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.