anymore.

Who was I attacking you?
I don’t know it just felt like everyone was attacking me.

Tell me some great things about you?
I’m happy, and I see the funny side in everything. Oh and I like mermaids.

How do you feel about school?
I feel quite stressed. I want to try and do everything with my friends, and even when I am in trouble, I see the happy and funny side to everything, but this gets me into more trouble.

What do you get into trouble for?
Writing notes to my friend in class. Sometimes my friends break up with me, so I write letters to my friend, asking how I can get my other friends to like me again.

Do you have friends in school?
Yes, I probably have about three.

You tell me that some of your friends in school say you are naughty; why do you think they say that?
Well, I’m kind of over it now, but some people used to say that I was known in school for being naughty. My violin teacher said “are you still famous in school’? This made me feel really upset; I felt not loved inside.  A girl in the class made me laugh, so I started being silly and then the teacher laughed and then I had a good time after that. After that the teacher started being really nice to me, and then at home, I would practice and practice my violin, and the teacher got happier with me, and now I feel happy.

What classes do you like?
Art. I like it now, but before I don’t know what I did wrong. I kept getting points taken off me. I have now learned to be really creative, and I have learned not to be silly anymore since I have had those oils. (essential oils) 

How does it feel when you have your essential oils?
It makes me feel like Oh my God I have to put those oils on again. But, I actually I just pretend to do that to my Mum, as really I love putting them on every day.

What helps you to concentrate and work hard in school?
Mostly that I get my own desk, it stops me moving around everywhere. When I was in the Montessori school, I kept moving around and talking to everyone. I kept being really naughty and I kept locking myself in the toilet. At break times and lunchtimes, I used to try and sneak over the gate (and escape). I don’t know why I did that, I had this weird feeling inside me and didn’t know what to do. I ran away because people made me feel upset; I wouldn’t have climbed over the gate if I was having lots of fun. People made me feel not nice inside, so I tried to run away, but they kept chasing me.

What do you enjoy most in school?
My favourite work is reading and writing, and I have a little booklet with sentences and words, and I’m learning cursive writing, and I love it. I also really like math’s.

Your teacher told me that you get up and down from your seat a lot, why do you think you do that?
I used to like sneaking out as I wanted to get out of my work time. It was actually better sometimes going to the toilet than doing loads of work. Also, sometimes I see a paperclip on the floor, and I get up to get it as I think that I can use it for my workbook. 

Do you find it hard to sit down and do your work?
Yes very.  Every day I open my little draw, and I start writing. I have this little drawing workbook, and when I get bored of doing work, I just open it up and start writing little notes to my friends. Things like how my friends can be friends with me again.
I probably do my work for like 20-30 minutes or something, and then I start writing in my little book. Sometimes I do my work, then I take my notebook out and write in that and then shove it back in the drawer and start writing again. At recess, I read it to my friend and she goes through it with me.

You do cartwheels a lot, why do you think that you do this?
I don’t know; it makes me feel nice. It doesn’t get rid of any energy which is weird; it just makes me feel really happy. It’s like a happy feeling like making a snowman with your best friend or something like that. When I do a cartwheel, I feel really happy and excitable inside.
I just can’t stop doing them; it makes me feel alive when I do a cartwheel.

You are really good at running; how does this make you feel?
The energy just flows through me when I run – I feel these waves on the top of my head, and somehow I can run faster when I feel the waves.  When I did the 2000 million metre run (I think she means 1km) cross country race I realised that I could run really fast and that I could overtake like 3 or 4 or more people and that made me feel really good.

What are your hobbies?
Gymnastics, making stuff; dens, drawing pictures and I love art. I love watching TV; I love watching Mermaids, it’s really inspired me to follow your dreams. I want to be a mermaid when I grow up.

How do you feel when you watch TV?
I feel OMG I am finally getting a break! A break from tidying and stuff. When I watch TV, it makes me feel like I can’t stop staring it at, like I feel connected to it, like mesmerised by it. I can focus, and I can’t stop watching it.

What are the things that you don’t like?
I don’t like eating tomatoes. I don’t like tidying the playroom when I could be watching TV. I don’t like my sister in my room; especially that one.

How do you find doing homework?
It’s actually quite fun; I like it. It’s math’s and I love it, I’m actually addicted to doing Math’s.

How you feel about reading?
It’s actually quite fun, but I do think oh no I don’t want to read, but when I read really easy books, I think actually this is quite fun. 

How do you feel when the teachers tell you off, and you aren’t allowed to play at recess?
I feel like I’m going to cry. Running around at recess and lunchtime gets rid of so much energy. There is field in school that is something like 80 metres long and I do cartwheels all the way along without stopping – I never run out of energy.

Tell me about Mummy and Daddy?
They used to be quite mean and listen to all the scary doctors, but then we went to see a really nice Doctor, who had a dog and he told my Mummy that ADHD wasn’t a bad thing.
My Mum found something on the web or like in a book or something or the TV about oils (essential oils); she brought quite a lot of oils and put stickers on them. I have four special types of oils called Vetiver, Serenity, Balance and Cedarwood. After I had those oils, I really had a chance to be good. I started to be really good again, and I really liked that, and it felt really fun to have the oils. 
I think my parents are really nice and kind, and they are gentle with me now. When Mummy was seeing the Doctors, my Mum listened to them, and it didn’t turn out very good.  But then she found out that ADHD wasn’t a bad thing, and she found the oils, and it made me feel really happy and safe.

Mummy and Daddy used to be really strict with you and put you on time out, how did that make your feel?
It made me feel really angry, I kept banging and slamming stuff down, and whacking stuff. I kept whacking my door and slamming my door and slamming my chair down and slamming it against the wall and being really naughty. It didn’t feel very nice; it felt like I was being attacked again. I don’t know how to explain it.

Do you think going on timeout helped with your behaviour?
No, it didn’t, not at all. It made me worse, so much worse.

What do you think ADHD is?
I’m not sure. At the start, I thought it was a bad thing and that it was really bad for children if they had ADHD. I don’t think that I have it now, I feel like I have worked my way through it. I didn’t know what I was doing for like 3 or 4 years or something and then now I have just stopped. It’s like it’s passed away, or something has chomped at it, and now it’s gone.
I feel like I don’t have it anymore, I feel like a normal person now.  I used to feel really different from everyone else, and I didn’t understand it and then one day I went up into my room, and I was like has someone read my mind? There was a new picture on the wall in my bedroom, and it said ‘why fit in when you when born to stand out’. 
That made me feel really happy.

These were the exact words of my beautiful daughter who is almost nine years old and has ADHD. She is unrecognisable from the child that she was a year ago, and we are immensely proud of far she has come.
For us as a family, the moment we stepped away from the labels, theories, judgements, experts and medication – was the day that Sarah’s future when from dark to light.
It wasn’t easy; it took courage and patience. But, over the last 12 months, we have watched as her anger, anxiety and defiance were replaced with love, laughter and creativity.

I only hope that our story can inspire other families to believe that ADHD can be a positive thing, not a life sentence.

With love & light,

Susy x

* Names have been changed to protect identities