I’ve previously written about my feelings about both antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds and a little about living with ADHD, but not in some time. This is because for the last several months I have been trying (with my psychiatrist, of course) a number of different medications and combinations in order to find the correct cocktail for myself. And no, I will not be sharing precisely what that mix is; I may bare my soul but I do have a few limits on what everyone gets to know. The point being that it has been a frustrating few months, lots of ups and downs, and it was tempting to just chuck the whole thing and accept that this is how my brain works and that’s the end of that. And then we found the right balance, and that is when things changed.
People like me tend to refuse treatment. Because I’m impatient, because I think I know best and because I don’t like being a patient. Further, I’ve done pretty much okay on my own, and I don’t have real problems. You know, only those “first world white people” problems that we pretend don’t matter. I should just somehow try harder and do better and I will be fine! I’m stubborn as hell and have always considered things I now know are symptoms as simple personal failings and laziness. I can’t get things done smoothly and efficiently – I have to double back countless times for things I forgot. I’ve been in the middle of doing dishes and suddenly been out in the yard cleaning the living room rug with no clear idea how I stopped midstream and changed horses. I am inconsistent – some days I can do it all and some days I can do nothing at all, and when I am overwhelmed I feel utterly stupid. It’s like my brain locks up.
But I hope that by sharing what it is like on the correct balance that others might put down that big hunk of pride and get treatment for things they need – not just other ADHD people but anyone who needs it. I can only speak for my own experience, obviously, but if I’d known what “improved focus” would mean, I would have pursued treatment much sooner.
The most interesting thing so far is that my inner monologue has changed. For my entire life, my brain has constantly narrated everything I’m doing. In third person, like a novel; she grimaced as she pulled the laundry out of the washer and so on. Weird, I know. I sometimes used to wonder if I was schizophrenic or something, because it was just all the time; I can’t remember when my brain didn’t provide this running prose. Now, my thoughts are in first person…and sometimes my brain shuts up and lets me do things. Seriously, I did not imagine this was possible. There’s not a song stuck in my head all the time, or four or five layers of “background noise.” It isn’t so much that I don’t get distracted or wander off in the middle of things - that would take more than any pill – but there’s less crowding in there so I am better able to deal with wandering off or spotting a shiny thing.
I have better control of my temper. Sure, I still lose it, and I’m still passionate and so on. But I am able to stop and take an analytical/logical look at why I’m upset. This holds true for sadness and agitation too. It isn’t like I can talk myself out of everything. But that little voice in the back of your head whispering that you’re blowing things out of proportion? That voice is louder, and at least sometimes it’s easier to listen to.
I’m better able to organize and carry out things, and I’m learning not to second (and third and fourth) guess myself. I think a lot of anxiety comes from not trusting yourself – fears about “not doing it right” sometimes are more about not trusting in your own abilities. I never have been able to, because of the inconsistency. And because I couldn’t organize myself to do things in the best way possible – there were mistakes or typos or last-minute-substitutions. Those things still happen, obviously, but I’m learning more and more that I not only can do it right, I will. This not only saves time in re-checking things, but because have more order and less chaos, my confidence in my abilities has grown.
I’m able to accomplish so much more now. It still doesn’t seem like much and there are plenty of days where I still don’t get a damn thing done. But now, I have some structure to work with. I can deal with more tasks because I don’t become so overwhelmed. I can face a bigger task for the same reason. I used to get stuck at the beginning of a project because I couldn’t figure out where to start, or because the amount of work involved was so daunting I couldn’t bring myself to move. My memory is also improving, in part because I’m able to admit how scattered it gets. I’m able to forgive myself when I screw up, too, which is definitely new.
I definitely have more energy. There are lots of reasons for this that I didn’t expect. I don’t stay up too late quite as often, because I’m not shocked by all the stuff that has to be done before I go to bed – putting away leftovers, checking the locks, making sure the house is baby-safe, shower…and I don’t lose as many hours with no idea where they went (the internet is where they usually go). I am not exhausted by the effort to get through the day. Sometimes I’m energized by working now, because instead of being frustrated and slow, redoing steps and scrambling to finish I feel like I know what I’m doing.
That’s only the big things; there’s so many little things I can’t begin to cover in a blog post. Most of it is boring, stupid, personal bullshit that only matters to me, or to a few people close enough. But it’s such a different internal life that I’m sorry I was resistant. It’s like I finally know how to drive my own car. It still knocks and pings and drifts to the left, but I know how to steer and how to break. It’s still not the smoothest ride, but I know I’ll get where I’m going. And that’s worth all the effort.