Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Worth The Fight

It is medical fact that ADD is very often accompanied by what professionals call “Coexisting Conditions”. Summed up in layman’s terms, it’s the other mental bullshit that comes with having the gift, simple enough for you? They are often issues like depression, bipolar disorder or LD’s such as dyslexia.

In my case, the inability to engage and the ensuing frustration which mounts wouldn’t be classified as depressive symptoms. However, I can see where it would snowball into a debilitating condition if left unchecked. I feel compelled to tell my stories revolving around my ADD diagnosis for several reasons. One being I am fairly old to just be diagnosed with what is considered a childhood menace. Two, and most importantly, it is therapy…pure and simple. It is very good therapy. I continue to research and read as much as I can about this affliction. The more time goes by the more I am able to teach myself how to overcome the triggers which set my mind in perpetual motion.

The frustration was instantly released when I started medication, one year ago this week. It was a miracle drug. One year later, it continues to help, but in no way would be classified a miracle drug. I have upped my daily dosage from 25mg to 30mg and it seems to last longer throughout my day, but once its gone, fugetaboutit…I am back to the old me…dazed and confused. It’s this dependence on medication which creates a new form of frustration. I want to do more. I want to be more. I want I want I want. It was supposed to make me feel “normal” whatever the hell that is. Most of the time, I do function normally; but throughout the day there are moments when I am so overwhelmed by the whirling mass of thought in my head that I have no option but to grow frustrated. This frustration in turn makes me irritable and sometimes unbearable to be around. My wife can attest. I’m starting to wonder if my daily fight against the grain is worth it. Am I happier, healthier, and more productive now than a year ago? Certainly healthier, probably more productive, but not always am I happier. Sometimes I want to give up the fight and go back to the old me. But just when I get bitter and down, something miraculous happens. The magical moment of mental clarity happens. Pure silence engulfed in absolute peace.

You know the feeling. When everything around you stops for one brief moment, there is no sound, pictures freeze, the thoughts all pause and look to me. Those moments of clarity never have happened before I began my fight. In fact, I had no idea how to handle the solitude the first time it happened. I quickly learned to seize those moments and relish in the utter bliss. Those moments make this fight all the more worth it. Although they are rare, I now see they are possible. For just a few seconds, the only sight I see is the one I want…the only sound that of my breath. I am normal for those few precious seconds. With a cleansed mind, the bitterness and frustration crumble and I step out of my Zen moment a new person and begin the cycle all over again. It’s the same feeling as deleting an entire email inbox or dumping every pile from atop my desk to expose the raw desktop below. I’ll take that any day over never having experienced such profound clarity. So is it worth it, you bet your ass it is! The war rages on and some battles may end stalemates, but the small victories make the fight that much sweeter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Pet Peeve

It never fails, once involved in a conversation with someone who doesn't know me well personally, and if, perhaps, the topic of the "gift" boils rubs me slick to here the inevitable "well, that's not real, it's just people not knowing how to be a parent, or adults looking for an excuse". Both cases are true at times. People do tend to forget how to parent and adults very often look for excuses. So I begin the process of enlightening their ignorance with my own story. It is really fun! You should try it sometime, watching people backpedal is absolutely take that! Now open mouth, insert foot, and chew vigorously.

Be that as it may, those situations are few and far between. I mean let's face it, few people will strike up a conversation with a near stranger and start bashing on about over-prescribed ADD meds...but it does happen. It happened to me at a business dinner one night. We had taken out a few contractors for happy hour, then some dinner, and a little more happy hour. The topic came up. So I engaged. The aforementioned scenario played out and I diplomatically educated my colleagues about the medical truth. There was an eerie silence for quite some time, then I made a joke and we moved on...all the while laughing in my head. They probably think I am some sort of escaped mental patient now, but what the hell, my point was made.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

ADD and the Entrepreneur

The more case studies I read, the more it becomes clear ADD is the catalyst of makes sense. We're not looking to be the go-to guy, we're looking to be the boss. We think off the cuff and dream big...let someone else do the leg work. It's the reason so many of us end up changing jobs frequently...eventually frustration builds because "they" are not doing it correctly. The "man" is bringing us down and we have no more energy left to spend for the greater good of executives and shareholders. Why would I waste my career making money for someone else when I can do it for myself with greater satisfaction and far more financial freedom? Hmm.

I have always known this fact. I chose, however, to begin a career working for the "man" to learn and grow. Little did I know it would take years off my life by driving a healthy dose of self-induced stress over issues of which I have little control. At what point do you realize this isn't good for overall mental health? When is enough actually enough? I am working on the answers to those questions and more. It's on the fore front of my mind and I'm just waiting for it to stop spinning, spill out, and finally offer direction. I'll keep you posted on the progress or if an epiphany manifests itself, until then, back to work...TPS reports are due today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Medication: Light and Dark

I have seen first hand what happens when it works. I have seen the amazing about-face in life it can present. I have also seen the down side, the inevitable burn out when the new found productivity seems to pale in comparison to a lifetime of unlimited potential. Escalation in dosage seems like the proper protocol. Unfortunately, the medication produces addicts; those that continually need more to do more. It is not gruesome or painful to witness; in fact it is practically unrecognizable on the surface to most except for those of us who understand the need. But emotionally, it is draining for both the afflicted and the confidant. I have never been associated with addicts or been around many drug users beyond the occasional frat house recreational variety. It’s not like the faces of meth or heroin addiction that one sees on Dateline. It’s not even like the toking hippy bouncing from job to job content with a life of cannabis. It is the only friend I have ever had whom I could open up completely about the gift and I now see what happens when left unchecked. Although it is legal, it can take hold of an addictive personality just as quickly as opiates. It is the attention deficit individual that must rely on it to maintain normal daily function which becomes afflicted. Regardless of dosage, it is the body's inherent need to rely solely on the medication to produce a bounty of daily tasks or just simply complete one. Thus becomes the new challenge, as if there weren’t enough to contend with already. ADDers are creative and innovative by nature but are anything but disciplined, not a good combination.

Since being diagnosed, I have read massive amounts of literature from noted specialists in the field of ADD for both adults and children. It is fascinating how the nature of the gift can be so different from person to person, each with strengths and weaknesses that are extremely difficult to track. Sure, there are the diagnostic symptoms and psychological surveys exposing the root; but the real treatment comes from within the individual rather than the medication or endless cognitive therapy. Those are simply tools, a means to an end. It boils down to our ability to find our own pros and cons, know the triggers, and perfect a mechanism for bouncing back when the hamster churns with fervent stride. It is not easy. In fact, it is nearly impossible. The days become weeks, the weeks become months, and time moves at lightning speed one second then molasses the next. As the time moves and you try feverishly to keep up, you are left with only your ability to simply “maintain”. Because “maintaining” is a remarkable leap forward in productivity from days before, you accept it as positive. Then one day it hits. It’s not enough to just maintain and we get pissed. Why should I just maintain? I should be proactively pursuing life and seeking more from work, home, school, social surrounding, and mind. Thus begins the spiral.

Think of it with this complex analogy: You trudge up 22 flights of cramped spiral staircase with giddy anticipation to the top of the Statue of Liberty and look out of 25 tiny windows in the crown only to be shuffled past and spiral back down in a fleeting moment. What was the point? There was no significant view, no profound epiphany waiting, no moment of clarity. There was barely enough time to catch your breath and take a quick peek. The elation of anticipation gives way to the regret of not savoring the moment which succumbs to the desolation of wasting time creating a brief moment of suspended and unfounded depression. Luckily, we are ADD. The snacks and cocktails at the base of the statue quickly draw your thoughts away from the disappointment of your journey. You mean I get to ride back to Battery Park on a boat? Wow! Yes my friends, the gift is both devil and angel. It pits yin against yang then flip-flops faster than a political opponent.

The moral of the story is not easily put into print, much less words. Just as with any of life’s curve balls, you have to figure things out for yourself. However, figuring things out for yourself has to be kept in check. Keeping things in check requires you to figure things out for yourself. Hmm…chicken or egg? Keep moving. Keep trying. Don’t rely on someone or something to bring you magical guidance. Don’t be the frumpy teen seeking self-esteem from a Cosmo quiz. Again, not easy, but if at the end of the day we have a massive headache from trying SO hard to maintain while staring at a day’s worth of goodness and productivity…then it was worth it. What more do we need? Bouncing around like an amped up monkey may keep your mind and body busy, but is there a measure of true happiness in your daily accomplishments or more importantly your relationships with others? Believe me; I understand the need to have more. On the random days I intentionally skip my meds, it is incredibly difficult to maintain; but it is possible. It takes those days to measure the skill you have acquired at fighting for what is rightfully yours…a normal life. Putting this on paper has been therapeutic for me…if only I could be this articulate with my friend who needs to hear it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Arch Enemy: PILES

Ah, the nemesis of all things productive! Piles abound for me in all areas of my life. There are piles of mail, piles of bills, piles of magazines, piles of random items that have no other home...they are EVERYWHERE! They even creep into my every turn, there they are...hampering my day.

Drawers and file cabinets have absolutely no meaning to me...I prefer everything at my reach and in my piles! Stacks and stacks of misc paperwork all chaotically organized to my liking. Only I have the innate ability to know exactly where a particular piece of paper is in the proper stack within the labyrinth of piles!

Rows of plans lay cluttered in a mass grave of white paper, never mind I have a nice plan rack for which to store them! This is the one pile I feel compelled to eliminate, but only because those little bastards are heavy!

My work space is unfortunately no better off. It is cluttered with sketches, drawings, printouts, spreadsheets, budgets, piles to be archived (archive? what the hell does that mean?), legal pads full of notes and the omni-present piles of sticky notes! It's like a cocoon. I feel safe if anything, I like to focus on the positives! I usually take my work to another clutter free zone to actually be's funny how it becomes a complicated dance of musical workspaces!

So the moral of the story: we will never be without them no matter how much we hate them. We will never win the battle no matter how hard fought. We will never tame the beast no matter what we slip in its drink. We will grow to love them and nurture them and rely on them until one day Audrey II is drinking our we mow her down and start fertilizing again. Enjoy your piles!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Genesis Of A Blog

What a boring ass title. But its late and I needed to get something written before I turn in for the night. I will ramble on during this blog about what I consider to be my "new" life...translation, life after official diagnosis. It's funny, we all know we have it, but the solidifying moment comes when you finally here the words. It's like a boulder has been removed from atop your body and you begin to float with the excitement of what comes next. As if St. Peter held open the pearly gates, I have passed through to the next phase.

Almost instantly, my outlook changed in every facet of life. Just the thought of knowing why my inability to engage in life was sluggish allowed me to focus on the following question: What next? Simple answer...pick up the pieces, sort them out, and put them back together. Yeah, I know, sounds easy. It will take time. Time to cope, time to educate, time to take note, time to learn, time to practice, time to enjoy my new found outlook and embrace a new way of life.

My first official step, well second actually (first was filling the Rx), was to buy Delivered from Distraction by Dr. Ned Hallowell. It is the quintessential guidebook to self reclamation. It is to life with ADD as the 12 steps are to AA. I dove head first into the book, and just as was predicted in the first few pages, I skipped to the chapters I most wanted to read. Since then, I have finally finished the book (albeit not easily: contrary to the title, there was some distraction) and have ascertained this simple premise; knowing the diagnosis and receiving the initial treatment did not concoct a magic recipe. I will still be the same dude. Short tempered, forgetful, chaotically unorganized, spacey, day dreamy, often ungrounded, and above all disengaged. The difference lies in my ability to apply intellect and education to a "condition" that is truly a gift. I don't know about you, but I embrace those aforementioned traits as a cornerstone to my personality. Now my wife on the other hand would like to see some change, but that will come with practice. I think she knows that. It is my next mission to get her to read the book and work out a plan of attack for us to reclaim our life, both individually and as a family. What has been challenging to me for decades has been equally challenging for her in our nearly 15 years as a unit.

Ooh look, shiny object...gotta go.