Saturday, September 12, 2009

Of Dishes and ADHD

I really hate washing dishes, but I'm a big girl, and I can do them...if I have to...if D doesn't do them first because they bother him being there in the sink about as much as it bothers me to wash them.

Even in the shadow of the label ADHD I am a little obsessed about certain things getting cleaned, and WELL. For me, one of those things is floors...can't handle crap on the floor, and I vaccuum and sweep frequently...not 80 times a day, but definitely a couple times a week. For D, his "hate" is dirty dishes in the sink. I am likely to avoid doing them...or start them, and let the water get cold before I ever get back to them. Washing dishes causes me stress. It doesn't make sense, but it does.

This week I seem to have found a solution though...and I know D likes it because he has a real complex about being "always the dishwasher" (even though I do have other things I do around the house, but that is NOT the issue here...). This week, when I have noticed that he has put a load of dishes in the sink, I just wash the already hot soapy dishes in the sink...and then fill the still hot soapy sink with the next load, then resume whatever it was I was doing. I don't tell him I'm doing it, so then he comes in the kitchen to wash the ones I already washed and is VERY pleasantly surprised.

Yeah! This was a good example of my "random tangents" mind doing good for the world, or at least for our home. I walked through the kitchen one day, there were the dishes, I washed one load. One load is not stressful. Boyfriend is happy...and it was fun to surprise him. And funner again to surprise him again, by just stopping for like three minutes and washing a few more dishes the next day (and not getting stressed out because I don't have to think about doing the whole pile).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Birthday and what, what did you say?

One of the nice things about having a mental health appt on your birthday is that someone at some point is going to open your chart and go "oh hey! Happy Birthday!". Haha...and so it went. I visited my NP (Nurse Practitioner) to check in about the "new" meds. My birthday gift to him, was being on time for once.

After 3 weeks it seems that the effectiveness of the Vyvanse has worn off, and the insane anxiety that was probably caused (ironically) by the Citalopram is going away. I feel pretty decent actually, just not super-focused. So...up to 50mg of Vyvanse and we'll see what happens.

While talking to the NP (he's good at tricking you into small talk which I'm sure is intended to get you to just babble on and on and indirectly demonstrate your current frame of mind and mood...which is what I end up doing) I realized some things. Things I do all the time, but have never layered an analysis over. He was giving me the prescription for Vyvanse and he said "I have to give you the prescription in person or mail it to you, I can't call it in." For some reason this was way too much information in one sentence for my brain to handle. I asked him to repeat it and at the same point in the sentence, right after "I have to give you the prescription in person" my brain just went off on its own merry way. My actual thought as this happened was "I get it, he's giving me another option, I don't understand what he's saying though and I don't care and if I need to know I'll call him later and wow look it's really sunny outside and--oh look he's staring at me wondering why I'm looking out the window". Now, this is the first phenomenon I suddenly found myself observing. I was aware that I had no idea what he was talking about and didn't care and fuckit and ooh, look it's sunny out there, but I was also aware that this was happening...without the usual anxiety this would cause me. I used to be so caught in that anxiety.

Part two: ten minutes later we got around to the prescription thing again and he said "that's what I was saying like ten minutes ago about the prescription" and I said "What?" but I didn't mean "what?" and realized that wasn't what I meant and suddenly I realized I actually did hear what he'd said before, sort of so I said "about mailing it or something...wait, uh...what did you say about that?". So yeah, I guess "what?" really was what I meant, haha. Anyway...he laughed and said "are you going to remember that I said I could mail it to you?" and I said "mail what?" and he said "what did you think I said?" and I said "uh...I don't know, but are you mailing me the drugs or the prescription" and he said "I'm mailing you the prescription but you're going to have to plan ahead and ask me about it a week in advance, can you remember that?" and I said "well yeah, now that I know what you're talking about"...BWAHAHAHAHA! I'm glad this guy has a sense of humor, but I guess if he didn't, he probably wouldn't be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This paragraph is definitely the one I have to make a note to self about to require as reading for the people in my life who say "ADHD? You? No way?". (Are they insane?! Haha...) Thing is, I could not land my thoughts to comprehend what he was saying in total, but I was able to earnestly engage with him in trying to get the conversation back to wherever it was supposed to be, and...was sort of observing while experiencing.

Then, all of a sudden, I realized that (Part 3) about 20 minutes earlier he had asked me if I had any side effects from the medication and I had said no. But that wasn't true, I have been grinding my teeth, which I know can be a Citalopram side-effect...I normally don't do this, so I'm guessing it's the meds. THIS delayed response thing, is one of the things that marks my days, truly, every single day and it drives me crazy. See I don't always have a strictly bad memory. I often just don't remember things until about 10-20 minutes later. Argh! (This is part of why I have taken to carrying a notebook around, for writing down my experiences with meds or therapy assignments so that I remember to bring them to the discussion at my appointments...this week I was a little sloppier about that though...)

Anyway, none of these behaviors was new or unique. The twist was that...I was aware of them even though I could not totally stop or control them. In a way I was already aware of them...aware that I had trouble paying attention in conversations for example, aware that I remember things "later"...but this was different. Weirdly, I felt like I my awareness had morphed into...some kind of slightly more objective viewpoint? Before I would just experience the emotion of the experience, but this time I was sort of observing my own behavior while still "being me", business as usual. I was very in the moment, but had some kind of heightened awareness of my actions and the whole speed of things did seem slowed down just a touch. Weird!

I don't know if I am even doing the experience justice in my describing it. As I said earlier in this post, it was like suddenly there was a light layer of analysis over the whole experience even though I couldn't necessarily control myself or where my mind was going. It reminds me of how the Strattera, when I was taking it, helped me to see the line between me, and the ADHD. The line between personality and chemical imbalance symptoms. I think maybe I was seeing that line, and like I said, I couldn't totally steer the shop back on course, but I was very lucidly aware of the fact that my traveling mind was following the wrong map. The punchline to this was that the NP said "you know, you seem a lot calmer than when I first met you.". I think I agree with him actually, but I wonder if this is all connected. It may be just that the time I've been putting into being more conscious in my actions, the time I've taken to begin unravelling old garbage from old experiences, with a little medication thrown in...maybe this experience has started to clarify an ability to observe myself, which I can see might be a really useful tool down the road.

Wow. Rock on.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to school, back to managing Adult ADHD in the classroom

Today, I'm back to school. (In case I hadn't fully mentioned this before, I'm a grad student, and I'm in my last semester before graduation right now.) This was my first day back to class since my ADHD diagnosis, and beginning to experiment with medication.

I have certain things I like to have for class...snacks, check. Spiral notebook and pen, check. Magazine for those moments when I feel like I'd rather launch into the hallways with no destination in mind. Amusingly, though I had these important items with me, I actually totally forgot to check both the time, and the classroom of the class. I remembered to check the classroom when I was at work...still didn't know the time. As I was driving toward the school I had a little panic and called my sweetie...asked him to look it up. He was amused and looked it up for me...and the time I thought it was, was not too far off from the time it really was, so I was allllll set! I've done this before and sadly thought that the class was later than it actually was....oh dear...big frowny face...

This class is also taught by a professor that I really like, who really values student opinion and interaction so it's easier to sit through her classes than some others. Small class too, always a bonus. So even though I was mentally very antsy, the discussion was fairly interesting, when I wasn't busy snacking, lol.

This particular professor also appreciates my enthusiasm for unconventional research well as my willingness to play devil's advocate, and entertain less convential opinions. It's nice to know you're going into a situation where you, just the way you are, are accepted. And if you aren't going to encounter some characters in grad school...right?

After class, I felt I should BRIEFLY disclose to my professor some of what I am currently going through...not just because it's SO FUN telling people you have a mental issue, lol, but actually because I am in the middle of a medication change and tomorrow may be upping some dosages...and our first assignment is due in a few days. I know it's possible that my brain might be in a funny place for a few days, and I know that a) this professor is pretty cool and b) all professors typically prefer you letting them know about issues ahead of time instead of using what looks like excuses after the fact...even if they think your issue is weird. So after explaining the situation she says "yeah, don't take this the wrong way, but let's just say that you being diagnosed with ADHD is not particularly surprising"...said with a smile. Then she said "I totally get it, I'm bipolar and went through some funky times while I was writing my dissertation and they were adjusting my med levels. Some days it was like there were holes in my brain and I couldn't think of I totally get it. If anything comes up just let me know, and thanks for giving me a heads up." She also said "you made it this far without a diagnosis, you must be pretty resourceful, so congratulations, you must be doing something right". Damn.

Flippin' sweet.

Now...I don't anticipate an issue with this particular assignment. But at least I know that the line of communication is open. Which is huge. So each Weds I will pack my snacks, my spiral notebook...and my hope is that with upping the meds a little, after a couple weeks I'll just have a little more focus and a little less fidgeting in class. At least now I already know the date and less set of details to keep track of.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Losing Your Sh*t ADHD Style

I pretty much have a mushroom cloud housed within my cranium right now, oh yes I do. It's just repeatedly imploding, a sickening, dense mixture of the seemingly unlimited factors pressing in on my patience right now. I snapped about 10 minutes ago and suddenly became a hunched over ball in front of my computer screen, holding my head and breathing heavily (and not in the sexy way). I am beyond verbal right now, I am officially post-verbal, beyond the kind of descriptive language that comes from a mouth because there is none for this feeling. In the last three minutes I seem to have regained my ability to type, oh boy, lucky you, insert sarcasm right here.

My boyfriend quietly left the room several minutes ago because I think he anticipated an impending verbal massacre of some kind. If I was able to speak right now I would reassure him that I'm so far past caring if anyone else is around, that no blunt force language shall fly this evening.

If this was me of 10 years ago, there might have been a tantrum. There might have been a fight. There might have been a late night walk-run in the night-time of the universe. But right now...

Right now...

This is too much. This is too much. This is too much. Whatever it is, it's too much.


Like many of my fellow ADHDers, I really put the PRO in Procrastination. I'm absolutely a professional at it and this past two weeks has been nooooo exception. I'm literally in the middle of a tornado right now because I have so much I have to get done before next weekend now, and so many other people are relying on me, that there is no question I will sacrifice sanity, sleep and whatever else I have to, in order to pull it all off.

But I realized something. This time, it's not just brain chemistry. One of my ADHD pitfalls is getting myself way overcommitted. That's how I have operated for years. Well this year, I got diagnosed with ADHD and have started medication and have started to have a way more realistic view of my life and how I live to live my life in more depth by releasing myself of billions of little committments that drain my energy and ability to be effective. So here I am going "I don't want to be doing all this stuff" and that's actually not a ridiculous train of thought, it's not just ADHD impulse, it's really for true progress. I truly shouldn't be doing all of this stuff. But I really do need to see my committments through to the end before I embark on my new less busy life. For once it's not just procrastination, it's me learning how to live a healthier and more effective life.

And lately, talking to people around me, it seems like a LOT of people, in general are very stressed and overworked, and overloaded right now. The economy is stressing people out, losing jobs, or taking multiple jobs to pay the bills is stressing people out, the financial inflexibility of the present is limiting people's lifestyle choices which is stressing people out...and everybody's sick of dealing with it.

I hate to say it, but it makes me smile :) It makes me smile to realize that for once I'm right in synch with what's going on with everyone else. That we all have things we don't want to deal with right now...and somehow we just have to keep each others spirits up and get through it.

And me...I guess I need to just appreciate where I am and feel grateful for my new perspective. And forgive myself this once for just being...sort of normal!

Monday, September 7, 2009

My personal ADHD Diagnostic Criteria

There are diagnostic criteria for ADHD, and hopefully the new diagnostic manual coming out soon will actually have one for Adult ADHD, which would be rad. (It's pretty weird being diagnosed with a psychiatric condition that there's technically no definition for!) the meantime, here's my personal definition, the one that I have either lived with, or currently live with on a daily basis:
  • Getting up to leave, just 10 minutes into play readings/events that I myself organized because uh...I don't know...just needed to leave, and NOW!
  • Constantly finding myself with a totally full plate of amazing ideas that have morphed into a mountain of obligations and having no idea how it got so out of hand.
  • Days filled with "OH SHIT" the best ideas ever...that make me want to run from the office and go off on a tangent of "doing something" (although I stifle the urge physically...if not always mentally).
  • Drawing sewing patterns in the middle of paralegal training classes/grad school classes.
  • Bringing magazines to read in class so that I can trick myself into sitting instead of leaving.
  • Having to work REALLY HARD to pay attention in conversations (even ones that interest me) because I get so excited about things when people are talking that it makes my thoughts branch out like a tree in spring.
  • Complete inability to use calendars because I can't remember to look at them in the first place, lol.
  • Realizing that the surfaces of my life are covered in post-its.
  • Having piles of reminder notes congregating that I forgot I ever wrote.
  • Working so hard to be on time and only succeeding about 80% of the time. (That's up from 0% in my earlier stages of existence)
  • Fighting not to either seek or create chaos in relationships. (Have made GREAT strides on this one...)
  • Having to work through obnoxious anxiety about completing seemingly innocuous tasks that have become nausea inducing. (One day at a time on that one.)
  • Reminding myself not to go right off the histrionic deep end when telling stories because not everyone understands why a re-telling must be so dramatic.
  • Remembering not to swear like a pirate (mmm...yeah probably not ADHD-related, lol).
  • Working to access logic instead of have huge reactions to things when they upset me...because two minutes later I will feel badly that I flew off the handle. (Props to the elementary school counselor who helped me with this one those many years ago.)
  • Piles of unfinished sewing projects that thankfully are smaller now thanks to the moderating effects of medication!
  • Worrying obsessively that I have offended someone with one of my harmless but possibly annoying eccentricities.
  • Having amazing radar for exactly the wrong people to date.
  • Constantly re-aiming my focus on the hoops I need to jump through sometimes instead of the tangents I'd rather hyperfocus on.
  • Coming up with some pretty damned GOOD ideas from time to time!
  • Transmitting boundless enthusiasm for my projects to other people, and making them want to join me in making them happen!
  • Wandering around the room when I'm trying to work but instead am trying to remember what it was that I was trying to do in the first place. Sometimes resembles the pacing of a feral zoo cat.
  • Masterfully finding all kinds of interesting political and historical tidbits to read on the internet instead of reading boring shit for school.
  • Getting REALLY annoyed with overheads lights and certain kinds of noises to the point where my boyfriend has learned to just grab the remote and turn the TV off when I start making my special "HOLY SHIT TURN THAT OFF" hand flapping motion because I'm too upset to articulate myself.
  • Having to give physical demonstrations of explanations because sometimes it's just easier than trying to give it words.
  • Reminding myself to empower my powers of diplomacy and tact (which I DO possess) and use proper "business speak" in certain company instead of swearing like a pirate (again with the swearing like a pirate, hmmmm) and using phrases like "fuckit, quit talking about it, fly by the seat of your pants and see what happens".
  • Learning to let my love of risk-taking benefit me in business, and using it to show other people how to benefit too!
Turning all of this into a productive, creative me is an endless act of alchemy :) But it's never boring!

ADHD is certainly in these genes...

I think that there are a lot of people in my life who are just too used to my quirks to think there's anything weird about me, lol. Also a lot of people in my life who are just as quirky as me so I blend right in. My family for example. Both immediate and extended, they're an intense, moody, loud, boisterous, interrupting, drinking bunch of out of the box thinkers. Many of them have had very unique, non-linear work histories. So me...honestly, in relation, I seem pretty mild.

My parents have both had several unique careers and they're only in their 50's. They are both people who work best when they are the boss and are pros at questioning authority. Consistent time management is always a challenge, but creative inspiring ideas abound. They are both opinionated, chatty, emotionally intense story-tellers, who love shooting off on an adventure at the drop of a hat. My sister is super intelligent and can be a bit of a stimulation seeking wild child and follows in the mold of creative independent workers in the grandparents on both sides had many different jobs, businesses, ideas over the years, always aunts and uncles on my dad's side are people who tend to work for themselves (so they don't have to work for other people) and frequently change vocations. My mother's sister is the kind of person who really doesn't like to be tied down and likes to be doing multiple things that interest her, when they interest's brother is a classic ADHD executive-type, a BIG IDEAS guy who needs good assistants to help pull the ideas together, and was good at his job, but had a hard time in school. Various issues with drugs and alcohol are not uncommon among us...various issues with depression, anxiety, and other obvious but undiagnosed mental health issues are also not unusual.

Amid all of this, I really just seemed fairly quiet as a child, very anxious, but not totally eccentric in their midst. I think that's part of what made me feel so out of place when I interacted with the "real world". I WAS eccentric in relation to the rest of the world, and had learned how to live from a fabulous circus of eccentrics, and I mean that appreciatively and lovingly.

I believe that the traits of ADHD that I exhibit are a product of both nature and nurture. It can clearly be theorized by observing my family that maybe our family culture involved certain types of behavior that are reinforced by example. I absolutely see how that could be a factor. But I also contend that there are certain kinds of decisions that people in our family would simply NOT make if they were more chemically balanced. Chaos creation on this scale has got to have a genetic compenent.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

But I don't sky-dive, does that mean I don't have ADHD?

I would like to see more discussion of the definition of "stimulation-seeking" in people diagnosed with ADHD, more specifically a broadening of that definition, because I think it's sorely needed.

The persistent definition in general media (I'm still combing through the academic stuff) is that of the "ADHD ADRENALINE JUNKIE", ready to rock-climb/bungee jump/glue sniff/sky dive their way into oblivion on impulse without a care in the world.

That could not be further from my behavior profile.

I'll tell you one of the defining behavior patterns of my adulthood though, and I believe it certainly fits the definition of "stimulation seeking": totally chaotic romantic relationships. If ADHD bestows gifts (insert slight whiff of sarcasm here), then perhaps here is mine: picking BAD people to couple-up with. Holy cannoli, the stories I could tell. Oh I'm not just laying blame on them...but I'll get to that in a moment.

I have dated all of the following (a partial but illustrative list):

1) the psychotic (unmedicated) bipolar who chased me around the house with a knife, among other fun moments
2) multiple obsessive jealous types who terrified me on more than one occasion
3) stalkers (a more intense version of the obsessive jealous type, but worth their own category)
4) miraculously only one who threatened to become a partner beater
5) the compulsive liar
6) the paradoxical misogynistic "sensitive" guy
7) intense self-haters

When you date people who fit these profiles, it's easy to ignore the possibility that YOU might have some issues yourself. It's really easy to ignore that your stimulation seeking might be a symptom, because you're feeling so normal in comparison to your partner's more obvious quirks and pathologies. You get an artificial sense of feeling good about yourself (and maybe even an unearned sense of superiority) because you're not as screwed up as they are.

Why did I choose this path, over and over, why did I seek them out? Ohhh cheri. These people were all very exciting, breathtakingly intelligent, inspiring and unusual. And the unfortunate fact for a true stimulation seeker is that the bad parts? The creepy parts? Make these people VERY exciting to sleep with. No joke. It's the classic bad boy as aphrodisiac scenario, over and over and over...because I needed that kind of excitement to make me feel alive, to make me feel truly engaged and to avoid my own crap. And who needs drugs when you can get high on crappy life choices! These relationships literally made me so chemically high that my head buzzed, and my body would become nauseated with desire.

They were actors, musicians, activists, engineers, writers...and tyrants. And I chose them. And I let them. Yes, people who behave badly bear their own responsibility, but I am firmly of the belief that it takes two to takes two to manipulate...and for years I was a willing participant.

These relationship all let me ignore my own underachiement, my own emotional development, my own goals, my own inability to focus, my own spotty resume, my own inability to finish projects. In their shadow my attention was held, and life made sense, because I needed the chaos to keep myself moving forward, because I did not know any other way, nor was I interested in finding one, because I felt so alive when I was with them. Kind of creepy, huh? Love addiction? Meh...don't know. Now that I've identified the pattern, I seem to be able to work to address it, work to grow beyond it and to me, that's what really matters. It's not easy but I take pride in the continued journey away from chaos.

Although I am in a "normal" relationship now, it has been a great struggle for me, I won't lie (and have been very honest with my current partner about it, even when I had to admit to him "wow...I realized that sometimes I'm angry with you because you won't engage chaos with me"). Although I now know how to identify "healthy", I am still intrigued by "bad". Although I no longer allow myself those choices, I struggle now to deal with my own baggage...and my wandering difficulty in racing impulsive nature...the constant fidgeting...the whole previous rest of my life and the fact that I spent years avoiding myself. I loved riding on the moment, making decisions based on opportunity and chance rather than making plans and sticking with them...but being where I am now, I don't think I could totally go back. Limbo. It's where I'm at, and it where I'm supposed to be, and that's okay.

I can't say it's all been a waste because here in the present I possess a unique combination of skills and experiences that are occasionally very valuable to me both monetarily, and interpersonally. Now my task is to take these skills, and insights...and learn to focus them to meet my goals...and to be mindful of the pitfalls of stimulation seeking.

Just like that, poof! So easy! in progress. But my point...stimulation seeking isn't just about bungee jumping.