Posts Tagged ‘ADHD’

The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m.

I live alone but still shouted “I’m up I’m up!” – like the stupid thing would shut off if it heard my voice.

fiveam

Reality slowly wound itself into my consciousness.  Today was the day. I was due in court for 9:00 a.m. to do my civic duty.

I was going for jury duty.

There was both curious anticipation and a heightened sense of anxiety warring for attention when I faced the day.

I wondered about the process, and whether or not I’d actually make it to the jury level.  There’s a requirement – if you’re picked – to face the accused and answer any of the questions the lawyers submit.

“Are you aware of this case? Have you already made up your mind about what should happen to the defendant?” These are the questions I’d imagine being asked.

Having ADHD all of my life, I was deathly afraid of showing up late. (Being late once in a while is embarrassing. Being late all the time provokes a social indictment; one becomes known for being a failure)

Thus the early alarm. And thus the plan to get out the door no later than  7:30 a.m.

I even worked it out the night before. Google Maps told me the trip would take forty-five minutes. I took no chances and planned for ninety.

As it turned out, I left only fifteen minutes later than planned.

After double-locking the door, I got part way to the bus stop when I remembered that I had forgotten my bus pass. That sucker is worth $120 so it was worth it to go back through my double-locked door to get it. There’s always something I’d forgotten so there was no way I was going to start my journey with the planned ninety minutes anyway.

The plan worked! When I got out of the subway I discovered I was a half an hour early.

The short walk through sticky humid air did nothing to dampen my excitement. I looked around at the crowd of commuters, all resigned to their fate on their painful march to whatever jobs and appointments awaited their grumpy faces. Maybe the grey sky had something to do with it. There were no smiles or even half smiles or smirks.  Torontonians take their seriousness seriously.

Security guards greeted me at the front door of the court building. There was no lineup, so I got to empty my pockets and place my briefcase on the small conveyor right away while one of them did his wand thing.

“There’s something in your back pocket sir.”

I reached and pulled out my keys.  “Sorry”

“No worries. Please go ahead.”

I retrieved everything and made my way to the courtroom.

The doors were locked, which……..made sense as I was still about twenty minutes early. It seemed odd that I was the only one in the hallway though. Four empty chairs sat silently, all desperately hugging each other. I pulled one of them free from the rest before settling my butt down onto it.

I waited impatiently; way too keyed up to read anything on my iPad.

9:00 a.m. came and the door remained closed.

Maybe I was in the wrong place.  I opened up my briefcase and took out the summons again.

“6th floor”.  Yup. That’s where I was.  “Courtroom 6-1”. I looked up at the sign on the wall.  Courtroom 6-1

I was definitely in the right place.

I thought “maybe they’re a little relaxed on their schedule.”

I looked at the summons again.  Then I looked at the date.

Today was August 18.

The summons said September 18.

I rolled my eyes and then sat there laughing quietly to myself.

I quickly did a sprint around in my head, processing all that I needed to now do.

I had to inform not only my boss but my team and colleagues about my gaffe.

Plus I had to re-do the paperwork for the acting assignment for the guy who was supposed to replace me.

We all make mistakes from time to time but it’s rare that we get the opportunity to broadcast our mistakes to everyone we know.

Which is one reason I wrote this blog to follow-up the one from yesterday.  I figured I may as well go for broke and announce it to the world.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The other reason is that it seems like a good idea to write a series of blogs about the symptoms of ADHD.  Many non-ADHDers are under the assumption there’s only one or two. Say the term “ADHD” and some will think “someone who can’t sit still” or “someone who gets distracted easily”.

Did you know that according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 18 symptoms of ADHD?

Anyway, let’s file this one under Symptom Number 1:

Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

“How can I help you?”

The first thing I noticed were her twinkling blue eyes.  She looked like she’d just finished laughing or was about to laugh.

The next thing I saw was her bright smile.

She was a short little thing, with dark curly hair that puddled down her back.

I had only dropped into the restaurant to do some reading.  The place was known for its hot spiced french fries – which I usually ate without benefit of ketchup or vinegar. Naked fries were the best.

fries

Also, a glass of Chardonnay would complete the experience.  So that’s what I ordered.

She smiled again and took off.

When she brought me a glass of water, I stopped her.  Part of my brain just wanted to go for it, while another part was honestly intrigued.

“Excuse me” I said.  “Do we know each other?  Have you served me before?  I would have come in with a friend from work.”

I know how lame that sounds, but the restaurant had a lot of empty tables for that time of day, and I was sitting in my usual spot.  I’ve been in there a fair amount, as it’s close to my office.

“I don’t know” she said, still smiling.  “I don’t recall you.  My name is Lena”.

What I should have done was respond with my name.  That’s what a romantic guy would do – now that the ice was broken. But my ADHD hyperfocus had kicked in, as I struggled to recall whether I’d heard that name before.

“No, I don’t know that name” I said.  “Guess not, huh?”

“When did you last come in?”

“It would have been about six weeks ago” I replied, still struggling to remember.

“Well then we don’t know each other.  I only started a month ago.”

“Oh”  I was disappointed.  “Oh well.”

She smiled and left.

Each time she came to the table, to bring the food, the wine and to check to see if everything was okay, she had the brightest smile.

Twirling around in the back of my mind were all of these thoughts.

“Someone that gorgeous with such a great smile probably gets hit on all of the time.  Am I going to be another boor, troubling her in her place of work where she can’t get away?”

“I really like my setup at home. I worked hard to achieve the peace of my bachelor domain.  How ready am I to give that up?”

“She seems young enough to still want kids.  I wonder if I’m open to that?”

I really liked her, but …..  I had all of these reasons why I shouldn’t pursue her.  Most of these thoughts were straying outside of the limits of my consciousness, so I wasn’t truly on top of them or even aware.  That’s how it is with most things in a person cursed (or blessed, as the case may be) with ADHD.

So I concentrated on reading my book, and on enjoying the meal.

After the bill was paid, and the tip was administered, I stayed, enjoying the music and the book.  I sipped on my water, totally engrossed in the story.

She came back after that with a pitcher of water, and that ever-present huge smile.  “Would you like some more?”

“Oh that’d be great.  Thank you!” I said.

I finished the water.

It wasn’t until I left the place and began walking to the bus terminal that my brain tapped me on the shoulder.

“Doofus” it said.  “You realize that she didn’t have to come back with the water, right?  She wasn’t smiling for her tip any more – even if that ever was the case.”

I shrugged to myself.  I’ve had a number of missed opportunities before.  This wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

Maybe I’ve learned.  Maybe not.  Who knows.

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.

squirrel-dog

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?”

“With Pete?”

“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.

Misophonia: People who have misophonia are most commonly annoyed, or even enraged, by such ordinary sounds as other people eating, breathing, sniffing, or coughing; certain consonants; or repetitive sounds. Intense anxiety and avoidant behavior may develop, which can lead to decreased socialization. Some people may feel the compulsion to mimic what they hear

I had no idea this was a *thing*. Apparently I’ve got it. Somehow I doubt that pushing the guy’s face into his bowl of crunchy cereal (so he can *really* get a good taste of it) is a viable prescription.

(Still, it’s a good thought)

People – too many it seems – are completely unaware of their sounds.   The smack-smack-smacking of lips as folk chow down on their copious amounts of popcorn are just so damned unavoidable.  But that’s okay – I enjoy popcorn too, and find a need to chew carefully when I eat it.  Wouldn’t want to inadvertently be the catalyst for a homicidal episode from an overly annoyed fellow patron.

The occupant one stall over in the cubicle farm is completely ignorant of his sounds.  And he has so VERY VERY many of them, and they all start around 10:00 a.m. every day.  The guy starts out with some sort of crunchy cereal – which he consumes with a metal spoon from a ceramic bowl.  I know because I recognize the sounds clearly: the spoon as well as the damned clanky bowl.

When he’s done he apparently has a problem with some of the foodstuffs that don’t make it down his massive gullet – which seem obvious because he suddenly starts up with the teeth-sucking.  Have you ever heard someone sucking their teeth?  It’s amazingly disgusting.   Pfft! Pffffffffffffft!

Then there’s a myriad of other sounds.  Throat-clearing, heavy breathing, coughing.  (I’m guessing he doesn’t swallow normally either – hence the need to clear all of his passages of errant food stuffs.)

Once done, you’d think that would be it wouldn’t you?

Oh but you’d be so very very wrong.  Because you know he has to phone someone.

Home boy doesn’t have a normal voice.  No, his voice is unnecessarily loud.  I don’t mean normal loud.  I mean vibrantly dramatically loud.   And God help us if he hears a joke because boy oh boy – he’s going to LAUGH.  Not a gentle dignified laugh or chuckle either.  An outright guffaw that would raise the dead and cause sheep and cows to snort in alarm.  It’s not a laugh you share either – it’s a laugh that makes you piss yourself and run in fear.

One morning he was so bad that I honestly felt myself going insane.  I wanted to call my boss and talk with him but he was offline.  I wanted to talk with anyone but there was no one around.  I could visualize myself picking up my laptop and throwing it hard across the room.  Honestly – I’ve never felt that way before.

Someone offered me this advice:  “when he starts up, just take a break and go to the washroom.”

My sincere response: “I’m not allowed to spend six hours in the washroom.”

****

You know – there have been many times I’ve found myself hyper-aware of annoying sounds.  Maybe they’re only annoying to me though.  My dad – back when he was still alive – used to hack and cack in the washroom every morning.  He’d do this long dramatic throat clearing, and it would sound as if he was fixin’ to throw up the contents of his cavernous stomach.  Only he’d get so far and then not actually do it.  It was worse than hearing a cat coughing up a hairball.   “HACK HACK *cough* HACK HAAAAAAACK!!!!!”   – long 20 second count – then: “*spit*”

Used to make me almost offer up a sympathy barf.

(Sorry.   I know that’ s disgusting.  Now you know how I feel.)

Just a guess here but….I’ll just bet that this “misophonia” thing is exasperated if you have ADHD.  In that you’re so easily distracted by anything or everything.   So obviously if certain noises unduly annoy you it’s a fair bet that such noises are naturally going to catch your attention at the most inopportune of times.

For a while I was on ADHD meds and these noises didn’t annoy me nearly so much.  I was aware of them – but I was able to concentrate at the task at hand, so the noises became background white noise.  Time passed and I found a need to stop the meds – and the annoyances came back.

What about you?  Is this topic completely new to you – or do you too suffer from this social noise pollution?

Whirling and whirling

Posted: January 24, 2012 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*thinking*  “Shoot, I’m late.  Better call a cab.”

“Wait.  I’m not nearly ready and if I rush I’m going to forget something.  Better get everything together first, then when I’m about five minutes from being ready – THEN call.”

“Good.”  I nodded to myself.  “Smart thinking”

I ignored the brightly coloured fairy lights flitting around in my brain and set to work. 

Lunch?  “Don’t need it – I’m buying a sandwich when meeting with a friend today.  So… check.”

Boots?  “It’s cold out.  Got ’em right here”  *Slips boots on.*

Coat? “Right here”

Gloves? “Check”

Hat?  “Check”

Anything else?  “Wait.  iPad.  Can’t forget the love of my life.”

Laptop for work?  “Got it in the laptop bag.  I’ll put the iPad in with it.”

iPhone?  “Got it.”

Call the cab.  “Ok.  I’ll connect up with my bluetooth earpiece and talk to them while doing a last minute check around the place.”

*Calls cab.*

I go out.  Lock both locks on the door and walk down the hallway to the elevator.  An older woman smiles at me.  I nod back and say “hi there.”

I hear the elevator.  *Ding!*

The door opens.  Something twigs in my brain – so I ignore the elevator and go back to my apartment.   Unlock both locks and walk through the apartment with my boots on.  Grab the new combination lock so I can head to the gym today.  (Lost my last one on my trip to Tofino).

Re-lock the apartment and, as the elevator opens, my phone rings.  I tap the bluetooth earpiece and hear “hi there.  You called for a taxi?”

“Yup.  On my way down now.”

I jump in the cab and,  just as it leaves the on-ramp and hits the highway, I realize that I forgot my security card for work.   So I think “nevermind.   I’ll just have to find a public washroom if I need it, and make sure that I don’t leave the building after 4:30 (unless going home) because I won’t be able to get back in.”   Good.  It sucks, but at least it’s a plan.  I’m not spending the money to tell the cab to go back.

And…just as I get in the door at work I realize that my security card is safe in my laptop back.  I forgot it was there.   “Oh good.” I think.  ” Serendipity.  Thank God for small blessings.”

I get to my desk, plug in the laptop, secure it to the locking cable and turn it on.

I sit back and, after waiting for it to boot up, I finally see the login screen. 

Sort of.  It’s kind of hard to read.

Ah.  I need my glasses.   I reach into my pocket.  Earphones, iPhone….. no glasses.   “I wonder where they are?”   

They’re sitting on the counter at home.  Right where I left them.

I think “what the fuck is WRONG with me?” 

“Why is my brain such a massive blur today?

“Did I take my ADHD meds?”

I did.  It was almost the first thing I did today.

Good thing I have an doctor appointment for tomorrow – because it looks as though they’re not working anymore.

I think “well, I’ll have to buy some reading glasses from the pharmacy across the street.” 

So I do.  Bring them back and sit back down to the computer. 

Uh oh.  There’s a plastic thing securing them – I’ll have to cut it off. 

I get the scissors,  cut the tag and put them on. 

My vision is blurry. 

So I take them off, clean them, put them back on. 

Still blurry. 

Take them off and look at them.  There’s a big scratch across one of the lens.  Apparently when I cut the tag, I was way too impatient.  Pretty much madly assaulted the $35.00 glasses during my haste to use them – and now they’re worth nothing.

Put them back on and decide to use them for the rest of the day.

Later, I meet my friend for lunch.  She says about seven things in the space of a paragraph, and as she says EACH.INDIVIDUAL.THING – my brain captures a relating thought, all of which I want to say to her.  When she stops speaking, I can’t remember a single one of them.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

If you could write a letter to yourself when you were sixteen, what would you say?

Joseph Galliano, an editor, has compiled a list of letters from people many of us know, and has created a book from that collection, entitled “Dear Me.  A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self”.

So…..

What would I say?

It would go something like this:

—————————–

Hi there.  There’s some stuff you should know.

First off:  trust your instincts.  Remember how troubled you felt when that guy came to pick up your sister for a date?  Remember how normal he seemed, and yet you couldn’t shake off a feeling of danger?  Well, sadly, you were right.  Your sis was OK and everything, but it got pretty dicey for a while there.  The man was dangerous and you were right to be afraid for her.   You have an instinct that borders on ESP.  Don’t worry that it sounds all airy-fairy – just go with it.  Trust yourself.  It doesn’t mean you should quickly judge everyone.  You’ll get older and wiser and soon you’ll be able to differentiate between prejudice and empathy.   You have the empathic spark though – don’t forget it.

Oh, and to help you along:  here’s one indicator of the difference.  Empathic awareness is insistent and relentless and often has no bearing on perceived logic at the time.   Prejudice on the other hand, isn’t nearly as urgent, and it tends to rationalize – usually based upon someone else’s opinion, presented as fact.  It’s almost a form of laziness.  You’ll understand.  It’s just a matter of time and unending curiosity.

Which brings me to another point.  Remember how your dad criticized you for thinking all the time?  Remember how weird that seemed?  Well he was wrong.  This is actually one of your best qualities, and it will serve you well.  Though you’re not great at school (and by the way, forget about trying to memorize names and dates – I’ll tell you why in a minute), your curiosity will take you through life in an amazing way.  You’ll learn so much, just because you thought to question.  And you know what else?   This is a side benefit of your curiosity:  people love to talk.  Especially about themselves.  So ask them, and just enjoy their experience.  It’s sort of what makes you tick.

Which brings me to another point.   If you’re curious enough, and ask the right people, you can probably avoid a lot of years of spinning your wheels in frustration.  Start slowly, but work on it constantly.  Ask questions from people who don’t share your religious beliefs.  Get to know what life is like for people who don’t go to your church. It’s important.  Read some of the great philosophers (if you can – I know how hard it is to get into intricately detailed books.  There’s a reason for that.  More later.).

There is such a great value and such pleasure available to you when you learn to open your mind up a bit.

Oh, and something else:  remember how you sought out the advice of a school counsellor during those times when your father was creating a living hell on earth at home?  Remember how you sat in her office and told her about how he would get so drunk and so angry, and everyone was afraid – and about how you called the cops on him?

Well that was a good starting point for you, but it wasn’t the end.   In between all of that crap you sort of got lost.  You thought your identity was with the church, because people there were really nice, and they welcomed you so gladly.  Their hearts were real, and they really did like you, but you made a tiny little mistake:  you thought you had to be like them.  I mean, exactly like them.  You mimicked them so closely that you really had no idea who you were.  Oh, I know you think you did, but trust me, you didn’t.  You tried so hard to be the social chameleon out of habit:  you knew that in order to survive in that hellish house, you had to figure out what The Beast wanted at any given time, and manoeuvre yourself accordingly.  You learned how to placate and accommodate, as this is what your eight year old self figured out, to survive.  You knew if you did this, maybe The Beast wouldn’t hurt anyone.  You had no idea back then, that what you did didn’t really matter.   He was looking for an excuse to lash out.

I think you should take the time to see a doctor and get yourself sorted out.   You lack one major thing right now – self awareness.  Once you have that, you’ll be on your way.

When you’re talking with the doc, also share with him about how much you hate school projects, and why.  Tell him too about all of your clumsiness and accidents.  It’s important.  Tell him about how you daydream all the time, and forget so many things.  Tell  him about those comments in your report cards, where the teacher says “could do better if he applied himself”.  About how you’re always late, and always always ALWAYS have to run to school every morning to get to band class, because you’re just not able to ever leave on time.   What you’re going through is not normal – and hopefully the doc will pick up on that.

Pay attention to what you like in school, and what you don’t like.  Indulge your love of music and dramatic arts.   It’s part of who you are.  Find ways to get more involved.  Forget about what others tell you that you *should* do, relative to class courses.  Take up the drama class, and join the drama club too.  There’s a brilliant teacher there – get to know him, even though he’s a little frightening, because he’s abrupt and cold, and because he’s really big, like your dad.

Even though your history teacher is amazing – because he brings history to life so well, – you’re going to find yourself hating it in Grade 13.   The new teacher will want the class to memorize names and dates for everything – and you’d rather get into a fight with a school bully than do that.  The daydreaming at this point will be your downfall and you’ll want to give up.  And maybe you should.  But not for long.   Being a kid, you think that you should be able to do everything, or nothing.  You’re kind of black and white like that.  It won’t occur to you (which is why I’m telling you now) that everyone has strengths in certain things, while they suck at others.  You’re never going to be an academic – you’re intelligent enough, but it’s just not who you are.   You won’t work in the trades either.  You don’t know it, but your strength is in people, and in entertainment, and in the arts.  This is not a bad thing.  These are the things that excite you, and get your heart racing.

There are other things to tell you but they should be a surprise.  You’re going to go through some heavy stuff, but if you follow all of the above advice, you’ll at least establish a firm and trustworthy foundation for dealing with them.  Some of the harsh stuff will bring some interesting surprises that you’ll love.

One last thought: some of the best plans never work out.  What is true for you today might not be true tomorrow.    Trust yourself, and trust your instincts.  The one seed for your tree of life never changes:  you must live.  Not just survive, and not just tolerate.  You probably have no idea what I mean by this, so search out a book, called “Jitterbug Perfume”.  Read it one time so that you satisfy your curiosity about the plot.  And when it’s done, read it again.

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So.  What would you write to yourself?  Better yet – if you feel like it, write a blog, and provide a link to it in the comments here.

“You’re having trouble urinating? Here’s a script for OxyContin.  Won’t help the problem, but you won’t care anymore.”

You wouldn’t trust a doctor who treated you this way, and neither would I.  Some patients are looking for just such treatment though – and for them, a doctor who did this would be a god-send.  There are likely as many different motivations for a visit to the doctor’s office as there are patients.

Unfortunately, the first visit to the doctor’s office about a single symptom (or usually, a combination) might not be as simple as one would hope.

A friend of mine – who happens to be a medical doctor – has been branching out into the alternative medicine area.  Normally, this is forbidden territory for doctors, as there are a great many quacks out there, touting their substandard snake oil remedies.  However, in amongst the frauds are those folk who have re-discovered traditional remedies from other cultures, notably Indian and Chinese, some of which appear to work.

The cynic would suggest that maybe some of these remedies work because of their placebo effect, and I would tend to agree.  Then the question is:  what’s wrong with placebos, if the patient gets better, or his symptoms begin to subside?  It doesn’t necessarily suggest he was psychosomatic, or was faking his illness.  It speaks to a fundamental truth (well I think it’s a truth, though really it’s just a good guess or opinion) that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself.

Full disclosure:  though not a cynic, I tend to lean that direction.  People who complain about illness all the time bore me, mostly because I have a hard time believing their ailments are real.  I know that sometimes they are, but I know that for every person with a legitimate complaint, there’s another one right behind him who is subconsciously looking for attention.   I’ve been privy to their conversations too, which go something like this:

“I’ve got a headache”

“Oh yeah?  Well I’ve got a headache and a backache. ”

“Well that’s too bad, but guess what?  I’ve had my headache for two weeks.”

“I know what you mean.  I’ve had this backache since I was born.”

“Really?  And the doctors haven’t figured out why?”

“No.  I’m supposed to go in for an MRI next week.”

“Wow.  Yeah.  The doctors haven’t figured out why I have so many headaches either.  My great-grandfather had them so it’s probably genetic.  My kids will probably have them too.  I keep asking little Cindy if her head hurts.”

“You shouldn’t do that.  You’ll get her thinking she should have a headache.  That she’s not normal unless she has one.”

“I’m not worried.  I do see her putting her hand to her head sometimes though.  Just like I do.  It’s why I ask her.”

“Well I—OWW!”

“What?”

“My back.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, see you later.  I’ve got to get some pills into me.”

“Oh?  What kind?”

“Demerol”

“That’s kid stuff.  You should get your doc to prescribe Oxy.  It’s the BOMB, man.”

“Huh.  Maybe I will.”

(a.k.a. Dance of the Aching Fairies)

My doctor friend, in pursing the road less travelled, is exhibiting all kinds of courage, I think.  She has given credence to the fact that modern medicine doesn’t have all of the answers (though it often pretends to), and that some alternative remedies have been proven to work, above and beyond the placebos effect.   Her belief is that modern medicine has its place, and that non-traditional medicine should not be so easily dismissed.  I believe her, actually, even though I don’t always agree with what she has to say about some things.  More on that later.     Her blog, by the way is here:   http://www.bloomingwellness.com/

Today, she wrote a status update on her Facebook page – http://facebook.com/BloomingWellness – which pointed to an article about how some bizarre behaviours might be indicative of internal organic issues, rather than mental problems.    She had this to say:

I just finished an interview for Alternative Mental Health with Attorney Beth Maloney, who was recently featured on this segment of The Doctors and author of the book, Saving Sammy. We talked about how her son was misdiagnosed with OCD, put on SSRIs, when in fact he had PANDAS- an autoimmune disease caused by an antibody to Strep. Pneumo. that attacks the basal ganglia in the brain. Parents should be aware of PANDAS, a disease we don’t really learn about in medical school ( we don’t) , because certain behavioral issues in kids ( like ADHD ones, OCD, Tourettes, etc…) can actually be due to PANDAS, and doctors miss it all the time. A simple blood test may differentiate a true psychiatric issue from an autoimmune one so your child can receive the right treatment instead of a mess of drugs that are wrong.

It seems to me that the root of the issue – not about such an innocuously named condition called PANDAS, but about the initial wrong conclusion – has its basis on a culture which likes to speed everything up.  Got a problem? See a doc and get a diagnosis so that you can get some pills and get rid of it.   Most of us want that – though some would prefer a prescription of exercise or a change in diet over taking pills.  Not many of us consciously wish to remain bound by a condition or disease which limits us.  Even those who subconsciously enjoy the attention, really are miserable, and know they’d be better off if they were well.

I’ve heard stories from a few doctors about patients who come to their office, pretty much demanding antibiotics because of a scratchy throat.   In addition to a fast-paced society which can’t tolerate downtime due to illness, this presents yet another problem:  patients who think they’re doctors.  We can probably blame the internet for this, and sites like Google and mayoclinic.com .

We have all heard stories about teachers with imagined qualifications in psychiatry who diagnose ADHD in their children.   Many people use this abhorrent behaviour to cast doubt on ADHD altogether.  I can’t tell you how many times – since receiving my own diagnosis – people have said “oh EVERYONE has ADHD” – by which they mean that no one does.  My doctor friend and I have disagreed publicly about a lot concerning ADHD but to be fair:  she’s a medical doctor and I’m not; and some of her objections are I think quite valid.

She worries that too many people are looking to medications to resolve their issues with ADHD, and she wonders about the motivation of drug companies in this respect.  The same could be said of cancer and drug companies for that matter – and I’ve already heard a repeated cynical comment about this:  “the cure for cancer is already out there but isn’t being shared because too many organizations will lose money.”   I’m not sure I completely disagree.  I truly believe everyone has a motive for what they do, and that no one spends money building products without expecting some kind of return at the end of the day.

This does not equate to non-altruistic motivations though.  A doctor needs to make a living and gets paid accordingly, yet many often come close to burnout in doing so.  The extra mile they take often has nothing to do with money, and has everything to do with patient care.  Ditto those doctors who travel to remote parts of the earth to volunteer with Doctors Without Borders (or Médecins Sans Frontières).   I have to believe the same kind of ethic holds true for many in the drug companies too.

Some doctors and drug officials are of course totally in it for the money.  I’m just not convinced the paint brush is that wide.

When it comes to mental issues, there’s a harder diagnostic road to travel.  Unlike cancer or an enlarged prostate, you can’t open the brain and say “oh there’s the problem.  This part of the brain is green while the rest is gray and so that’s why this patient is schizophrenic.”  Instead, doctors must look at a whole host of reference material, which includes but isn’t limited to patient behaviours.   In my case, the hours of testing included looked at my childhood, genetic factors, and behaviours that everyone has experienced on one occasion or another.   The testing was designed to eliminate other factors or conditions or medical problems, in order to come to a robust conclusion.    This was NOT a case of my family physician hearing my complaint in one session and then coming to a diagnosis.

Much had to do with my own motivation as well.  The first surprise was realizing that everything I thought was normal – and something that everyone struggled with – was not normal.  Until then, I was convinced that my problem was a combination of laziness and even early onset of Alzheimer’s.   I had no idea why others in school progressed so quickly and retained so much, while I struggled along, barely making it.  I knew I was intelligent but you know – for a while there I thought I was incredibly stupid.   I learned how to work around my symptoms, and found creative ways to avoid circumstances and work that would highlight my deficiencies.   Really creative – which is how I figured out I wasn’t stupid.

Ultimately, it was the body of behaviours that indicated a deviation from the norm.  Whether we call it ADHD or “Yellow Pickle” is immaterial.  The issues are:  what’s the cause; and then, what’s the treatment?

Even this seems to vary, depending upon the patient.  Some fellow ADHDers swear by increased exercise, copious amounts of coffee and stern attention to diet.  Others have taken the behaviour therapy route, which goes like this:

  • I have trouble focusing, which means:
  • I often lose my keys; or
  • I am late for appointments; or
  • I forget I even have appointments; or
  • I can’t remember important details in a work project; or
  • I often look for stimulants, like illegal drugs; or
  • I put myself in harm’s way too often, because I need the rush; or
  • ….any number of other behaviours (there’s quite a list, actually)

Any of these can be mitigated by any of the treatments mentioned above.  Some of the behaviours might be rooted in causes other than ADHD.  There could be chemical issues.  The science on this is not yet perfected.  About the only thing doctors seem to agree is the body of behaviours.  Thank God for that.

The bottom line is what I told my doctor friend:  the path to diagnosis and treatment is neither as quick or as easy as patients (and occasionally doctors) would like it to be.  It’s not simple, and much depends upon the expertise and experience of the doctor (which is why my own GP didn’t want to treat me – she had neither), and upon the willingness of the patient to wait until all of the facts were in.

Your comments are invited:  have you or anyone you know (no names please, let’s keep it anonymous) struggled with getting a diagnosis about anything?   What are you thoughts about people who diagnose themselves?  What about alternative medicines – what are your thoughts on that?