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Fresh starts, again

August 4th, 2011

It’s that time of year again- time to get ready for a new school year. Princess is still in the special school, with small classes and lots of counseling support. Also lots of troubled kids, but in a way I feel as though being surrounded by everyone else’s issues may force her to cope with her own. She made a good friend last year, another girl who loves Harry Potter and Invader Zim and writing role plays on Gaia. Oh, and who is also fighting some mood disorders. There is something very comforting about arrangement a sleepover when you know the other parent totally understands the medication drill and all that. We are in the midst of changing the mood stabilizers, but so far we have not had any problem with the transition. I remain cautiously optimistic, and continue to take things slowly. There is something to be said for keeping her in the special school for the remainder of the year, and waiting until she starts ninth grade to transition back into the comprehensive school.

Hoss is working really hard at being in control, even dropping his afternoon ADHD dose on days when he is just hanging out. His meds have been steady for some time, his appointments are now spaced out more than before, and we are not dreading the return to school. The administration stacked the cards in our favor this year- the fifth grade had a vacancy, so Hoss’ fourth grade teacher rose to fill it. And, in a totally unexpected move (and by “unexpected” I mean “totally expected,” a la Professor Doofenschmirtz), Hoss was assigned to Mr. G’s class again this year. Hmmm, a teacher who my boy totally connects with and loves more than anything, and a special educator who gets his humor. What more can a mom ask for?

This, I think, is the year of Little Joe.  The quirks and routines are starting to become more noticable.   I forsee testing, and am going on record with a prediction of PDD/mild Aspergers with a touch of OCD. I hope that any issues can be dealt with by behavioral measures, since the possibility of Little Joe swallowing even the tiniest of pills or anything liquid that is not milk is…let’s just say it would be a challenge.

My goal for the school year? No hospital stays. It’s not so much to ask.

ADHD and Me, My Wicked Little Friend

April 13th, 2009

From Mommy of Mayhem and also drunkenlore.

Thursday, June, 26, 2008

You can blame this one on the hormones that accompany my “this means you’re not pregnant even though I don’t need you to tell me that because I know it for various other reasons” friend that is visiting this week. All my LAYYYdies….you feel me? (That last line SHOULD have been read using the sing song voice in your head, so if you didn’t, try again. Thank you.)

I am here today to talk about my one and only flaw, which is my inability to have one single day, with one single organized thought in it. I have two reasons for writing about this. I was growing a bit tired of all of you thinking that I am perfect ALL the time, but most importantly, I needed to capture the topic in writing before a certain best friend of mine beat me to it via a blog entry based on her visit to my circus house of horrors yesterday. (Love ya GUUURRRL!) I am mildly exaggerating. VERY mildly. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD at the age of 28. This diagnosis came after several attempts to name “it” something different. There were doctors who treated my symptoms of ADHD as the main issue. By products of this, such as depression, impulsive behavior, aggression and anger were thought, by several, to be my “sickness”, when in fact, they occurred as a direct result of the as of yet undiagnosed ADHD. In an attempt to combat any and all of the above mentioned issues, doctors doused me with drugs left and right, adding and subtracting like bad mathematics when yet another failed to do it’s job.

Antidepressants left me feeling soul-less. Instead of extreme highs or amazingly extreme lows packed with crying and long periods in bed, I felt nothing. I cannot imagine I could have continued that way for very long. I never discussed it with my parents, and I still haven’t to this day. This is partially because I believe this condition, or variations of it, run in my family.

Around the age of 13, I remember us driving home from Sunday lunch in order to make ready the house for my grandmother’s visit later that afternoon. As we pulled into the drive, the entire family was surprised to see my grandmother crouched over on the front steps of our house, silver head bowed, sobbing into her Sunday dress . Thinking that something was terribly wrong, my mother rushed to her. I will recall her words for the rest of my life. “I thought you all were never coming back. What would I do if you never came home again?” She was 3 hours early.

My brother and I had a lovely childhood, given almost anything we wished for. I know that we were both loved (and still are) deeply by my parents. The only sadness I can really recall came from my mother, and usually from the front seat of our car as my brother and I sat, not so quietly, on the drive back from church. We would cross a bridge that arched over the cemetery where my grandfather had been buried over 20 years before. I soon came to silently accept the tears that ran down my mother’s cheeks each time we made that journey, though we weren’t exactly sure what they meant. I now think she was weeping for the childhood that ended when her father and grandmother died in an automobile accident when she was only 13. My mother was in the car. This could also explain why my grandmother lived the rest of her life afraid that people she loved so much might never come home.

This knowledge leaves me wondering if I was born unable to accomplish ordinary tasks that come so easily and naturally to others, or if I learned it (or didn’t) due to the fact that the women in my childhood did not model those behaviors for me because they themselves were too busy suffering. Whatever the reason, “it” has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know how to explain the frustration, simply because it had always been the way I “worked”; I just thought everyone operated on the same level. I liken my brain to a television that is continuously on, though changing channels at a maddening pace. Sometimes I am paying attention to things that I don’t even care to pay attention to, all while ignoring something or someone very important, right in front of me. I do not do it on purpose, though I sometimes come across as snobbish or unconcerned. I often interrupt others in conversation with a seemingly unrelated comment or topic, though in my mind it has relevance and should be shared immediately.

I have had to learn how to think about how my actions impact not just myself, but everyone around me. Note: it is not a good idea to take credit card to MAC cosmetics counter. My organizational skills are non-existent. If I do not make a list before going to the grocery store, I may come back with two packs of vacuum cleaner bags and no milk, or peanut butter and not jelly, though they’re right beside each other, and we’ve been out of jelly for 2 months. I know that people forget things at the grocery, or buy two of one and none of another, but this is an every time sort of deal. I have not mastered the “I know what goes in everything I cook, so I don’t need a list, let’s go shopping with a purpose” method. Without a list I will spend $800 on food that looks cool. Truffle butter and frozen ostrich burgers, anyone?

My mother didn’t raise me with “instructions” on how to do household chores. OR, maybe she did and I just missed it. I don’t see a natural order in how one’s house should be or look, and I can spend an entire day trying to clean one room. The majority of this surfaced when Leonidas and I (bless his big heart) first started dating. We lived together before we married, and he would “bring to my attention” the fact that, should I start trying to help clean our apartment around 11am (before kids wake up time), at 6 pm, things just looked “moved around”, due to my inability to focus on anything for longer than 2 minutes. Start laundry in one room, walk to another to put away said laundry, spray Lysol on bathroom counter. Go begin another load of laundry (that I will remember and have to rewash tomorrow) then decide to clean out the pantry as I walk past… get it? He wasn’t complaining, just commentating. He is a master laundry doer.

My frustration at knowing I was a fairly intelligent individual (I always did well in school without ever having to study) who was incapable of completing everyday tasks finally led me to seek help from a psychiatrist. After diagnosis, I was put on Adderall for the attention deficit, Valium to lessen the aggression that resulted from the Adderall, and a couple of other drugs whose names I don’t remember anymore. After starting the Adderall, I could focus SO well that I was up at 3 a.m. scrubbing the baseboards of my house with a toothbrush. I folded my underwear. One might say I became obsessive. At 5’9, I went from 170 lbs. to 109 lbs. in 5 months. I was happy to be shopping in the pre-teen section of stores for the first time in my life. I would move my food around on my plate during meals to disguise the fact that I wasn’t eating it. My heart raced each time I stepped onto the scale, only to find I had dropped yet another pound. I argued and resisted every time Leonidas suggested I may need to stop taking this medicine, or at least get a 33rd opinion from a different doctor, one not so willing to dole out drugs to a walking skeleton every month for my $20 co-pay. I avoided my parents and brother, who were all, at the time, still in South Carolina.

Then I cracked. One day, irritated that my toddler wouldn’t sit still and my infant would not stop crying, (go figure), I put them safely in their cribs, walked to the kitchen and proceeded to remove all of my plates from the cupboards. I carried them to the enclosed patio out back and methodically smashed them into the concrete floor. I then took a pair of kitchen scissors out of the drawer, walked to the bathroom, climbed into the sink, and began cutting my hair off, bit by bit, until I felt I could breathe again. I believe that fate intervened at that point, in the form of a phone call from my father. I calmly told him what was happening, at which point he instructed me to stay put. They were four hours away, so he called my husband who was home in what seemed to be under 3 minutes. After checking on the babies, he swept up the glass, brushed my hair, and put me to bed. My parents and brother arrived not long after. I underwent a quickie intervention and unwilling detox, thanks to my husband and family. My brother took me home where he and his wife force fed me for a week, allowed me to paint, draw, write, go for walks in the woods and be silent. When he told me one day that he was afraid I was dying, I told him I was. I hope that he knows his love saved my life.

A week later, my husband held my hand and brought me home. With clear eyes I looked at my children for the first time. It was at that moment I decided, that no matter what I had to deal with in regards to ADHD, I would do it drug free. I have managed this condition with humor, tears, and lots and lots of support. In a selfless gesture of love, my parents sold their dream home and moved to North Carolina to be with me and to help with the babies. My family has made sacrifices that I will be forever grateful, and alive, for. I make lists that I never complete, but at least I have a starting point. I still leave my coffee somewhere until it’s cold, then reheat it in the microwave only to forget where I put it. I bake muffins for my children and forget they’re in the oven until the tops are burnt because I forget to set the timer sometimes….like this morning. But now, instead of smashing things, I cut the tops off and add sugar free whipped cream and berries. Now, I can laugh. And I do.

Originally published here.

I Can’t

July 8th, 2008

By Kay

One of the hardest things for me to do is to say that I can’t. It goes against the very positive message that I’ve had engrained into me my whole life, that I can do anything. Saying otherwise feels like giving up, and I hate that.

The psychologist I was seeing last summer never suggested that I couldn’t do things. The issue at the time was the same as it always is, that I was going between unemployed and underemployed, and my parents weren’t pleased by it. My psychologist suggested that instead of letting my depression drag me down to the point where I was sleeping instead of working, I should see working as a step in treating my depression, and most of our sessions were spent discussing ways to become employed, her encouraging me to take on more work, even suggesting places for me to apply. When I did start working full-time, my 9-5 schedule kept me from staying in bed all day, and both my psychologist and my parents declared that it was therefore helping me to get better. I didn’t tell them that I was struggling to keep my eyes open at my desk, and spent every lunch hour napping, and that I was still miserable.

Then I went back to school, and was no longer working, and was struggling with my classes, and my parents were on my case to get a part-time job during the school year. After a few months of going lower and lower, I found myself trying to explain why I hadn’t gotten a job to my new psychologist at student counselling.

“So, you’re having trouble keeping up academically, and you’re sleeping through classes. And you’re exhausted all the time. And you were hit by a car, and you’re still recovering from that. Well, it sounds to me like you’re not in any position to be looking for employment on top of all that, not if you’re not going to be thrown out for not paying the rent any time soon.”

“But my parents-”

“Your parents are right, you’ll have to work at some point in the future. But maybe right now you can’t, and that’s okay.”

A few months later I was referred to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with ADHD. I tried to articulate to her how exactly I managed to lose things and forget things so much.

“It’s not as if I want to, it’s just that when I need to remember something, I don’t know how to make that information be in my head at that moment. I’m always thinking about something else, and I’m not even thinking that I should be trying to think of what I need to remember.”

“Of course. You don’t forget thing because you’re trying to. It’s not even because you’re overly indifferent. You would remember if you could, but you just can’t.”

Both times it made me feel a lot better to think that I couldn’t, because if something is truly beyond my limitations, then it means that it’s not really my fault. It’s difficult to explain it to a lot of people though. I have a lot of conversations, especially with my parents, along the lines of “what do you mean, you just can’t? Is there something physically stopping you? Have you been tied down or something?”

The idea still bothers me a lot. I hate to think that I have limitations, and I hate even more to admit it to others. And I never want to use my problems as an excuse for not trying hard enough. But a mental illness by definition means that sometimes I can’t. If it didn’t limit me, it wouldn’t be a mental illness, because there would be nothing wrong. So I’m trying to learn to acknowledge those limits, and work from there.

Originally published here.