Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stay With Me Now

All my life, I've had trouble with procrastination and follow-through. I could not seem to stay on task for the life of me. I'd flit from interest to interest; I daydreamed. School bored me to tears and I was often punished for "not listening" and for spending my class time drawing horses (from memory, and quite well at that) in my notebook rather than paying attention. The irony was that I was way ahead of the class already; they were on 2 + 2, I was chapters ahead doing 2 x 2 but again, I was reprimanded and told to "stay with the class, don't read ahead". Punished for being smart. But GOD was I bored, so while they went over 2 + 2 yet again, in order to prevent myself from standing up and screaming "For Chrissakes, it's FOUR, you idiots, FOUR!!!", I would doodle, lose myself in a daydream, or if opportunity allowed, sneak-read a book under my desk.

My attention span was obsessive when I was interested in the subject; but when I wasn't, I daydreamed. I fidgeted. I got cranky. I fell asleep. My ability to complete a task hinged directly on my interest level.

Mother would get so exasperated with me: "Finish one thing before you start another!" and "why can't you stay focused?"

Why, indeed.

Never mind trying to start something. If the project was the least bit boring, I couldn't begin. If it seemed like it would take a long time, I would avoid it. Even today, with knitting, weaving, and sewing, I'm labelled an "over-achiever" because I don't want to stick with stockinette, I want cables and highly-intricate patterns that take a lot of ingenuity and thought. I don't want to make an Easy Sew item, I want to rip apart a complex pattern and revise it to suit myself. I don't do simple twills on four shafts. Nope, give me doubleweave on 8-harnesses. If I'd had to knit a standard garter stitch scarf as my first project, I probably would have quit the class. Thank God the instructor gave us something more advanced and challenged us all those years ago. I can't do the basics. They bore me. Show me real quick how it works then move me to intermediate.

And I'm disorganized. OH am I disorganized. Put me on task for organizing or moving, and I'm a wreck. I can't focus. I can't just methodically unload cabinets into boxes. Thank God for friends who can, because without them, I'd be unable to relocate. I realize that the chaos and near-squalor that I'm living in could easily be addressed by simply outlining a plan—which I have, I'm great at making lists—then following the steps and staying focused until it's done.

There's the problem.


You may wonder where all of this is coming from. You can thank Paris Hilton. I know, weird, right? Stay with me. Paris has a medical condition. There was a mention of psychotropic drugs that she was supposed to be taking but hadn't been while incarcerated, leading to her disintegration. Being the curious (nosy) type, I got online and researched what these drugs could be.

Of course. Anti-anxiety, depression, OCD, ADD, and so on. I quickly lost interest in what Paris might be on and turned my attention to the list of psychotropic drugs and which ones matched the list that I've been on over the years. I'd gone to doctors and psychologists attempting to figure out what was wrong with me, why I can't make decisions, why I'm so lost, why I'm bummed out, why I had a worry loop going in my head all day long. They said I was stressed. STRESSED. All my symptoms, physical and mental, were from stress.

*pausing to snort with laughter*

My life at the time was no different from anyone else's, yet stress was doing me in. Laughable.

My sister the Great Psychologist and my niece, the Lesser Psychologist, both stamped me with depression for sure, possibly a little OCD, and have you considered you might be bi-polar? (Uh, no, but thanks for the vote of confidence.) Diagnosed by my last attempt at shrinkage as having "low-grade situational depression", meaning I wasn't clinically depressed, but instead react to stress via depression rather than self-abuse (alcohol, etc) or some other method (overspending, addictions, too much sleep, you name it), various drugs were tested on me ("to find out what works" *cough guinea pig cough*): Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Elavil, Effexor, BuSpar, Xanax and finally Wellbutrin.

The only one that worked was Wellbutrin. Instead of making me feel out of it, lethargic, apathetic, and dizzy/nauseated, Wellbutrin just made me feel "normal", "balanced", and what I read as "motivated". Plus, initially the side-effect was that I lost a lot of weight (no complaints there). Now. Here's the list of the drugs and what they treat:

Paxildepression (SSRI), OCD, panic
Prozacdepression (SSRI), OCD, panic
Zoloftdepression (SSRI), OCD, panic
depression (tricyclic)
anxiety, panic
Wellbutrindepression, ADD

What stands out about the list?

The ones that didn't work treated: depression, OCD, and/or anxiety/panic disorder.

The one that DID work treats depression, yes, but it also treats ADD.

Attention Deficit Disorder.


Off I went, surfing the net.

I do not have OCD. None of the symptoms apply to me remotely, except the hoarding possibility (I can relate to about half the symptoms). But the irrational thoughts, touching things repeatedly, worrying I hurt someone over and over again, and so on? Not me. Not even close. Besides. OCD leads to organization, right Mr. Monk? Anyone with a portion of a brain cell left in their head can step in my door and see quite visibly that OCD does not apply here. Dare I post a photo?

And let's not be kind and say "well, you're moving". I lived like this before. Let's stop kidding myself and be honest. I suck at organizing. I don't let people come over or in the house. There are only three friends given permission to enter and they are well aware of my cleanliness issues.

I also do not have a panic disorder.

Nor do I think I really have depression, or ever had. And I'm NOT bi-polar.

I have ADD. All the symptoms fit.

Today I've done a lot of thinking about it, examined my past, and I've always had it, just nobody bothered to notice, wanted to notice, or knew how to notice. A lot of creative people (artists, entrepreneurs, scientists) suffer from ADD and ironically it's the ADD stuff that makes them so inventive. All that eccentricity accounts for something special. However. There is a downside, because ADD causes a problem with focus.

THAT is my BIGGEST problem: the inability to focus and stay focused. That's why the Wellbutrin works so well—it helps me FOCUS.

According to my research, ADDers can also suffer from anxiety and/or depression and when those are treated, the ADD symptoms lessen or disappear. I disagree. They tried treating the depression and the anxiety, and failed. It did nothing to change my motivation and focus, it just eliminated the small amounts of OCD that were necessary to function "normally".

My belief, which may or may not be medically correct, is that an ADDer becomes anxious because they know their inability to focus may cause them to miss deadlines, not be able to complete the task, miss details, forget appointments, and so on; they fear social embarrassment, they fear letting down others. When they DO miss the deadlines or mess up some other way, the anxiety turns to depression.

I believe the key is to treat the ADD, get them focused, THEN see if the depression/anxiety disperses. I think I'm on the right track, because I noticed that Wellbutrin does to some extent help me focus, and when I'm focused, I get things done better, and I'm less anxious and less depressed.

I mean COME ON. I just lost my parents. I'm in mourning. If I were truly depressed, wouldn't I be a basket case? But I'm NOT. I actually feel rather well-adjusted and emotionally stable, considering. I did notice that I exhibited classic ADD behavior during all the crises, though. ADDers are great in a crisis. They focus better during times of extreme stress due to the heightened sensory stimulation.

Why didn't anyone think ADD? Because I'm smart? Because I can actually get A's rather than the typical C-level of a "normal" ADDer? Because nobody meaning my parents wanted to admit that their intelligent, creative, perfect little daughter might be "flawed"?

A conversation we may or may not have had at one time:
Me: "Mom, Dad, I think I might have ADD."
Dad (sweetly condescending): "No, no, there's nothing wrong with you, you're fine."
Me: "No, I'm not. I'm having trouble paying attention and getting things done."
Mom (dismissing the possibility): "You're all right. You just need to stop daydreaming so much and focus on your schoolwork."
Me: "But, I can't. It's boring."
Mom (indignant): "Well, just do it anyway; everybody has to."
Me (frustrated): "But I'm exhibiting all the symptoms of someone with ADD."
Mom (authoritative): "You just need to learn to stick with it till you're done, that's all."
Me: "That's the problem, I can't."
Dad (confident, encouraging): "Yes you can. You're intelligent—you can do the work. You just need to focus and stay on task."
Me (really frustrated): "But, that's what I'm trying to tell you, I can't. And that's exactly what ADD does to a person."
Mom (losing patience): "Do you WANT to have ADD? Do you WANT to have something wrong with you? Why do you always have to think you have something wrong with you? You're just too easily distracted, is all. Stop procrastinating, stay on track, and you'll be fine. You do NOT have ADD."
Me (defeated): "OK, I don't have ADD. Fine. Never mind."
Mom (parting shot): "But you do need to learn to stay focused and work a little harder."
Me (left the room, shaking head)
I took the OCD quiz. I don't have that. I took the ADD quiz: I have that. I also took the Hoarding quiz and I have that, too. So I have modified ADHD: Attention Deficit Hoarding Disorder.

Here's the thing: since I've begun reading all this Positive Thinking stuff, I figured that I might be able to fly without the net, so to speak. If depression was my problem, and PT seemed to be helping me with that, maybe I didn't need the drugs anymore. So I stopped taking the Wellbutrin a couple of weeks ago. And I'm fine. Depression-wise, that is. I even made it through the first anniversary of Dad's death fairly well. I was sad, but I wasn't sticking my head in the oven, and I've even found things to laugh at (thank you to the g*vernment for that one).

Except, I've noticed I've been having trouble with motivation, follow-through, and focus. But it was subtle. It didn't really stand up and shout until the Paris-psychotropic drug list phenomena. My conclusion, then, is that my problem is less depression or mood disorders, and more ADD, and that I should stay on the drugs because it seems to help my focus. I was on them throughout school, when I built the loom, and so on. My focus was better. I'm sure this entire post is lacking a clear focus. Kudos if you managed to read all the way through it. I doubt I'll be able to tonight.

So I'm back on the drugs. It'll take a bit to bulk up again but I'm sure I'll notice a difference. Perhaps the reason I wasn't finding the psychotherapist I needed was because I was looking for one that deals in grief issues. Maybe grief isn't my problem, but focus and possibly ADD is. Maybe that's the kind of therapist I need. Maybe I'll start looking for one tomorrow.

IF I can remember to, and stay focused long enough to do it.

I'm laughing at all this, btw.


At 9:08 PM, June 10, 2007, Blogger Sheepish Annie said...

I was 39 when I was diagnosed with ADD. After years of "self-medicating," I finally started on Concerta. This is a miracle drug. I still don't want to do my taxes or clean my room. But if I start the task, I can finish it...mostly. And the day no longer feels a million hours long. I have spent over half my life waiting for the "next thing" to finally happen. It's sort of nice to live in the moment for a change...

At 4:16 PM, June 11, 2007, Anonymous tiennie said...

Wow! I hope you get what will work for you.

At 7:48 PM, June 11, 2007, Blogger Mother of Chaos said...

Oh, wow. I have had that conversation with my own parents!! And just about every teacher I ever had from grade school on! And occasionally my friends will stop and say, "You aren't hearing a word I say, are you?"

Uuuuuuuuh, no. No I'm not. Sorry.

I've been toying with trying something for it for of these days, I'll have a "focused period" while I'm thinking about it and make the call. Until then, uh, I've got blogs to read? And possibly I should do that other thing, the one that was...hmm...what was I doing here, again?

(If we can't laugh at these things, may $DEITY have mercy on us!!)

At 4:54 PM, June 13, 2007, Anonymous Carrie K said...

Drugs are to balance out what you don't have naturally. So the "maybe I don't need the drugs anymore" is usually wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. (Don't mind me, I've had too many conversations with people who think that mental illnesses are ON PURPOSE. Or something. Drives me mad. Pun intended.)


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