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?”

 

 

 

 

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ADD Goes To The Library: A Timeline

In a recent post, I wrote about a library card fine that wouldn’t go away.

 with a huge pile of books in front of me  (my kids are book junkies) and wer’re already five minutes later for a piano lesson, I get a loud error message from the self-checkout machine at the library.  After consulting with the human librarian and her more informed computer, it turned out that the fine had not been paid, though I knew for sure that I’d put it through. We managed to check out the books on one of the kids’ cards attached to my file and once again the issue of the library fine was pushed to the back of my mind.

I thought this story deserved a closer look.  How did this event come to pass, what happened after, and what does ADD have to do with it?

Here is a timeline of a person with ADHD visiting a library.

4:30pm – Arrival

You go in thinking you’ll find a couple of new night-table books. The kids scatter but you never even make it to the shelves. You cull from the displays that start at the front entrance and continue for the first thirty feet of the floor plan and your hands are full by the time you get to the actual stacks.  Add in the requests that have come in and are waiting for me to pick them up, and you’ve got enough paper to kindle a winter’s worth of hearth fires (in theory. I don’t burn books in real life).  Fortunately, the library provides convenient little shopping baskets with handles and wheels.

5:00

You urge children off the computers where they’ve been playing ‘educational games’ since their arrival (most of which involve choosing outfits for Dora the Explorer).  They complain that they haven’t had any time to get books and so you give them a five minute extension.

5:15

You look up from the magazine you’ve been flipping through to find the kids back at the computers. Each one has a basket full of books and DVDs they’re planning on checking out. You now have enough books to build a house for one of the three little pigs.

5:25

You’re trying to check out but find that your library card is blocked, as in the scenario described above. The librarian informs you that there are currently 68 books checked out on your account, out of a maximum allowance of 100.  You pay the $20 fine, whittle down the kid’s book selections to an acceptable number, and get out, each of you lugging a tote bag with your selections. Yours contains a hodgepodge of everything that caught your eye from the moment you walked into the library. There’s leisure reading, get-rich-quick books, and enormous volumes on interior design, most of which will not get read, and many of which you will lose for longer than the 10 permitted renewals at two week intervals- and that’s if you’re lucky.

Two weeks later

You have read only the leisure books, mostly on stolen time when you should have been getting the kids ready for school in the morning or late at night when you should have been sleeping. The library sends you a text message reminding you to renew. You text back RA for Renew All but in their response, the library sends you a list of two books that can not be renewed because a request has been made for them by someone else in the system and one (from a library trip some months ago) that can’t be renewed because it’s already overdue.

You set out to find the non-renewable books. You start by  looking under the bed and behind the couch.  You can also take a look through the play room where the kids may have borrowed a hardcover or ten to create a terraced landscape for their hot wheels tracks.  You check the bookcase where a well meaning spouse or housekeeper has been known to  shelve the books you left strewn on the courch amongst the books you actually own- sometimes with the spine facing the wall. Lost kid’s books are the worst because there are hundreds of picture books at home, which are kept in four different locations around the house. Junior Fiction serials like Geronimo Stiltons are also annoying because, to you, they all look the same and the titles are all equally punny and you can’t remember which ones the kids told you not to return.

A Week Later

After driving around with the non-renewable books in your car for a week– at least, with the two out of three that you can find, you finally remember to stop at the library and put them in the drop box.

A Week or So After That

You round up all of the library books you can find in your house and drop them in the drop box because you are going away on vacation and you don’t want to be stuck with any fines.

First Day of Vacation

You get a text saying that one DVD is overdue.  You know you returned everything you had… and you specifically remember that DVD.

A Couple of Months Later

You haven’t been to the library in a while.  You were away and then you got busy with other things.  You get a letter in the mail from the library, which you lose. You then get another letter in the mail from a collections agency, demanding payment for the library fine and the lost DVD.

Shorty Afterwords

You find the missing DVD in your car. The actual disk is in the player, and the case is wedged between two seats.  You drop it in the library drop box after dark so that the staff will not recognize you.  Shamefacedly, you skulk away, restricting your reading material to ad-bogged truthy-like internet news that requires you to click through seventeen different images, each accompanied by several words of leading text, before you discover Why You Should Never Make Your Own Kombucha At Home.


The Breakdown (of why this is ADD related. Not the breakdown you suffer as a result of your lack of librarical skills.):

  1. In terms of being an advantage or a disadvantage, the lack of inhibition in people with ADHD is a grey zone. On one hand, you struggle to control your impulses and not dominate polite dinner table conversation,  and on the other hand you are not afraid to jump in, try new things, and get dirty. Wayne Gretzky said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but he never said when you take 100% of the shots that come your way. That’s me.

The way this all plays out in the library is that you choose waaaay too many books. More than you will be likely to read, more than you can keep track of, and more than you can carry in one trip to the car.

  1. There are some tasks that just don’t seem big enough to put on the to-do list.  ‘Return Library Books’ is one of them, because it’s right on your way to pick up the kids, so you’ll definitely remember when you pass by– right? No, because when you drive by the library you’ll probably be late for pickup, or else your multitasking mind will have switched to some other topic, even though you intended to make the stop when you set out from your house three minutes before.
  2. You might have even put it on a to-do list, and even brought the list with you, but you neglected to check it after your last errand and, since you have trouble prioritizing, some other task, such as remembering to buy milk for tomorrow, has taken precedence in your head and all you can think about is getting to the grocery store, though that particular task is two slots down the list you carefully laid out that morning.
  3. You may have systems in place, such as keeping library books on a particular shelf or setting time limits for your kids’ activities, but there are limits to how far these practices can take you. Unless everyone in your home is on board, it’s hard to reinforce the guidelines you’ve put in place, and it’s even harder to enforce them when you’re the one with ADD because of the extra effort you’re busy putting in to other areas of your life, just to keep things moving more or less smoothly for the family.

I am not actually embarrassed to use my local library, but most of the scenario above is pretty accurate. I am pretty good at getting most of my — and my kid’s and my husband’s–  library materials back to the library– most of the time.  I’ve learned to file this issue under the ‘Molehill’ section in The Greater Scheme Of Things when it comes to my life.

 

 

 

More on More on Drugs

I have a friend whose entire family is medicated.  Georgia tells me that whenever they travel they require a small carry-on just for the pharmaceuticals. Two parents (now divorced), four kids, all on assorted forms of prescription stimulants in addition to a hodgepodge of other pills that the doctor ordered.

Not long ago, I would have balked at this scenario. Can it really be that a family of six otherwise healthy people need to tote around a small drug store in order to get through the day?  For Georgia, she jokes, it’s a ‘no brainer.’

“If I didn’t take my medication in the morning, nothing would happen in the house. Nothing.  I would sit around for hours at a time staring into space. I’d have a coffee and a smoke and check my whatsapp and my day would be done.”

Georgia’s got it bad.

On the other hand, freshly single, she gets four kids plus lunches, homework and  all the outerwear that the day requires out of the house and to assorted carpools on time every single morning– we’re talking four separate carpools, at least one of which she is the driver for.   That is no small accomplishment.

I happen to know that in her pre-mom life, Georgia was something of a delinquent, or at least a very nice and kind but brash and rule-resistant, boundary-testing individual if not an actual criminal.  Today she is a self-supporting parent of four awesome, if unruly, kids.

For Georgia, a person I respect and admire, medication really does make all the difference. As far as she is concerned, her kids need to be medicated so that they don’t have to go through the hardships that she went through as a child. She hopes that they will be able to realize their potentials with all of the usual struggles that kids go through, but with a minimum of impediment from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. In the case of one of her kids, it’s the only way she was allowed to remain in the classroom.

I may or may not have made the same decisions as Georgia, were  I in her shoes. However, I accept her reasoning.

Also, I look at Georgia and see how far she has come, and how she is able to carry her family thanks to her diligence and her commitment to mental health.

I find myself asking if there are measures I can take – measures which I have not yet tried–  to curb the oppression that ADD has on my professional fulfillment.

Back when I was an environmental educator, we would sometimes have field days when we’d have do dispense lunchtime medication to kids who required it.  At the end of one such week of programming, when the bus-full of kids had already been returned to their parents in their hometown, I reached into my pocket to find a small envelope containing one dose of Ritalin that I’d neglected to hand out.

Once we discovered the error, I was supposed to have disposed of the pill but instead I hung on to it for reasons I didn’t quite understand. In a very uncharacteristic move, I took it one afternoon a few months later when I was back at school and trying to get through an assignment.

Partly, I wanted a boost to get me to the end of the project. Partly, I wanted to see what all the hype was about. To hear it described, Ritalin was some sort of a wonder drug that won you good grades and job promotions.

As it happened, neither of those outcomes materialized, as far as I could tell.  I didn’t feel like the tablet had had any effect on me at all; neither positive nor negative.

Had the pill created some drastic or even noticeable change in focus, perhaps it would have opened me up to the possibility of medication as a realistic option for me at that time. But since I did not register any response, probably due to a dosage meant for a fifth-grader, my position as a staunch anti-drug hippie (the rarest of specimens) was reinforced once again.

Fast forward about fifteen years.  If your read my post from a couple of weeks ago,  you’d know how I finally came to a decision about medication.  I have a lot more life experience today than I did in my twenties,  and a whole different perspective on what’s important.2016-12-05_1944

In fact, I remember consulting with my dentist about a year ago with regards to a particular tooth that I’ve had many problems with over the years. To cap or not to cap was the question, and if so, then when. The cost was high  but the need was not dire. Turning the idea over in my mind,  I drifted into an investment mindframe, and tried to assess the value of this procedure over time.

“How much is this tooth worth considering the number of years I could potentially get out of it?  Will I be using this tooth for another 40 years? 50? 60? Maybe more… ”

I hadn’t intended to be morbid and my mind snapped back to the present when I realized how shocking my thoughts had been. The idea of my ever-diminishing potential was now rooted in my mind however. I stopped thinking in terms of dental work but continued on the theme of age.  It’s hard to project how many productive years I have left in my life, but I can give you a fair estimate of how many I’ve wasted.  How much more time am I going to waste trying to figure out how to get where I want to go?

As the Indigo Girls so aptly put it,  ‘How long ’till my soul gets it right?’

Georgia made a choice not to blunder and not to wait and see.  Maybe she doesn’t know where medication will take her, but she does know where she and her family would be without it.

As for me, I know that I haven’t been able to climb to the heights I’d always thought I’d reach. Maybe medication is the final tool in my toolkit.  Can it be what I’ve been missing all these years?

 

 

 

 

Stuck In The Muck and It’s All Your Fault

It’s the end of the week or the beginning of a new one. I’m scrolling through my to-do list and my flagged and pinned e-mails.  Out of sixteen to-do items, I’ve ‘done’ at least half, but I’m frustrated because I can’t take them off my list.  I’ve sent out the e-mail that I’d promised to write, I’ve initiated that meeting, and I’ve called the office I was supposed to contact; I’ve put in the initial work. . I’ve done my part, but the other party hasn’t done theirs.  The office hasn’t called me back for an appointment or the accountant hasn’t answered the question I put to him.

It makes me feel like I’m in a void.  Hello? Is anyone out there?

Usually I am hesitant to blame other people for my problems, but I think this is one of the rare cases where blame is justified.

Sometimes I think that a task has been completed when in truth it has only gone into hiding. For example, last month I had a couple of unusual bills to pay– a fine on my library card which I’d ignored for so long that it had gone to a collections agency, and a second fine from the same collection agency on a charge I’d been disputing (a battle which, clearly, I’d lost).  Let it be known that I do not often have collection agencies on my back. I make every effort to pay my bills on time, and I’m pretty organized about it. Somehow, though, these two  yellow  papers arrived in my mailbox the same week.

I called the agency to settle up and they asked me how I’d like to pay.

“What are the options?” I asked them.

I chose e-transfer over credit card because because my purse was downstairs and I didn’t feel like getting up from my desk to get it.  Also, I tend to get distracted when I step away from my workstation, no matter how purposefully I set out, and so I decided that I’d just take care of the transfers then and there without leaving my computer.  The woman on the phone gave me all the details– the e-mail address, the password I was to use, and what to write in the memo line so that the payment would be attributed to the right source. I followed her directions, stamped the bills as PIF — Paid In Full– and wrote the date, because I’m organized that way. Then I put the bills in my To Be Filed box and forgot about them.

A few days later, with a huge pile of books in front of me  (my kids are book junkies) and already five minutes away from a piano lesson, I get a loud error message from the self-checkout machine at the library.  After consulting with the human librarian and her more informed computer, it turned out that the fine had not been paid, though I knew for sure that I’d put it through. We managed to check out the books on one of the kids’ cards attached to my file and once again the issue of the library fine is pushed to the back of my mind.

Not long after that, I get a call from the collection agency. The confused agent apologizes and tells me that there is a note on my file saying I’d paid, but that no payment had been made.

I told her about my last call with the agency. She stopped me halfway, not quite comprehending.

“But we don’t accept e-transfers,” she said.

Welcome to my absurdist life. She did not know who I’d spoken with or why that person had given me incorrect information.  Apparently, the fine, a task I’d acted on and followed through to completion, had in fact  been unpaid for so long that it had  already affected my credit rating.

The frustration in this scenario and in episodes like it is twofold when you have ADHD.forehead-smack

First is the expected reaction- the forehead smacking, the eye rolling, the regret over time  wasted in the initial act, and the extra time it will take to correct the blunder or follow up on the tardy respondent.  There is also the emotional quotient– depending on the relationship you have with the person or the company you are dealing with, how many times, is it acceptable to nudge, pester, call or write back, and how often?

The second level, which is invisible unless you are on the inside of the ADD mind, is that  you are going to have to once again muster up all the extra effort it took you to carry out this seemingly lightweight task in the first place.  It takes so much effort to do mundane tasks. I could happily do many other tasks all day long, but the stuff that feels mundane to me, even if it’s the simplest of actions, requires a huge mental leap for me to get around to them.

Blame, I think, is only fair, though I recognize that it’s not going to get me anywhere.

Also, each element of followup is another item on your to-do list, and, after you’ve congratulated yourself on a (teensy tinsey, mundane) task well done, you don’t want to have to disappoint yourself and do it all over again.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I had any baby clothes that would fit her son. Pleased, I told her that I did, and that she was more than welcome to them, but that they were waaay in the back of my storage closet under piles of bigger, more recently outgrown clothes.  I told her, however, that I was determined to get them out for her on the spot because I knew that if I didn’t do it right away, I’d never quite get around to it– at least, not while the baby was still wearing that size, and then I’d miss my chance. I did good here. I was coasting on the motivation to show my friend good will, and I took advantage of that momentum to get the job done at once.

I decided at the same time that I would finally get rid of all the other clothes I was almost certain to not need again unless I have another baby, because I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to think my kids are going to want them for their own children. My mom did that for us (though we had waaay fewer clothes) and not only has fashion changed, but the materials are completely different from 30 years ago or so.  I would never put my kids in something so scratchy.   Who knows what trends in baby raising and fashion will be taking place by the time my kids become parents?

It took a little while, but over the course of the next few days I pulled out all the excess clothes boxes and grouped them in my basement by age and gender. They were already boxed by size.  I didn’t go through the boxes because I knew that I’d get too sentimental and want to keep everything.  Then I posted the clothes online in a mommy group I’m part of. Free clothes: Yours to pick up.

I got several responses, and I had promised out all the clothes within a day.  The problem was, and this is something that has happened to me before in situations like these, that people ask you to save things for them, and then they don’t show up to take them.  It was so much work trying to coordinate all of the people in order of who asked for which boxes, and after about a week of doing this, I still had most of the boxes sitting in my basement.

That’s when I made the mistake of opening up a box full of 2T-3T sized girl’s clothes, just to see what kind of stuff I was actually giving away.  OMG. I dumped them out  to ‘sort them,’ but ended up making a ‘to keep’ and a ‘to give away’ pile.  What was I going to do with the ‘too keep ones?’ Honestly, I was just going to put them in a box somewhere and take them out and look at them every few months… and maybe save them for my own kids.  Cringe worthy– I know.

Eventually, I forced myself to select a single dress that brought back a great many memories, and which my daughter also still remembers fondly.  I put everything back in the box and stacked all the other boxes on top of it.

And that is where the boxes still are… in the hall of my basement, with various garments peeking out of them, waiting to find new homes.  It’s been about two months since I first pulled them out.  I feel guilty every time I pass by there, but really it is the women who answered my ad that didn’t show up to pick up clothes that should feel guilty. It’s their fault for making promises they don’t keep, isn’t it?

Sometimes, a whole bunch of tasks on my list are dependent on one task getting done, and until that task is done, I’m stuck. I need to hear back from the bank before I can complete my budget. I need to complete my budget before I can purchase that new appliance. I need to purchase that new appliance before I can get rid of this accumulated mess… and so on and so forth.

In a curious turn of events I was trying to reach my psychiatrist recently– the one who prescribes my ADD meds.  I haven’t seen her for months because I’ve just been too busy, and in the meantime I’ve run out. I called her office and it took them three business days- that’s five actual days– to get back to me.  They told me I needed to reach her directly on another number.  I left her a message and didn’t hear back for two days, so I called and left a second message. A day after that, she finally called me back and I was able to schedule an appointment for the following week.  In this case, I wasn’t shy about pursuing the reply that I needed. However, it’s not everyday that the stars collide and that I am in a position to take care of every element of my to do list.

I know– it’s ironic to write a whole post about blaming others for my lack of productivity because I’m always lamenting my own lack of focus and discipline. However, i have a keen sense of responsibility to other people. It would be false to say that I am never late or that I am on top of every communication that comes my way.  However, I am conscious of making other people wait, and I will almost always at least provide an interim message to let them know I haven’t forgotten.  I think it’s just common courtesy to keep other people from getting stuck in your muck.

More on Drugs

(In my last post, I wrote about my feelings on drugs and medications in general. To summarize: I have always been really hesitant to use medication, even when I really need it…..  but I am very grateful for their existence when they help me feel how I need to feel and be who I need to be. )

I would like to share one of life’s little ironies with you.

I spent last Sunday doing some very heavy yard maintenance which involved relocating a pile of lumber. It was hard work, and I was tired at the end of it, but I was otherwise OK. I woke up a little bit stiff on Monday, which is to be expected after having engaged in hard labour– nothing I couldn’t deal with — and then I spent all day sitting in a hard chair  working on my computer, writing about how I almost never medicate, and hardly ever need to.  That evening, however, I was in total and utter agony.  My lower back hurt so much I could barely move. I had too many pillows, and then not enough.  I could not find a comfortable position. I was worried that I’d wake up stiff as a board, because my reaction to pain is to tense up my muscles, especially around the core.  Am I alone in this?  Is this what everyone does? I was afraid that the tension would make my stiffness and pain worse, so I administered myself a hot water bottle and shot of whiskey.

Now, I know that I spent all of the last blog post going on and on about how I barely drink, and I don’t do drugs, but this was an exception. My DH was horrified. For some reason he thought that my one finger of liquor was a precursor to full-blown alcoholism, even though I have no genetic or historical predisposition to it.   I guess we’re really a puritanical kind of family– except that we have a fully stocked liquor cabinet. Go figure.

I did have some pain the following morning, but it was tolerable.  I still felt some pain on Wednesday but I was definitely on the mend. By Thursday I was pretty much over it and I resumed all of the heavy lifting that I normally do in the course of a day– grocery shopping, loading and unloading the dishwasher; carrying kids around– the usual.  I even began reassembling a non-functional IKEA bookshelf that has been accumulating junk in my bedroom while waiting abut six months (ADD Alert!) for some TLC.

On Friday morning, I went fishing in my deep freezer to catch some cod for dinner.  To my dismay, I found that the entire unit was completely defrosted.  The freezer is in my basement, and it was completely packed with food that I’d just bought on my monthly Costco stock-up trip.  I carried basket after stinky basket and bag after putrid bag up the stairs and out the door to my garbage shed. In fact, the bags were so heavy that I could barely lift them over the top edge of the bin.  My back was protesting, but I guess not loudly enough.

I was hosting a dinner  for 16 people that evening and I had a lot of prep and cooking to do.  I was peeling, chopping, processing, and frying on my feet for four hours. Normally, this kind of work has no effect on me, but that day, at about hour 3, I noticed that my back felt like it was on fire.  I couldn’t stop, though. Dinner wasn’t ready. I got a stool from the bathroom to keep one foot up and distribute the weight, but it was too late. I couldn’t find relief in any position.  I had no choice but to keep going. I finished frying the last piece of battered fish, and went upstairs to shower without even pretending to clean up the huge mess I’d left in the kitchen.  In the shower, I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair. I tried lying down just to give my poor back a rest, but I couldn’t find any position that offered relief.

When the guests started showing up I forced myself out of bed, put on some comfortable and stretchy clothes, and did my best to brush my extremely knotty hair. All this time, my core was tensed up to keep me upright.  The meal was a success, and even though I tried to recruit guests to carry ‘heavy’ things like platters of food around, I still ended up having to do a fair bit of weight bearing, which was making the pain worse all along.

To make a long story short (this was supposed to be an aside), I found myself later in the evening wearing a waist support belt (which I use to improve my posture when sitting at my desk) after a couple of shots of lemoncello, two advil, a menthol patch, and Voltaren cream, which is a topical pain reliever.  I somehow got through the evening but then woke up from pain halfway through the night and slept fitfully. DH, finding me zombie-like in the morning, convinced me to take some more Advil.  And so began my day, made possible by analgesics.

I must admit, on the rare occasions that I do try pain relievers, I am always amazed at how well they work. I mean, they take the pain away. How crazy is that?  They make me really functional.  What more can you ask for?  I am so grateful to live in a world where a simple, sugar coated pill can make you feel so much better so quickly.

That being said, I still prefer to do everything I can to function as the person I want to be without medication. For pain I wait it out, or do targeted breathing. I use a hot water bottle or ice, or sometimes a band aid will do the trick, even though I’m over seven years old.  As I mentioned in my last post, I also managed to manage my life before ADD meds– for better or for worse, and that is where this blog post was intended to begin.

I was going to use this post to write about my journey from med virgin to drug-dependent desperado, but  I guess that will have to wait until next post because this one is getting too long. So much for my aside.

Header image from https://openclipart.org/search/?query=drugs

 

Pill Pusher

I’ve always been a pill pusher. That is, I push pills away.  Unless my pain is completely unbearable, I will not even take an aspirin. It’s not because I’m macho or have anything to prove, and I certainly don’t look down on people who need to medicate but, like an obedient child of the 80s, I just don’t do drugs. Wouldn’t McGruff be proud?

There is some truth, however, to the idea that I do not take drugs because I am tough. I am not as physically sensitive, it seems, as other people are. Do I have a high threshold for pain? Is my pain less acute and  debilitating than other people’s?   Pain is a complicated subject, but I think that, having been through two labour and deliveries without an epidural  (ok, I had laughing gas on one) would at least prove me to be resilient while also underlining my aversion to medication.

But it’s not all about pain killers. I don’t use any sorts of drug at all and, besides a daily cup of coffee and some occasional social drinking, and I have no desire to. I don’t smoke, vape, eat, snort, inject, or otherwise invite any mind altering substances into my body (does sugar count?) because I like being in my own head. I like to be in control. I like to be functional.  I’m always sure that when I am in my own head I can be productive– and God knows how many of my hours are spent just getting to the point where I am able to focus and be productive. Drug use, I have always feared, would just throw all that off.

I’ve also always been afraid of the long-term effects of medication. When I need them, I want to be able to take a low dose and be done with it. I don’t want to develop a tolerance. Also, I don’t want to become dependent or, worse, addicted to something as restricted as pharmaceuticals, even over-the-counter ones.  I guess that fear is actually one of the biggest factors to my reluctant attitude.  A friend once told me about a promising young man who started university the same year she did.  In the first couple of weeks of the school year they went to a party where he took whatever illicit commodity was going around that night. As my friend put, it, and I can still remember her eyes making their way towards the ceiling as she told me this story, he went up and never came down.  Now, I know that Advil is not LSD and that  Concerta is not meth (though it is a form of crack, from what I understand), I’m not interested in dealing with tolerance, addiction, dependence or the loony bin on account of a temporary affliction or bad mood if I can just handle it on my own.

Do you see where this story is going?

As awareness of ADD and then ADHD started becoming more prevalent in the 90’s, I immediately identified with the symptoms.  Beyond self-diagnosis, however, there didn’t seem to be much I could do about it besides work around my issues and play to my strengths. Certainly, I was not about to jump on the Vitamin R bandwagon that accompanied what seemed to be a trend in mental health.  ADD, if that’s what I had, was something I’d dealt with even before I knew what it was.

For a very long time, I bore the reputation of being  someone who was perpetually late or who pulled all-nighters to get my assignments done on time. My grades in high school will tell you that I probably was not handling the condition as well as I could have. Things perked up in university. My high school had high academic standards, which gave me an edge in comparison with the other fish in the post-secondary pond.  All of a sudden, in University, I thought that I was freed from the burden of actually having to study for courses I didn’t think I was good at (though later it turned out that I actually have quite the aptitude for math if I could only sit my butt down and do the work). I became a decent student.   Most of the evaluations in my  arts degree were essay-based (which I rock) as opposed to multiple choice testing (which confuse me), I became more motivated and also developed organizational strategies.   I managed to have a part-time job, volunteer, and take an extra heavy course load while maintaining, for the most part, a decent average, all without the help of drugs.

At the time,  I thought I was acing university, but in hindsight all I was  really good at was maintaining mediocrity.

I got a dreamt job in my field straight out on university– in California, no less!  In fact, I was told by the committee after the fact that I was hired on the basis of karma. Apparently karma wasn’t enough. I did my job well, but I didn’t do it great.

Eventually, figuring there was something more out there, I continued on my modest way through graduate school where I had to beg and plead and petition off a couple of courses, simply because I had not properly read through the program requirements.  In the end, I presented my thesis, graduated, and then began the most revealing chapter in my personal ADD history: Parenthood.

Marriage had been a bit of a shocker for me, organization-wise, because all of a sudden I had to take the needs of another person into consideration– a person who was also not all that organized, but we worked it out.  Several babies later, and it was clear that I was losing my edge. The strategies that had served me well in the past and kept me afloat were no longer relevant.  There was no home organizing magazine or TV show or guru that could ‘corral’ (as ladies magazines love to say) all of my physical, emotional, and mental clutter into a cute and chic container.  Trust me, I bought a lot of  wicker baskets and bought into the advice of a lot of gurus. In fact, I’d  dreamed up the same or similar strategies long before Hoarders ever became a prime-time TV sensation. But when the box you’ve designated for Legos is dumped out and used as an impromptu dolly bed, and when the shelf labeled ‘long sleeve shirts’ has been emptied on to the floor in a frenzy by a child looking for his favourite bathing suit, and when the Upstairs broom gets repurposed as a downstairs fort beam shortly before a potted plant breaks all over the floor of your bathroom by someone who wanted to open a window to shout instructions to a younger sibling in the yard, and when all this happens before 10am on a Sunday, even an army of Martha Stewarts would not be enough to keep things in check

Well, maybe an army of Martha Stewarts would work, but not just a platoon.

And I tried. I tried so hard.  I wrote schedules, I made lists and I decluttered.  I embraced the chaos and, and gave thanks where it was due.  However, friends and family who counted on me, to say nothing of banks and utilities, did not embrace the chaos along with me.  I couldn’t stay on top of homework or dinners or bills or invitations — at least, not all at once.  I took drastic measures. I hired a cleaner once a week to help keep the debris in check .  I even hired, for a short time, an ADD coach whose job it was to keep me on track.  I started reading more about the condition online and in books. Then came the kicker: a single missed appointment.

My son had presented himself to us with a fever and some unusual symptoms– a red eyes, dry, split lips, and a rash.  The doctor was afraid that it was Kawasaki syndrome, and sent us straight to the hospital where they administered all sorts of tests to rule out the disease.  The results were not immediate, and we were due back for a followup– but instead I sent my son to school that day and missed the appointment. Why? How? How could I forget something so important?  The appointment was on my calendar.  I didn’t have any other pressing appointments that day. How could I have possibly forgotten about this even?

My son was fine.  Though they did not rule out Kawasaki, they also did not find any residual effects from whatever virus he’d had.For me, however, things were different.  I was more angry with myself than I had ever been. The missed appointment was a real wake-up call.

There were a few episodes throughout my life around which my impression of  of mental health drugs was formed.  For many years, I worked with kids as a counselor, group leader, or teacher.  Lots of kids with ADD– diagnosed or otherwise– came through my care.  Some were hyperactive, some were dreamy. Some were medicated, some were not.  Working in camp-like surroundings which allowed for a lot of movement and travel, and which provided a hands-on approach to learning and lots of stimuli, I developed  a very smug view of meds.  They seemed like an easy way out for parents and teachers when, really, it was the system that was failing these children, as far as I was concerned. Of course, when you’re working in a flannel and Birkenstocks kind of  environment where the indoor air was scented with patchouli and body odor (if you could tell one from the other), you’re prone to being a little judgmental. But slowly, over the course of many years, my attitude changed.

I was once leading a hike for a group of 5th graders including a super sweet kid named Brennan. He’d been complaining about hunger but we kept putting him off because it was almost time for lunch.  It must have been unbearable for him because in an uncharacteristic fit of insistence, he threatened to jump off a cliff if he did not get something to eat. He was literally standing at the edge of one at the time, so my coworker lured him away with a bag of trail mix. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I later learned that he was coming off his morning meds which completely eradicated his appetite. Could it be, I thought that this adorable and charming kid was so off kilter that he required medication to help him get through the day?

A couple of years later, I was camping with another group of kids. We were sitting around the fire in the evening when I overheard one of them confide to Jaron,  another counselor, that he was embarrassed about taking his meds. I found Jaron’s response to be very touching, and the scene has stayed clear in my mind. He said:

“I wear glasses.  If I didn’t have my glasses I wouldn’t be able to see. I’d be stumbling into things. Ritalin is like glasses for your brain. It makes things clear. The only difference between us is that glasses are on my face, and people are used to seeing them.”

More recently, I took a lesson from a friend of mine who, incidentally, had been another one of the patchouli-wearing, haughty hippies at my former workplace.Over a decade later, she still smells the same.  The bigger problem, however,  was that her marriage was about to break up, and she was devastated.  Although she and her husband were in counselling and had committed to changing certain behaviors, she was finding it incredibly difficult to give him space or to let things slide. She knew her behavior was irrational, but she said that she was simply unable to control it– a statement which I could not wrap my mind around. If she knew it was wrong, why couldn’t she just walk away? My friend reported the situation to her family doctor, who recognized the problem as being a form of anxiety.  With much apprehension, she agreed to start taking anti-anxiety medication. The first thing she noticed was how much more relaxed she could be at work. She hadn’t realized how wound up she constantly was. After some time, she found that she was able to relate to her husband in a ‘normal’ way in stressful situations– something she had never been able to do before.  Their marriage is much more stable and fulfilling today, and my friend and I agree that it wouldn’t have been the case without the drugs to help it along.

Another friend of mine who is also very hesitant when it comes to medication (I guess I tend to befriend a certain type of person) recently told me that she changed her position. She is an elementary school teacher, and a very good and caring one, in my opinion. She told me that, ultimately, she would prefer to implement differentiated education and to work around the abilities of any child to try and give them tools for learning and living, but that sometimes there are cases she sees where the child is really suffering.  Their behavior, which they can’t help,  sets them apart, makes them difficult to befriend and affects their self esteem and confidence, not to mention their ability to function in the classroom.  In these cases, she tells me, she would hope that parents and doctors would step in to try and alleviate the situation, even with medication, if necessary.

My husband had been encouraging me for a long time to see somebody about my problem. After this episode I finally went for it.  Though the ultimate motivator was concern for my family, I also started asking myself if I could ever realize at me that was not mediocre.  There are so many things I’ve wanted to accomplish, or at least try, and if medication was the vehicle that could get me there, perhaps it was time to try it out. Also, for the first time in many years, I was neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. Until that point, my problem hadn’t seemed urgent enough to complicate it with a baby.

I asked around, got a few names, and made the appointment.  (The process was a story in and of itself.)  At the end of that appointment came the beginning of a new adventure; and it’s name was Concerta.

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(Note: McGruff the Crime Dog is an anthropomorphic animated dog created by Dancer Fitzgerald Sample through the Ad Council and later the National Crime Prevention Council to increase crime awareness and personal safety in the United States.)

Do Not Disturb: A Room of One’s Own

I have been especially  pressed for time lately.  Without going into detail I will say that, for once, I don’t have any secret guilt about really having had the time but not using it well.  This time, my excuse is that I was just plain old booked solid  I firmly, truly, utterly did not have time to attend to my creative endeavors for the past month or so. The two months before that could have used some improvement in the time-management department, but October was overwhelmed with things other than writing.

Anyhooo.

I wasn’t planning on getting any writing done about a fortnight ago but I was trying to get through a bit of bookkeeping that had piled up and that the big boss (AKA DH) had been inquiring about for a few weeks with increasing panic. I’d picked up one of the kidlets early from school and he was planted in front of a DVD (yes, they still have the magic). I had, oh, half an hour or maybe forty good minutes left to finish the task at hand before I had to head out and pick up the rest of the clan, and I might have gotten there when

Rat-a-tat-a-tat.

I did a bit of yogic low-level swear-muttering, clenched and unclenched just my fingertips a few times, and, with great difficulty, tore my hard-won hyperfocus away from the accounting software on my screen.  Moments later, and smiling brightly, I opened the door to a person I like and would have, under many other circumstances, been happy to see. And her dog.

It was just a friendly visit. She happened to be walking by and thought it would be nice to stop by and say hi. And it would have been if not, like I said, for the timing. Also I’m not crazy about dog hair on my carpets.

The obvious thing to do here would have been to politely say ‘I’ve got only a few minutes left to finish something I’m working on, but it’s nice to see you and let’s do this some other time.’ Honestly, I think I may have said something to that effect, but not effectively enough, if I remember correctly (because, as I mentioned, I have been so busy since then that I really did not have time to sit down and write out the details). I may have said ‘Oh hey, Siobhan, what’s up? It’s good to see you. I’ve got to go out and get the kids soon.’  Because I have overly hospitable instincts– hospitable, historically speaking, to the point of near self-destruction– I did not express my circumstances clearly enough. I did not make it abundantly clear that this was work time for me, not play time. When someone comes to my door it’s like  a switch is flicked in my brain which leaves it screaming ‘Brew some hot water! Defrost the babka!’ Madness. In my defense, people tend to stop by because they know I will always be welcoming and hospitable. And I hate hurting people’s feelings.

Have I mentioned in this blog before that I am prone to these kinds of interruptions, inasmuch as a person can be prone, involuntarily and unknowingly to the actions of another person? As you can see, I bring it upon myself to some degree by not being straightforward. (I blame my overly-hospitable mother for setting a bad example but that’s a whole other for a whole other blog).  However, many times the interruptions are just random– the local handyman checking in after yet another six-week period of having been completely AWOL in my time of need, neighbors seeking eggs, sugar, advice, or some neighborly dialogue (gossip), deliveries, the tax man, it’s astounding.

And so I decided to take matters into my own hands in my signature passive-aggressive style.  It’s a foolproof method that I have used before with resounding success, and one which does not require me to confront my tea-brewing and cake-serving demons. The next day, I opened a fresh Word document and changed the layout from Portrait to Landscape. I centered the justification and enlarged the font to movie poster proportions.   Using a pretty script, so as not to appear too harsh, I write the word Please. On the next line, this time in block letters, several points larger I type: DO NOT followed by DISTURB immediately underneath. I slide my chair back to analyze; It’s too harsh. Hastily, in script again, add ‘I’m hard at work inside.’

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It’s such a little thing, but it says so much. I attach it to my front door with kitchen magnets and enjoy an interruption-free afternoon.

When my husband comes home later he sees the sign, which is by this time handily mounted and  ready for reuse inside the house on the back of the front door.

‘You can’t do this.’ he says. ‘I know you, and I know you mean well but I also know that you don’t realize when you’re being too harsh.’

I wince. That was harsh.

‘But it works!’ I protest. It had worked, hadn’t it? I hate being told that I’m insensitive.

‘It might work, but you are going to hurt a lot of feelings. Just explain to people that you are busy and don’t have time to spend with them. They’ll understand. Just do it face to face.’

I know he’s right on many counts but also wrong on every count. I consider his advice in light of what may be politically correct versus what I know to be feasible and realistic.  I consider the people whose feelings might be hurt. This is what I come up with:

Imagine a neighbor coming to my door. I stop my work, I go downstairs, I open it and either spend time with them or else turn them away using polite and friendly dialogue. Even if I can find the wherewithal to do so, and even if they are in fact not insulted by the new closed-door policy, they will probably feel bad for having knocked at my door and disturbed me. Additionally , I still have to stop whatever I’m working on and then re-find my focus once I return to my desk , or to whatever project I happen to be working on. It’s a lose-lose.

On the other hand, if someone comes to my door and finds my sign, harsh as it is, they have the opportunity to refrain from knocking, thereby invoking a feel-good situation where, of their own accord, they have chosen to let me work, even though they were eager to see me, share a conversation, or borrow some butter.  I will be none the wiser (until five minutes later when they text me to find out what I’m so busy working on that I can’t answer the door — a text which I will obviously ignore until I am done my work).

On the other other hand, I hope people will be smart enough to actually ignore my sign and knock on the door if the situation is urgent enough. I don’t want the fed-ex man to take off with my deliveries and cause me to drive out to the truck depot to pick up my Amazon orders. I don’t want Ed McMahon to turn away with my one million dollars. There needs to be a happy medium.

Obviously, some adjustments are called for. This is what I came up with.

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Let me know what you think.