Saturday, December 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

Oh boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

I really appreciate it.

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

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

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

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

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

I'm thankful, truly.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

How did anyone NOT notice this...

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

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

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

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

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

The Wisdom in Wandering

Common ADHD trait/behavior #987: Wandering around.

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

And I know I'm not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'm not helpless, just hungry...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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