Friday, November 6, 2009

ADHD did NOT end my relationship

It's a constant topic of online discussion "my ADHD ruined my relationship" or "my partner's ADHD is ruining our relationship".

I'm not even going to get into the facets of that debate. I don't doubt that ADHD's less charming manifestations have ended a few relationships and I don't doubt that we ADHDers are real pains in the ass to live with sometimes. However, I'm more interested in the fact that currently, I am just out of a long term relationship and I can say with confidence that ADHD did not end my relationship, nor was it a contributing factor. If anything, it was a catalyst for beginning a journey to a healthier me.

I am compelled to make this statement for all of the ADHDers and partners of ADHDers out there who have gotten used to that handy excuse: knock it off! Individual situations always require individual assessments. If that assessment ends with a diagnosis of ADHD as the culprit, well then, let's call a chair a chair.

I won't go into the personal details of my own recent ex may be in fact reading this post after all (and would agree with me that ADHD was not the devil in this ball of wax). But I will say this...if ADHD had ANYTHING to do with this, it was something like this...

I have always had ADHD. As a result of my particular upbringing and personality and set of ADHD symptoms, I do, in fact suffer from the ADHD malady called "blame one's self first". I blamed myself for a lot in this relationship that I did not deserve to carry the weight of. For a long time. My diagnosis actually helped me to begin to see that fact. To own my own responsibilities and be much clearer about other people's has been a huge gift. The lines between me and other are becoming far more healthfully drawn.

And so was the case here. See? Diagnosis can help you clean a lot of shit out of your closet, that you really needed to let go of. And, I have been really exhausted this year from the experience of really WORKING through the fallout of diagnosis...when you just barely have energy to carry your own stuff that you are working through, it makes the weight of what you shouldn't be carrying seem that much heavier, and eventually you realize that you have to choose to sustain yourself and possibly let other things go...or continue to harm yourself by maintaining fuzzy borders.

The fact of the matter here is that my partner had his own very large closet of old shit to work through. He knows it, I know it, continuing our relationship was only giving him permission to continue to ignore it...and if ADHD played any role, diagnosis propelled me to stop allowing his pile of shit to continue impacting me and HIM in a negative way. ADHD did not do this...but diagnosis gave me some of the awareness that brought me here. Processing my own ADHD issues has helped me begin to learn a new, healthier way of living with myself, AND with others.

Note to self: remember where you put your pants

Seriously, I made brief reference to this a couple of days ago but after I did laundry the other day, I actually sorted my laundry a bit, which is new, and I friggin' keep forgetting that I folded all my pants and put them in the bottom drawer of the "dark" dresser. Oh I remember it now, while I'm sitting here at my office writing in my blog. But tomorrow morning...just as this morning and the morning before, I'm telling you, I will get out of the shower, come a looking for the pants...and will search through piles of laundry before I realize that oh yes...they're folded, of all things, and indeed have taken up residence in that drawer, the very drawer I put them in. ADHDers reading this no doubt have their own dumbass adventures of this sort to share and if so, I issue a call to all of start your own blogs, and set reminders to actually write in them.

I'm you think it's fun for me airing my ADHD laundry in front of the world (or at least my readers)? I guess it's better than sticking it in a drawer and not dealing with MY PANTS. Get's all a ridiculous metaphor for the fact that we are as sick as our accidental secrets (or the fact that we can't even find them) As long as we refuse to expose the realities of our "condition" the public will continue to make up its own minds about who ADHDers are, and what ADHDers do. We're a rather diverse group, in case you hadn't figured that out yet, and a lot of people have not figured that out yet.

The other thing might learn some interesting things about yourself when you go back and read what you wrote (I know I have).

I know blogging's not for I'm not intending to pressure anyone. And not everyone enjoys writing...I happen to, so for me, this is an ideal vehicle for processing. However...even if you don't like to write, perhaps there are other ways you can share your experience (and by share, I do NOT mean walking into your boss's office and yelling "Merry Fucking Christmas, I have ADHD! Not only is it a gift, but it's MY gift to YOU!"). Sharing your experience doesn't even have to mean telling other people about it. Sharing your experience can mean using it for a variety of interesting purposes. I think I posted a while back about going to a local mental health peer group to give a talk, from a peer's perspective, about organizing projects. Certainly nobody at the mental health peer center was going to judge me because of ADHD, haha...maybe just because of my weird hairdo.... Maybe sharing your ADHD with the world means allowing yourself more compassion for others and THEIR unique challenges, in any setting.

So no, ADHD may not be "a gift" but you sure can translate your experiences as an ADHDer into a variety of productive outlets.

Really, if one of you could teach me how to remember where my effing pants are on a regular basis (besides leaving them in a pile next to the empty dresser where I can see them) that would be a godsend! Perhaps I should address a different audience for that, haha...actually...

I'll tell you what I'd really like a hot tip for...where to get a really perfect dresser. I've been thinking about this a lot this week, for obvious reasons. For the amount of clothes I own, in need to be about 6 ft. wide, about 5 ft. to the wall, and the three drawers need to be about 12 inches deep, NO DEEPER. And the fronts of the drawers must be clear, so I can see that clothes live in that piece of furniture.

That way...all of my clothes would be easily see-able in shallow layers, and I could turn and look at the clear front and and go "oh yeah! I have clothes in there" and then open the drawer all the way (the back of the unit needs to be weighted so it doesn't tip over when I pull the drawer all the way out). The clothes will be easy to pick through even if they are not totally organized.


No judgment, no pain...with a place like that to put my clothes I could actually cultivate a habit of at least sorting my clothes by type, if not folding them. That would be a huge step for me. Right now I'm still afraid that if I put things away I'll forget them, even if they're important, like pants. It's these kinds of things that the non-ADHDers in our lives cannot fathom, and get frustrated with and to YOU, you poor oppressed partners of ADHDers...and I mean this with all due respect and doesn't really matter if you get it or not. You have a right to have YOUR needs and methods respected, and within reason, so do we. And within our agreed upon personal space (and anyone living with an ADHDer should have figured out by now that each person SHOULD have a little slice of their own space) you basically need to shut your piehole about how we do what we do.

Yeah yeah, I have to shoot us in the ass to do certain things, or complete certain things...I totally get that. And those things should exist somewhere in the "where my ADHD fucks up your program" category. If it's not fucking up your program, leave us alone.

And don't share dressers with us ;)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anxiety, my rude, neurotic room-mate

I have always had an ambient buzz of anxiety sitting in my body. Always. Thanks to Remeron, not anymore! Which is great. But it means that when I DO experience anxiety recently, I REALLY notice it. I think because it's no longer a's just popping up in appropriate places, instead of being the annoying electrical whine-hum in every scene.

Basically I spent my life with a screaming person (anxiety!) in my house in the next room over. Instead of dealing with it, for 30+ years (my longest relationship ever, by far) I simply kept the door to their room closed. because I had to. You just can't get through life with a screamer like that if you actually acknowledge it all the time. I could still hear the screams and the sound had me on edge, constantly...but the sound was muffled a little bit. Now, I've stopped pacing, flung the door open wide, and have the luxury, at last of the energy to find new ways to deal with this issue. The Mirtazapine, a tetracyclic antidepressant sometimes used to treat anxiety (generic for Remeron), flat out shuts the screamer up much of the time and the silence is GORgeous so it doesn't matter if the door is open or closed. But sometimes the screamer has a legitimate complaint and will start screaming again and in comparison to the silence, that sound is hell (better than a randomly screaming screamer though!). Door's open and I can't ignore the screamer. So I might actually stop in the doorway and ask the screamer what's wrong. And if the screamer can tell me, I can deal with their concern, and maybe get them to stop screaming. A few times, when I was in the middle of a stressful project this weekend, I couldn't figure out what in the hell was wrong with that screamer...but they got tired and stopped screaming after a couple of days anyway. Eventually maybe I'll learn how to understand what the screamer is telling me in those kinds of situations but...ongoing project I guess.

The feeling of all of this is new though so at first I thought oh crap...something bad is happening again with medication. But in this case I'm fairly certain (because I feel SO relaxed most of the rest of the time) that it's just a matter of readjusting. And how cool is this...I used to live with anxiety that I had to expend enormous amounts of energy trying to ignore because it was so constant that over-ride (and giving in to obsessive-compulsive behaviors from time to time) was what I had to do to get through the day. I had to say "that's just anxiety making decisions for me so I have to ignore it" and push through my feelings and just act. It was a matter of survival, not choice. Now...much of the time the anxiety just isn't there and I marvel at how thin that line was between relaxation and the constant, malicious buzz. So that now, when I DO feel is safer for me to check in with myself about why I am feeling that way, and actually consider if that anxiety is giving me good information that I can actually use to make decisions! I can at least use it to try to understand why certain things makes me nervous, and then proceed from there.

When ambient anxiety was my daily reality, I think that my method of coping was just fine...ignoring my feelings and even giving in to some impulses I shouldn't have was what I needed to do, and it was the only thing I COULD do under the circumstances. This process is freeing my feelings and allowing me to trust myself that much more, because the blatantly questionable anxiousness has been eliminated. Revolution and nothing less.

I am not thinking in terms of regret but I can't help thinking about the millions examples of how anxiety was running the show for me. Its tentacles wrapped around and through me and throughout every aspect of my life. And that line was so thin all that without anxiety was available to me all that time. Seriously, it's pointless to regret decisions that I clearly wasn't ready to make earlier in life but it's pretty stunning to ponder.

Another fascinating tweak of understanding anxiety better is that I feel that I understand the line (at least for me) between anxiety and what we presently call ADHD that much better now. Some people experience anxiety as a result of ADHD, and I think that I also have that experience at times. But the weird ways that anxiety would nest in my body and my's just not the same thing. I get a little amped up when I'm worried because I'm feeling disorganized, but it's different from the ball that sat for probably 18 years beneath my left shoulder blade. The constant throat clearing that I couldn't stop myself from when I would just feel wiggy for no reason. The ambient sense of impending action or reaction. The self-consciousness of worry.

A perfect illustration of where the line is, exactly, is this: sitting in a meeting as I was yesterday. I arrived at the meeting and sat in my chair. I was feeling fairly relaxed, though groggy as I usually do in the morning. Doesn't matter what time I go to sleep at night or how much sleep I get, I'm not feeling awesome until about an hour or two after I wake up. I'm sitting in the chair, free of ambient anxiety. But I can't hold my mind still...and I'm watching other people in the meeting...and I start picking my finger nails, and I start jiggling my leg, and I start repositioning my legs under me like a little kid trying to get comfy in a big people chair except I'm in a conference room and I have to remind myself to adopt an adult posture, and then I realize that there's a bank president sitting next to me and what is this person going to think of me if they notice that--oh hey, is there a water cooler in here, nope just coffee, get up to get water, no, don't get up, then they're know you're not paying attention, stifle impulse, watch others, moves legs, wiggle feet in shoes, glad I wore what I did because it's cold in the room, checking out paintings on the far wall (I don't like rooms with nothing on the wall when I have to wait, that's the worst).

This whole time, between bouts of figeting I'm working to appear that I am listening. Occasionally I try taking notes, but realize there's not much to take notes about and of course once I realize that my mind is off an running again and I am spending the meeting working to appear that I'm paying attention instead of actually paying attention and THAT is the problem.

The funny thing about these kinds of situations is that because you're paying attention to everything else going on in the room you start to notice the others who can't pay attention. They're not everywhere but they ARE in places you wouldn't expect sometimes., like in this meeting Some of the most powerful, wealthy players in many circles are the ones that can't pay attention and keep checking their Blackberries, and accidentally interrupt people, but they're charismatic and funny and they get away with it because all of these behaviors are--for those who have ever taken an acting class or studied human behavior--high status behaviors and if you have money and status people expect you to display these kinds of behaviors. If you aren't rich or powerful people label you in a very different way. In the right situations, interrupting, refusing attention, and commanding attention with charisma are signs that someone is of higher status than you, or at least they think they are. They are also signs that an ADHDer was lucky and resourceful enough to quickly get themselves into a position in life where those behaviors will get them promoted instead of fired. I would bet there's a pretty even split between business people having these characteristics consciously or as a result of earned status...and having them because they have ADHD and think out of the box. The right circumstances and maybe even some compulsive ADHD risk-taking put them in the fortunate position of being "the boss" or the shot caller instead of in the unemployment line.

So...what I forgot to mention previously was that I took my Vyvanse not long after I sat down in the meeting. I fidgeted and worked to appear normal for nearly an hour...then the Vyvanse started working and I was able to sit still and contribute to the conversation instead of just skipping through it like a rock on a lake. Suddenly I wasn't even noticing the people around me because...I didn't care, because my brain wasn't flying.

This whole time, I did NOT feel anxious. That feeling I've come to know as anxiety was not even in check, it simply did not exist.

And this seems to be the pattern, the new way of things. The Mirtazapine soothes the anxiety away and the Vyvanse stills my mind.

I just can't believe I lived like that all this time! Gee, I wonder why it was easier to constantly make "new" choices instead of stick around long enough to really challenge my intellect and set some goals. Between my disordered anxiety and ADHD I was already spending so much energy fighting to appear "normal" I could have been...well, exactly where I am now. Finally able to explore the other possibilities, whatever they may prove to be.

Helluva week kid, helluva week

Spent a couple of days recovering from overwork. A large percentage of the reasons I ended up in an overcommitment pickle relate directly to my ADHD and its impact on my decision-making abilities and self esteem. Just knowing that this cause exists has already made it easier for me to begin to stop self-medicating through overworking. And I feel like certain aspects of just getting through daily life seem...a little easier in the last few days?

I'm actually using my calendar now because my iPhone reminds me, with a pleasant little chime, of calendar items. (<-----Seriously, this is shocking.) I wasn't stressed beyond belief yesterday so when I did my laundry I actually sort of divided it into separate piles (remembering that I'd actually put my pants in a drawer this morning though was a challenge...).

And last night I did this thing I've been doing for a few weeks where I clean out my bag once a week or when the accumulation of random crap in it becomes too cluttery. What's this? A...habit forming? Sort of? I actually notice and am annoyed faster by the clutter now, when it's still just a smidge instead of suddenly noticing it and being pissed and out of control when it's Mt. Everest-sized or when someone comments on it and embarrasses me. (Do yourself a HUGE favor and read the article Messy Purse Girls one of my favorite articles about girls/women with ADHD). Even in the course of about seven days though it's amazing how much accumulates in there, particularly in the paper department.

In the last few days I:
  • Completed a huge project.
  • Fielded tons of emails and interpersonal scheduling issues and am re-learning how to deal with these and pace myself.
  • Broke up with the boyfriend. We still live in the same house while we're figuring what to do next. Urgh.
  • Identified a new relationship with my anxiety (that gets its own post momentarily).
  • Pinpointed what may be causing me what seems like more anxiety even though I swear I'm "getting better".
  • Attended my first board meeting for a city planning board that I was asked to join.
  • Am drowning because our junior paralegal at work has been out the entire workload for the office are on my desk...and it's over my head (literally higher than my head, not beyond my abilities, haha)...and I'm in the middle of re-learning how to prioritize my OWN workload differently, never mind someone else's on top of it.
Damn...I'm fielding a lot right now. But I swear I feel stress leaving my body more frequently (instead of just festering) and I can actually choose to relax sometimes now instead of being constantly on edge.

And as much as I hate to say it...I am also feeling less stressed since the breakup. I won't bore with details...but I will say this. My boyfriend is a nice person, who for various reasons was adding a lot of stress to my existence right now, and I just didn't need that. I need to really focus on my core right now, and our relationship was pulling energy I didn't have to spare, away from my core. was a great excuse for him to avoid dealing with his OWN "stuff". Now we've both got all the self-discovery space in the world.

I've got a lot of "work" to do just doesn't feel as hard to just do what I need to do. Right now. More space for personal growth but damn, it's easier to attend to when you're not just shackled by stress.

Monday, November 2, 2009

So that's where my limit was all those years

My limit, I found it, somewhere around working an average of 15 hours a day, seven days a week. I am actually grateful because I finally found it! When they ask you all those funny questions at the mental health center, I always love the ones that hover around "is she or isn't she bipolar" or "are these stimulant meds too much for her". A current one that I get a lot is "so...are ya sleeping much?". Um no, I know it's your job and thanks for being thorough but when a person is already frustrated that they have too much on their plate, and would LIKE to be sleeping, it's kind of annoying to have to answer that question every time they have to come to visit you. Do I want my mental health providers to be less thorough? No, not really, I just want my life to be less crazy, but my choices I made a long time needed to be followed through on. I could have chosen to drop everything, or continue everything to natural conclusions, and I chose natural conclusions for a variety of reasons that mostly revolve around what others might think of me. So I have to keep pushing through the misery for a little longer...and if this says anything about my determination, I have pushed past the sleep-inducing properties of generic Remeron many a night recently. I have to just keep going a little longer and once a week I have someone asking me if I'm sleeping more.

The stimulants are not keeping me awake, and it is unlikely I am bipolar. But night after night I push my way past a drug that is famous for knocking people out, for just a few more hours of work time. My prescriber gave it to me on purpose hoping it would help me be a little less ambivalent about sleeping and eating...and yes, it helps me eat more (I'm kind of microscopic anyway and had lost a few pounds that I didn't have to spare). And it does make me sleepy...but I can't afford to spend more time sleeping right now.

A few nights I have literally fallen asleep sitting up, stuck in that weird limbo between wake and sleep where you start to see things that only exist in dreams because you're allllllmost totally asleep but your eyes are open and your conscious mind is fighting for control so you happen to be looking at the television and things are appearing on the television, and then appear to be coming toward you out of the television and your brain is having this weird dialogue with itself "I'm asleep so I know that doesn't exist even though I'm terrified because it's coming out of the television toward me, dammit wake up, wake up, you're sitting up...NO, can't wake up, aliens coming out of the television are way more relaxing and interesting than this stupid budget...". Usually my chin finally abruptly hits my chest and I wake up from the impact and start the whole thing over a few more times before I finally just lay over to one side, pull up a blanket and go to sleep.

This is not a cycle of existence that I am enjoying, and that lack of joy actually motivates me to work harder to reach the ends of these things faster...the fact that I care at all about that lack of joy is actually a sign of progress. And this weekend marked the blessed end of one of my biggest projects, at least until next year. The last day played out beautifully but I didn't get to enjoy it because I was so stressed out...but it's over, and I will have more time to rest even though I still have a lot of work to do. The rest of my projects are more about me though, than anything that others are depending on, so I feel a little less pressured. I know that's kind of messed up's true...I'm just glad the pressure has released a little now, I can debate my motivations and self-esteem later.

I used to hate homework and now, relative to everything else I've been working on, it feels like vacation and I'm a little bit happy to be chipping away at it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Remembering to Remember that you have ADHD

I sometimes have moments where I give in to the doubters and think "maybe I just think differently, maybe I just..." blahblahblah.

These moments are often followed with a sudden "remembering" of some old memory that brings me back to reality. A nostalgia cocktail with a "what the fuck!" chaser.

Today's flashback and shattering of delusion came courtesy of a snapshot in my mind, of a pile of dishes on the bathroom counter in my dorm bathroom. I hated college, I really hated living in the dorms (OVERWHELMING). And I couldn't get my organizational shit together to save my life. I felt like I was slowly dying, the grades sucked, and all of these annoying, fluffy girls in my dorm just seemed to be able to get through the day high on the cotton between their ears, all organized, and "normal" while I felt like I was being pulled apart piece by piece by all of the demands tugging on me. I couldn't stand the pile of dishes anymore so I brought them to the dorm bathroom to wash them, and then I don't remember what diverted my attention but I did intend to wash them, and then I didn't and they were there for a like a week and then one day...they were GONE. I never found out who, but someone had either taken them or thrown them out. And unfortunately there were some sentimental items in that pile. And I had a total meltdown, that I was embarrassed about later, I won't even go into detail about how I dealt with it because it's still painful and it was 15 years ago. Nobody understood why I had done something so irresponsible in the first place, and in light of such, I clearly had no right to be having such a fit about it, especially a fit like that.

Ugh. Yeah okay, enough now, all set in the remembering department. This weekend was already like hanging out inside a carwash, minus the car, I think I'll just go to bed instead of lathering myself in the filth of more happy memories.

The Devil Wears Details

I realized that I have written some recent posts that seem contradictory, so I'm taking a minute to clarify. Yes, as I go through my day I am bombarded by a billion details that I can't seem to filter out. And yes, when it comes to dealing with certain kinds of plans, I have a totally different relationship with detail that is also very "ADHD". Both of these statements are true.

I do indeed geek out on the detail of creating an operational plan because I get totally HIGH off of it. I love solving a problem. I create proposals, and visuals and graphs and even timelines and goals, and all kinds of other cool stuff. I can even geek out a projected/proposed budget for you. And I'm good at it.

At the law office (where I work part time) we did get a "junior" paralegal this year and I have been enjoying delegating, for the first time in my life. I used to find delegating stressful for a variety of reasons, including that it sometimes is more stressful to have to explain something to someone else than to just do it.

It's a weird limbo, the land where you just "get" the big picture, and in fact see it better than most people ever will, but can't remember to check your own calendar. Or who you talked to on the phone five minutes ago.

I work my ass off to stay on step ahead of the nearest person that may be impacted by one of my mistakes or ask questions that may reveal my lesser skills. To be clear, I don't have a hoard of undiscovered messes. What I do have is a cleverly disguised pile of near-disasters. I have coped well, and I have earned people's trust by appearing to be reliable at all costs. Unfortunately I've coped SO well that I really have absorbed most of the costs myself. I really AM as reliable as I claim to be, but by offering myself up as a sacrifice.

But as I said, I have help at work now getting the small, routine things that I can't seem to make stick finished. And in my self-employment projects queue, I should be able to afford an assistant in the coming year. I love my personal projects because I finally get to fill a role that is more appropriate to my skills as a person and my skills as a person with ADHD.

And likely, I will never be at ease in a job that requires steady adherence to routine. I don't even fill out my time sheet the same way every time...last week I forgot to turn it in at all.

There are different kinds of detail. There's the sound of the television and the noisy students that live downstairs, the "electrical whine" of appliances, the overhead lights and the other sensory stimuli that drive me nuts. There's the routine tasks of daily living, mastery of which always seems just out of reach or reachable only at great personal cost, and the routine tasks of daily office life that fall in the same category.

And then there's the details involved in either digesting a "big picture" or even better concocting one from thin air. This is the kind of detail that I literally live for, but I'm always fighting my way through the other types in order to enjoy the luxury of applying my mind to. It's not a matter of inconvenience, it is a battle for simple breath.

I doubt that I'll bother to explore types of detail in this much, well, detail again but I felt it was important to clarify that in light of my other posts...