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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Moving Forward

I keep putting off a new blog post...always too busy. But I want to dedicate actual time to this as I chronicle my ADHD journey.

It's been a rough few months on several fronts. I went through thorough neurological testing, which I will never do again. It was HIGHLY unpleasant. As of now, I do not have a diagnosis of dysautonomia, but my nervous system is definitely a little off. I have mild orthostatic intolerance & vasovagal syncope. Fancy language for I need to stay well hydrated and be cautious when changing positions so I don't faint. My gastroparesis is idiopathic - I have it, but the neuro doesn't know why. I had to stop eating solids as I mentioned in April, and even had to stop eating cheese and egg whites a few weeks ago. So I started drinking Naked drinks & V8 for better nutrition. I've been chronically exhausted and have the usual aches and pains.

But all of the testing was worth it, because two days ago I started Concerta (extended release Ritalin)! I am so excited to try a new class of drugs for the ADHD. As an added bonus, Ritalin is a treatment for gastroparesis. In just two days I see a difference. The chronic bloating is much better. Day 1 wasn't fun - I felt really weird - awake but spacey. Day 2 was good - I felt like myself, but calmer and more centered. Today it's the same, though like yesterday, I feel a little more tired in the morning than usual (though the chronic exhaustion is gone). I also have more trouble than usual getting my day started - I feel like I'm lacking motivation and still overwhelmed. I think I will see more of a difference when I increase the dosage in 11 days.

It's a relief to FINALLY be able to try medication again to treat the ADHD, but I've also been working hard with cognitive and behavioral techniques. I've been practicing "mindfulness", a type of meta-cognition. It's been really helpful to step back when I feel my emotions taking over or when in a social situation, think about my feelings and where they are coming from, and consider what to do or say. I also realize that I'm subject to intense emotional storms, and I'm working on techniques to weather them, because they do pass.

Also, for the first time, I have begun actually LISTENING and HEARING. D was getting very frustrated with me and sat me down to explain why. Because I listened, it changed my life. I wasn't raised to be self-centered, and I never thought of myself that way, but it seems that I am hardwired to be self-centered (a common ADHD trait). It's paradoxical because I spend a lot of time helping others and have a great capacity for empathy. But, looking back, I definitely have always had that self-centered aspect. For example, when I was in elementary school, I knew it made other people angry or upset when I wanted to read a book rather than interact at a family party, but I didn't get why. I wanted to read my book, I said "Hi", why couldn't I just read my book? It was what I wanted to do.

I think my emotions are so intense and my impulses so strong that they lend themselves to being self-centered - it's difficult to see outside of the intensity I'm feeling. Now that I am finally aware of it, I can be less self-centered. The downside is that I spend a lot of time thinking about how my behavior in the past has affected people and I feel intense sadness and shame. I'm trying to find a balance; I want to be self-aware without being severely self-conscious.

I also had an epiphany around the time D spoke to me. I love working with teenagers; I relate to them well. I especially enjoy working with students with ADHD or other issues - kids whose behavior can be challenging. My room is a safe place for them; some even come to me to cool off. I realized that I get along with them because I am JUST LIKE THEM. Worse, in some ways. I walked around with knives out, so defensive that I was on the offensive all the time. I was critical of others because I felt so insecure. I rejected people so they couldn't reject me first.

So I'm also working hard on NOT being defensive and critical. I'm also being more social (and I do feel the Concerta has been helpful with that from day 1). Social and family ties are so important, especially for my children. And people who love me are 100% supportive; I had a great talk the other night with some family and I think now that they have a better understanding of how ADHD affects my life and how, undiagnosed, it led to the severe problems I've had in the past. Unfortunately, the diagnostic criteria for ADHD was very different when I was younger; many people, like me, were only diagnosed after a crisis triggered by a major life event. I look pretty normal and I've achieved a fair amount, so people wrote off my issues as me being an a$$#@!#. This is why I try to teach students with ADHD to advocate for themselves and develop coping skills, and why I teach ALL my students about ADHD. Awareness is still very poor in general. ADHD is not an excuse, it's a neurological difference. Awareness of how ADHD has such a profound impact on every area of life is important to understanding - and not harshly judging.

I can't walk around with a sign or tattoo identifying me as an ADHDer, and I can't make people understand how I think and feel. I can, however, strive to be a better person every day, and work with my ADHD to compensate for weaknesses and exploit my strengths.

And I am so, so grateful for D. He has stood by me when no one else would, suffered through my tribulations, and sacrificed much. Above all, he has loved me, even when I couldn't love myself. I am a better person because of him and his stubborn refusal to give up on me. With a man like that and two awesome children, I am fortunate. :)

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