I've been blasted for my support of ADD meds. I was unfriended by someone on the facebook for it. I've had marathon discussions (debates) with dear friends on the subject. I've been accused of breaking my child, taking away his personality and my favorite, of being a drug pusher.
I can take it.
My one child who has been diagnosed with ADHD began medication in first grade. This was after preschool teachers and a kindergarten teacher and then, finally, his first grade teacher brought up the possibility that he had ADHD. I ignored them at first. Blew it off. Chalked his behavior up to skipped naps (as if he'd taken one since he was 2), too much sugary cereal and the fact that he was "just a kid acting like a kid".
But, we had him seen by a doctor. We filled out questionnaires, his teacher filled them out, I read every book on the subject. We (I say "we" because I was married back then and it was a mutual decision) decided to give the meds a try.
And they worked. Like a boss.
The kid who was constantly being reprimanded for not being able to keep his hands to himself, for blurting out whatever was on his mind, for not being able to focus longer than a minute on anything that didn't immediately grab his interest, for being "that kid" in the classroom...he changed.
He was able to sit for longer periods of time. He stopped hitting kids. He stopped interrupting his teachers and his parents and his friends. He picked up a Harry Potter book and began reading it. AND FINISHED IT. His handwriting improved drastically, we discovered he was good at math because, for the first time ever, he sat down and was able to focus on the worksheets in front of him.
It was a miracle, for him. And for us, as parents. And I'm sure for his teacher (who cried with me at his next conference, by the way...God I loved her! Hats off to you, Mrs. Hall)
But this isn't about my son and Adderall and ADHD. It's about me, and Adderall and my ADHD.
You see, while he was being diagnosed, I was too. It hit me late one night, as I was reading my ADD bible, "Driven to Distraction". I elbowed my sleeping husband and said "Holy shit. I HAVE IT TOO!". Reading the symptoms list was like reading something titled "All About Jenny!". My life flashed before my eyes like an old timey slideshow. All the punishments in school, the frustrated parents, the lost or unfinished homework. The messy rooms and the tardiness and the inability to see a project from start to finish...all of it.
I sought out a doctor who dealt with adult ADHD and had a diagnosis, and a prescription, within the week.
In our family, we joke that Adderall brings out the gardener in us. The first time my son took the meds, he grabbed a rake and methodically raked the entire front yard. Me? I transplanted about 30 hostas. There's an adjustment time with ADD meds, not long but it does take a couple of days for your body (and brain) to get used to it. To get used to the quiet inside your mind, get used to that initial rush you feel when the drugs hit your brain and the fog starts dissipating, the whirring blades of thought begin to calm down. I think by doing something physically repetitive, we were allowing our brains time to become familiar with the feeling of not being on fast forward.
But more than the landscaping, what the drug did in my brain was life changing. For the first time, ever, my thoughts slowed down. I didn't feel the unstoppable urge to interrupt friends as they were talking. I could start a project, and finish it. And I didn't start 20 more in the middle of it, either.
I found patience where before, I'd had none. I listened to my kids instead of jumping ahead and trying to guess what was next.
I yelled less. I no longer said the sometimes-biting things that used to pop out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.
My house was tidier. The laundry got done. Meals were planned and not the panicky, rushed last-minute affairs they'd been. I didn't need an entire pot of coffee in the mornings (for those of us with ADD, the caffeine actually slows things down). I didn't need those two glasses of wine at night to help muffle the noise.
My time belonged to me again. I didn't lose chunks of it here and there, shaking myself out of a fugue and wondering, "Where the hell did that last hour go?".
For the first time in my life, I could think clearly. I could have a thought, an actual thought! And not have to search for it in a pick-up-sticks jumble of words and sentences and feelings in my brain.
I mourned my "lost" childhood and education. After seeing how it had helped my son, and feeling how it had helped me as an adult, I couldn't help but think about what a difference it may have made for me, all those years ago. Would math have been easier? Would my grades have reflected my intelligence instead of my attention span? Would I have been kept in the Gifted and Talented program instead of being told "Oops. We made a mistake! Sorry. Back to the average pool you go, grasshopper."
Would I have finished college?
I'll never know. I do think it would have made my life better, that's for sure. You see, ADD doesn't travel alone. It usually brings some friends to the party, the most common ones are anxiety, depression and low self esteem.
It's kind of like the chicken/egg thing: which came first? Did the ADD and all the social/personal ramifications of having it cause the others, or are they all just another random gift from our genetic makeup? Certainly years of being told by parents and teachers and friends that there's something "not right" with you, of always being the kid scolded and punished, of finding yourself frustrated at your inability to just finish that goddamned book or paper or job does a number on you.
Those other maladies hit me, too. They intensified after my husband left. He walked out, and took his sweet healthcare benefits with him. I found out that the cost of Adderall without insurance was almost as much as a mortgage payment (I kid you not...at one point it was over $400 for a month's worth sans insurance).
I quickly realized that keeping my scattered thoughts in straight and orderly lines took a backseat to keeping my kids fed. And thus ended my love affair with Adderall.
I've put up a good front. I've pretended to have my shit together. And for a while, it worked. Oh, don't get me wrong. It still takes an act of God for me to finish reading a book. Piles of stuff still sit, unattended but thought about on a regular basis (usually in the form of, 'ooh I need to go through that one of these days!'). But I manage to get to work, go grocery shopping, get the bills paid and keep the kids fed, clothed and warm. I'm functioning.
But I've been unraveling. Like a wayward thread being pulled ever-so-slowly, my life and my poor old flaky brain have been coming undone. It's starting to become a hindrance. For a long time I was able to live with the 8 lane highway coursing through my cerebrum 24/7. I self-medicated again, with the pot of coffee in the morning and the cocktails on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Now it's become too much. I have a lot on the line. Finding a new job while still working 40 hours a week at the one I'm going to lose, trying to finish my book, dealing with the ups and downs that go hand in hand with raising four kids on my own. Everything, all of this life stuff, it's taking a toll. My ADD is rearing its ugly head and so are the others: the self doubt, the depression, the anxiety (oh my sweet lord, the anxiety).
So I'm doing what I should have done a long time ago. What I should have done the minute I got my new job with the fabulous benefits.
I'm going back on Adderall. I made the call this afternoon, and I see the doctor early next week. And I'm positively giddy about it.
Now, before I settle into bed and start to read the same paragraph over and over in the book I'm currently trying to read (The Bloggess/Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened"), I want to stress this:
I'm not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. I studied each vaccination my babies got, and objected to a couple of them because I didn't like what I'd read. I frown upon antibiotics unless they are absolutely the last resort. My kids are all taller than me and could probably flip me over like a cheese omelet but they still know that they need to check with me before dipping into our ibuprofen/cold and flu meds stash. I'm not a pill popper! In fact, I probably fall more on the anti-medication side of things.
But I think that sometimes, they work. Sometimes they fix what needs to be fixed. I am nearsighted, therefore I wear corrective lenses. I'm wired wrong in my head, therefore I need to take something to help reconnect things. Is this the perfect solution? The best one? The right one? Maybe. Maybe not.
It is, however, the perfect, best and right one for me.
I'm looking forward to the quiet.