ADHD, Health

Medication for ADHD – early wins and surprising fails

I have been prescribed a drug called methyphenidate hydrochloride with the the brand name, Medikinet (also known as Ritalin).  Although I was initially hesitant to take medication, my doctor very patiently explained how it worked and I was convinced I had nothing to lose.  I have been started on a very low dose which will double in two weeks.

20170327_205508

The first day I took it, I had a stinking cold.  The only noticeable effect was feeling like I’d drunk too much coffee, or had taken speed, or one of those over the counter cold remedies.  I felt jittery and shaky.  It was unpleasant but it went away soon.

That first night, I settled into bed and expected my usual struggle to quell the 1001 thoughts, memories and anxieties zooming around my head, and instead – silence.  I know I should have been pleased, but it was quite unnerving.  If you’ve got used to 47 years of chatter in your head at bedtime, it can come as a shock when there is just nothing.  I sort of missed it.  But also sort of felt angry about all the effort I’ve made over the years when I didn’t even know ADHD was the thing, trying everything to SHUT MY HEAD UP.  The mindfulness.  The ‘now-ness’.  The self and guided hypnosis.  Just to get to bloody sleep.  And while I was thinking about this for, maybe 30 seconds, I immediately fell asleep.

The downside came last night.  I awoke at 5am with a coughing fit and the medication had worn off entirely.  The chatter was back, with mates, and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.  I’m grumpy and groggy today as a result.

Another immediate boon happened on day two.  I’d put off and put off re-organising some photographs I’d taken and promised to give to a sports team in time for them to be printed and given to the players.

On day two of meds, I remembered that I had to do it, and sat down and did the task.  It took three hours.  I wasn’t distracted and didn’t even get bored.  In fact, I’d say the sense of pride not just in the action shots I’d taken, but in the fact that I’d done this incredibly boring job which meant the boys would each get a surprise photo, was enormous.

It has given me hope that I can now tackle more and more boring challenges as they come along, rather than avoid them and concentrate on the fun, creative or exciting bits I like.

IMG_7700

On the down side, I haven’t had the urge to drink less (yet) as was suggested by my doctor. Maybe I’m scared I won’t sleep and shut up the voices, but I’m thinking this is something I separately need to address, just from a general health point of view (tbh, my liver feels like I’m lugging a dead badger around).

The other very upsetting feeling I have yet to feel diminishing is the restlessness (hyper/impulse side).  This is a major cause of distress for me and has led me into some of my worst patterns of behaviour.  The need for escape.  I think this is intrinsically linked to my alcohol use and why I write books.  I want to ‘get out of my head.’

What has surprised me in these first few days is how sad and angry I’ve been at sudden moments.  I’ve particularly very upset and angry that I’ve lost out on so many great chances and opportunities.  These are mainly academic and in the distant past.

I have learned to avoid signing up to anything that I might fail at, even though I’d dearly love to study for a PhD. This is something I had the opportunity to do with a robust theoretical idea, support and even a world-respected academic at a top London University lined up as my tutor.  At the time. I thought I was being weak, work-shy and lazy.  Now I see the whole situation with my ADHD specs on, I can see that I was terrified of failing.  The stupid thing is, with the mentoring this lovely man would have given me, I might have been successful.  I will never know.

And unfortunately, my anger and frustration with my ‘formerly-ignorant-of-my-ADHD’ self has come out in quite aggressive ways.

Take last night.  My husband and I were reading the advice from the school on the upcoming SATS tests for our ten year old.

These tests have become something of a joke – albeit a not very funny one.  The children in our area take a test in year 6 to determine if they go to Grammar School or not.   This is all we really care about.  But the schools are judged on the SATS and are under more and more pressure to meet national attainment targets set by the Government.

The school sent home a sample sheet with a typical maths and English questions, asking us to do some extra work over the Easter break.  In theory, I’ve go no problem with this – until I looked at the maths question.  Then the red mist descended and I was that 14 year old girl again, sitting with a facing burning with shame because I couldn’t work out how to answer the stupid maths question.

I felt all those feelings as keenly as I had back then.  The embarrassment, the frustration that my brain couldn’t just calmly and logically work it out.  The shame, looking around me as less intelligent pupils whipped through the paper effortlessly.  Then that f**k it moment when I thought, ‘Well I can’t do this, so I bloody won’t!’

IMG_20170326_210246_535
The pyramid that broke the camel’s back

I showed it to my husband who is probably Aspergers and is a natural with numbers.

‘What the hell kind of question is this?’ I raged.  ‘Why are the boxes in bold?  Is there a correlation between the bold of the boxes and the word PRODUCT also in bold?  Why isn’t the question clearer?’ I ranted.

‘Well,’ he said, all logical.  ‘They’re testing your cognitive ability in reasoning as well as your ability in arithmetic.’

I exploded.

He had unwittingly done what every maths teacher (save one crucial individual) had done which is to totally miss the point that it’s the way the question is asked that is the problem, not the maths itself.  And now I was being told I had appalling reasoning abilities too.  Thanks!!  Much screaming and crying ensued met with wounded bewilderment from my husband.

Once I calmed down, I was able to see what had happened and we talked about it.  But even when he explained the ‘logic’ of the bloody number pyramid, I still couldn’t see it.  I’d created a mental block from my anger.  I simply didn’t want to understand.  The number pyramid had become an arch enemy.  I HATE number pyramids now!

I’d forgotten the sheer hell that was sitting trapped in a classroom with a bully of a teacher hell-bent on humiliating you and shaming you as a retard.

Now I’m on the look-out for this ‘blast from the past’ phenomena and I’m hoping that I can deal with it when it comes up with a little less hostility and blame.

Maybe…

 

ADHD, Health

Diagnosis.

Sunrise-at-sea-ipad-wallpaper-ilikewallpaper_com.jpg

Last week,  after 47 years, I was diagnosed with ADHD.

I’d prepared meticulously for the  assessment, largely because I was extremely nervous.  And confused.  Here was I, a mother in her 40s, seeking clarification from a psychiatrist (a PSYCHIATRIST) about something I don’t really understand – yet in my gut I knew this thing – a faulty wiring in the brain – applied to me.

Assumption number one – Psychiatrist means be-speckled man in white coat with clipboard and specks.

NOT!!

He was smiley and laughed easily, was really warm and just really interested in my brain.  And helping me be a lot happier.  I’m not a crier (I’m told that’s not a good thing, after decades of being told not to cry and then being hit because I cried) but I cried a lot in this meeting, mainly from relief.

I took my school records and all the forms they asked me to fill in.  I also took the two books I’d bought about adult ADHD and it was those that first attracted his attention.  Or rather, he was more interested that I’d brought the books.

We got chatting  about the books.  Then suddenly about 30 minutes had past.

He said, ‘So, how do you think we can help you?’

I was confused – I’d filled out the forms and he hadn’t asked for them.  I’d had a two hour interview beforehand.  I was distressed.

I said, ‘Can you please, just tell me if I have ADHD.’

He burst out laughing.  Then apologised.

He said he thought it  was SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS I have it within the first five minutes.

The last thing he said to me was – ‘It’s going to get a lot better now.’

I believe that.  Here is a beautiful video by a beautiful singer to bring that on.

 

ADHD, Health

How I Sought Help

Getting a diagnosis in the UK for ADHD as an adult is not easy.  Especially if you have ADHD.  My decision to ask for help wasn’t because of a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ moment, but more a build up of disappointments, mistakes and an unmanageable feeling of being overwhelmed with perimenopausal symptoms, ill parents and small children.  I’d not read much about ADHD since I’d initially looked into it when my son was 3, but I’d signed up to a few blogs.  One day an email popped up and I read it and I was reminded that perhaps I had this thing.  It just struck a timely chord.

At the same time, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation.  The lady I met was an absolute star, but totally bonkers.  I told her about my suspicions and she was horrified.  Like a lot of well meaning people, she put my distress down to the internet, my diet, sugar, bad chakras, and all sorts of other stuff.  She could not accept, however, that there might be a neuro-biological reason for it.  I have no doubt that TM helps, and I truly believe this is the best of the type of meditation I have tried, but, if I’m honest, I can’t be arsed with meditation.  It’s boring.  And that’s why I need to see a doctor of the actual head.

My next resource that helped was this:

http://www.simplywellbeing.com/  written by Andrew Lewis.  He’s an ADHD coach who has grappled with the disorder himself for years.  It was though his website and email advice I took courage to go to my GP.

My GP is lovely.  He’s about 30/35 and is very kind.  But he’s really, really vanilla.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the shock factor.  I can’t speak for all ADHD girls, but I’ve been really quite bad in a sex way and it’s got me into some very dangerous and risky situations (I have to admit, I’ve also had a blast).  I realised a few minutes in to my ‘why I think I have ADHD’, my GP was blushing.  After our initial ‘I don’t believe it exists or you can have it when you’re 46’ meeting, he asked me to write an account of how the traits have caused me problems since childhood.

Well, I didn’t want to disappoint him.  He (reluctantly) booked me a double appointment and he sat and read my account (6 pages of illustrated, colour codedspider diagrams – should have seen his face).  I realised when he read the ‘relationships’ one that he was probably a virgin when he got married.  The page detailed my chaotic and dangerous relationship with sex.  The desperation to lose my virginity, resulting in a very frightening initial sexual encounter that I felt I couldn’t get out of, then a rape.  The drunken, drug-fueled situations I wandered into, a horrible (sober) racially motivated sexual assault in the US, risky promiscuity – two sexual encounters in one night in Italy on a work trip.  At the time and for years after I bragged about this. Now I think I’m lucky I’m alive.  The temporary thrill of sex with a stranger.  Then there have been the flings and affairs.

I’m a creature of contradictions.  I crave normality and stability, yet I find that so boring. And in the very worst versions of myself, I have found excitement in being unfaithful. This has destroyed teen relationships and my first marriage which was on it’s last legs already, and it’s almost destroyed my second.  This is another reason I seek diagnosis.  I don’t want to do that again.  What I am beginning to get is some insight into why I found these liaisons so thrilling.

So many crappy things people with ADHD do can be seen through a moral filter, and so many things they do can get them judged as bad.  I’m not proud of a lot of things I’ve done, but what is wonderful is that I’ve realised WHY I’m doing it and I have supportive people (husband/mother) who are interested in learning more.

Once I got referred it was to the Maudsley, to their local service.  I quickly got an initial appointment.  I had to fill out a million forms (not boring because they were all about ME) and I took a childhood friend who has known me since I was 3.  The interview was with a specialist nurse practitioner who was absolutely lovely and we actually had a great laugh despite the horrible subjects we were discussing.  Thank God for gallows humour.

Then it all ground to a halt.

I thought they’d write to me (I think they’re meant to), but they didn’t, so I sort of forgot.  Then I did forget.  Then I remembered and procrastinated.  Then two weeks ago, my eldest son had another manic episode – or something like that and I realised that I had to take command of my own mental health if I was going to ever help him.

Now I have a date for diagnosis.  I have another chunk of questionnaires to fill out and I’m meeting an actual psychiatrist.  Apparently, according to the secretary, he’s ‘lovely’ and Greek.

I’m hoping he’ll be on his guard for terrible girls like me.

 

ADHD, Health

From Mother to Son

 

fatlittleboy

This little so-and-so is the reason I Googled ADHD in the first place, that was when he was 3 and as we looked at the diagnostic criteria, my husband said, ‘That’s you that is’.  Well, here I am in the midst of my assessment and we’ve now finally decided to get our lad assessed too.

This is not without stigma in the UK.  Funnily enough, his teacher and the Inclusion Manager at the school were totally calm about it, but it’s the reaction of relatives and friends that needs to be carefully navigated – not easy if you have bloody ADHD yerself!

My son is in a slight danger of aggrandisement via Special Labelling of Neurobiological Disorders, i.e. becoming a cocky arse.  He sent me  this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFHXDRvHbw8

10 signs that apparently show you are a genius – all of which are well documented traits of ADHD (apart from blue eyes).  He sent it to me knowing full well that he fulfills all of them apart from the alcoholic one.  He then pointed to my 6pm very large glass of Shiraz to demonstrate it was only a matter of time before he succumb to the 10th.  That’s exactly why I’m having him referred.  So he doesn’t resort to the 10th.

When we talk about our referrals, relatives go quiet, think, maybe, we’re justifying terrible behavior, or are bewildered because ‘we all have these traits, don’t we?’

Yes, yes we do!  And some people – actually, A LOT of the bravest people in history have had ADHD traits, but it’s only a DIS-order when things go wrong. And for me and, unfortunately for my boy, things are going wrong.

For me – Underachievement in work despite academic success, inability to write book 3 – I’ve now racked up 4 first chapters of different projects.  Hormones don’t help.  Total inability to sort out my house.  I have piles of crap everywhere.  There is evidence of Herculean bursts of energy where I’ve decorated a room, then I can’t finish it, so the piles of paint tins and tools stay in the corner for, er, three years.  Tip of the iceberg.

My son – well.  Homework is torture.  I’ve asked for help for about 5 years from school but he’s always been a good boy there – until year 6.  Now the hormones are kicking in, it seems he’s acting out at school too. I feel his pain –

I recently got all my school reports from my parents’ house and there it was, laid bare – first I read mine and my sister’s which was similar:

  • If only she could apply herself
  • Awful spelling
  • Huge potential but needs to focus
  • If only she could be more self disciplined
  • She needs to  concentrate
  • Her term time marks  are excellent but the exam is not representative of her potential
  • Careless
  • If she actually came to lessons, she might achieve

Then worse, I looked at my mother’s reports – they weren’t so polite in 1953…

One said she was “a nuisance”  and then this:

2017-03-04-15-09-05

“She finds it difficult to take correction”.  And look again at the word “concentrate”.

Hilarious!  Except, sort of not.  I always knew she was different.  She couldn’t cope with cooking – hated it.  She kept draws and draws full of receipts and lists. My sister used to half joke that mum expressed her rage through her food, but actually it was rage plus frustration.  She must have punched the 70s air with the development of microwave technology.  I now see that she was trying her very hardest to impose her own crazy system on things she found really very hard to manage.

crayons

At 7 I was top of the class with the odd comment about finishing on time.  By the time I got to lower 6th doing A-Levels it was ‘we will be astonished if she finishes’, ‘so much potential unrealised’.

Maybe they’d chucked too many bloody board rubbers at my head…

 

2017-03-04-13-02-58

 

I now have to apologise to all readers who are religious.  Please walk away, because this will be upsetting.  It really will:

I hate church.  And my son hates church.  I, possibly/maybe influenced his first experience of church (Scouts) in a bad way by hyperventilating/fidgeting/texting all the way through that agonising hour.

I can only explain by saying I was forced to go to church by my parents until I refused to go any more.  I was 11.  The reason I gave my parents was because our Minister had it off with our sunday school teacher (with a ginger fro) behind his wife’s back – he had 3 kids.

Once I refused to go at 11 it sort of opened a floodgate of power – I knew I didn’t have to do what they told me.  So our vicar was a morally weak – but that wasn’t the real reason I hated church, that was just the excuse I needed to end the agony.  The real reason?  It was really, really BORING.  Perhaps if my well meaning parents had been more ‘high church’ rather than opting for the plain, un-showy, but tonque-speaking Baptists, it might have been more bearable.  I’d at least have had some pretty gold trinkets, frescos and decent architecture to stare at while I zoned out.

Once I had won this victory, I learned something very useful – I could just refuse to do stuff!  Armed with this brilliant new weapon I stumbled angry and confused into the hormonal hell of adolescence and came right up against the one thing that would obstruct me from total freedom – my dad.  And the conflict that resulted was carnage…

 

ADHD, Health

Let the Journey Begin

hqdefault
The wheel have fallen off again…

There’s been a lot of discussion and misinformation about what ADHD is, whether it exists and how it’s treated in the press.  I’m not attempting to address these arguments, but rather offer my own experience and how I came to seek a diagnosis when I was 46.

A little about the name ADHD.  I believe ‘Attention Deficit’ is misleading.  I certainly don’t suffer from a deficit of attention – nope!  I just find it hard to pay attention to what I’m meant to be paying attention to.  Much to the annoyance of almost every teacher, employer and pretty much anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me.

As a girl (the ratio of males to females diagnosed with ADHD is 3:1) I was always either a gobby motormouth that wouldn’t shut up, or I’d be daydreaming with very little perception whatsoever of what was going on around me.  Neither of these things were a deficit of attention.  In fact, I could cover about 82 topics of conversation (one sided) in only a few minutes with no trouble.  And when it came to daydreaming, I was able to focus for hours on the clouds drifting above my classroom window, or the grain in the wood on my desk, or my pencil, or my ornate doodling as my teacher’s boring, monotonous drawl melted away to nothing.

Another thing about the name ADHD is the hyperactivity part.  From what I’ve read and know of my own experience, one of the reasons girls sometimes slip through the net is because they don’t necessarily act particularly hyper.  They aren’t bouncing off the walls (like my son), or unable to sit still in a chair (like my son).  But instead tend to have very little impulse  control and maybe have a restlessness that presents differently, inwardly rather than outwardly.

So, it seems, there may be a lot more adult women out there that have struggled since a young age but have managed through, perhaps, good relationships, social networks, their own sheer bloody minded determination to keep going with ADHD but never get diagnosed.

That was me – when the planets aligned and all was calm and good, things were manageable.  I have had some exciting and rewarding jobs and several careers.  I’m a successful photographer and an author of two books.  I have three lovely children, a good marriage, a loving supportive family and a lovely home, great life-long friendships.  But these manageable periods are always short-lived.

Then there were the times when things were not alright.  When life was extremely hard. The wheels first fell off with the onset of teenage hormones.  Then the inevitable relationship breakups and on into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s – divorce, eviction, post natal depression, redundancy, bankrupcy, professional rejection and lack of success, loss of friendships, bereavement, a child with serious mental health problems, a child with a disability.  All these life events can and do happen to anyone and everyone, yet with each of these to a lesser or greater extent, it seemed so much harder than it should have been to recover or just cope.   I watched friends and acquaintances deal with far worse, but didn’t go into a total tailspin.  All of which just makes me feel even more like a total loser.

It has been the latest one that has finally driven me to seek a diagnosis though.  This last one, the femme-fatale of female physiology, mid-life’s biggest shitty stick – the bloody menopause.  Since 2015, once a month, my brain has felt like a clown’s car – collapsing, falling apart and disintegrating until it’s just a heap on the floor.  I can deal with the night sweats, the acne and the migraines.  But not being able to string a sentence together, or organise my housework, or simply work, I can’t put up with.

Clown cars collapsing are amusing.  This is not.

ADHD, Health

Bored, not Bad.

When my son was about three and regularly going beserk, I Googled his behaviour and came across the term ADHD.  My husband and I read the diagnostic criteria, nodding and ‘hmm-ing’ at how similar it was to our little firebrand and then my man said something that was to change my life – ‘That’s you that is,’ he said.

Although, it turns out, without the hyper bit. I’m just talented at day-dreaming…. Like when I had to fly home from my family holiday in France to potentially ‘say goodbye’ to my mum.  I managed the trip by thinking about lipstick.  Matt lipstick, mainly.  Principally, it meant I didn’t cry in public, and that’s good.  I’m an ugly crier.

Well, she survived and I continued to muddle along, not really achieving what I wanted to achieve.

Hyper focus can be an ADHD skill and this blog is all about the ups and downs of life as a differently wired person.  Hyperfocus can also be a massive hindrance, partlicularly if say, I was thinking about matte lipstick in a job interview for example.  Whilst ADDer’s have some great skills and talents, but we do also get bored.  Everso, everso BORED.

I’m an anomaly.  I’ve also got to 47 and not got sectioned, arrested or committed suicide, which is popular in my family. I sought diagnosis for many reasons.  One, because I believe my son has the same set of traits – some brilliant, some unhelpful.  I wanted to go through the process before him – he’s  10.  Another because as an optimist,  I’m hoping a diagnosis will help me finally meet my potential – something my teachers warned would never happen right from the age of 5 unless I ‘learned to concentrate’ and ‘got organised’.

I’d like to share my diagnostic story with you and maybe his.