Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I ♥ Big Pharma

Let me tell you about me. I mean, I know this is my blog, so that's what I've been doing all along, but bear with me. I'm writing about this partly for the benefit of other people who might be like me. And now you get to know more about me. Are you super excited?

I function pretty well when I have a consistent routine. I function pretty well when I can keep my obligations to just one thing per day. Or maybe every other day. I do pretty well when I don't have to remember stuff on my own. This is why, since I left school, I haven't been a complete mess.

(I originally wrote the following paragraph with "we" instead of "they," but despite all signs pointing to "yes," I still hesitate to diagnose myself--out loud, anyway.)

This is typical for *women with ADHD, by the way. Women usually favor the inattentive type. Less with the hyperactivity. It goes unnoticed because they don't normally cause problems in school. They turn in assignments late. They struggle to finish assigned readings (unless the reading is super interesting; then they finish them weeks early by staying up until 4am until the book is done). They lose car keys. But they don't usually inconvenience other people, so it never gets addressed.

Until you're 33, and your kids are in school and have projects to do and need their own routines enforced, and all you want to do is nap because otherwise you have to face the mountain of things to be done. Because of me, Grace nearly missed an entire project last year. That's when I started thinking seriously about this. I first saw it on the Dr. Oz show when I was at the gym. I think Dr. Oz is all kinds of things, but "reliable source of medical information" isn't usually one of them. I have, however, picked up one or two useful things from his show. So after the initial brush-off and my complete failure in keeping track of a first grader's schoolwork, I started looking more deeply.

Just Google "ADHD in women," and you will come up with article after article that describes my life. I don't think mine is severe; I've been able to pass as a functional adult for quite a while. I'm not crippled by this in the true sense of the word "crippled." Until now, I've only ever failed myself. But then Grace's school projects started making me hyperventilate. And Emmy started showing signs, and I learned that routine is the key to managed children's ADHD, and I can barely manage my own routine, much less impose one on my half-feral child.

I can't cope by fleeing responsibility anymore, so here we are. I'm finally doing something about it.

Today I started week two of Strattera. I KNOW that it's supposed to take a full two weeks of this stuff before most people see improvement, but I am telling you, I am functioning well above my normal level these days. And it's not a stimulant, so it's not because I'm high. I know the placebo effect can be powerful, but I swear this is something else.

No anxiety. I don't feel like I'm choking on the (totally reasonable to a normal person) adult responsibilities I have.This week, I have two different friends' houses to clean, plus my job at church. I am not dreading this; I am looking forward to it. Even physical work, when it's an obligation or on a deadline, makes me anxious. Not today! I just keep thinking about how great it will be to have something to do all day. I've learned to ignore the dread and embrace obligations because, once I start, I enjoy good, hard work. But I've never been free of the sense of dread leading up to it.

No exhaustion. Folks, I am tired all the time, unless I'm up and moving. It doesn't matter what vitamins I take, whether I get enough sleep or not. I am just tired. There's a baseline of tiredness I have just learned to accept. It has become the new normal. Until now, I didn't realize how much of that was mental exhaustion. With the exception of the day I started Strattera and the day my dosed bumped up (yesterday), I have felt energetic throughout the day for the last week. The only other time I feel like this is when I'm **camping. I feel light and free.

Focus. I cleared out the kids' play room today. It took me two hours. I filled three garbage bags of junk, and about half again that much went to the thrift store. I went through a stack of old school binders. I picked up an article about ancient Lachish that I never got around to reading when it was assigned (judging by the lack of fold marks around the staple, anyway). I read the whole thing. My eyes didn't slip over the boring paragraphs--which, with this kind of writing, is all the paragraphs. I didn't go back and reread sentences over and over again before I actually read them. The information was interesting, so I took it in. I rifled through my old papers. The majority of them would have been high grades, if they hadn't been turned in late.

Morning person. Okay, I'm still not a morning person, but I don't need a full hour of what I imagine dying feels like before I can stand to listen to other people talk. In fact, when it's time to get up, I just get up. It doesn't feel like dying anymore. And so far, I have slept really well at night. My insomnia comes and goes, and it hasn't been as persistent in the last year as it used to be, so I hesitate to declare this a fix yet. But... yeah. I've been sleeping great.

This is like how I felt when the buspirone kicked in, only more complete. Buspirone helped with the anxiety and the overwhelmed feelings, but it didn't do much else. Those two things were a huge help, but it wasn't quite hitting the mark. And maybe this isn't the solution yet, but it's certainly a step closer.

I recently read an article on how ADHD isn't real. The author claimed that since the symptoms are things that all people experience to one degree or another, it was too nebulous a thing to be defined. I call that nonsense. Everyone gets headaches; migraines and cluster headaches are still a special thing. Everyone feels sad and apathetic; depression is still a real, treatable illness.

I don't believe that we have even begun to touch the surface of mental disorders and their possible treatments. If the mind were earth, we would still be calling America "The New World," if we were even that advanced. It's possible the idea of ADHD as we know it is completely different from what it really is and what really causes it. But in the meantime, so what? If you're having real trouble functioning in the way you need to, and something helps, go for it. I would love it if our society worked in such a way that I could be out in the sun and carry around heavy things all day, but that's not what we have. In the meantime, I'll take what I can get to be a half-decent mom and stop having to nap all the time.

*This is actually part of a larger problem in medicine. So much of what we "know" has been derived from male-focused studies. It's pathetic and little funny when it comes to ADHD, but with things like heart attacks, it can be downright fatal.

**My theory on camping is that I'm ideally suited to just work physically all day, to not have to think and do things outside my tasks. Give me good physical work and all-day sunshine, and I am at my best. If I were an animal, I would be a majestic ox.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hoo Boy

I started an ADHD medication today (that supplement helps, but I still want more help). I was a little irritated with my doctor.

Me: I'd like to be evaluated for ADD.
Him: Why is that?
Me: *Abandons mentally itemized list of textbook symptoms* I can't pay attention. And. Uh. Insomnia. My mind doesn't shut off at night. I feel constantly overwhelmed.
Him: How did you do in high school?
Me: *Abandons mentally itemized list of ways that life and school have felt like a constant string of--at best--Stooge-like pratfalls* Well, I'm smart. Ish. And, uh, high school wasn't terrible because I could learn enough just by being present to get OK grades. And then college was terrible. I was lost most of the time. It was hard.
Him: OK, what type of treatment are you looking for?
Me: *Abandons mentally itemized list of coping mechanisms that I have developed that are now failing me* I don't even know. I don't think I need anything super strong. I just couldn't even handle my first grader's projects last year, and I'm dreading this school year with two of them doing real school. Things.
Him: Well, I don't prescribe Adderall or Ritalin [which, despite the fantastic weight loss appeal, I'm not really interested in anyway], but you can try out this sample of Strattera.
Me: OK

fin

I mean, if he's not qualified to give that evaluation, that's great, but if I have it, I want to have a doctor tell me, "You definitely have ADD," so I can start using it as an excuse for everything normal that I can't seem to do. Just kidding. Kind of. And if I don't have it, I clearly need a life coach. So, I don't know. I don't even know how insurance works with these kinds of things. If I want a formal evaluation, can I just make an appointment with someone? Or do I have to get a referral from my doctor? Does that mean I have to go back? Does that mean I have to pick up the phone and make another appointment?

I just don't even know. I don't mind (some of) the flightiness and the slight craziness. I kind of like a lot of those aspects of my personality. They're fun. But I don't want to feel like vomiting every time my kid brings home a project. I don't want to forget appointments and small but important tasks. I don't want to lie awake at night wondering about the phases of the moon and why locusts eat so much and how do skunks stand to be around each other?

So I started this sample. It's a big sample. Like 45 days worth, starting at 25 mg and working up to 80. It's supposed to take 2 weeks to see any benefits, and then 2 weeks after the full dose starts is when you can really assess its efficacy. Yesterday I took my first sample, and I basically napped all day. It was wonderful, yet also frustrating. It felt so good to slip into sleep so easily, but, you know, child neglect and needing clean clothes and things like that. I slept like a rock last night, which might have been simple exhaustion. I haven't slept well in a couple of weeks.

Today, I took it with some apprehension. It was the girls' first day both in school. I wanted to use all that time as much as possible. No napping! I went for my first swim in a long time. No amount of weightlifting or running makes swimming easy the first time. There was a lot of gasping for air by the wall between sets. Then I lifted. It was leg day. I really hate leg day. You'd think with all that running, I'd have strong legs, but they're surprisingly weak. The squat rack is my own personal cage of humiliation.

Then work at the church. And here is where I swear the Strattera is already kicking in. I sat down, did my job, never lost focus, and got it done in three hours. I didn't even realize it until I was almost finished. I had at least half an hour of extra work this week, and I finished half an hour faster than I normally do. Huh.

I got the kids from school, made dinner, cleaned the kitchen, and went to back to school night. At no point did I feel overwhelmed today. It was weird. I have good and bad days, but there is usually at least one point during the day when I feel overwhelmed. On a good day, it's because my house actually is a mess, and there really are a lot of things to do. On a bad day, it's because I have to buy deodorant for Jeremy, and there are too many choices (this is a real example, and I seem to remember reaching out and grabbing the nearest one, then running away). Today was ripe to be a bad day. Back to school night alone is its own mountain of details and obligations and too many people talking. But I was fine.

So, I don't know. It still could have just been a good day, but maybe this will work out. And I didn't nap at all today!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Make it stop

I’m so sick of the gorilla story.

Reasons I am NOT sick of it:

1. I hate gorillas and think this particular one wasn’t important at all.
2. I think the mom did nothing wrong and is a special unicorn.

I’m sick of it because all of a sudden everyone knows two things:

1. That he or she would never look away long enough for said child to something idiotic and insane in the worst setting possible.
2. How he or she would react in such a situation.

I know exactly two things about myself/my family:

1. My kids are naturally pretty calm and well behaved. We didn’t do this. They came out that way. But Emmy is a wanderer. Every once in a while Grace’s brain shorts out, and she does something awful and completely out of character (like that time last October she stuffed her mouth FULL of vitamin D capsules she filched out of a tall cupboard). Thank God they have never done insane things in a busy street or a gorilla exhibit or with toxic vitamins, but it is not outside the range of possibility. I have lost Emmy at the zoo a few times. (This is actually why we don’t go anymore.) The last time we went, she just kept slipping away, silent like a snake. She once did a swan dive face-first off the changing table in the three seconds it took me to turn away and look at her sister’s owie. Sometimes it’s the well-behaved kids that do these things the most easily, since your guard is down. They know this and will exploit it.
2. Sometimes I surprise myself with how cowardly I am, and sometimes I surprise myself with how brave I am. I just never know what is going to happen. I am 99% sure jumping into the gorilla exhibit to save my kid wouldn’t even have occurred to me.

Can I say something crazy here? Can I say that mom could have done a better job in that specific moment, that this happened because she was too inattentive? Can I then also say that it could have been me? Or you? Or any of us? You can say a woman messed up without demonizing her. We can have compassion and be upset or angry about the situation at the same time.

If you do not leash, carry, stroller, or glue your child to your body every single time you are in the vicinity of something dangerous, this could happen to you and your kid.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Update

In a surprise to no one (except me), I ran out of my brain enhancing supplement because I forgot to order more. I emptied the bottle into my hand the other morning, and thought, "Huh. That's strange."

News flash, Naomi: THINGS RUN OUT.

More should be here tomorrow. This is good because, if I wasn't sure it was helping after I started taking it, I know for a fact that it helps now that I've run out. Life is for sure more exciting when surprises (aka things I've planned/ordered/promised and then forgotten) happen all the time. But panicked flight from one barely-remembered activity to another is not how I enjoy spending my life. Thank goodness the kids are on a two-week break from school right now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Facebook, late at night

When I've had some wine, a thing usually happens to me. A thing where I go about sharing all of my reserved feelings with everyone. I don't mean a drunken sloshed-up sentimental tirade. I mean an almost-entirely-sober gushing forth of all the emotions I typically find too vulnerable.

"I love you. You have no idea what your friendship means to me," I say to that woman who showed up with margaritas once four years ago when Jeremy was out of town forever, and one of my kids had a weird illness that kept us couch-bound for days.

"Oh... Kay..." she says.

"NO I MEAN IT."

Or, "Your hair is so pretty. How is it so shiny?" Or, "Your cake tastes like unicorn fruit, and can I live here?"

It's like I am holding back everything at all times, so the slightest lowering of inhibition (we're talking a single glass of wine here, friends) sends it flying out at anyone in my path. I don't feel repressed at any other time, but apparently I am. One glass of wine, and I will begin to tell you how lovely and kind and meaningful you are with the intensity of a Jack Nicholson character.

Well the same kind of thing happens on Facebook late at night. I go on sprees of liking and commenting (I never say anything I don't mean, mind you, but that actually makes it more uncomfortable sometimes), then wake up the next morning and have no idea why I have all these notifications.

I'm a super night owl. If I didn't have a very specific routine and didn't take mind-quieting drugs, I would never sleep. In ten years I would still be awake like a cat strapped to the hood of a speeding car. So I don't know why I get so weird at night. It's not as if I'm tired.

But for some reason, come 11:00, I perceive myself as the cleverest person on earth. I spend ten minutes crafting a witty comment, cackling all the while, and wake up the next morning to an effusive word salad. It's both embarrassing and amusing. I'm not sure I dislike it enough to ban myself from Facebook after 11.

There are odd things about myself that I like, and I'm not sure why. So if you've encountered this side of me, don't worry for my sanity. I'm just as bananas as I've always been, and it's never turned violent. So we're good, right?

Right?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Weird things that stress me out

"It goes by so fast! Treasure every moment!"

I hate that.

My kids are to the age where I do want time to stop; I want them to freeze right now, while they are sweet and carefree, but old enough for basic logic. If kids teleported to this stage after 6 months, we would probably have ten of them.

But I have no regrets about looking forward to when my toddlers and preschoolers were older. Of course I miss the fat rolls and on-demand snuggling. OF COURSE. Unless your life is an unmitigated hell, there is always something to miss. The frustration of those years changed me into a better mother and forged a bond with my kids that can't be replicated.

However. I do not regret casting my mind forward to the future in order to get myself through another day with a one year old and a two year old. I do not regret visualizing grown-up conversations with my three year old while she threw herself face-first off a piece of furniture and cried into my arms for the third time that day. I do not regret gagging and gritting my teeth through yet another stomach bug where my vomit-covered babies required immediate hugs.

I know some people get through those days by reminding themselves that these years are short, that the baby fat turns to ribs and lean muscle. I get that. You do whatever it takes to find joy in the moment.

But for me, knowing that these years are short is exactly what got me through it, for exactly the opposite reasons. I knew there would come a time when I would be able to have a conversation at dinner with my six- and seven-year-old about Harry Potter, and we would all more or less understand what each of us were saying. One of them would no longer scream until snot fell into the dinner I spent an hour crafting, while the other refused to eat anything but salad (yes, this is a valid complaint when it is literally the only thing your always-hungry child will eat) and rubbed the rest of her food all over her body.

During that time, commands to TREASURE IT only stressed me out. Someday I'll be 35 years old, and my kids will be at school, and my dried-up womb and I will sit on the living room floor, sobbing into baby clothes. 

No.

I'm not 35 yet, but this hasn't happened. Every time I eat dinner with a mom of a very young child, and her dinner gets cold while she cuts up his food into tiny pieces, I think, "I'm so glad that's over." Every time I change the diaper of a friend's baby, I think, "I'm so glad we don't have to pay for these anymore." Every time I hear a toddler throw a fit in a store, I remember every time I had to wrestle a writhing 30 pounds of Emmy out of Target in a swirl of humiliation and think, "YES! It's not mine!"

There are things I miss, but as a whole? I'm so glad those days are over.

(this is where God decides it's time for a surprise baby, right?)
_________________________________________________________________________
Now, the other thing that stresses me out, and this one is super weird.

Coloring books.

They're supposed to relieve stress, right? No. No, I look at a coloring book in the store and I feel like I'm looking at my term paper I haven't even started that's due tomorrow. Even pictures of them on Facebook stress me out. I can barely look at this image:


I just broke out into hives.

It is the weirdest thing, and I want an explanation for it. I keep Googling things like, "Coloring books make me anxious" and, "Adult coloring books cause me more stress," and I come up with everything except an explanation. On a planet with seven billion people, I find it hard to believe that I am unique in any one area, but this might be it. I may be the only person on earth who breaks into a sweat looking at a coloring book.

I don't know if any of you are psychologists (via a legit school or Google university, I don't care), but I really want an explanation for this.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On a lighter note

Emmy has begun trying to read. A couple of months ago, she could recognize maybe five letters and would literally run away every time I cracked open a book to read to her and her sister. A couple weeks ago, she still thought all letters made the same sound that they start with. And then today, she comes up, points to the Mary Kay brochure I have sitting on my night stand, and reads, "Earn While You Learn," needing no help except with "while." I don't know how "wh" threw her off when "earn" and "learn" did not, but whatever. It's Emmy.

I've been a little nervous about her non-reading because I am reading more and more about how beneficial it is to let kids learn to read when they want to and when they are ready. For a lot of kids, this happens as late as age 7. It was no problem with Grace. She has had a book glued to her face almost from birth. But I was a little concerned that Emmy would flunk kindergarten for not being able to read. I have no concerns about her mental development, but I am a little concerned that her extreme creativity might get squashed in traditional schooling. And I REALLY don't want to homeschool, ever. If my kid clearly needed something else, I'd do it, but it's like saying I'd eat live frogs if I were starving to death.

So she's suddenly reading words like "earn" and "learn," but can't read "boat" or "cat." I think she might take the same approach to reading as she did to talking: begin with odd words, hide ability for a long time, and then profit when everyone underestimates her. I still can't figure out if she's an evil genius, or if she really does just operate on a different wavelength from the rest of us. Maybe both.