Hello. My Name is Fran and I’m an Adult with ADHD.

As in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mixed inattentive and impulsive.

Let me back up. Christine Northrup, MD points out that midlife is a time to shed baggage, to evaluate what and who you need to take with you on the remainder of your journey in this world. Between Orion’s crossing five years ago, the upheaval around Hubby’s mom’s (unnecessarily) protracted passage, and an assortment of other issues, I knew the time had come to sort that out. I couldn’t do it by myself, so enter the Wise Woman.

One of the big issues: a pervasive feeling of failure or never being able to get my act together, both internally with concentration issues and externally with chronic organization problems, inability to wrap up projects, following through on the best of intentions and brightest ideas.

After yet another session expressing frustration over all of this, Wise Woman suggested a book: Women with ADHD by Sari Solden.

Ok. Bought the book. The eerie feeling of someone following me with a camera came over me. Problems spacing out, but labeled daydreaming? Yep. Wandering around the classroom in elementary school? Yep. Social awkwardness? Anxiety? Feeling hyper alert? Yep, yep, yep. Problems planning big projects and following through because I get overwhelmed? Heck to the yep.

That was before the sections on pervasive problems with cleaning and organizing.

The tasks ahead: get my days structured so I can be productive and work on psychic damage inflicted by the grownups who could not comprehend why someone as smart as I am couldn’t get it together and save the world singlehandedly.  If shaming, labeling, and calling someone “a waste of intelligence” worked, I would have three Nobel Prizes by now. In light of accepting the ADHD, I am prouder than ever of my MS in psych.

Medication is off the table. I have a long history of side effects with anything vaguely mood altering, so it’s not an option. I’m upping fish oil, DHA, and probiotics. And one or two small cups of coffee. That balances things out so I can concentrate. Most of the time.

However, the grownups were working on the best available information, even with accounting for the unnecessarily hurtful remarks. ADD/HD didn’t come on the scene as a diagnosis until the late ’70’s when I was getting ready to go to college. Even when I was in graduate school in the mid-’80’s, it was still believed that kids would grow out of it, and that boys were more prone to it.

Not so much. For some reason, boys are more likely to act out. Girls are more likely to internalize it with anxiety and concentration problems. The impulsivity in my case has more to do with not following no stinking directions, bad planning, and (as much as it kills me to admit it) making poor choices with portion sizes.

Still, there has been so much good from the ADHD. Really. It’s enabled me to create, to ask questions. It’s forced me to do it differently, but that’s ok. If I have to take five minute breaks every half- hour, I do it. I am much more productive that way. If I need to walk, I do so. It’s allowed me to step outside the boundaries. Scary, for me and my loved ones sometimes, but worth it.

If you or someone else struggles with these issues, please go to http:sarisolden.com or http://totallyadd.com. Both have great resources for you.

And remember, you are not the only one who travels along the highway to SQUIRREL!

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Reflections du Jour: It’s Happening Again

I’m not doing this without a heavy sigh. Well, several. This came down the pike:

 http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/04/09-1

Briefly, some kid with two knives ran around stabbing and cutting fellow students at his high school in suburban Pittsburgh. No motive has been discerned as of this time. 

The questions that go through my mind at a time like this include:

  1. What in the unadulterated hell is going on here on a societal level as well as in the suspect’s microcosm?
  2. Which, if any, psychotrophics was the suspect taking?
  3. Whisky-tango-foxtrot?
  4. Has the suspect ever had a workup by a qualified mental health provider and a healthcare provider who takes a holistic approach and doesn’t just scribble a prescription to make the suspect sit quietly in class? Probably not, but one can dream. 

For those of you who don’t know, I graduated with an MS in psych in the late ’80’s. My first and only job in the field was at a community-based mental health and addictions treatment center. Prozac, touted as a cure-all for mood disorders, came on the market at the same time. 

Indulge me with a little shop talk: it’s a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Drugs in that family lengthen the time that it takes for the brain to reabsorb the seratonin, the feel-good neurochemical produced when a person is in a good place with themselves. Too little leads to depression. Too much leads to suicidal ideation and delusions. 

Now, I know several people who have greatly benefitted from modern psychiatric medication. They are adults whose brains were fully developed when they began taking appropriately prescribed meds. I also have memories of calls from clients who went on Prozac and developed suicidal ideation within a few days of beginning treatment. Peeling someone off a roof is no one’s idea of a good time. 

Another class of drugs that may help-or not-are the ones widely prescribed for ADD and ADHD. The theory is that people living with either condition are deficient in internal stimulation, causing them to be unable to focus on what’s in their surroundings and leading to impulsive behavior. Many of them are in the amphetamine family. As in speed. And you don’t outgrow ADD/HD, either. 

AD/HD has also been linked to chemicals in the food supply and to processed food. Back in the ’50’s, a pediatrician named Dr. Feingold had noticed a spike in consults for behavior problems. One night as he read the paper, he saw a story with a graph depicting the rise in food processing after the end of World War II. He asked the parents to make more of their food at home to avoid sugar and chemicals, and this obtained good results. So was born the Feingold Diet.  

Again, I know several people who have had their lives made liveable with appropriate medications such as these. However, for example, the kids responsible for the carnage at Columbine were on meds that had been linked to increases in violent behavior.

How, then, do we respond to the near-weekly episodes of violence at schools? “Complex” doesn’t begin to cover the question. In the days to come, there will be another round of finger pointing at the parents, the school, violent video games, and so on.

What I’d like to see is our culture taking a collective step back and asking why we need violent entertainment, why we need to arm ourselves to the teeth for trips to the grocery store, and why we need to implement solutions where someone gets hurt as the first line of defense instead of the last. I’d like to see food without dyes and additives linked with craziness priced affordably. Let’s add in holistic and alternative treatments as the remedies of choice and meds as the last line of defense instead of the first.  And let us not forget lots and lots of time in nature to help children understand that everyone and everything is a part of the web of life, and that no one is ever really alone. 

That is the long answer. 

The short: I don’t know.

That is the long and long term answer.