Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looking for the Girl Who's Looking for her Keys?

So today I had two - not one - but two good friends complain to me at work, independently of one another, that they miss Premedicated Me.  One expressed frustration that she is no longer able to distract me from my work with idle conversation and gossip, and that if this continues, she will have no choice but to take my rebuffs personally. 

The second friend lamented the fact that I had sat in my cubical all morning working, of all things, without coming to visit with her in her cubical, as had been my daily routine since the beginning of time.  This friend grudgingly acknowledged that my new and improved attention span is, in fact, a good thing; but asked that I try to at least check in briefly in the morning before tackling the world's problems.  I assured her that I would put that on my calendar. 

Who knew that one little daily capsule would turn me into one of those people who believe that work should come before play.  Sure, I wanted to be more productive - that was a major motivation for seeking ADHD treatment.  But I hadn't anticipated that I would experience an ethical transformation.  I always knew that I wasn't living up to my potential, as they say.  But I never would have guessed in a million years that there was a workaholic trapped inside my slacking shell, struggling to get out just so she could update that spreadsheet right now - the one her boss said he didn't need until the end of the week. 

No, I didn't expect any of that.  But once I discovered that Inattentive Poster Girl has a focused, motivated--and somewhat driven--alter ego, I assumed, frankly, that there would be little, if any, use for the old me, with the sleepy receptors.  I spent a lot of years trying to hide her existence, lying for her, making excuses for her.  I criticized her mercilessly when no one else was around.  I was often embarrassed by her.  I was tired and demoralized by all the trouble she caused.  I wanted her gone. 

I hadn't really considered that perhaps she had her place and a purpose. 

Maybe I was too hard on the little scatterbrained procrastinator - the one who talks too much and works too little.  The one who smiles and nods at you, but has no idea what you just said because she's not listening--instead, she's trying to remember where her debit card is. . .and the last name of that guy from Wham . . . not George . . . the other guy. 

I hadn't considered that she might have special gifts to offer - gifts that can be cultivated only by an unconfined, "disordered," mind [ADHD "positives"].

Well, luckily, she isn't gone.  It will take some time for the two of us to figure out how to live together--how to divide up the house work, as it were.  But rest assured she's around.  After dinner on a busy long day is a good time to find her.  You'll know her right away--she'll be the one trying to feed Flintstone's Chewables to the cat, and crunchy salmon-flavored treats to her kids, while recounting for you, in excruciating detail, her zany grocery-store misadventure from earlier in the day.  And she'll probably ask you if you've seen her keys.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'll get right on that! (What was I supposed to do again?)

During the first few days of taking Adderall, I spent a lot of hours at work cleaning and organizing my desk.  I sorted through piles that had been growing for months, filed things, and threw out tons of useless crap.  In addition, I went through a stack of notebooks in which I had scribbled some things on a few pages, only to lose track of each notebook, or misplace it, or whatever.  In any event, the notebooks never served as a helpful resource as I intended when I optimistically started each one.

Now much calmer and focused, I carefully pored through each written page to see if there was any important information to be retrieved, like perhaps, assignments that I had been given and then forgotten to do in light of the fact that I misplaced my notebook.

The good news - or maybe it's the bad news, depending on how you look at it - is that I hadn't been missing much.  Instead of being filled with coherent to-do lists, important insights and reminders, and clearly explained assignments, they were filled with chicken scratch.  A few pages here, and few pages there.  Scribbles, doodles, funny comments I wrote to colleagues who sat next to me during meetings.  Incomplete phone messages. 

Reading through these notebooks ended up being less an exercise of professional organization and more like reminiscing over scrapbooks or journals that recounted a worklife of someone whose mind was somewhere else - everywhere else.  The pages revealed a mix of boredom, frustration, and confusion, as well as some good chuckles. 

My favorite was the page that read, "Create Awareness," written with big letters in red ink, and underlined.  Wow, this looks important!  Allegedly, I took this note during a meeting with my boss.  I could deduce that my boss probably wanted me to create awareness . . .about. . .I have no idea what.   I laughed out loud.  It was so important that I create awareness that I set forth  the imperative boldly on its very own page so as to not be detracted from by any other words on the page (however illustrative or illuminating such words might have been.)

I shared this discovery with my good friend and colleague, Cleo, who appreciated the irony right away.  We enjoyed a good laugh as I asked Cleo to help me try to remember what it was about which I was supposed to create awareness.  Always at the ready with a logical and helpful tip, Cleo suggested that I turn back to the page before this one to see if something I had written there might offer some insight.  The comedy continues as I read the preceeding page that said only, "Ask Cleo."

In the end, I'm not really sure what all that was about.  But I do believe that creating awareness is something I can be doing.  It seems that everywhere I look these days, I'm seeing things about ADHD - news articles, blog posts, personal anecdotes, etc.  I've never noticed this before.  I hadn't really been paying attention. 

Cynics will say that we have the pharmaceutical companies to thank for the increasing dissemination of information on this topic.  Be that as it may, ADHD is as real as it is widely ignored and misunderstood.  If you have a child or an adult loved one with this condition, awareness can lead to helpful tools and resources.  Awareness might save a relationship or improve a child's chances for success in life.

If you suspect you might have ADD/ADHD, awareness offers hope, relief, and perhaps even miracles.  So I'm happy to jump on the awareness bandwagon and share whatever insight or information I can, based on my own experiences and research.

Here's a blog post with an important message, that I happened upon today:  http://apps.detnews.com/apps/blogs/disabilitiesblog/index.php?blogid=573

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's not all bad. . .

The few people that I know personally who have ADD/ADHD are some of the funniest people that I know.  And they'd be even funnier if they wouldn't forget the punch line half way through telling a joke! Ha!  Ba-dum chhh. . .

There aren't too many conditions/disorders out there whose symptoms give rise to slapstick and comic mayhem the way ADHD does. I mean, really, what's not funny about finding your spouse's cell phone in the freezer? 

If you're the owner of the frosty cell phone who just spent the morning tearing apart the laundry room because you are absolutely convinced that you left your phone in a laundry basket filled with your family's dirty socks (after all, where else would any sane person store a cell phone?), then you might not be laughing. . .at least not at that moment. 

But for all of us humans, I think, the ability to laugh at ourselves in appropriate - and some inappropriate - times is critical for our own happiness and that of others around us.  And let me tell you, ADHD generates a lot of excellent material!  Based on the little graphics that I found and am borrowing for this post, I do believe I'm not alone in that opinion.  So I shall leave you with a riddle.

Why did the chicken cross the road? 
Answer: He has no freaking idea.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'm sorry, what are we talking about?

I was chatting with a friend today, sharing with her that I was writing this blog. She found it interesting (in a good way, not in a furrowed-brow "hmmm. . .thhaat's interesting" kind of way) that I was documenting my experiences with ADHD and emerging from its throes through treatment. She asked a lot of questions, including "why?"

Good question, I thought. Why? 

Well, first, I love to tell a story.  Anyone who knows me at all will attest to that.  And with the verbal hyperactivity, and all, the more words I can use the better the story!  Right?  Okay, I guess it depends on the story and who you ask.  In any event, I do love to tell a story, and this is a huge part of my story.  Only I didn't actually know that until recently. 

Which leads me to my second reason.  Exploration.  I've spent four decades developing a certain picture of myself, my surroundings, and my relationships.  Much of that picture was not pleasant - not what I wanted for myself or my loved ones.  And now, after all this time, a little pill once a day is revealing to me that the picture was not what I thought it was. It might sound trite, but I now find myself in the scary and exciting position of having to rediscover myself without the distorted perception brought on by too little dopamine. 

A third reason is that I'm finding the journey rather fascinating.  My exploration reveals new experiences and insight every day, and I want to be able to remember it.  And if someone out there is struggling with similar issues and happens to stumble upon this page, and is somehow helped by it, that would be truly awesome.

But, as someone who has struggled a lifetime with a lack of focus, motivation, and stick-to-itivness, perhaps the reason most meaningful to me is simply that I can.

Having answered the "why," I, myself, still have a lot of questions about the "what."  And as I'm discovering answers to that question, I thought this might be a good place to share what I am only now learning.  After all, I certainly don't claim to be a professional - just a poster girl. 

The absolutely most informative compilation of information that I have come across so far on the Internet is here at  About.com.  I recommend it highly to anyone who might be interested to know what exactly I've been blithering about.  Definitely check out the myths section.  It's an eye-opener, and reassuring to those of us who kind of already sensed this stuff.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day Fourteen (but who's counting?) - ADHD: Disorder or Dimension?

Yep, I'll admit it - I like me some pot.  The giggles, the munchies, the amazingly intelligent high-level ideas it helps to generate (heh-heh). . .good, clean fun, notwithstanding the irrational illegality of it.  But I won't digress into a soapbox rant here. (Legalize it!!! Okay, I'm done now.) 

One of the things I've always enjoyed most about weed is its magical power to slow time.  Alright, it's not really magic (or is it?); and it's not really slowing time, per se (or is it?), but who really knows what "time" is anyway?  (I'm sure if you ask a bunch of stoners, however, they'll be happy to tell you what "time" is - and it will be brilliant!)

What I'm talking about here is, of course, subjective time deceleration - the perception or feeling that time is passing more slowly than usual. 

The subjective acceleration and deceleration of time is a phenomenon that everyone experiences.  In our culture, this notion is reflected in quaint sayings such as "time flies when you're having fun," and conversely, "a watched pot never boils."  Well, for me, time has always flown, whether or not I was having fun.  Watched pots would boil over in nanoseconds, with no time to even think about preparing to add the spaghetti. 

For as long as I can remember, I'd been in a constant race against the clock, always with the sense that there wasn't enough time, and everything that had to be done took too long.  I was a pathological clock watcher who would peek at the clock seemingly every couple of seconds.  But miraculously every second that I looked at the clock, ten minutes would have passed.  Or a half hour. Or a day. 

As early as my young childhood, I was acutely aware - and scared  - of my mortality because even if I would live to be 120 years old, in my mind (and experience), that century plus would pass in a flash.  And if I didn't proactively race against that passage of time, I would miss it all.

In every aspect of my life, I rushed through tasks and activities to avoid consuming too much time; or, conversely, I neglected to complete projects or engage in activities under the premise that there just wasn't enough time for it. 

As I reflect back, I am aware of the tragic irony of all the hours, months, and probably years that I spent doing nothing but staring, ruminating, and agonizing over how little time I had.  My dad, I recall, lived his life the same way.  And when he died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 65, what he feared most happened:  he ran out of time and had very little to show for it.

I discovered marijuana during grad school.  (Isn't that amazing - how I, of all people, discovered marijuana??  I know - who would have thought!  You're welcome!!)  I remember the evening well.  A neighbor in my apartment building called me to tell me about the "present" her brother had mailed her from out of state, and would I like to come over and part take.  I was feeling adventurous, so I went.  I'd been drunk before - I thought it would be like that.  Much to my pleasant surprise and delight, it wasn't anything like being drunk.  It was awesome.  I had a great time watching "Dracula" and chatting with my neighbor.  I was relaxed and cheerful, and I felt like I didn't want the evening to end.  Well, the evening of course did eventually end, as all evenings do.  But not for a really long time!  Although I was having fun, time actually didn't fly for a change.  It slowed down so much there were points where I thought it had stopped, which was perfectly fine by me. 

The effect of enabling me to actually slow down and savor a pleasant experience became one of the main reasons I would return to my. . .er. . .discovery again and again after that.  Eventually, I learned to take practical advantage of this effect by using it to help me study.  The only semester during which I actually sat down and studied for any length of objectively-measurable time, I did it stoned.  And I did really well that semester, come to think of it.

Despite that, I recognized that walking around high all the time would certainly have its drawbacks, so I didn't. . .and I don't.  Time would continue to race ahead, and I would just have to do my damnedest to beat it there. . .wherever "there" might be. 

As it turns out, "there" ended up being the Shopko pharmacy where I consumed my very first Adderall capsule.  I took it at one in the afternoon.  I would know this, of course, because there was a clock on the wall.  And if there was a clock on the wall, I was staring at it.

As I have already shared, the medication took effect quickly and profoundly, creating noticeable changes right away.  I had a great afternoon.  By bed time that evening, I was so happy and hopeful that it felt like being out in beautiful bright sunshine.  Wait.  Whoa, what's going on here?  That's actually sunshine.  Have we catapulted out of orbit?!  Why is the sun shining at 10:30 at night?  What?!  It's only 5:30 in the afternoon???  How can that be?

Oh, it be.  If I had to rank all the wonderful changes medication has brought about, by far the most significant  and far-reaching one has been a complete alteration of my perception of time.  Time has slowed down.  And not just for a few precious hours until the THC wears off.  But all day, every day that I take my pill.  The hours don't just vanish as though they never were.  And I wouldn't really even know if they did because, strangely, I don't have the urge to watch the clock.  When I do peek at the clock, I'm amazed to discover that I still have time.

On the flip side, tasks that used to feel like they would take forever have become remarkably manageable. . .and quickly taken care of.  That phenomenon remains a bit of a mystery to me, leading me to question whether I really have a neurological problem or whether I simply reside alone in some quantim plane, apart from everyone else. 

But perhaps I'm not alone.  In my casual Internet research of ADHD, I came across a little article that proposes that a faulty perception of time may lie at the heart of the hyperactivity component of ADHD.  Although this suggestion makes a great deal of sense, given my personal experience, it's not nearly as sexy as the thought of occupying my own dimension.  But I'll take sanity over sexy at this point and keep taking my pills so I can live in this world with everyone else.

As an aside, I was also interested to learn recently that there are some folks out there who support the use of medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for ADHD.  Personally, I wouldn't be interested in going that route; but given my own experience, I'm curious if it isn't the alteration of time perception that makes the treatment effective, if in fact, it is an effective treatment. 

In any event, I find the whole thing captivating.  I've always been interested in time - what it is, even if it is.  When I was in college, I started reading what I'm sure was a fascinating book on the topic of time.  But the chapters were very long and the font was so tiny, that I couldn't get through more than a few pages.  I'm thinking that perhaps I'll try to track that book down and take another look at it. . .now that I have all this extra time on my hands.