Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I can't believe I forgot that!

Yes, I realize that the title of this blog post answers itself with a: duh, you have ADHD. But I really, REALLY can't believe I forgot this.

I just found my iPod. It's been missing least a year? But that's not the amazing re-discovery (although it was pretty funny that I couldn't find it and the whole time it was in its box). I charged it up and brought it to work and re-discovered that I get TONS of work done while listening to music in headphones.

Damn. It's better than drugs, seriously. Immediate, fast acting, effective. Hot damn.

Back when I worked at my advertising sales job I used to come in every morning, leave the light off, crank the space heater, and then put on my headphones. (And of course, all day long, co-workers would walk in going "Oh, you forgot to turn your light on!" flipping on the frickin' light...but that's another story...).

I would sit there for hours, fulfilling contracts, scheduling inventory, making sales calls...

And here I am again, sitting at my desk at the law office...feeling focused, effective, and DELIGHTED that I accidentally rediscovered the power of music on my ability to focus.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ADHD plus MLIS = slowest inventory ever

I work a couple of days per week at a fantastic retail specialty store that I love. Locally owned and operated too, another plus. Now that we've emerged from the madness of Christmas shopping season it's time to do inventory...and we do things the old fashioned way, counting by hand.

Well I have never done this before so this was a new process, therefore I did not have a clear picture of the overview. When I don't have a clear picture of the overview of a task or project, I tend to err on the side of overly detailed, for a couple of reasons, and usually this turns out to be a good thing...which is why I do it. Unfortunately this was not one of those times.

You see, one of my ADHD coping mechanisms is making sure I pay careful, methodical attention to EVERY detail. If I don't attack a task like this with a very specific process and do each thing the same way each time, I easily (INSTANTLY) lose track of where I left off. Memory issues are not awesome in a situation like this either...I can pick up an object to read one specific piece of information off of it, and by the time I look to my paper to immediately write it down, I have forgotten it.

Well apparently (being the new girl this year) I didn't grasp the "feel" of this project right away and because I didn't know the endpoint I wasn't sure what I was working toward. We were supposed to just fly like the wind, grabbing, counting, writing, grabbing, counting writing...and here I was methodically accounting for every detail. And when I finally noticed that others had gotten far more done, and asked what I was doing wrong, they told me to just "go" faster.

Ugh...I felt the impairment of my mind big time. It made me see, boldly and clearly, why I do these things the way I do. I would fly right through a few items, and then suddenly panic, realizing that I had no idea where I'd left off, or realized that I'd missed entire chunks of stuff on racks...frickin' hell! I was eventually able to strike a balance between lightning speed and honoring my need for methodical care but at no point was this fun.

I also have to remind myself that it's not just my brain I'm contending with, it's my training...I'm a hairsbreadth from finishing a degree in librarianship, a whole discipline that only benefits from the kind of methodical process that I use to organize my own thinking.

I spent the whole day battling my training AND my brain chemistry just to try to be a good retail elf and keep up with the rest of the girls, and I really just had to admit to myself that while I made improvement, I couldn't keep up. I actually am VERY fast at certain kinds of tasks...checking stock IN and keeping it organized? I'm really fast. Organizing and building displays? I'm really good at that. But we can't all be good at anything. Each time I finished a shelf and had to start another one I could feel the stress rise in my stomach, because it all just looked like a big jumble of overwhelm and it was MY job to figure out how to sort it all out.

By the end of the day, I finally had the overview that would have helped me to at least understand the need for speed earlier in the day and begin to address it I know. No self-flagellation allowed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Drowning Dream

I was born here, in this state that I now live in. I'm technically a native - but I grew up 3,000 miles away.

I have many memories of very early childhood. My earliest identifiable memories are from age two. On my second birthday I got a fishing pole and a doll cradle with Holly Hobby cushions in it. I had a walking doll and I colored on her face. I would hide and play under the kitchen table and I was little enough that I could stand up under it...that same table is now my sewing table.

I still remember recurring dreams that I had in that apartment. One of them was of a man with a big dog, chasing me, and each time in my dream I would hide under that table. He wore a striped shirt, like a French sailor. The dog was a collie.

My mother was in college and my father worked, so various relatives cared for me during the day. Aunts and uncles mostly, and sometimes grandparents. I still love the smell of leather sporting goods, thanks to days spent in my playpen at my uncle's sports shop, with him and the guys. And I remember a box of Sugar Twin at eye level on an aunt's dinette table. I knew what sugar was and I knew what a twin was, but I couldn't figure out what a Sugar Twin was (in BIG BOLD BLUE LETTERS).

I spent my toddlerhood surrounded and loved by family. I write about my family a lot, and often the terms are not glowing...I don't intend to create a gloomy or overly critical picture, it's just that often the things worth blogging about are the elbows: the points of contact and conflict, the points that, when crushed, cause the most pain. As a baby I had none of these conflicts, although the roots of some of them were already forming among the gorgeous twining greeneries of family.

One of the advantages of having a family like mine, is that I did not stand out as particularly unusual in my neurochemical nature as I might have in another family. My family, in many ways, on both sides, embraces its eccentricity. It's a "may as well" situation,'s not like we have a choice. In a family, where genetics trace paths through generations, the possible fates presented by those genetics lay the groundwork for free will...but the existence of certain genes makes certain outcomes more likely.

So as a dear family member of mine always says "there's a lot of love there". Among the poetry and the arguments and the late night manifestations of the neuroses we struggle to hide all day, the art, the language, the curiosity, the gardens, the warm homes, the drinking, the abuses, the intelligences, the clam shells that pave our driveways, the memories we walk upon when remembering the things we'd rather forget...among them all, there's a lot of love, and that's what I remember from my early childhood.

When I was four years old, we moved. We left our large net of family behind to move, so that my father could work. I had never flown on an airplane before, so when my parents told me that we were leaving on an airplane and going to Uncle Dave's house, I thought we would land in his yard, and was very confused by the arrival at the airport. Though I was confused, I do not remember being upset, or afraid. My subconscious was having a different experience however...and this process of leaving family behind sparked one of the most tenacious recurring dreams of my childhood.

In the drowning dream, I stood on the shore of a lake, wearing my favorite red dress, the one that my grandmother bought for me to fly on the plane, red, with little flowers, and smocked on the front. In photos of me in this dress, I always look happy. My grandmother most assuredly loved me.

The transition in this dream, from shore to water is not quite clear in my mind, but two things are...I begin, standing on the shore with my family, and I end up underwater, slowly, peacefully drifting downward. Unafraid, just as I was in my waking...but falling further and further from family, cartoon seaweed all around me. Sometimes an ambulance would pull up to the shore, and its lights highlighted the borders of my family's shadows as they looked down at me, concerned, but unable to rescue me.

I truly believe that while life went on, and I saw family each summer, and I grew and changed and became who I am now...I never really recovered from that experience. The little girl in the red dress has been struggling in many ways, ever since, to surface.

Returning to this place, to live, is bittersweet. I love being surrounded again by family...but I am confronted all at once by the things that the rest of them had the luxury of accepting slowly. And because I did not grow up in the middle of it all, there are some dysfunctions I will never, ever accept.

I will always be the little girl in the red dress. In a way, that distance protected me, even as I felt lost...that distance allows me to see what is before me more broadly. Because I am often alone in that water, free of encumbrances, I have learned to swim in my own way...and sometimes, though they resist, I ask them to join me there...

Merry ADHD-mas!

Oh boy...I'm going to steer entirely clear of any ADHD gift-metaphors because Jeff has really outdone himself in that department time and time again, but ADHD did, of course impact Christmas, as it does every other aspect of my life!

As much as there were lovely moments spent with my family, for much of the day I felt like I was sitting in a room full of screaming people. Oh wait...that's because I was!

I can't believe I used to jump right into the middle of that fray. A salad of talking, yelling, arguing, laughing and a conspicuous lack of listening, observing or gentleness. I know, what was I thinking, family gatherings are for out-louding each other, not quiet! At one point, I was so exhausted from all of the noise, and all of the conversations I couldn't follow, that I jumped ship and took a nap in the guest room. After a nap I felt refreshed and better able to cope with the energy afoot, but I still felt like I was the eye of hurricane, but failing in maintaining the integrity of my borders, despite great effort.

I shared this observation with my ADHD gentleman friend and he said, of his own family, "oh yes, sounds familiar".

I used to just pick a conversation and jump into it at full volume, joining in the madness with sword and shield in hand. The problem now, you see, is that I'm not interested in doing battle. I'm not interested in having no boundaries between myself and others. And I'm very upset when I state a reasonable limit and it and my energy are corroded, over and over and over by the action of repeated assaults. I'm not into telling others what to do...but when, in the course of five minutes, your family drunkenly pesters you over and over and over about the fact that you just want to sit among them and read, rather than jump into the madness, it's frustrating. I'm demonstrating my desire to be there by sitting, and listening and participating in it really necessary that I be drunk and screaming as well? I simply ask for respect for MY limits, they can do what they wish with their own.

Sometimes, even when I try to go upstairs for twenty minutes to air my brain out, my parents will scream from downstairs for me to join cousin saved me from that fate this time by peacefully knocking to let me know it was time for presents. It's a small thing, but I was grateful for it.

I am most interested in honoring my inner voice and that is the gift that I have given myself this year. I have learned that I need to respect my own limits, and choose to populate my life with people who will also respect them. But you can't choose family, and you can't change them. Nothing like the holidays to remind one of that. I have received many gifts from my family, including my awesome brain chemistry. Many, many gifts. But those gifts bear no relation to my right to have my borders honored.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ADHD on the Air

I love doing radio interviews and I got to do one today. ADHD can be a blessing in a situation like that, when you have to think on your feet with a fire under your ass.

I make sure I have a piece of paper and a pen in front of me so that when things pop into my head I can write them down and follow the conversation and come back to them...and just fly with the vibe from there.

A major bonus was getting to do it with one of my favorite fellow community organizers, she and I always have a good time plugging projects in our community.

Good times!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'k so I went on a date...but my brain went to Jupiter...

...yeah I don't want to hear about it.

But YOU definitely want to hear this story. I went out with a fellow ADHDer actually. And had a GREAT time.

I'm not going to bore you with the great stuff though, I'm going to fast forward to the REALLY great stuff: The feeling of absolute panic when I realized suddenly that my medication had worn off and I had gradually transformed, in the later evening, into a raving, proclaiming, ADHD space case, wandering around trying to remember what I was going to do with that glass in my hand and walking away while he was trying to talk to me, and interrupting like machine-gun fire because my brain was suddenly moving at full speed again and I couldn't stop myself.

Oh boy.

And the "logic" part of my brain was popping in from time to time with "it's okay, don't panic, he totally knows what this is like, look, you're even interrupting him and he's SMILING about it"...but I started to panic.

I started apologizing repeatedly in between bursts that sent me to and fro around the room. In my core I suddenly felt like I was about 5 years old. Like I was trying so hard to be a big kid but suddenly it was apparent that I was just a stupid little kid who just wanted really badly to be a big kid. We had had this really great time and I'd done such a good job of pretending and here I was blowing being "the real me".

I felt tears behind my eyes but I couldn't let them out. I just kept stopping and trying to reset myself and I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it.

He said "it's okay. I get it."

This is when it really hit me that he had actually been smiling the whole time. Smiling like I was a giant ice-cream cone in the best flavor in the whole world.

As panicked as I was for several minutes, I learned something important. Well, a few things important. But a big one was "wow...this feeling of being an imposter has followed me for my entire adult life". I always feel like I'm faking it, like I'm putting on a costume, like I'm putting on a mask in so many situations in life to make sure I'm the right fit, or doing the right thing. Or...I DID. In my more recent life I have been making more and more choices in which I place myself at the center, as the standard, sometimes consciously, but more importantly, sometimes unconsciously. I am learning to live at the center of my own life. But even on a date with another ADHDer, of all people, that old impulse that I wasn't "fitting" was tugging at me still.

Also: this is the first person I have "dated" since my diagnosis. Of COURSE I totally panicked, even though we have absolutely discussed the fact that we both take medication for anxiety and ADHD. First of all, I had become accustomed to being in a relationship with someone who despite what was coming out of their mouth, could not support me through action. Someone who when I said "I need you to go talk to a therapist, for US" said "why, do you think I'm crazy?". This here is a different ballgame. This is someone that actually DOES get it from the inside, and is in treatment, already has a therapist (her name is Lois) and a treatment plan, and really and truly doesn't seem to care that I'm, well...ME. Doesn't hurt that he's smokin' hot either. Just sayin'...maybe Bryan is onto something with that Adult ADHD Can Be Sexy thing ;)

It's also worth noting that...dammit, I abuse ellipses all the time, but I have to point out that I had to insert them right there because I could not remember the name of my ADHD MEDICATION, lol. CONCERTA. Got it. Okay, so it's worth noting that I am the parameters of the Concerta. And now that I see them, I see even more clearly that the Vyvanse, while it's an awesome drug, was probably not the right fit for me...because of the "off" fit I think my dose ended up being too high because we were trying to figure out if it was the drug or the dosage. In any case...I'm digging the Concerta. I have written that the Vyvanse would kick in and make a certain calm wash over my brain, and I did like that. But it didn't feel like it was doing as much as it should be doing. And when the dosage increased it just made me feel driven, but in a totally different way than my usual, HAHA, which is damned funny. It also made me feel a tiny bit loopy. And again, not in the usual ways, OOPS.

Concerta - I don't actually feel it kick in AT ALL, I just gradually notice that I feel good and I feel settled. And it actually helps me feel kinda sharp, NOT 1,000 widget focus, just a useful, satisfied clarity. Makes me feel like I just had a really good snack and I'm ready to get some work done. Yes that's it, Concerta acts on my brain like a tasty ham and cheese sandwich. And it lasts for quite a while, but damn, it sure ebbs away gradually because now that I think about it, in the car ride last night I started getting REAL chatty, REAL emphatic and by the time I got home there I was wandering, fidgeting, forgetting, you know, the usual, lol. Took probably an hour for my ADHD to go from noticeable to OH YEAH THERE IT IS. Now I know.

So back to the date at hand, once he said "it's okay. I get it." I was snapped back to reality, where I was having a great time, and realized that indeed...I didn't need to worry, or be anything other than myself.

Wicked. Totally wicked. For my non-New England readers, wicked's about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And I want to thank YOU and YOU and YOUUUU....

While I'm sitting here being all thankful for the fact that I can talk to my bosses about my mental health treatment without it endangering my professional OR personal relationships with them, I started thinking about another source of support that I am thankful for: YOU. ALL of you.

Having an online community to share and receive feedback and experiences with is one of the things that has made 2009 bearable. Heaven knows I have not gotten 100% support from all of my in-person relationships...partially because many people in my life have no idea what being inside my brain is like. All of the ADHDers I have met online at least have an inkling...and thank goodness for that.

So much of our time as ADHDers is spent feeling as though we are on the outside.

Thanks for joining me on the inside :) And for likewise sharing the parlors of your own ADHD minds with me.

I really appreciate it.

18 Channels, meet Concerta; Concerta, 18 Channels...

Now that the Mirtazapine experiment seems to be working and my anxiety level is under control, we are trying a new stimulant, just to see if it sits with me a little better. I really want to try something that lasts 4-6 hours so I can steer myself a little more manually and try to cap my workaholism. When you take a stimulant that keeps you buzzing along for 10-14 hours it makes you reaaaaaally productive and honestly, I don't need help in that department. I need something that will help me to have a nice, normal schedule, something that will allow me to practice choosing to relax (although the Mirtazapine on its own is very convincing, I have to say, lol...I feel awesome...relaxed, but not loopy. You know, like a "normal" person?).

However...I think my prescriber wants to try another long-acting one on me just to see if I like it better than the Vyvanse. Incidentally, I just want to say that in general, I highly recommend trying Vyvanse if you're looking at trying a stimulant. It's smooooooth like butter, you feel it kick in, but I didn't feel it wear off at all, I would just gradually notice that I was feeling maybe less focused...and it made me feel nice and calm and focused at first. I think I sort of metabolised it into submission though. Who knows...anyway, I liked it, but it wasn't working anymore in the way I needed to it.

Next up is Concerta. I'll try it tomorrow morning. Fortunately I'll be at my retail job so if something goes haywire, I won't be writing Motions or other court filings of any kind, lol...just handling money...mooohahahaha...

I have to say this about both of my sets of employers...I have been able to be totally honest and open with them about the fact that I take medication for mental health reasons. There's something to be said for just being a good employee. (Also something to be said for having one boss who is likely an undiagnosed ADHDer, with a child who displays all the signs, and another boss who used to be an elementary school teacher who one day asked me point blank , with all the love in the world, "were you an ADD kid?".) I am not a conventional employee, but one of my ways of apologizing to the world for my unconventiality is the fact that I will work my ass to the bone to do a good job, and I will always admit my fuckups. These two things have helped me to build trust with my on a few occasions when I've been feeling a little wiggy around the edges, they're totally cool.

I'm thankful, truly.

We'll see how this's probably be 1,000 widget focus all over again...oh how I love thee, oh 1,000 widget focus...!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Prioritizing, ADHD-style (said with David Caruso intonations...)

It is said, and it is true, that we ADHDers have difficulty prioritizing. That's a broad statement, but since ADHD affects us all differently, I can only assume that it affects our ability to prioritize differently as well.

I'm learning a lot about prioritizing since diagnosis though. Does this mean that I am becoming a shining beacon, clarifying once and for all the way to prioritize your path to happiness...oh hells no.

But here's what I'm learning: some shit really just doesn't matter. It really doesn't. And not just because I just had a glass of really delicious wine.

I am learning to go through my world with a more realistic respect for my own inability...yes just make magic "normal" organizing happen. Let's run through some real-life examples shall we....

Laundry: It is important to have clean clothes, so I wash them. It is NOT important to fold them, therefore, I don't. It is important to be clean, and not smelly for dozens of reasons...wrinkles...wrinkles just aren't deadly, therefore, I do not give a flying crap.

Cooking: It is important to eat meals. It is NOT important to cook a different meal every friggin' day. I might cook a meat on day that will last three. Or a casserole that will last three. And to fill in, I have snacks that keep me busy thinking I'm having an exciting culinary life.

Sleeping: Okay, no way around that one. I just have to remember to go to bed on time.

Bathroom organizing: It is important to not let your clutter take over your whole life. It is NOT important to have everything in your life divided into little categories, especially if you're going to use them again in 24 hours. And so...I have a basket that all of my bathroom accessories get dumped in when I'm not using them. Look, clean countertops! Oh look, I know where to find my everythings when I need them! Hot shit!

Dishes: It IS important to wash dishes so that plague and pestilence doesn't take over your kitchen. Is it NOT important to wash every dish, every single time you use one. I have a half-sink sized tub that lives in my kitchen sink. I put dishes in it until it fills, them I wash them all. The tub acts as a visual cue. When it's full, there's nowhere else to put more dishes.

Fabric: Not everyone has the fabric problem that I do...but this is pretty clever so I'm sharing it. One time, I was watching Project Runway...back in season one...and Jay McCarrol showed us all his work area, where he organized all of his fabrics by color. OH YES. OHHH YES. Talk about ADHDer-friendly fabric organizing. Not only do I LOVE IT, but my clients can browse my fabrics by color. I could obsess over textures and fiber types and blahblahblah...but who gives a shit! It's prettier by color, trust me.

Do you have ANY idea how liberating this is? The weight of stress that has lifted my self-esteem and my soul is HUGE. I am starting to think of myself no longer as a failure at having a perfectly organized life...I am starting to think of myself as GOOD at PRIORITIZING. My fellow ADHDers, try this for yourselves...I'm telling you, it's fucking magic. I definitely need to share this with my therapist, she's going to be like "what the hell happened to the perfectionist that walked into my office back in May, what did you do with her, nothing terrible I hope" and I'll say "I stashed her in a cubby with some yellow fabric somewhere with a Beegees Greatest Hits CD so she could loosen the hell up"....

Monday, December 14, 2009

How did anyone NOT notice this...

...I am having one of those days when I seriously cannot believe that nobody ever thought "ADHD" when I was younger.

I generally avoid caffeine because it can trigger anxiety, but today, because I haven't taken my stimulant medication I am having the day from hell. I didn't take it because I'm trying to see what the Remeron is doing. However, I while I am not anxious, I am having a lethargic, groggy, emotional day from hell.

I drank a Diet Coke. Oh look, I can THINK. I can TYPE. I can focus for more than two seconds and I don't feel like I'm going to have a temper tantrum due to the exhaustion of trying to cut through mental fog! And just to drive home to clarity of the point: I never drink caffeine. I'm not a caffeine addict who can't function without it, I'm an ADHDer who needs an extra boost to function properly. There's a big difference.

I was so friggin' impaired half the time when I was younger. How did anyone not notice this!? This is why I say that "high functioning" is just another way to say "better at hiding impairment". I spent so much every day just trying to function and trying to hide it, and not even self-medicating with caffeine.

I don't know how I did it, seriously. I really don't know. I only wish that if I was going to drink caffeine it had been a cherry coke, because I'm too chicken to drink more but I really would have enjoyed that (not a good idea to chug caffeine all day when you are being medicated for anxiety, lol...).

The Wisdom in Wandering

Common ADHD trait/behavior #987: Wandering around.

Sometimes I can't stand to sit still. Sometimes I get this sinking feeling in my stomach when the prospect of having to continue sitting there in that classroom/lecture/whatever is looming far too large. Sometimes...I actually think better while moving.

And I know I'm not alone.

When I don't take stimulant meds and I don't have some jerk on my ass lighting unnecessary fires under me, I will wander. I will be wandering around the house thinking and suddenly notice that I'm wandering, although now, I'm able to appreciate that it's just my brain's way of propelling me toward resolutions...toward productive thinking.

Let's think for a moment about classes I don't enjoy...oh, that would be all of them that take place while sitting still in a classroom. Classes I enjoy? Dance classes. Music classes. As a kid I loved swimming classes. In other words, classes where I am moving and thinking at the same time.

Last night I found myself wandering around my living room while trying to put a schedule together for something for next year. For the first time in my life I'm beginning to appreciate this about myself. I wander...I think out be it. This is where pets come in can talk their ears off and they don't go nuts. I smiled when I found myself doing this last night. I feel free.

And there are different kinds of fidgeting. The kinds that annoys people, and the kind that doesn't. There is productive fidgeting and there is non-productive fidgeting. If you're lucky, and you're an adult ADHDer, you have found ways to fidget that don't offend or annoy others, and you may have accidentally discovered ones that actually help you think better.

Walking around is one of the best ways for me to get thinking done, but I have to bring magazines and other "activities" to school with me when I have to sit through a class or lecture. This helps keep me seated.

I also draw patterns for things I want to make outside of class, while in class. I have a gift for breaking three dimensional objects down into two dimensions and it keeps my brain busy. I used to do this all the time in the middle of my legal writing courses, and I got A's.

Yes, people think my other activities are just ways to distract me, but I think my GPA speaks for itself. It makes me think of what Dr. Hallowell says about the term "Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder"...and how he prefers to think of non-ADHDers as having "Attention Surplus Disorder". Yes, ADHD sucks sometimes, and makes it hard to fit yourself into the necessary boxes...however, if I can draw patterns, and read magazines, and occasionally wander around the halls, and be screaming on the inside because I'm working to appear as though I'm paying attention, and still get a better GPA than most students...? Yeah. Simplifying it this way doesn't account for the fact that I also work my ass off to make up for my deficits...but you see what I'm saying. Maybe the rest of the world needs to quit acting like ADHD is a "disease".

I think this has got to be a really tricky line to teach kids to draw though...I'm imagining trying to teach an ADHD kid how to fidget productively...especially since this means something different to every ADHDer.

I guess you have to designate certain activities? I was reading yesterday about a person who molds silly putty in their hands while in class, but this was a do you then
It tells you something about how much I enjoyed plays when I was a kid that I would sit through entire musicals just watching, when I was 5-6 years old (although I struggle to sit through boring plays and movies as an adult, lol). Anyway, I'm picturing explaining to a child that full on playing with your toys at school in the middle of class isn't the best idea...but playing with silly putty might be aok. I guess it is the way with all "disorders" or diseases experienced in childhood...these children have to learn to accept shades of ambiguity, in childhood, that other children may never have to learn to tolerate in their entire lives.

Even though I was not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, I did not escape knowledge of these ambiguities. None of us do. We just learn to define them by either blaming ourselves or others for the fact that we're aware that we never quite fit. Which means that most of us spend years learning to negatively define and attribute something we don't even have a name for, but which defines our self-image and our relationships with others.

In my mid-late twenties when I started to piece this all together, even though I didn't know that ADHD was the name for the force defining my life, I began to see that there was something wrong with blaming others, all the time, for all manner of I stopped doing it. And the difficulty with which I stopped made it only that much clearer to me, that I had become accustomed to living my life in a very wrong way, all these years. But I kept going...and even now, when I find myself wanting to lay the blame elsewhere, even if ultimately it is deserved, I really take time to think hard about where it actually belongs before I lay it down. And if I make a mistake...I apologize, sincerely.

Think about this though...all that practice with not blaming others. There are still others categories of blame that I regularly place upon myself though. Some of them correctly, but many more not. That's the pile I couldn't even start on without diagnosis and treatment. I didn't have another explanation for obviously it must be all my fault...yes? No. Not always. That pile's going to take a while to go through though. I still get uncomfortable when people complement me on a job well done...I still don't always feel like I deserve it. Someone called me on it the other day "you aren't comfortable taking a complement are you"...and no, I'm not. I'm not. I hope some day I'll be better at that.

Right now, I have so much more space for wandering and thinking in my home though, and am relieved...and I think better when moving. And the ambiguities are easier to resolve under those conditions...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'm not helpless, just hungry...

Tried the new the double dose of Remeron. Okay actually I tried 1.5 and after 3 hours I hadn't turned into a pumpkin so I took that last half tablet. That was a couple days ago now. I feel less anxious, NOT drugged or drowsy really...and really, really hungry. REALLY hungry, lol.

But I think this is an improvement, and without the usual drama. And suddenly I am able to remember dreams. I can't recall the last time, prior to this, that I could. And I used to keep acres of journals of my dreams. I like the remembering, I hope it lasts.

I'm in such a weird mood though. I thought it was PMS, I thought it was the medication. And some of it was both, PMS does throw me off, and my dosage was all screwed up. But I seem to have this lingering melancholy. No, I'm not suicidal--I love how when you're on psych meds you feel obligated to overemphasize such things. I feel like I recognize this sensation and that I used to have it a lot when I was younger. Interestingly, I grew up in the Seattle area, where there is not a lot of sunlight. And here in New England, it is winter, although I have not noticed since I moved here a particular problem with seasonal melancholy of any kind. In fact part of me has always loved the darkest days of winter, how they wrap around you, you disappear into them.

And here, where it snows a ton...there are nights where the moon comes out and hits the white ground and it's pure magic.

But I keep finding myself irritated with the darkness, irritated when the darkness claws its fingers around the world and it's only 4pm. I'm a little disgusted, I feel as though I was not ready, and was not asked. My office begins to darken and it stresses me out because it makes me realize how short the days are and how little, recently, I've been able to get done in one sitting. I've been bouncing all over, mentally speaking, so I've worked some very weird hours to make up for it. I've actually marked December 21st in the calendar in my head as the date I'm looking forward to: the solstice, the day that the days will start getting longer.

I spent the weekend mostly at my apartment and mostly cleaning, other than dinner with a friend last night. I have REALLY been enjoying the cleaning...taking the time to set the reset button on my surroundings. And honestly, when there are other things you feel you have no control over, like your own brain, or the daylight and darkness, you can always clean something and feel you've accomplished something. I also relish being able to do it as I wish, and on my own schedule again. I enjoyed having 20 tasks revolving through my mind at one time, and take as long or as short as I needed to get done whatever I felt like finishing. When I clean, I start and stop constantly and leave things propped in such a way that I notice that I haven't finished them, and when I come back through the room, I'll see that "thing" out of place and do the next step and then leave that balanced in such a way as I move on to the next that when I come back through, I will do the next step...and I keep going like that until I am tired and go to bed, or until all tasks are finished. I rotate CD's in and out of the player all the while...

I have a theory...that some of this melancholy is the result of the stimulant meds not working. They used to make my mind feel so calm and even, expressive, but even. If this Remeron experiement keeps going according to plan, then we can try a new stimulant and see if that doesn't help.

Meantime, me and Radiohead are sitting in the dark together, typing and swimming the shallows of the depths.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Meh, f*ck the journal idea...

...I always second guess myself when I need help. I will drop everything to help other people at the expense of my own needs, but I really suck at asking for help. That's part of why I get really upset when my provider tells me to wait a few days and call him back. I don't ask for help unless I'm really, really having a problem. My therapist gets it, and of course told me to just call him. So...even though the idea of journaling my meds experiences is a good one, in this case, I really just needed to make the call, so I did. What was hilarious was getting an assistant on the phone who when she picked up, started "leaving a message" because she got confused about what line she was on and thought she was leaving a message!

I can relate sister!

Anyway...I hope when he calls me back he'll just give me a prescription for something else. Yeah, I know I'm busy and don't need this right now, but I also can't really function effectively when people think I'm on quaaludes and I can't remember how to get to my office, which is a mile from my house.

And now I'm going to go contact my professors, one of whom is being a hard ass about me turning in my last assignment, even though all semester he's been going "oh hey, don't worry about it, take all the time you need!". This is the disadvantage of distance learning. This class is one where he can't see all he sees is that I can type articulately. He doesn't see me looking doped up and unable to stay awake, nevermind think.

I want to be done with school so badly. I hate school. I'm glad I did it but it's seriously a ridiculous torture obstacle course and I need to be done with it and I literally cannot finish my work right now...this dragging on is just stomach turning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Women, Rock and Roll, and Drugs

Is it just me or do ADHD drugs REALLY not work worth a shit when we're pre-menstrual?

Seriously, I'm noticing a pattern and it's not pretty. In addition to the fact that I don't think my meds are doing much good for me these last couple/few weeks, I just really get aggravated every month, before my period, when I can't think worth a shit, can't remember anything, and generally feel like I just smoked a big bowl of WTF.

Is this a thing? Do other people have this problem? And is medical science ever going to catch the fuck up and complete more research on women with ADHD in treatment because I'm pretty sure that I'm not having the same damn hormonal experience that school age boys are, or that men are, and I need some answers.

Rock and roll? The only thing that pulls me out of this bullshit frame of mind is music. Sometimes, truly, it's the ONLY drug that works for those days when I'm fully aware that in another century, women like me probably would have been burned at the stake.

How Do REALLY Feel?

I really, really don't think that either of my medications is serving me the way I need them to. There was a lovely time there where everything seemed perfect...but as time has worn on, there is a problem with each of them.

Remeron drugs me ridiculously. I'll begrudgingly admit that my NP was right, taking it earlier in the evening DOES mean I'm less groggy the next day. I have NO idea why this is true because I'm telling you, when I take it around 11 pm, if I don't take the Vyvanse with it the next day, I am walking dead for the entire next day. If I take it at 8pm, I feel fine the next day. There is no logic to that, for me, but whatever. The problem is that it is interfereing with my quality of life. Most psych meds mean that your relationship with alcohol has to become a more limited one, and for the most part, that's okay with me. However, 3 or so times a week I might want ONE beer in the evening, or A GLASS of wine. This is not excessive or unreasonable, but it does wonders for morale in sarcasm, I enjoy that ONE beverage to the last drop. Oh, that is unless I have to take my Remeron at the same damn time of day that I want to be drinking that beverage, and 7:30 to 8pm is consistently the usual time I would like to be doing that, so I can't do that anymore, right? WRONG...this med needs to go buh bye. My therapist totally supports me in my quest for 3 beers per week and told me to call if it's bothering me that much.

The Vyvanse? Seriously...I hate this but it seems for the last few weeks like that only benefits I'm getting are that it keeps me awake when the Remeron makes me drowsy and makes me not want to eat. I am fully aware that sometimes we think they're not working, the stimulants, when the problem is just that it's working, but we're choosing to focus on something else...I am focusing on NOTHING. For weeks. It's caused weird work hours, and more frustratingly, has made homework impossible. Not much else to say about that.

I am considering keeping a meds journal through the day for like a week, so I dont have to burden myself with remembering when he asks me those annoying questions like "so, can you focus" and I want to answer "look douchebagel, if I felt like it was working, I wouldn't be here putting up with you questioning me like this!". Just the fact that this is the answer I feel most drawn to right now should probably indicate that perhaps the meds aren't "doing their thing". Really I'd really rather be playing pin the tail on the donkey on his face, than having to go through "the questions" again right now.

I'm just going to eat the living Christ out of this jar of chocolate sauce that's in my hand right now (with a SPOON), keep a lil' meds journal, and call him next week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How To Filter Your Filthy ADHD Mouth

Okay, not everyone enjoys swearing as much as I do so for most of you we can remove the filthy from the title. But what about all those times some seriously unwise stuff flew out of your mouth that you should TOTALLY not have said. Or how about all those times you responded to some jerk when you shouldn't have because you just couldn't help yourself. Or how about when your relatives or significant exes are basically baiting you with dysfunction just hoping you'll respond and ADHD pretty much guarantees that you will?

Um, hi, I'll just offer myself up as the guinea pig, having found myself in these scenarios and more, wishing I had a more effective filter. Like the time some guy was harassing a lady on the subway and I couldn't stop myself from telling him to leave her alone AND where to stick it. That ended with a near brawl, an arrest, and me almost getting punched in the face. Or the time that a guy at Denny's was making fun of an overweight girl in front of him and I told him where to go and almost got my boyfriend beat up. Or when I sent that email I shouldn't a person I shall not mention...ouch.

Well I realized today that I have actually found a couple of ways to filter myself in the last couple of years and I will share these with you. They are not foolproof but they ARE very effective for me.

First of all, we have the "NOTEBOOKS". I have two little spiral bound paper notebooks that I carry in my bag at all times. No idea why two, if anything it seems to make me feel more case I lose one? Don't ask, it's not the logical part of my brain that makes me do that. (For this to be maximally effective you must pair it with a weekly cleaning out of your handbag, but we can talk about that another time.) I have these two little notebooks and I lovingly refer to them as my external RAM (temporary memory in non-tech geek terms) or as my external filtering mechanism, depending on what I'm using them for. He's how it's not complicated. Anytime something explodes into my head, demanding attention, I will write it down. I will write it on the first page I open the notebook too, doesn't matter where, I just write it down. Having an annoying conversation with someone-excuse yourself to make a note. They don't have to know what you're writing. Think of something you need to tell your therapist? Write it in the notebook. Get pissed on the city bus because someone bumped into you? Write in in the notebook. WRITE IT ALL IN THE NOTEBOOK. Then, when my bag gets full of shit, at the end of the week, I take everything out, including the notebooks. I thumb through them quickly. Idea for a new business or creative project? Pin it to my corkboard for further thought. A to-do item that's already done? Rip it up and throw it away! Annoyed response to a loved one? OH look, you don't care anymore now...throw it away! Then, stick the notebooks back in the bag and keep taking notes until next week.

For email, I have a different approach. When I seem to be compelled to write a response to something I shouldn't respond to, I will open up a Word document and just start typing. Type, type, type...type, type. Sometimes it takes a while. When I'm done, I save it on my desktop. I come back to it later when the icon on the desktop reminds me. I re-read it...if I still like it later, I copy and paste it into an email and hit send. If not...I consider it good therapy. Because sometimes even when someone deserves to hear how lame they are, it doesn't really serve you OR the situation to write and send it to them. An alternate solution is to save the message as a draft before sending...but I've gotten myself in trouble with that one before by accidentally hitting send instead. Using Word as a buffer is WAY more ADHDer proof.

Taking care to do these things has another beneficial function. I trust the notebooks...they are always there, and I take good care of them. By extension they help me to trust myself. They are the perfect outlet. They're so small and portable...they add an extra step to my decision-making and reaction process and in many situations that makes all the difference between be seeming "reactive" and seeming thoughtful, measured and sensible. Because I AM all of those things, I just need that extra step to get there more of the time!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Other Shoe

I am hit with a really gross feeling in my gut today. I know it will pass, so I'm just riding it out, but I think I'll feel better if I write about it.

I have never been in a relationship where the "other shoe" hasn't dropped. I'm not talking about how after a few months you get used to each other and then you have some petty yet annoying realization like "I can't believe he wore those socks two days in a row, that's so disgusting to me" or "damn...I guess he doesn't like to trim his nosehair". I mean you're going along and everything seems great, and it's several months later...or a year..or a couple...or a few...and then something so unacceptable comes to light that you can't continue. Although you may try, at least for a while (hi, I'm the dumbass that occasionally likes to test that option).

I mean realizations like "oh shit...he really prefers being psychotic to taking his meds...". Or "whoa, how did my romantic and attentive boyfriend of the past three years who just asked me to move in with him just get a whole new personality that is having an emotional affair with the bimbo one desk over"...let's see, I know there's more good ones here somewhere, OH YES, how about "I'm gay and everyone knows it but me" that's a classic. Or "wow, he didn't seem like the type to threaten to punch me in the face" or "I hate myself so I'm going to make it your problem by finding a million criticisms to crush your soul". It is my personal theory that among other reasons that I might seek out these human disasters, ADHD does drive a person to seek constant stimulation...nothing like a human disaster to keep you on your toes.

Last relationship, about 1 year into it, after a year of me valiantly fighting a pure ADHD drive to create conflict where none existed because things seemed to be going well, he lied to me about driving drunk. After all of that restraint on my part, I can't tell you how disappointed I was to have an actual "issue" to deal with. Aside from the fact that this is inherently at least two layers of just plain unforgivable, these two issues happen to be in my top five dealbreakers list. Two of one stupid incident. CLASSY. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that I think our relationship pretty much ended right then. Right there as he drunkenly cackled to me "ohhh know how I told you on the phone that I only had one drink? I had 4!". He'd eaten nothing, had four drinks, lied to me about it, and then got in his car.

Just to be clear, those who may be thinking "you were probably a big nag and he couldn't stand it anymore" I had actually just called him to remind him that it was Memorial Day and he might want to watch his ass. I'm usually that "cool" girlfriend that doesn't give a shit what you're doing with your dudes, because uh...I actually don't give a shit. I'm not big on micromanaging other people or giving them "rules". But he had stayed after work for a drink with a buddy on a stretch of road that not only is notorious for DWI traps, but at least two of my relatives have been pulled over for said jackassery there. I didn't ask how much he'd had to drink...he apparently felt compelled to lie on his own. Inspired if you will, and just feeling so groovy he was riding the feeling! Rode it all the way home, glassy-eyed and reeking of booze and then was such a jackass drunk that he had to rub my face in it by confessing and reveling in his lies. He didn't even remember this the next morning, which just added a whole extra layer of fantastic!

But, I told myself...even though valves of my heart had closed off to him...but...but...BUT...BUT...BUT. He's usually such a nice guy (who lied to you), he isn't usually like that (even though he lied to you about one of the worst things that he could lie to YOU about), he really feels badly, he makes you dinner, he really "gets" you...



For two years, even though the initial blow softened over time, I never trusted him again. And as time told, it only became more and more clear, but in quieter ways, that I shouldn't... things that involved me, but others, stories he told me about lying to other people. He never raised a hand to me, and wasn't a big yeller. Just sort of never heard me when I set my limits. Sort of never heard me say no. Sort of kept pushing me in ways that told me over and over and over that not only did he not respect my limits, but even worse, he didn't respect his own. And that's the real key here, that's the real nature of the "other shoe" in this scenario: you can't expect someone who doesn't respect themselves, to respect you. You can't trust someone who doesn't trust themselves. And frustratingly, the fact that he behaved this way, at times, turned me into the kind of bitchy partner I never hope to be again, and normally am not. I was living that awesome American vision of relationships we call "Everybody Loves Raymond" or as I like to call it "If I ever get married and act like that someone kill me before I can kill myself...". It nauseates me just thinking about it.

A tiny remaining nagging doubt wrapped its leaves around every branch of our relationship. And it wrapped itself right around the trunk of my body, right around the core of my held my joy in check. It reined any passion tightly to me, so tightly that I couldn't even enjoy it myself. I couldn't even feel it anymore. I felt literally disconnected from my body. I had detached myself from the situation and nothing I said to him could make him stop doing the things he was doing that were ensuring my need to protect himself. I talked to him about it. I tried to engage him in talking about it too. We went around and around and around for two years until his self-doubt became too powerful for him to even pretend to rein in anymore.

If you read what I've said here superficially, you might think I'm talking about some kind of monster here, but that's the thing...and that's why I'm writing about it. He "seemed like such a nice guy". He's a basically nice, smart, interesting person. But he really doesn't like himself very much right now and honestly probably never has...and it's amazing how little poison it takes to completely subsume a relationship, forever. Our relationship became a standoff, with him in his office and me with my computer, in the living room. Him in the bed, and me on the couch. I felt safer there, emotionally speaking. He would accuse me of being "too busy" and I am very busy...but then I would ask him to come out of hibernation in his office and he would refuse.

And the final boundary was drawn when he dragged his self-hatred with him to my place of work and turned his unsolicited offer to help me with something important, into a pawn, a nasty powerstruggle, but this time with an audience. I told him to leave. And when I got home later, I told him to move out.

As he was moving out we had some great conversations actually, notably one where he spontaneously volunteered that lying had sort of always been a problem for him. (pause)(pause)(pause) REALLY!? REALLY!? Gosh. Gee. I was left not wondering why I didn't trust him, but why in the frig I stagnated in the relationship for so long. As he gave me examples I felt simultaneously grateful, justified, and...just plain freaked out. Makes me think of what my mother says about situations like this...she says imagine you're in a room, and name everything in the room. "That's a chair" you say, "That's a rug". When you get to "What in the frig is THAT?!" that's the one you should take the time to really examine...smell it, touch it, taste it, and then NAME it. And the name for this one is: liar. That word had nested and reproduced in the back of my mind for two years, kept safe and warm by my willingness to host it. Liar.

The other shoe. The other shoe. I'm thinking about "the other shoe" because I actually do not feel particularly "down" on dating. I know I know, I posted about how I was all "over" dating and just too busy. Well I AM busy. But seriously, I'd like to have a good time. I'd like to let the passion unwind from my trunk again. And isn't it amazing how I feel connected to my body again, now that I have the house to myself.

I have a feeling there will always be that moment of terror, the occasional split second when I remember that going forward...there has always been another shoe. I guess I just hope that someday, the other shoe involves nose hair or something...instead of compulsive lying, sublimated homosexuality, implied violence, untreated drug/alcohol/mental health issues and the like. You know?

Monday, December 7, 2009

And I bet one million dollars that every ADHDer has had one of these mornings...

Because I have been experimenting with what time I take my Remeron I have been putting off taking my Vyvanse for a couple of hours the last few mornings, which has resulted in a faaaantastic review of what life is like without medication. Damn, now I remember why mornings can feel so frustrating, why the gas pump that asks you 500 questions before dispensing the gas can be SO annoying if not angering, why filling out 800 deposit slips to put money in the bank is crazymaking...this morning was the absolute pinnacle of frustration. One of those mornings where I thank God I don't have children because mommy would be either screaming like a looney or working REALLY hard not to. Mornings like these make me want to switch brains with the doubting assholes who think that ADHD doesn't exist. Yes doubters, I KNOW it doesn't make sense to YOU that these things are beyond frustrating, and that's why YOU haven't been diagnosed with a disorder! Wear my brain, without medication, for five minutes and you'll want to go back to your own world, where you have the LUXURY of natural calm, and thoughts that don't run 800 MPH.

I left my house for work at 9am. I work a 3-minute drive from my house. On the way, I needed to stop and get gas about 1/8th of a mile from my house, and stop at the bank, which is also within a mile of my house, just to make a deposit.

I arrived at work at 10am. Why? Because I got LOST, not once but TWICE on my way to work. I couldn't even tell you what my brain was doing on its way to the gas station, my first stop, all I know is suddenly I was about to drive onto the freeway before I went "oh shit!" and found a place to turn around. After getting gas, I then left for the bank...and ended up at WalMart instead. Making this more baffling was the fact that I almost never go to WalMart.

I had not yet taken my medication because I was just trying to gauge how the Remeron was affecting me without interference from the stimulant. I was not driving dangerously, I simply couldn't remember where I was going because I'm not used to having to hold thoughts in my head without medication anymore. Does that mean I shouldn't take the medication oh doubters, because it's making my brain lazy!? you have any idea how much strain it puts on your mind and body, in the form of extreme stress, to have to manage daily life WITHOUT medication and a flying brain? When I say extreme stress, I am not talking about being "like, totally annoyed" because life isn't convenient for me. I mean stress that has put me on the floor with 6-hour panic attacks. I'm talking about stress that in my childhood caused me to have my own Rheumatologist because my stress was causing an auto-immune reaction in my body. Auto-immune reaction? Means my body, because it didn't know how to process that much stress, was literally fighting itself in a potentially lethal way. And I was nine years old. And why didn't these experts diagnose me with ADHD? Remember, girls didn't have ADHD 25 years ago.

So there I was rolling into the office at 10, and I'm lucky I have a flexible schedule. As I walk into the office our assistant lets me know that the boss's office ceiling has sprung a leak and a plummer is on his way...the files that were on his desk are totally soaked and drying out in the closed file room. Clients are waiting in the front of the office to be seen...the boss starts giving me 5 sets of conflicting instructions at once about things he needs done...I'm trying to close my office door for five minutes to just regroup and every 2 minutes the boss bounces back into my office.

I woke up feeling rested and purposeful left the house to go to work, then got lost twice on my way there, and by 11am really just wanted to close the door and cry. I even ate breakfast, packed snacks like I'm supposed to, got my bank errand done despite my frustration, which was really every way, my intention to have an effective day was firm.

I took the Vyvanse. About an hour later I was able to actually begin to realize my intentions for the day without being so easily emotionally derailed--although I'm beginning to question whether or not it is actually giving me anything resembling focus. Lately I sometimes feel that it's just keeping me awake.

Big middle finger to those who tell us ADHD doesn't exist, seriously. Seriously. Days like this really drive it all home.

Accidental Therapy Dog

A few weeks ago I got a puppy. I've been looking for the right dog for a couple of years now, and was holding out for a good fit. I had a list of specific criteria:

  • Must be portable to fit into my constantly mobile life
  • Must be small so as to leave my range of possible housing as open as possible
  • Must NOT be annoying and yappy because that would make ME insane, nevermind my neighbors
  • Must be very trainable
  • Must be the manliest dog possible under 20 lbs
  • Must get along well with cats because I have two and they're not going anywhere
  • Must get along well with people because I am always out and about and interacting with people
  • Must get along well with children in case I ever have or live with children
  • Must be a rescue pooch of some variety
  • Must be a size of dog that I can enjoy getting some exercise/recreation with but that doesn't need to go for a 5 mile hike everyday because I'm simply never going to be that dog owner
It wasn't easy to find a good fit but I'm glad I held out because the last thing an ADHDer needs when accepting a new responsibility is extra stress factors.

The winner is Chichi. He's 1/2 Chihuahua and 1/2 Rat Terrier, both very trainable breeds of dog. Yes, it seems that any"Terrier" plus Chihuahua would mean instant noise problem but I did my reading and all experts say that the primary difference between loud and quiet in these breeds is good training. He's a puppy so we're starting from scratch, which would seem like a BIG job for an ADHDer, and I'm not going to lie, IT IS. But so far that's been mostly beneficial...a little externally imposed structure can be a good thing, even if it's sometimes frustrating. He's really smart and learns fast and hey, when he's not perfect, duh, he's only 5 months old.

My therapist was quick to point out that I have chosen a dog that is, well...just like me. Small, extremely energetic if not hyper (he races around the house like the Devil is trying to climb up his ass, it's hilarious) and needs a little bit of structure. And he does fit the "why do dogs always look like their owners" rule. Because the whole world is new to him, he is also easily distracted at times. He'll hear someone cough in the next parking lot over and suddenly he's forgotten he's supposed to be peeing and is trying to go to the sound to investigate it. I can totally relate!

The most interesting thing about him though, besides that fact that he's extremely adorable and fun to have around (even the cats are starting to like him, and will sit near him now, even when he's flipping cartwheels in front of them trying to get them to play with him)...the most interesting thing is that he's an accidental therapy dog.

I get way stressed out about making food and having to stop to eat. Well, the puppy (and the cats for that matter) has to eat. Several times a day. And he won't let you forget that fact. So he reminds me of the importance of feeding MYSELF on a regular basis. He also digs a lot of good naps throughout the day, which reminds me to slow down. He makes me take breaks too, because in order to potty train him (and even once he's potty-trained) I have to take him outside frequently. I take him to the office, and the fact that I have to be concerned about whether or not new experiences will frighten him as I get him acclimated to the big world, makes me more attentive to honoring my own emotional well-being. AND...this is the BEST...he helps me stay focused at work. I jump out of my seat to attend to distractions all day long, generally, most of which should be ignored. He likes to sleep on my lap while I'm working and I don't want to bother him, so when I feel that impulse to jump up, his presence forces me to rethink the impulse, and get back to the task at hand.

He's also totally non-judgmental and in fact, goes wild with excitement after I return from the few times during the week where I have to leave him at home alone for a little while.

And it's just a happy accident that the person who located this swell pup for also an adult ADHDer. She had already met him and knows my lifestyle and thought we would be a perfect fit for each other. So far, she is right on the money.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Foul Moods and One Sided Conversations

Yes, yes, two topics dear to many ADHDers hearts. As we ADHDers are prone to intense emotions, man of us are prone to a dark and consuming anger, when frustration visits. That would be me, right now. I just feel awful. I just had another experience with a family member who wants to have one-sided conversations about what THEY think my mental health issues are, which then makes me want to distance myself from them just a little, which then prompts them to start speculating wildly about my mental health in inappropriate ways, which then inspires me to feel that I have to engage them on the topic, which then leads to another one-sided conversation where they're the only one allowed to have a valuable opinion about MY mental health, and the cycle starts all over again. And I'm well into the next stage because I really, really don't want to talk to them anytime soon right now.

This behavior on their part is totally, 100% inappropriate. I spend most of the hours of my week being a smart, educated, conscientious, community-involved, competent adult, who really works to take care to hear what the people are me are saying. I feel that my willingness to be "available" to discuss my mental health issues is being abused...but then again, I keep engaging the cycle...right? I just don't know how to not engage it. I really don't want to talk to them...but then I see that they seem to have genuine concern, and I feel it's "right" to address it, and ask them about what they're concerned about, and try to have an honest conversation, you know, the kind you have to pay therapists to learn how to have?

I am angry, disrupted, resentful, and seriously, right this moment, considering estranging myself from parts of my family because this is the 800th time this had happened. We are able to choose to sever ties with toxic partners...but it's harder to feel that the severance of family ties is possible, even though they are equally toxic. When I am feeling like this, it feels so very possible.

My therapist says it's great to try to stick these situations out because I can learn to work through this crap and then maybe learn to stop picking partners for myself who also undeservedly question my competence on a foundational level. But you know what? I'm so sick, literally, of being treated like this. And I'm sick of the fact that no matter how skillfully I learn to attempt the honest approach or deflect when it's not working I am TIRED. I am tired of negotiating in good faith when first of all I am not even obligated to negotiate and second, that good faith is not being returned.

If I'm sick of having the conversation, I need to simply stop having it. Abandon the cycle in the middle. I think this is the first time in my life where honesty has been a bad thing. My candor and willingness to discuss, accidentally becomes a tool everytime I open my mouth to try to fix the problem. There is nothing to be fixed here that is within my responsibility to address.

There is also no foul mood to apologize for...oh there IS a foul mood, just none to apologize for.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh gee, not AGAIN

Okay basically my medications are working. I think. I mean when I take them together, all the time, things are okay. But there's this funny problem...Remeron/Mirtazapine makes me REALLY GROGGY. Which is okay when I am taking the Vyvanse, which perks a person up rather nicely (even while calming the brain). But there are days when I don't really need to take a stimulant...and I HAVE to because otherwise I will sleep all day. I'm honestly a little annoyed with my prescriber right now because YES, I get it, he is probably used to working with people who are a little less meticulous about self-reflection and a little more likely to give in to ADHD impatience. I'm not one of those people, I have a pretty good idea of when I'm being driven by impulse and when I've really analyzed the criteria and am making a reasonable request.

I analyzed these criteria months ago when I started the Remeron...this is a known side effect that should have gone away by now. It is not typically an issue, because I like taking my stimulant most of the time anyway, and the days when I choose not to take it are ones where I don't really need to think. But yesterday, I forgot to take the stimulant...and was SCREWED at work. I was fighting to stay awake all was awful. I'm just lucky I was at the job where I don't need to be "on" all the time.

When I called him he said "oh...just take it in the evening". I already do. So he said "oh. Take it earlier in the evening". I said "I get what you're saying, but if you look at this logically, it's 6pm right now as I'm talking to you...I should not still be THIS groggy and I have been THIS groggy all day". He said "okay, I hear you, just try it and call me next week and it it's still a problem we'll try something else".

UUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH. Oh I'm going to try it. I'm going to do it to the LETTER because there's no way in hell I'm going to have him disagree with me next week.

Last night, as instructed, I took the medication two hours earlier, AND went to bed earlier, just to make damned sure that lack of sleep wasn't part of the problem. I could hardly wake up this morning and instead of taking the Vyvanse, I went to work without it because of course, if I take the stimulant I won't be able to tell if I'm still groggy from the Remeron. My boss come into the office and asks me if I'm popping, I am NOT JOKING. When I say groggy, I mean god damned groggy. I was working not to slur and struggling to stay away. I waited until two hours after I'd woken up and took the Vyvanse...which takes another 40 minutes to kick in, which means I lost an entire morning before I could even sort of function at work.


We're trying something else cowboy. I have way too much at stake, and WAY too much to catch up on due to medication drama earlier this year, to be knocked out like that!

I am beginning to wonder if the Vyvanse is actually doing what I need it to do, or if I'm just so relieved to cut through the fog of the Remeron that I'm giving it way too much credit. To the Remeron's credit, it sure gets rids of my anxiety!

It is true that while the Vyvanse makes me very effective at getting some things done, I am still struggling at some things...although when you look at it...I am able to focus damned well on things I enjoy, even more so then when I wasn't taking it...before I started taking it even if I enjoyed something I would be distracted still. Now...if I like something I can do it for hours. But if I don't...I'm even less likely to do it. Because I am so able to focus on the things I like...ugh...that damn line between "is this med working" and "oh, I need to pull my head out of my ass and do some boring crap right now" is sooooo thin...too thin...which I guess is why ADHD is a disorder, not a "gift"....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do I Get A Brownie Badge?

Yesterday at one of my last classes for the semester (really one of my last EVER in grad school) I overheard a first-semester student lamenting to another student "There is no way I am going to pass this semester. I don't know what happened...I just couldn't handle it. I don't know what to do...maybe I should talk to my professors? I don't know how to tell them what went wrong because I don't know. I have ADHD and dyslexia but it doesn't seem like it should have been this hard and I think I'm going to have to drop out of the program...".

BEEP! Wait, stop right there, did someone say "I can't handle grad school because I have ADHD and dyslexia"!?

Just so happens that I am a shameless interrupter, and so I walked up to her and said "I'm sorry, but I was totally eavesdropping and I just want to tell you: you can do this".

She looked really a little startled.

I told her: "This is my last semester and I was just diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. It really sucked sometimes but I did it. In fact I did it with a 3.8. I basically had a melt down at some point in every semester but you know passes."

She said "I totally had a melt down weeks ago but I didn't tell anyone...I just felt so dumb. "

So I asked her what parts she was having a hard time with and we talked for a long time. Predictably she had a lot of difficulty with reading. I know that the same strategies won't work for everyone but I told her what worked for me, so while I'm in the business of recounting this tale, I'll map out my strategies here, like I did for her:

1) In grad school, it's highly unlikely that anyone's going to quiz you about idiotic little details. So do you have to read all of those heinous articles word for word? Hell no. If reading is as shitty for you as it is for me, print out the article pull out a highlighter and use it to read and highlight just the first and last sentence of every paragraph. Occasionally this might help you get sucked into the reading, but even if it doesn't it will give you the overview so you can keep up with the discussions.

2) Don't stress over the stuff you hate...use tricks like the above to keep yourself moving forward until you get to the next oasis of a project that actually interests you where you can hyperfocus to your hearts content.

3) Communicate with people. If you're having a hard time with your classes, talk to your profs or your advisor about it. They may be able to help you strategize, or connect you with people who CAN help you with that if they just don't know what to do or say to help you. To my surprise, when I was having a hard time this semester, because of medication problems, I discovered that BOTH of my professors this semester had psych issues of their own and knew exactly what I was going through with meds not working correctly. Which brings me to 4...

4) Don't assume you're the only one with these issues. You're not! Hooray! Doesn't it lighten the load just knowing that nobody else is normal either? Does for me...makes me see the world as "us and us" not "us and them".

5) If you're having a hard time with a group assignment, let your professor know or if you're comfortable just talking to your group mates about it, then do that. If you have a hard time with some part of the assignment, maybe you can request to work on a part that plays to your strengths?

6) Use your early enthusiasm to your advantage. I pick my topics for the semester's projects on the first day of class and then spend the next 2 weeks blowing my wad looking for articles for those projects and putting them in a folder so that a few weeks down the road when I'm verging on a melt-down I can talk myself off the ledge with "oh yeah...shit, I really don't want to do this assignment but I already dug up all the articles"...makes it WAY easier to plan and to get work done as the semester wears on (and oh, how they wear on...).

Do you know how good it felt to be able to say to someone "Hey, I went through this shitty experience and I survived and YOU CAN TOO.". Do you have any idea how nice it would have been to hear those same words from someone else when I was at the end of MY first semester having a total melt down? It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. And do you know how nice it was seeing HER face literally relax as we talked and light up when I said again, before I left (leaving her with my email address in case she needs melt down support down the road): YOU CAN DO THIS.

And she can :)

Treatment has turned me into a slacker

Michele's comment on my previous post reminded me that I wanted to talk about this issue...I am a big slacker since I started ADHD treatment. While I suck at doing anything in a routine way, I am very rigid and uncompromising in getting my "work" done, because I know if I slack off, that I will likely not finish things. Well, treatment is making me way more laid back. The drugs calm and focus me, and the anxiety of my unfocused mind (combined with a little extra helping of anxiety that I seem to naturally harbor) were the horses driving my engine.

If I can't stop thinking about doing a particular project, I will stay up however late to get it done, even if I will feel like crap the next day, because I fear the not-finishing so much. I still do this but not to the same degree.

This just cracks me up because so many of us go to treatment because we want to be "more productive". However, I am realizing that this elusive "being more productive" was not really a good treatment goal for me. And honestly, when my therapist made me try to verbalise my treatment goal, I didn't say I wanted to be more productive, I said that I wanted to learn new skills to live my life, to replace some of the ones that weren't working.

If you measured me pre-treatment in terms of output, my life was working. If you measured me in terms of true mental health, probably not so much...I mean can you really say your life is working when you're fueled by desperation, fear and anxiety...even if the outcome is a lot of output? And I won't claim that I was working efficiently.

If I had to say what I am getting from treatment, I would say that yes, I am learning to be healthier, yes, I am learning to live my life in better ways, but am I more productive? I don't really feel like I am. Is this a problem? I don't know yet. I mean due to the fact that I was able to accomplish as much as I was unmedicated, it's possible (okay okay, it's TRUE) that my expectations for what a person should be able to produce are a little off. A little unrealistic...and over time, probably a little suicidal. But the fact remains that I can't DO as much as I did before and yes, that bothers me.

I don't feel that I am being impaired though...just that I had (and still have) no true grasp of what is a reasonable amount to pack into one day. I still don't know what that looks like.

Here's how I know that I am making "progress". I went to class yesterday for the first time in person since starting this medication combo. (Online class, meets infrequently in person.). Sitting there was absolutely a different experience. I was able to sit there a LOT longer without feeling like I needed to leave the room. The presentation we were watching was objectively boring so I know that the "normal" brains in the room were struggling as much as I was. There's a certain urgency, irritability and frustration that I always feel when I'm stuck at a desk in a classroom and I did NOT have that feeling. It was SO peaceful. I have the same experience in meetings and I LOVE it. I love being able to tolerate normal life situations without the well of anxiety building up in my body and mind because I just can't stand it anymore.

I am buzzing around less because I'm wasting less time on the jackassery of ADHD disorganization. I spend 10 minutes a week cleaning out my purse, which saves me a lot of time later that would have been spent looking for lost stuff in it, or cleaning a bigger mess out a year from now.

Most of my "piles" are gone and have not rebuilt themselves--and I had at least ten years worth of high-quality "WTF!?" built up in those piles.

I got some portable DRAWERS to put my clothes in. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind, I'm not going to you know, fold laundry or anything but I found some that are wide, and CLEAR so I can see what's in them and they are portable so I can move them around if I want to.

It is easier to not overcommit myself. This will be an ongoing struggle but I just don't have to fight as hard to say no it seems.

And in regard to saying no, I did NOT engage in any "extracurricular" activities with said "date" last night, at ALL. Hey now...I'm not saying I'm usually a big town bicycle or anything...just that ADHD impulsivity has aided me in many a romantic misadventure in the past.

So while treatment has given me nothing but progress, progress for me just looks a lot different than one might expect. I like it, but it takes some getting used to. Makes it really easy to see how someone with certain manifestations of ADHD could be mistaken for bipolar at a first glance...happens all the time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Hallmark of the Adult ADHDer

There are a lot of people out there running around these days saying things like "oh, I must have ADHD because I change the tv channels a lot" or "gee, I am bored all the time at work so I must have ADHD".

I think I have found the foolproof measure of if someone is, in fact, and adult ADHDer. And this marks my first foray into the type of blogpost I find most annoying in the ADHD blog genre: the "this is true of me as an ADHDer so it must be true of everyone" post.

Back to the task at hand and enough of the meta-analysis...this it goes beyond distraction, irritability, impulsiveness, forgetfulness. Technically it falls under the category of "impairment" as a symptom, but it's so much more aggravating than that.

Sustaining of routines...the proof is in the difficulty sustaining routines. I swear to God...see, if you have a normal brain, and you have a problem with being bored, you can easily address that with a few weeks of therapy and signing up for a new cooking class. If your problem is boredom at work, and you have a normal brain, again, a few weeks of therapy and a new perspective or a new JOB should fix the problem and show you the way for what you may need to do if you run into this problem again.

If you have ADHD and you are always bored...and you seek new will seek MORE new activities and more and are heading down the road to compulsively seeking new activities. I'm not talking about people who just like to try new things, ohhhh noooo. I'm talking about people like me who cannot simply do one thing at a time, but also cannot say no, and end up overcommitted before they have even realized they are busy in the first place. It's a bit of a drug. It's exhausting. It leaves you in a state of constant frazzle that no normal brain would ever allow a person to achieve, but which the ADHD brain requires! Alright, alright, which MY ADHD brain requires.

If you have ADHD and you are bored at work, a new job will never fix the problem, because you will eventually (and probably quickly) become bored at the next one. You leave and find a new one before you even learn how to work through the problem, over and over and over (or get fired over and over and over) never learn to break the cycle because you can't. Even if you go to a therapist and they don't figure out your problem is ADHD for years (um, hi, that would be me again) you might learn how to have terrific insight, how to manage your anxiety and frustration somewhat but you have NO idea how to actually address the actual problem. You remain anxious, frustrated and bored!

This lack of routine exists despite our actual symptoms it seems...if we had a terrific ability to cultivate routines, we would not be impaired and hence would not need a diagnosis.

Now then, let's discuss some of my common ADHDer challenges, their solutions, and then the REAL reason that I can prove I'm an ADHDer: the imperfection of those solutions, and why they are imperfect.

ADHDer issue #1: remembering to take medication, or as Hallowell/Ratey say "how to remember to take the pills that help you remember to take the pills". I have this great donut shaped thing with the days of the week on it that helps me to remember to take the pills. When I remember to look at the donut shaped thing. I was on a roll for a while, but in classic ADHDer fashion, once I fall off the wagon, I fall hard and have to shoot myself in the ass a few times before I am able to get back on track. I'm in the middle of getting on track with this after a rousing round or two of "wait, did I take it? did I not take it? I don't think I took it...but can't take it now because if I already took it I'll freaking OD...". I don't know when I fell off the wagon but it probably had something to do with me having a moment of anxiety about having one more thing to remember to do and ended up here. It seems like there should be an easy way to fix this...but there's not. I am just going to have to fall on my ass a couple more times, then it will move to the top of the list in my brain again and I'll be okay for a while. The ADHDer brain only has an extremely limited amount of RAM you see, therefore, once anything is added to the queue everything else shuffles and it ain't pretty. Something will have to fall off the list...the pill donut, for the moment, is the thing that fell off the list. The therapist asked me where I put it...I didn't know...I don't even know the moment that I stopped using it. Kind of like when you throw a ball for a dog and it doesn't quite see where it went so it just keeps running...or sort of runs in the direction of the ball and runs back to you without the ball and you're like "dude, dog, I can't throw it again if you don't bring it" and the dog stares at you because he has no freaking clue where the ball went. The trick is to find a really clever way to get the dog to go back and get the ball. Wait maybe the trick is to just go and pick up the ball. Uh....

ADHDer issue #2: I had a system for doing homework. My system got thrown off. I am totally floundering. Might sound like OCD but it's not really like that. It's not that I have to complete a certain ritual, like with OCD, it's that once my routine is thrown off, re-establishing it is a monstrously huge undertaking. ADHD is the crack in the record that makes the needle keep skipping, and MAN, is that every annoying in the middle of the song. Changes in routine fuck me up, big time, every time and honestly I'm not sure how I'm going to get through this finals week. I keep resetting the needle but the flow just isn't happening.

ADHDer issue #3: turning in my time sheet at work. Something about filling in those little boxes just makes my head scream. This task makes me almost descend into an actual temper tantrum. A while back I started doing it two days early because that helped me to get it done. It was either early, or not at all...well there was a holiday on a Monday one week. ARGGGGGH! I have not been able to reset the routine since then. NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE THESE PROBLEMS. Yes yes, I know, put it on a calendar, blah blah fucking blah, I don't want to hear it, I've set timers, I've put in on the calendar...I'm just going to have to figure out how to sort it out on my own. Somehow. Somehow that doesn't involve my mind literally growing instant wings and taking flight at each separate box. Wonder why ADHDers are irritable, that's why, imagine spending all that energy literally trying to pull your mind towards you, several times a minute to complete a simple task, a task that your logical mind actually understands is not difficult, which makes it that much more frustrating that you can't anchor your mind to do it...

There's so many more...but the dividing line for ME between the capabilities of my ADHD mind and those of normal brains, always lies right there along the frontiers of routine. And after several months of relative improvement I'm not going to lie, it's annoying as heck to find myself stuck again trying to re-figure out how to get the same things done. Overall I think this is THE most annoying symptom for me. I mean crap, I'm sitting here and I can SEE the problem. I can SEE it. My self-awareness is the damn reason I went in for evaluation...but the other reason I went in for evaluation was that there was indeed nothing logical I could do to "fix" myself. Medication has closed some of the gaps between logic and ADHD for me, but not all of them. And the realization is crystal clear at the moment that life is always going to be like that...and man, that's a fantastic (insert sarcasm here) notion to re-visit...over and over...and over...and over...and over and over...

I'm going to go grab that pill donut RIGHT now and put it in a really visible place. OH...I just realized why I've been hiding it. From the dog. Got a new dog. Right. Now I remember. Yes, I seriously just remembered that, just this very minute.

Out of sight, out of mind could not be a more literal issue for me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gotta Do Watcha Gotta Do

After a well-intentioned but misguided attempt at "breaking my dog in" regarding a holiday parade...with loud fire engines...and scaring him half to death (he was just barely peeking out of my coat...good thing he only weighs 3 lbs)...I have returned home with a single mission and purpose. To get this last semester of school OFF MY ASS and out of my life for good.

I have traded water for beer, thus trading homework quality for homework quantity...and I don't care what it takes. If it takes an all-nighter, fine. If it takes another beer or two...FINE. If it takes leaving work at noon tomorrow to get 'er done...FINE. I have had this semester up to here (imagine short girl with hand stretched over her head indicating also short, but slightly taller status, holding a 3 lb Chihuahua).

The puppy is busy with his rawhide, the cats are settled in to observe.

Swig...log out of blogger...

The Score

I'm sitting here feeling frustrated about my semester, because I'm so wigged out about finishing everything I need to finish this week for school. So I'm making a list of all the non-ADHD obstacles that I have contended with in the last few months. I'm doing this because I am in the middle of a really big first year of ADHD treatment, and sometimes I have so many other obstacles that is makes it hard to see that I have actually made a lot of progress:

1) Started the semester off with the hellish experience with that particularly awful batch of generic Celexa. This shot my entire routine for the semester in the ass and I'm still recovering.

2) Family business hit a serious road-bump and required all hands on deck.

3) Was working to finish off producing my weekly event for the season...and greater than anticipated success created a lot of work.

4) Ended relationship with the boyfriend...due to his bad habit of sucking energy out of my body with his insecurity. This disrupted not only my life, but my home as well, as he took his sweet time moving out.

5) The check debacle (see previous post).

And add to that list "working to learn to live a new life by treating my ADHD". Oh gee, I wonder why this semester has been such a challenge! Any person with any kind of brain would be having a challenging time managing all of this while in grad school...and the big positive throughline is that during all of this I have been tenacious in practicing removal of anxiety from my life, rather than giving in to it and letting it run the show. Not the ignoring and tolerating of it that I used to do...actual letting it go. I'm going to crank on a homework marathon so I can then compile the list of "what I got done that was awesome" this semester and add "homework" to that list.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

As if I needed another reason...

...just got an email from the ex-boyfriend. Apparently the check I gave him yesterday to pay our last bills magically flew right out of his hands on the streets of Boston. Like magic! Poof! Breeze came up and just whoosh, whisked it away! Just like that!

Yeah. Well I don't believe in accidents. See, as an ADHDer, my whole life used to be a series of "accidents". There was always someone or something to blame for all of the magical, mysterious things that used to just "happen" to me. Always there was traffic, or parents or friends, or complete strangers to blame when I would forget things, or be half and hour late, or have to get up and leave in the middle of a play, or not show up to meet people when I said I would, or didn't follow through on something people were relying on me for. Always a reason...but my own fault was never the reason. My own lacking memory, or complete lack of skill in the arena of self-motivation and organization...never to blame.

About 8 years ago the pattern, for whatever reason, suddenly became very clear to me. I started trying my hardest to eliminate this kind of chaos from my life, and the first principle that I came to agreement with myself on was that no matter what, no matter where my journey took me, my ineptitude needed to stop making things suck for other people. I knew that even though I didn't totally understand why my life was so chaotic, it was INDEED chaotic and at any cost I needed to keep it to myself while I figured out what to do about it.

Coming back to this, over and over, helped me to start to figure out ways to address many of the problems that I was having. Not all of them...that's part of what lead me to a mental health center to get my brain checked out...I've mentioned hitting that wall before. I am not perfect. Nobody is...I work really hard at not crapping on others...I don't succeed 100% of the time. But I am generally aware of it when I blow things to high hell, and always acknowlege my mistake and do what I can do to correct it.

So this all comes back to my ex and he sure has a curious problem. His life is one big mysterious "OMG HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!?". Damn, that must be rough, having things just cave in on ya like that. All the time. And then squish out all over other people, all the time. Gosh...gee...I wonder what that's all about.

I'm here in the middle of finals last finals week of my entire grad school adventure, after three years of him being an unsupportive dink while I went through this process. And he emails me to let me know that the check mysteriously flew away and I of course am now going to have to cancel the check, possibly close and reopen a new bank account just to be the middle of finals week. I haven't even been to the bank to cash my paychecks for nearly four week because I don't have time to go to the bank.

I also, of course, already have a difficult time with time management, ESPECIALLY where my school work is concerned.

So of course it's no surprise...I already know that he really has no grasp of the helm of his life. Could it possibly be more symbolic, that check flyyyying away on the wind? No. Absolutely not. It's a perfect image. It's also yet more confirmation that I did what I needed to do in terms of ending our relationship. I can't share space with someone who takes so little responsibility for their impact on other people. I have spent 8 years of my life now on working not to have that kind of life. I WANT to take responsibility for my actions and impact on the world around me, I WANT to learn and grow so that I can learn to be more effective and not let my ADHD ruin my life and the lives of others.

I need so badly to just finish this school work...I have classmates that are depending on me to do this...but I can't ignore this issue.

I'm so angry. Just really angry. I'm going to go work on homework, have some pie, and jump back into the flow of the universe...and subtract the check cancellation fee from the damn NEW check. I would love to make him fix this for me, but who in their right mind has their ex change their bank accounts for them. Yes, I know, overkill on changing the bank accounts, but I'm that person that if I don't do it, will surely have a psycho identity theft and the universe go way back, and I'm just done tempting fate in that regard...

Damn this upsets me. He doesn't even live in the house anymore and has single-handedly hijacked my finals week. Bravo. I'm going to go be pissed about this for a while before I kick myself in the ass, quit having a pity party, and start taking repsonsibility for the parts of my week that I actually have control over.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking back our right to fail

That's right...we ADHDers have a right to fail. Every human alive has a right to fail.

Dana, a regular poster over as Adder World always posts the best topics for discussion, really meaty and terrific, with lots of facets to consider. This time she's hit the nail on the head again with a post about whether ADHDers expect too much from spouses/partners. This topic really makes me rumble the ol' Bingo balls around in the brain. Yes, I'm sure we DO at times, expect "too much". But there is also a thin line between dedicated caretaking and co-dependency. And anyone who's spent five good minutes seriously considering the effects of co-dependency knows that co-dependency is a system. Every player is a participant, even the caretaker.

I'm sure there's book or five about this out there, books about toxic caretaking. I have run into this issue before. I typically pick partners in relationships who are SO independent that they're just self-centered jerks. But there's been a handful of gentlemen that have been the total opposite. It's almost like they want ME to be that self-centered person that defines them, that gives them something to "take care" of because I'm too busy to do the little things, and because in my younger days as an ADHDer I tended to select chaotic lifestyle choices...they want to be the right hand man...but then to resent "the Boss" even though the Boss in this instance, me, doesn't even want that. Even now, even though I have made great strides in learning new lifestyle choices, and reminder tools I am aware that it could be easy to fall into these stupid patterns over and over if I don't pay attention.

At this point in my life I am very ambitious, very driven, very absorbed in my projects. In my last relationship I was very open about that fact. I very clearly stated on many occasions that while I loved my partner, I was in the middle of an approximately three-year time slot where I really needed to work to develop some things in my life to the next level. There is a big difference between this, and someone just being a self-centered jerk...but because I'm an ADHD who is self-conscious about people mistaking her focus for self-centeredness, I don't always honor my own needs as I should, and will give up things that I shouldn't in relationships. I start to question my own goals and needs because I have someone expecting something different from me.

No exception, my last relationship. But like I said at the beginning, this is not about blame, this post, because it takes TWO to allow a toxic dynamic to occur.

My real point is about how caretakers are not always as benign as they might seem. The person who is always the accommodating one is not always in the right...and is not always supportive, though they work to appear to be. And if they are giving up important parts of themselves too, because of what they think the other person wants...bad times.

Having set this all up...I really haven't taken enought time in my life to specifically praise my own strengths. Like many ADHDers, I focus a lot on my weaknesses...but my success depends on my strengths (thank you to Drs Hallowell and Ratey). And I have a lot of them...I'm very organized, I'm good at seeing the big picture, I'm a wickedly good event planner and people organizer...and I get along well with people. In order to make the most of these strengths, I am learning to identify my weaknesses so that I can figure out how to address them and help to keep them working FOR me, rather than against me as much as possible. One of the biggest things that I do in order to make that happen, is to set up visual cues for myself in my environment. I've posted about my filing cabinet before...and how I had put it in my partner's office because I knew that HE wouldn't want it in the living room, even though that would be the best place for it to cue me to do my filing. (See what I mean about it taking two people to create a destrutive dynamic?). He would also move things around on me, which would destroy my whole ability to function...and even after I got him to stop moving "big" stuff, I would notice little things.

I never asked him to just put up with me. What I asked very clearly, was for him to communicate to me when there was a problem, so that we could find a mutually useful response. But because of his OWN emotional baggage, he didn't want a solution without conflict. He wanted to make himself more in control, by controlling MY stuff, not just his.

For a long time, I let this silent control pattern eat away at me, instead of calling it out. I internalized his actions as a comment on my value, my worth, my abilities. I can't blame him for the fact that I did that to myself...but once I was ready to take responsibility for it, it was obvious that I could no longer let this type of dynamic continue. I tried a few different solutions, all of which involved both of us working toward a common goal (to be determined by the two of us).

But this isn't about this relationship...the valuable nugget here is that I had a right to fail OR succeeed on my OWN terms. In this relationship, he, for whatever reason, was absolutely compelled to deprive me of that right. For whatever reason, he needed me to be wrong...he needed me to fail, but on his terms. This dynamic deprived me of the right to either succeed OR fail, on my own terms. He could not let my ways of doing things, which were very different from his, be valid...and that's just wrong.

Yes I know, every ADHDer is different, and every relationship is different. Many times, ADHDers have partners who take caretaking roles. But there are ways to help care for someone that are respectful, that are not destructive, that are not controlling. It's that whole teach a man to fish thing...yes, there is a "deficit" with ADHD...but ADHDers and partners need to work to find the line where the actual deficit begins and ends, not where people need it to be because of their emotional baggage.

I knew right where my line was...and I kept trying to communicate with my partner about it, and because of his emotional baggage, he didn't really want to see where it was...he wanted it where HE needed it to be, at the risk of both of our happiness and potential. He continually ignored his OWN needs by manufacturing deficits that I didn't even have.

The deficits I do have are enough to deal need to make work where there isn't work! I am sad that the relationship didn't work...but I'm not going to own this as a failure, and use it to beat myself up. Ridiculous. Not necessary. I'm not perfect,but I WAS honest about my life, my goals, deficits. That's huge as an ADHDer, to be able to do that, and it's taken me years to be able to do...I deserve to be able to celebrate that.