Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pat Your Head, Rub Your Tummy and put your foot on the gas...

...today I helped my 8-year old stepdaughter learn to use a pottery wheel.

I actually have no idea how to use one. I DID read the directions. And demonstrated to her that I knew this step was IMPORTANT.

Predictably, the first attempt really pissed her off...haha. This was ADHD impatience at its finest...there was whining, rage, abuse of anyone within range and not listening to directions, all wrapped up in one squishy looking lump.

Her father told her if she continued to behave that way, the pottery wheel would make a swift exit. I kept reminding her that this was all an experiment, perfection was not the goal, and that my potter friends have been doing this for YEARS to do what they do.

It's not easy being a little girl with ADHD who is also a perfectionist with completely unachievable expectations.

She turned the impatience knob down a bit for attempt number two...and a miraculous thing occurred. She started to see what her hands could do...and was better able to coordinate the pedal pushing and finger movements. And on attempt #3...WELL NOW. Suddenly she was making pretty, smooth sides and lovely flattened edges.

And toward the end she was VERY focused. Like a LASER. SCARY focused! I sort of loved the look on her face because I can totally relate to that brand of hyperfocus.

FUN TIIIMES! Channel the hyperfocus for the forces of good! It's exciting to watch her begin to learn ADHD navigation at such a young age...

Monday, December 27, 2010

World Domination, ADHD-style

People with ADHD are numerous on my list of most productive, remarkable, and driven people.
I bet you think I'm going to say that ADHD is a gift :)
But NOOOOOOO...nothing of the sort. (Orange you glad I didn't say banana?) I am simply pointing out that ADHD in itself does not doom you to a life of failure.
I'm gelling on this topic because one of my ADHD-friends announced, a few days ago, on Facebook, that she was taking nominees for her personal Overachiever Of The Year award. And the nominees, shall we say, were very interesting. My husband and I were among them, but so were my other favorite ADHD people. Our friend Susan ended up being chosen as the Winner. Susan is the kind of person that can start a non-profit, organize a benefit concert, try her hand at needlepoint, stop in to perform music at the local Farmers Market, bake Dulce de Leche cupcakes, and research medieval history simultaneously. Perhaps my favorite thing she ever uttered is "there are 24 usable hours in every day". And yes...she has ADHD. And it's nothing she hides.
My friend that created the award: has lived at least 9 lives in this one. She's a gifted fiber artist, gardener, raiser of sheep, game-designer by profession and as we like to refer to her, fairy godmother. If you just happen to need a pair of vintage 1970s sunglasses, she's your hookup.
Another ADHD friend? Has started a school, and a music education center, both of which are going swimmingly. City council meeting? She's there. Dots need connecting? She's on it. And when she's not connecting external dots, she's connecting internal ones and deeply researching her next project...as well as raising 3 children.
My sweet husband? Coordinates a music program at a private school, plays in two bands in addition to the occasional solo gig, and composes jazz. Also a dedicated and very hands-on father of 3. (And the best husband, ever. Not that I'm an expert because he's only husband #1...ha...)
Among my other ADHD acquaintances: a newspaper editor, a highly successful businessman at the head of a classic business "empire", an effective lobbyist/attorney, another highly entreprenurial attorney who has carved out a career, a niche and a national reputation on his pet issues...there are more but I have a point to address here.
These people are not successful because they have ADHD (at least, not in my opinion). They are successful because they have found KICK ASS ways to manage their unique and raging minds. They have either intentionally or accidentally surrounded themselves with critical support systems. They have chosen mates that fit their "style". (And of course, some have left mates that did not...or have been left by those mates.) These are people who struggle with managing their pursuits but are driven to find ways to make them work. Driven to find the right collaborators to get the job done...driven to find the right hands to lay their projects in when they are ready to move on...driven to find ways to keep themselves organized, and who, after becoming frustrated, continue moving forward. People who find unique ways to organize themselves (and who fail at times, through trial and error, but who keep trying because they have no choice). People who frustrate themselves and may, at times, be driven temporarily insane by things like deadlines, or by the volume of the rushing thoughts in their own minds (or disconcerted by the sluggish quiet they may find there at times). People who figure out how to survive higher education that they need to achieve their goals, or who have found clever ways around that need...
But they are also all people who happen to be intelligent, persistent and resourceful. These are traits of personality...traits that the circumstances ADHD may have forced to become more prominent, though ADHD is not the ingredient that makes success certain.
I love this magic, holy ground where ADHD and personality meet.
To me, in many ways, it simply does not matter that I have ADHD, because I simply do. I can sit and think about it, and "what it means" as much as I want to, but the fact does not change (I do enjoy exploring the topic, I'm not gonna lie.). What can change, is how I choose to approach my life. And I choose to approach it in a way that allows me healthy exploration of my drives, and inspiration from the brilliant people I surround myself with, who, as it turns out, are probably making some similar choices, in varying degrees of struggle.
Whatever our brain chemicals are doing, we are living unique and yes, successful lives.

Yes. Successful lives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And so this is Christmas...and what have you done...

I have a lot of things to say about Christmas and none of them have anything to do with one another, but the element of holy day. Holly day. Jolly day.

First, Christmas freaks me out. It's a big ol' clusterfuck of all the things that make people with ADHD (okay, perhaps I shouldn't generalize and we'll just apply this to my situation) freak out. Too much to do, too little money to do it, which requires extra time and money management, comes right at the time of year when heating prices go up (for those of us in northern, freezing-ass cold climates), it's an assault of the spiritual senses as we have to digest a multitude of equally baffling versions of what people think "it" means, crowds of people (families) get together and make lots of noise in one place and demand each others attention from 5 sides of the room at once, people who don't give a crap about charity the whole rest of the year can suddenly tell you what the world needs now...wow. It hurts my brain.

Last night I had a nice night with mom, dad, sis, sis's boyfriend, and my husband and the kids. It was really a great night but I will say this, holidays are simply overstimulating for me. Sonny commented that I seemed a little off. Correct on two counts. One, I am still recovering from a horrific version of the stomach flu that required me to be hopsitalized overnight last weekend and two, there was way too much going on. People talking everywhere, too loud, 800 kinds of food, moving mechanical dolls, children yelling and playing and laughing, two dogs running around like maniacs. I DID enjoy myself, but I am always aware, in situations like this, that I am overstimulated. Well now wait...I wasn't ALWAYS aware, I used to just feel weird and not understand why and it freaked me out. Now I get it, so even if I'm overstimulated, I'm not freaking out. If it's too much I go lay down for a bit.

Here's what I like about holidays:

Working retail. I love being busy and thinking on my feet. Voila...you have the retail holiday season. I'm speedy at the register and don't mind running from one end of the store to the other looking for ridiculous last minute shit.

Big hunks of meat and fatty cheese from faraway lands (or local, equally smelly versions). I used to be a vegetarian, but I'm hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia plus ADHD=moody bitch. Big meat and cheeses=I can think, and my taste buds are happy.

Olives and pickles.

Those little, weird, almost unnoticed sad moments that most people gloss over. I feel weird ignoring them, so I don't. I say hello to homeless people. Melancholy is part of reality, even at the "happiest" time of the year. Someday I would like to do away, altogether, with the "Christmas Magic". It feels like we ignore what's really important for 11 months, and then we really REALLY ignore it for the month of December in the name of being jolly. Weird.

That said, Sonny bought me a gorgeous original painting. I love it. It was my favorite painting from an exhibit of a man who lives here in town. He moved here with his wife and children, from Iraq. They left because their oldest son was kidnapped and they'd given their life savings to buy his freedom...if he was taken again they would not be able to afford his freedom and he would likely have been killed, so they left. The father and the other son are truly gifted painters. The painting is called "The Seamstress". A beautiful woman, rendered in vibrant color, holds a sewing machine over her head. She's strong, she's empowered...she embodies everything I love about sewing.

Sonny also showed that he pays attention to his lady's ridiculous culinary and spiritual peculiarities with the following stocking stuffers:

lemon curd
chocolate-covered Spanish almonds
an orange

There's a Christmas story from the Little House on the Prairie book series, where the Ingalls family gets a visit from their friend, Mr. Edwards. The visit itself was a big deal in those days, because travel was such an ordeal, especially in the midwestern winter. But he brought an orange and a penny for each of the children and they were ecstatic! My mother pointed out, when I was a child, that the value of things can change depending on your situation...but that it's important to be grateful for even the little things. When I was a little girl, we always had an orange in the bottom of our stocking as a reminder. Orange: check!

And...I got a remote control helicopter from the kids. Superficially, this may seem like a cute gift that THEY really perhaps wanted for themselves, but no...no my friends...this was a special request. I wanted one bad. I crashed it about 12 times out in the yard before admitting that I really need to read the directions.

So it was a nice holiday. Step-daughter suggested that we have a food drive. I'm going to help her make that happen. What with the "Christmas Magic" out of the way for the year we can get around to making the kind of magic that the world really needs. And, as I've said throughout this economic downturn, you never know when YOU might be the person that needs the magic helping hand...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My cats thought I was a total asshole 'til I found that can of tuna...

I left the house for the specific purpose of buying cat food.

I returned with a remote control tarantula, night-vision spy binoculars, boys socks, a bag of bows, a sack of oranges and a roll of ribbon.

I got home and was very annoyed by the cats, spooling their way through my legs and trying to throw me down the basement stairs.

Suddenly I remembered what I'd forgotten. I pulled out my shopping list to compare intent to result. It read:

wrapping paper

Sonny had mentioned the oranges on his way out the door.

Earlier today, when the two of us went out shopping together, I actually made a long, detailed list, we stuck to it, and we got a lot done, despite the asskicked state of my immune system (more on that later).

100% perfection is just not a realistic expectation.

I clawed my way through the cupboard and dug out a last can of tuna. I put it on a really nice gold-edged saucer to let them know I really cared.

Then I told Sonny that I'd left the remainder of our master to-do list on his sweater pile, so he wouldn't miss it. We both glanced to the sweater pile...where he'd just put his pants, right on top of the list, totally obscuring it. He pulled out the list...and we'll have to add "cat food" to it...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We all survived Day One of the great Adderall experiment.

I read a lot about ADHD, and even though I, myself, take the medication, I have read so many weird stories that other people have written that...well...I wasn't sure what to expect.

What I did not expect were tears of joy. (From the grownups, lol...)

The medication did not make her robotic...it did not make her anxious...it did not make her seem doped up...it did not kill her.

We first noticed that something different was happening when Sonny asked her to please turn the television down a couple of clicks in the middle of a Christmas movie and she simply reached forward and did it. Which means two things...one, that she HEARD him. Two that she didn't fight about it. One stone, two small miracles.

As the morning and day progressed, we witnessed some shocking things:

Our little girl played with her brothers.
She made her bed and lined her stuffed animals up arm in arm on the bed together.
She wrote a play about "emajunashun". It was a musical.
She heard us when we spoke and often smiled big when she did.
She actively engaged in conversation instead of argument.
She respected other people's personal space.
She smiled. She smiled.
She noticed when she could "do better" and seemed content to try again instead of freak out and deny caring.
She NOTICED other people instead of colliding with them at hyperspeed. And she looked delighted by it.

And for the first time since I met this child...she relaxed. The whole energy of her body changed. The whole energy of our home changed. It made me very reflective about the usual level of chaos we live with.

She does not usually play with her brothers...not for very long anyway. What starts as play often devolves into badgering, bossing, insulting, yelling and "accidentally" hurting people.

Cleaning her room is something we generally do together, she and I, and we have a system, and it works...but it's very stressful for her. On that day, she needed guidance because she was 8, not because she was overwhelmed.

She was not at war with her environment. She was comfortable in her body.

She kept saying "I feel good. I feel happy.".
She said "I feel happy. I feel calm. Is this how your medicine makes you feel too?".
I said "When I don't take it, I feel like the whole world is screaming at me. When I do take it, I feel much better.".
She exclaimed "Now you know what I feel like ALL THE TIME!".

Both myself and Sonny were moved immensely by watching a child, maybe for the first time in her life, spend a whole day not feeling like she's under attack.

And it was moving as well, to witness it from the outside, after experiencing it from the inside.

We got to experience the "her" that we only experience about 20% of the time...on that day, those wonderful parts were 80% of her, because her personality was no longer obscured by fear, overwhelm, and inability to hear the world around her.

I already knew that something was wrong with the logic of the MEDICATION WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CHILD people. Now...a part of me is genuinely angry with that perspective, because I really and truly feel that not trying every tool that may help is child abuse.

This was only day one. We have a lot to learn and so does our wee girl. But for her to not have had this chance, even just for one day, to see that life doesn't have to be such a struggle...would be shameful.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The experiment begins...

...stepdaughter starts medication for ADHD tomorrow. She's been genuinely struggling in keeping up at school and her bio-parents really just want to see if this will be a useful tool for her. In third grade you're really starting to learn a lot of important basics that are building blocks for other things, and if you miss them then, you struggle to catch up later. I know this from personal experience...not saddling the kid with my baggage, just demonstrating that these things DO happen...

She's starting a teeeeeeny weeeeeeny dose. Her dad is VERY med sensitive like I am, so they want to try her on it very gradually. Can't remember which drug (go figure). She's a little nervous about it (she's working on managing her anxiety too, lol, although non-medication strategies seem to work well for her there...sorry, I shouldn't lol about that but it's funny to have so many people with similar issues in one house)...so I showed her my methylphenidate and explained that I take it for MY ADHD symptoms. And assured her that if it makes her feel bad, that nobody will make her keep taking it...that her parents just want to see if it's a tool that will help her feel a little better and feel a little better at school. She told me recently that she has to "sit at the back of the room to finish her schoolwork with the other stupid kids" so she's clearly already aware of her differences, but not in a good way.

She also said "WHAT IF IT MAKES ME MORE ANXIOUS!!!" and I said "maybe it will, maybe it won't, if it does, I can't imagine anyone will make you keep taking it". She said "BUT YOU DON'T HAVE ANXIETYYYYYY!!!". I said oh yes...yes, I do. (I don't generally dwell on my ADHD treatment with the kids...that would just be weird and inappropriate, but at this moment, sharing seemed helpful.) She said, "oh". Told her how I tried some medications for ADHD that DID make me feel more anxious, but that now I take one that does not. And that the only way to find out is to try it. She seemed okay with that...and willing to try. Honestly, her biggest concern, when I showed her my pills seemed to be "DO THEY TASTE BAD!?".

So I thought it was important for her to understand that a) she's not stupid b) someone she looks up to take medication for their ADHD c) nobody will make her do something that will make her feel bad and d) if it works, it might be a very good tool for her.
We'll see how it goes :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pray for me...

...I'm creating a bill paying schedule for the Rollins Household.

Stop laughing. I'm not terrible with money, and it makes me feel good to "get things on track".
I think this will make our lives a lot easier actually. And thanks to my iPhone and its handy alerts, technology will actively remind me to make sure the bills get paid.

There's always a little excitement for the ADHDer embarking on a new organizational project though, isn't there? And a percentage of that excitement is best described as nervousness :)

So...just a wee prayer (there are way bigger problems in the world that need bigger prayers) ...and I'll let you all know how it turns out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sometimes Success is Scarier Than Failure...

Some issues that may ring "real" to my fellow ADHDers:

1) Fear of failure.

We have trouble trusting ourselves sometimes don't we? Especially when we want something very badly...especially when we have disappointed ourselves before (even when this disappointment bears no relations to how others actually viewed our performance).

2) Fear of success...

If you succeed, by really throwing yourself into something and putting yourself out there, then people will see who you REALLY are...and maybe when they do, they won't LIKE YOU. Ouch. This possibility is scarier than failing.

3) Fear of being "found out".

Despite my intelligence, achievement, and resourcefulness, I often feel that I am a fraud, that I am not smart, not capable, not intelligent, and when "they" all find out (I have no idea who "they" are, of course), that'll be it. EVERYONE will know...my house of cards will fall...even though nobody else really gives a crap or even feels this way, at least not about MY house of cards.

I identify and tear at the roots of my anxiety. It's dirty work...and it's the kind of dirt you can't just wash off easily. It takes work to really get it out from under your nails. And it's not the kind of thing that nortriptyline can just cart away the whole of. Anxiety winds through the deepest folds of my brain, spider-webbing dreams and memories and worries together, and leading them to the surface. Nortriptyline allows mental effort the chance to interfere, and redirect the energy.

I rip a weed out with an emphatic affirmation of my intelligence...but the dirt discolors my fingers, despite the relief in my mind. And you know how weeds are...if you miss a bit, they may grow back, and you may have to try again, but if you're paying attention, it won't be so big the next time (hopefully) and it's easier to manage. You seen it before, you know what it is...perhaps you've named it "that fucker with the big fat leaves, with the large middle root" or "oh, I remember this one, it wasn't so bad, the roots are shallow". It can seem that the pulling is the important part, but I find that the remembering and the naming are the most critical task...THAT information is what tells you your best approach, how hard to pull, if you may need additional tools.

Sometimes it's hard to think of it all that way...as ongoing work. But any halfway civilized garden requires work. And the work creates space for pretty things to grow.

Jenny Lewis and Fear of Failure

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins' song, Rise Up With Fists has rallied me many a morning, comforted and inspired me in many a humble moment, lit a fire under many a project.

I used to torture myself every morning with The Smiths' "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby". But it didn't feel like torture...it motivated me to keep going, to move past whatever was bothering me, with the hope that with just a little more persistence, I could rally and eventually win. Says a lot about my frame of mind, that I had to hit myself over the head like that...

Rise Up With Fists is a different experience. Several experiences, really. "...there but for the Grace of God go I", although I'm not religious, reminds me that none of us is perfect, nobody is perfectly lucky, and that any of us could find ourselves in the throes of those unfortunate moments and circumstances that nobody can control. Even our best grasp on control is limited to that which is in our hands at a given moment, and snakish issues writhe from our hands anyway.

However, toward the end of the song, Jenny turns a corner with "...but I still believe...and I will rise up with fists...and I will take what's mine, mine, mine...". As a response to the entire rest of the song, it's clear that this is not a declaration of selfish greed, but one of realization...that despite all this, we can and should still act to better our lives, make better choices, and give ourselves fully to life in a spirit of imperfect but inspired action.

Mmmmm, inspired action. Inspired action eats false prophets for dinner without leaving the bones of the soul behind. And I think my new soundtrack is a better choice...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

...get your filthy mind off my ADHD!

Me (to Sonny): You smell great.

Sonny: I do?

Me: You do, you always smell great. Your body must make some chemical that I just love the smell of.

Sonny: Well we know it's not dopamine.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Some things are too delicate...

...to be written about. To be spoken of. To be shared.

Some things just are.

The Dark Side of the Moon

Once upon a time I was a very shy little girl who was smart, but couldn't focus on schoolwork.

Then I was a teenager and I was still smart, but I became more outgoing, and I still couldn't focus on schoolwork.

As an adult, I continued my path away from my quieter self. I grew a whole other facade to relate to the rest of the world. In my early 20's I drank to maintain it. And in my late 20's, the more sober I became, the limitations of that facade made themselves known to me. I would dream about my other half. The one whose voice I knew was there but often ignored. But she was usually right...

I can tell you what she looks like...like me, but with a brown bob and a black cashmere coat like the one I wore in high school...and black tights...and black pointy shoes. A wee slip of a goth fairy. And she perches where she will, and watches everything, and takes in everything, and stays quiet much of the time. Some people see her immediately when they meet me, and it's weird to have her pointed out. Recently a friend remarked "I remember when I first met you. You seemed separate from the rest of us. Not unfriendly. But you warmed up.". It's startling to have this pointed out...I don't think most people notice. I mean the whole point, darn it, is for people to not notice. Most people describe me as outgoing, bubbly, a people-person.

More and more I listen to the voice of the goth-fairy me. I feel like she pulls equal weight in my consciousness more and more often. And I understand why the wild-gesticulating girl took over...goth-fairy needed to be able to communicate with the outside world in a way that felt safe, even though she doesn't always agree with the wild-gesticulator.

Goth-fairy got tired of feeling different...of feeling depressed and anxious...of feeling afraid...of being seen at all. And tired of people commenting that her observations seemed strange. And tired of people asking why she could not focus on certain kinds of things. And tired of finding herself so far ahead, that she felt out of step. And tired of talking at all. The gesticulator (fueled by anxiety and ADHD!) took over and did what was necessary at the time. She layered a quirky charm-school varnish over the goth fairy, shellacking her to the tabletop, gone but not forgotten. At least until the cracks began to show.

The cracks began to show several years ago, in a series of dreams that I had about a now ex-boyfriend. In the dreams, I did all the rowing as we sat in a small boat together, and he demanded that I take him somewhere that he wanted to go. Or I would become angry with him, in dreams, because he would not say things that needed to be said. These issues were relevant in our relationship, but my therapist at the time said "have you considered that you might really be angry with yourself?". I was angry about doing all the work in my relationship with my boyfriend...but I was also angry with myself...for making one part of me do all of the work while the other half fearfully hid.

More recently, as I remove layers of anxiety, and speak to my worries, and feel less like I have to hide who I really, in all ADHD reality, am...I feel the line between my selves dissolve.

As I ask people to repeat themselves, because I didn't catch what they were saying, I reveal a little piece of the goth fairy to the sunlight. She admits not knowing. I never used to do that. As I listen to her voice in my ear and tell her she's probably right, she steps out of the shadow and becomes part of a more functional team. We are no longer in opposition.

Yesterday I realized, because I am SO comfortable around Sonny, that by contrast I'm uncomfortable around most other people. My entire self is in agreement on the issue of Sonny. All selves in agreement.

I read recently that it's possible that anxiety keeps ADHD from being diagnosed earlier and that's a compelling possibility to me. Anxiety creates worries that, because you are so engaged in them, you are actually able to focus on them, and use them to restrict your behavior. When you look at it that way, it's possible that I'm not a hyperactive ADHDer at all...it's possible that I'm an inattentive ADHDer who is driven by fear of failure.

Definitely something to think about.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ADHD Behind The Wheel

I really like driving, but I get bored easily with driving the same roads over and over. I have to stifle the urge, frequently, to just take a right or left and go all wingnut instead of staying on the most direct path. I also don't like sitting in traffic...this includes stoplights and stopsigns...so I will drive through a parking lot or just turn to go around a light before I get to it just to keep moving. This is not always efficient. I realize this.

Unfortunately, my most-traveled paths these days are laced with one-ways and other quirks that make leaving the beaten path too ridiculous an option to pursue. Sigh. The only redemption here is that I only live 3 minutes from work.

I used to go on fabulous, epic journeys on my way home, or on my way pretty much anywhere else. I have an extraordinarily accurate sense of direction, which has allowed me to enjoy rambling, instead of freaking out over being "lost". Very rarely have I ever been lost and I've never had to call for a bail out, I've self-corrected and made it to my destination. And I know enough to check my gas before going on one of these tangents, so I don't have to get out of the car to get gas in an unknown area.

I could be 30 miles from home and I would get off the highway and just drive. Makes traffic jams seem like not a big deal when you are driving around them. Keeps my brain happy and busy figuring out what to do next.
Ahhhhhh, freedom.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Arguing: The Great ADHD Past-time

Sonny and I, being enlightened grownups with ADHD who are aware of many of the pitfalls faced by our kind, are careful to avoid certain ADHD quirks that aren't generally very socially appreciated. We're not perfect...but we try.

My 8-year-old stepdaugher, however, is just a wee ADHD-er in progress. She's still learning. She's also 8, and 8-year-olds are known to critique and question. But...it's true that many an ADHD child has made their mark on their family by arguing their way to infamy. Miss C, let's call her Miss C. She's becoming infamous :)

Her mother texted Sonny repeatedly last night, having reached her last thread of parental sanity at the hands of an expert arguer. Considering that mom is a lawyer, this makes it either more notable, or just plain much funnier (sorry, it shouldn't be funny, but it kind of is).

An internet site I was browsing last night put it really well...sorry I can't remember what the site was...but essentially what they were saying is that when an ADHD child is faced with opposition that they don't like or don't agree with, that experience registers as a 10 in their emotional experience, versus what might be a 6 for a "normal" child. When you put it that way, it makes their reactivity seem much more understandable. Not totally acceptable...but more understandable.

As Sonny and bio-mom texted to one another, I piped in that ADHD may be a factor. ADHD is a factor for many things right now for Miss C. She's had run-ins with the school bullies because she has a hard time honoring other people limits. She's having difficulty with school, and told me that she feels "dumb" because she has to finish her assignments at a separate table with "the other stupid kids in class". I told her she was not stupid, that she is very smart (she REALLY is), and that it's okay to have a brain that just works a little bit differently. I know from experience though, that it's going to take more than just reassurance from step-mom to make her feel smart...to make her feel good about herself. I just hope it doesn't take as long for her, as it did for me.

In the meantime, I will continue to kindly advocate, in our home, for consideration and understanding of that "other" factor...for our own sanity too, I think it will help to keep this in mind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stepmothering your baggage away...

...my ADHD stepdaughter and I survived homework together this evening. It was a fruitful, productive chunk of time spent.

It was extra challenging today because she was very tired, and it was later than usual for homework. It was also a rather disrupted day: Sonny did something random and awful to his back and is basically immobile, so I did all of the parenting duties solo today for the most part. The kids seemed to enjoy it, but any change of routine is a little jarring for wee ones.

And...and...she's in the third grade. Most of it was math homework. I remember third grade...the year I went to the nice math tutor, because math was very hard for me and it made me feel very embarrassed. One day I punched a boy in class because he starting yelling in front of the whole class that I had only finished two of my math problems, when everyone else was finished. My teacher did NOT punish me for this, other than confirming that it was not a great choice...HE got punished for being a snitch.

The math tutor had suspenders and looked like a grampy. We kids all liked him, and the kids who didn't need a tutor were a little jealous of those of us who did, who got to spend time with this nice man. I still have a hard time with the math that challenged me then. I had a really nice teacher that year too, who would come to my desk to help me refocus, but couldn't seem to pinpoint why I was totally unable to focus on my work. She guessed that I might just be a bright student who was bored. Close...that was part of the problem!

The homework this evening involved story problems, which were the ultimate in terrifying for me, so much so that they still burden me with the same terror. And...they weren't just any story problems, they were "Guess and Check" problems. An exercise that, to me, is simply child torture. Fuck that, it's ME torture.

But...I had to be the bigger person here, so we stuck with it, came up with a system...and I worked to help her focus.

Here's what worked really well...reviewing clear steps for each problem and using the same steps from problem to problem. Making her a special seltzer drink to perk things up. Being really patient, because her ADHD brain was REALLY tired. Lots of encouragement was good. But I think the best tactic of all was rotating through assignments to keep her interest rolling. We would do a chunk of one assignment, get to a logical stopping point, and then switch, until we finished. Yes, children with ADHD should be encouraged to push themselves, so they can learn what they are capable of...but not after a terribly long day, when they have an exhausted brain. We just needed to get through this pile of homework before bedtime, and we succeeded.

I was not able to completely extinguish my own math terror, but I think I did a good job of hiding it. Feeling it again after so many years was fairly surprising and unwelcome!

Monday, November 8, 2010

...off the friggin' wagon...

Damn, here we go again. I suddenly realized this morning that I was right back to where I've been so many times before.

Years of book-learnin', lots of therapy, and a wee bit of medication still can't save you from that occasional moment of ADHD WTF.

Yes, that's right, ADHD WTF. Someone close to you, maybe even you, may be experiencing it right now, but don't worry, there's help!

Just kidding, there's not...at least nothing permanent. But I guess that's okay.

ADHD WTF: it's that moment when you look around, and while you have no idea how it happened, it looks like your ADHD house of cards has collapsed, again, and you don't know why. For me, it often looks like this...the garbage on the right hand passenger floor of my car is about two feet high and I have no idea what's in the pile. The back seat and trunk are filled with the remnants of the last project I forgot to unload. There's a bag of dog treats and some used tissues on the dashboard. In the house, I'm about 6 LARGE loads of laundry behind and the baskets are overflowing onto the floor. I just noticed about 4 piles of unidentified slips of paper of varying colors that must have come out of my purse. Speaking of my purse, I've switched purses because a couple of days ago I realized that one was too messy and I couldn't deal, so...on to the green purse. I feel like I keep cleaning but the house looks like a tornado hit (the children and animals do NOT help alleviate this sensation). There's a sleeping bag in the middle of the floor of the bedroom and I've stepped over it several times now. The sewing and music room exploded somehow...then Sonny cleaned it just enough to fit two racks of laundry in there because duh, I am 6 loads behind and the kids needed school clothes. Laundry surrounded by shrapnel.

In the middle of all of this, everyone's fed, clean and basically sane...but this fraying...this fraying must be stopped. The thought of taking action, however, feels overwhelming this week. I'll figure it out. We'll figure it out. We always do, because you see, and this is my point...I'll do this every so often for the rest of my life, and so will Sonny. Sometimes we'll do it at the same time, and sometimes (when the almighty powers are feelings merciful) we will stagger it and do it separately.

Today, this realization, which I've probably had before and have maybe even written about before...it really asskicked me. I will move on and move forward...but I think if we forget to allow ourselves a moment of mourning, when it seems due, the baggage just piles up. Better to feel it now, than let it own me later...I tend to be able to pick up the pieces and move forward more effectively if I just give myself a moment, maybe an evening of "dammit". And maybe a beer.

I am an ADHD American

I actually said this to a potential employer last week. Yes, yes I did. It wasn't a first interview and I know my strengths exist despite my ADHD so...fuckit. I said it. Yes, it was a joke, I wouldn't be able to say that phrase with a straight face. I told them that because I am an ADHD American, I live in fear of the empty inbox.

Incidentally, I got the job.

More on that in later posts, at least to the degree that discretion allows!

It's important for us to choose our moments, and I'm not honestly sure that I'd choose to reveal myself in this situation again if given the chance, but nobody died, and I did get the job so hey...whutevs. I'm me...if nothing else, I'm me. We can do great good in the world by being our true selves.

I have written about this before but it's worth restating...especially when I meet parents of kids with ADHD, I reveal myself.

It is also the case that we can best serve ourselves, only by being our true and real selves, and by being honest with ourselves about what we are dealing with.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Speaking of the Day of the Dead

Today is the Day of the Dead. The day to celebrate the dead. Yes, celebrate. So light some candles, pour a glass of wine and do a little dance.

Honor some ancestors.
Talk to some ghosts.
Forgive your past selves.
Eat a meal.
Kiss a baby.
Shut off the tapes in your head.
Play them louder if it will help you run them out.
Make collages of things that you once loved...that you still love.
Make another, separate collage of the things you'd just as soon forget--then light it on fire in the dark and let the sparks light your soul again.
Give a dog a bone.
Remember that your own bones are still enmeshed in living flesh, and be glad.

It's not you, it's me...

...lots of nice people have sent me nice requests, suggestions, and what have you lately. And I appreciate it. I like to hear news and such from the many interesting people that I know. However, if you have not heard from me, it's because I'm completely overwhelmed.

You know that sense of overwhelm where you actually can't remember what you did a few days ago because it's all a blur, because it's all too much?

And I've been sick. Can't imagine it's all related ;)

So the little things have slid. Sled. Slud.

Every hello feels like another item on my to-do list.

I'm working on crawling out of this hole but...it's not an immediate thing.

So it's not you, it's me. I'm overwhelmed by life right now. I won't be forever.

To begin my upward crawl, I cleaned the house this morning, within an inch of its life. It was a move in the right direction. A few piles had begun to form. I've acquired a terror of piles. I know it doesn't help to stress one's self out with self-punishment, but I just can't handle those ADHD piles anymore. And so I killed them. A few more to go...I'll savor the destruction. Today is the Day of the Dead after all....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Summarize yourself in three adjectives or less...

...had to fill out a survey that required me to describe myself in a variety of identifying categories, in three adjectives or less.

Artistically speaking, this is a difficult task for me. I have had a variety of artistic identities in my life, and rotate back through them from time to time...or utilize more than one at times.

Which is more important to me, a dance studio, soundproof practice facilities, a workspace with plumbing, a nice dry workspace, or a storage space? Or...or...or....

Well I don't know...which day of the week is it? Which year is it? And how do I know what's going to move me to create, two years from now? (I don't.)

I grew up playing three instruments. Drew and painted and made stuff. Sewed. Then majored in theater. Then wrote and performed new work that often incorporated sound or music elements. Then added flamenco dance to my repertoire. And ballroom. And swing. And wrote plays (one was translated and performed in Italy-woot!). And occasionally was a costuming pinch hitter for those times when weird stuff happens backstage and things need repair. Primarily, now, I'm a dressmaker and seamstress. But...what happens when I rotate again. For example...I screenprint when the spirit moves me...for which I need one type of work space...but I have been wanting to use the products of my screenprinting in my sewing pieces.


I'll bet money there's others with ADHD who would have the same problem with this survey. I answered the questions in terms of my most current artistic pursuits, but I answered them feeling that I was only true to a small piece of my whole self.

Monday, October 25, 2010

ADHD, age 8

Remembers to feed cats. (Loves cats.)

Forgets homework folder at school. (Does not love homework.)

It's kind of like ADHD, age 35, but a little different:

Loves cats. Forgets to clean catbox anyway.

Also does not love homework.

The End (The Beginning?)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

...NOT a retraction...

Okay, okay, I take it back. Er...alright I don't take it ALL back. But I did have a nice visit with my prescriber this week. I mention this in the wake of my last slightly aggro post about he and I parting ways but I should clarify a couple of things:

1) He's really actually a pretty cool guy.
2) I can see why, as a psychiatric services provider, he doesn't just jump to alter a course of treatment every time a patient comes in with some new-fangled idea.
3) We generally come around to mostly agreeing, eventually, even if I may be impatient. (But it IS hard to be patient when you are the one whose brain chemicals are inadvertently getting jacked around.)

I probably will be changing over to "maintenance" mode soon with my GP since we both agree that everything seems to be working fine for me...I just need to check in with him in about 6 weeks to make sure everything's really for real coolio. Oookey dookey.

IT IS HARD TO BE PATIENT regarding treatment. And I have had an exceptional amount of issues with medications. So...my previous post was accurate to my feelings at the time...and many of those feelings are still true. But I bother to write this "just short of a retraction" post, to illustrate that it IS important for we with the ADHD to acknowledge that we may be patience challenged at times. Having been me for a loooong time, I have learned that when I have BIG feelings about something or feel reactive about it, I simply need to mechanically put it on the backburner for at least a few minutes (or a few hours...or a few days) so that I can be sure that my reaction is based on reality, not on my momentary reaction.

It takes practice, but luckily there's a lot of ways to do this. You can say clever things like "I'll get back to you on that." or "Very interesting...let me think about that.". You can simply walk away if there's a polite way to do so (though sometimes you really just have to turn and walk even if it might seem a little rude to walk away...if it's the lesser of rude options and you feel something really sparky about to come out of your mouth). The electronic version of this is to begin an email in reply and then hit SAVE AS DRAFT instead of sending...then go back later and possibly revise before sending.

Regarding treatment...you should make sure to communicate with your therapist/prescriber/other. Ask them how long they think something will take, what you can reasonably expect to happen. And don't let people not answer your questions. And if you don't like their answers, then you can actually indulge your impatience just a little and get a second opinion. I find that I am able to mobilize patience more easily when I know the parameters...when I have at least a rough idea of what to expect.

So blahblahblah.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 2347: Impairment

My new life is making it hard for me to be productive during the times of day that I tend to be most naturally productive.

That's all I've got today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

There's "nothing" wrong with me...

...so...my prescriber is trying to get rid of me.

Let me just...okay first, I don't think he's a terrible prescriber (it's about to sound like I think that, so consider the record pre-emptively cleared).

That said...it's pretty frustrating to see your prescriber once every 4-6 weeks...have awkward to bad reactions to most of the meds you try...have your prescriber argue with you about what you need (Ex: he thinks I need a long acting med for ADHD...I prefer shorter spurts because I simply can't be that focused all the time with the way my life operates...he kept prescribing the long acting ones...)...and then...after a billion trials of different meds and combos...have him say things like "I'm not convinced you have an anxiety disorder. I think you would have been fine without any treatment at all. I think we're just chasing a dragon here. You would have been fine if you'd never walked into this office. You cope just fine.".


Way to minimize my difficulty, dude. Way to make it sound like "coping" is a great way to live. You seem like a nice guy and you seem smart. But my appointments are 20 minutes long...every 4-6 weeks. We don't really get into a lot of substance. And luckily for YOU, I'm able to be really articulate about my mental health experiences, for the most part. I also spent 33 years coping my ass off to learn ways to "do" life and get things done and it was stressful to the point that it probably shortened my life span, and certainly affected my health (let us all recall the bizarre migraine incident).

I think he's mistaken my articulation and ability to "pass" for lack of impairment. Aw...that's cute. Wait...not, it's not.

I know I'm not the most impaired person around...but is it "normal" for it to take a person with exceptional reading ability 12 hours to get through an article that should take an hour to read? That trivial little impairment made grad school AWESOME times, like 1000.

I'm feeling shy about some of my other impairments right now so I'm not going there.

But...you get the idea. It felt pretty crappy to be told that he thought I was normal...HAHA...which sounds all wrong. I assure you, I'm very interested in improvement, and in mental healthiness. My therapist certainly agrees.

But what the hell was he thinking?! He seems to be thinking that I'm a waste of his time. And so, we are in agreement...I will likely be switching my prescription care over to my GP after my next appt. We are in agreement on this switch, but for totally different reasons.

He acts like I'm a waste of his time...in a polite way...but really, I wonder if he isn't just frustrated with how difficult it has been to find meds that work for me. Incidentally, we finally seem to have hit on a good combo and it happily treats my migraine issue as well. But...I think sometimes that maybe he's taking this all a little personally. I might represent failure to him in a way that he may not even notice in the front of his mind. Maybe that's a strange thing to think...but I've learned over the years that I'm generally more perceptive about people than I think I am.

For me...the switch will be less precarious than it would be for many people getting psych meds from a GP...because I have busted ass to educate myself about what all the meds are and what they do and what their side-effects are. Unfortunately I also learned a lot of it the hard way, through first-hand experience. I've also learned a lot about what DOES NOT work for me and I know what questions to ask...so I'll be pretty well equipped to shoot down insane suggestions from my GP if I'm not feeling okay about them. And I can request a referral if I need one...

So...the switch might be good. I like him as a person, in the short spurts we've spent together, but he might not be the best fit for me as a provider.

I shouldn't have had to fight for a year to simply be prescribed 5 mg of Ritalin to use at my discretion depending on my activities. For the record, it seems that for me, 25 mg of nortriptyline a day and 5 mg of Ritalin for days when I'm desk-bound are about all I need. Seems like not a lot, but my med sensitivity means that for me...these tiny doses make a huge difference. (For some reason, now that I take the nortriptyline at a higher dose, the Concerta is just too much, even at 18mg...though in general, in my experience, I think it's a GREAT, and subtle drug.... The nortriptyline itself makes me feel a little calmer and more focused...so that the Ritalin booster is just the right amount to put me in a subtly quiet and focused mood. I officially cannot even believe that at one point I was taking 70mg of Vyvanse...what the frigoriffico!? I'll own that though...I just knew something wasn't right...so I thought I needed more...not less...one of us should have figured it out...!)

Change...I have complained a lot about it this year (on and offline) but I feel like this change will be good. What do I say on this occasion..."Thanks for finding me annoying because I'm not a quick-fix patient?" or "Thanks for minimizing my relative difficulties because I'm not actually mentally ill?".

I think I'll just go with "Thanks..." and "...later!".

I've been a little quiet...

...and it's basically because life is REALLY objectively stressful right now. It's easy to lose sight of the many good things when a handful seem to be coming apart at the seams or burning to the ground, but I've been practicing EXTRA HARD.

I make lists of things that make me happy lately, when it all feels like too much (and lately that is a frequent feeling).

I've had three panic attacks in two weeks and I honestly haven't really and truly had one for about 9 years...this says something about how stressful things have been. But...I am soooo much better at managing them that I used to be. The best first step is acknowledging what's going on.

My therapist also gave me a tool that is AMAZING. She says that when I feel anxious I should talk to the anxiety. Yeah...it sounds like typical therapist googoogaga but it works...when I feel my anxiety level rising, I start to talk to the anxiety. I ask it questions. And as I do so, something awesome happens...the anxiety takes on its own borders...it starts to evolve as a being separate from myself. This process encapsulates the anxiety into a tangible form that no longer seems threatening and no longer feels attached to me. I don't know if this works this way for everyone, but for me, it's the best new magic tool in my toolbox.

So...I guess I've needed more of my energy for me, and less for blogging...learning to ration my energy when necessary? Well then I guess this is all progress...wrapped in a funny, awkward little package.

I'm a soldier armed for battle...and battle seems less scary (and less like a battle) when you're prepared to face it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I may have ADHD...

...but dammit, my cholesterol is BRILLIANTLY LOW! 126 anyone? If my doctors had any idea what I really eat on a regular basis, they would declare me a medical miracle. My triglycerides are low, my good cholesterol is high and my bad cholesterol is low. Hot-diggity!

I'm looking at it this way: ADHD makes certain aspects of life inconvenient. High cholesterol WILL KILL YOU.

Clearly I have way better things to do than worry about ADHD. I've got some celebrating to do here! My arteries are doing a little dance already! I think it's a cha-cha...

ADHD means not knowing

It means not knowing the exact source of the problem you're having, but becoming accustomed to blaming yourself. So much so, that when you are told otherwise, you are surprised and you don't quite believe it. You worry that the messenger may be wrong.

I made an appointment sometime last week (I don't remember when) for what I thought was sometime this week. I then misplaced my iPhone (my lifeline) for several days. During that time I got a little overwhelmed with a variety of sticky notes that I was writing appointments on, because I could not get rid of them, because I couldn't put them into my calendar. This sticky note I'd written the appointment on was one of them.

Yes, I could have entered my appointment and commitments via my computer, but I know you ADHDers out there know how it is when your hard-earned routine gets thrown off...it's not just a matter of adjusting immediately, it takes time for the adjustment to stick. And should you start a new routine when you know that your missing phone is probably just in your home or car somewhere? I would then have to undo another routine and re-ignite the old one...no thanks. This is one of those issues that defines the term "impairment".

Today, I called the office at which I'd made the appointment, thinking I'd missed it a couple of days ago and expecting to have to apologize and beg for a second appointment. To my surprise, the lady on the phone said "no, you're early...it's not until next week...he's out of the office until next week". I didn't quite believe her because I was so convinced of my fault, so convinced that I had missed the appointment. I repeated what she'd said back to her. She laughed and said "yes, that's correct".

So I guess I AM the source of the confusion here...but I hadn't done anything wrong yet. My self-blame was pre-emptive this time. I prefer this to having to apologize later and really, I consider this an ideal outcome, despite my self-flagellation. But the past four days of phoneless/calendarless confusion were stressful...as well as a perfect example of what day to day life is like with ADHD as an adult. I know myself well enough to know that I should worry when my calendar is not nearby. Taking charge of the situation by making the call to double check was the right thing to do, clearly. Making the call was a means of being responsible to myself AND to that nice person I'm supposed to be meeting with next week, NOT this week.

I did find my phone this morning, so life can go back to normal...just as soon as I dig out the rest of the sticky notes from my bag and enter them into my calendar...argggh....

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Went to a wedding yesterday. People consider me a pretty social person but I sometimes hit a funny spot where I just can't deal.

This was one of those times. Suddenly all the noise, motion, et cetera, was too much and I started to cry for no reason and had to leave the room. At least I know when enough is enough...found a quiet spot...hung out for 20 minutes...felt MUCH better.

Unfortunately, by the time I'd returned from my respite, my sweet Sonny Rollins had accidentally eaten a shrimp and puked in the bathroom...his belly determined that we were DONE for the evening and the speedy ride home from Cape Cod began...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A revelation about Concerta...

...I just realized that while taking Concerta, I feel that I have the same amount of energy, but instead of going in 18 directions, it goes in many fewer.

Heh! Cool. In other words, it's not "taking away" something, it's just redirecting it.

(Seems to be MY experience anyway...)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ADHDer Pet Peeve #3,589: Peeps without ADHD who act like they're perfect!

Oh yeah...you've met them...perhaps you've BEEN them...people without ADHD who think they're perfect. They may go so far as to imply, or even state outright exactly how flawed they think you are, and how EXASPERATING it is to them.

Meanwhile, they forget agreements they made, forget conversations that you remember clearly, etc, etc, and then blame YOUR ADHD for the discrepancy.
It's classic bullshit.

We with ADHD already must bear the burden of our shortcomings, first by identifying them and then by addressing them through coping strategies. When faced with a situation like this, I love to pull out any notes or documentation I may have squirrelled away, memorializing the agreement that I made with the obnoxious person(s) in question. In relation to my businesses or work stuff I learned long ago, to document everything, and save every email regarding agreements or promises or instructions.

It's not just to prove the promises of others, but to keep myself accountable. Sometimes I just plain have to go back and see what I said, so I don't make an ass of myself when pointing out something that doesn't seem quite right to me. Is it not quite right because THEY screwed up, or is it not quite right because I did...it's important to lay responsibility in the appropriate drawer.

My dear fellow ADHDers...never forget that even normal people forget stuff. Even normal people forget things they said, promises they made...all humans are fallible, not just us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An intro to finding information about ADHD and ADHD meds...

When I started on my-learning-about-ADHD journey, I found it difficult to find information about things like medication, that were written without a blatant "ANTI-MEDICATION BECAUSE IT IS THE DEVIL!" bias. I prefer my information rhetoric-free, thanks.

Here is a link to an introductory list of ADHD Meds by a fellow ADHDer.

I am NOT offering this as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical care from your own doctor, simply because I found it interesting and helpful. Concerta, the medication that I currently find most effective for my ADHD symptoms is not among the listed...so keep in mind that there may be further options, and that you should likely ask a doctor about them.

Here is another website that I found helpful in learning a bit more for myself about ADHD meds, it's Dr. Charles Parker's blog...he has a book about meds available for purchase, but the blog also contains useful information.

Again, not offered as medical advice. Even if he is a doctor, he's not YOUR doctor, and neither am I!

As for general ADHD information, I also got a lot of my information about ADHD from scholarly articles and journals. I was in grad school at the time, so I had free access to such things online through my school library. If you are a student at a college or university, YOU likely also have this kind of access, and you can and should ask a librarian to show you how to find this information. It is much more useful than the poo that is often published in "mainstream media" articles...it is generally the results of actual scientific studies about ADHD. One of the most interesting things I learned through reading scientific materials, was that women and girls are almost non-existent, until very recently, in the scientific studies. Yes, that's right...we don't exist! Well...we're STARTING to exist...but until recently many of us were diagnosed as bipolar, depressed, anxious...and some of us are also those things...but anyway...some of the language of these scholarly articles may be a little over the top (written in scholar-ese) but they're worth a look...even if it doesn't all make perfect sense, some of it will, and it gives you a starting point for a conversation with your doc, who may be able to translate. Yet others of these articles are perfectly readable by people with normal vocabularies who are not psychologists or psychiatrists.

Even if you are NOT a student, you can access some of that same information through your public library. If you do not know how, that's okay...again, go to the library and ask a librarian if they can access any studies on ADHD...or if they have access to scholarly articles on the subject. I know that through my local public library (and I do not live in a big city or otherwise fancy place) I have access to some of these articles and thanks to my library, I can do it right here on my couch with my ID number from my library card!

You can also ask a librarian for help in finding any books they may have about ADHD, or ask if they take requests from the public, for particular books about ADHD that you may be looking for.

Personally, I think Driven To Distraction is a classic of the genre (for adults, does not talk about kids with ADHD).

Delivered From Distraction is another good one for adults with ADHD.

Is It You, Me, or Adult ADHD is another highly recommended read and it deals with the effects of ADHD on adult relationships.

For perspective on women's issues and ADHD, you might like to try Women With Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden.

And for an interesting personal story, written by someone with ADHD, try Bryan Hutchinson's One Boy's Struggle.

These books are all available for purchase online but remember, if you check at your public library first, they may have it available for FREE. If you're like me, and have a hard time remembering to return library books, find a way to remind yourself, or just read books at the library itself, in installments!

That should keep you busy for a while...happy information hunting! (And be sure to check out the blogs I've linked too, on the right-hand side of this page...they are informational, interesting, and chock full of stories about life with ADHD.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is healthier better?

Sometimes I really don't know. I know that sounds a little questionable, but I bet yet others know exactly what I'm saying.

Health means having all kinds of realizations that require more work...and I'm all for more work...but what's worse is the emotional journeys required. Some days I'm up for it...some days I'm not. Some days I've just had a "realization" and it puts me into a space where I cannot tolerate that which "was". And yet in some areas of my life, that which "was" is ever present in, ahem, the present.

It's pure hell until you get to the place where you can have a new kind of relationship with the elements you are battling/choosing/avoiding.

There are things that were easier to deal with, when I was less healthy. Easier to tolerate.

I feel better. I have less anxiety. I have more tolerance for my own quirks.

But healthy, frequently, is not easy. Some elements get easier...but will forever be a test of my will.

Sigh. This is not a complaint. I do not need a time machine that runs backward. I'm just saying that sometimes choosing health is really much harder than choosing it's opposite, and it seems wrong that it should be so.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This one goes to eleven...

Last night was so stressful I couldn't even really write about it. Which is, of course, why I determined to write about it when I was feeling better.

Last night, I felt like the world was screaming at me. Every sound, pounding like a hammer on my eardrums, even the sound of my own voice was nearly unbearable...but I felt so anxious that I couldn't stop talking.

Last night, music had to be eliminated from my ear-space.

Last night, tears came easily. And every other texture, sight and sensory input was just too much.

Every knob was turned to eleven. I tried to ignore it, but that's never the best option...the anxiety just increases and increases until I acknowledge it, so it's better to acknowledge it early and start the progress back down the hill. I sat in the car for half an hour while Sonny went into the bar to play a gig. I had to. I was just barely in control of the variables in the car; I was not ready for the next batch in the bar, a batch I would not be able to corral.

It's been a long time since I felt that way...and it was useful to remember that and note the progress. But in the moment that mental post-it delivered no comfort.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back to the Future

It's a little bit trippy being ADHD step-mom to an ADHD kid.

When I was a kid, I had ADHD, but nobody really talked about it back then, and I was not diagnosed until adulthood. I certainly had trademark ADHD issues to deal with (anger management, organizational difficulties, focus and hyperfocus issues...and the anxiety that often comes with living with unmanaged ADHD) and my mother was actually very effective at helping me to address them, even though they were not brought up in that context.

She taught me to clean my room my putting "types" of stuff into piles and then finding a home for the piles. (I still organize this way and this is how I teach the kids to clean...) She talked to me directly about having "big" feelings and figuring out non-destructive ways to deal with them. (I had books like Mr. Grumpy, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...and paid a couple of visit to a nice therapist who helped me to learn new ways to deal with feeling angry) Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this, is that I would not be surprised if my mother was "diagnosable" with ADHD...she was able to teach me these skills, but has also had to work at many of them herself. Kind of cool to think about...that we ADHDers may be more able, in some ways, to help others at times, than help ourselves.

In any case, stepdaughter is very worried right now about keeping track of things. Oh...don't I know how that goes.

We talked about how the best thing you can do is pick ONE PLACE for a particular item (in this case, an MP3 player) and always put it there. Just start with one item. And always, no matter what, try to put it back in the same spot. Don't have to be perfect and get it right every time...but the practicing will make it a little easier.

Sigh. Yeah.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Social Coping Mechanisms...

This is such a great post from Jeff of Jeff's ADD Mind that I have to just repost it and let it speak for itself. It speaks to a topic that every adult with ADHD probably struggles with in their own way, the issue of having to "deal" in social situations. The "Katy R." comment is from me:

"Hiding in Plain Sight"

You owe it to your future self...

...if you do a bit of reading ADHD, you may run into tidbits about how people with untreated ADHD may develop further issues as they age. I'm not a doctor and I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not going to get into the specifics of what these are, or why, or how. You can do your own research there.

But I do want to just throw this little bone out there into the blogosphere: knowing that fact...even in vague terms...why would a person NOT seek evaluation and treatment, if needed?

I'm sure there's a million "reasons", but I'm here to give you my opinion, because this is MY blog and my opinion is that there is no good excuse. Especially since untreated ADHD often leads to consequences that other people experience, not just the untreated ADHDer.

You owe it to your health. You owe it to your professional life. You owe it to your personal relationships.

(Steps off of soapbox to return to ADHD life in progress...)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Let's talk shopping...

...I was just talking to a friend and fellow ADHDer (who will soon be writing a guest post for this here bloggity-blog!) and we were talking about shopping. Here's a typical experience for the two of us:

I walk into the store, full of hope, full of enthusiasm. I don't have a lot of money, but I don't really care, I may just browse to enjoy the experience and clear my head. Somehow, I end up with a bunch of stuff draped over my arm that I'm really excited about...somehow I go to the dressing room and try it all on...and usually, I give all the clothes back to the changing room attendant.

Two reasons: women's clothes are so fucked in the sizing that I have a hard time finding things that fit properly. But there's another bigger problem...making decisions about what to buy and not buy make my head hurt. It's totally overwhelming and in my free time (what little I have) I don't like spending time being overwhelmed. I could have been in that store for two hours, looking at stuff, trying stuff on...and will walk out with nothing. USUALLY I walk out with nothing.

My friend was just telling me that she does exactly the same thing because it makes her really cranky, having to make all of those decisions about the clothes. It's the worst, too, when you are on a limited budget because then you have to think about all the combinations of things you can and can't afford...ugh...

I'll generally agonize over it while perusing the shelves again, realizing I already saw everything on my first pass, remembering what worked and didn't in the dressing room, berating myself because buying pants shouldn't require that much thinking, wondering why I'm agonizing over it at all, then wondering why I'm agonizing over my agonizing, until I finally just walk out. No clothes. Today was different, I bought a sweater, but only because my boss gave me a $50 bill for my birthday the other day and I had one $50 item that I had been wanting for two years...that decision was easy. All the rest...fuck 'em. I gave a big pile back to the attendant today...

My sister gets exasperated with me when shopping (I think I touched on this in an earlier post where I discussed getting stuck on the fiber content of socks while my sister aged 7 years waiting for me because I couldn't figure out which socks to get because I was overwhelmed by the choices...). She's even less patient than I am. So she'll just grab a ton of clothes, buy ALL of them, and return the ones she doesn't want later. She doesn't like to have to go to the dressing room and try things on. Technically she's not diagnosed with ADHD but...really? Haha...hmmm.....

Whatever...my point is that ADHD makes shopping annoying...haha :) I wish I could make clothing magically appear and disappear instead of having to go through that process at all.

I have manners. Oh yes I do.

Yep. I do crazy things like say hello to people. And good bye. And please. And thank you.

And you...well...it sure is funny that I'm the one living with the ADHD stereotypes living over my head because YOU are pretty rude. Pretty ungrateful. Pretty self-centered. And I have to deal with you all the time. Sometimes several times a week.

Everytime I see you, I say hello, even if you choose to ignore me. Everytime I leave, I say goodbye, and you try to look busy so you can pretend that you didn't hear me, or that I was talking to someone else. You avoid eye-contact, hoping that if you don't see me, I don't exist. But...everyone but you knows it's not working, and that it's rude. But I still choose to be polite.

And guess what? People generally think that I'm a polite, pleasant person to be around...and you? Well...what do people generally think of people who are rude, manipulative and arrogant? I won't waste my time stating the obvious.

All I know...is that I am proud of my decisions to remain gracious and polite to you, despite your rotten attitude. I'm not the one whose ass will be bitten in the end by your poor behavior.

It's a situation as an ADHDer that yes...drives me nuts and YES...in my head, often snarkier remarks arise and beg to be set free onto your ears. But I have the choice...and I choose the more gracious path. Anything less would be a waste of MY time, since of course...if I chose to be snarky it would not change YOU in any way. Only you can make that decision...and your decision is already clear.


Link Sharing...

...hey readers...I know that lot of you have blogs of your own. If you send me the link, I will link to your blog. When I began writing my own blog, I had a hard time finding other adults writing on the same topic so it would be nice to list more of you. (David, if you see this, can you re-send me YOUR link? Sorry it took so long to get around to this...).


Mrs. Rollins

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Practice does not make perfect...

...anyone else have the experience of certain things getting easier with practice.

I feel that as I reinforce certain new behaviors through repetition, that I AM able to replicate them more frequently. I know this shouldn't seem revolution, but duh, I have ADHD. I know there are certain kinds of things I will always have to revisit (I still hate pumping a full tank of gas at once because I hate standing there and waiting for it...haha) but I feel that more and more, even though I have the same thought processes in my head, I can often have the thought...and then choose a different action.

I know that the thought process will probably never go away...my hand will still go to just dump my debit card in my bag when I'm done with it instead of putting it in my wallet...but now my brain goes "Oh wait. Wait. Just put it in the wallet." and my hand still moves to the bag, but I pull it back...and then it goes again...and I pull it back again. Sometimes it will happen 3-4 times...and I laugh and get the wallet as I mechanically remind myself that putting the card away in the wallet is a better idea. This seems like it's not very efficient but I assure you that it's far more efficient than having a fit about not being able to find the card later...or not having it handy when I need it because I didn't put it away.

That I can have this conversation in my head at all, about actions that used to be absolutely not natural for me, is an improvement and a victory. But it's still funny...and it's still mechanical. I do like seeing that kind of progress though. Sometimes I still blow off the little stuff...sometimes I have a day where I'm just rollin' in the ADHD flow...but more often, I am at least aware that I'm blowing something off.

And I can see this improvement even when I don't take medication, but I DO really like that my brain is calmer and I don't have to work as hard at these little things when I do take it. This must be different for everyone, as we all have different levels of impairment...but for me it's certainly true. The medication has made it easier for me to see what "normal" is like actually, so that it IS easier for me to see what needs to be done when I'm not taking it. It's all one big "OHHHH" experience.

This sounds like I'm saying that medication is curing me somehow...it's not, it's just given me insight that is helpful is making improvements to how I "do" my life all the time.

And...now it's almost 1AM and this ADHD train needs to pull into the station for a nap...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Nocturnal Animal...

...some people are morning people and some people are night people. I have always been a night person. My husband, by virtue of having had three small children for the past 8 years, is a morning person.

When I'm waking up, he's leaving for work. When I'm home and ready to relax, he's ready to go to bed. Somewhere in between, we are putting kids to bed, and getting things ready for the morning (and I'm still learning those routines...but I'm doing a good job with catch-up). I know, I know, welcome to married life with kids...!

This crisis reaches its most humorous when you note that my night owl tendencies have actually waned a bit since I began treatment for ADHD. These days I can actually generally get to bed around midnight...far earlier than my former 2-3am. So I have actually succeeded in re-training my brain and my body to accept a slightly more healthy schedule, but it's still not quite enough to get me on the same general schedule as my husband. He can't really adjust because someone simply has to be up and ready when the kids are crawling out of their hives in the morning. He's even able to pull it off, albeit not delightedly, when he has late night gigs. I'm able to be there for him and the kids at other times of the day but I simply can't get to sleep before midnight and my thinking part of my brain simply does not function before 9am. (I'm awesome with the late night "I can't sleep!" interceptions though when kids have bad dreams!)

The crisis reaches its least humorous when I really just haven't seen Sonny all day and would like to have half an hour to just sit with him...and he really and truly needs to go to bed.

I'm not feeling like this is a true "crisis" but it does make me a wee bit hehhhhhh. Sigh. And really and truly, as much as I know it doesn't make sense to wish for such things, but I really just wish that getting myself to bed earlier was a realistic option.

This is where brain chemistry and real life meet. My brain's chemical transmitters simply don't cooperate with my having an earlier schedule. I don't know about Sonny's, but I do know that as a Dad with ADHD, he works hard to maintain his routines and schedules in order to get done what needs to get done and that's something I love about him. Melding our lives together to find ways in which we can BOTH help each other and do the teamwork necessary is yet a third consideration.

OH...and let's not forget the migraine/vertigo twist...remember what happened when I tried to make myself into a morning person after moving in with Sonny and the kids? A two month-long disability that rendered me useless? We're just going to have to look at the best parts of both of our internal clocks and plan from there I guess...perhaps when the kids are teenagers I get to be the crazed bad-cop parent that enforces curfews because I'm up at that time anyway? Heh...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

There's a lot that I DO catch...

...I'm a pretty sharp cookie most of the time, and I catch quite a bit in conversation, in classrooms and in other places where you have to be able to follow someone else's train of thought.

However...after having been in treatment for ADHD for a bit now I'm realizing something. I was missing a lot more than I realized. I'd made up for it a bit by being a good finder of information...by knowing where and how to backtrack, in case I'd missed something.

But I had a flashback the other day. I was having a moment where I was having a hard time following someone and suddenly I felt like I was in the third grade again. There were a lot of times in class where I suddenly realized that I had no idea what anyone was talking about, but it seemed like the rest of the class was on the same page. This happened A LOT. The result is that to this day, I have skill gaps that I have never been able to fill in.

I'm not homeless and living on the streets because of it. In many ways, I was a gifted student. In many ways, I knew more about a lot of things than many of my classmates. But following class day in and day out was a challenge. I just kept quiet about it because I didn't want to stand out. Because I was embarrassed. I was also very shy. When other students would admit to not knowing things, other students made fun of them and told them they were stupid. So the social pressures of "not knowing" also made me quiet. I could sometimes mention it to a friend but even friends would think it a little odd that I didn't know what class had been about...or would just explain it and I still wouldn't quite get the explanation and was too embarrassed to admit that I STILL didn't get it. Urgggggh.

As an adult, I STILL don't follow classes well, but I have a variety of ways I get around that. Other posts have discussed some of these, and will no doubt discuss them in the future. But I really needed to write THIS post, about not being able to follow class. This is an emotional admission. It's one that I feel sadness about as I write. It's one that seems particularly appropriate, because I have three step-children going back to school right now and as big a deal as that is for them...I still get sad about things that related to school. It's one of the reasons I chose not to teach. I know that some people are compelled by adversity to return to the place where they may be able to most help others. Kids who had a hard time in school may become teachers to help others. People who endured physical difficulties may go into the medical professions, to heal others.

But when I think "school" it's such a sad feeling. My mother always seemed excited about it...but I usually wasn't. I feel so many things come back just thinking about it, things that are uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. And that feeling, in particular, of having NO idea what anyone is talking about, is really unsettling, disorienting. It's a feeling of looking at a puzzle but it needs ONE more piece so that you can tell what you are looking at, but you can't find the piece anywhere.

I slept in the other morning when one of the kids had to go back to school. Both of his bio-parents were there, so he was not unaccompanied. But...I think perhaps I should go to the next "first day" of school, for the other two. At this point, for the most part, my lack of enthusiasm for school is mostly faded to a feeling of apathy. But apathy usually hides something. And it's sometimes useful to poke at those somethings to see what they are. It's also good to engage the present, and put your own baggage aside for a moment to celebrate someone else's big day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A plea to all parents...

...not just the ADHD ones. If you are feeling overwhelmed, angry, or just plain worn out by your children, in such a way that you might want to hurt them, PLEASE get help.

I bring this up here in my blog since many of ADHDers work really hard at managing things like impatience and impulse...ADHD does NOT make people bad parents, but I imagine that there are times when some of us have to really work a little harder to not blow a screw that might be feeling a little loose. Of course, all parents have those moments.

Last night Sonny and I had to call the police because he could audibly hear a neighbor abusing a child. The police never came. We have sought out other resources besides the police, now since they were soooo helpful.

But it just made me think...about how important our parenting roles really are, and how important it is to be able to see beyond your own frustrated moments and do the right thing, even when you're in the moment and aren't sure what else to do. There is ALWAYS a better choice in a situation like this. Always. Even if that choice is "I'm going to go take a parenting time out, by myself.". And a phone call to a friend or neighbor or someone that can help you for a little while.

There are help resources in every community. There are books in local libraries, available for free, that may offer helpful alternatives. And if you witness something that shouldn't be happening, call the police and if they don't respond, call whatever child protective organization WILL respond. Just because childrens' legal voices are limited, does not mean that their screams should be ignored.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Alchemy: Turning "Impatience" Into "Efficiency"

Many of us adult ADHDers have manifestations of our ADHD that impact our employment, or our employability.

Some of us get fired. Some of us say the wrong things at the wrong time. Some of us are impatient with workplace protocols and processes.

My life being what it has been, I have always been just fine at playing the game. Notice that I use the word game. I am not one to arbitrarily bow to authority, but I will if it serves the mission and if it serves what I feel is right. I was raised by people who knew how to play the game, how to switch code to get along in whatever environment they needed to. I have learned a lot from my mother, in particular, about how to dress, how to talk, how to act, how to write cool stuff like resumes and cover letters, and personal statements for school. How to dress for an interview. How to be diplomatic.

Ex: How to say things like "I'll get back to you on that." when people ask you a question at work, instead of blurting ADHD things out immediately, and possibly blowing your cover. Blowing the cover that's allegedly hiding that you have ADHD, are a little left of center anyway, that you are female, that you are...a million other things that don't generally give status in our culture.

It took practice. And I started early. At about age 8, riding in the car with my mother, she introduced me to the concept that just because something pops in your head, doesn't mean you have to say it immediately. This gave me power, and I loved it. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I still spend a lot of energy at work and in meetings and in other public places practicing it. I think it's part of the reason that when I'm at home, I have a hard time not talking (in which case, sometimes blogging is really all I can do to channel my raging inner monologue). I simply need a break from all the self-editing sometimes.

So, I still have urgent thoughts pop into my head. I am still REALLY impatient. I still have snarky thoughts and somewhat inappropriate or ill-timed observations intrude upon my thought process and threaten to come out of my mouth. But I've learned ways to work with these things in the workplace, or make them "look" like something else.

Ex: when people are explaining processes to me in minute step by step detail, I simply can't wait to know the outcome. I will ask questions like " I'm having a hard time seeing where you are going with this, can you tell me the end-point and circle back to the process?". If they are willing to do this, I am WAY more relaxed because then the details make sense to me, and generally, people think that this type of question demonstrates interest on my part. If they don't get what I'm saying and are totally mired in the details, it really kills me. It may be more of a function of my personality that I see details as subjective. Not important, only important if they really serve the task. Add ADHD to that and I am REALLY driven to eliminate details I see as unnecessary. Often, I find myself listening to people's processes going "why in the hell would you do that like that"...but...probably not really an ADHD issue.

Ex: I can't stand sitting through orientations and lectures. So I take notes. People think it's because I'm interested. It's generally because I'm dying having to sit there. Note-taking also accidentally makes you retain a little info...or it just gives you a cheat sheet for later. Or I just doodle. But I LOOK busy :) Haha...actually, I generally retain more information if I'm writing, than if I just sit there and LISTEN. In class, I used get better grades after I figure out that I needed to bring People magazines to read during lectures. I would hide them in my textbooks. I could look at the pics while listening. If I didn't bring them I would want to leave the room a few times during class and just walk around. So: All hail the acceptable fidget!

Ex: I like to volunteer at work for tasks that other people don't like to do, because I like to do them by myself. It's not that I'm a total misanthrope, but a) it gets you brownie points b) it gets the job done and that's good for everyone c) it BREAKS THE MONOTONY OF ROUTINE, which I NEED to SURVIVE most jobs d) working in groups is stressful for me...when I already see the end-point, and have already figured out a way to do it that will get it done FAST, I get frustrated having to wait for others to catch up. I also get frustrated having to have a BIG talk about how to get something done as a group, when I can get it done faster as a solo artist. I'm not saying I'm always right, only that most plans I come up with alone, will get it all done faster than if I have to spend time talking to other people about putting together a possibly more efficient plan. So: being an enthusiastic volunteer has many benefits!

Ex: I am perfectly aware when I'm bored off my behind at work. When I have that feeling I have to assess if it's because I'm just frustrated with "the details" or if it's a real big-picture lack of challenge problem. And if it's a big-picture problem, I communicate to my boss that I'm ready for additional challenges. And if they don't have any...then I leave. Some people can just live a routine for years. I can't. As soon as the challenge for me is gone, and there is no compelling reason for me to continue, I simply won't do it. So: Learn to assess your boredom at work in a way that will help you and let YOU decide when you are done, not someone else.

Ex: Sometimes, instead of leaving jobs, I simply get another one. So I usually have at least 2. It breaks up my routine in a way that for me is helpful. I'm learning to LIMIT my breaks in routine...for me, that is a challenge, but I am learning that I really DO need a little distraction to keep me in line. So: a little excitement can be a good thing.

To make decisions about how to manage my ADHD though, I have to be paying attention to my own thought processes. At a young age it was pointed out to me that I was impatient...that I had BIG emotions...that I had BIG opinions. Nothing wrong with any of those, but the responsibility that comes with such realities, is that I had to learn to take responsibility for shaping and applying and managing those aspects of myself in ways that make life more pleasant and fruitful for me, and those around me.

It takes practice and it never ends...and sometimes, it does make me feel like there's two of me. So lately I spend MORE time in places where I don't have to modify myself quite so much. I still have the skills though, if I need them, to "play the game". It feels good to have both options available to me (even better now that I have learned more about putting myself in more ADHD-friendly environments and situations, so it's all a choice, not a mandate).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writing resolutions early...

...I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I have some resolutions I'd like to make for 2011. If any of this is at all, truly and reasonably within my control, I would like 2011 to look something like this:

No new projects.
No changes of residence.
No big surprises that won't make me smile.

Tossing those pleas out into the universe and praying for good results. It's like tucking the crust around the top of a pie, popping it in the oven, and then hoping that I remember to take it out of the oven.

Tough Love Time. Rawhide tough. Grrrrrr.

Dear fellow ADHDers. It's tough love time. Anything I'm about to write is as much a conversation I am willing to have (and have had) with myself, as it is an imparting of words to you:

If you have ADHD it is your responsibility to work for accountability in your daily life, to yourself and to others.

If you have ADHD, it is YOUR responsibility to work for understanding of YOUR ADHD and how it affects you, impacts your life, and affects the people around you.

It is NOT your responsibility to be perfect.

But it IS your responsibility to try. Not to talk about how you are going to try, but to really try.

It is your responsibility to figure out how to be on time when you really need to be.

It is your responsibility to figure out how to remember to do the things that you tell others you will do.

It is your responsibility to remember that the feelings of others are important and deserve care.

But it is also important to stand up for and express your own feelings, and defend your positive coping strategies, even if other people think they are weird, so long as they are not negatively affecting others.

It is YOUR job to figure out which study skills will best help you with your education.

It is YOUR job to do what you say you will do, or learn to set limits and learn to say no.

If you don't know how to help yourself, it is your job to seek other sources or people who can help you to help yourself.

It is YOUR job to meet the deadlines that you have accepted responsibility for.

It is YOUR job to own your decisions, and own your choices.

It is YOUR job to work toward your goals in whatever ways you are reasonably able to, and to learn to set reasonable goals for yourself to work toward.

It is NOT the job of your mother, your father, your family, your children, your teachers, your professors, your caretakers, your friends, your colleagues, your boss, your dog, your lover, your landlord, the utility company, the bank, or your employees to make your life awesome...or to accept blame when you can't accept it yourself.

Blaming others will not cure your ADHD.

Nothing will cure your ADHD.

So get to work.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This morning I went to a meeting...

...and I didn't sit in my chair at all. What a great meeting! The kind where you are supposed to give verbal input, don't have to sit through speeches or ramblings, and you can go right up to the front and add or subtract ideas from the visuals.

Nice. More please.