Sunday, July 10, 2011

ADD & Me - Part 2

When we last left our heroes, I had just taken my first pill for ADD. In fact, I took it at 10:10 AM yesterday. I had a meeting at 10:30 AM and as I walked to the conference room, a feeling came over me akin to drinking 10 espressos. I felt pretty wired. Taking the pill on an empty stomach probably accelerated that feeling.


The meeting was about the design of some financial reports, a topic that would have had me fighting to stay awake and fighting even harder to focus on the mundane details of credits and debits. Instead, I felt alert, energetic and was intensely aware of the conversation. In the past, I would have drifted in and out of listening to people speak and have had to "catch up" by gleaning things from the conversation and trying to piece together things I had missed while my thoughts drifted elsewhere.

In fact, it seemed I spent half of the meeting out of my chair and pointing to the project on the screen to suggest changes to the report to make it easier to read. I left the feeling extremely excited about my new found attention abilities.


The next thing I noticed was my unwillingness to have unsatisfactory things around me. For months, the network cables that connect my VOIP phone were about 2 inchest two short, causing my phone to rest nearly on top of my laptop keyboard. I just never did anything about it. It reminds me of a joke I once heard told by the motivational speaker Les Brown. It went something like this:


A man was walking down a dirt road down south. He passed an old rickety house and on the old rickety porch sat an old man and an old hound dog. The hound dog was just moaning and groaning. The passerby stopped and asked the old man "why is that dog moaning and groaning?" To which, the old man replied "because he's laying on a nail". The passerby, not quite able to believe it said "well, why doesn't he get up and move?" The old man responded "because it doesn't hurt bad enough to get up and move".


On the surface that sounds like a story of incredible laziness. But.. what if one's mind is just wired differently? In the eyes of a person with a brain wired correctly, it seems like a rational statement, but not when you're brain is miswired; not if you suffer from ADD (BTW, I do not suffer from ADHD. No hyperactivity, just attention deficit) And so, I wrote an email to request a couple of longer network cables. When they came, I calmly untangled the wires under my desk and plugged them into the phone and now the cables have sufficient slack to put my phone anywhere on my desk. I next tacked my chronically messy desk. I sorted the stacks of papers on my desk, filed everything in its place and cleaned up my top desk drawer. I'll get to the others in due time.


Likewise, when I went home, I tamed the beastly stack of weeks-old mail and magazines from the top of the dresser in my bedroom. Each day, I would check for important mail on top of the stack, but anything unimportant... I would just leave there until the stack was so obnoxious that every couple of months, I'd waste an entire evening sorting and trashing stuff. Now, I have made a stack of magazines and have resolved to skim through one a day and then discard them until the stack is gone.


Returning to the workplace, the quiz I took to determine if I may have ADD ( http://add.about.com/od/evaluationanddiagnosis/a/adultaddsymptom.htm ) mentioned that many people feel completely stressed out, that the world is moving to quickly and that what they may actually be experiencing is undiagnosed ADD. I can complete testify to this. Whenever I worked on one task, I stressed that all my other tasks weren't getting worked on. The bigger the list of tasks became the more I stressed because now I was spending ALL my time analyzing the tasks, trying to determine which was the highest priority. As a result, EVEN LESS would actually get done, intensifying the stress even more. I felt paralysed.


Now.. I am still aware that all of these projects/tasks exist. I also know I can only do so much. I take what I think is the highest priority task and I work on it until it's done, or until somebody decides something else is a higher priority. It such a relief to not feel that self-induced stress anymore.

In short, I would have to say there were a myriad of ways in which I knew I was "deficient" and now those things seem to come easily to me, without effort. In the past I'd either be unaware of them or ignore them with a nagging feeling of guilt.. "but not enough to do something about it."


In the 21 years I've been married, the words my wife (Ramona) said the most to me were not "I love you" but... "you only hear half of what I say". It was true. It was very hard to keep my mind focused on the person in front of me if my mind wanted to be somewhere else. All I can do is thank her profusely for hanging in there with a guy that must have not been too much fun to live with at times. I will make it up to you... I promise.

One last thing I thought was interesting about the conversation with my doctor... I told him that despite the fact that I have a great career and do very well, I have ALWAYS felt like an underachiever. I look at people my age or younger who are CEO's, successful entrepreneurs, governors, congressman, etc and I think to myself "where did I go wrong? I think I am fairly smart guy...what do they know that I don't know?". And I've discovered that in the great competition of the business world, I've been battling with my hands tied behind my back, relative to my comeptitors. At this point, I have no great aspirations, but it IS helpful to finally know the answer to this mystery.


OK, I lied.. one more thing. The medication I am on.. Adderall is a pretty strong appetite suppressant. Today, I ate lunch BECAUSE I know it's important to eat something, but I had absolutely no desire to eat food. I have a feeling there will soon be a lot less of me, and that's OK :) I have a bit of circular question though. If I lose a signficant amount of weight, the first explanation people will come up with is "well, you're on this medication and it causes loss of appetite. Of coure you've lost weight.. you can't help it." They may be right, but, we'll never know if that's the ONLY reason. In other words, I used to spend time on what I wanted to spend time on, oblivious to important but "mundane" things that needed doing. Likewise, if I wanted to eat, I ate. Was it a lack of "will power" or was it my brain simply focusing on what I wanted to do and not caring about the consequences. Interestingly enough, if Adderall had no appetite suppressant to it whatsoever, I think my whole approach to my diet and eating habits would be different now... now that I can think clearly and do what's right, not just want I want to do.

But, I guess we'll never know, because the medicine IS an appetite suppressant, so it will remain a mystery.

If you suffer from the symptoms I mentioned in part one of this note, please take the quiz... a much more satisfying life could be just a doctor's visit away.

3 comments:

  1. Joe,
    I found your blog via our mutual friend Brenda Meller. I'm very touched by your openness and experiences. As an ADHD (&ADD) Coach, I have many clients who could benefit from reading your blog. I'll send them over!
    Best,
    Laura Rolands

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  2. I was diagnosed about 6-months ago and have been trying to avoid medication if possible. How are things going for you now several weeks later?

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  3. Laura and Ricky, hopefully you noticed and read Part 1 of this blog.

    Laura: thanks!

    Ricky, I started on a low dosage of Adderall XR (20 mg). For the first 6 to 8 weeks, everything was great. After that, I noticed a lessening of the effect of the medication. I didn't feel as driven to be organized as before and I had one or two days where I felt positively unfocused.

    I visited my doctor just this week and told him about it. My main concern was that I did NOT want to get on a treadmill where I need an ever-increasing dosage of medicine.

    He increased my dosage to 30 mg (I understand that is still somewhat in the "medium" range) and am happy to say that I can definitely notice the difference.

    I have learned that even if I stop taking the medication for a few days, that certain habits (putting things away, consistently), do seem to remain. So, I guess a habit IS a habit once formed. However, if I do not take the medication I still find myself wasting precious time by doing things that are really quite useless such as aimlessly surfing the web, checking Facebook or watching something on TV that I am not even that interested in. All in all, life has been MUCH better with the medicine. I am just guarding against the need to take more and more.

    I hope this has helped.

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