Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ADHD or How I learned to get things done.

For years I have had the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Click on the link here if you don’t know what that is.

When I got the diagnosis at the ripe age of about 7 years old they started me on Ritalin. This was not a bad thing however this was just as they were trying to figure out how to dose us kids back in 1980. This was also decades before I figured out that I hyper-react to medication. In other words I was severely overdosed.

I called the pills my “downers” and later learned to describe the effects as a pharmacological lobotomy. It killed most of my emotions and responses to things that were happening around me. It made me flat and a zombie. I told a doctor years later that “sure I could focus, but it took me four times longer to get anything done.”

I was on Ritalin from the age of 7 to age 11 (the point where I flat out refused to take it anymore). I vowed at that point to never take anything like that again. For years I self medicated (coffee and smoking) and denied that I needed any meds or if I admitted I needed meds that it wasn’t bad enough to merit trying anything like that again.

Till this past Monday.

This past Monday was the culmination of weeks of a downhill slide, which in turn had followed decades of struggling with trying to make and keep appointments, balance my budget, make it to work on time, keep up with work and get my life organized.

The start of the downhill slide was quitting smoking. I quit smoking June 5, 2008. Six weeks after removing a large stimulant from my system I was in the doctors office nearly begging to be put on something, anything, so that I could function. I had hit the point of not being able to do anything, not even the things I looked forward to. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t follow a conversation, I couldn’t figure out where to begin with something, I couldn’t stay on task. I was losing my mind.

I was also driving those around me crazy.

My partner had to put up with me not being able to talk on the phone with her for more than 10 minutes before I had to go. My Mom (of choice) would watch me sit down, stand up, move around, jump from one topic to another in a conversation, and watched me be impulsive financially. Mom knew what this was because her daughter has ADD too and so she understood because she had been down this road before. (She had been encouraging me to go back on the meds for a long time.) My coworkers watched as I got more and more behind in my work.

My state of mind was subconsciously demonstrated the night before I called the doctor when I was fixing something for mom and was holding a drill talking with her about something. She looked at me and said something about it isn’t that bad or something. I looked over and realized that I had it pointed at my head like I was going to drill a hole in it. Yeah, that was about how I felt. I didn’t have the heart to look at mom for a minute after I put the drill down. It was a bit too revealing how accurate that pose was.

So, on Tuesday morning I called my doctor and got an appointment for that day. Mom wrote up talking points for the doctor since I could no longer pull things together in my head nor could I explain things coherently. Armed with my list I went to the doctor.

First thing the doctor said after looking up my records (no official mention of the ADHD there) and reading my list was “I guess you should be taking some medication for the ADD huh?” I said “that is why I am here” with a bit of a groan.

I went on to explain that yes, I did hold out too long but with what I went through the first time on meds combined with the chance that these meds may spark a Manic episode and the fact that up till I quit smoking it was manageable, why would I take the risk? She was more understanding after that. She prescribed Adderall for me in a light starting dose to see how it goes. I am to return in 30 days for a check-in, how you doing type of thing, and another 30 day prescription. (I call it being on a short leash. It works for me.)

I took the first dose way late in the day knowing that it would screw up my sleep. Hell, I wasn’t sleeping anyway so I figured at least it may make staying awake more interesting. :-) The first dose was a miracle! It was like Holy Shit I can sit still, I can focus, I can actually do my job! Woo Hooo!

The doc had told me that I would notice the difference right away but I didn’t really believe her too much. I hoped but I didn’t really believe. Each day has gotten a bit better. Till today where I feel like I am beginning to get my life together. This really is much like when I went on meds for the first time for the BiPolar. Its like “Wow, so this is what life is like for everyone else?” Later my thoughts were, “yeah, I should have been on this a while ago.”

There have been some interesting learning experiences this past week.

Adderall, if you don’t know, is an amphetamine. Essentially it is speed. (Speed kills man! Yeah, couldn’t resist.) This drug, in ADD or ADHD folks has the opposite effect than in folks without ADD/ADHD. Basically it slows us down and helps us focus.

I wondered about drinking caffeinated coffee with this amphetamine. So, Wednesday morning last week I tried a bit. Ooooo that was not a good idea. I drove to work that day looking like Tweeek from South Park. My eyes felt like they were really biiiiig. When I turned my head it didn’t feel like my usual slow turn to the side, it was like “whaPAH” and I was suddenly looking left. I don’t think I blinked for like three hours. Yeah, I quickly decided that it would be decaf coffee for me.

Then a few days later I couldn’t stay awake. That was ok for the weekend where I can take afternoon naps but not so good for weekdays where I have to work. I put just the teensiest bit of caffeine back in and that was ok. So now, it is about ½ and ½ for the first two cups then decaf for the rest. I will be asking the doc about the can’t stay awake thing. Perhaps the dose is a bit high? Donno, will find out when I ask her. I learned long ago with the BiPolar not to fuck with my meds. Don’t go off them without approval (read supervision) of the doc and support from family. Don’t change the dose, don’t! do! anything! without the doc and family knowing and supporting. It is a short road to crazy and I have a more direct route than most.

In writing this post I did a bit of research and found a lot of stuff that is making me say “oooooh, that’s why” a lot. It is hard looking at this stuff and at the same time, it is comforting. Hard cause I have to face what a mess my life is in, literally with my room, my truck, my desk at work, financially with lots of stuff that piled up cause I couldn’t deal with it. Comforting cause what I am reading and learning are steps to combat the usual stuff that goes on with ADHD folks. I read this and its like, wow, I’m not alone or lazy or stupid or crazy (all the things I have secretly said to myself over the years). I really do, as much as I hate to admit it, have a disability that makes some things a lot harder for me than for other folks.

There is a part of me that is looking forward to the adventure of succeeding with this. After so many years of struggle and failure it is neat to begin to see what I really am capable of now that I don’t have one arm and one leg tied behind my back.

More later…


Anonymous said...

Hey I found your blog randomly and wanted to note that I too had a lot of zombie reactions to Ritalin when I took it in the early 90's. I ended up refusing to take it after almost a decade and they put me on other things but at the time I was young and unwilling to try out new medications--I was in fear that I would feel the side effects again. I am now 22 and having lots of financial impulses and a lot of impulsive feelings to just spend but if I could just have impulsive LASTING desires to finish my work or handle my life! I am glad I read your blog because it reinforces my decision to seek a medication that will help me get my life together.


P.S- I read your good blog too, and in regards to your custody battle I hope everything works out :]

Frogspond said...

Thank you for posting this comment. It meant the world to me. Good luck with the finding the right med/dose for you. I will keep my fingers crossed.

Let me know how it goes.