Hypochondriac, or just finally understanding?

I hate my hair. 

A lot of girls (boys, men, women, fill-in-the-blank) hate their hair. But they hate the way it flips up on the side, or how curly it is, or how straight. They hate how thin or thick it is. They hate how greasy it is, or they hate the color. 

I hate my hair. 

I hate having hair. If I wasn’t so self conscious about my appearance, I’d have shaved it all off years ago. I hate that hair grows out of my head and subsequently tickles my face, my ears, my neck. 

I hate being tickled. 

When I was a kid, I would cry if anyone tickled me. I hated it. I still hate it. I will hurt you if you try to tickle me. You may as well hit me, because I will hit you back either way. 

I can’t sit still. 

In fact, sitting up is so uncomfortable, I usually recline. I lay on the couch or in bed, lean back in the recliner, if I’m standing, I’m probably leaning. Sitting upright is so uncomfortable that I cannot sit still. I try to cross my legs, but after a few short minutes, I feel like the circulation has been cut completely off in my legs. Watching a movie at the theater is uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to movies. But I can’t get comfortable. I almost always have to put my feet up on the back of he seat in front of me, so I try to make sure I don’t sit right behind anyone. But mostly, I just don’t sit still. 

I have social anxiety. 

I’m great, socially, as long as the mood of those around me is good. I’m a wonderful mimic. But if they are quiet, or aloof, or awkward themselves, then I am clueless. If I embarrass myself, I feel physical pain. I react very energetically. If it’s laughing, crying, shouting in anger, it’s never subtle. I can’t suppress my reactions very easily. It takes an enormous effort. 

I have social anxiety. 

My mom used to say I was shy, but it was paralyzing. I recently came across the term “selective mutism”.  I could not speak in front of strangers. The anxiety it caused made me cry if someone tried to force me to say hello. 

But I was smart. 

My first grade teacher told my parents that he was certain he could give me college level work and test me a week later and I would ace it. He asked me how to spell “cousin” and “tomorrow” as though he knew I could. And I did. Perhaps he had made sure that I had read those words in the days before he asked me. I loved math and science. Algebra was like working out a puzzle. It was fun, and the answer was definite, it couldn’t change. I struggled with other subjects. I mean, I was still in the 90+ percentile in every subject, but reading and English were not my strongest by far. 

But I loved to read. 

I read Charlotte’s Web when I was seven or eight. The Time Machine and The Invisible Man when I was ten. When I was twelve, I discovered the world of Pern, and began devouring the works of Anne McCaffrey. Her world was amazing. There were dragons and lords, and dragon-like fire lizards. And the dragons had a telepathic bond with their riders that was so strong that it lasted their lifetime, and to lose a dragon or rider partner was enough to cause the instant, tragic suicide by the survivor. The characters in her world were so wonderfully written. Some children felt different and didn’t fit in in their feudal home, until they were “Searched” by the dragon riders, and presented as candidates at a dragon hatching. They found their place by finding a life-long friend, and found their purpose by becoming the defenders of their world. 

They found their place. And their power. 

I’m finally back in school. You know that thing where medical students start diagnosing themselves with the diseases that they learn about in med school? Well, I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. I was floored when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had joked that my idiosyncrasies were a little “ADD”, but I never truly considered that as a possibility. It was a joke. But then I examined my life, all the way back, and it all made sense. 

I’m a Psychology major.

I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety. Then I learned that they could have been caused by ADHD. But now I’m learning about something I never studied before. I’ve known people with kids who were diagnosed. I have worked with very awkward adults who had been diagnosed. But I never honestly thought that I might be on the autism spectrum. 

Until now. 

Is it because I’m a hypochondriac who happen to be studying psychology? Or is it because of the way I can’t focus on what I’m doing if my shoes are wet, or if the light is flickering, or if someone is wearing strong perfume? Is it because I can’t meet people on my own? I tend to “put myself out there” and wait for others to approach me. It worked better when I was younger and more attractive. Now it just makes me look like the eccentric lady that no one wants to get stuck in conversation with. 

Is it Apserger’s?

I’ve been learning about it. I’ve been reading and taking tests. But I don’t know if I’m just answering like an Aspie because I have some knowledge, if I’m projecting, if I’m mimicking. I’ve never felt right just being me, and I tend to try to blend. Sometimes it’s evident in the way I speak. Sometimes I change my speech to match the tone, inflection, regional dialect, even the accent of those around me. Is that what I’m doing when I take the test? Or is that another symptom? Who am I really?

I think my mom could be Aspie. My problems might stem from being raised by someone who isn’t “normal”.  It’s laughable. I’ve never thought I was normal, but I often played it off as being okay, because I wasn’t boring. At least not when I’m comfortable, around people I know and like. But mostly I stay home. I don’t visit friends. I sometimes invite them over, because it’s less stressful than leaving home. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

If I’m in a good mood, I tend to bubble over. If I’m stressed, I snap and tear into those around me. If I’m sad, I don’t do anything. If I’m tired or hungry, look out. And if I don’t like someone, I find it very hard to be civil or pretend that I don’t have a problem with them. And I don’t understand why/how other people do. 

Am I too analytical?

That’s what Dr. Ortíz told me. She wasn’t my doctor, she was my boss. It was right after I told someone they were lighting the candles on the cake wrong. The way he was doing it, he could have burned himself. 

I have short-term obsessions. 

When I was younger it might have been a boy, or dolphins, or a book, or some interesting thing I had learned about or experienced. I would be obsessed. For a while. Then it would be unimportant again, as a new obsession took its place. But I never forgot the details. 

I remember the stupidest things. 

The dumbest things. 

But I can remember things that I learned, that helped me in school. Not that the parts of the cell will ever come in handy. Except while I’m in school. 

I was always good at school. 

Well, mostly. I was great at school before junior high and high school. Then I was just pretty good. The closer I got to graduation, the more anxiety I had. Independence was scary. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I still struggle. And I got a couple of D’s along the way. There was one in a science class because I couldn’t understand why we were given an assignment, so I resisted it, and it was a large part of my grade. Then later in Calculus. I knew the algebra like the back of my hand. But most of the other students struggled. I would get so frustrated that the teacher was teaching what these students should have already known. So I would read my book. Anne McCaffrey, Dean Koontz, Stephen King… When the part of class came to learn calculus, I was lost in my fictional world, where the other students’ incompetence couldn’t stress me. I dropped that class the next semester. 

I had a full ride scholarship to college. 

I got a 30 on my ACT. It took me less than a year to drop out. I quit school two more times since then. That was before the ADHD diagnosis. This is my last chance to finish school. 

Could I have Asperger’s? 

Am I overreacting, like my husband thinks? Am I onto something? My therapist is still warming up to the idea. She’s more interested in why I think I need a diagnosis. I need it to understand. To make others understand. To help protect my overly delicate psyche in the future. To learn techniques to keep myself from overloading. To keep myself from having meltdowns. To protect my family from my wrath by helping us all see the triggers. To help myself set goals and find a career that is a good fit. To make connections. To make friends. To learn. I need a diagnosis so that when I look at myself, I don’t see a hot mess, barely struggling to get by, but a woman who has done very well, considering being undiagnosed. To heal. 

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Then, Now, and Who Knows?

I took a day off yesterday of writing about my dysfunctional brain to do a writing prompt. My goal is to write at least once a day, and I am starting to feel like I want to start flexing some of my old writing muscles. Even though I didn’t make up something to write about, I was still talking about a fictional world made up by my favorite author.

Today, I’ll get back to the brain business. I’ll talk a little about how I’m doing today, then talk some about how I’m seeing evidence of ADHD as I look backward at my life. At some point, whether it be today or some day in the future, I want to take a look forward and talk about where I see my life going, now that I have a treatment.

So today was productive. I didn’t gut and reorganize anything, sadly, but I did get all the laundry done, folded, hung, put away. I also ran a load of dishes and made dinner. Usually my mom takes care of kitchen chores, but she hasn’t been feeling good. Part of me getting my act together is going to be me helping get her act together as well.

It was a snow day here. It started yesterday afternoon and continues now. It’s a pretty fluffy snow, and even though it’s been going on and off for over twenty-four hours, it hasn’t amounted to more than three or four inches so far. Hopefully the streets are drive-able tomorrow, because we need groceries.

As you might have noticed, I write here usually in the evening. That means that by the time I’m blogging, my medicine has more or less worn off. Yesterday I physically felt it start to crash. From about dinnertime on, my family could tell I was pretty out of it. Tonight, it means that I go off on tangents. For that I apologize, but I will go forward without censoring my wandering mind.

Being a snow day, I was not able to go have lunch with my friend as we planned. She was home with all three of her kids and I was stuck in the house with a baby and two dogs who all would have been happier getting out of the house. I would love to have gotten outside, but Mom was having a bad day and was getting lots of rest. I did manage to get the backs of the couches cleared off. They tend to collect items, as that is a place the little one cannot reach. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in that mission despite the fact that things kept reappearing on the couches.

I no longer feel a noticeable difference when my medicine kicks in. I do feel more of a drive to organize the chaos around me. I also feel more inclined to move around in a productive way instead of just wandering aimlessly or staring at my phone all day.

As I was talking to my therapist yesterday, I started to say ADD, and corrected to ADHD, as both diagnoses now fall under the one. She brought up the hyperactive part of the whole mess and asked if I had felt like that part applied or not. Initially, when this was all brought to my attention a few weeks ago, I would have said that it did not. But the more I analyze different aspects of my life, the more I start to identify with that side of ADHD.

For one thing, I have certain memories of getting myself into painful situations. There was the time I fell off of the front of the house while climbing up after a cat. There is the story my mom tells of me climbing on top of the washer when I was two to get something out of the cabinet. I remember climbing up on rooftops, treetops, and just about anything else I could climb up on. I remember I always had a foot shaking or bouncing. I still do, some days. I got loud. I still get loud. I’m impulsive. I take risks and sometimes I get hurt.

But there is one thing that has always been there, a feeling that I’ve had as far back as I can remember. I always felt like I should have been a boy. Now don’t roll your eyes or shake your head, just hear me out. This isn’t about sexually identifying as a male, or about sexual orientation or anything to do with plumbing, aside from maybe wishing I could pee standing up. But seriously, women get the short end of the stick with that last one.

No, I’m not a boy trapped in a girl’s body or anything like that. In fact, if it wasn’t for our culture’s way of identifying certain things as being “for men” or “for women”, then I would not have felt this way. I promise that I’m getting to the point. I have always been happier doing physically demanding chores over doing tedious ones. For example, a few weeks ago when it snowed, I put on boots and gloves and went and shoveled the driveway, the front steps and the back steps. Twice in one week. I think I must have done the dishes once. One time, a bunch of my cousins were at our house and the adult in charge had us draw numbers to see who would do what chores. I lied and said I got the bathroom, even though I had gotten the kitchen. Clearly my sister had drawn the bathroom and didn’t say otherwise, as she was happier with the kitchen. I liked the bathroom better because it was more physically demanding. I hate washing dishes. I hate just standing in one place just to put my hands in warm water and scrub things. It’s so boring. In fact, my feet started itching every time I washed the dishes. My mom thought I was making excuses, but I swear it’s a thing. I looked it up once. I can’t remember the name of it, but it makes parts of your body itch when other parts come in contact with water.

But I digress. Again.

My favorite job at the store where I worked was when I was unloading trucks. I didn’t have to think about it. I didn’t have to deal with customers. I didn’t have to make any decisions. I lifted things onto the conveyor belt, or took them off and stacked them on the appropriate pallet. Later, we would pull pallets out to the floor, and then we would stock the freight. Eventually, the schedule for that position was no longer compatible with my family life, and so I switched to department manager. Worst job ever. I liked it on some days. In fact, I loved the days when I could tear everything down and put it back up again. Probably because I had a diagram showing where everything should go. If I had to organize it myself it would be a disaster.

Other things I have enjoyed over the years were mechanical things, like fixing the toilet, changing doorknobs, replacing the belt on the vacuum, things where I used my hands and felt challenged, or felt like I could impress someone with my handiness. Things I hated were things like doing dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming, anything monotonous or repetitive.

When I was about nineteen, I liked to show off at parties by standing on my head. I bet I could still do it, but it would give me a headache, as I’ve gained a LOT of weight since then. But the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve always preferred things that were considered boy things or man things. Boys stand on their heads, not girls. Boys fix toilets, not girls. I’m not saying that’s true, just that historically, women have been expected to behave as ladies, and I’ve just never been what you would call ladylike. Back when I tended bar, many of my patrons thought I was a lesbian. That might have had more to do with the owner of the establishment where I worked, but apparently it was credible enough that no one questioned it.

Maybe it’s because my mom raised us alone after she and my dad were divorced. Maybe it’s because when I was fifteen she showed me how to change a tire. She did her best to make sure we could take care of ourselves. But even though I get physically exhausted a lot quicker these days, I usually prefer a physical challenge to a board game. I’d rather wash a car than dust. And I’d rather climb a ladder to work up high than to sit around waiting for a phone to ring.

There was even a period, mostly in my teens and early twenties (but occasionally still, if the situation is right) when every time I talked to someone on the phone about something that I was excited about, I would pace. I would walk through every room of the house and chatter away on the phone, talking about boys or whatever it was that kept me interested back then. I probably also did it when I was anxious or nervous about something. Nervous energy. I’d pace if I was waiting on a ride, looking out the window every minute, watching for headlights. If I sat, my knees would be bouncing or my fingers drumming.

So I guess I have always had a touch of the hyperactive bug. My mom never recognized it because I was just like she was when she was younger. I guess in a lot of ways I’m still like her. Of course, that’s pretty normal of a mother and daughter. Even more so, knowing that ADHD can be hereditary.

So what do I see for myself, now that I’m medicated? I see a world of possibilities. I see what I was told when I was graduating high school. I see opportunities to be whatever I want to be. To do whatever I want to do. I see a chance to finally finish something. Get a degree and do something with my life. Have a career. In the past year or two of my life, I have started to feel resigned to the idea that I would never be happy with one job for more than a few years. My mother never was. But now, for the first time, I see myself having the tenacity to stick with something. To be excited about something for more than a week or a month, but to continue to be stimulated by the things I love and to stick with them. I see a chance to make my family proud.

I see a chance to make my husband proud. That man, bless him, had loved me more than I ever felt like I deserved. He has been there for me and believed in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself. Since I started taking Adderall, barely a week ago, I have started to feel like I am capable of finally making my husband proud. I feel like by making myself into something successful, I can redeem myself to him for always being a mess, and give something back. He has always been the successful, stable one; my rock. I feel like if I can succeed at something, anything, then it will have all been worth it for him. I really feel like above all, I owe it to him to take this opportunity to get right with the world.

And so the question remains: What do I want to be when I grow up?

Adderall

Today I had my first dose of Adderall. Well, I think it’s a generic, as it says Amphetamine salts on the label. Being a schedule II controlled substance in the US, an original signed prescription is required for the pharmacy to fill it. That means no calling or faxing it in. So I took it in and had it filled. The nice pharmacist man asked if I had ever taken it and I said no. So he proceeded to tell me all the negative side effects, decreased appetite (yes please), decreased sex drive (what’s less than zero?), accelerated heart rate (okay), yadda, yadda, yadda… Oh and by the way, it’s the second most powerful stimulant after cocaine.

Whoa.

What…

So then I was feeling all nervous. First because I was staring him in the eye when he said, “sex drive,” and then because I felt like I was smuggling narcotics by getting my prescription filled. Needless to say, I was a little anxious by the time I got home.

So I’m given 10 mg to take once a day. It’s immediate release, so it takes effect right away and can leave you crashing in a few hours. I had only had a glass of milk and had skipped lunch, so I had it with a couple of sandwiches. It took about 40 minutes to feel it start to kick in. At first I felt a little drugged. It was a subtle version of what I felt when they gave me morphine in the ER for a kidney stone. It started out like a warm blanket–over my head. And even though I never felt like my brain was moving, I had a very physical sensation of my brain settling down, like it had literally been fidgeting and was now sitting still.

I was almost immediately more present. I didn’t feel harried. I was interacting with my daughter. I was finishing things. I had a calm conversation with my husband about–of all things–health insurance. And though that could get anyone riled up, I was able to remember the plans we had talked about, discuss it, articulate my thoughts on the matter, and not once get confused or frustrated. It was great!

My friend and I had made plans a few days ago to get together and color our hair. She came over and I was telling her about it all. (She’s the one with the son who has ADHD.) While we were talking, I started to feel the effects of the med wear off. It was so strange because the impulse control problem came right back. I was interrupting her and going off on tangents. Bless her, she’s a saint. I don’t know how she’s been able to put up with me all these years. She was telling me that she had a friend who was diagnosed with ADHD in college, and how much it changed her life. It was so nice to talk to someone who has had some experience with all this, even if it is second-person. Hell, it was nice to talk to her for so long about anything. Since I quit work, we haven’t had much time to just talk. (And, now we have fewer gray hairs!)

So today was day one. I go see my doctor again in a month. In the meantime, I anticipate that I will adjust to how the Adderall affects me, and won’t get that drugged-up feeling after a while. I can only imagine that she’ll increase my dosage to taking it 2-3 times a day, or that she’ll give me the extended release variety. In all honesty, it’s a good thing I felt it start to wear off (it was a little over four hours) because it was after 2:00 PM when I took it.

Oh, and for anyone wondering why she started me on Adderall, she said that the insurance companies don’t like paying for the newer (or better) drugs at first. They tend to ask what else we’ve tried before going for the big guns. I can say that I trust my doctor and my therapist, and I know they have my best interests at heart. I feel like I might finally be seeing a light at the end of a very long and frustratingly confusing tunnel.

I’ll keep you updated. (I’m sure of it!)

Adult ADHD?

It has been a long time since I’ve been on here. We celebrated my daughter’s first birthday a couple weeks ago. She walks and talks and is even trying to potty train already. I can’t believe how lucky I am. But of course, as always, life brings its challenges.

I have not worked in over a year. Last August, I started babysitting my friend’s two little boys. Basically I was taking them to school and picking them up four days a week. It was a little income, and I felt like I was helping her out by saving her from daycare. Not long into the school year, the youngest started having problems, and was diagnosed with ADHD. He proved to be quite challenging about half of the days I had him. I began to understand why she was always so stressed.

By November, I was back on antidepressants. It took about a month to get the dosage right. She started me out at the highest dosage instead of the lowest. In fact, when I asked if there was a dosage lower than half of what she started me at, she had to look it up.

I inquired about therapy/counseling. I have been on and off of antidepressants for almost half of my life, seventeen years now, and never once has any doctor referred me to therapy, and I felt like it might help me. So I began my search for a different kind of help.

Enter Melinda.

Melinda is a psychologist. Those are the ones who can’t prescribe medicine. The first few times we talked it was mostly about her getting to know me and what all was going on in my life, and how I had gotten to where I am today. I think it was the third visit with her that she asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. Um, no, Melinda. I am about the least hyperactive person I know. In fact, since I stopped working, the most exercise I get it taking out the trash and bathing 25lbs of baby every couple of days.

She had some checklists, and, long story short, she thinks I have ADHD. I learned, while I was looking it up online (because I always research when something comes up) and found out that ADD and ADHD were combined years ago and they are both classified as ADHD. You can, however, have it without showing major signs of hyperactivity. You may see signs of impulsive behavior, instead. Such as answering a question before the person is finished asking it. Interrupting people. Things like that.

Okay, that sounds like me.

Wait, let me back up. First, to diagnose in an adult, there have to have been symptoms before age twelve. By the time I was twelve, I had been to (oh God, this is the first time I actually counted them) NINE SCHOOLS IN THREE STATES! Good grief, how was anyone to have noticed that I had problems? I was smart. I picked up on spelling words after seeing them only once or twice. I was a whiz at math. My dad explained squares and square roots to me when I was around eight and I totally understood them. I loved math. I was like solving a puzzle every time, and it was fun. I could always read years ahead of my age. I remember reading Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little when I was seven. I loved to read. I got good grades. The only time I was in trouble at school was when I finished my work before the other kids and started talking. To be honest, I have been moved to other seats by teachers to keep me away from the people I was talking to my whole life. Didn’t matter, though. I’d talk to just about anyone…

Okay. So how does this matter now? Here are the problems I have struggled with as an adult:

  • Memory problems. I forget everything. Conversations I just had. What I had for lunch yesterday. My daughter’s diaper bag. Uh, my daughter… (which was the point that I sought help).
  • I have quit school three times. College, anyway. I graduated high school with honors. I even had a full ride scholarship plus grants to go to school after high school. I had free meals, free housing, and about $3,000 a semester to attend school. I even got a student aide job to make more money. Before the end of the spring semester, I had dropped out.
  • I can’t follow through on anything.
  • I can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up. Mostly because…
  • My confidence and self esteem and slightly more than zero. Very, very slightly. I think about doing one thing, then I tell myself that I’ll never be good at that. (Writing, for one.)
  • Depression.

What does all this have to do with ADHD? Well, a lot, actually. I have trouble carrying on more than one train of thought at a time. So if I’m heading out of the house, and I’m trying to remember my purse, keys, phone, diaper bag, AND the baby, and I seem to be doing alright, and my mom asks me to pick something up for her, there is no way I will ever remember that she asked me to get something. Even if I heard her and acknowledged what she said. Unless she texts me as I’m about to pass a gas station, or as I’m approaching the checkout line at the grocery store, then I will totally forget what she needed. (Cigarettes. Nine times out of ten, it’s cigarettes.)

And it’s because I can’t. I literally can’t “record” her request while I’m on a set train of thought, focusing on the very “simple” (haha) task of leaving the house. My husband will tell me that he’s off on a certain day, or that he’s getting off early to go to the dentist, or something of that nature, and when that day comes, I have no idea why he’s not getting out of bed, or why he’s home at lunch time. And laundry? Forget about it. I probably did. I wash each load of towels an average of two times. Because when I do laundry, it’s the last load I put in. And since I don’t have any more piles of clothes on the floor to remind me that I’m doing laundry, I totally forget to put them into the dryer. It’s not until I can’t find my jeans and realize they’re still in the dryer that I think of the towels. And I don’t even want to talk about the clothes that I have destroyed by forgetting to run them on delicate. I could cry every time that happens.

So take that whole previous paragraph or two, and imagine how that makes me feel. I’ll help:

  • I forget those people closest to me. I must be self centered. They probably hate me. I’m a terrible wife/mother/daughter/friend…
  • I’m a failure. I can’t finish school and now I have student loans that I can’t pay and no degree to show for it.
  • I’ll never be a career woman. I’ll probably only work a job for a year or two before I get burned out and start wanting something more stimulating. I’m putting a terrible financial strain on my husband and my family. I’m so worthless.
  • I can’t even do laundry without f-ing up. What the hell is wrong with me?
  • What kind of mother forgets her baby?
  • I’m smart, so why can’t I get my shit together and pay my bills? I can’t even function like a grown adult.
  • I’ve had depression my whole adult life. (It started at age eighteen when I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. I’ve always blamed it on that.) I’m always going to be dependent on antidepressants. I’m such a flake.

Okay, so what am I saying? I’m saying that maybe, just maybe, (and I really don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but maybe…) all these things might come down to one very simple diagnosis. Maybe I do have ADHD. So I took the test, and scored so, so, so, so, SO, SO freaking high, OMG, on the attention side, and not as high, but still high, on the hyperactivity/impulsivity scale thingy.

Melinda, God love her, can’t write prescriptions. But I have an appointment with my primary care doctor. She can confer with my therapist and confirm the diagnosis, and hopefully, I can start taking something for it.

Oh, and she wants me to write more. So hopefully, with any luck, I’ll be back on in a week or two with an update. I’d like to promise that I’ll be back sooner just to write, but I’m having major issues with my laptop. The only reason I can get on here today is because my mom is away and I’m using the computer in her room.

I’m going to leave you with a link:

http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/addquiz.htm

Maybe you can learn what I did. And if your life sounds anything like mine, maybe you can talk to your doctor about it. And I’ll be back, with any luck, to let you know how I’m doing. And I’m going to leave you with some advice that my cousin, a kindred spirit, gave me: Sometimes you have to put everything on hold and take care of you. The universe will wait, and your family will still love you when you’re finished. You just can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Sometimes, I think, we all need that friendly reminder.

Thanks for reading.