Drupdate: The Pillbox Strategy

I had to scroll back through my blog before writing this post to try and figure out how long I’ve officially been medicated. According to the earliest reference I can find, it’s only been about a year.  I was sure it was at least two.

(If you’re new to my blog, the post I’m referring to above is really a good one to read to get to know a little bit about me and where I’m at.)

Since getting the prescription at that time, I’ve never really managed to take the pills faithfully. The problem is partly intentional; I don’t really want to take it on weekends or days when I’m not meant to be putting any emphasis on focus. Partly, it’s a matter of organization; did I remember to take them early enough in the day? When I remember to take them, do I have them close at hand? Am I in a place where it’s appropriate or where I feel comfortable  popping a couple of pills? I tried to resolve this issue by keeping a pillbox in my purse which, ostensibly, is always nearby.

Remember this little guy?
Remember this little guy?

This back-up plan worked to an extent, but I would still occasionally forget or not find the opportunity to take them until later in the day, and anyway, I managed to somehow lose this little pillbox a few weeks ago.  Shame.

Part of this problem was resolved as of my last shrink visit.  I got a prescription for short-acting medication which I could take later in the day in case I forgot to take my pill earlier.  In fact, I took one just a few hours ago.  I was given the option to take a single pill or to double it, according to need. Because it’s my first time trying this particular format of this particular medication, I took the smaller dose.  Upon reflection, however,  perhaps I should have taken the bigger dose. Today is my one weekly dedicated work-on-my-own stuff day and, assuming this medication works, it’s a waste of time to underdose.

I have promised my shrink and my temp shrink that I would make an effort to take the meds regularly and to try and track the results. Tracking is not an easy thing to do, as I have no regular workday expectations to measure myself against.  Tracking is the reason I started the ‘Drupdate’ series on this blog– to document my progress relative to the drugs.  After a year, I am still not sure that the medication is having any positive effect on my life. I don’t know whether it’s worth my trouble to take them or to try and switch to another formula. I need a better strategy.

I recently had an idea that might help to resolve the tracking issue, if not actually remind me to take my medication. It’s this:

20171201_120221

This, as you can plainly see, is a pill box. I did not intend to buy such a fancy one with a folder-style case, but that is what the local dollar store had to offer me in the pill box department.  The feature I was looking for was a grid layout which, as you can see, this pill box possesses. I thought to myself that if I laid out the medication in labeled boxes, one for each day of the month minus weekends, it would be easy to see which days I’d taken them, just by checking to see which boxes are missing pills. In other words, I don’t have to take action on keeping track (except for when I sit down to fill and label the boxes). Rather, I take stock retroactively.

If you think that it’s not hard to keep track of a simple thing like how often I take my medication, you’re right.  You probably also think it’s not such a big deal to remember to take my medication on a daily basis. You’re right again.  None of these things are hard for most people, but for ADD types, knowing to do something is easy. Actually doing it is hard.  That is what happens when certain elements of your executive function are stunted or underdeveloped.  Sucks for me.

Luckily, I’m creative and motivated. Luckily, I’ve learned to identify my weaknesses and to build structures around me in my daily life which keep the essentials in place and help me to get things, people, and ideas to the places they need to be.

That being said, I’ve been sitting on this pill folder idea about a month. I actually thought it up a couple of weeks prior to that.  I found some white circle labels and put the days of the week on them, as you can see in the picture, but that is as far as I’ve gotten so far.  You may notice that one of the coloured boxes is missing as well. I used that for a different project. So we’re off to a slow start. But that’s better than no start.

Also, if I had started the pillbox project when I’d first bought the box, it would have been relatively simple. Now that I have these new set of ‘backup’ pills, I will have to rethink my strategy.  Definitely, this post needs a followup. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and ideas.

 

Advertisements

Living At The Limit

I live at the limit. Can’t help it;  It’s the kind of person I am.

On any other ADHD blog, this statement could, and probably should, be taken to mean that the writer enjoys extreme activities such as cliff diving, bungee jumping, or roller coasters (basically anything involving throwing oneself off great heights).  Those are the people who put the ‘H’ in ADHD.  I, however, am not the hyperactive type. My ADD leans toward inattention. Tetris is my idea of thrilling.

In my particular case, living at the limit is actually a strategy I employ in order to curb the negative expression of an underdeveloped executive function.  In other words, limits help me get stuff done.

In my previous post (which started out as an intro to this post but quickly went in another direction), I mentioned how I, as a youth, resented having limitations imposed on me.  I still think that a lot of the limitations people choose to live by are either silly or unnecessary.  I consider myself to be a highly creative person. However, in my life, I’ve learned that limitations are not necessarily obstacles. Rather, they can be viewed as structures upon which –and inside of which– we can layer our own inspired visions.

Also, limits are a way to fuel productivity. You know that you’ll work harder when there is a deadline looming. In fact, perhaps you, like I, have stayed up all night just to get that paper in before the due date. A due date is a limit.   Junk food manufacturers understand this concept.  Today you can buy sweets that are packaged in calorie-controlled units.  Presumably, they help you eat only a limited portion of forbidden fruits.

In my life I have consciously and subconsciously created limits as well– though I couldn’t tell you for sure which ones I took on intentionally and which ones I discovered in hindsight.  I think that I’ve been at this ADD life architecture for so long that I don’t know what structures are standard code and which are new.

For example: I used to play DOTS on my phone.  DOTS is a highly engaging game in which the object is to connect dots of the same colour.  I used to play DOTS, but my relationship with it was borderline obsessive. The game was definitely taking up too much of my life and so I deleted it. I am definitely mature enough to discard things that are damaging to me.  It didn’t hurt that I was also in the process of switching to a new phone just then.

Now I have a much more ADD-friendly game on my phone which I play all the time, but not without limits. That game is TWO DOTS and yes, the object of the game is to connect dots of the same colour. It is also highly engaging.  The difference between DOTS, which I (OK, inadvertently)  rid myself of and TWO DOTS is that TWO DOTS only has five lives, and those lives don’t regenerate for twenty minutes after you’ve lost them. In other words, TWO DOTS has natural limits.  Unless I am having a particularly lucky streak, I can not play the game for more than about ten minutes at a time before I lose all my lives and am drawn– nay, COMPELLED to return to the task at hand. (there is always a Task At Hand [TAH] that I need to return to. I rarely feel truly free to recreate.)

Have you ever listened to a good radio show in the car and found yourself at your destination before the show is over? I listen to a lot of talk and public radio, so this happens to me quite frequently. Well, sometimes the topic is particularly relevant or useful for me.  In these cases, which are not all that frequent, I will sit in the car with the power running until the conclusion of the program.  However, in cases when I am merely interested in the program, but where I am unlikely to put that information to practical use in the foreseeable future, I turn off the car.  I know that the radio will keep playing for a minute or two, so I don’t need to quit the show right away. However, when the battery switches off, that’s when I know I’ve reached the limit. I can’t spend any more time loitering in the car, and I need to get on to the TAH.

I learned about limit setting and how it would help me move my goals forward when I worked at an educational center in my early 20s.  I was struggling to find dates to run my programming at the institutions I was affiliated with and to whom I had an obligation.  My boss at the time coached me to set up meetings with each affiliate and plot out the next few months AND the next meeting date.  Perhaps this is an obvious and well known strategy, but as I was just starting out, this was news to me.  I took his recommendation and found that setting up programs well in advance forced me to work forwards towards deadlines, and created a two-way obligation between myself and the affiliate to fulfill the goal we’d set out for ourselves.  Whereas prior to taking on this job, when I was still in school, I’d always relied on teachers or school policy to set limitations for me.  Out in the real world, I learned, I was responsible for setting my own.

Life without limits might sound like fun to many folks, but I’ve definitely come to appreciate that limits can be my friend.  When applied judiciously, limits are the walls that keep my time and my creativity from escaping me.

Book Review: Hyper

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.

The Med Factor: Dinner Is Served

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 ACTIVATEDMODE 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? 

dinner_will_be_ready
Too obvious?

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.

12_Messy Kitchen
Not my kitchen, but close.

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.

Drive Inspired

I had a phone call the other day from what I guess I’d call a friend-once-removed (an FOR), by which I mean she is a person who is friends with another friend of mine, and who, consequently,  I see several times a year but don’t really have anything else to do with. I like her fine.  I’m just not particularly close with her. An FOR.

Although I was initially surprised to hear from her, her motives became clear as soon as she said the words ‘hoping you can help me with a little venture I’m working on.’ My suspicions were confirmed when her schpiel ended with ‘can I meet you for coffee?’

I asked:

“Is this Arbonne?”

It was.

Who has a great skin care routine? THIS GUY!
Aaaay. Who has a great skin care routine? THIS GUY!

Arbonne is a line of products whose marketing scheme is word-of-mouth and rhymes with “Fonzie.”

“I’m not buying anything– you should know.” I didn’t want to mislead her, though clearly she was trying to mislead me  by making it sound like she cared for my actual companionship.

It’s fine, she told me. Even if I didn’t buy anything I’d still be helping her firm up her pitch and it would be good practice. I was being asked to help. I was flattered. We made a date.

I don’t necessarily disrespect people who choose to chase the dream and make ‘a little money in their spare time,’  as it were.  In fact, I was totally impressed by FOR’s verve , get-go, drive, or whatever you want to call it.  It takes some serious cajones to call people out of the blue when you barely know them and try to get them to open their hearts, schedules, and wallets to you.  Of course, it makes it easier if you’ve already destroyed relationships with all your original friends, but it’s all worth it, I think, when the Arbonne people show up at your door with a thank-you gift in the form of a white Mercedes. No, really, they promise you a Benz if you sell enough body lotion and shampoo.  Whooooa. Happy days!

I was trying to avoid sarcasm in this post and now look at me.  I blame the Fonz but the Fonz doesn’t care. Aaaaay!

So I met with this FOR at one afternoon at a popular coffee place which I will not name but rhymes with Spar… Bucks…  and I brought my Little One, who happened to have a day off.  He was excited for the hot chocolate aspect of the meeting, and I was excited to do my friend of a friend a good turn as she began her journey to purported financial freedom.

I should mention that I’ve already been accosted by friends in the past who got on the Arbonne train. In fact, I’d won an entire gift basket worth of merchandise from a trade show and through some internal political hierarchies having to do with geography and/or nepotism, the person assigned to my followup telephone call was a girl not-removed from me, but an actual friend. An actual friend that I had to listen to as she rambled on about the products for fifty minutes until I managed to find some reason to excuse myself from the conversation.  So I know a little bit about Arbonne. I’m still friends with that girl, by the way, but we’ve never ever spoken about what I’ve come to think of as The Horrible Arbonne Incident.

I scheduled FOR’s coffee date for the end of the school day just in case it… uh… didn’t have a natural end.  I figured 45 minutes was enough time for her to practice her shpiel, drink a coffee, try some products, and get out.  To make a long story short, I learned about Arbonne all over again, even though I told her, in nicer terms, about my previous education in the same department.  I had the complete presentation including power point, demo booklet, and a little trial kit of toiletries — six products!! — that I was meant to use daily and return to her after three days. Six products? I feel proud if I have the energy to brush my teeth at the end of the day!  I can’t even remember to take my ADD meds three day in a row!

Of course, I ended up taking it all home in a tote bag embossed with enormous company logos. I somehow followed the skincare routine for three full days (though I used up the little squirt of night cream on DD’s dry hands when we couldn’t find her regular lotion).  I even met her on the morning of day 4, though I forgot the tote bag which I’ll have to get to her at a later date.  I did not remember to take my pills during this time.

To add insult to injury, turns out the FOR is not new to Arbonne. She did not need to practice her pitch on me because she has been doing it for over two years. My efforts at do-goodism were for naught.  I’m such a sucker.

But I digress.

Seeing FOR in action, even though the action was being taken against me, in a way, was somehow inspiring.  The girl has a goal: to supplement her income (which I would describe as steady but limited). She has a means: The Fonz. She has a market: Other FOR. She has a modus operandi: Call, cajole, coffee, call again. And she does it. It sounds easy, but know how difficult it can be to tear oneself away from a good game of candy crush and make even a single sales call.  I know it’s hard to put oneself out there and present oneself with confidence, even if you believe that the rewards are great and have optional seat warmers.

So even though I don’t think I’ll be peddling beauty products anytime soon, I can take a lesson from my FOR and push myself to write one more blog post or send out that promo package.

Because as she, and so many zombie-like and  glowy-cheeked Benz hopefuls before her remind us:  Don’t think “what if it doesn’t work?” Think “what if it does?”