Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Let's talk about ADHD, let's talk about you and me...

(This is my brain on Adderall.)

Spinderella cut it up one time...

OK, sorry.


For years I've joked about being all, "Oh, look, a squirrel!" And then getting totally derailed from whatever I was thinking or doing. 

I've mentioned humorously that I was never able to create outlines, because you had to decide on the importance of the information for Roman numerals I, II, and III and their sub-letters and numbers. 

All the information at each level had to be of parallel importance. This was impossible for me.

I could never figure out the exact parallel importance. What if II was slightly less important than I? Could I still put it as its own whole thing? Or should it go underneath?

I'd wind up with a Roman numeral I with a million items underneath.

Which does not a decent-grade-worthy outline make.

Now I make my outlines with dashes. All dashes. Or dashes with dots underneath.

Maybe they're just more lists?

And when I had to organize things like events for work, I'd tape all of the pieces of information to my office wall. This surely looked crazy and chaotic, but I assure you it was nothing compared to the inside of my brain trying to keep all that information organized.

So, back to the squirrel. Or any kind of interruption in task, either created by someone else or myself.

I'd leave the task and not loop back to it for...who knows how long. Because 17 other little tasks can always get in the way.

Typically I bounce from one to the next, not necessarily completing anything until I'm up against a deadline. Then I'm great at being balls to the wall and getting it done.

"Balls to the wall" is an expression I quite enjoy. It's so visual and really rather uncomfortable, isn't it?

Anyway, on any given day at home, I might start in the kitchen making tea, leaving it to steep on the counter while I go in the back to start laundry, which makes me remember that I need to order more detergent, which leads me into email to a return label I need to send Nick to print out, which reminds me that I should ask him about taking India to basketball on Sunday, and oh my gosh, I have to make that appointment for my mom...

I might return to my steeping cup of tea two hours later, because I happen to walk through the kitchen and notice it.

By then it's no longer freshly steeping, no longer piping hot. I put it in the microwave and walk away, and...

Ultimately brew a whole new cup hours later. 


Early in the pandemic, Jordan was diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD. 

And the more I read about executive functioning and executive dysfunction, the more I felt like I was reading about myself.

Around the same time a very dear friend of mine and her son got diagnosed together, and she told me I needed to get diagnosed. Because we struggle with so many of the same things. And medication helped her not just organize and accomplish things, but actually feel better about herself.

Because it's easy to feel like a loser when you struggle to get much of anything done.

Shortly after this, I mentioned it in a call with my psychiatrist. I told him about Jordan and about how so many of the described cognitive struggles resonate with me. I said, "I think I have ADHD!"

And he said something along the lines of, "Everyone feels like they have ADHD in Covid." 

So I did nothing about it. Because everything was hard and I wasn't in a position to pay a bunch of money for a diagnosis for myself. Getting Jordan diagnosed felt critical, and truly, it's changed his life. 

But me? I am not in school. I no longer work in an office. I have some freelance projects, but mostly I'm home taking care of my mom and the kids.

It didn't feel as important to pursue.

Then this year, two years after that phone appointment with my shrink, I relayed the conversation to a friend who said, "His response was very dismissive!" 

She was right. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say that to him.

And this year, after a break of about a decade, I got back into therapy. I brought it up with my therapist.

We had some in-depth conversations, and she offered to speak to my psychiatrist or doctor about a diagnosis and medication.

I told her about what my shrink had said, and how I didn't feel inclined to reach out to him. Instead I reached out to my PC to see if she was comfortable with diagnosis and ask if we might have an appointment to discuss this.

I used to have a doctor who didn't even pretend to know who I was whenever I went to see him, but in the past couple years I've been seeing someone I adore. I switched practices to follow her across town. She's so smart and thoughtful and I both like and respect her.

In 53 years on this planet, this for me is a first.

So these two amazing, bright, highly educated women had a conversation about me, about my mental health and the best approach to my care, and I just don't know if I've felt so cared for by health care  professionals before.

At my appointment with my PC we discussed options, and she suggested trying the short-acting form of Adderall to start with, to see how I reacted to it and if it helped.

Unlike antidepressants, where you titrate up over weeks and wait to see if you feel better, with Adderall you feel the effects almost immediately. 

This was a nice change. I'm so used to waiting and waiting to see how I feel, and trying to figure out if I actually feel better or just want to feel better so I think I do.

(It took me a long time to figure out that Wellbutrin made me angry. It didn't take away any of the darkness in my brain, but it filled every single nook and cranny of me with rage. Which super fucking sucks. To use an industry term.)

Anyway, Adderall.

I took it, and what I felt was calm. My brain, usually busy oh so busy, was quiet.

Honestly, and I know for most people this is weird, I don't listen to music when I'm home alone. My brain is already too noisy. No TV unless it's something I'm watching, and no music, unless I'm walking/running or driving.

When Nick has music on in the kitchen and also wants to talk to me it makes me feel physically angry. 

I'm not suggesting my big brain is always occupied processing such important things. No. It's that there are too many things happening at the same time, and multiple inputs on top of that make my head melt.

Adderall mitigated the swirly chaos of the constant everything.

I thought I was a great at multitasking, but as it turns out, I am not. 

What I've been good at, at least at work, is being pleasant about being interrupted in the middle of a task, because it's so easy to turn my attention to something else.

(You're not troubling me because I was going to get up anyway.)

This one is perhaps my favorite: You know what else people with ADHD struggle with? Time management.

You know what I suck at? Time.

I've had friends who get insulted if you are at all late, because they think it's a reflection of how you feel about them.

These are friends I can love dearly but not make plans with.

Because time. My god, I've been so challenged by the space-time continuum my entire life.

I remember sending Nick a calendar appointmentI think it was for my amnio when I was pregnant with Jordanand he thought we needed to be there an hour and a half ahead of time. But really that was my time buffer because I was terrified of being late.

Nick, as it turns out, just walks through life tightly scheduling all kinds of important meetings and actually attending them without anxiety drama trauma.

Perhaps you do, too. I imagine this is nice. I don't mean this at all sarcastically. 

Anyway, reading about it and being like, oh, it's not just me failing to grasp the concept of clocks and hours and minutes and living in a linear fashion made me feel a hell of a lot better. 

It's my brain chemistry soup. And I am not alone in the struggle.

I don't mean to suggest that I've been a complete disaster for my over half a century on this planet. 

I've functioned as a reasonable human in society for quite some time now. I went to decent schools and got a graduate degree and held jobs and bought a condo and paid my bills on time.

But my gosh, I now realize things could've been easier. 

I remember feeling this way when I got on medication for depression. For so many years, things could've been easier. So much easier.

This is really the beginning of my journey with this, because I don't actually think Adderall is the right medication for me. 

Which I'm not concerned about, because I've tried so many antidepressants over the years, and I know medication is a Goldilocks kind of process.

I see that things can be different, and I'm happy about it.

But I've gone on too long, so that needs to be a whole nother post.

Monday, October 03, 2022

October and the trees are stripped bare of all they wear

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday.

This morning I said to Mama, "It's Dad's birthday today." 

To which she quietly replied, "I know."

Of course she knows. You were together over 50 years. That's a lot of birthdays together.

I guess I just said it to recognize it.


It's grey and chilly and pouring in DC, and really kind of wretched. I walked Wanda this morning and was rather shocked and insulted by how cold it was, in fact.

I thought hurricanes were all about warm air.

You used to pronounce it "hyuricane" and I never knew why.


Recently I learned that I walk like you.

I was walking with my yoga teacher  and his partner after class and he told me that the way I walk contributes to my issue with tightness in my lower back. 

And then he demonstrated my walk. It was an exact imitation. 

So then he also showed us how his partner walks, in contrast to me. Also spot on. She said, "I walk like my dad."

I said, "You know, I bet I walk like my dad."

And a couple days later I told a dear friend about Asrat imitating my walk and she said, "You walk just like your dad."

Which makes me think about how you and I would go out for walks together and you'd say, "Stand up straight! Shoulders back! Stomach in!" 

I'd do all those things and then you'd say, "Sphincter tight!" 

I laughed every time.


Sometimes these realizations make me think about my brother. I wonder if he notices things like this in himself once in a while. 

I wonder if his children have features or expressions or whatever that are just so exactly you or Mama or me.

Distance, after all, doesn't erase DNA. 


In August, when Nick, the kids and I went to camp, Phil came and stayed with Mom so she wasn't all alone. They had a great time.

During that week, one of your friends from when you were in Afghanistan called to say one of your Peace Corps friends had died. I asked how many were left from your group, and Mom said three.

I think of how lucky you were (and by extension how lucky I was and still am) to have met such extraordinary people and kept them in your lives for so long. 

Maude's daughter Iris and our India will be friends one day.  Geography is challenging, but let's be clear: Denver and DC are a lot closer than Bangladesh to Philippines or just about everywhere else Maude and I were growing up. 

We're all in the same country, and we will make this happen.


Jordan is well and away taller than me now, and India is getting there. She's outgrown my sneakers.

I realized this fall when India started 5th grade that she was the same age I was when we moved to the US for the first time.

I remember my first day of 5th grade. We were supposed to fill out an index card with our home phone number and the number of our bus and I didn't know either.

She walks to school, and it's a school she's attended since she was four.

Halloween is fast approaching, and our alley is doing trick-or-treating. I remember how, until we moved to the US, you'd drive us from American house to American house to trick-or-treat. 

I think Halloween is fairly popular globally now.


We're all doing OK. Pretty well, in fact. Maybe you know this.

I hope you know this. 

It's your birthday, and I miss you.