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.

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