ADHD

Done With Consistently Inconsistent: Why I’m treating my ADHD

Over the past six months, I have gone from wondering for years if I have ADD/ADHD to discussing it with my counselor to getting evaluated and diagnosed, and finally to getting treated.

As with everything in my life, the path has been consistently inconsistent. In fact, if there was a catchphrase for everything I have ever done, it would have to be “consistently inconsistent”.

I start things with enthusiasm, only to stall out between 50-90% complete.

I work hard, except when I sink into an abyss of Candy Crushing.

I’m smart and capable, except when I’m a total airhead.

I am compassionate, thoughtful and considerate, except when I blurt the rudest comment possible.

can focus, especially when something is fascinating. Except when I simply cannot.

For many years I would see the signs of ADHD in myself (yes, I have the “H”, even as a fortysomething woman), and add the disclaimer that everyone is like that sometimes. My mom, who is the most dutiful person I know, tends to run late and lose track of time. My sister, who is second only to my mom in that category, has days when she falls into that candy crushing abyss. I suspected that much of it was just the stigma that less-than-organized women suffer just because we don’t fit a stereotype. Yet, the inability to plan and complete projects, the very aspect that caused my failure from the gifted program in middle school kept echoing through my life.

For every diagnostic aspect that I have of ADHD (for the record, I meet diagnostic criteria and severity in all of the characteristics), I can think of someone who has the same thing, at least as bad or worse. What was missing in my equation was threefold.

First, I was thinking of one of the many aspects that I have, and not realizing that it’s the only aspect or one of only two that others have.

Second, those I didn’t recognize that those inconsistencies are the rule instead of the exception for me, and not for the other person in mind.

Most importantly, what has been apparent, especially in hindsight over the years is the fact that these inconsistencies have not only disrupted my life and my goals, they have disrupted my view of myself.

Listening to this webinar recently (not watched, mind you, in order to focus I listened while stacking wood), all of the remaining pieces fell into place perfectly and made sense. If you have ever had the aha! moment of all of recognizing something about yourself that changes your perspective about everything, past present and future, you will relate to this experience. Rather than hearing Dr. Hinshaw, the presenter, expound about girls and women with ADHD, he was telling me about myself.

I have, at several times in my life been diagnosed with depression. I already suspected, but when diagnosed with ADHD, I also met criteria for generalized anxiety, anticipatory anxiety, and social anxiety. Each of these commonly co-occurs with ADHD, especially in women.

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Running and coffee have been forms of self-medication, unable to run, my struggles have multiplied, thus the diagnosis and treatment.

I took my first dose of Adderall this month.

I have developed many coping skills, and my wonderful husband creates organizational systems for me, makes lists, and reminds me endlessly of things I need to do, but I’m weary. The perpetual backward slide (which I refer to as entropy) has taken too much of a toll for too long. I don’t want to fight anymore, and I’m not even sure I can; I suspect that I don’t have it in me to keep pushing indefinitely at this pace for such paltry results.

Being realistic about the effect on my body, and the need to continue to develop the skills that I need to do life better, medication is a game-changer.

Already, I have gone from feeling like I’m running on ice to getting traction and hitting my stride. Without medicating the anxiety, I have less of that too. It seems that being consistently more consistent makes for a more predictable and less chaotic life, which (for me at least) reduces anxiety. For a few weeks now I have not fallen into bed and suddenly realized what I neglected, but rather, felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.

This is but the start of a new chapter, and with many more to come, I realize that surprises can and will arise, that my approach will likely change, and that this is not a solved problem, but rather a new direction with favorable change, for now at least.

I think I was due.

advocacy · parenting · special needs parenting

Autism Awareness:  Autism Related Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsiveness 

There’s this thing that happens. When Benjamin knows he’s going somewhere his anxiety skyrockets and he perseverates until he leaves. 

So, yesterday when he went to Grammy’s house, we told him when it was time to put his shoes on.  Even though he loves going to Grammy’s house, from the time he finds out he’s going until the car is under way, he cannot avoid an anxiety attack.  As soon as we leave his world is back in order and he’s just ducky. 

This goes for any outing. 

The anxiety used to cause vomiting, but thankfully now it’s only gagging and retching. 

I suspect there are a few factors playing into this. The perseverative behavior of autism, the inability to tell time, which is truly a complete incapacity to understand the flow of time at all, and the intolerance for having any need go unmet.  It makes for tricky parenting. 

In response we go into ninja mode. 

Ninja mode means that we sneak around and go to great extremes to avoid raising Ben’s suspicion that we might be leaving. For example, for a visit to our new house I did all the packing while he was doing his flush and seated on the potty for an hour. 

It’s a high stakes game, because if we slip and he figures out that we’re going somewhere we get stuck in the anxiety cycle of him asking repeatedly “Go bye bye?”  Or if he understands the destination, “Go Grammy’s?” Or “Go doctor?”   It happens a few times a minute from the moment he realizes we’re supposed to go somewhere until he is out of the driveway, and is punctuated by his retching and gagging. 

When such a drastic error occurs it’s often best to just leave the house and drive around until it’s time to arrive at our destination. Distraction rarely works. Picture schedules don’t help, and once the anxiety is triggered there is no going back until we leave. 

Anxiety disorders are common in people with autism, as are the obsessive compulsive or perseverative behaviors exhibited here.  This is just one of Ben’s flavors of autism/anxiety/obsessive compulsiveness, one that significantly impacts his quality of life and ours.  Ben has an unspecified anxiety disorder that has some qualities of separation anxiety plus his own little spin of anticipatory anxiety. While he has some significant obsessive compulsive behaviors, he has never been diagnosed with the disorder. 

Autism is a spectrum disorder and presents differently in each individual, this is just a brief illustration of how autism impacts Ben. This is why supports and therapies are crucial, because it’s the best way to build his tolerance for normal daily activities so that he can live a full and complete life with autism rather than being isolated by it.