A life change for the ADHD-labeled person.
The following article is based on real events and my personal experiences while working with a young ADHD-labeled client. Names have been changed on parents request to protect the client.
“Ik schrijf dit om dank u te zeggen. U hebt mijn leven wel heel erg verandert voor me. De laatste week ben ik weer vaker gaan mediteren, en ik voel me echt heel erg vers weer. Dit is gewoon een korte brief om dank u te zeggen, en dat ik het echt meen!”
“I’m writing this to say thank you. You have changed my life dramatically. I started meditating more frequently again last week and I’m feeling refreshed again. This is a short note to say thank you and that I really mean it!”
This short note was sent to me in a personal email by the young teenager David. A year before this message, David was experiencing high levels of anxiety and prolonged sleeping issues, for which he needed to become calm and more focused. He was diagnosed with ADHD during his childhood. His father had approached me to try sound and vibration and energy work as a means to address his ADHD-labeled behavior. At the same time the sessions were intended to stop the need for medication.
A growing discussion on ADHD and related evidence appear to challenge a clear diagnosis. Many of the ‘restless, hyperactive and distracted’ ADHD-labeled symptoms could be seen as a reason for placing young people in a box, manage them differently or place them under long-term medication. The latter being a terrible verdict for a life dominated by medication and a reminder of the stigma carried by the person. All this can lead to suppressing of character, personality and innate talents, and most importantly it is steering away from a focused movement into an impactful life change.
When my dad described my behavior as a child, his description would fit into that ADHD-labeled box; being a restless and moody child, full of endless activity, not listening and very stubborn, at times throwing tantrums, difficulty to focus at school, a dreamer or otherwise in a playful and creative mood, creative with music at young age and damaging furniture before I discovered drumming. Maybe I was just being a child, in need for different attention and nurturing of specific innate characteristics.
Especially in young children and teenagers, the brain is still developing, which makes for a great opportunity to create a change for life. What it takes is trust, determination, commitment from all parties involved, consistency in approach, building routine and taking time.
In David’s case, it took 3 weeks for the parents to decide to take him off medication and merely 3 months to create an impactful change for life that only needed consistent response and monitoring to keep moving forward. This 3-month change towards better manageable behavior is in line with the general findings on re-wiring of the brain under a consistent entrainment into an enhanced life experience.
Therefore, my approach to the ADHD-labeled child is based on the argument, supported by a growing group of critical thinkers, researchers and specialists, that the resolve of an ADHD diagnosis should include, or at least relate to, a nurturing life experience into a life based on a healthy self-esteem, authenticity and creative expression. This means, moving away from the standard ‘solution’ of prolonged suppression by medicated treatment of symptoms.
The parents informed me that David would enter the first session without the influence of medication, enabling me to assess his situation in ‘raw format’.
In my practice with clients I usually build my view on basis of observing a person’s individual context to life experiences, innate connections and sensitivities that are part of someone’s natural mental and emotional state.
David sat across me a in a composed-as-possible manner. A bit restless and sometimes wandering off with his attention; a usual ‘symptom’ for ADHD-labeled people. We had a first chat to become more familiar with each other and to find out his main challenges. Obviously, this was a bit uneasy for him at first but once David opened up more, he appeared a trusting character with a beautiful open-minded view on his life. Creative and a fast thinking intelligent mind, very quick in understanding, sensitive and intuitive.
Based on my impressions and interview it became clear that his main current challenge was hidden in feeling safe, being understood and being able to express himself creatively. These are aspects in behavior that may appear as being unfocused and a day dreamer. Self-esteem was suffering. Awareness and the attention to his internal challenges were ignored by much of his environment which in return influences the self-image.
From hereon we started to set the intention to address these basic elements in his first session. At the end of the session, David shared his experience and visualizations. This led me to asking him to take some quiet time alone for an exercise we discussed and which David could place in a meaningful context.
David’s mother then came to collect him, upon which he mentioned that he loved the session and that he felt really relaxed. When adding that he had been lying still for at least 45 minutes, the mother responded with surprised disbelief that this could even be possible…
He left with a Tith Nath Hanh book on mindfulness and a notebook to be filled up with ‘homework’ and recalling dreams that would become a regular activity. In my experience, and in context of psychological and spiritual development, dreams are an important source of messages for us all to work with and pay attention to in our daily life. The mindfulness approach supported David into start spending time meditating and clearing his mind while enforcing focus.
Besides the effects of the session, and to support his sleeping pattern, I suggested to listen to soundtracks for relaxation and focus which I had created over the past years. The intention of these tracks is to instil calm focus, relaxation and a quiet mind before sleep.
He came for another 2 sessions based on a similar approach, delivering on deep sleep and feeling rested, lucid dreaming and life-strengthening visualizations supporting his self-esteem and creative nature, after which the parents decided to take him off medication.
To enable a sustained successful approach towards positive change for David, both parents needed to be closely involved with his progress. Including the parents in a session delivers on better family alignment, a mutual understanding of David’s process and his need for support.
Although the parents were absolutely loving and caring for both him and the family all along, the family session exposed that both parents were holding on to old patterns and responses based on experiences and concerns of the child David growing up under his ADHD label.
While maintaining positive support within family context, but for the parents to move along and grow with David, they needed to become aware and accept that their son was changing into a ‘new’ person, growing away from his old behaviors.
The family session supported the parents into a greater awareness of their ongoing efforts to guide David through his daily activities while paying attention to mishaps and challenges. Parental guidance (however challenging), patience and taking time, ongoing expression of love, care and embracing personal connection is of great importance for a person to feel safe within a family relationship.
After a 5th session, the father contacted me that David had gone through an experience of fear, anger, disappointment, breach of trust. Although feeling helpless he managed to control the situation. The father decided to spend the night with him to make him feel safe and calm. This intimate situation led to some surprising confessions related to trust and personal views, opening the door to further removal of blocks, healing and strengthening.
David’s impactful response is a typical example of cathartic release; the breaking of blockages and purging of all fears and frustrations that were hidden. All were part of his block to be able to express his feelings and start functioning in a more open and focused manner. While these events may seem to be upsetting and experienced as scary, they are necessary to create breakthroughs in mental and emotional challenges that have been kept in place for so long: David was stepping into his personal strength.
When he shared this experience during the following session, he appeared to have cleared a lot of his personal challenges and felt more stable, focused, secure with dramatically reduced anxiety and more trusting through increased self-esteem and positive self-image. A clear improvement since the start of the sessions, within only a few weeks of work.
David visited me for a total of 11 sessions over 3 months, on the basis of which he could move forward into further adapting to gradual life changes, awareness of behaviours and new routines building his personal strength.
The experience through this holistic treatment, combined with the consistent positive support of his parents (who also took him traveling and going for meditation retreats), removed the need for a life under mind-suppressing drugs. David has slowly moved away from the ADHD labeled person he used to be; re-establishing his authentic personality and interests in life, creating new neural pathways to creative expression and a purposeful, enhanced positive outlook into future possibilities for personal growth and development.
On with life as it's supposed to be. Naturally.
Awareness, understanding, acceptance, change.