Saturday, May 8, 2010

Coming Out Of The Closet- Living With ADHD

THE SECRET WORLD"Women with ADD often live in a secret world. Some people call it passing for normal. I call it being locked in a (messy) closet. Whatever the cute expressions, the painful reality is that many women with ADD have moved away from relationships or at least have kept a part of themselves locked away from other people, usually without even realizing it. Often their lives have taken on a secret tone, as if the way they live is in some way shameful. The feeling of secrecy and shame wipes out the possibility of enjoying or appreciating all their other abilities and qualities. Their inner world is a place that outsiders couldn't fathom, where the simplest activities -getting dressed, planning the day, or running a simple errand, are extremely difficult and frustrating. The cumulative effect of these daily experiences makes them feel like outsiders, separate from the world in some important ways- spending one's days not living life but instead coping with this silent thief of time and dreams." Sari Solden, MS, MFCC Women With Attention Deficit Disorder

This morning I got up just in time to throw on my jogging suit, a hat, grab the dog, the leash, the treats, my purse, and the keys to my van and head into the city for Bob's weekly obedience training. I'd lost the keys twice on my way out the door, so frustration had already set in. Once at the class, I realized I'd forgotten the necessary clicker, so I had to borrow one. Bob was his usual self- cute but extremely difficult to manage, so after the hour was over I was sweating and ready to leave. My goal for the afternoon had been to scour and scrub all three of our bathrooms, as they had taken on the revolting smell of a men's urinal, and I was beginning to avoid them to a ridiculous degree. At first I was taking charge like a pro, on my hands and knees, singing along with the hip hop CD on my stereo and blocking out the smells and the hair and everything else that makes this task especially unpleasant for me. Two bathrooms into my routine, however, I landed flat on my back, on my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, wishing I could just find the words to make my husband understand why I suddenly was paralyzed and unable to work any longer.

To most of you, whom I am assuming are not ADD or ADHD, the mere thought of becoming hysterical over cleaning the lavatory may seem absurd. Perhaps you are wondering if I'm lazy or completely incompetent. Believe you me, I've spent years consumed by those very thoughts, perplexed, though, by my ability to function at abnormally high levels with other, far more demanding, intellectual or extraordinarily creative tasks.

In 2005, shortly after moving here, to the South Hills of Pittsburgh, I saw a psychiatrist who performed a plethora of diagnostic inventories and determined, without a doubt, that I had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and that any depressive symptoms I was exhibiting at the time were caused by the ADHD, not a separate clinical malady. The label made sense to me but, knowing nothing about the disorder, I filed the results of that appointment away in the "so what" part of my brain and got on with life. In the four years since that diagnosis, I have faced crises that have been, in a nutshell, death-defying, and shocking to my very core. Coming out of those days, and still struggling to cope, I have had to go back to the ADHD and begin assessing my life through different lenses.

Though I have mentioned ADHD before, here, I have only scratched the surface of the knowledge that I have gained and continue to use in order to more deeply understand how I experience my daily life. For the last several months, I have spent nearly every minute of my "free time", reading, in effort to achieve a since of peace and, more importantly, feel like less of a failure at my job as a wife and mother, and as a woman. Coupled with some excruciatingly stressful changes in our current reality, accepting that my brain is wired different from the "norm" has caused me a tremendous amount of grief. With stimulant medicine, designed to help people with ADD focus and complete tasks more successfully, I have had moments of triumph where the mundane acts of cleaning, straightening, organizing, cooking meals, and sticking to a routine, have the for first time ever been less exhausting and somewhat possible. However, medication alone is not effective at erasing the obstacles of coping with day to day mishaps and the inevitable flubs of mothering multiple children, with varying needs and levels of functioning and independence. ADHD is a chronic condition which requires different strategies to conquer what most people would describe as the simplest of tasks. It also demands an incredible amount of determination and patience with oneself, and a letting go of the idea that I will ever be in my "ideal world."

So during my depths of despair today, because I couldn't handle the sensory overload of cleaning without the equipment I needed, clean rags (our dryer is broken and we haven't been able to do laundry in a week), and the ability to distract my mind from the things littering the tile floors, my husband gently but firmly shook me out of my spiral downward, announced that he'd started reading one of my ADHD books, and for the first time in 15 years, was beginning to understand the woman whom he loves but has mystified him in times such as these. He demanded that I stop trying to accomplish tasks which I was clearly not capable of at this time, and added that we needed to sit down tonight and divide up our household jobs based on the strengths that we each possess. This was a triumph for me, because I knew that though he doesn't struggle with the same issues that I do, he had begun to see the world from my side of the fence and I felt validated and relieved.

I will continue to add to this topic because, while some readers may find this less than entertaining, I know that others of you may be able to grasp just what you need to make changes in your own lives, or to simply know that you are not alone in your fight to live a "normal" existence.

So Tom will clean my third bathroom this weekend and I will read to my children and nurture them in ways that only their mother has the gift to do. I will fold and put away laundry (from Tom's trip to the laundromat this afternoon), I will make outfits for the boys for the week, vacuum the floors, give life lessons to any or all of my four offspring, ponder and take charge of interventions for my kids who desperately need them right now, among many other jobs that I am able currently able to master.

I do believe that the hope on my horizon is possible through more and more consumption of information on the way I am wired. Here is a short list of some of the materials I am currently sifting through and finding helpful, if not remarkably life altering and inspiring:

*Women With Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden
*Driven From Distraction by John J. Ratey, M.D., and Ned Hallowell, M.D.
*Driven To Distraction by John J. Raey, M.D., and Ned Hallowell, M.D.
*You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy by Peggy Ramundo and Kate Kelly

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About Me

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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