Back from the dearth….

December 3, 2009

So perhaps I ought to explain the hiatus in posts here at I won’t forget a single day. By my calculation I have forgotten, or at least forgotten to record, approximately 103 days since my last confession post, which adds a kind of retrospective irony not only to the name of the blog but also to the title of the post below which promises continuation and, in doing so, lies through its little bloggy teeth. And while I’m on the subject of teeth, I haven’t had any concerned emails from blog readers, so I’m assuming that my subject matter makes either abandoned fads or procrastination more likely explanations for my absence than, say, a fatal wisdom tooth extraction. Or perhaps you did consider that possibility but thought it no great loss. Meh. Cruel and fickle internet….

But I digress, I haven’t updated because, for a while, there was nothing to update and then, when some happening of note did occur, I was too busy with said happening to reflect or record. Lately however, I have had the urge to resurrect my(online)self. There are probably lots of reasons for this but the two that seem most significant are my impending deadline (for a chapter of my PhD -I’m calling it an essay as it sounds less of a rumpelstiltskinian feat) and the fact that I have recently kicked the Concerta to the curb in favour of Ritalin.

These two elements, you might (but probably, and forgivably, won’t) remember, were two of the driving forces that led to me registering this blog way back in June. Newly diagnosed, I was full of hope that the former would be made considerably less excruciating by the latter. Alas, that was not to be, and although I got through the PhD upgrade, I have come to realise that this was attributable to that age-old formulation: 1% medication and 99% desperation (is that right? I forget). In other words, after an initial feeling that the Concerta had helped somewhat, I came to the disappointing conclusion that it had been a short-lived placebo-like delusion, one that had me triumphantly noting each teacup that made it successfully to the washing-up bowl, or declaring myself cured on the basis of an object found in the place I expected to find it (“A DVD? In its case? The very case in which it should live?? Behold the miracle drug!!!). Sadly, these improvements didn’t seem to extend to remembering to pay bills or send birthday cards, nor to remaining seated in a library for longer than 15 minutes. And, once I flopped exhausted over the finish[dead]line, I went back to my old ways: 100% procrastination.

So I’m trying to be more cautious with my optimism this time. I need to get something to my supervisor by Monday. In ADHD terms, this is still more of a long-distance run than a sprint. Nevertheless, this week I went to the library three days out of five and actually worked there! I think it helps that I can take the Ritalin in the morning and get a couple of hours work in before lunch and then take another dose which lasts me through till around 6pm. Having this kind of control helps no end. With the Concerta, I’d have to take the dose no later than 9am if I wanted to get any sleep that night. And yet by the time I had faffed about and found a million other things that didn’t need doing, I felt like I had missed the optimum concentration window. I felt like I was relying on it to get me out of the house and sat down at a desk. Not only is this an unrealistic expectation, but I really do believe that the Concerta didn’t work for me. The prospect of study still filled me with fear and dread. Because that’s how it gets when you know you have to sit alone with only the words of razor-sharp minds and your own blank pages for company, wondering how you can want to do something so badly and yet feel sick at the thought of confronting your inadequacy. Useless. Loser. Fraud.

Understandably, this takes its toll and libraries, once a place of inspiration and promise, have become big dusty houses of misery for me. It’s like I walk in and become trapped in the sticky web of silence, unable to escape, but trying not to struggle and alert the monstrous dread which will cocoon me in tight and fibrous despair before devouring all of me that matters, leaving only an empty shell swaying slightly in the draft from a ill-fitting window frame, fragile and papery, gradually turning to dust as the days continue passing. Dramatic, maybe. But accurate nonetheless. Are you telling me that dread doesn’t feel like a massive (wo)man-eating spider?

Anyway, things are slightly better with the Ritalin. It’s easier to spell and pronounce for one thing, but it also seems to work (the crossed fingers make typing difficult). I still wouldn’t say that I feel like a light has been switched on, or any of the other dramatic differences that I have heard others have experienced upon finding a medicine that works but I a pretty sure there is some improvement. Exhibit A: this completed blog post. Exhibit B: the several thousand words I have managed to amass by sticking to a 300 words per day minimum goal. But the biggest improvement I have noticed is the gradual reduction in that oppressive dread. Each time I visit the library and find it less painful and more productive than expected, it lessens the horrible psychological resistance to my work that has accumulated over the last few years. Sitting there, two hours into a book or article, scribbling furiously (not in said book, I hasten to add), I have begun to feel the stirrings of a long-dormant pleasure in the practice of academia and, without wanting to sound either daft or pretentious, the intellectual excitement that I first felt as an undergraduate when I was let loose on my dissertation but has been gradually eroded by the pressures of unstructured research degrees. It’s a good feeling. I once heard somebody say that, when you’ve been married a long time, you get into the habit of not having sex, but that immediately after infrequent err sessions of marital relations, you think to yourself, ‘Actually, that was quite fun, I’d forgotten how much I used to enjoy that, must do it again sometime’. And then two years later, you say the same thing again. Well that’s kind of how I feel after two weeks of relatively successful research and from this admittedly rather bizarre comparison, I draw three conclusions: firstly, do not get married, cohabitation though sinful is more conducive to coital activities; secondly, I think I have been married to my research and the change in medication has spiced things up a bit- perhaps it’s the ADHD equivalent of swinging; and finally, this is probably not an appropriate metaphor to use when discussing my progress with either my supervisor or my psychiatrist. On the other hand, it is a very apt note on which to sign off this, my first post since August. It has been much-needed, fun even. Forgot how much I enjoyed it. Must do it again sometime soon.

A bientot, internet. X x

Struggling…

July 20, 2009

I am struggling. Admitting this is a big deal for me. The hope I felt after the diagnosis was like an incoming tide promising to cleanse and renew. Instead it has receded and left behind it a god-awful mess of debris. Plastic bottles, driftwood and somebody’s irresponsibly discarded sanitary protection. Nice. And usually I would try to pick up the pieces, alone and shameful. But I don’t want to live that way anymore.

I have so much to do. I have lists and lists of things that are not getting done. I feel so behind. I am working full-time for a few weeks to try to ease the financial pressure and in the evenings I am too tired to get my head around all the other things that need to be done. The weight of these undone chores, unwritten emails and unmet deadlines is so heavy that I feel I cannot keep walking. I’d love to be able to pause for a while, heave this backpack full of responsibility and pressure on to a low wall, and feel the lightness as the cartilage between my vertebrae expand, and circle my shoulders with exaggerated shrugs, pinching away with finger and thumb the tension in the tight ropes of tendon above my collar bones.  If I could do that then perhaps I could avoid sitting down in the middle of the street and crying. Because that’s what I feel like doing.

Largely this is because I genuinely have too much to do. But partly it is because I have lost the repeat prescription that I was given and so I can’t get anymore meds. So I am trying to make these last, allowing myself a 36mg or an 18mg depending on how fucked I feel the degree of concentration required of me that day. There is something vaguely ironic about giving me a prescription that I need to keep safe for a whole month and then be able to produce at the required time in order to obtain more medication FOR MY ATTENTION DEFICIT. You know? The one that MAKES ME LOSE EVERYTHING! Ahem. So being undermedicated doesn’t help.

Can you spot said dwindling medication stash in this picture of my cat sneering contemptuously at my attempts to keep her off the clean washing?

Busted!

I is in ur laundry, sniffin ur pants. lolz

Well that’s cheered me up a little. When J sees this cat-fur-meets-clean-pants palava he’ll hit the roof. And yes, my darling, I did put a picture of your pants on the internet.

Well, I survived the viva. It went quite well really. This sounds as though I took it all in my stride. It is a tone I have been practicing. Because, actually, I spent several days in a state of heightened anxiety. When I walked into that room I could hardly breathe from fear and when I walked out two hours later, my chest felt it would explode with relief and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

Is it an avacado?

Is it an avacado?

Relief, joy, excitement. I felt all of these. But still I don’t feel proud of myself. Still I have this underlying sense of having “got away with it”, fluked it again. Why can’t I feel proud of my achievements? Why do I let myself come out of each battle feeling more bruised than I went in even though I know that I should be proud of myself because of the battle, not in spite of it. I just wish I could feel a sense of achievement from the success itself, rather than from this feeling that I have managed to keep my inadequacies hidden from view.

I think it might be a beanstalk...Who knows what's at the top?

I think it might be a beanstalk...Who knows what's at the top?

But I’m working on it, I really am. I may be slightly unkempt and occasionally dramatic in my presentation but I can live with that. Onwards and upwards. I have ADHD. I am doing a PhD. One year down, two to go.

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

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…