Some of you may know that I have ADHD. For those of you who have known me for a long time, pre-diagnosis, I'm sure a big light bulb just popped on in your head and you said "Oh my GOD...so many things now make sense!"
I was diagnosed when my daughter was. She was four and we asked the school district where she would be going to kindy to start an IEP. They sent us to a psychiatrist, a pediatric neurologist, school psychologist, and then conducted a battery of cognitive tests. The psychiatrist had us fill out a sixteen page evaluation for every member of the immediate family. Even for Connor, who was one at the time. Try filling out sixteen pages of questions on the behaviors and personality of your one year old. Come on! Its fun!
When we took our stack of self-evals to the doctor to view, he interviewed each of us separately, then interviewed each of us with Aeryn. When he sat down with Chidl A and I together, he looked at me and said "You realize she has ADHD, don't you?" I had a lot of theories about what was going on with her at the time, but it had never occurred to me that this might be one of her issues. "Really?" I said in astonishment. "Her activity level seems so normal to me." Yes, normal. The kid who was right at that moment upside down on the couch next to me, who moments before had gone dashing down the hall, grabbed ten things off the psychiatrist's desk, crawled UNDER the couch, sat ON the couch and then turned herself over so her knees hung over the top. (Go right ahead and laugh. I bet you have blind spots too! Never mind that mine's the size of, oh, South America!) He then opened my evaluation and said "Of course it would seem normal to YOU. You have it too."
I've tried different things since then, including Focalin XR (meh), Daytrana (just plug me into a light socket and see how bitchy I can get), nothing at all for a while, and more recently Adderall. I was doing OK without meds, but one of the less fun aspects of ADHD is severe irritability. When you have two kids who also have it, as well as other issues, irritability is something that is completely counterproductive for good parenting. In the best interests of my family, I will remain medicated for the time being.
For those of you who don't know ADHD meds, what they are is basically speed. In fact, the generic name for Adderall is "Amphetamine." When we started with our new pediatrician after our move, one of the questions he asked me was if I had ever tried speed in my younger years. I said that I had tried various kinds of illicit substances, but that speed had never been one of them. "Oh, darn" was his response, which made me laugh because he's about the straightest arrow you ever met. "I didn't think that was something to be disappointed about," I replied. He told me that a person with ADHD who tried speed doesn't get "high." They get CALM. And not reacting to speed in a hyper fashion is a fairly decent indicator of ADHD.
So Adderall is lovely, it helps me think and not react, it helps my life go along more smoothly than I deserve for it to. It helps me, when my bipolar child is in a mania-induced rage, to not lose my shit and duct tape her to the wall just to keep her from hurting herself or others. My biggest problem, as is my problem with almost everything else in my life, is actually REMEMBERING to take it. And most days that's a really REALLY big challenge.
Mornings are tough around here. I touched on that in my hair post a couple of days ago. Four days a week I have to get two kids and myself out the door by 6:30 am, and feed dogs, cats, horses and chickens as well. "I don't know how you do it" is something I hear frequently. Considering the ADHD maybe its a miracle. The truth is, I don't do it very well sometimes. Some days its sheer willpower. Some days I call my carpool friends and tell them to leave without me. But for the most part, it happens.
It took me months to perfect a routine, but I do have one. Its the only way I can function in most areas of my life. Every professional we've talked to about ADHD says the same thing: The most important thing you can do if you or your child has ADHD is to create an extremely structured environment. The problem with that is if you have ADHD yourself, its the "creating a structure" part that's hard. Once you have it, though, it is a welcome relief.
I get up at 4:30. Start coffee and make lunches for me and the kids, clean litterbox, put food in cat bowls. By 5 am, pour coffee and eat breakfast. At 5:15 its time to dress for work, do hair and makeup. 5:30: Wake kids. Feed kids. Dispense medication for Aeryn and myself. (This is the hardest part of the day, because it usually takes the kids anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes to actually get out of bed) 6:15 AM: Feed dogs. Ask kids to get dressed. Take dogs outside for potty, let out the chickens, give hay and water to the horses. Go back in, crate the dogs, do last check to see if we've forgotten anything important, herd kids into the car and leave. Usually we make it out the door by 6:38, 6:30 being the goal.
This routine works really well as long as I follow it TO THE LETTER and ON THE CLOCK. One day I decided I would shower when I woke up and I was across the blue bridge and almost to the vanpool lot when I realized I hadn't fed my horses. Other days I've left my laptop bag sitting by the door or failed to close the garage or lock the front door.
Having ADHD sucks sometimes. Like when I forget to close gates. Its bad enough if you have dogs, but when you have horses? Not closing gates is serious business. Impulsivity is a big issue. I can't tell you how many times something has "seemed like a good idea at the time" only to find I've left another swath of destruction in my wake. I leave the milk on the counter overnight after having gotten it out for tea. I've thrown away more food items that require refrigeration because they never make it back to the fridge (by the way, does Country Crock margarine go bad? Because I left it out last night and now I'm not sure if its safe to eat). I forget birthdays, anniversaries, appointments and deadlines. I learned over the years to live my life by a complex system of calendars, diaries, to-do lists and reminders. Sticky notes are my friend. I don't know how I survived in the pre-PC age. Lotus Notes calendar alarms are the only reason I make it to meetings and why I am able to not double-book myself. I almost never remember to take my garbage can to the curb on Thursday mornings, thank God for my neighbor across the street, who has pulled it down for me more times than I've done it myself. I keep meaning to do something nice for him, but of course I forget to. >.< Business meetings are hard to stay focused at. I doodle a lot; recent research in the last year or two showed that doodling is actually a GOOD thing and that it helps the doodler to keep attentive to what is being said. All I have to say is that I must have good instincts, because I seem to have figured out on my own a lot of the techniques for coping with the disorder that the professionals would have given me if I had asked for their help.
When I remember to take the Adderall its like I'm a whole different person, at least I feel that way. My thoughts stay in my head instead of racing around the track and chasing every shiny object they see. I can go into a room and actually do the thing I came to do instead of doing ten other things and ending up halfway across the house having forgotten what I was trying to accomplish in the first place. I can read something required for work without falling asleep. I don't fall asleep driving home from work. I talk slower, and I don't talk over people or finish their sentences as much. I'm more focused and centered. And yet, I'm used to being that other person too.
There are upsides to ADHD, I always have lots to do and think about. Life is never dull. The ability to hyperfocus has always given me the ability to deeply enjoy reading and to be a good data analyst. I am one of the few people I know who can drink a pot of coffee before bedtime and still fall asleep. I can multitask like nobody's business, and if I put my mind to it I can do in one day what it would take a non-ADHD person three days to finish. I'm always one project away from nirvana.
I hope that my awareness and my life lessons will help me pass along the skills I've gained to my children. I can't undo the fact that I've passed along some really undesirable genetic traits to them, but I hope can use what I know to be a better mom.