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Posts Tagged ‘ADD’

Remember my basement?  The Hellmouth?  Well, maybe I cannot accomplish miracles in one month, but give me two or three and all matters of accomplishment can happen as my photos will attest.

Before:                                               After:

Before

                                                           

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Is it ADD or my cell phone?

Here’s an interesting article about ADD/ADHD vs. feeling “overloaded” with technology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-sarkis-phd/adhd-add-misdiagnosis_b_914921.html

 

I will say, being pretty much unplugged for 10 days in Italy did me worlds of good.  I was more focused than usual.  Seems obvious, but I easily fall into checking email/Facebook/NPR all day long.

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It’s that time again.  Time to look back over my February resolution and see how I did.

The goal was to address my ADD.  Here is what my plans entailed:

  • Read some books and articles recommended to me by a psychologist who specializes in ADD –  CHECK!  I’m still reading So I’m Not Lazy . . . and it’s very insightful. I researched several online articles and read photocopied articles given to me by a psychologist.  I will continue to read and research as needed.
  • Visit my general practitioner to discuss my evaluation and possible drug therapy – CHECK!  Tried Adderall and hated it.  Now trying Vyvanse.  It does help me follow through with tasks rather than getting interrupted and diverted and my stress level has markedly gone down.
  • Implement some organizational strategies in my home (which may entail a trip to IKEA!) – Still working on this.  My handyman has gone AWOL so I haven’t installed any of the hooks that I’ve bought and I still need to meet with my mother figures to go over storage and clutter-reduction ideas.  IKEA is still in the future, but I need to budget for it.  I haven’t given up on this goal, but it’s taking longer than planned.
  • Develop some coping tools – KINDA CHECK.  I am gentler with myself, I catch myself from exploding with my kids and am more patient, I assess what I need in stressful situations and ask for support, I’m using my phone to schedule and alert me, and I’m writing lists and remembering to bring them on errands.  Since I haven’t met with an ADD coach, I’m not sure what other tools could be useful, but I do know I am open to filling my virtual tool chest.
  • Maybe even have a consultation with a professional organizer – NO.  I can’t afford this, but would enjoy it.
  • Map out a weekday schedule – CHECK!  I do this on Monday mornings.  This week I am relying more on my phone, but I’m looking at my day before I get started.  The result: I feel more in control and happy.
  • Don’t feel like a loser by bedtime – CHECK!!  My self-esteem really has improved.  I feel calmer despite a month of craziness in front of me.

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I’m not sure why this is just hitting me now, especially when I have had moments of clarity in my past.  I guess I never learned.  I over-commit.  This is a trait of the ADD adult.  According to Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo of  You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? ADD adults have a terrible time finding balance in their lives, much like alcoholics.  Similarly, we feel out of control.  They say we take on more than we can do because we fear the boredom of routine.  Check!  I have balked at scheduling my life in any way up until this year.  I can’t do it anymore.  I have two kids.  That’s four schedules in our household and I am the schedule-keeper.  So when I volunteer to serve on the PTA board, I know it’s crazy but I do it anyway because I believe in the cause.  And when I open my mouth to create a new fundraiser – a read-a-thon – I know I’m crazy because it requires organizing both materials and people.  At least I found a wonderful co-chair who is detail-oriented.  The balance between our working relationship is what is keeping me sane through this process.  If my life were just harried because of the fundraiser next month, I would have enough balance in my schedule to not feel overwhelmed.  Let me share with you the reality of the situation:

  1. First week of the month: two doctor visits, a talent show rehearsal and actual talent show (my daughter).
  2. Second week: dinner fundraiser at son’s school, my last MFA packet of the semester is due, dentist (daughter), field trip chaperone (son), major rehearsals begin for ballet performance (daughter), daughter’s first slumber party (not my house, yay!)
  3. Third week: (This is where it gets really fun) My husband is out of town, end of fundraiser–volunteer at school one morning and one full day (daughter), 3-hour ballet rehearsal.
  4. Fourth week: Book club, children’s consignment sale (I’m a vendor so I must price clothes, drop off clothes, shop for kids’ spring-summer wardrobes, pick up clothes that don’t sell/donate), 2-hr. ballet rehearsal (Thursday), 4-hr. ballet rehearsal/leave school early (Friday), ballet performance (Saturday night), ballet performance (Sunday matinee).
  5. Fifth week: (wait, there’s five weeks this month?) Piano recital (day after ballet performance) and nothing else (really?).

I remember my friend Michelle once told me the most important word she ever learned was “no.”  I need to practice saying no.  Kelly and Ramundo recommend making a weekly calendar.  Check again!  But they also suggest that you take into account “an accumulation of demands on your capacity for work and stress.”  Be realistic.  How much stress can you handle?  When you write out a schedule, make sure you write in transition time and give a little extra time for unexpected delays.  I have done this for two weeks now and it does help.  I can be very flexible and move things around so I don’t stress when I can’t get the laundry put away on Tuesday.  It will happen Wednesday after the kids go to bed.  No biggie.

Another nod to Kelly and Ramundo: figure out your strengths and weaknesses.  What can you do well and not-so well?  This will help you prioritize.  What are your should-dos and must-dos?  After the analysis, “slice and dice” your schedule.  I’m going to read over the chapter more carefully and see what I can actually use and apply to my own craziness.  I can’t imagine juggling all of this and working full-time.  Props to my friends who do it all.

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Got the medication and tried it today.  Drumroll . . . I am pretty darn pleased.  No racing heartbeat.  No speeding train in my brain.  No jitters.  I actually felt, what’s the word, calm.  This afternoon I was able to help my daughter organize her routine: piano practice, homework, then a craft.  What’s even better, I never got frustrated with her or with my son’s constant interruptions.  Calm.  Earlier this morning, I had precisely one hour to write and guess what?  I wrote.  I didn’t surf Facebook nor check email, except to refer to a pdf document that an administrator in my graduate program sent me, and it was related to what I was writing.

I could get used to this.

In the mean time, my buddy Liz sent me a fascinating article on ADD and creativity from The Wall Street Journal.  Enjoy!

Bother Me, I’m Thinking

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Work it!

So, my husband and I were talking about ADD and careers this morning and it got me thinking.  Creative types like us really suffer when we try to conform to the traditional work day, to more traditional, structured jobs.  The authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid suggest careers for ADD adults, which are pretty much all of the creative variety.  Of course I’ve never liked the 9-to-5 grind!  I can work within the structure so long as I have a lot of creative license, but that is not often the case.  That’s why I enjoy teaching: I have a great deal of autonomy, I’m only scheduled to be in the classroom a few hours a week and work on my own the rest of the time, and I create assignments to engage young adults.  It’s challenging and fun.  And, of course, I love writing but so far haven’t made enough money from that to call it a job or deduct taxes.  The worst job I ever had was a three-month stint in the slide library at the university where I teach.  I had a strict schedule, dull, repetitive tasks, the same routine every day, I rarely had conversations with co-workers because we had to be quiet, and my boss seriously micro-managed me.  During my breaks, I’d hide in the stairwell and cry or call random people just to have some social contact.  My misery makes so much sense now.  I need variety and creative control, partially from the ADD, partially because I’m a control freak!  But how many people try to be square pegs in round holes day in and day out, believing if they just tried harder, worked longer, stuck with it another year, they’d be happy with their jobs?

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My doctor and I are already tinkering with the ADD meds.  The Adderall makes me feel like a rocket is attached to my heart, so she deemed it a fail.  Perhaps I’m more sensitive than the average bear.  We’re looking at some newer meds and I just made the call to the insurance company.  Looks like Vyvanse might be the winner at $35/month and fewer side effects.  But here’s the thing, I’m all for trying the medication (so long as I stop feeling like a mad dog), but I really want to find an ADD coach.  That’s right, I said coach.  The widely-read ADD magazine ADDitude recommends it, the authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid recommend it, most ADD researchers recommend some form of behavioral therapy, but I’m having trouble locating said coach.

Hopefully not my ADD coach

When I told my doc that I have two friends willing to help me with organization, she thought that was nice, but told me I need a medical professional who is trained to help adults with ADD.  Looks like I’m emailing my friend’s husband, the psychologist who read over my evaluation.  He’s the local guru on things ADD.  An ADD coach will help me schedule and prioritize.  I’m not sure why it needs to be a medical professional.  Maybe my psychologist husband can answer that one.  Or maybe you can.  Can you?  Have any of you ever used an ADD coach?

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As I said the other day, all good plans have interruptions so I have started my Valentine’s Day with a schedule for the day and the week, but have built in some time for things going awry.  I sent my son to pre-school today with a persistent cough, so I expect to receive a call at some point asking me to come get him.  If this does happen, I have other times to do the 10 kablillion items on my list.  If it doesn’t, then I proceed as planned.  This is the only way I know how to accomplish matters when I am not in complete control of my schedule.  The built-in back-ups also prevent me from building up resentments and frustrations with myself and my family.

And speaking of family and resentment . . . Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I actually mean that most whole-heartily.  I enjoy this Hallmark holiday because the sentiment is good.  We should celebrate love, all kinds of love.  I remember as a kid waking with excitement on Valentine’s Day because I knew my mom would have a heart-shaped box of delicious Brach’s or Russell Stovers waiting for me with a sweet card on the kitchen table where I sat for breakfast.  I felt loved.  And I enjoyed giving little bags of treasures to my kids this morning.  Tradition begetting tradition.  But, with romantic love – and back to the idea of resentment, or not resenting or taking for granted our special lady or man friends – especially those with ADD, we need to exercise patience and understanding more.  If you can’t do that on Valentine’s Day, then when can you?

My husband was diagnosed with ADD during our first year of marriage, although he probably knew he had it for many years before that.  It took me a while to understand how to maneuver through a relationship with someone who was as scattered and self-deprecating as my husband.  One day, I had an epiphany.  I’m not sure what triggered it, but I will share it with you:  Rick doesn’t try to frustrate me, and it pains him when I get frustrated with him, so I need to be more accepting and stop trying to change him.  Basically, he is who he is so I need to make that work in our relationship.  So, instead of letting his mail pile up for a month and then getting mad at him for not tending to it, I throw out or recycle what I know he won’t read, have him sign what needs signing, and put the rest in his work bag.  This allows me to let go of resentment.  Just like that.  Poof!  Now, we talk through our frustrations instead of letting them mount.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I ask him to put the laundry away or take out the recycling instead of waiting for him to get around to it or feeling like a martyr, trying to do everything by myself.  He’s always willing to help, so it’s an easy solution.  Plus, I’m not always the one cleaning up, so no resentment.

Yes, I have ADD too, as we now know.  So, I am equally messy and disorganized.  I’m worse with finances than Rick.  We balance each other with flaws and strong points and try to help one another rather than constantly criticize and nag.  The result: we’re pretty darned happy.  I think this kind of acknowledgment, understanding, and support is essential in any relationship, not just couples with ADD.  What do you think?

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I just read a 2003 report from Harvard Women’s Health Watch, an article called “Could it be attention disorder?”  Even though it is slightly dated – the only medication the authors recommend for adults with ADD is atomextine (at the time, this was the only one FDA-approved) – the article was illuminating.  Here are some of the more interesting findings.

  • While more boys than girls are diagnosed with AD(H)D, more women than men are diagnosed for the first time.
  • One out of four siblings of a person with AD(H)D also has AD(H)D.  (I am one of four siblings of someone we all think has AD(H)D.
  • The symptoms are present in childhood, but go unrecognized in girls because they overcompensate.  (Yep.)
  • Girls with AD(H)D have less disruptive symptoms than boys – inattentiveness and shyness.  (Ringing a bell, indeed.)
  • Women who become parents themselves or have stressful jobs, lose their compensating abilities, what the article calls their “marginal coping skills.”  (Ouch!)
  • Women who work tend to work longer hours than their peers and get the same amount done.  (This was me in high school and college.  In the work force, I wasn’t really competing against anyone.  I was usually a department of one or one and a half and I always got everything done hyper-efficiently because I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up.)

Suggestions include: drugs and support.  They emphasize the support, someone who can help develop strategies for organizing and remembering, and support for the emotional ups and downs caused by feeling bad about ourselves, anxious and/or depressed, all secondary symptoms of AD(H)D.

Specific suggestions:

  • Keep a calendar and notebook on hand at all time. (I use my iPhone, but need to back it up to make sure I don’t lose anything.)  All appointments and anything needed to be remembered go in the notebook or PDA.  Check frequently.  (I need to organize this method of keeping notes.  I keep the notes, but they aren’t prioritized.  I also have a reminder app on my phone, but I ignore it.  Seriously.)
  • Make a schedule!  Stick to it!  (I did this with some help from a therapist, but I don’t like her suggestions, so I need to tweak it to work for me.  Keeping a schedule is anathema to my personality, so this is a hard one, but necessary.)
  • Set up an organizing system.  Things go in their place.  Always.  (Another killer one for me and my family.)
  • Hire a professional organizer.  (I can’t afford one, although I really want one.  Maybe I could barter with someone for publicity!  Also, my mother figure has offered to help, but we can’t coordinate schedules until next month.)

 

 

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One of the last things my family physician said to me on her way out of the exam room door was, “Your appetite will be suppressed and you may lose weight, but we wouldn’t prescribe it for that because that would be abuse.” She was talking about the side-effects of Adderall, the ADD medication that I just began taking this morning. I’m on a super low dose (10 mg.), so who knows how severe the side-effects will be. But, it got me thinking: what is the difference between Adderall and diet pills? Just a little research online uncovered the fact that Adderall used to be prescribed and used as a diet pill when it was first on the market in the 1960s and 70s and that many Hollywood celebs and college students use it – abuse it – to keep the weight off.

I’ve always been of two minds about ADD medication: on the one hand, I think children and adults both are over-medicated and am always interested in holistic solutions like diet and exercise; however, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that medication can make. When I was doing one-on-one literacy work, one of my first students was a nine-year-old with significant ADHD. He was on Ritalin and at the time, I was highly suspicious of the drug. The student, let’s call him Fred, presented as neat and polite and generally cooperative. One day, his mom forgot to give him his medication and a Dr. Hyde bounded into the clinic that day. Fred’s hair, normally combed and parted to the side was standing on end, he joked around so much we couldn’t accomplish any of the tasks we normally did, and he had a mischievous look in his eyes that made me nervous for my safety! After that day with Fred, I re-examined my prejudices against ADD medication, never realizing that one day I would be on a similar drug.

So far, an hour and a half after taking the small, blue pill I notice an increase in heart rate – a tug in my chest that is slightly annoying and worrisome – and what I can only describe as a cool breeze in my head. The cobwebs are pushed to the side and I feel like I’ve had a pot of coffee, minus the jitters. Basically, I have had a pot of coffee in pill form. Jury is still out. I know that besides the weight loss (which is not a negative as far as I’m concerned), that long-term use of Adderall can affect my heart and liver. I’m a skeptic by nature, so I’ll be constantly judging if this is right for me and I’ll check in with my doctor in two weeks.

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