ADHD and belonging

Posted: September 17, 2014 in ADHD - mine
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PREFACE: This is being written at about 11 in the morning on EMU campus. I haven’t taken my meds yet. I left my wallet at home, I’ve had two phone calls interrupt me, and I’ve started this entry 3 times already. So, don’t take the negative tone too seriously – life is very good right now and I’m thankful for that.


This is (or at least should be) my last semester in graduate school at EMU. Between now and the end of the year, I am committed to putting together a performance piece, the last requirement for graduation. It will be about ADHD, probably about ADHD and relationships. Since that’s where I’m doing most of my work right now, it seems like a sensible choice.

As part of getting myself mentally and emotionally engaged, I’m trying to spend more time on campus. Today was the first day for that. Classes started 2 weeks ago, so the students are already in the swing of things. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the campus, it feels good to be here. At least in a general sense.

In a specific sense – the sense of “how do ‘I‘ feel being here?” – I feel like a tourist.

There are a lot of reasons for it, I expect.

For one thing, most of the people I’ve taken classes with have either moved on or are probably in class themselves right now – some of them teaching.

For another thing, I’ve always been a commuter student, so most of my time on campus has either been for a class, an event or prep for an event. So, there’s a limit to the how involved I was at any time over the last 4 years.

But, I think there are some important ADD components to it too.

For one thing, the very fact that I am involved in so many different things feels very ADD to me. Am I a musician or a writer or a performer or a visual artist or a code developer or X or Y or Z? The answer is “yes”. So, how deeply can I get involved in any of those worlds? With the people with whom I interact? How do I get a feeling of “yes, this is where I belong?” Answer: it’s hard.

The other ADD component is something many of us are familiar with – the feeling of being a perpetual outsider. I’ve heard this from a lot of ADD people and it’s all over the literature. (One of my favorite books is “What Does Everyone Else Know That I Don’t?” by Michele Novotni.)

It’s very important to recognize this because it can help minimize the effect. To the extent that it’s true, it is not an atypical side-effect of ADHD to not fit in, to not pick up social cues and know how to engage. Over and above that, it’s very easy to read other people’s actions as having a negative undertone. But it’s usually not a correct reading.

This is a blog entry, not a long analysis of the situation, so I’m going to stop now and go walk around the building again.

Who knows, I might run into somebody I know.

Today, I discovered something fascinating: Busses have schedules!

 

theBus

In general, my experience with busses goes something like this: I decide I am going to use the bus today to get somewhere, so I go walk down to the bus stop. I look up and down the road and, if the bus is not coming, I start walking toward my destination. In California, this was usually the nearest BART station, about a mile away. In Ann Arbor, it’s usually the coffee shop downtown, also about a mile. So, I figure that worst-case scenario is that I will get a good walk in.

However, that approach is not intentional. It’s the result of a kind of magical thinking about busses. While some people would look at the schedule to see when the bus will arrive, for me, it’s more a matter of “are the stars aligned correctly and does the Universe love me today?”

This is not a very good way to catch a bus. But it’s a good way to demonstrate the way “now/not-now” thinking works for us ADDers. When I am standing at the bus stop, the bus is either there or not there.  Which mean my luck was either good or bad.

At least, that’s the way it was in the past.

Now, we have better tools to help find the bus. I have an app on my phone that actually shows me the location of the #12 bus on the AATA route. So I can tell whether it’s worth waiting or if I should just start walking.

It still isn’t the same as looking at the schedule and getting to the bus stop on time, but it’s better. Someday, I’ll take that final step and become a person who checks the bus schedule before leaving the house.

But not yet.

Medication Change

Posted: August 20, 2014 in ADHD - mine

About four months ago, I switched from my first med – Adderall 10Mg – to extended release. Right from the beginning, I didn’t think it was being as effective. It did seem to last longer, but there were little cracks here and there.

Mostly, it would be when something happened unexpectedly – I would drop a cup or miss an appointment. My immediate “go to” when I’m not medicated is “what is wrong with me?” When I’m taking meds, it’s a lot easier to just take it as “something I need to work on” rather than an indictment of my personality and abilities.

About 4 weeks ago, I switched to a higher dose of the extended release. That worked a lot better. My doctor and I had agreed on a 3 week trial. I called this morning to refill the prescription and was a little bit surprised. I thought I was taking 15Mg XR, but their notes said 25Mg XR. So, I refilled it for 25.

This whole thing is only being logged in the interest of sharing information with other folks who are reading the blog. One thing I’ve heard a lot is that you often have to try different medications, doses and schedules before you get it right. So, I just want to encourage anyone who’s on the fence about changing to not be afraid of it.

But, I realize that my decision was easy: I was only changing doses, not medications. I got very lucky that Adderall (our first attempt) worked for me and that I am just adjusting doses. Make sure you look into side effects, transitions, and learn as much as you can before you make any changes like this. You should trust your doctor, but you need to be educated as well. They can’t think of everything and they can’t know every last thing about you, so make sure you keep up your side of the bargain too.

Here’s a link to my performance at the 2014 ADDA Talent Show. Below are some notes about my process in getting there and various other ramblings. (It is a blog, after all!)

I’d sent out an early recording of the song to a handful of people I trust and I want to thank them for listening and giving me feedback. It was a really bad mix, but the point came across. My favorite comment came from Matt (I think): “this will really work well live”. ‘Nuff said.

How I Devised This  Year’s Show

Last year, I did my first performance at the ADDA 2013 Talent Show. I merged my “I Am Not Distracted…” performance with my song “Wonder Drug” and came up with something that worked pretty well.

I wanted to make it memorable, so I used my Halloween tie-dye body suit and my Five Miles More fedora as attention grabbers. It worked. Now, I can introduce myself as “the guy in the tie-dye tights” and people nod. Some of them take a step back but that’s OK.

Here’s a link if you’re interested: http://youtu.be/cj9fj8S7mBM?list=UUztsSmF64r24z0xwobAjN9w

This year, I set a more difficult task for myself: could I get the audience up on its feet and singing along with me? Actually, it wasn’t much of a risk – this is such a great group of people. I feel safe trying new things with them. And they didn’t let me down!

My Writing Process (in case you’re interested)

I started the process by coming up with a simple chorus. Something short, meaningful, and with a simple melody. “I feel alive, I’m with my Tribe” came up. I tried a dozen different melodies, tempos, and chord progressions and finally settled on one.

Then came the lyrics. I imagined myself on Friday night. We would have been at the end of the first full day of the conference. People would (hopefully!) be feeling those feelings I felt last year – “wow, I’m around people who ‘get’ me!” So, I put those things in the lyrics.

Then, guessing that some people might feel uncomfortable up and singing in a crowd, I added a last verse that acknowledge that.

Addition of the Executive Function Character

But, I didn’t want it to just be a song. So, I crafted a front end. I knew that I wanted to make reference to the tie-dye guy last year. It would be a chuckle to the folks who were in Detroit and a different kind of chuckle for new folks. (I like those multi-interpretative messages.) I also wanted to reflect a theme of the conference and make references to some of the sessions I’d been to.

That all came together when I saw how much emphasis was being put on the notions of “normal” and “abnormal”, or “knowing”, or “diversity”. I love these themes – they are what kept me in philosophy and theology and psychology.

So, I decided to go on stage as “Your Missing Executive Function” and explain that the EF is not really “missing” but it is “different”. That we don’t have to be “fixed” so we can be “normal”. That isn;t the goal at all.

The goal – and I heard this repeated in one way or another in many keynotes and sessions – is to be the most Authentic You that you can be. Shades of Kierkegaard and Gabriel Marcel! (See how I subtly work religion into there…?)

But, I had to recognize the pain and problems ADD/ADHD brings with it as well, so I had EF add some words of apology for the problems he brings with him.

Performing The Piece

I asked Dean Solden to introduced me as “a special appearance by your missing Executive Function”. That got a chuckle and I felt like I was on my way. My timing was sloppy at a couple of points, but by the time I got the song, it felt like things were going well.

Dean had invited several of the other performers to back him up vocally on the opening song “Medicate!” and I asked them to play percussion for me during “I’m With My Tribe”. They came on stage and were just great about it.

The Moment of Truth for me was “can I get them all to stand up?”

I was pretty sure that if they went with me that far, they would sing, so the Moment of Truth shifted from “will they sing?” to “will they stand up?” They did and things went great from there.

The Amazing Audience

What an amazing treat it is to be in front of a group like that. I think that any performer knows the audience is a huge part of the show. They can lift you up and keep you going or they can leave you high and dry, trying to figure out what you did wrong.

This audience is the most supportive and gracious I could imagine. And I really feel I owe it to them to put as much effort as I can in writing and polishing the material.

And if anyone reading this is considering jumping in next year and doing a piece at the Talent Show, I want to encourage you. Do it! Do it! Do it!

Tomorrow night at about this time, I’ll be giving my first webinar for ADDA. It’s very exciting but I’m doing a good job of keeping myself together for it.

The performance-and-discussion “Who Am I Living With?!?!” has really grown since the first time I did it at Crazy Wisdom (last October already!). The generous participation of so many individuals (ADD and non-ADD) has really helped me grow this into something helpful and useful.

The webinar will be a little different in that it doesn’t lend itself quite so much to the peer-group discussion format I like. Instead, I’ve rolled up a lot of what folks have said, a lot of what I’ve read, and a lot of what I’ve learned from interviewing people into a presentation format.

It was a great exercise.

In my usual discussions, I bring along all of this content but I keep it as background material. This time, I’ve merged and sifted through what I’ve learned. In that way, this one is more of a sharing of past sessions than active participation.

I’m still hoping to learn a lot in the Q & A at the end to bring forward to future groups.

Alan Brown is the moderator, which is also very exciting for me. His mission is public outreach – getting to the 85%. This is exactly where I think I can be the most useful too, so I’m looking forward to working with him.

During the “Who Am I Living With?!?!” sessions, I ask participants to anonymously submit written questions for us to talk about. Seeing and hearing each other’s questions is a good way to let us know we are not alone – knowing that I am not the only one dealing with a particular problem can be a big relief. It can give you a different perspective on the problem knowing that others are facing it too.

- I have read that those with ADHD tend to marry another with ADHD. If this is true, why might it be so?

- As a non-ADHD partner, how do I learn to relate and understand my ADHD partner’s experience/struggle?

- How do I handle the random energy? And to share a tip; a whiteboard worked for us.

During “Who Am I Living With?!?!” at the 2014 ADDA Conference, I asked participants to anonymously submit written questions for us to talk about.Seeing and hearing each other’s questions is a good way to let us know we are not alone – knowing that I am not the only one dealing with a particular problem can be a big relief. It can give you a different perspective on the problem knowing that others are facing it too.

- What’s the best way to support my partner’s ADD adventure without losing my patience?

- At times, we are unable to communicate with each other due to lack of patience. What can I do to clear my mind and open our channel of sharing and understanding?

- The ADDer always wants forgiveness, patience, understanding etc. How do they ever understand the feelings and ANGER of this rollercoaster cycle & what it does to the non-ADHD partner & how many times we HAVE forgiven and been patient?

- How can we EVER communciate properly when frequently they:

a. deny what they said

b. forgets what they said

c. comes back with “what I meant was…”!!