Friday, October 30, 2009

Unexpected Casualty

I used to be able to fly by the seat of my pants, and actually I rather excelled at it. Interestingly, now that the meds are working, I am slightly less able to just "roll" with complete and utter chaos.

I have always been a just didn't matter so much to me if whole chunks of the plan blew sky high because I could improvise within the framework of the situation. I attribute this to the fact that I was AWARE of the details...the important ones...the big picture ones...the kind that can help you fake your way through the tiny ones, the detail ones that I would always discover at the last minute and then cleverly spackle with one part ADHD "pulling it out of my random ass" and one part good humor.

These days I seem to need to plan a little more. Because it's easier for me to see the depth of details involved, not just the overview. I used to grab the overview sketch and then color in the open spots as I went and I was good at it, but at times was suspenseful. Now...well I'm still figuring out how to deal with this. I mean you can't predict everything...and I know people who spend so much time planning that they never get anything done and I don't want to be like that.

I guess what it comes down to is that maybe now I need a little extra time. I often give myself extra time for important things because I know that I need extra time to account for all the things that will distract me along the way to the finish line. This is a different kind of extra time. It's me starting to go "oh shit...I'm going to have to take care of THAT too"...when looking at a project, because I see things I didn't before. Now I need extra time to plan, instead of extra time to account for distractions and flying by the seat of my pants!

And uh, no surprise, with a big project going off this weekend, tomorrow in fact, how do you supposed I'm feeling? I've never done this before quite like this and the last minute details, since last night, have sent me right off the end of anxiety-land. I have obsessively cleared my throat so many time that I have sore muscles. I'm really garbage for conversation at the moment too, which is pretty funny in my case (I uh...I talk a lot). I guess it makes sense...I mean what was there to get stressed out about before, when I wasn't even seeing the whole picture. Now I see the whole thing, and the infinite detail (seems that way right now anyway) and I really have to learn to deal with this stress.

*pause while adds note to list of things to talk to therapist about next week*

And uh...oh, yeah that's all. I actually better go take care of some of these details in hopes of being able to relax...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Slow, painful academic death

Follow up to the previous post. Tangent: yes, I have days where I write like three in a day and this is probably going to be one of them. I feel like I'm going through so much at one time that I HAVE to have a way to process this shit, but my therapist is so booked I can only get in there every two weeks, and the person I live with really has no idea what I'm going through. Thank goodness for blogs.

Anyway, about the previous post. I finally forcibly extracted myself from my office because I was about to blow a gasket, trying to get my homework done and having the boss get in my face every five minutes and all of the "emotionally needy" clients calling one after another.

All day I had been trying to communicate with my classmates in response to last night's "oh shit, was I supposed to be meeting with my classmates" moment. Did I mention that about 30 people are showing up at my house at 7pm? Here I am with my immediate surroundings making me insane, my boss holding me hostage, my living filled with over 60 pumpkins, cats jumping on th computer and I'm desperately, with my newly calm and focused brain just trying to FINISH MY HOMEWORK and make amends with my classmates who are...not responding to any messages, even though I'm writing to them going "okay, I'm working on part A, then I'll do part B and then..."...clearly I'm stressed out and crazed and trying desperately to do the right thing. My professor, who I'm trying to check in with about this just so she knows how things are going (and so she knows I'm really trying, not just some kind of jackass) is not writing me back either. It's an online's not weird for me to think that at some point in 8 hours she might take a look at her messages, especially on a day when there's a major looming deadline.

Let me explain the pumpkins, since at this point, it doesn't effing matter if I get ANYTHING done because I finally heard back from my classmates, just now, who apparently have been ignoring my messages, but communicating all day with each other just doing the whole thing without me, which will actually ensure that I will probably fail the course, which is totally awesome, and makes me wish that I had just not cared for the last three years that I worked my ass off to get a good GPA for the first time in my life. Pumpkins. The fact that a hoard of all of my favorite people are coming to my house to carve, all included, what will end up being about 100 pumpkins, is actually NOT a sign of my obsessive overcommittment persisting as an obstacle to clarity. It's actually a sign of progress. Because you see, months and months ago, before I ever decided that I needed to go to a mental health center to unravel the mysteries of my brain chemistry, I had a weekly community event to plan, and I set the schedule for it then, back before I ever met the adorable Hungarian therapist, or my N.P. and his magic bags of chemical tricks. I set the schedule back in January. And I decided we were going to have a big end of season party (which happens to be this coming weekend) at least 4 months ago?

In light of recent developments over the last 6 months, I began delegating some of my too heavy load. I have delegated lots of work to our junior paralegal at the law office. I have other amazing friends who have assisted me with creating some new systems and getting other things caught up in my personal life. And I found some AMAZING co-producers to either take over or take of half of my most extensive events. I also discovered that through my work in the community I have cultivated an army of some of the nicest, most helpful people you could ever find - and here all these years I thought I was just an army of one! ...and so, for this big finale to all of the work I have done all year, over a month ago I knew I was going to need more help than even my co-producer could give me. It really does take an army to light up an entire town square with pumpkins.

Not to mention the trapeze artists, the hula hoop dancers, the artists, the artisans, the stream of musicians, the tango dancers, the giant (20 ft high) remembrance altar, the acres of paper flowers and skeletons, the costumes and costume contest, the face painting, the prizes, the community art get the idea. It usually only take an army of me to pull this stuff off, but...I'm learning to drive a new brain, so I have to learn to do things in new ways...

The community army descends on my house tonight, cheerfully, and with purpose (and because I plied them with promises of a giant ham, cider, and beer...the boyfriend is cooking) to carve nearly 100 pumpkins, 60 of which surround me as I write. When night falls on our little city, the square will be lit with pumpkins, to the sounds of a troupe of West African style drummers. I deployed this army precisely because I am learning that many hands make light work, that living like an army of one is not sustainable...because I was doing my best to be responsible.

I hate it when people just assume that you are an ass because they don't know what's really going on, and then just act according to their assumptions. Oh yes, of course, they're just covering their own asses and moving on with life...I would assume that, except that we're all in our third year and our program is obsessed with group projects and equal participation. Essentially they have cut me out of the project because they probably think I'm just being flaky...because I didn't want to get into my entire mental health history with, they're like fuckit, she didn't show up last night, why bother communicating with her. And to that I would just like to say, that in the past I have actually had some classmates that in the privacy of my own home I have HATED working with, because I thought they were flaky, lazy, and not pulling their weight. Never, EVER did I cut them out of the communication. How do I know I missed something? Ever leave a conversation to get a drink, come back and people have gone from talking about darts to talking about real estate? Yeah. That's pretty much where we are except I don't have a damn drink (although I'm sure as shit going to have one now).

I am not saying that my adjustment should trump their academic experience. Only that I wish they'd chosen a different path of know, one that actually involved communicating. I feel awful. I feel sad. I feel like I just lost something I worked really hard for and now I just have to accept that I will never have it...because I won't. All this time I've been trying to be a perfect student, even in the face of all of these changes. I know, it's something that doesn't exist. But it existed to ME. And I'm mourning it anyway.

I should just petition to do these credits later...ugh. And here I am, surrounded my pumpkins. At least I'm rich in pumpkins if my GPA is about to take a nosedive.

Learning to drive my new brain

My normal state of brain is such that I notice everything. Every sound, detail, item to be done, I cannot filter it out. I know some of you are sitting there thinking "I wish my brain did that, I'd love to be able to notice detail" and to that I you don't. It's annoying, it's stressful, and if you think this way and have ADHD you have no inkling of how to prioritize any of this and your life begins to look AND feel like a giant mountain of "OH SHIT." or "PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP.".

Pair this with a faulty short term memory, and basically I run around like a chicken with no head...I know what needs to be done, but I can't prioritize it, and I also can't get it all done, and my neighbor downstairs needs to shut up, and people need to quit popping into my office and the boyfriend REALLY needs to not complain about the livingroom being messy when I literally am on the verge of a panic attack over it all. I start working on one thing, and then remember another thing, and then do that instead, and forget the first thing...if I'm lucky I wrote it down somewhere, so then I'm running around following my bread-crumb trail of post its and all the while I'm sort of getting a bunch of unrelated stuff done...and the only way to really DO life like this with any success is to start WAY early on anything, and then spend way too many extra hours getting it done. It's why I work between 12 and 18 hours a day, don't get enough sleep and can't stand my brain sometimes.

The meds make me calmer, and actually help me notice LESS, which I like, because I can just sit and finish things.

However, last night, I was supposed to meet with my classmates to finish an assignment that we have to turn in today. I have been struggling to catch up. I am usually the person in the group pushing the group forward because I know that I need extra time to finish things. Now that I'm all reeeelaxed I don't know sometimes what to do about how to organize myself. Last night I get home from work, and normally I would sit down and check my email messages however, now that my brain is more relaxed I realized I had really enjoyed being away from electronic devices and additional input during the day and...instead, happy, relaxed, calm and focused, I spent three hours cleaning the house (something I actually sort of enjoy doing). Got done...went to the computer...only to realize that my classmates had met without me, and had to finish most of the project...without me. Because I was just feeling so friggin' fantastic that I let life happen instead of holding it in a death grip and...just didn't show up for my classmates!

I know that this is actually an improvement for me, that I was able to "forget" something in that way, and actually be productive and relaxed. But um...I don't think my classmates are going to see it that way.

Heh. Oops. Sort of like my friend's teenage daughter who just got her license and flipped her truck over. She wasn't mortally wounded, so we all just said "thank goodness she could just learn that lesson" without literally dying. I might actually academically die this semester, but I guess at least I'm learning how to drive my new brain and the meds are doing what they're supposed to do...classic case of "pills don't teach skills".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weebles Wobble

When I have a goal in mind, I am one of those Weebles that you can punch in the face 800 times and it still pops back up to smile at you. I just don't care that obstacles exist, and am at my best when planning the best way to render them irrelevant.

I know that impulsivity usually leads me, in my natural state, to bite off a billion times more than I should be able to chew. I also know that hyperfocus (when I'm working on a goal that I invented for myself) is often what gets me through once I have gotten myself into that deep end.

Generally, this isn't a horrible combo. I am working to modify it of course...but here's what I'm really thinking about.

Obstacles. I have had a surreal series of conversations lately where I end up sitting there listening to them talk about each and every obstacle that they place IN THEIR OWN WAY, while they blame the existence of each of these obstacles on other people.

I am basically of the feeling that most obstacles are only what you allow them to be. I think sometimes I confuse people with my seeming optimism...most accurately, I think they assume that I AM optimistic. It's not about optimism or pessimism, it's about the fact that I am motivated by the goal. Once I set my mind on a goal I work my ass toward it, and obstacles become a mere snack on the way to the finish line.

Yeah, yeah, there are some nasty obstacles out there that can make life pretty awful. Those aren't the ones I'm talking about. I'm talking about people when people use terms like "can't". The minute people say that to me the voice in my head responds "who do you think you are to tell me that".

Yes, I know...the me of last week was not a shining example of this...and to that I say, you're right, but when people are as stressed out as I am for the next little'd blow a gasket over the small stuff from time to time too. That's the part where I pop back up after the punch in the face and start all over? Hit me as hard as you want...if you are between me and my goal, YOU will become an obstacle and...I don't say yes to those, but I will have a smile on my face when I pop back up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Email...breakfast of champions

Humorously, I keep getting "comments" from people that really should probably be emails. I am always happy to talk anything and everything ADHD. I'll never give medical advice, or make absolute statements, but if you do happen to want to send me a message, I have added my email address to my profile. If you're genuine and just trying to connect with another ADHDer, I'll totally write you back...if you're a jackass, I'll reserve the right to ignore you, lol, but either way, if you do happen to send me something slightly personal, this eliminates the possiblity that it might accidentally get posted as a comment! I try to be careful about those kinds of things but hey, I'm an ADHDer, and I've hit wrong buttons before and not realized it!

Keep on truckin'.

Vyvanse: Chime in on your Stimulants People, I wanna hear it

I have posted before that I take Vyvanse, so someone asked me about it specifically. Me, I noticed an effect from it immediately. Like all of its other stimulant drug brethren, Vyvanse is (at least in my non-medical opinion) generally immediate-acting. Well...take that back, once it begins to be processed by your liver, which will depend on how your body processes things, you should probably notice some kind of effect.

Vyvanse is a little different from the other stimulants, in that it was formulated specifically to keep people from abusing it. In other words, you shouldn't get high from snorting it or doing anything else funny with it. I have seen people comment on other sites that they have indeed "gotten high" from snorting Vyvanse. If that's your bag, clearly you have way bigger problems than just ADHD, haha, and personally, I'm thinking that if you ARE getting high from it that way, either your liver is in your nose (which again, is a FAR more serious problem than ADHD!) or you're simply feeling a little funny because you're getting too much oxygen while trying to abuse an otherwise lesser of addictive evils. Vyvanse, is roughly the same thing as Adderall...but its structure allows it to be effective ONLY (allegedly) after going through your liver. Some call it genius, some call it just another way for a pharmaceutical company to make more money off of an aging brand. Me, I don't care, all I know is that for me it seems to be very helpful.

So...again, I'm no medical professional but it seems that if your body processes things like drugs slowly, it might take a little longer to kick in. For me, about one hour, like clockwork, after I take Vyvanse, my mind suddenly feels calmer, it is easier for me to choose to focus on what is in front of me and I stop running around. I sometimes get rather "determined" when I take it, and not in an angry way, but in an "I am working on THIS thing here...and no, I'm NOT going to work on that thing there" kind of way, but part of that for me is also me getting used to what to do with the focus, and being a little defensive when people/things attempt to distract me. I figured out by experimenting a little in the past week and discovered that for me, I think it really is working for somewhere around 10 hours, which is what it's supposed to do. I'm just so stunned to have a drug actually do what it's intended to do in my body that I don't trust that yet but, it seems to be true!

I WOULD LOVE IT IF SOME OTHERS WERE WILLING TO ADD SOME COMMENTS ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH STIMULANTS...just so we could see any commonalities or differences in people's experiences, and so that it might be possible to see a bit of the range of "effects" that people have, because I won't ever claim that my experience is universal (although I believe it to be fairly typical). Not a scientific study by any means, just a sketch of what people anyone happens to read and is willing to chime in, go for it.

If it's not "working" for you, there's a variety of reasons that could be. Not an all-inclusive list, but here's some possibilities:

  1. the drug simply doesn't work for you
  2. you might simply not know how to recognize the effects yet...keeping a journal during the day that you can then share with your prescriber might help you to figure that out
  3. there might be another drug out there that might work better for you
  4. you may have some other "co-morbid" issue that is getting in the way. Me, I also seem to have an anxiety disorder...and it seems to be the case that to really deal with my ADHD we had to get that under control a little first. Now that I seem to be having a good experience with anti-anxiety medication and therapy, NOW, when I take the Vyvanse (and by now I mean just in the last few days) I can clearly tell that it's doing something. Again, this may not be the case for everybody, but it is for me, and could happen to others. Lots of ADHDers have other mental health or general health issues that can complicate treatment of their ADHD
  5. some people swear that the meds don't work for them, and as a result choose not to take them. No harm, no foul, that's up to if you happen to not find something that you feel "works" might end up being one of those people. Even in that case there may be some natural remedies that might help you, and as someone with a great therapist, I can't recommend that option highly enough...even if you ARE taking meds that work.
  6. obligatory disclaimer that a medical professional may be able to add other possibilities to this list!
So...that's my love affair with Vyvanse in a nutshell. One hour after I swallow it I feel more able to choose focus over distraction, my mood generally improves slightly, completing tasks feels more natural somehow, and in general I feel more calm.

I'm serious when I say that I hope others might post a tidbit or two about their own stimulant experiences...fingers crossed...don't be shy... ;)

All I could see was rows of little boxes...

I am starting, in the last few days, to begin to see my life compartmentalize.

I have always been a logical thinker, if a slightly scattered one. I have always been able to digest clear, rational arguments, and tear apart those that don't fit that criteria. I have always been (or at least since older childhood) able to create some kind of order in intellectual situations...though not always in the same way as others (which gave me a wicked inferiority complex, because it took me a while to figure out that I often had good insights, other people just hadn't gotten that far out of the box yet to find them valid).

But just getting through the day has always been a stressful challenge. It was so for my mother, who struggled to create order in our always chaotic mornings, and it is for me as an individual, now that I'm all on my own. We see order in the moment, in a flash of a second, but as we move away from that moment, things fall apart. It's not that we can't see order...just that it seems to run too fast for us to truly catch and master it.

Life, as a result, feels like a continuous stream of too many layers of quickly moving individual pieces that I am sometimes able to link in a moment of inspired alchemy, but generally drown within. That constant motion is too much. As my sister has said "that explains why you have always been so sharp and crabby at home when people bother you". When you are that overwhelmed, you don't often have the luxury of energy to spend on "nice".

Well. I have been having a strange experience since my meltdown of about a week ago. I am beginning to spontaneously see things in static "compartments". See my days in "segments" rather than overful and liquid, and barely containable. And as a result, this is allowing me the occasional, and never before felt sensation...of pieces of my life feeling manageable. Or at least I am experiencing the impression that they might become so.

I've always had this "idea" of what that looks like, but for the first time I feel little heavenly REAL sensations of it in my mind. So real I can feel them, like starfish or anemones in a touch WEIRD feeling, but so magical to touch, and foreign, but no longer unknown. I see disorder and I see order, and they don't all exist in the same torrent of thought. I never really experienced them separately before and I didn't even truly know it.


I am not an old person but it's still pretty rare at 34 to have something in the daily course of your life genuinely surprise you. Is it any mistake that it's happening during a blessed moment where my medications seem to be doing what they're supposed to without the distraction of side-effects? Probably not.

I do not mean to give the impression that I have made some large achievement in terms of how organized my actual day is. But I feel myself working away at little bits of things that I will be able to free myself from...that I can put a date-stamp on. It's like...hmmm. Okay, tired's like I took off the training wheels...and I can't ride very far yet...but now that I know that magic "feeling" of balance, I can see what actually riding a bike might look like. And I know that I'm not interested in bicycle racing, or even doing fancy tricks...I don't even care about those because I know that just being able to balance for slightly longer distances from time to time...will be of so much joy and benefit to me that...okay honestly, I've got a few tears in the eyes at the moment.

I've seen a lot, and I've never seen anything like this before :)

I'm perfectly aware that I may fall off of the bike (sorry, cliche, but useful!) from time to time...but so does everyone. And if the bike metaphor holds true...I still love riding my bike. No fancy tricks, just me, the bike, and the road...balanced, and headed somewhere with calm purpose.

One day, my dad and I were talking about how much we liked riding bikes when we were kids. I used to actually do some pretty crazy stunts...involving ramps, no hands, and riding standing on my seat like a circus chick. You're bound to crash occasionally, when you roll like that, haha. My dad...says he would ride as fast as he could and jump off. He was also prone to jumping off of ravines, roofs and barns. I asked him why he did it...he got a funny look on his face like he was watching a movie in his head and smiled, and very thoughtfully replied "I was compelled!". I said "compelled?" and he said "yeah, I don't know why, but it seemed like the thing to do and I HAD to do it.". Can you imagine a more perfect statement from someone who was probably a hyperactive ADHD child, famous for his stunts? Me, I just felt free when I stood on the bicycle seat, figuring out how to steer it around curves and corners by slightly adjusting my balance, and raising myself on and off of the seat with no hands, without stopping, and usually, but not always, without falling off. I was obsessed with the challenge, and I imagined I was in sequins in the circus. makes me think of this new action in my brain, these new visions popping up...this new feeling of occasional calm, even in the face of a storm of "to-do" items. I waited 33 years to do battle with the anxiety that was running my show...even though I had some abstract inklings of what it was doing to me. I can't change that waiting...but I think I waited so long because I truly didn't know another way to live. And it can be scary to trade one thing in for another when you don't know what you're trading in don't know if you're trading up or down, and logic dictates that you shouldn't trade if you don't know the terms.

The stakes were finally too high for fail at this point in my life, in anyway, has consequences that reach beyond me. I wonder how many other adult ADHDers have the same experience (probably just millions)...where you finally reach out for help and it's not only for yourself, to rid yourself of the desperate feelings that living a double life brings...but you've realized in a desperate moment or two that others are relying on you to succeed. And you can't bear to fail, because you can't stand to have others bear the weight of your failures.

Heh. I am having a day that as usual is totally off-track, schedule-wise. There are aspects of my office job that will always throw things a little off kilter, and that's just how it is. just so STRANGE...I have this sense where I actually see little ways that I can tuck a few things back into their compartments, things I can let go of because they're just not worth the stress can all go into another compartment (to be shredded, of course) and I have this idea that while my days will probably never be perfect in terms of timeliness and order...that if I keep practicing with this new ability to "see" things in a more useful way, my days will come just a little closer to the middle road of balance. That my days will average a little closer to the middle.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nearly Perfect

Saturdays are work days for me. I set up a community event each week that runs throughout the day. I love it...I don't love getting up a 6AM to be there to greet everyone as they arrive, but once I'm there, I love greeting everyone, helping people get set up, them helping me set up...I spend the rest of the day once we're open running around, fielding questions, chatting, networking, learning people's life stories (people tell me the damndest things sometimes, lol).

My parents' business is right down the street and I pop in there from time to time throughout the day...other community events are usually happening too, so I roam around there and gather information, and make connections. This is me at my best. It's also my perfect vision for a community...all of this activity centered around commerce based in handmade items and local businesses. Heaven.

People know that I am there each Saturday so people who need to talk to me there find me. I hit the farmers' market for some groceries. The kids running the environmental awareness fiesta across the street are cackling like monkies, setting up tents, chugging coffee from the shops on the street. Enter the musicians...suddenly a big, loud happy hippy band is playing in front of the gov't buildings across the street. We've got a big ol' party on our hands here, folks. Then our music-guy arrives. Mike is a consummate professional, always there when he says he'll be there, with great songs. Unfortunately his tent was nabbed by the environment educators across the him a coffee shop to play in on the street!

Even my medication was cooperating. I had, just a few days before, doubled the anti-anxiety (mirtazapine) and took two days off from the stimulant (Vyvanse). On this particular morning, I was feeling great and seemed to be adjusting to the anti-anxiety. I felt good. So I took the Vyvanse, and within an hour just felt even calmer, able to just talk to people...I bounced around from tent to tent, but not with the usual sense of frenzy and was with a sense of purpose, and a certain methodical order. I always get done what I need to get done...but usually feel rushed and exhausted by the end of the day, and am madly taking notes that whole time. But not this time...I just felt calm. If people had questions I couldn't answer on the spot, I simply asked them to email me. And the iPhone? Don't even get me started...okay okay, I'm already started, that thing rocks. Finally. Yes, I got it working, and I love the little reminder alarms of things I need to do, and I loved being able to just post stuff online from the event, while I was there! Also importantly, I like being able to choose pleasant reminder sounds...usually cell phones have ring tones that are abrasive at best, and of course, sensitive to sounds as I am I can't have some metallic, screeching version of "Dixie" reminding me to get up in the morning, or run errands.

Yesterday, it was POURING rain the whole time. And I didn't care. I said, nearly perfect.What changed between yesterday and my melt-down a week earlier? Let's see...well the meds seem to have adjusted, which helps. But beyond that...I think I am over the initial shock of finding myself in a totally new life. And I am finally accepting that although the people, places and things in my life really ARE chaotic, because an ADHD mind chose them...I have the power to make different choices going forward. And I have the choice to take a pause to find a new path, when having to deal with the old situations. I just have to remind myself that when things feel shitty and when I feel like I have no control...that's okay, and it won't last forever.

Back to the street party...this was what is becoming just a regular Saturday in our little city. A little city known for being pretty sleepy in the past. It seems to be waking up and I'm proud to be a part of it. How cool is that, that it was raining, and I mean pouring, and people were out anyway, taking part in all of these things? And that these things were all even happening inthe first place...

Yesterday I also had a piece published in the local paper, about taking back power, and making things happen in your community, through your own efforts instead of complaining or abandoning the ship. It was good timing for me to feel acknowledged for my work. For the past week I have been feeling privately overwhelmed, even while maintaining my "public" work. Anchoring myself to the community again by seeing my work in action (and that of others) AND having it acknowledged...helped to bring me back to the surface. Even though I am not someone who needs constant ego stroking, I AM always happier when anchored to a community, so...I guess I needed that dialogue. I don't normally need the acknowledgement but...this week I needed to feel like I mattered. It energized me within myself and re-energized me to recycle the energy into more community work.