Saturday, March 19, 2016

You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy: Chapter 5: Taking Inentory and Finding Balance

In coping with ADHD, we shouldn't blame others and we shouldn't blame ourselves.  We need to take inventory of what we can do and what we can't do.  We need to figure out how much we need of sleep, rest, stimulation, work, play, family, friends, solitude.  What do we need to do for self-care? What can we eliminate from our lives? 

Keep a daily log for several weeks.  Look at how much time you spend on each thing, and how you feel.  Do you have more signs of stress after spending a certain amount of time doing something?  Make up a schedule.  You will need to adjust it.  Keep refining it until it works.

Figure out what you do well, what you do acceptably, and what you shouldn't be attempting to do.  Find ways to do more of what you like and do well of, and less of what you fail at. 

On one hand, you need to keep it simple.  On the other hand, you need to make sure you get enough stimulation.

Make it a habit to get out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off.  You will not want to do this.  When you first get up, do things that don't require much effort.  Ask your family  not to talk to you or make demands on you until you've had time to become alert.

Realize that you don't have to do what other people do.  Get help -- don't do it all yourself.  Use babysitters, gardeners, housecleaners.  Learn to accept that your house won't be perfectly clean.

"You may be a Catholic, a druid, or a dyed-in-the-wool atheist.  Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, there is wisdom in having a sanctioned day of rest."

They probably never expected an actual druid to read those words.  They are suggesting observing a Sabbath day.  I don't think that would work for me, in that it would leave only one day for chores.  But what I can do is have some time every evening for meditation and tai chi.  

You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy: Chapter 4: Coping with the Diagnosis

The book says that when we get diagnosed with ADHD, we may be relieved, and we may think that once we go on medication, we can be the normal person we always wanted to be.  However, when we go on the medication, we find that it can't make us into a normal person, and we become depressed.

It's good to know this.  The book also talks about how the despair is part of the journey, and if we continue through the despair, we can find a better life.

After getting the diagnosis, we may feel anger:
  • "Why did everyone...blame my difficulties on depression, lack of motivation, or poor character?"
  • "Why didn't someone believe in me?"
  • "Why did everybody assume the worst?"
  • "Why was I misunderstood and reprimanded when I was trying my heart out?"
  • "Why did all those mental health professionals pretend to know more than they did?"
These really resonate with me.  I've been thinking over the past several months that it seems that central to my psyche is that no one believe me.  When I say I'm tired, they say I'm not tired, that it's depression.  

You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy: Chapters 1-3: Understanding ADHD

The latest ADHD book I am reading is You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy? by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo.  It was first published in 1993, but I am reading the 2006 edition.

The previous book I read was male-oriented.  Since this was written by two female authors, I was hoping it would be more female-oriented.  However, they use male pronouns when referring a a person with ADHD.  Also, the cartoon illustrations, while depicting nonhuman creatures who aren't particularly gendered, are referred to as male.

One thing that resonates with me in the book is when it talks about people being blamed for their ADHD.  I read the same kinds of things about any kind of invisible illness, whether it's depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, migraines, etc., and whatever it's applied to, it resonates with me.

The book says that people often tell people with ADHD to shape up, try harder, etc., but this is like telling someone "in a wheelchair that he could get up and walk if he tried harder" (p. 13).

It says that it might seem that we are un-motivated, but we actually have to work a lot  harder than non-ADHD people to get things done.

Sometimes we find it hard to focus on things.  Other times, we get so focused on one thing that we have trouble noticing anything else.  When we get into hpyerfocus, others may think "It's obvious he can pay attention when he wants to" or "He's so rude! He completely ignores me" (p. 38).

We often have trouble with details.  We like the big pictures.  We can't remember the details.  That is true for me.  I may read something which makes a strong case for a point of view.  I may adopt that point of view, based on the evidence.  However, later, I can remember the point of view, but I can't remember the evidence, so to others, it sounds like I don't have a good reason for my beliefs.

Many of the attributes they describe don't resonate with me.
  • People with ADHD being moody.  They are easily irritated and may have outbursts of anger.  Afterwards, they feel ashamed.  That doesn't really happen to me, but it makes me think of domestic violence.
  • People with ADHD are thrill seekers, because the crave stimulation.  They are the kind of people who drive fast, go bungee jumping, etc.  It makes me wonder about my sister.
  • People with ADHD always crave more.  They feel, "I want, I need."  They may go to excess with drinking, drugs, shopping, sex.  I knew someone like that once.  He always wanted something more, and it left me feeling inadequate, so I chose to distance myself.  
  • People with ADHD may have obsessive compulsive disorder.  They may focus on a particular thought, and it loops in their head.
 I had read in other books about how ADHD is not a lack of attention, but a lack of ability to regulate attention.  This book says the same about hyperactivity.  People with ADHD may sometimes be hyperactive, but other time hypoactive.  They have a hard time getting going.  They may be sluggish in the morning, lively at noon, sluggish in early afternoon, and lively in late afternoon and evening.  As a result, they may be night owls.

Now I'm thinking of another person I know, someone who is sluggish in morning and lively at night, and who sometimes gets thoughts looping in his head.

People with ADHD have trouble with time.  Things always take longer than we expect.  The book says, "The daily list of an ADDer usually includes far more than any human could accomplish in three or four days.  A professor friend planned to write three articles, a book, and two grants over the summer months.  His unrealistic goals were quite typical for an ADDer!"'

That's me -- things take longer than I think, and my to do lists are too long.  I'm also reminded of my friend who described himself as "optimistic" because he always was ready later than he expected.

People with ADHD also have trouble with space.  They may have trouble telling left from right, and they may tend to bump into things.

We have trouble with sorting and filing, and one reason is because we think of all the possible exceptions, so we can't put things into neat categories.

We may have rapid internal processing, but difficulty taking in input and putting out output.  Selective attention is the ability choose what input to focus on.  Selective intention is the ability to choose which of many possible actions to take.  People with attention difficulty usually also have intention difficulty.

That's true of me, and also of my "optimistic" friend.

The authors did terribly at tennis lessons.  When they both started on Ritalin, both improved at tennis remarkably.  The reason was because of better cognitive processing.  Tennis requires that you see the motion of the ball, figure out its path, and get to the right place at the right time to hit it.

The book talks about how people with ADHD may lash out at others inappropriately.  I wonder how many domestic violence cases are a result of ADHD.

Paralysis of will: the output function ceases.  Someone asks you a question and you have no response.  You watch the ball fly by rather than trying to hit or catch it.

Your brain is fast when it's just internal, but not when you have to react.  One of the authors is good at public speaking, but not at conversation.  She can plan the public talk in advance, but she can't come up with something to say on the spot in conversation.  That's true of me too.

People think that I'm shy, that I don't like to talk, when they see me for casual conversation.  They are surprised that I enjoy public speaking.

We function better when we're in control than when we have to react to t hings.  Someone with ADHD "may stand aroudn the kitchen of a friend preparing a dinner party, unable to figure out how to assist.  But he may successfully orchestrate a social activity of his own design."  That's true of me.  I have no idea how to help people with enterntaining.

Sometimes we just freeze.  This may be the result of a loud noise or unexpected events.  "An ADDer's overloaded system can make him so tired he can barely move, talk, or think.  It is as if he is in a temporary coma.  He experiences attempts at communication as assaults on his very being.  He either ignores the assault or snaps an irritable reply -- taking any action is an impossibility."  When this happens, you need to rest and recharge.

In the section on memory, the authors say that we are better at conceptualizing than rote learning.  We can remember concepts better than we can retrieve particular facts.  Although we can't remember specific facts, we can put together pieces of information in new ways. This is certainly true of me.  It's good to have an explanation of why my mind works this way.

We can't live up to being normal people, so we develop coping strategies.  Some people try to do it all, pushing ourselves, trying to function like a normal person.  Sometimes we blame others for all the things that go wrong. Sometimes we scoff at the things we were unable to achieve, looking down on them to mask that we feel bad for not being able to achieve them.  Sometimes we give up and numbly live as underachievers.  If we have had many experiences of being chastised for what we failed to do, we may go on the offensive, chastising others for being demanding.

Because our brains don't function well when we have to react, some people may insist on always being in control, setting the agenda.

The book describes Peter Pan syndrome:  "Energetic optimism, a wacky sense of humor, and a warm acceptance of others make the people around him feel good....The ease with which he connects with people promises an intimacy that never materializes....would-be lovers and close friends find him an elusive man, impossible to pin down....When they begin to make demands for a more committed relationship, they find that Chris has moved on.  The women hurt by his 'love 'em and leave 'em' lifestyle feel used and abused.  Chris believes, however, that he's just operating under a different set of rules.  He lives according to the pleasure principle."

Friday, March 4, 2016

We need education

With what's going on with the presidential primaries, what strikes me is how ignorant people are.  We need education.  We need people who know how to be critical thinkers.  We people to recognize the way that certain kinds of rhetoric is used to get people's attention, but that just because our instincts are aroused by this rhetoric doesn't mean we have to respond.  We can pause and think about what is really going on. 

For kids, education happens in schools and camps.  Adults learn by way of media, whether it's Facebook, web sites, books, radio, TV, movies, etc. 

I don't like to be told what to do, and I don't like to tell other people what to do or what to think.  But I want to be a part of getting the information out there, exposing people to ideas, so they can make up their own minds. 

Yes it's true that there's a certain presidential candidate that I think would  not be so popular if people were better thinkers.  But I want people to be thinkers, regardless of who they support.  When I see people making ignorant statements in opposition to said presidential candidate, that's wrong too.