Monday, February 8, 2016

You don't know something is hard until it's easy

I didn't know unloading the dishwasher was difficult until it was suddenly very easy.

This was my big revelation yesterday when I took Adderall for the first time. I had no idea how many strategies I'd been using to cope with the symptoms of a condition I hadn't even know I'd had before last week.

It struck me while I was putting away the clean dishes. I had been completely unaware that this seemingly-mindless task actually took a significant mental toll on me until I tried it with the aid of Adderall. I found myself simply taking dishes out of the dishwasher and sorting them into cabinets. Well duh, I hear you saying, how else would that chore go? Mind-spinningly differently, as it turns out.

Normally, putting away the dishes would take three times as long, because my order of operations would be significantly less efficient. I would put away a couple of bowls, then notice that a couple of mugs were still wet, dry them, put them away, go back to bowls, remember I wanted to make a cup of coffee, put water in the coffee maker, rinse out the reusable filter, get coffee from the pantry, get a clean mug from the dishwasher, turn on the coffee maker, put away a spatula, go back to the bowls, notice my phone needed to be recharged, plug it in...

I literally broke down crying and laughing at the same time when I realized how easy it was to unload the dishwasher yesterday. I laughed and cried with relief until my abs were sore. Then I joyfully finished putting away the dishes.

My first day on Adderall made me aware of how many ways I have been self-medicating: caffeine to improve alertness, carbonated beverages for sensory input, doodling while listening to something important to quiet that other part of my brain, playing with my hair to help me focus on a lecture, coloring while watching tv, snacking while reading just to do something with my hands, running my fingernail over my eyelashes to...I have no idea why I do that; it's a weird fidget.

Exercise has been the single most important way I self-medicate. I had always thought I was working out to fight my depression, but now I see that the relief I feel when I'm finished at the gym is due in part to my brain being able to relax and focus. I've also discovered in the last year or so the benefit of following a pre-written exercise regimen (like on because I have trouble organizing an effective routine for myself and following it. Lately I've been taking a clipboard to the gym and physically checking things off as I finish them, and I'm loving the results, both physically and mentally.

So today, not on speed, I am more mindful of my coping strategies, and better able to consciously deploy them to get through my day.

It has been a week of revelations.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adderall: Day 1

Experiment conducted on a Saturday on which I had nothing important to do.

8:20am  Took generic Adderall XR on an empty stomach with my other medications.

9:45am  Read an entire magazine without doing anything else.
Ate breakfast without feeling compelled to read, wander around, do chores, etc.
Did not make coffee - did not feel the need for coffee, because I was on speed.

11am  Unloaded the dishwasher and broke down sobbing when I realized how easy this task was.

12pm  Very thirsty, head felt dried out like when you take antihistamines. Headache could be weather-related, but who knows.
Happy to drink plain water - did not crave carbonation.
Heart rate slightly elevated, because on speed.

3pm  Successfully and safely operated a motor vehicle while on speed.

4pm  Mind alert, body calm. Completely, shockingly calm - zero fidgeting.
So thirsty.

8:30pm  Some physical effects remain, but I can tell the mental effects are beginning to fade by the number of open tabs on my web browser.

11pm  Felt sleepy enough to go to bed. Slept normally.

Conclusion: Adderall is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A serving of alphabet soup for me, too.

This morning, at age 40, I was diagnosed with ADHD.

Three years ago - four years after my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS - I sat back and asked myself if I was autistic. After careful consideration, I determined I was not. Not being aware of any other ways to label my particular constellation of atypical traits, I concluded I was just weird.

When Ryan was recently diagnosed with ADHD, I started reading about it for the first time. About two weeks ago my dad forwarded me this article about how ADHD presents in females, and suddenly I started to suspect ADHD might be the root of every problem I've ever had.

I spent the last week basically replaying my entire life through the lens of ADHD, and suddenly everything clicks. Everything.

This is why I scored consistently lower on tests in school than my teachers felt I should. 

This is why I can't stop myself from saying stuff that gets me in trouble. 

This is why I can't remember what groceries to buy even if I have a list with me (I don't remember to look at the list, or I read it wrong, or I freaking lose the list in the middle of the supermarket). 

This is why I find being self-employed so much more difficult than working for someone who just hands me a schedule. 

This is why as soon as I go to tell someone about a story I just read all the details fly out the window.

This is why I find it so difficult to manage normal everyday things like paying bills before they're due or making Ryan breakfast without taking unnecessary detours to empty the dishwasher and look up that actor's name on IMDB.

This is why I find it so difficult to maintain eye contact during a conversation: I can't concentrate on listening to someone while being bombarded by all the information being projected by their face.

This is why I'm constantly fidgeting or playing with my hair, why I prefer using my computer at a standing desk, why I have sensory integration problems.

This is why I always click Publish on blog posts and then go back in to fix the typos, rather than proofreading first and publishing second.

I have spent the better part of 40 years hating myself because I felt incompetent, forgetful, careless, disorganized, flighty, generally not good enough. I've battled depression, an eating disorder, and general self-loathing because I didn't know my brain is wired atypically; I thought I was just an idiot.

I feel the strangest type of relief now that I can put a name on what I've been experiencing forever. Like, I finally found permission to treat myself with a little more care and less anger. Someone out there understands how my brain works and has written lists of tips for how I can manage daily life in the neurotypical world. And when my insurance company finally approves my doctor's prescription, there are meds available to help me find a sort of focus I've truly never had.

I think things are about to get a lot easier.