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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ADHD & Phone Phobia

I have become increasingly loath to make as well as receive phone calls. An irrational dread seems to take me over when I need to make a call or when my phone rings. It's especially bad if I receive a call and I don't recognize the number - usually, I just can't pick up. When it's time to order food, I usually beg my husband to do it. Work requires that I contact parents, but I often can use email, which is much less stressful.

This summer, I discovered that this phone phobia is common in people with ADHD. ADDitude magazine offers suggestions on how to cope. This is one symptom that the Strattera has not significantly alleviated, though I've become better at not procrastinating when I need to make calls. I've often wondered why I have such issues with the phone, and perhaps its because I can't read body language over the phone. I can't over emails, either, but I can edit an email for as long as I need to.

I feel better knowing that there is a reason for my phone phobia, and I'm not just lazy or crazy. Isn't that the case for most of our ADHD symptoms?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Living with Incurable Illness/Disorders

Today I had to eat radioactive cereal for a gastric emptying study, which confirmed that I have gastroparesis. I've known that I have it since March of 2013, when an upper endoscopy revealed that my stomach had not emptied properly prior to the test. The gastroenterologist did not follow up, so I did my own research, consulted a nutritionist, and began eating to treat the condition. It has worsened, but that's the nature of gastroparesis. I'm going to have to be really careful about what I eat...mostly liquids and egg white omlettes and greek yogurt.

I'm ok with being on a heavily restricted diet for the rest of my life for two reasons: I have been living with chronic illness since I was diagnosed with asthma at 13, and the Strattera. I am so much calmer and accepting of life in general since I've been on medication for ADHD. I am very, very grateful for the diagnosis and treatment.

It still doesn't change that living with chronic, incurable illness is difficult and frustrating. At 25, I was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome (an autoimmune illness in the lupus/RA family) and fibromyalgia (which is common in females with ADHD). I have strange and sometimes frightening symptoms, and some of them are chronic, such as extreme fatigue and low grade fevers. It's not easy. Before the Strattera, I would often have panic attacks at the doctor's office. especially if I had to wait more than a half hour to see the doctor. I would also have attacks when told that there was nothing that could be done for my latest symptoms. I still get frustrated, but I am mostly calm. I've found that accepting and embracing my ADHD has helped me cope with my other conditions.

There is no cure for ADHD, for gastroparesis, for Sjogren's syndrome, for fibromyalgia. But I can take care of myself the best I can and enjoy life.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I don't fit in the boxes

Last year, a major red flag was forgetting my formal observation by my principal. I received a phone call informing me that I had missed my pre-observation meeting the previous period, and that I could come the following period. In a panic, I threw a lesson together. It wasn't my best observation, needless to say, and I had a panic attack in the post observation meeting, melting down and crying. Such behavior embarrasses me, but I truly cannot control it.

These days, on the Strattera, I am tremendously calmer. True anxiety is infrequent, and panic very rare. I had my informal observation on Wednesday; it was somewhat of a surprise, because I was given (as per the rules) a two week window. I have three preps (12R, 12AP, 9R) and there was no way I could prepare two weeks' worth of amazing lessons for all three levels. I felt okay about it, though, and I felt that the lesson went well. I was really proud of the kids and how they obviously went out of their way to participate enthusiastically, though the material wasn't easy.

The problem? First, I forgot to consult the rubric. I was so centered on Common Core Standards and my general idea of that; checking the APPR rubric completely slipped my mind. This is the kind of important detail that I have a tendency to overlook. I felt increasingly frustrated as the evaluation progressed, because my lesson did not fit the boxes the way it was supposed to. I had a solid rationale behind it, I was happy with the learner outcomes, yet I felt like I was a disappointment. I didn't fit the boxes, and I felt my frustration mounting and panic begin to rise. A tear or two leaked out and I became desperate to not lose it. However, the harder I tried, the worse it became, until it ended and I was crying.

I had to go to the next class and my eyes continued to leak for a good part of the period. I thought about how to approach it, and I was honest, as I was when it happened last year. I told my students that I had had a panic attack and that the tears were the residuals. A number of students spoke about their own experiences with anxiety and panic. I would rather reveal my humanity than lie. Even if I appear vulnerable or look foolish, I am honest.

I realized as I thought about what happened on my way home that I melted down because I was so frustrated. I know that I'm a good teacher, and so does my principal. My lesson not fitting the boxes really is a metaphor for much of my life. I've never fit in the boxes the way I'm supposed to, and it can be so frustrating and painful. Though I regard my differences as the source of many of my greatest strengths, they are also the source of many of my greatest weaknesses - as a person, teacher, parent, partner, friend, etc.

Additionally, I've had added stress over the past two weeks with the holidays, ongoing health issues (the gastroparesis seems to be worsening, and I've had several bezoars), and child challenges. I'm trying not to focus on how upset I am over this and instead acknowledge why this happened as well as how well I have been coping with life over the past few months.

This was also a good reminder that medication for ADHD, while immensely helpful, is not a cure.

It's humbling. I can't express to my principal or most of my coworkers how I function differently, how even simple lesson planning is a challenge. I am usually positive and focus on celebrating differences, but tonight I just feel frustrated, angry, sad, and anxious. Next week is going to be a high stress week as well. But I'm going to go to bed early tonight, wake up in a better frame of mind tomorrow, and live in the moment.