Avocado Odacova

June 20, 2009

Back in April I placed an avocado stone in a hyacinth vase and waited for it to grow. The same week, I went to my GP and asked for a referral for ADHD. For what seemed a very long time, nothing happened, and sometimes I thought it was dead, incapable of growth.

About three weeks ago, just before I was diagnosed, I noticed the pale tip of a root splitting the base of the stone. This grew remarkably quickly and in a few days it had lengthened and thickened until it brushed the bottom of the vase. I planted the stone in a small tub of compost, leaving just its nose exposed. I imagined its root going from strength to strength, splitting and branching into a complex network, and knitting the loose earth together, bound and anchored. But if this was taking place, it was in secret, below the unchanging surface.

A few days ago, I went back to my GP to pick up a prescription for Concerta 54mg. He asked me if I had noticed any improvement since being on the meds. Not dramatically, I answered. But there is definitely some difference. In two weeks, I have experienced little victories each day. An email that previously would have gone unwritten, unfinished, or unsent. A returned library book. An article read and understood. A completed to-do-list. An empty laundry basket. A remembered birthday. A little question answered not ignored. These improvements are almost so small that they risk insignificance. But under the surface a bigger change has been taking place. I don’t feel I am on a treadmill anymore, always playing catch-up and never making progress. I feel less anxious, more in control and that there is some time that is there to spend as I see fit, burning a hole in my pocket like a shiny fifty pence in an old sweetshop. I never felt this change happening. It is only when I compare now with two weeks ago that I recognise how significant a change it has been.

Look what appeared yesterday:

New Growth

New Growth

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Since receiving my diagnosis two weeks ago, I have been slowly integrating ADHD into my sense of who I am. Newly diagnosed and sorting through the mixed-bag of associated feelings, it seemed to me that my identity had been kind of fractured.

On the one hand, ADHD affords me a better understanding of myself, but on the other hand, it still feels borrowed, like it actually belongs to somebody on the internet or the little boy down the road, or the women in Sari Solden’s book,  so many of whom could be me, but aren’t.

When I say, ‘ I have ADHD’ to myself it still doesn’t feel quite legitimate. It doesn’t feel quite mine. It’s like a brand new sweater that still smells faintly of the shop until you wash it and wear it and make it yours. It’s not that I doubt that I have it, it’s just that I have spent 26 years thinking I knew myself, and then I find out that this huge part of me has a name, and is experienced by others.

Perhaps this is why I have this confused urge to tell people. Not coming clean, but coming out of the closet. It’s as if once other people acknowledge I have ADHD, it will feel more real to me. It won’t just be my reality, it will be a shared, objective reality that validates the diagnosis in my eyes instead of theirs.

The other reasons to tell people are more practical but for almost every pro, I can think of a related con. Lots of ADHD-ers engage in compulsive and often futile list-making activities. I am one of them. However, why change the displacement activity of a lifetime? So here’s the first two lists of the many I will post on this blog. To tell or not to tell, that is the question:

To tell…

  • Having a legitimate reason to say no! I need to stop saying yes to things and being roped into organising roles. Organising projects (and trying not to fuck them up) is costing me my sanity!
  • People might give me a break when I do fuck up and not just assume I am selfish or thoughtless.
  • Now I have this knowledge about myself, I feel that I am hiding it from people who I feel close to and it feels a bit like a dirty secret.
  • If I told my university then they might take pity on me be able to make reasonable accommodations for my difficulties.
  • It would be a two-fingered salute to the countless people who tell me that ‘we all procrastinate from time to time’.
  • Sympathy Emotional and practical support.

Not to tell…

  • When I’m distressed and somebody laughs at me, it makes me cry.
  • I worry that people will see me as a fake or a flake.
  • Repercussions. If I need a reference for a job then how will my referee be able to write that I am punctual, reliable or any of those other things that are not my strong points if they know I have ADHD. If they know, then the various alarm clock/transport/lost emails excuse just won’t wash, will it?
  • I don’t think I can take another sceptical look or a comment to the effect of ‘so this is the latest mental health craze everybody has’ when I am talking about something that is incredibly personal and has caused me so much self-hatred.
  • I feel like my friends will keep their distance…
  • I can’t think of another reason but it feels like the two lists should be the same length so that I can be sure I have not discriminated against myself.

Hmmm, maybe the pros list is marginally longer than the cons list then. Who knew! But nothing’s ever simple and if I decide that I will tell then the question becomes not, ‘to tell or not to tell’ but ‘who to tell…’

I feel another list coming on…

Take a look at this petition and if you agree, and haven’t signed it already, then go sign! Go!

I’ve been sitting out in Greenwich park and I began to type this lying on the grass, my white flesh exposed to the sun for the first time in several years. Amid the eerily silent glide of frisbees and the overheard snippets of passing conversations, I opened the laptop and people-watched as happy family dogs, mostly retrievers and the odd dalmation, nosed between the clusters of blankets and naked limbs.* I didn’t write much because the sun bleached the screen and I felt sleepy in that lazy way of summer.

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I finally got the summer holiday feeling. Just like Christmas spirit, it turns up later each year and makes an increasingly understated entrance.  But it was beautiful and sunny today. The heat started to weaken as it approached six o’clock and mummies and daddies gathered up picnic paraphernalia and took their tired little teddy-bears home to bed. The grass began to empty but the sky was the colour it is in children’s drawings, decorated here and there by shifting clouds.

A life without love is like a year without summer...

A life without love is like a year without summer...

Jamie was lying next to me, by turns sleeping and reading in the sun. I’ll be honest, we don’t get out much. We are poor. We have no spare money and little more spare time and I am overdrawn on both these accounts. Lying there, feeling the breeze on my bare shoulders as I typed, reminded me that this is what normal people do with their weekends, enjoy the sun, spend time together,  and leave their work and worries at home.

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On our way to the park we spotted a load of tents in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, people were dressing up in Tudor costumes and suits of armour.

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There was jousting, archery and er…face-painting (incidentally, the face-painting stall had the longest queue). And these guys:

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Look at that disapproval!

IMG_4862The disdain in those hard eyes reflected my own suspicion that all this was less about educating the young people of London in the ways of Tudor life, and more about grown men and women indulging in dodgy period-drama fantasies and dressing up in costumes that were wholly inappropriate for the day’s high temperatures.

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Hot Cross Henrys: climate change strikes again

I am filled, as I always am in these rare afternoons of leisure, with the resolve that I will work harder and more efficiently, during the week and take time off to smell the roses. Somehow it never works out that way and I miss out on day trips, catching up with friends, and time with Jamie because I am always trying to compensate for not being productive enough Monday-Friday. There are never enough hours in the day and never enough days in the summer. ADHD itself, like its attendant procrastination, is a thief of time.

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Lying in the park then, was a stolen summer moment. We followed this up with a shandy on the way home and I feel strangely relaxed, and hopeful for the summers of future years now that I have this growing sense of control.

*I noticed very few staffies in the park. Why is this when South East London is over-run with staffies?

I’ve been taking Concerta XL for a couple of days now. I have started on 18mg and this Friday I will start taking 36mg a day. The idea is you keep upping the dose until you get the maximum benefits with the mildest side effects (or, ideally, no side effects at all). Then I review this with my GP and take it from there.

When I met some people from the Central London Adult ADHD group recently (hi, ADHD group!) I asked the people who had diagnoses how they felt about their medication and if the drugs do/don’t work. Various people had had various problems with various medications, but almost everybody agreed that medication had become an almost necessary part of their lives. Some people said that the difference between taking the meds and not taking the meds was so huge that they found it really difficult if they ran out (see, that’s exactly the kind of thing I expect NOT to happen if you’re on the meds!). Other people described how the medication helped them focus on conversations without zoning out, or made it possible to sit at a computer long enough to meet deadlines relatively painlessly.

This all sounded so good that I think I began to think of these tablets as some kind of wonder-drug. I imagined downing that first 18mg-er and becoming some kind of pop-eye/superwoman hybrid, each limb lengthening and swelling with energy and enthusiasm, as I grabbed a duster in one hand, a pen in another and started the grocery shop online whilst simultaneously cooking dinner and jotting entries into an intricately organised planner complete with emergency escape plans and a reminder to buy more tampons. (Actually, I often begin a day this way but in my pop-eye/superwoman fantasy, obviously I complete all the above tasks rather than filling my virtual basket with carefully-browsed for items and then abandoning it at the virtual checkout, losing the duster, and forgetting to write in and/or consult planner.)

In the long dark shadow of this great expectation, the reality has been a bit more…meh. Not bad, not at all. Just not simply wonderful. One the one hand I think I’ve seen some improvements. On the other hand each one is followed by a ‘but’. But you know what they say – every silver lining owes its existence to a less than spangly cloud. For example, I seem to have got a lot more done over the last few days. I have done several loads of washing and the average time between the end of the washing cycle and the clothes being removed from the machine has steadily decreased to about 1.5 hrs. Not bad, not bad at all. I have also made a start on my crisis cleaning which was sooo boring the first time round that I can’t bring myself to re-live it by writing about it. BUT………..the thing is, I don’t know whether I can attribute this sudden whirl of domesticity to the meds, or to R (hi, R!) who is staying over on Friday night and therefore needs to be able to get from the door to the sofa-bed. I feel more alert. Definitely. Kind of like drinking 10 cups of coffee but without the jittery feeling of your heart working its way up your oesophagus (potentially dodgy sense of anatomical constituents here) and into your mouth. BUT it’s not actually helping me with the procrastination. And if you know me in real life, you know that me and procrastination? We’re like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriaty…definitely not BFFs but where one goes, the other is sure to follow. Having said that, even though I’ve been putting off writing a certain funding application all day, I have applied myself diligently to my email correspondence, even managing to complete one email before beginning another rather than finding hundreds of half-written messages littering my drafts folder. Like this intriguing one from February:

Hi ***

According to the programme, I am third on a panel of nuns. I don’t…

As far as I know, I haven’t been anywhere near any nuns since February so am not sure what I was thinking here but is probably fortunate that this stayed in the drafts folder….

So, to round-up Concerta report one, today has mostly been bright and sunny with the odd slightly hormonal shower in response to trying to persuade two (probably ADHD) chinchillas that play-time is over and it’s time for bed. Today’s side effect count has been low (none). Meanwhile, overall response is on the cool side with possible improvements could actually just be a touch of ground frost.

Diagnosis

June 7, 2009

This week I was diagnosed with adult ADHD. After 26 years of life and 8 years of university, I finally found the answers to some questions I had. Questions like:  why does my brain seem to sabotage my best efforts to do anything with my time that is more meaningful than watching endless ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ auditions on Youtube? Why does my partner Jamie (hi,Jamie!), have to put all our bills in his name in order to keep the bailiffs from the door? Why do I forget I am running the bath and flood the flat downstairs? Why is it only when I get to France that I realise that I have left my suitcase at home?

It has been a funny old week and each day since the diagnosis has been like pulling a different reaction out of a lucky-dip bag. On the first day I felt a huge sense of relief. Since April I have been trying to convince Jamie and my parents that I probably have ADHD. I have thrown a couple of tantrums along the lines of ‘You’re just not taking me seriously!’ and combined that with careful explanations about how you don’t have to be hyper to have ADHD. So had I come away from the psychiatrist with a diagnosis of ‘You’re just a loser’ I would have felt more than a little bit silly. And quite like a hypochondriac. Which is never good because we all know what happened to the boy who cried wolf. Because what if I didn’t really have ADHD and but actually had some other kind of neurological developmental disorder? Well, then I’d have been in trouble. Anyway, I was glad that the diagnosis meant I didn’t have to go home with my tail between my legs and say ‘Oops, sorry, my mistake. Actually I am lazy, crazy, and stupid’.

But I also felt a bit weird about having a professional confirm it was ADHD. Because however much I was convinced I had it, it doesn’t prepare you for a psychiatrist diagnosing it. All of a sudden it becomes very real and you feel that even though you have lived for 26 years without this label, somehow it is a really huge part of who you are. It’s kind of like going through life with this unscratchable itch on your back that you are aware of every single day and can’t understand why nobody else seems to be itching. Then one day you turn round and see this pair of wings or a tail and you think, ‘Shit, so that’s what that was – how did I never know that was there?’ Er…where was I going with this?

Now, after a couple of days, I am pleased. Unlike many many undiagnosed people, I have got where I wanted to be, and have not fallen through the gaps in society because of the difficulties I have with successfully navigating through everyday life. But what I have achieved has been at a huge cost to my happiness, my self esteem, and my relationships with others. The effort of seeming to cope has been sooo huge and in the past few days I feel as though I have been able to set aside the weight for a moment and catch my breath. Now I  have medication, I have a plan, and I have a strange bubble of optimism rising in my tummy… and it has nothing to do with that second can of Becks I just finished.

This is the start of my blog. I won’t forget a single day…

Hello world!

June 5, 2009

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