Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can't Fight This Feeling

Humans pattern match - honestly, we overmatch, and why should that surprise us? There's a lot bigger evolutionary penalty for not recognizing that the way the bushes over there are moving means that there's a predator in them than there is for seeing predators everywhere. We pattern match ourselves into everything - not just anthropomorphism, but the tendency to see our own personal selves in vague descriptions, and the vaguer the better. Throw in too many details and what's described becomes unavoidably other (one of the best demonstrations of this I've ever seen is in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, an intriguing read on many levels).

Having said that, boy has this article (Adult ADHD: Devastated by Disapproval) about a fun little aspect of ADHD called "rejection-sensitive dysphoria" got my number:

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

Baby, Can I Sleep While You Drive?

The ADHD therapist that B and I were seeing uses the metaphor of a Porsche engine with a Volkswagen clutch to describe ADHD. B describes it as having spent his life "feathering" the throttle on icy pavement, and with the meds the tires are finally gripping the road and he can go. And he really can go with the meds, he really can.

For me, it's different. For me the clutch was broken, leaving me permanently in fifth gear. Fifth gear is a perfectly nice gear to live in if you can get the car moving fast enough to use the gas and not stall out, and if you can keep it moving and keep the car fed you can stay in it for quite some time and be terribly, terribly happy. Not to say that there isn't a downside to it, what with having to find good hills to use to jump start the car and all, and that's about the limit of my abilities when it comes to automotive metaphors, but you get the idea.

On the meds I have all the gears, but I can't seem to stay in any of them for very long. I pop into gear and then pop right back out again. It doesn't help that the heartbeat is making my head feel like all of this summer's hurricanes are forming in it at once. I can't think anymore, not the way I used to be able to. I can't exercise much anymore either, again because the heartbeat is crushing me. Last night, climbing the stairs was enough to make me feel lightheaded to the point of passing out.

What I do think is that I can safely say at this point that the best part of the ADHD is gone and not coming back, at least not as long as I'm on these meds. I have a task that is high challenge, high ability and very intriguing, and I can barely get started on it. I should be champing at the bit to get on with this coding, it's challenging enough to justify writing up an article about it afterward and entirely within the field of my expertise, but I can't drop in.

(When I tell you that the drug at the higher dose also had a sexual side effect that was flat out intolerable and that, given the choice, I'd stay frigid and get the hyperfocus/flow back instead, I hope you'll understand how great a loss this is.)

What can I do now that I couldn't before? What makes all this worth it? I'm glad you asked. I can now sit through a meeting, listen quietly and pay attention without either talking or doodling. And I've lost 25 pounds in six weeks.

I miss fifth gear. I miss being able to think. I miss knowing who I am and what I can do. Before, I had to work myself up into a state of anxiety to push myself into doing dull tasks ("if you don't stay on top of your status reports you will fail, fail, fail at this and then you'll be fired and your house will be foreclosed on and everybody will ask how somebody so smart could mess up so badly and they will keep asking that over and over again for the rest of your life if you don't make sure to record that you spent two hours today creating a report and three hours fixing the indexes on this database" is representative). Now the anxiety has given way to listlessness and apathy. If before, with the untreated ADHD, I was trouble but worth it, now I am less trouble but of far less value. I can finally pour, but the syrup's gone sour.

But at least I'll be thin.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Unchained Melody

Ned Hallowell has an article up at Additude Magazine titled "A Sound Strategy for Focus" that reviews a service called Focus@Will. Focus@Will is a music service, much like spotify or pandora in that you get to listen to tunes, but very different from either of those in that the tunes you listen to on either of those services are probably not these. Like Dr. Hallowell, I've known for years that music aids me in concentration - for me the key to the music is its familiarity, the more the playlist all sounds alike (and the longer I've been listening to an unaltered playlist, the better). I have been known to put certain songs on an endless loop (notably "Non Nobis, Domine" from Branagh's Henry V, until even my most patient father complained about the repetitiveness).

focus@will would like to help you drop into a focused state with some other, carefully selected, tunes. The science behind what they're doing looks intriguing, and the music isn't bad. Actually, I don't really know what most of the music sounds like because, although I've been playing it almost constantly for two days now, it doesn't really register. Which is kind of the point.

I haven't noticed any dramatic changes in my productivity yet, but that might be because to activate the music I have to open a web browser. And while I have that open (instead of the window with, you know, work in it) I might as well check facebook. And Order of the Stick might have updated since I was last here, I could take a look at that. Plus I need to check on my IRA, and since I've dropped a dress size since going on the Strattera and needed to replace my used-to-be-white t-shirts anyway, I should head over to the clothes website I got the old ones from and place an order.

The truth is, I spent most of the day playing 2048.

Still can't find flow. It might be because I haven't had any tasks in a while that have the high complexity / high skill combo that is required to get to a flow state, but I doubt it. This medication lowers the bar for switching gears considerably (which can be a good thing because it allows me more control over where my attention goes, but is a bad thing because my concentration is nowhere near as intense as it used to be) and it does that by keeping my brain stewing in norepenephrine, the chemical that gets released when our senses report a potential threat. I suspect it's going to be quite a while before I get that "drop out of awareness of environment/self and become fully immersed in a task" thing.