ADHD Drugs. Tried them. Worked as advertised but also had some interesting side effects. I’m not sure I can ever get used to the second head that grew out of my shoulders, but whatever….
I think I went a little nuts when the doctor sat me down, showed me a chart and announced that his findings of my symptoms were almost off of the charts. “Here’s where normal people are” he said (or words to that effect) as he pointed to a line across a graph. Then he pointed to a line near the top of the page that went from left to right in a kind of a zigzag pattern “and here’s where you are.” I was more than pleased; I was ecstatic.
There are so many more symptoms to ADHD than just the propensity toward distraction. Many of us – especially ones with a more severe case of ADHD – become debilitated throughout our lives. A great many can’t hold a job, a marriage or maintain our health. Many of us have addiction problems. I don’t mean just drugs; I mean anything under the sun: sexual addictions, problems with booze, problems with almost anything. And so many of us hop from one addiction to another. My dad was an alcoholic, so I was fortunate enough (long before the diagnosis) to recognize that I may have inherited his fascination with booze. So although I enjoy wine, I was smart enough to occasionally go through dry periods “just to make sure”. Then I realized that I was beginning to enjoy pot too much (this was years ago, officer), so I stopped taking any of that for a while. There were a number of other ones – I won’t bother to list them here.
Many of us become adrenaline junkies, often taking horrible chances with our lives while looking for that “high”. Scratch the skin of a person who gets into way too many car accidents and you may find a person with ADHD.
Socially, we are often just a bunch of misfits. I never realized it until my daughter and I started comparing notes. “Dad” she would say “I feel guilty about getting so bored with conversations sometimes”. I would reply “I KNOW, RIGHT? It’s like they’re all ‘blah blah my vacation blah blah” and I’m like ‘what time is it? Oh I’ve got to go'”.
Sometimes I even blogged about it. Like the blog I posted about a guy who was into some of the same types of books I was interested in – only in a kind of steroidal way: it was all he could talk about, and it bored me to tears. I eventually realized that the problem wasn’t him, it was me. (“Sure it was” I hear you say. “That’s so cliché, man”. And okay – so it is. Happens to be true). Normal people – however “normal” is defined – can carry on linear conversations that have beginning, middle and conclusion points. I realized that wasn’t the case with me or my daughter: our conversations were more like exploring birds, hopping from tree branch to tree branch, never landing on the same one twice. A bouquet of non sequiturs, if you will. We eventually realized that we were annoying others who wanted to get in on the conversation but felt they couldn’t. “Can you not stay on the point???” they’d exclaim, exasperated. “What point?” would be our innocent response.
Our conversations often frustrated ourselves as well, but only for brief moments. It kind of went like this: “um, what was I talking about?” “I dunno” *shrug* Whatever it was seemed important; it was a point I was trying to get to, only I was too excited by the process of the conversation and so, as usual, the conversational car left the track and flipped end over end into a field of much more interesting thoughts. Crash and burn.
“Were you aware that there’s an eclipse of the moon tonight?”
“Oh really? I’d love to see that. I can’t stay up late though, I have a test in the morning.”
“Well maybe you don’t have to stay up to watch it. Maybe you could….”
“Oh my God Dad. I remember the last time I saw the Northern Lights. They were so beautiful…”
“Was that when you were on that camping trip?”
“How is Pete?”
“He’s married now and he’s running his own shoe store.”
(Then I’d think: shoes, running, Nike, “just do it”)
“Hey I’m going to finish the next chapter of my book tonight.”
“Really? That’s so good, Dad.”
(And she would think “books, Kindle, Amazon”)
“Do you know that Amazon delivers to Canada?”
(And I would think “old news, news, newspaper, columnists, Conrad Black)
“I knew that. Hey have you ever read any of Conrad Black’s stuff? The man’s a wordsmith!”
(And she would think “wordsmith, clowns, elephants, circus”)
“No I never have. That reminds me: Cirque du Soleil is coming to town. I’ve got tickets!”
And on it would go. You can just picture other “normal” people saying “okay – just what the FUCK are you guys talking about?”
We’d both look at each other and smile.
I think even my writing gets affected and infected by this type of meandering. For example: I meant to tell you about my foray into the ADHD drug world.
So the first one was a long-term drug that you have to take every day. It’s supposed to get into your bloodstream as a constant presence and affect what’s called “executive function” – whereby you retain the ability to not only focus, but keep all of the balls in the air at the same time. Most people aren’t aware of it: they put their current thought on a shelf – NOT FORGOTTEN, just placed aside for a moment – while they deal with a more pressing thought. Then when they’re done, they go back to the shelf, bring down the thought and work with it again. With ADHD folk it’s more like we hoof that thought into the outer stratosphere, completely forgotten and rarely ever seen again. It’s not deliberate; it’s just the way our minds tend to work and process. This drug was designed to help patients gain a measure of control.
I have no idea whether it worked or not; I didn’t stay on it long enough. Just a week. Just long enough to notice that I was having a very hard time trying to pee (among other things). It was horrible. I got worried that maybe my body was going through an unwanted change, until I got onto the net and started reading about the side effects. So I dropped that drug like it was a flaming bag of dog poop – and I felt better almost immediately.
I went back to the doc who prescribed another ADHD medication that he promised wouldn’t mess me up so badly. The side effects were minimal and as long as my blood pressure remained under control there wouldn’t be any problem. I went on it for a few weeks and didn’t notice any change in my ADHD symptoms so went back to him. He increased the dosage. I tried it for a few more weeks; still no change. I went back – and this can get boring so let me just say it took a few more visits until we got the dosage right. And then, presto! The required effects kicked in.
I was able to focus; I was able to complete projects; I was able to go places and not leave my iPhone or iPad sitting somewhere for someone to pick up and adopt as their own. (Can’t tell you how many times I’d done that before).
There were other noticeable effects too. I started boring the hell out of myself. Anything I wrote was tedious and long – and complete. I hated my writing. My creativity took a noticeable hit. I figured it was worth the price of being able to be just a little bit linear in thinking again.
Then one day I started having pains in my chest. Severe pains. I went to a walk-in clinic and the doctor said my blood pressure was through the roof. She ordered an EKG (my heart was fine), and then prescribed some nitro. I quickly realized the culprit: the high doses of the ADHD drug was affecting my blood pressure.
So I went off it. Completely. Cold-turkey.
My blood pressure’s back to normal, and my creativity is back.
In talking with a good friend of mine who is also an MD, we seemed to agree that maybe, just maybe, people are designed to be different from each other, and maybe there’s no real need to alter our behaviour (or as we called it, get into “social engineering”).
I only know I’m enjoying the crap out of life right now, and it’s doubtful that I’ll ever seek help for my ADHD again. (Never say never though).
Final note: I hear you saying “dude, your creativity can’t be all that great. You rarely write a new blog.” You would be correct: my blogs are too few and far between and I’m planning to change that. But – and this is a huge thing – I’m still writing. I’ve been employed for a few months as a critic for the popular site TVFanatic.com – and I write a weekly review of two shows: Criminal Minds and NCIS. Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to interview two of the Criminal Minds stars too: Matthew Gray Gubler (who plays Dr. Reid) and Joe Mantegna (who plays Agent Rossi). If you want to check it out – no pressure! – you’ll find the reviews at Criminal Minds and NCIS. (My name on there is Douglas Wolfe.)
In the meantime, maybe I’ll just keep playing at life and forget about the ADHD meds. Frankly I’m having too much fun without them.