Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crystal Clear, Light, Grippy, Sharp

I was diagnosed with ADHD when Kellie was just a little over a year old. But my symptoms go back as far as I can remember. At the time of diagnosis - I was referred to mental health for failing the postpartum depression quiz at Kellie's wellbaby visit. Months of counseling and a psychiatric evaluation confirmed that my symptoms were not caused by postpartum depression but instead by having a new life to care for and none of the cope-with-your-ADHD skills I had acquired throughout my own life. See - I was capable of taking care of myself, but the new little one threw a real wrench in my coping mechanisms.

In my youth -

I did poorly in school - but was always labeled as "bright" and I tested very well.

I barely graduated high school - I was enrolled in an alternative program to allow me to catch up on credits.

I was often labeled a "dreamer" in class.

I was/am a terrible listener. Truth.

Because my symptoms of ADHD were crippling my ability to be a good wife and mother - I weaned Kellie from nursing at fourteen months and started medication. Stratterra. My husband's description of me for those few short months on the drug was "a very productive zombie." Looking back - I couldn't agree more. I accomplished everything I set my mind to, but I was never spontaneous, rarely smiled, and was generally quiet (compared to un-medicated me)

I gave up on the idea of medication - wanting to see the world in color, not black and white.

Four years later, my symptoms are again hampering my ability to care for myself and my family.

I forget things - often.

My girls will ask me to play a game with them - and I will answer yes only to sit down and take a turn or two before becoming distracted. I sit there and think about all the things I could be doing. And because I know myself, and I know I won't DO them unless I act upon the thought, I say something like "Mama will be right back, I just need to start the dishwasher." And hop up between turns. I run to the kitchen, also knowing that if I don't head straight back, I won't head back. Once in the kitchen, I will forget what brought me there. But I'll notice that the garbage is full. So I figure that must be why I'm there. I take out the garbage and notice that I forgot to put my shoes away. Not wanting to miss the game with the girls, but also not wanting my dog to treat herself to another of my favorite pair of shoes, I scoop them up and tell myself I'll quickly put them away and the girls won't notice the extra two minutes. While I'm putting away the shoes, I notice that the girls coats are on the floor by the closet door. So I'll grab those and run them downstairs to their hooks. Where I'll see Kellie's backpack and remember I left a soiled shirt in her wetbag. So I'll take the wetbag out REAL QUICK and run it to the laundry room. Where I see that I have a load of laundry that has been washed and re-washed more times than I can count, but I know it needs to be washed...and while I'm in the laundry room... I add detergent to the load and wash it for the fiftyleventh time. At that point, the dogs whine that they need to go outside and I think - this is the LAST thing - and let them outside. While I'm waiting for them to come back, I'll pop into Facebook and check my notifications. And I'll forget I left the dogs outside. So Zoe will jump the fence. And I'll go running down the street in my nightgown trying to get her back. When I do - I'm so angry at her, I kennel her. And I notice that the playroom has toys all over the floor. So I ask the girls to come pick up their toys before the other dog eats them. And then, the girls ask me if I'm going to finish our game. And I say - YES! I want to, but I need you to pick up your toys first, please. So they do (because they're usually pretty awesome) and while they are busy I think I'll just make myself a quick cup of tea. And while I am in the kitchen, I realize that it is almost lunch time. So I make lunch - allowing them plenty of time to dawdle while they clean. When they finish cleaning and race back to the board game - I call out that lunch is ready. They are hungry, but they want to finish the game, so I promise we will finish it RIGHTAFTER lunch. I promise. And then they finish eating before I do. And they forget about the game. And so do I.

Notice I never started the dishwasher?

I know that might not seem like a big deal to some folks. But this is a daily occurrence - sometimes multiple times a day. And it is not only the girls who suffer from my Squirrel! mentality. (That's a movie reference, Up ;) ) My husband, my friends, and my family have either learned to tolerate it or have found a way to overlook it - laughing off my Laura moments.

Today - I took Adderall.

And it was... marvelous.

I came up with this description to describe my new-found freedom -
My entire life, I have felt like pulling a thought out of my brain or completing a task that was uninteresting or mundane was akin to spinning wheels in mud. Eventually, something would come along that would pull or push me out of the mud rut. But left to my own devices, I would spin and spin all day - barely gaining ground, if ever. Since I would often get stuck, I would repeat a lot of the same things to people. I've probably bored a few to death with regurgitated stories, sorry about that. And other times, spinning allowed me to rehearse conversations before they happened...only, I'd convince myself they actually happened because of the rehearsal. So my parents would go weeks without important information and I would say "Didn't I tell you that?" Because I honestly thought I had.

30 minutes after I took Adderall - it was like the roads were no longer muddy. Driving became effortless.

I could listen to my daughter's conversations between them - marveling at how sweet they were being to one another - and THINK about it while I heard it. I didn't miss a thing.

What was once darkness is now light. And when Brian and I relayed our days to each other this afternoon - I remembered it ALL. All of it. Even the cute little things the kids did that I made a mental note to share with Brian.

This medication is a slow release - and I'm sad to say the effects are gone now. Blogging now feels fuzzy compared to today. And I felt the clarity slipping away - ten hours after I took the pill.

I'm all about analogies - because, how do you explain living in a mind with ADHD to someone who...doesn't? You know when the eye doctor asks which is clearer - 1 or 2? And 2 is obviously clearer? You see the same letter - but one is in focus and one is not. As the clearness of Adderall slipped away from my mind - I went from a 2 to a 1. And I was sad.

I was sad that I couldn't offer my husband the same clarity of mind over our dinner conversation that I'd been able to give my girls all day. To retain the information he shared and be able to respond intelligently. I'm sad now, as I know this post is so much more scattered than it should be.

Life with Adderall is crystal clear. I'm still me - I'm just a sharper version of me.

I don't see how I can ever go back. To being fuzzy me.

I wish I could go back in time, go through school again with medication, get the grades I know I am capable of, take my education further. I wish I could go back and live up to the expectations of all those teachers and counselors.

I can't. I know I can't. But... I wonder how different I would be if I had clear memories of the last 27 years. Or even the last 10.

I wish I hadn't waited so long to try a different medication. Stratterra didn't work for me, but that shouldn't have stopped me. I gave up too quickly. And I'm sorry that I did.

Adderall is also the reason I am able to blog today - not only the subject of my post. I have had a heavy weight on my mind and have been unable to look around it to blog. But it is not really blog material. So I couldn't blog about it to get it out of my head. I hope tomorrow is as clear as today was - because I really enjoy blogging and hope to do more of it.