Sometimes you need to be grateful for your own challenges.
I was reading through my blog post notes– the ones I send myself from my dictation app as I talked about a couple of posts ago. I have been really hesitant to put this up because it’s quite personal and really exposes my vulnerability. I’ve been told that, as a writer, I am not open enough and that I would benefit from showing more of myself. Also, since I’m documenting a journey here, scenes like this are a very real part of it, though thankfully, they don’t happen too often. With that in mind, I’ll go ahead and post this:
Not too long ago, I spent three quarters of an hour sobbing in my car. By sobbing, I mean the kind where your whole body is involved, lots and lots of tears, with the nose contributing it’s own fluids. There is gasping and choking. It’s not pretty. In fact I think the internet has a name for it– ugly crying.
I was alone in the parking lot outside the gym– which I hardly ever get to, and definitely didn’t venture into that day. Thankfully, nobody saw me, or if they did, maybe I didn’t appear too approachable. I don’t cry like this very often. The last time I remember doing it was when I forgot to put my kid in a white t-shirt and send in a fruit for some themed day-care situation — that was about a decade ago. I was pregnant and working at least two jobs so I put it down to hormones and stress. Prior to that, I remember crying this hard over a breakup. It was a bad breakup but, like so many bad breakups, good riddance. The common element between these episodes was, fortunately, not pregnancy, though who knows when emotion-inducing hormones decide to rear their heads. I was definitely stressed in each situation, but that’s to be expected. After all, we’re not talking tears of joy here. The real common element was an underlying rationalization process. Under the cloak of tears, my mind is racing: What’s happening? Why am I crying? Does the precipitating event really merit this outburst? No? Then what is causing me to feel so bad?
Concurrently there is a sub-thought process going on: I am so grateful for the things I do have. Nothing is terribly wrong here. Let this be the toughest. Let this be the toughest thing I have to face. Let these be the worst tears I ever have to shed.
I have a lot of things going on right now. I’m trying to write an edit and make a living at it. I love writing and I love editing. I’m trying to build up my own business, which I haven’t really talked about in this blog, but it has to do with education and empowerment, and it’s something that I love to do. I didn’t look so empowered making hoarse noises in the car that day — snot has a way of taking the edge off a power situation. I was, at that time, going through a renovation which is difficult on so many levels– a change in living conditions, keeping on top of the work day-to-day, managing all the people who come in and out of the house, planning, contending with surprises– things that I am grateful to have the opportunity to do, but which still cause a great deal of stress build-up. Just the simple act of trying to have a meal is stressful because I don’t want to feed an entire crew of drywallers and painters every day, yet I feel a sense of responsibility to offer other people food when I’m eating. So I end up either not eating or sneaking food around my house and into my office to eat in secret. Of course, then there is the day-to-day running of the family and the house and all the things that entails. I also work in a couple of roles for DH’s business, and that work alone could amount to a part-time job. (In fact, if you add up all my ‘jobs’ together you’d probably find that I carry several full-time positions.) But none of that was the trigger for this sob-fest.
The reason I started crying is that I found out I didn’t get a job I applied for which I really, really thought I was perfect for, and which was perfect for me, and which I thought I was definitely going to get. It’s true, I don’t need one more job on top of everything else, but I would have dropped a bunch of my other ambitions if i’d gotten it– or at least I’d be able to relax about accomplishing them. I’ve spoken about this before— that I need to be able to answer the question ‘What is it that you do?’ with a sense of pride and satisfaction. This job would have helped me meet that criteria. Also, it would have gotten me out of the house and given me a chance to mingle with creative people. I put so much heart in to the application. I was dealing with my kids being home from school that week and a friend whose husband was suddenly admitted to the ICU (he’s fine now), and still I pushed through and managed to submit a piece of work that brought me so much pleasure that I simply could not stop rereading it. Why didn’t they see what I saw?
Also, I know that I could have done the job really, really well. Judging by the job description, what they were looking for was what I do best. Still: Rejection.
On top of everything else, and I feel very petty acknowledging this feeling, much less committing it to paper, I am dealing with some serious jealously towards the business owner. Why is their business taking off and not mine? My product is better! My personality is better! Good, old fashioned covetousness.
But that’s not why I was crying.
What really triggered my emotional outburst, though it took a few hours for it to sink in, was the fact that DH was disappointed for me. As in, he was disappointed on my behalf. Knowing that he felt bad for me made me feel the badness twice as hard. We’d talked about it the night before, gone to sleep, woken up, dropped the kids off at school and then, when the self-pitying thoughts were allowed to come in to my head, they took over and had their way.
Hopefully this will turn out to be a growth experience. Hopefully, one day I’ll look back on this job that I didn’t get and say ‘good riddance’. I have been trying to channel my jealously into good wishes for that company, because their overall goal is to bring betterment to the world and not to screw me over. I asked for feedback on my application. I am working on turning that frown upside down and using it to fuel my own growth. Onwards and upwards.
Here’s another aspect of this situation to consider; one which turns this post into a Drupdate (if you’re unfamiliar with the expression, see here). I can’t remember which medication I was on at the time, but I’d just taken it that morning for the first time in two weeks. I haven’t had an overly emotional reaction to a medication since adderall, way back in the beginning of my medication journey. Concerta, as I’ve noted in the past, has made me a bit emotional, but nothing like this. Could the medication have contributed to the outburst? Eight Ball says Maybe So. I did note over the days preceding this incident, that my mood would suddenly turn to blue– fleetingly, but strong enough for me to take notice. Maybe I should have paid more attention.
I cried, and then I felt stupid for crying because I consider myself to be very even keeled, so I cried some more because I’m not being me, and then I didn’t go to the gym. A release of emotional constipation with a side dose of medically induced hysteria. That’s most of what I thought about and how I felt before, during, after, and about this episode. I did leave out a couple of things, but did the overall vulnerability add value to my writing?This has been a very difficult post for me to write, on many levels. Was it worth it?
I was determined to be productive today. Just in case the meds help me to be productive, because after two years you know I’m still not sure, I planned on taking a dose his morning. The problem was that by the time I got it together to take action on this thought, I was far away from my stash. Lucky for me, I know myself well enough to plan for this in advance. I had a little bottle of 10mg Methylphenidate in my purse. This is the same medication I would usually take, but the dose is lower and this formulation is short-acting. I got this supply when for the days when I forget to take it in the morning but don’t want to take the slow release too late in the day because it’ll keep me awake.
The directions tell me to take either one pill or two. I took two, which, if you’re familiar with my early should I/shouldn’t I medicate days. I figured that if it was too strong, at least it would wear off in a few hours. I don’t remember if I’ve ever taken any pills from this bottle. I’ll have to count them up to see. Certainly, I don’t remember what effect it has on me, if any.
That being said, I’ve been feeling a lot of acute disorientation lately. Like, in the past I wasn’t really aware that I was being distracted or that I couldn’t prioritize. However, lately, I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly or ‘waking up’ suddenly from a daze in which I wander about without realizing that I am directionless. I don’t know if I was like this before or if my radar is just much more accurate now for this type of behavior and so I notice it more. My fear is that these drugs are messing with my mind and actually making me worse. Possibly, this is a symptom of sleep deprivation, pure and simple. Or perhaps it’s a combination of things.
I was on my way in to the grocery store to pick up a few things when I took these 20mg. I thought I’d be in and out in about half an hour, but it ended up being closer to two and a half hours. Why? Where did the time go? I really can’t figure out what I was doing in there for so long. I will say that I bought a LOT of things. I haven’t stocked up in a while and our fridge and cupboard were looking pretty bare.
Was I more focused as a result of the meds? Hard to say. I didn’t feel the meds kicking in, as many people describe feeling when they take them. I didn’t feel them wearing off, so I don’t know if they ever did. They may or may not have curbed my appetite; I was sucking on a coffee the whole time I was in the store, so that might have masked it. Also, it ‘s difficult to measure my productivity in the grocery store. I wasn’t wasting any time, but then again, it did take me five times as long as I thought it would. If I’d been sitting at my desk after I took it or at any point while I was still supposed to be ‘on’ it, I might have a better point of reference of the drug’s effectiveness.
When you make a big purchase, it takes a long time to pack up into bags. It is difficult balancing those bags on the way to the car. It takes ages to get them in the house, and it took me about an hour to get everything put away because of the amount of stuff and because I needed to repackage some items for freezing. Then I spent some time cleaning and organizing my kitchen and some parts of the basement which have been neglected for months…. and then it was after 2pm.
Where did the day go?
I was very excited for today– it is the first time in many many weeks, due to changes in kid’s and DH’s schedule that I get ‘my day’ when DH picks up the kids and I can stay working on my own projects as late as I want or need to. Ideally, I should be able to spend all day doing this, and when I headed in to the grocery store, I fully intended to devote most of my day to my own enterprises. In fact, I ended up getting down to work in my friend’s studio, due to assorted delays, only after 4pm.
Where did my day go?
I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped to today. I’d had such high hopes. I’d meant to sit down and map out my activities for the next few weeks. Instead I wrote three blog posts– which is good, but it should have been a warm-up for the rest of the day. The day is now over. I’m not much further ahead than when I started.
This is kind of a depressing conclusion for this post, but I feel optimistic about making a lot more progress in the weeks to come.
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.
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:
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.
As a reminder, my usual shrink is on maternity leave, and it appears that she has not yet returned, though I thought she’d be back by now. I hope she is well.
I first visited this temp doctor more than six months ago. I had a second visit scheduled which completely forgot about– though I don’t understand how. At our last visit, I’d asked her about being transferred to an altogether new psychiatrist, because I think it’s time I saw someone who specializes in ADHD. At that time, she gave me some instruction about how to go about it– calling one office or another to set up the referral, but my well intentioned efforts did not pan out. Nobody in the department answers phones. Nobody returns phone calls. When I finally do manage to catch a real, live person, they give me yet another number to call. It’s extremely frustrating, especially when you have a neurological problem with remembering to make phone calls and follow up on them. In this case, I must have aced the test because I finally managed to come full circle, back to Temp Shrink’s office where I told her this story pretty much as I just told it to you, but without all the back-links.
She completely agreed with me and apologized. But isn’t my regular doc back from her maternity leave yet, she asked.
“Not according to her voice mail,” I replied.
The System. Sigh.
I also told her that the reason I finally felt motivated to push my way back to the system and find her is that I realized that maybe, because I am terrible at remembering to take my meds in the morning, I need a shorter acting medication that I can take later in the day. The later I take a stimulant, the longer into the day it lasts. The effect already carries over into the evening, sometimes past 10pm. I don’t want to risk having it mess with my sleep, so I won’t take it after around 10:30 am. Many days, I won’t remember to pop the pill until that time or later, and so I don’t take one at all. If I had a short acting pill, I could probably take it as late as 3pm if I needed to.
Temp doc found this predicament amusing. How ironic that the very pill you need to remember to take your pills wears off before the time you need to take it. I like this woman.
She did give me the scrip I asked for, as a stop-gap measure. I went on and on about how setting an alarm to help me remember to take the meds won’t really work for me because it means I will drop whatever else I am doing and just forget about the medication before I even get to the room where I keep it. Then I’ll find some other purpose that needs fulfilling and, basically, it’s all a landslide from there and my kids are half an hour late for school again.
She eventually uncovered the fact that I have never actually tried the phone alarm system, and asked me to try it, even if it meant just snoozing the buzzer until me, my phone, and the meds are all harmoniously in the same room together. If that happens after the hour when it’s practical for me to take the slow-release formula, I’ll just take the short acting one. I agreed.
She also spoke about starting me on strattera (sp?), but I don’t think I’m ready to start a new medication yet. I’ve been taking this one on a slightly more regular basis lately– I still have never managed to take it regularly enough to establish a baseline, though I do have an idea that I will write up in a future post if I ever get around to it. Anyway, I’m pretty familiar with it’s effects on me, though I still can’t say for certain that it’s working. I HAVE had quite a productive couple of weeks, though. Maybe that says something.
I’m a wee bit nervous about taking this short acting drug. The dosing might take some getting used to or adjusting, but I guess that’s just part of the game now.
I remember the first time I walked into my psychiatrist’s office. There was a huge sign on the wall with an arrow: Psychiatric Ward. Am I crazy, or is that a demoralizing introduction to adult mental health?
As I’ve mentioned, my shrink is currently on maternity leave. As I haven’t mentioned, because I haven’t gotten around to writing about it, my replacement shrink is too far away and also I missed my last appointment with but anyway, she’s not the type of shrink I want to be seeing. I want to see a shrink who knows ADD like I know the inside of my closet. I want an expert.
Such an expert does exist within the same department as my temp-shrink but in the same building as my shrink-on-leave, which is much closer, and cheaper for parking.
I want to switch doctors. I very, very badly want to switch doctors, and I have been taking action towards that goal. I have been calling the department of mental health (that’s the true name, and not the one on the sign. Clearly, the clinic needs some updating) every week but to no avail. I simply can not get in touch with anyone in my department. That is, I couldn’t get in touch with anyone until a few days ago when I tried all the numbers that they had listed and actually got to speak with the secretary (who sits, I kid you not, in an office with a sliding window like in a Boston gas station, presumably to protect her from psych cases like me.)
Well, she remembered me from my previous visits and sympathized with my plight, though of course she was not able to help me. The best thing to do, she advised me, would be to call my temporary shrink and ask her for a referral to the desired shrink.
So I called, and guess what? NOTHING HAPPENED. Nobody called me back. I had no response whatsoever. Am I crazy, or is it completely irresponsible for a medical clinic to completely ignore the calls of it’s patients? Especially, dare I say, if it’s a psych ward.
NB: I stand corrected. The temp-shrink’s office did reach out to me. By snail mail. They sent me a bill charging me for my missed appointment.
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.
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.
I saw my new shrink last week. She was nice, friendly, positive, and generally affirmative (affirmational? She affirmed what I said) but, as she pointed out before we even sat down, it was a bit of a mismatch. She deals with palliative care patients, and not at all with ADD. She was only handed my file* because they needed people to take over for my regular shrink, who is now on maternity leave.
She asked me, at one point, probably because I was rambling at high speed and holding a Grande Pike Place, whether I was self-medicating with coffee. I am not, and I told her as much. I usually have one coffee in the morning and one, if I am desperate to stay awake, around the kid’s bedtime.
She also told me, as my last shrink told me, and probably everyone in the medical profession will tell me, that I need to get on the meds and just stay on them if I want to have a good idea of whether or not they’re having any effect. As you may recall, this is one of the great questions that surround my decision to medicate.
Since taking them intermittently, as I have been doing (sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally) for more than a year, is not a viable option for me at this point, I have a problem. Even if I ‘set an alarm on my phone’ (which everyone thinks is the answer to everything ADD), taking them on a regular basis has proven to be much more difficult than it would seem. It’s not that I don’t remember to take them. It’s that if I remember, and I am not seated at my desk (where I keep the bottle) or in a position to get the ‘travel pack’ out of my purse immediately, then the task will get put on an indefinite ‘snooze.’
At the behest of Dr. Affirmational, I decided to try once again. She asked if I could commit to two weeks straight and I told her, without much confidence, that I would surely try. My appointment was on a Thursday, and I decided that the following Monday would be my first day. I took a pill on Monday. I took one on Tuesday. I took one on Wednesday. I forgot them on Thursday and Friday and then didn’t bother over the weekend.
Correction: I did not forget them on Thursday and Friday, Rather, I remembered on Thursday but I was in the car, driving. And I remembered on Friday but I was in the supermarket, and I was in a rush to get out.
Today is Monday, the start of a fresh new week. I took one this morning. It made me jittery after an hour. I calmed down. I am finishing my blog post that I’ve been meaning to write for 11 days. Thanks to the shakes, I know it’s having an effect on me, but I don’t know if it’s actually fulfilling the intended purpose. Hopefully, if I can keep up with the Concertas, I’ll be able to tell you in two weeks. Wish me luck.
*Interestingly, she was actually NOT handed my file. So most of my visit consisted of me recounting all the things I do and the things I don’t get around to doing and how I feel about it all. What else would we have talked about, really?
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.