A person sitting at a desk with their feet moving around

RLS or ADHD?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is something that I have had since about age 5. It has affected my life in more ways than I can begin to put into words.

I remember crying a lot as a child because I was so frustrated. I just needed the discomfort to stop! It also began to affect me in school.

I started exhibiting symptoms in school

I was a very good student, but suddenly I was hyperactive and I was finding it difficult to pay attention. I was very impulsive, I was constantly moving around, I wasn't completing tasks, I was finding it very difficult to complete a task, and I was falling asleep in class in the middle of the day. By some miracle, I was still making good grades, but even I knew it could be better.

My teachers were really worried and reported this to the principal, who then wrote my parents a letter asking them to come see him.

My pediatrician concluded I had ADHD

I remember being quite scared, as I was sure I was in very big trouble. After the meeting with the principal, I remember my parents locked themselves in their bedroom that night and spoke in hushed tones for hours.

The next day, my mom took me to the pediatrician and repeated everything the principal had told her along with her own personal observations. The doctor asked my mum and me a bunch of questions, and after about 45 minutes concluded I had ADHD.

I do not have ADHD, I have RLS

"God forbid," my mum responded in a typical African Christian mother version, even though she was a well-educated nurse and knew there was a huge possibility the doctor was right. The animated way she shrugged her shoulders and snapped her fingers actually made me chuckle and still makes me chuckle to this day whenever I recall that incident.

I remember the doctor writing some prescriptions and we left. My mom blatantly refused to buy any of the meds. She didn't think I had ADHD, and I am to this day very thankful for that. I certainly do not have ADHD, and those medications would have definitely caused some long-term damage.

I am so glad we stuck it out until I was properly diagnosed. Not everyone is that lucky.

History repeating itself with my daughter's symptoms

Recently, I got a letter from my daughter's school and I saw history about to repeat itself.

Since my daughter was a baby, she has shown signs of RLS — moving her legs constantly, constant irritability, and being unable to sleep at night. As she's grown, her symptoms have expanded to include hyperactivity, having difficulty sitting still, always moving or running, and not paying close attention. Her school counselor has done some observations and thinks she has ADHD.

Ensuring my daughter is not misdiagnosed

I know she probably inherited restless legs syndrome from me, so I'll be making sure she's not misdiagnosed.

I'm so glad there are doctors now who do not sweep RLS under the carpet and take their time to properly diagnose their patients. I also know it is very possible to have both, so I'm ruling nothing out.

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