Saturday, September 5, 2009

ADHD, the pitbull teeth in your ankle

I am, just this moment, driving my sweetie insane. You see, I get great ideas...and I know I am forgetful. Humorous combo, here's how it plays out.

See, I want to have a birthday party. But we know that his parents are coming from out of town in one of the nearing weekends, but we can't remember which one. Well, I must have this information before I can pick a date for my birthday party so I asked him if he would call his parents and ask them...yes I can call them, but it's generally the case that if his parents are to be called, he's the one that calls.

I sat down to put together my list of people to invite for the party...but I can't stop thinking about how I don't know when his parents are coming...because I know I will forget if I don't write it asking him to do it I should be able to clear it from my mind because I've delegated the task...except he's sitting in the other room checking baseball scores instead of dialing the phone...and I'm not trying to drive him insane, but I ask him about it again...and then about a minute later because I can't stop thinking about it and it's making me REALLY anxious because I know I'm going to forget I ask him again...and then about a minute later again...

Yes, there are obvious logical solutions to this dilemma...but not until after I ask for the millionth time and he goes "OKAY!!!!!!!!". The pitbull's teeth have finally sunk into his ankle.

But um...I'm still waiting now, and he still hasn't done it...and I either need to write it down, or dial the phone myself because...okay I'm going to ask him again because I can't stop thinking about it because it's worrying me...and so I apologize for bugging him and ask him if he wants me to just do it...then that makes him grumpy, because I've already pestered him 800 times now, and he thinks I'm doing this as a guilt trip even though I'm not, I'm just trying to be proactive...

OKAY!!!! Geez, okay, he's dialing the phone now.

I know how my brain works and I know I have to be proactive about taking care of business in the ways I know that I can. I'm sure all couples have moments like this actually, and it's not that it's strictly an ADHD scenario...ADHD just amplifies the urgency of seemingly unimportant things sometimes because like I said...I know I'm very forgetful, so I know I have to DO SOMETHING to make sure that the "thing" gets taken care of. And until I DO THAT SOMETHING it causes me great worry, because I fear dropping the ball. When you've dropped the ball so many times, and have learned to work so hard not is a perfect recipe for anxiety.

Anyway...he's talking to his dad now, and the answer is I can let it go, I am relieved...and he doesn't seem too annoyed anymore, lol, this is the only reason this relationship works, his ability to forgive my insistence (and my ability to forgive his baseball obsession) and in a minute I can send out my party invites.

It's a rather effective coping mechanism...not the driving him insane part. Awareness of my forgetfulness, and taking responsibility for it makes me very driven and at times makes me very productive. Letting that kind of insistence or fear drive your actions can be intense core burns hot...but my persistence is part of what makes me effective.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"But You're So Smart, Why Can't You Focus?"

I want to thank Jeff of "Jeff's A.D.D. Mind" for bringing up this issue, first of all because it's fascinating, and second because I think it's part of why I was not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. (See JEFF'S POST)

Sometimes really gifted students just seem ADHD. Read the info that Jeff posted and you'll see why. Sometimes gifted students actually also have ADHD. I was identified early on as a gifted student...a label of ADHD never came into the picture until, well, just this year, although it was a possibility I'd tossed around for many years.

For me, what it comes down to is these things that could be giftedness or ADHD cause me impairment? Yes, absolutely, and that's why I sought treatment. But I didn't seek treatment because my smartness was just killin' me, I sought treatment because impulsiveness, stimulation-seeking, a cluttered mind, and inability to land my thoughts was driving me nuts and creating obstacles for me. I was unable to really grow and nurture my ideas, because the ADHD was getting in the way, at least that's the way I see it. Trying ADHD meds, even at this early stage of experimentation, has only convinced me of general, the medications do not obscure my personality, in fact, I feel that they help me see the line more clearly between my native thoughts, and ADHD symptoms. With medication I have all the same thoughts and feelings, they just don't hit me like a hailstorm...I can examine them and sort through them and enjoy them more. And after 33 years of being me I have a pretty good idea of what I am capable of and what I have to "cope" my way around like mad...I'd finally had it with shooting myself in the ass, and with my inability to live my life in any real depth.

Whether or not I end up continuing with medication in the long, or even the short term, I am still grateful for this experience, of being able to see that line for the first's given me greater, deeper insight into myself, important information that will make it easier for me to make different kinds of choices from the ones that were impairing me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Unraveling the Physics of Moderation

Years before I was ever "diagnosed" with ADHD I used to describe myself as being afflicted with inertia. Insert quick review of Newton's First Law HERE.

In short, an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest. In my life that means "when I'm stopped I can't start, when I'm started, I can't stop".

Achieving moderation is probably the biggest obstacle/challenge of my life. I literally don't know how to sketch in the reality, in my life, of what moderation might look like.

At least I'm insightful...while I'm driving myself crazy with my fluctuations between overworking and underworking. Some definitions here might be helpful. By underworking, I mean pretending I'm productive because I know I'm supposed to but struggling to rein in my random mental tangents and spending oodles of hours accomplishing nothing further than filling my mind with random internet information, or starting some cool new creative project--that has nothing to do with what I actually need to finish. This also often involves me making dozens of notes on post-its or other handy paper surfaces in a vain attempt to "get the thoughts out of my head". (It aggravates me when "normal" people tell me to use this as a way to calm the mind...because unfortunately the notes sometimes inspire me I have to hide them away for later or I will then begin concieving their children in my thoughtstream. The one advantage is that they ARE there to remind of things later.) Underworking is really just a sad attempt at trying to get things done when your brain won't land.... Overworking means I have finally underworked enough that I am now in a panic to get a particular task finished and must do it by a certain time or there will be dire consequences far beyond the impact of not eating or sleeping. The terror satisfies the ADHD quest for high stimulation and so makes overworking FAR more fun for me than any alternative. Both of these operating procedures is totally exhausting, but both are "more exciting" than just doing things in a routine way. Some (many) people with ADHD turn to drugs to try to achieve balance, for we are after all, suffering from a chemical, I just have a dysfunctional relationship with my obsessive work habits. And surprise, it doesn't help me even out my brain chemicals, lol...I am always under or overworking...because I am afraid I am not going to get things done...

Pardon me as I go spend the rest of the afternoon overworking.

Oh, you thought I was going to post something really clever about how I'm going to try to address this issue, and extend the metaphor...yeah see, if I had any idea how to deal with this, I would...but I don't, and I'm stuck...and I have a ton of shit to do and working myself into a lather of obsessive focus is the only way I know how to get through the to-do list. And while my brain chemicals are in medication change flux...I don't stand a chance at achieving any kind of consistency.

So right now is all about waiting...waiting to see if the chemicals will make more efficient choices easier...and waiting for the next therapy appointment so that behaviorally, I can deal with this issue head on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ADHD Ate My Homework...and my RAM

I've been probably too prolific in the last couple of days with blogging, but honestly, I'm processing a lot of ADHD-related info for myself right now which means that I'm ripe with hopefully enlightening content that maybe someone else can learn something from.

Here's a pretty typical scenario, that basically makes me shake my head in wonder at my own brain and how it functions.

I am actually a very detailed person, although my fatal flaw is that I overload myself...I work my ASS off to be detailed, and then cannot attend to all the details I need to take care of sometimes (and truthfully there are certain kinds of details I have ZERO interest in attending to...but I digress). The ADHDer as perfectionist scenario (and I hear that's not uncommon). So I have a friend that is helping me with some critical bookkeeping catch up right now.

She started working on the task at hand and had a list of clients that she needed to ask me about because of discrepancies in my records. I was able to look at the list and remember almost everything I needed to remember in order to answer her questions. My mind latches on and categorizes certain kinds of details very quickly if they can be easily filed into the "big picture" in my brain in a meaningful way. I know each of these people personally and it's like I have a little file in my brain about them...because I know certain things about them, I can recall certain other things...if that makes any sense.

Fantastic. The totally non-sensical "other personality" of my mind is that half the time I can't remember what I was doing five minutes ago. Boss comes in from court and asks me if "so and so" called...ummmm. Maybe. Not sure. Let me check. Which means I run to my notepad where I write everything down and run back to answer the question, noticing that I talked to the person five minutes earlier and OH YES, that's what we talked about.

This begs the question, is this because the work stuff is not my "personal" stuff. I don't think it's that simple...maybe it's more an issue of recall. Because in the present, even when I'm dealing with my own clients, I have the same problem. It's like the information embeds itself in my mind somewhere, I just can't get access until a certain amount of time has passed. Someone could pay me, literally put money in my hand and ten minutes later say "hey I paid you right?" and I would go "what, you did?". There's just too much happening in my mind in the present for me to process the question, nevermind recall the answer. This is why, when I have to operate in the present, I am totally reliant on post-its, and my little notebooks that I carry around and FILL with notes, kind of like that guy in "Memento" having to tattoo notes all over himself. So that later in the day when I can't figure out why I have a wad of cash in my pocket, I can look at the list...because even though a week later I may spontaneously recall "oh, that's right, so and so paid me last week"...I won't have any idea how the file in my brain I made a note of "paid" but the minute detail is gone...oh wait, there it is in my notebook!

Yes, everyone should keep good records, that is not unique to people with ADHD and admittedly, there are people without ADHD who suck at running businesses...therefore maybe business details are a bad example...but think about this...when you have limited short term memory and you choose business as the priority you will focus it on...your personal life can really become a list of untended obligations, pissed off friends and mostly by accident. This is something that in my current life I have become very conscientious about, but when I was younger, I struggled with. I've had some people that I've basiccally gone back to "make amends" to, ala AA terminology, because I felt I had really been irreponsible with our friendship, because at the time I was not working so consciously at being a good friend, and balancing my life more effectively.

Again with the big-picture vs. little picture thing...I think this big picture thinking is part of what really makes me successful and functional in some aspects of my life. But one of the biggest lessons I am learning right now is that whenever possible, I probably need to delegate these little-picture detail tasks to someone else, since they overload my brain. I also need to let my inner perfectionist off the hook and convince her she can take some time off...instead of putting so much energy into the overcompensation of proving that I can do it all MYSELF. Life balance...what's that?

Easier said than done but at least in the meantime, I can crack myself up with my paradoxical memory issues :)

This Pile is Bigger Than My Head

Got to work this morning and am greeted by a pile of work the size of Jesus. And Jesus, in case you're wondering, in my mind, is one big dude.

Small daily moments like these make me ponder the "BIG" things lately. Like the fact that I am so all or nothing. I can rock-it full tilt (read: work obsessively and complete super human tasks) or I can totally succumb to anxiety, meandering and random thoughts and accomplish nothing. The good part is, that I still average out to getting more done than most people over the course of a week...the bad part is, that's a very stressful way to live. Duh...add to that the fact that when I'm not at work I have more "work"...such is the bed I have made...gotta dig deep to move this mountain (and to shut my "outside work" pile off in my brain, when I'm at work).

In any case, the sheer Jesus-like size of this pile of hoohah, might just allow me to tap into a steady stream of hyperfocus for a few hours...

Only one way to find I come Jesus...

Monday, August 31, 2009

OMG, peeing self...

...courtesy of this post from "So I Married An ADDer"...

This is seriously the funniest "picture" of an ADHD brain I have ever seen, and I can tell you that in my experience, this is totally accurate.

Those mice are OUTTA CONTROL!

I miss...

...the sound of my grandfather's feet shuffling, in the middle of the night. As he moved from one door, to the other, and back again, as we slept. Locking the door. Unlocking the door. Fumbling to slide each lock open, then sliding them closed again with a click. Over and over, all night long. Never certain of our safety, no matter how many times he did it.

But I was always reassured by the sound of him doing it. The sound of his being there...the sound of his obsessions, keeping us safe, but holding him hostage.

Vyvanse and Celexa, the tango in my brain...

If I was sitting here right now with my Nurse Practictioner, I would not know what to say, because frankly...there is no defining throughline to what my medication is doing right now. It's only been about 12 days so it's not totally reasonable to expect a reliable result yet, but seriously...I feel like a tossed salad.

Nothing has rendered me non-functional, I've been going to work, going to meetings, doing all of the normal things that I do. I have also lived a life, overall, that has involved a wide array of feelings and emotional experiences anyway, so if I feel anxious or just a little "off" I know it's not going to kill me and I can push through it. But inconsistency is still rather unsettling, and it's certainly not something you can necessarily plan around.

One day I feel totally mellow, and very focused...the next day so anxious that I literally cannot think...then I might spend an afternoon driving the backroads of NH listening to classic rock (which I would normally NEVER do) and the breeze hitting my face and just driving with no aim because it just plain feels great...later that same day I might be so amped up that I can't stop talking and just hours later will sit in a crowd of people and have no desire to talk, at all. Yeah okay, it's a little eccentric, but everyone has fluctuations in mood and energy throughout a day...this is definitely more fluctuation than I am used to, and I am used to fluctuation, lol.

This kind of fluctuation is the thing that I think makes it hard for people to be convinced to comply with the instructions they are given for their medication. For example...if your prescriber says "this might give you some nausea at first, but give it a chance if you can and call me if you have a problem"...that doesn't mean decide that you are only going to take it every two days because you just don't want to deal with the nausea and then don't tell your doc. It is also hard for people, I suspect, to get used to feeling "different" from what they are used to. And sometimes, clearly, meds that mess with your brain just suck. Me, personally, I am extremely disciplined about following instructions, AND communicating with my prescriber when things aren't working the way I'd like them to. Even through the nausea of the last medication, even when the last one was like a big chemical baseball bat making me sit face down on the table giggling. I'm a tough nut. And this combo just isn't "that bad".

I am willing and able to work hard to see where this particular med combination goes. I'm not going to pretend I'm having fun right now while I'm not knowing quite where I'm going. But I have to remind myself that I am not in this for a certain outcome, but "to see what happens" and if medication is, in fact a good option for me.

It's a special challenge in my case and may require extra tinkering because I have a ton of anxiety along with ADHD. Most ADHD meds are likely to increase or induce anxiety...which is part of the reason I am taking an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication along with see the dilemma, the need for tinkering with dosages, the lack of exactness, and it sounds (and looks, in my pill case) like an afterschool special. "This one's an upper, man...and this one, this one will totally mellow you out..." Cut to the "good kid" taking a brightly colored pill and another smaller one and making the tragic mistake of swallowing them, and REGRETTING EVER MAKING THE DECISION!!!

I definitely do not regret making this decision. The definition of this aspect of my ADHD journey however, as much as I don't enjoy it, is uncertainty. That IS what this is about...until it's not. Either I will find a combo that works or I won't. The bottom line for me, that my therapist and I fully agree that my anxiety, both on its own, and as the result of ADHD will kill me. Not with immediacy...but it will slowly take its toll on my mental and physical health. It will chip away slowly at the various systems of my body, it will likely shorten my life and compromise its quality. I have had health problems in the past because of it...and I have seen family members haunted and killed by it because they did not have the ability or inclination to tell it "no". Their fates range from the humorous (fear of dentists, fear of hairdressers) to the tragic (fear of feeling, fear of commitment, fear of failure, alcoholism, fear of death, suicide).

If any of these are my fate, it will not be for lack of trying. The inconvenience of uncertainty, is not an acceptable excuse, for me, to give up. I refuse to simply surrender myself to fear.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

ADHD Made Me Do It...learning to say no

One of the keys to the renovation of my life is paring things down. Reducing my commitments. And then learning to create fewer of them in the first place.

Hard to dive into this task when...I literally cannot pare things down further right now.

Not for another 4 months. So I've taken to delegating...but even in delegating you bear responsibility. And I don't want that responsibility right now when I want to be redefining my relationship to responsibility. I'm not talking about abandoning responsibility, or ADHD-ing myself into a totally unrelated and brand-new life trajectory. I mean true and meaningful change of whatever type seems most appropriate.

I'm really babbling abstract here, sorry.

When you have ADHD and have spent much of your life feeling like a failure because you are not "living up to your potential", it is easy to overcompensate by accepting a ridiculous amount of prove to myself, and to others that I was not a failure. But everyone has a limit. I pushed and pushed until I reached mine because I could not stand that feeling of disappointment anymore.

As I pushed myself to follow through with my ideas, I thrilled myself with my ideas and my ingenuity, but terrified myself with my ability to move with lightning speed, my ability to overlook certain kinds of details while boring to the core of others, my abillty to rationalize overcommitment. There's a reason that many women with ADHD are mistaken for bipolar...oh wait, there's a missing piece here that you need...

Allow me a totally ADHD moment of indulgence here, an illustration that I think you really need for this to make any sense at all...when I have one of the "BEST ADHD IDEAS EVER" pop into my head (and when I am not medicated, it happens all day long, over and over and over and...), it is literally like a drug has been injected into my brain and I am high-ass-high and it tugs at me and I cannot stop thinking about it. It is an exciting way to live, always delighted with new ideas. Each idea joyously grabs my arm and demands my attention. This could mean one idea that enchants me for part of a day, it could mean dozens in an hour, pulling me from one thought to another. It is exhilirating...unlike a bipolar high, it is usually much more temporary. I can map world peace in an hour, but not finish a simple spreadsheet in front of me. I can outline a brilliant plotline for a novel I may need to write someday if not this afternoon but forget to check the voicemail. It's a classic ADHD problem, total lack of prioritization, because the tug of the new idea is so great that nothing else matters just then...and there are just so many new ideas. All the time. This is the reality of my ADHD anyway.

Combine this with my fevered drive to disprove the baggage of my past and I've got one big mess to unravel, an avalanche of obligations just waiting to crash down around me because I have indulged more ideas than I should have. Imagine all of those AMAZING ideas...ALL being brought to fruition all at once. And this is part of what brought me to seek help because I realized how precarious my balance was, and how far I could fall.

But the first key to all of sticking it all through. Living with my choices, even though I know that not all of them were good. Ouch. DO you redefine your relationship with overcommitment when you can't shed any of your current commitments? How do you pull yourself up from the bottom you've hit, when you cannot yet shed any of the weights that got you there in the first place? And the answer is...I don't think I can.

It's just limbo. But I'm struggling to see what the lesson is, in this extended torture. Perhaps I'm supposed to just live in this mess a little imprint on my mind what I don't want, what I don't want to do to myself again.

Because I did do this to myself. No matter what teachers matter who I think I let down...I was the only one who could make these choices that brought me here to this mess of overcommitment, this overdose of responsibility...this abuse of myself. That's the real think about THAT in terms of ADHD...every impulse in my body says "fuckit, cut yourself free"...but I have to sit tight...because it is not yet time. I am forced to experience the passage of time in a way that I would never previously have chosen.