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.
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.
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!’
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.’
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.