My Son Wouldn’t Sleep

Our adventure in an even more disordered life

My son was always very dramatic. From a young age we said he was destined for a career as an entertainer. When he was diagnosed with ADHD we began to see  his angry outbursts, exaggerated reactions and emotional outbursts were all part of ADHD. He felt so much at such a young age it was hard for him to handle everything he experienced.

That he felt so much and deeply is also what gave him his emotional kindness to others. He has always been in-tune with what others feel and even adult emotional situations. Like when I am pissed at my husband and give him ‘the look’. I quickly learned I had to hide that from him because he was able to understand emotions on a deeper level than his sibling.

We soon experienced the effects of all the things supposed to help him. Clean eating, routines, de-cluttered living space, and medication helped him improve. He was not only able to attend school, but thrive there and made friends.  But with change, even positive, comes adjustments.

His anxiety started with questions like; “what would happen if the power went out in winter, would we freeze to death?” It showed itself every time he had to go somewhere new, or start a new task like a sports team or school year. He wouldn’t sleep for weeks leading up to it and be agitated, usually to the detriment of his sister. At one point when taking the kids away for spring break I had to pack everything and pretend to be taking him to school, just to make sure he slept the nights leading up to the trip.

For four months my son would not fall asleep before midnight and was still waking up and going to school. He was functioning in school, but would come home moody, agitated and just generally tired. We tried different medications, lavender oils, eating habits, etc. to help him sleep, worked with his teachers to make sure all was ok with school, all to no avail. Our Doctor then told us he has anxiety, which is a common co-disorder with ADHD.  Things started to make sense. Every night he would questions like, “what would happen if there are dinosaurs under the house and they come back to life?”, “If a meteor hit the house would we all die?” or, after learning ‘star light star bright’ verse “if a star fell from the sky and landed on our house we would all burn up?”.

The reality was that my sons brain was already scattered and his medication, although necessary for him to function, would sometimes have the effect of making him hyper-focus on aspects and enhance his already existing anxiety. This was what was causing him to have difficulty ‘tuning out’ everything and clearing his mind to sleep at night… and also making me so very tired. But now we knew and it was back to behavioral therapy.

This was very difficult for my husband, to understand that although it’s impossible for anyone to reach my sons window from where it is placed, it is a real fear to him.  Telling him “don’t be foolish and go to sleep” wasn’t going to cut it. We had to help him change how he saw things. Yes, some fear is good. Like fear of failing a test so you study more to do well. But sometimes over developing a fear turns it into an obsessive anxiety ball.  Trying to explain this in a way for a 9-year old to understand the concept, but not take it on as a new obsessive fear, has been quite a challenge. One we are still trying to figure out every day.

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