Tuesday, December 2, 2014
This isn't valium.
I can only offer my experience with this medication and with this condition, but, if you are a parent and you are wondering about whether or not medication is ever right (I can't speak for always right, but I can say something about ever right), I do want to offer that experience and that perception. I'd like to try to give you an insight into what ADHD is like - what I suspect it's only possible to understand it's like when you have lived with it untreated and then had it treated.
These drugs aren't even remotely like valium.
Being on them isn't a dulling down. It isn't doping. It isn't drugging oneself into quietude.
Having untreated ADHD is like having your body embedded with a thousand fishhooks, with lines pulling you in every direction at once.
It's being unable, physically unable, desperately, despairingly, hatefully unable to stop watching a television. No matter how much you want to stop watching the television. No matter how hard you are trying to stop watching the television. No matter what price you are paying for watching the television. No matter what abuse you are pouring on yourself for continuing to watch the goddamn television. And then you get the drugs and you don't have to beg someone else anymore to please turn off the television and set you free.
Having ADHD is having the feeling that desserts were amputated from your mouth. You can go for weeks being acutely and persistently aware of the absence of a turtle brownie sundae from your tongue. You work on increasing your self-discipline. You try to deal with it as an emotional problem (maybe the sundae reminds you of something you want to experience again, like a childhood pet! a day at an amusement park! a beloved grandparent! your first date! a simpler time!) but the reality is that the food isn't about love and it isn't about security and it isn't about sex. That food is about carbohydrates and their ability to trigger the rush of dopamine that your brain is starved for (even if your body isn't) and all the self-discipline and therapy and weight watchers in the world aren't going to get you that dopamine, and the longer you put off getting it, the more and more trouble you're going to have functioning without it. You can get the dopamine pumping as needed by exercising yourself to a "runner's high" every two to three hours, but your body isn't going to take that kind of treatment indefinitely, you can get it by eating the sundae, which is an entirely different kind of way to mess up your body, or you can take the drug.
Having a kid with ADHD is exhausting. Having ADHD is even more exhausting. Until the diagnosis, until the drugs, I thought that the barrage of impulses and craving for stimulation that I experience was normal. If life on these drugs is what life is like for non-ADHD people - and the neurologists certainly seem to indicate that that is the case - then I'm at a loss for why the normals haven't solved all the world's problems by now, because life on these meds is life on easy mode. I used to berate myself for having poor self-discipline and poor impulse control, but that's hardly a fair assessment when the impulses and the cravings just never stop. With ADHD, you're catching yourself and pulling your attention back on track and knocking the distraction or the stimulation out of your hand not once an hour or even once every five minutes - you're chasing yourself down and rapping your own knuckles two or three times a second, every second of every day. The truth is, I'm amazingly self-disciplined and I deny myself about 99.9% of my impulses, but 0.1% of a staggeringly large number is a pretty substantial number in its own right. From the outside, it can look like I'm out of control; on the inside, I'm Nurse Ratchet.
This is not valium. This is a break, a step outside of a torrent of impulses and demands for attention, a sudden relief from the merciless, punishing pressure that, until you get the drugs, you didn't know life doesn't have to be like.
We are all captives of our own experience. Just as it is impossible for someone who does not have ADHD to truly understand the experience of having it and what they struggle with, it is impossible for someone whose ADHD has gone untreated to understand that, while their failures of restraint are visible, their almost infinite successes, unseen and uncounted, may dwarf those of the giants around them. I have never before understood the experience of people who found it natural to behave themselves. I have marveled at people who achieve success by "just doing the work." I have stood in awe of people who simply pay their bills on time every month, who rake their leaves as soon as they fall, who mail birthday presents on time and who don't feel a sense of overpowering need when confronted by a bowl of tortilla chips. I could not compare experiences, only results, and I could not understand how others managed to perform what are to me herculean feats as a matter of course. I was constantly berating myself for failing to live up to the examples set by my friends and colleagues, who made it all look so easy, because I could not understand that for them, it almost certainly is as easy as they make it look. To me, not having experienced the regulation that their brains naturally produce, it seemed like I was just a careless, irresponsible, thoughtless slob. Until the drugs allowed me to experience what life is like with a brain that is well regulated, I could neither produce visible achievements at the same level as my peers nor even give myself credit for my invisible success.
This is not valium. This is not a way to pep up or check out. It does not stupefy. It does not make you mellow (although being set free from the anxiety that comes with having to constantly police one's attention is a very relaxing thing). It doesn't turn you into a zombie or a drone. It only sets you free.
Friday, November 28, 2014
It's just, hey, I think I'll write this program I've been sluggish about. Okay, that's done. I want to blog about this now, but first, I'm cold, I should feed the fire, and at first I stop and feel the fear and anxiety, if I stop to do that, will I get distracted and not come back to what I really want to do? But then, feeling so calm on this drug and I think, I can do that first and it will be all right, I can just stop and take care of something and I think, I'm pretty sure, I think I can come back to this first thing without wandering off onto something else.
It's when I'm on these drugs and they work that I realize how much of the finite pool of effort I have to use on everything in my life goes into just making sure I don't drift aimlessly all. the. time. I read studies about decision fatigue and, it finally makes sense why I just want to curl up in a ball and play a video game after finishing a tedious chore - nearly every productive minute of my day I'm alternating between cheering and castigating myself, keeping a running Tiger Mom chatter in my head - and sometimes out loud - to keep working. I repeat the name of the task like a mantra, give myself status reports, note milestones, but also chide myself for every temptation to pause and threaten myself with exaggerated consequences for failure. What I have to do, to put myself through, just to get the normal work of life done, it's horrible.
I used to have this recurring nightmare - it would be slightly different settings, but the principal was always the same - my personal favorite expression of it was that I was a kindergarten teacher leading a field trip through the paddocks of Jurassic Park. I'd try to keep the kids together, but I couldn't keep them all in sight all the time, as soon as one of them needed attention, another one would see something interesting, wander off just a little bit, and as soon as it was out of my reach, crack! a velociraptor would appear out of nowhere and snap the kiddo up. The raptors were always dashing in from the treeline to snag any children that separated themselves from the herd. Somehow, the supply of kindergarteners in my charge never dwindled (and oddly enough, the raptors never tried to get at the core group, but the point isn't ever that the raptors are after the core - it's the T-Rex that's coming for the core - it's that wherever the kids go, I have to vector after them. In other variants of this dream, there was an actual protective field or bubble around me, so in the space dream there was oxygen and livable conditions around me, but there were all the pretty stars that you could just barely see if you were right next to me, but that got brighter and clearer and spectacular if you moved just a little bit away... and then I'd move out, trying to keep up with you, but you'd keep moving and drift out into space and die horribly of asphyxiation and cold, and I'd get pulled this way and that and I couldn't protect you and I couldn't stay on course, I could only fail over and over again and watch you float away forever, stiff and frozen, with all the pretty, pretty stars).
|yes, that Patrick Warburton|
So I'm running through Jurassic Park with these extremely mobile toddlers who never seem to understand that they have to stay close or they will die. There are velociraptors that will get these children if I don't keep them all pointed in the right direction, and the T-Rex that chases us as I try to get us all safe to the base, and then, suddenly, blessedly, at the top of the next hill, there's Patrick Warburton, decked out like Rambo. He doesn't come down to us because that would be too easy, I have to run the kids up to him, but when we get there, he says "Don't worry, little lady. I've got you covered now. I'll watch the treeline for raptors, all you have to do is hold onto the kids and run for the base."
It is difficult to express how much, in the dream, my anxiety lifts. I no longer feel like giving up, sitting down, crying, just accepting that it is inevitable that we will not make it back, that we will all be eaten, that continuing on is simply self-punishment and insanity. Patrick Warburton, in all his burly, ammo-decked manliness, is here to put an end to the madness. All things are possible again. This can be done. I am in a state of pure and glorious relief, and then the T-Rex materializes behind my new hero and eats him in one bite, and the field trip and I are off and running again.
And that's pretty much what my experience of life with ADHD is like. Some days I don't worry about it, I let the kids check out the park and the stars and just kind of figure this is a "crunch all you want, we'll make more" kind of situation. The kids pull me with them, and we aren't going to get back to the base, but the T-Rex isn't bearing down on us right now, so what the hell, it's okay. And some other days, the base is in sight and it's so cool, the kids all run toward that on their own, and those are just the best days, ever. But most days I'm riding herd on suicidal toddlers with a T-Rex somewhere behind me.
Only now, at the top of the hill, Patrick Warburton is wearing a labcoat, and he's holding a bottle of Adderall. Hunky, hunky Adderall.
Friday, June 13, 2014
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
In the long term, there are two personality outcomes. The person with ADHD becomes a people pleaser, always making sure that friends, acquaintances, and family approve of him. After years of constant vigilance, the ADHD person becomes a chameleon who has lost track of what she wants for her own life. Others find that the pain of failure is so bad that they refuse to try anything unless they are assured of a quick, easy, and complete success. Taking a chance is too big an emotional risk. Their lives remain stunted and limited.For those of you who don't know us personally, the people pleaser would be me. B is the paralytic.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Friday, May 9, 2014
Friday, May 2, 2014
Friday, April 25, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Apart from that, this stuff is great. I'd recommend it to a frenemy. Actually this makes me feel deliberate, capable, powerful, and quiet. Impulsivity and anxiety are at an all-time low. Focus isn't great (because I'm exhaustedly tired and headachy and periodically dizzy from the blood sugar thing) and because of that it's actually easier now to do the wretched, dull tasks than it is to do the exciting, challenging tasks. Trying to stick to things that don't require a lot of, you know, thought, but that isn't a terribly viable option today. It's been so long since I had a good hyperfocus, I'm worrying that I won't get one ever again. But I don't worry like I used to, and the fact that I'm not worrying like I used to doesn't worry me (which it would have, it really would). So not really terribly concerned, but to give you an idea of what I'm missing, this is how I described it two months ago:
All I can say is, there’s the rest of life, and then there’s the zone. And the best analogy I could come up with is luge. When you get into the track and launch, you have some control, you go fast and free and it’s some serious badass achievement that you can pull off, but what you cannot do is stop. What you cannot do is get out of the track before it’s finished with you. And when someone else pulls you out of the track, it’s like they pulled you out of life, and yet, if you had them killed, you’d be the one who went to jail.I could really go for some of that feeling alive thing right now. That and some serious sleep.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Friday, March 28, 2014
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Formal logical proofs, and therefore programs – formal logical proofs that particular computations are possible, expressed in a formal system called a programming language – are utterly meaningless. To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to some meaningless conclusion. In the test the consistent group showed a pre-acceptance of this fact: they are capable of seeing mathematical calculation problems in terms of rules, and can follow those rules wheresoever they may lead.Does ADHD help you make this logical jump? I have no idea. But if you are an ADHD-er who can make the jump, that means that programming isn't something that you have to slog through lots of boring classes to learn; it's something that you can pick up easily, intuitively, and for someone with ADHD, that is very attractive. How prevalent exactly is ADHD in this field? I can't find anything that suggests that anybody has tried to quantify that. But from my own anecdotal experience... I'm far from the only one who has sat down in the afternoon to work on a particularly intriguing piece of coding, and then looked up again what seemed only minutes later to discover that the office is empty, dark and locked, that it is 8:30 at night, my phone shows several missed calls from the spousal unit, I'm hungry, really need a bathroom, and (this one blows me away every time) I have removed my shoes without realizing it... again.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Sunday, March 16, 2014
First, some housekeeping. The response to these posts about the ADHD has been marvelously gratifying. Several people have encouraged me to keep journaling this, at least one has asked me to keep sharing. I've added a hashtag to my FaceBook posts and I'm moving to a blog, in case I want to share with someone who doesn't do the FaceBook thing (or, more likely, who doesn't want to see the extraneous stuff and nonsense I use to fill up FaceBook's servers). And I promise that these won't always be emo.One of the advantages of not being on the medications is that my hyperfocus is back, and it's thinking almost entirely about the medications and the experience of them. With distance (and one doozy of a crash as the amphetamines clear out) I am becoming less sure of the value of the medications... but I suspect that's because... I have no idea. True to myself again, I started that sentence with an idea fully formed, had moved on to something else before I'd finished typing it, and when I come back, have completely lost what I had been thinking at the time. But then, that's me. I am what I am. I've been like this for almost forty-two years now and, until I recognized myself in a description of this disorder, I was pretty okay with most of it, most of the time. Yes, there are some things that are difficult, even impossible for me like this, that will be much easier when I get the meds worked out, but I am what I am. In many ways, without being able to put a name to it, I came out of the ADHD closet years ago. Life was a series of deals and accommodations, in relationships and employment, in housekeeping and finances. I'm going to be a horrible correspondent, but when I write, it will be funny and interesting. When I move away, I won't forget you, but I won't remember to call, either. And I will move away, I always do. I don't send greeting cards for birthdays or anniversaries and don't quite know what to do with the ones I receive. I have acquired enough Christmas cards to send one to everyone on my list for the next twelve years (when we rounded them all up and put them away this year, Brian had to make me count them before I would agree not to buy anymore in after Christmas sales); every year I make the list up new because I can't find the one I made the previous December. I have a place set aside in my closet for the gifts I bought and forgot to send, and found months too late. I am what I am, and I've learned to use my best self to its best advantage, and when I fall, to walk away and whistle. I am what I am. At work, I can be extremely productive, but I have to be kept busy, and if I'm not kept busy I can start "showing initiative" and may forget entirely to communicate about what I'm doing. I can be abrasive and domineering without meaning to (hi Susan, sorry Susan). I will be every week on the list of people who have to be reminded to turn in a timesheet, and also topping the list of people you want to throw the most challenging puzzles to. I am far from perfect, I make no excuses, I am what I am. On the whole, I've thought of myself as worth the trade-offs. I still do. Even so, I am now planning on taking a pill so that I can stop having to ask people to accept them. The concept of life without trade-offs is incomprehensible to me. These medications will slow me down, but, I am promised, they will not take away the "good parts" of me or of ADHD. They will not (when they are properly balanced) make me any less able to think or think creatively. They will make me better able to connect with people. I will find that my thoughts, when I can express them more slowly, are better received and more respected. On Friday, the medication was definitely not right, but I felt already the raw power of it, of what I could be and do and accomplish without the Rampaging Stim-Monster driving me through life. I can be Ginger Rogers when she stops dancing backwards and in heels, and starts showing us everything she can really do. It may be possible, with these medications, to move to a place where I can offer friends, employers, husband, lenders, everyone I touch, a version of me that asks for fewer compromises, fewer accommodations. When I can do that, I do believe, wholeheartedly, that I will find those relationships and jobs more rewarding; as my needs and shortcomings become more normal and therefore comprehensible to others, I believe I will find those people more accommodating even than they are now. What they cannot do is let me say anymore that I am what I am. That is the price. #JennHasADHD