I mentioned in a previous post that there are things I really should be blogging about, such as our home reno. I wrote that post back in July. Right now it’s the end of October, and we’re nearing the end of the reno. I’ve taken lots of pictures, sent lots of text and e-mails but blogged zero times about the process. I missed an opportunity to build up a follower / fanbase in the reno blog market. Another big idea bites the dust.
The bigger problem, as I realized when I took a look at my most recent blog post (to catch up on who I am and where I’ve been, since it’s been so long since I’ve logged in here), is that my family and I are living in some alternate universe compared to the life I was living just over three months ago when I wrote it.
At this stage, our lives- or at least our material objects, the spaces where they’re kept, and all of the routines that are associated with those things and places — are completely off balance.
From an ADD perspective, this is akin to waking up in the centre of a corn maze. You know that there is an end goal, and you know that you can get there, even though each path you have the option of taking looks equally promising. It’s dizzying. It’s disorienting. Oh, and there are unicorns in the maze and they are so pretty that you know you must follow them even though they lead you crashing through the undergrowth and then when they disappear into a cloud of cotton-candy scented powder, you have to retrace your steps to the last place you were on the path and ultimately, you’re just looking for your prankster friends who led you into the corn maze, blindfolded, in the first place. And last you checked, your friends are not unicorns.
It’s just like that.
I should explain here that, early in August, the entire contents of my main floor got moved to my bedroom in tote bags and boxes, including art and kitchenware but not including the large furniture. The big pieces were all squished up on top of each other in what was formerly my dining room while the rest of the house got ‘done’. The garage, which was also getting worked on, had been packed with junk which all got moved to enormous and impenetrable piles all through the basement, so you can’t really move around down there either.
Now that the flooring is done in the main parts of the house, we were able to release the furniture from it’s sardine-like positioning in the former dining room and distribute it in the newly opened space on the same floor so that at least we have some couches to sit on— but still no kitchen. Our fridge has remained plugged in throughout this process and we’ve been keeping everything in there including paper plates (don’t hate me– I can’t keep washinhg gross oily foods in the bathroom because the grease will clog up the pipes!) and napkins and plastic grocery bags that currently have no home.
All of this contributes to ample confusion and general disorganization.
The incident that inspired this post happened this morning. I was all ready to take the kids to school and, for once, we were on time. The kids were outside waiting for me, and all I had to do was grab my keys and go… and that’s when I realized that my keys were missing.
It’s a stretch to say that they were ‘missing’. For something to be missing, it has to have a place where it belongs. There has to be a spot where it should be, but isn’t. Right now, there is no natural or contrived place to put my keys when I walk in the door. My key hook, which I am fairly religious about employing, had been sitting on the floor of my office ever since the demolition stage of the reno. I got sick of looking at it last week and it’s currently atop a pile of candlesticks in my bedroom. In short, I no longer have a default place for my keys to be. Somehow, I’ve managed with this handicap until now, but yesterday morning we’d gone so far as to call an Uber to get us out the door when I finally found the keys– under the cushion of our newly accessible couch. I guess I’d been sitting there last night prior to my DS bouncing on it as he ate his post-bedtime snack. I also found my hat and a pair of socks.
Routine is central to the functioning of an ADD individual. Take away the routine, and we need reinvent the passageway from thought to action. It takes so long to form a habit, and when the rug gets pulled out from under you (in this case, literally as well as figuratively, what with the awful old carpets getting ripped out and thrown away), it’s difficult to find your footing again.
Take, for instance, the making of school lunches. Pre-reno, this was also a fraught process. Find the lunch bags, negotiate sandwich contents and snacks, find missing sandwich bags (why can’t they just STAY where they BELONG)? Sometimes I get distracted, but ultimately, lunches are one of the three tasks I need to get myself and the kids through in the morning, so I’ll get there. But when there is no kitchen and not even any plumbing on the same floor as the fridge, putting baby tomatoes in a baggie* can take half an hour when I need to take them to the upstairs bathroom to wash them off first… and I’m back in the corn maze. Distractions abound. The side roads are numerous. Here! Is a girl beating her sibling that I need to attend to. Here! Is the bottom of the pajamas I’ve been searching for. There! Is a pile of library books that is out of control and need stacking. Now, What! Was I up to? Why did I come upstairs again? I’d better go back down and try to figure it out.
In the meantime, the box of tomatoes is sitting forlornly on my dresser, all but camouflaged amongst the scarves and hats that I’ve somehow, miraculously managed to dig out of Basement Mountain now that the weather has grown colder, but which I have no place to put.
Yesterday I discovered a bowl of soup that I’d heated up for DH in the microwave. The microwave is on a chair in my bedroom. I had nowhere to pour out the soup in that moment so the bowl went on my dresser. Of course, I forgot about it and it was still there this morning. Gross, I know, but at least it’s nice and cool and it didn’t rot or attract flies because of the windows we had to leave open to release the smell of plaster drying on the ceiling downstairs.
Oh, how I miss my plumbing. What do you do with all of the sparkling flavoured water that’s been poured into cups by kids with eyes bigger than their bladders and left on the table? You open the door and pour it on the ground. What do you do with a bowl of soup that is probably edible but you don’t want to find out? You can’t spill it out a window. In retrospect, I should have flushed it (yes, we have toilets), but I ended up just dumping it in a garbage bag and hoping for the best.
Speaking of drinks, I have been attempting and forgetting to bring the (compostable!) plastic cups up from the basement for three days. I just keep on forgetting what I originally went down for.
In my last post, I mention being able to drink an espresso before the kid’s bedtime to prevent myself from falling asleep. The espresso machine is now buried somewhere in my garage— I think . So if I want to stay up late, it’s instant coffee for me (downstairs for the milk, upstairs for the sugar, down again for the coffee and hot water…)
Oh, and then there’s the laundry. Normally, we just throw our laundry right down the sitars to the basement (there’s a straight drop) where it accumulates in a pile in the curve of the staircase. It is an extremely convenient practice for me, though it can be alarming for a visitor to see a pair of pants flying past them from the upper landing. There are a number of reasons we can’t do this anymore until the reno is over. First of all, there are people in and out of my house all the time. I don’t need them seeing (or smelling) our underthings. They see enough of my messy life as it is. Second of all, there is the dust and all of the debris that, although, bless them, the Guys are really careful and clean, I can’t imagine that it would be in good taste for anyone to have to shake the wood shavings out of my dirty clothing at the end of the workday. Did I mention that my old laundry machine broke and we can’t get our new laundry machine to work? Piles of laundry behind every door is just one more layer of confusion we have to wade through every day.
I’ve been asked why I we don’t just move out for the duration of the reno. In fact, we were out of town for more than three weeks of it and when we returned, we had to stay with my mom for about four more weeks because the house wasn’t safe enough for the kids. My mom’s was relatively comfortable– at least I could cook macaroni instead of microwaving veggie dogs, however I found it incredibly difficult to be living in two worlds at once. Here, I can’t cook eggs but there I just didn’t have the basic things I needed. Like my office. And my desk chair. And my desk drawers. You get the point.
So this is our life for now. We’re managing, but I am really, really looking forward to being able to come home, now that the reality of what a home is has changed for me. It means being able to hang up my keys , sit on my couch, and empty leftover cereal bowls without having to worry about if I’d ever make it back.
*normally I use reusable tupperwares for this purpose, but my dishwashing mojo is off when I don’t have a kitchen so DON’T THROW RESUABLE DIPER LINERS AT ME!
I can’t sleep.
I can sleep. I can fall asleep as soon as I get in to bed. I can lie down, roll on to my side, and cross the threshold into Dream Land in a way that many people would envy. I can fall asleep within a surprisingly short duration after having drunk an espresso. Like many parents, I can fall asleep faster than my kids– at their bedtime. Which is dinnertime for most adults. But I don’t.
But I do. I fall asleep before the bedtime story is over. I can sleep-read. I want to sleep. I am so tired. I tell myself that I need to stay awake because there are so many things to get done that I didn’t get around to during the day. I’ll just take a ten minute nap.
But I don’t. I wrench myself out of the twin bed and untangle myself from pudgy little arms because there is laundry to catch up on, exercise to catch up on, blogging to catch up on… are we seeing a pattern here? OK, I admit, sometimes it’s just Netflix I want to catch up on, though Netflix is often combined with laundry folding or exercise for me.
The kids like us to lie down with them, and I comply. If I am really really tired at 7pm , I’ll have an espresso first, because I know how very hard it can be to get up again. Despite this, I will still fall asleep with them sometimes. My day can’t end at 9 pm (which is when they actually fall asleep, not when they’re meant to fall asleep). There is always too much to catch up on.
You don’t need to tell me that I would be more productive after a good night’s sleep. I know that I should have a steady bedtime, and that it would lead to an earlier morning and a better start to our days. I know, from those days when I fall asleep at a normal hour, without forcing myself to stay up until some or all of my intended tasks are done, that I can rise without having to battle the sandman for the right.
Certainly, I am more functional in the morning. The quality of my work, when I can get right to it, is fueled by fresh ideas and the potential of a fulfilling day before me. So why don’t I just shut everything down at 11 and turn the lights off at 11:30? I’d be able to get up at 6 or 6:30 with no problem and, at the very least, I’d
It’s something of a vicious cycle, this staying-awake business, and I am certain that it has to do with ADD. I did some reading on ADD and sleep, and, on the surface, it seems like it’s not ADD that is preventing me from getting into bed. Rather, it’s this self-diagnosed disease called Sleep Guilt, discovered by none other than the author of this blog. Sleep Guilt is a condition which causes an otherwise sane person to remain awake out of a sense of obligation to complete a task, and remain awake either until the task is completed or until moments before the otherwise sane person can no longer physically sustain a state of consciousness and must drag her (or him)self up to bed. When suffering from sleep guilt, the otherwise sane party might never even get around to starting said task, often because she (or he) is just too tired to really sustain any meaningful momentum, or sometimes because they get distracted by other, less obligatory but more entertaining things.
The type of sleep disturbances associated with ADD aren’t really in line with the sleep guilt diagnoses. People with ADD often have a hard time falling asleep because their minds are racing, and they have trouble staying asleep because even though their bodies have fallen asleep, their minds are still churning. Their restful period of sleep starts late, making it extremely difficult for them to wake up in the morning, because when their alarms go off, they are still going through the deepest part of their sleep cycle. Interestingly, people with ADD are known to actually fall asleep when forced to engage in an activity they are not interested in. I remember feeling very sleepy in class throughout my childhood, and needing to put my head down on my desk. Now I understand why.
The thing is, I have rarely, in my life, had any trouble falling asleep. As I mentioned above, if I’m tired, I’m sleepy. When I’m sleepy, I sleep. However, I wonder if what I call Sleep Guilt is really just a derivation– a unique manifestation, if you will, of the first two kinds of sleep disturbances I mention above. Perhaps I go through the mind-racing and the sleep-falling stages before I even get in to bed. By the time I lie down, poof! I’m done. It’s an efficient system, if you ask me. Also, when I look at it that way, I feel less guilty.
Now I wonder if I can train myself to stick to an 11:30 bedtime. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. Beneficial? Very likely so. I might have to unsubscribe from my Netflix account.
I think of myself as a relatively insensitive person. That is, I am resilient and I let a lot of things just slide off me like teflon*. However, there are some things, sensory things, that just drive me batty. For example, here I am sitting in the studio (it’s my friend’s work space that she lets me use when it’s empty so I can have some privacy and uninterrupted work time). I realize that I am feeling tense, and that the source of my tension is music coming in through the wall that is shared with a auto-body shop next door. Although it would probably have to be blasting in there for me to be able to hear it, It’s not overly loud in here– I can recognize the songs though I can’t necessarily hear all the words. And it’s not the type music I hate — it sounds like a top 40s radio station. Yet, there is something about it; the tone? the background-ness of it? The bass? That was causing me low-grade distress.
Sometimes, when I sit in the home office I share with my husband, he’ll have something playing in the background. He likes to listen to music while he works. I can’t handle it, not even if it’s on the very lowest volume. I simply can’t focus on whatever is in front of me. It’s different if I’m in a coffee shop or a library or a mall– places where there is a relatively uniform amount of ambient noise and familiar sounds. But at home at night with the kids sleeping, and the only other noise being the one on his computer– it’s so distracting.
ADD is often associated with sensitivity disorders. I hesitate to call my irritation a disorder, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s linked to the ADD.
My solution to this problem is to pull out a set of headphones and turn on an online white noise app. His music, assuming it’s quiet enough, disappears, and I am in a Zone of My Own. Really, it’s like being transported. I think it’s even better for me than medication. I’ve had very poor sleep for the past couple of nights (partly work, partly Netflix), which carries with it it’s own level of stress. Add that to the tension I get from background music, and my stress level goes from a 2 to a 5 without my even being aware of it until I’m suffering from the symptoms. Just now, I put on the white noise app (with a pink noise app playing on top of it for good measure) and as soon as the sound started coming out of the speakers, I felt a huge sense of relief. It’s like my head had been in a bind and I did not even realize it until it came off. I was all clenched up, but wasn’t even aware of the need to relax. It’s a crazy sensation, but very satisfying.
When the bothersome background noise is done, I can turn off the white noise and get a secondary sense of relief from that.
Here are some other things I am sensitive about: I hate fans blowing on me. I don’t mind them too much if they’re the swivel kind, but I can’t stand the constant breeze on any one part of my body. I’d rather be sweaty than have a fan pointed directly at me. On the subject of fans, I hate the way they make the light pulsate, depending on where they are positioned. I once worked in an office where the ceiling fan was positioned under the pot lights and directly above my desk. Also, it was a windowless space I shared with about 7 other people– all of whom really really needed that fan. Of course, I had to concede, but I always worried that I’d have a seizure. I hate having my stomach touched. It actually makes me recoil, even if it’s my kids doing it. That particular sensitivity started around the time of my last pregnancy, so maybe there is a physiological aspect to it.
On the other hand, I love to run fabrics between my fingers, just for the feel. Love having my hair brushed– even though it’s quit tangly, it never hurts. I dislike shoes and love to feel the ground under my feet. Sensitivity, I suppose, goes both ways.
Here is a link to my favorite online noise generator. I am not getting compensated in any way for this endorsement. Just passing along a good tip.
*In no other way would I compare myself to teflon. I no longer own any more teflon or nonstick cookware except for my beloved waffle iron, and that’s on it’s way out too.
Featured image from pixabay.com by Pexels
One of my biggest and most frustrating symptoms of ADD is that I start projects and then don’t finish them. Notice I don’t say that I never finish them. I sometimes do finish them, but their completion has no noticeable correlation to financial pressure, spousal aggravation, time constraints, or any other logical element. If I had to choose one thing that ‘triggers’ the eventual completion of a project for me, I would have to say that it’s mess. When there is a mess, I will eventually clean it up.
And when there is a clean spot, all other members of my family will gravitate there and fill it right up again with beloved yet misplaced objects. That’s my life, but I digress.
All of the above does not apply exclusively to tangible projects. If I make space and time in my life to work on, say, the business I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a few months now, or the course I was taking which cost us several thousand dollars, or the business BEFORE that which I have abandoned and actually whose web address seems to have been scooped up as I neglected to pay for the web hosting; somehow, the time I set aside for those things will get nipped and nibbled at, if not entirely chewed away by the needs of the people around me.
If I sound resentful, I sometimes am. And sometimes I’m not. Them’s the shakes when you’ve got a family. It’s also what happens when people know you to be nice and giving and know that you work from home, which makes you perpetually available. Right now I experiencing heightened feelings of bitterness because it’s been weeks since I’ve had my ‘day on’ where I am granted an entire day with no interruption at the studio to work exclusively towards my own endeavors.
But I digress. Not the name of my blog, but it should be.
In addition to ideas for work, home decor, social events, etc, I also have ideas for blogs. I suppose that I could write about any topic on this blog here, but I feel like I need to limit the posts here strictly to ADHD-related material.
I feel like a blog is a timeline, and if I keep my thoughts on different ideas in separate blogs, then I can reference them more easily. If, in May of 2026, I want to find out how I felt about the month of May in 2017, I will be able to just look it up. Things like this are important to Present me. Not sure if Future me will give a hoot. Sometimes I am afraid of this ego of mine which causes me to behave as though there will one day be enormous value to the ever-accumulating archive of my life. Like I’m van Gogh. Maybe it comes from my life in academia where specialists are always arguing about whether a body of work is attributed to the correct author, or where every tiny detail we discover about the life of a composer is paraded through headlines like it was a cure for cancer.
For example, I would like to have a blog about the weather. I would like to have a blog about the weather in the same way as most people would like to have a cottage in cottage country. Or the way my husband wants a farm. I want a place where I can spend time puttering around with no goals but the pursuit of serenity, and where I can look back and see the impact I’ve had on the place over, or how I’ve changed because of it. That’s the weather blog. Pure, gentle ego.
I want to do a blog about my upcoming home reno. Maybe it’s because, in this day and age when you do anything that requires research, you start out online and you get caught up in the figurative web of information. You can spend all day jumping from site to site as the different ideas pop into your head — or is that just ADD me? Just today I ran a new idea for the kitchen past the contractor. Which gave me a great idea about the bathroom, which led me to do a google search for that feature, which led me to Pinterest, which is it’s own hellish wormhole. I took a look on Etsy to see if I could find some parts, and then on Craigslist and Kijiji to find some coordinating furniture. I never got around to looking at all of the correspondence between me and the contractor and consolidating it into a usable document as I’d meant to do this morning. . A blog is a good way to document all this, and it’s also very interesting, I think, to read about other people’s processes. For example, it took us years of hemming and hawing to even start getting quotes. Once we settled on a contractor, it took me six months to get back to HIM (as opposed to the other way around, which is usually the case. This is not, by the way, a DIY kind of reno that we’re talking about. When you’re ADD, there are some projects that are better left in the capable hands of other people. First we had to get good and tired of washing crumbling particle board out of our pots and finding creative ways to cover the holes where there used to be cupboard doors (but where the particle board is too busy high-diving into my cookware to adequately reattach the missing pieces).
I also have ideas for this blog which I never get around to writing. It’s now almost 1:30 am. It’s finally quiet and nobody is interrupting me. I’m letting the laundry wait. This is how I get real productive time. I haven’t posted in weeks and my last post is not really meant to be read.
Sometimes I think about making a blog about my backyard birds, which are the best pets ever. I also, while I’m cooking, entertain grandiose thoughts of a cooking blog featuring all the crazy recipes that I make crazy fast. I might also turn that one into a book. Another project. Will it happen? There’s no mess involved but the one in my head. Will it be enough?
I’m giving myself 10 minutes to write this post. I’ve been sitting here in the quiet privacy of my friend’s studio but I’ve been working for hours straight… hmm… is this an indication of the drug working…?
Hard to say. That seems to be my theme when it comes to medication.
So in my last post– rather, the one before last I mentioned that I was going to try taking the meds consistently for two weeks. I think I’ll just do this in bullet form, for the sake of brevity and also bc these Drupdates are really just logs.
Sunday, May 14 – ON I think. I hosted a huge party. Like, 100 ppl. But these things are old hat for me now.
Monday, May 15 – ON. I get mad at DH when he reminds me to take my pill. It’s a sore point. I think he thinks it’s much more effective than it really is. He was working from home, which I find to be difficult.
Tuesday, May 16- ON. Really hard to work with hubby home. Tried to get through ‘desk pile’. Didn’t get through much. I think I might have started work on my brochure this day…
Wednesday, May 17 – ON. Midday meeting. Put in lots of time at my desk in the morning and then wasted the rest of the day at the mall, where the meeting was. Sometimes you just need to get out.
Thursday, May 18 – ON. Yoga, dentist, worked on brochure. I think I took it after Yoga… I think. Incidentally, I had a filling without anesthesia. Are you impressed? I am.
Friday, May 19 – ON. Grocery shopping and frenzied cooking in between three different school pickups. I was hoping to get some work done but instead made 70+ pieces of schnitzel. I did get some feedback from friends on the brochures I’d been preparing. I wrote it all down in the grocery store on the notebook I keep in my purse. Schnitzel is a LOT Of work, so when I do it. I just do a lot. Also I had to prepare extra for a friend who had a baby. It was my turn to bring dinner. I had the same experience as I did last time— that I couldn’t figure out how to spice the food properly. I think that my schnitzels were not quite as good this time. It’s really hard to cook when your appetite is suppressed. I rely on instinct but that part of the brain is suppressed as well. I wonder if it’s actually NOT connected to appetite suppression, but more to impulse control??? This is definitely something to explore.
Saturday, May 20 – OFF. Lots of reading, some cleaning.
Sunday, May 21 – ON. Pretty sure. It was a rainy day. Woke up late, watched some TV with the kids, bought gardening supplies, went shopping for reno supplies but everything was closed. Went swimming. Ate Mac N Cheese
Monday, May 22 – OFF. I’m pretty sure. I was out all day on a long-weekend excursion and didn’t feel like I needed them. Which I realize is besides the point because I’m going for consistency here.
Tuesday, May 23 – ON. Spent all day in waiting rooms, tried to read some work material but there were too many stops and starts and people to look after and pay attention to.
Wednesday, May 24 – ON. Took late– about noon. Spent all afternoon at studio, finishing the brochures. What a lot of work they’ve been, but I enjoy it.
Book Review: Hyper: a personal story of ADD Timothy Denevi, Simon & Schuster, 2014
Timothy Denevi introduces all of his characters– historical and contemporary — with a description based on memory, jacket cover, or photograph image and also on his personal impressions of the person. I’ll do the same for him.
Denevi looks out at you from the back flap of his book with a gaze that belies his tenacious relationship with authority. The three-quarter view of his face, with a neat beard softening his tight-lipped smile, sharp nose, and trendily ‘squinching’ eyes, is a story in itself; a hard-won adulthood emerging from a long battle with mental health and self confidence. His forward-facing torso, draped in a bookish professor jacket, leans casually against a wall as if to invite either challenge or earnest inquiry.
Part memoir, part review and critique of the history of ADHD, Hyper is ambitious in trying to intersperse Denevi’s personal experience with the story of ADHD’s changing and expanding scientific, medical, and pharmaceutical paradigms.
Denevi’s recounting of life from toddlerhood to university is compelling. He is as successful as one can be in helping the reader understand what is going on in the mind of a child who, at various points throughout history, might have been institutionalized, imprisoned or otherwise segregated, corporeally punished, and called repressed, hyperkenetic, or minimally brain damaged. One early thinker, we learn, might have even threatened him with execution.
Denevi takes no hostages, and calls out those who helped and hurt him along the way– an act that also reveals how crucial good mentors and friendships were to him and to those whose growth and development are similarly tumultuous. His parents, though they struggled alongside him, were ultimately his biggest advocates and supporters as he went from being Goomba to Timmy to Tim. His psychologists were trustworthy and nonjudgmental, and a teacher’s cooperation, understanding, or lack thereof was highly correlative to the degree of academic and social success that Denevi would achieve throughout his years in school.
The nearly 120-year-old history of ADHD as described by Denevi, and the development of associated treatments and medications, does not exactly parallel Denevi’s experiences. However, the information in the book is well researched and interesting in it’s own right. Along the way, we encounter the jerky and meandering trajectory of research, and the confluence of psychology, educational philosophy, and pharmacy which have brought us to today’s standard of diagnosis and care for people with ADHD.
As a mother, what struck me the most as I read this book was how much time energy Tim’s mom devoted to the wellbeing of her eldest. While, on one hand, devotion and motherhood tend to go hand in hand, I can tell you, based on my own experience, that Mrs. Denevi’s standard of care went above and beyond. Perhaps it’s the ADD in me talking, but the commitment to weekly psychiatry sessions and teacher correspondence, monitoring, and medicating, not to mention her perseverance through some of Timothy’s more rueful behavior as a young adult, on top of the usual homework and extracurricular duties and taking care of her other two children, working a full time job, and keeping house, is an amazing accomplishment. Even when suffering from her own newly diagnosed and debilitating arthritis while Timothy is in middle school, Mrs. Denevi is a pillar and a guide to her child. Denevi also describes his father as being supportive and loving throughout the challenges they faced as a family.
Of course, the degree to which it was necessary for Denevi’s parents to persist in advocating for him also reinforces the degree to which Denevi is affected by ADHD, and how severe his condition was. One shudders to think what happens to children whose parents or teachers do not have the resources to deal with the disorder, especially in a form as extreme as Denevi seems to have experienced.
I also felt connected to Denevi for the fact that he and I are just about the same age. Although I did not seek a diagnosis until adulthood, I was aware of my differences in the same way as Denevi describes. I remember the growing awareness of ADD in the school system from the time I first became conscious of it and until today when at least half the families I know are affected by it. As an educator, I have learned so much about it. I hope that books such as Hyper will help policymakers, educators, parents, and society at large understand Attention Deficit Disorder and develop strategies to maximize the potential of those with ADHD while minimizing the detrimental effects it can have.
We do a lot of hosting at our house, and that means a lot of cooking for me. I don’t particularly like cooking, but apparently I’m not half bad at it. Rather, I am half bad at it but the half that’s not completely burnt, over-boiled, or otherwise wasted due to negligence usually tastes pretty good, I’m told.
I always joke that most husbands, when they get in the door, call out ‘Honey, I”m home!’ My husband will walk in and automatically call out “Babe, what’s burning?”
Actually, that’s not a joke at all. He says that every single time he comes in the house. Of course, with the fire alarm blasting (mine speaks English and French: FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. And sometimes CARBON MONOXIDE! MONOXYDE DE CARBONE! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.) and the kids fighting over the chance to stand on a chair with the broomstick (which we keep against the wall for this exact purpose) and stab the darn thing into silence on it’s elusive sweet spot (HUSH MODE ACTIVATED. MODE HUSH ACTIVÉ), there is no denying what I’ve been up to. Here’s another joke, but not: How do you know when it’s dinner time at my house?
But I digress…
It’s not entirely accurate that I don’t like cooking. It’s true that I’d rather be… dunno… writing, reading, hiking, not cooking etc. but I like cooking better than, say, washing dishes or bringing the trash cans in from the curb. Cooking is a chore but not the worst chore. The part I really don’t like is cleaning. Cooking means cleaning; it’s inevitable. And when you cook in a mad, hyperfocused frenzy like I do, the mess gets bigger and bigger throughout the process until it almost takes over the counter entirely., and sometimes the floor. Peelings, wrappers, dirty dishes… I hate them all. I can cook a four course meal (soup, sides, salads– yes, all plural– and main) in under two hours but the kitchen is positively ravaged when I’m done.
I never make desert, though. Guests are responsible for bringing desert, or else I cut up fruit after I serve the main course when things have calmed down a bit. I almost never bake. I hate it, and I am terrible at it. When you bake you need to be so careful about measuring and having just the right ingredient and other dull and unnecessarily uptight details. And it makes so much more mess. Not worth it.
When I cook it’s a largely spontaneous experience and always experimental, like an art piece. I know roughly what I’m making because I shopped for it that morning and it’s in the fridge waiting. But I never know exactly whether the ground beef is going to be meatballs, patties, bolognaise sauce, or lasagna until I start cooking. Herbed? Sweet n’ sour? You just never know. I might consult a recipe for inspiration, but then I always revert to whatever I think is more fitting or (let’s be honest) whatever method will result in fewer dirty pans. I have a lot of spices, and I’ve developed a feel for how to make them my own, and how much I can tweak a recipe before it turns the corner from home or exciting to meh.
Last week I was on the meds while cooking. I’d had a lot to do that day and cooking was just one of the items on the agenda, albeit a large item. I started cooking earlier than I normally would, which is maybe evidence of the medication serving it’s intended purpose. The meds were still in full effect and my appetite was pretty suppressed.
All of a sudden I realized that I had no idea what spices to use in the dish I was making. I scanned my spice rack, waiting for the right ones to pop out at me as they usually do, but they all looked the same– bland. I had to really stop and think about it in a logical fashion; What might taste good in this meat? Cinnamon? No that’s Middle Eastern and not what I’m going for. Garlic? Well yes, obviously but… oregano? Yes, that sounds Italian.. I think I’m going for ‘Italian’…
It may not sound like a big deal, but the experience was it was kind of freaky and unsettling for me. I didn’t have any precedent for this kind of feeling, and I was unsure of how to handle it at first. Imagine trying to paint a ladybug, looking at a palette of paint colours and not having any point of reference for which puddle to dip your brush into. You know it should be obvious, but the answer is somehow eluding you, like in a dream.
Well, I’ve been cooking dinners for over a decade now and my inference, if not my instinct, kicked in. I know ladybugs are red, and so I dipped my brush into the puddle labeled ‘red’. I made the food. It wasn’t artistic, but it was good, they tell me. Essentially, it was formulaic, like baking.
What an unexpected side effect for ADD / ADHD medication; Regular function might be impaired due to lack of appetite. More accurately, it was a side effect of a side effect. I wonder what other side of side effects I’m experiencing that I haven’t yet noticed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any effects at all.
Before I sign off, I want to include another story about food and my husband, just to redeem his reputation in case you think, based on this post, that he is overly harsh or critical.
When we were engaged, and this was way back before I became the gourmet chef that I am today, it was pumpkin season, and I was taken with the notion of making pumpkin soup. Working from my gut, I brought the pumpkin home, baked it, peeled it, pureed it, and spiced it, and then served it to my fiancee and a friend of mine for dinner that night. The soup was horrible and not at all what I’d intended. I couldn’t eat it and neither could my friend. But my darling man tasted it, said “It’s not that bad, maybe I’ll just put some humus in it.” Yes, he ate the whole bowl with humus in it. And that is why I love him.
Notice: No ladybugs were harmed or ingested in the writing of this blog post or ever, really, by the author, to the best of her knowledge.
I saw my Shrink again last week, and here’s what I had to report:
When I first got this new round of prescription after our last appointment and I started taking the medication, it was the week before winter break. I took it the first day and the second day, but on the third day I felt all cloudy and disoriented. I think I skipped that day– or the next. I had started a list so that I could keep track and maybe chart the effects of the medication on my productivity– because, ultimately, increased productivity is my goal. At least, I think I started a list. I have one attached to my pill bottle with an elastic band but it has some very random dates on it. Seems I haven’t been keeping track very well.
Strike one against the effectiveness of medication, I guess.
I wasn’t sure if the cloudiness was due to some side effect of the medication or a withdrawal from it. All I knew is that I was barely functional. I could hardly prepare school lunches– something that is usually rote for me and doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking (though I still hate doing it and it sill takes me waaay too in the morning.)
On the other hand, i also had a cold, and this could have led to the cloudy feeling as well. Coffee helped. Napping too, though how much of an opportunity do I really get for that?
For me, the problem with being in a fog goes even deeper than zombie-like, purposeless wandering. It reinforces a deep fear of mine, which is that I will become dependent on meds in the way that people are dependent on glasses, or that they will permanently dull that region of my brain because I’m not using the muscle behind it.
I decided at some point that week– I believe I’d had 3 out of 5 of the intended doses, to postpone the big experiment until after winter break. I still had work to do in the intervening weeks– I was preparing for a new business initiative I’m hoping to get off the ground, not to mention all of my regular duties. But I didn’t want to do this medication thing haphazardly– because then what would be the point? I want to know if the stuff is working and if it’s worth all the soul searching and departure from my long-standing resistance to medication. As I had discussed with the shrink at or last encounter, I need to stick it it consistently for long enough to figure out whether it’s worth sticking with at all.
I started taking the medication regularly – Concerta– when the kids went back to school after winter break when my routine, theoretically resumed.
As I mentioned above, I am working on a new program that I hope I can develop in to a business. I am hesitant to mention it here or even tell people around me about it because it seems that every few months I embark on a new project with great enthusiasm, and sometimes at great expense or personal investment, only to abandon it a little while later — always with a different excuse ultimately forming a pattern of failure associated with ADHD. I guess it’s important that I keep trying to find success– but the process can be disheartening.
In this case, however, I gave myself a deadline. I set up a date to present my project to a local organization, and that date was last week. Even though I so far have only that date and two subsequent ones (it’s a series) booked at the same venue, I put a ton of work into it, hoping that the investment will pay off with further bookings and that, by the end, I’d have a program I could market more broadly.
As it happened, my weekly ‘protected time’– the one day each that I arranged with my husband would be my own time to work on my own projects without interruption when he’s responsible for picking up the kids and being with them late into the evenings– got compromised the first week after winter break because of a job-related commitment that there was no way for him to get out of. I tried to put in time that day anyway, but then my DS called home sick from school , so that day got cut short.
On the second week’s protected time, DH was desperate for me to help him out with a few projects that he regularly relies on me for, and they also really couldn’t wait. So last week I also lost a good half day from my protected time. I did manage to get a lot done in the late afternoon and evening, however, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Throughout the past two weeks I have been taking my meds pretty faithfully. One exception was last Thursday when I did my presentation. I find that the medication can make me shaky, depending on what other elements are happening (whether I’ve eaten, slept well, etc) and just today I noticed that they actually make me a little emotional the way that Adderol did– not to the point of being crazy, but enough to cry over some sad and/or heartwarming articles I read during my brain-warm up this morning (aka acceptable procrastination time– but that’s another blog post for another time.)
I guess that the pattern I’ve found so far with these meds is that the benifit– the drive– that is (most likely) supplied by the meds, is accompanied by a degree of stress. With this med it is to a lesser degree than the last, though I don’t remember feeling it at all before last week. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they say it can take several weeks to start working. Is it going to get worse now? Or is this as bad as it gets, because I can handle it at this level.
There was also another day the week before that I forgot or neglected to take the meds. Let’s say I took them for 8 our of the 10 intended days. I was supposed to only take a break from them on Saturdays but I haven’t been taking on Sundays either.
For me, a deadline is the best motivation to get working, and I really pushed myself to get all everything done on time, and done well. It’s hard to say whether the pills were working or not, but I felt very motivated, and I spent a lot less time ‘getting into’ the work, and a lot more time actually working on it. When I got distracted, it was a lot easier for me to get back on track, whereas sometimes it can take me half an hour or more to ease back in.
Also, this is work that I really love to do, and I know that I’m good at it because I have done it for years, though not lately. So again– hard to say if it’s because of the drugs.
My program went well, though I only got through about half of the materials we’d prepared. I thought the participants really enjoyed it and that it got their wheels spinning. I’ll find out when I get back the evaluations.
After telling the doctor all this, I was surprised to hear her say that she was concerned about the fact that I was feeling cloudy. The meds are supposed to make you more functional, not less, she said. With regards to that, and also to my fears of long-term damage, though, she didn’t tell me to stop. She just said again that I need to do a risk/benefit analysis. Are the meds helping me meet my goals, overall? If so, are the risks and/or side effects tolerable?
The idea behind the medication, she reminded me, is not to provide a cure, but to provide a higher level of function.
Also, we discussed how I’m effectively doing three jobs at once if I take on this new venture. Mothering, working the equivalent of part-time for DH, and now this. Honestly, I don’t mind putting the work in to see if I can get this started, even if it means a couple more late nights. Granted, it also means I’m pushing off some of the mothering stuff (nothing significant) and also some of the paperwork I’d otherwise be doing, which means it’s building up faster than usual. I guess I’m ok with that too.
Despite all my ramblings about how I came to the decision to start medicating, I still feel like I need to justify my decision. The featured image of this post is a set of scales. As you can see, it’s already been tipped to reflect my decision, but it does not reveal the rationale by showing you what factors are weighing it down– mostly because I am still a little fresh at Photoshop (actually this image was crafted in MS Paint bc sometimes it’s just the easy way out) and the image started getting a bit confusing when I started adding stuff in.
By way of affirmation, I will deposit one justification marble in this blog– you can also call it a badge I’m awarding myself– every time I remember one of the reasons I am sky-high on Concerta*.
This badge, Responsibility For Others, reminds me that my failures, my lack of accomplishment, my procrastinating, my difficulties in self regulation** all have an effect on the people I love the most and for whom I have a great responsibility. This, if you recall, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s the reason that tipped the scales.
* Ok I’m not sky high. In fact, I am not really sure if it’s having any effect on me at all.
** I’m not THAT bad. But I could use improvement, hence the drugs.