Out of the mouths of babes comes the best ADHD advice found anywhere from anyone.
As a kid, I wanted my books organized by color and size on the bookshelf so I could find them easily (plus it looked so neat and pretty with all Nancy Drew books lined up evenly).
Today, I still want the bookshelves neat with books soldier straight and in color order. Although I’ve never been diagnosed, my obsession with order could be called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.)
Yeah, yeah. All the docs will tell you it’s the co-morbidity thing. When you have an ADHD brain it’s highly likely that you have some other brain-y stuff going on, too. Like depression. Or anxiety. Or bi-polar disorder. Or learning disabilities. Or OCD.
Not to be too simplistic, but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by either obsession (repeated thoughts that you try to stifle but that drive you crazy) or compulsion (thoughts or actions that repeat in an effort to calm your anxiety) or both. The classic example is Jack Nicolson’s character in the movie “As Good as It Gets” with his compulsive hand washing and complex security routines.
But I’m not so sure that what I have is full fledged OCD. I am not “driven by a motor” (to use ADHD diagnostic language) to organize my books, though it does calm my brain. And in other areas of my life, I am completely disorganized (I call myself a Professional Disorganizer). Instead, I suspect my ADDiva brain is trying its level best to introduce some semblance of order in my otherwise chaotic life.
I’ve heard a lot of ADD folks talk about their compulsive need to have things “their way.” That’s why it appears to the world that we are divas: it’s our way or the highway. But it’s not willful selfishness that drives our perfectionism. It’s our lack of ability to be in control of our stuff (and ourselves) with ease and flow.
It occurs to me that we can’t depend on our brains in the linear sense, so we have to impose rigid order consciously. I think we have to be obsessive about some things because our brains aren’t dependable in the linear sense. We can’t trust ourselves to remember so we compensate by obsessing (a little bit) over some details.
When our brains focus so intently on consciously creating order, the door opens w-i-d-e to forgetting other things. Like a doctor’s appointment. Or buying toothpaste. Or even brushing our teeth (sigh).
It’s a vicious circle, this ADHD battle with control. Despite outward appearances to the contrary, I truly love living in a clutter free, serene environment. Little pools of that tranquility exist in my life, emphasis on the word “little.” While I continue to strive toward widening those oases of calm, my distractible and busy brain often thwarts my best efforts.
That’s a pretty frustrating way to live. The only option I see is to make peace with my clutter. Oh no. The minute I wrote those words, my anxiety kicked in. Can. Not. Allow. Clutter.
For now, my motto will continue to be: Keep. Trying.
Actor Robin Williams’ widow spoke up this week, a year after his death by suicide, telling the world that she didn’t blame him one bit for his decision. Why? Because Williams, an unlikely yet beloved hero from his Mork and Mindy days to his last TV series The Crazy Ones, had an illness that scares the heck out of me: Lewy Bodies Dementia.
There IS a link between Lewy Bodies Dementia and ADHD, according to a 2011 retrospective research study. Researchers in Argentina chose 109 adults diagnosed with LBD and 251 adults diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease Dementia, matching them against a control group. The results were astonishing: only about 15% of the control group and the Alzheimer’s group showed correlation with ADHD but a whopping 47% of the Lewy Bodies Dementia group revealed previous ADHD symptoms.
Lewy Bodies Dementia, like Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by low dopamine transporter uptake in the brain, which eventually affects memory and can impact gait. LBD usually shows up in adults from age 50 to 85 but earlier symptoms can be missed because they look a lot like ADHD: executive function and attention deficits.
So does having an ADHD brain mean there is a greater risk of developing Lewy Bodies Dementia? Maybe. Or do symptoms of Lewy Bodies Dementia mimic ADHD so well that they are indistinguishable until LBD gets worse? Very confusing. And no solutions offered to slow down or ward off this terrible form of dementia.
Did Robin Williams have ADHD? I don’t doubt it for a minute. His brilliant brain raced here and there in full view so we could enjoy, laugh and applaud it. Did his ADHD lead to his LBD? Sounds right to me. And that scares the heck out of me.
I get it. Big Pharma is greedy. But Big Pharma didn’t manifest ADHD in children (or adults) despite the obvious benefits to its bottom line. Yet last night, Bill Mahr, host of his namesake HBO show Real Time with Bill Mahr, took a shot at the pharmaceutical industry and sideswiped ADHD in the process.
Interviewing Patrick Kennedy who wrote a tell-all book about Kennedy alcoholism and addiction, Mahr again brought forward his opinion that we humans are overmedicated, especially ADHD boys. And he blamed Big Pharma for encouraging parents to seek ADHD diagnosis for boisterous boys.
“Maybe they’re just (being) boys,” he told his panel of guests. My mouth went dry when I heard those words. ADHD, misunderstood and misconstrued again.
Much to my amazement, the guests pushed back, defending pharmaceuticals as necessary to treat mental disorders. Almost to a person, they refuted Mahr’s stance. In particular, blogger Andrew Sullivan pointed out that his mother manages her bipolar disorder with meds. Eventually, Mahr ran out of steam and time, putting an end to the discussion.
Now I actually chuckle at Bill Mahr some of the time, but let’s face it, he has a duty to be sarcastic, controversial and funny. That what his audience demands and his ratings depend on. Not to mention his salary. And renewal options. So his insistence that ADHD boys are over diagnosed fits neatly with the perspective of his entertainment/news show.
My discomfort stemmed from his dismissive statement that ADHD medication is appropriate for some children while in the same breath telling the audience that kids shouldn’t be popping pills merely for convenience. I agree. They should be taking them for the reason they were intended: to mitigate ADHD symptoms.
True, there are some cases of childhood ADHD that are misdiagnosed and improperly medicated. But there are a lot more ADHD children out there who are under diagnosed, especially inattentive boys and girls who dawdle, procrastinate and lose barrettes, homework and lunch money. They suffer every day and their self esteem takes a beating. Identifying their ADHD can be the dawn of a new life for these kids. New studies show that when ADHD is diagnosed early (e.g. childhood), life expectancy increases. Medication is not the only treatment for ADHD.
The point is that ADHD is real. It would be real with or without Big Pharma. Sometimes medication helps. A lot. Nobody sends their child to an ADHD evaluation because they want to force drugs down his or her throat. ADHD brains are born, not built. Does Big Pharma leverage its pop-a-pill advantage? Probably, but the fact that those companies are wildly profitable doesn’t negate the healing that their medications provide.
The real question is: are teachers and parents more likely to send their child to a doctor for ADHD evaluation because they believe good behavior is as close as the nearest drugstore?
Uh, it’s getting uncomfortably warm in here. Could someone please open a window and tell me the answer is “No?”
Or maybe we shouldn’t.
Talking about it is such a Debbie Downer.
Shining a light on a topic that isn’t all that uplifting may seem a far reach for the ADDiva-Sunshine-Positivity blog. Especially when it is so personal. But darn it, depression has kept me in its crablike claws for too long. I am overdue for a little light.
How does depression creep in to my life? On little cat paws (thanks for that image Carl Sandburgh). There are Big Things that have certainly caused legitimate sadness and upset in my life, but depression is different. It’s not sad, it’s not despair. It’s more like Thoreau’s bumping-along-the-bottom-of=the-ocean=floor quiet desperation endured by most men (and probably even more women).. And It is like a fog, seeping into the corners of my attitude, poisoning my resilience.
I find myself alternating between lecturing myself sternly to “get down to business and get things done” and admitting defeat: “I just can’t force myself to do even the simplest tasks.” My formerly dependable get up and go has abandoned me.
It’s embarrassing and acutely painful to admit that I can’t live up to my own self-proclaimed standards. I don’t want anyone to know that I have fallen off the self esteem cliff, so I hunker down and hide, resting on my laurels, hoping no one will notice I haven’t DONE anything of importance in a long, long time.
I don’t want leave the house because I will have to Be Something I am not right now. I am ambivalent about donning the mask called Nice and Polite, yet I do. I wonder if all that pretending is taking a toll on my psyche. But I am too numb to notice. I am just trying to push myself through the day.
I’ll tell you the worst of it: I hate poor-me, pitiful complaining. When I Google “depression” I am thoroughly put off by the people who dump all their fine whines out in public. I hate them for wasting time writing about something that needs ACTION. Yet action is precisely what I cannot take at the moment. I am play-acting at living and that is unacceptable at all levels.
Could I give you a dozen reasons that I could justify feeling this way? Yes. Are any of them good enough to keep me stuck? No. So why am I stuck?
Depression is a cunning enemy and a deceitful friend. It pretends to want a cure, but smacks me down the minute I feel a rush of optimism. I have become the classic Pushmi-pullyu of Dr. Doolittle fame. I am trying to move two directions at once and am literally at a self stand-off.
Who know where this little stuck-in-the-muck game will go, or when. Wish I could give myself a kick in the behind but a stick of dynamic might be more appropriate. I just need to get myself out of this valley. The view is so much nicer from the mountain top.
Young woman with backpack sitting on cliff’s edge and looking to mountains and clear sky. Summer hiking trip adventure[/caption]
Exercise is good for you. Everyone says so.
It helps you focus, tightens those abs, lifts your spirits, improves ADHD. So why am I so resistant to jumping in to just DO IT?
I found a shirt that inspired me and thought I’d share it with you here:
Ah, if only it was true! I’d be the fittest of the fit. But…I doubt that running late will ever replace the sweaty, painful, repetitive and often boring creature I know as real exercise. Sigh..
But I am trying resistance training… I resist the training! Ha.
When I saw this picture, though, I was horrified. Where did all those lumps and bumps come from? I must have been in denial about the shape my body is in…so I am turning back to Weight Watchers and I am going to dig in the garden (the least offensive of all exercise for me). Maybe I’ll keep you posted.
You know .. I WILL keep you posted! Too often I only share the good stuff so when I go missing it’s usually because I haven’t lived up to my (your?) expectations. So..this time, I will faithfully report my true results. Scary…but good.
I am in my hotel room, hiding away because I screwed up once again and got shamed in front of a crowd of people I care about. It’s a stupid, childish way to handle a screw up and I know it. And yet I am doing it again.
I could just scream at me. Scream at the fact that I tried to do my best (but apparently didn’t) and then someone noticed and called me on it, so I cried in front of them. Scream because I couldn’t pull myself back together enough to sit there afterwards and be supportive of other people’s presentations but instead sank down into self pity and wanted nothing more than to escape and cry even more. Scream because that is exactly what I did — ran from the room and curled up on the floor of the handicapped bathroom stall and sobbed and sobbed like a little child. Scream because I then ran to my room to avoid the looks and the pity… and despite my SELF pity, the last thing I want from anyone is pity. Those condescending looks of “Oh, don’t treat her too roughly, she’s fragile.”
I am not fragile, but I am tender. My sensitive side gets put on the shelf most of the time. Who can live being bruised all the time by careless comments and cruel jokes that I don’t think are funny? I protect that most of the time, but I get blindsided occasionally, despite my best efforts.
I am tired of trying to make nice with the world. I want to be me and not worry about what people think. But dammit I do. My little heart breaks when I screw up like this and I know I have to go back there (I left my computer and purse and phone). I just want to fall into the floor and disappear forever and never, never, never face them again,
I don’t have to. I could quit. Walk away. Put this behind me and “be right” that it was all their fault. But it wasn’t about THEM. It was all about me. My history, my dad telling me in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that I was never gonna be good enough. And here I am proving him right again. I hate that.
I wish I could be light and airy about this and provide some quick tips to pull out of it, so I went on the internet to see what other people said about dealing with adversity and these were some of the “helpful” tips:
1. Learn to find peace within yourself
2.Be deliberate in your actions.
3. Starve anxiety by dealing with it
4. Practice self control …
The list goes on like this…and I have to wonder – what are they talking about?? If I could do all those things I wouldn’t be reacting this way in the first place. “Learn to find peace within yourself?” Are you serious??? Just click that switch and ta-da – instant peace?
I always thought that adversity strengthened our peace of mind by challenging it and shifting it. But where is the shift in my peace of mind and self control now? Now that the tears are finally dry and my face is swollen and my eyes are red and oh-so-attractive for public appearances, I can grudgingly accept that peace of mind would have helped in this circumstance. But it didn’t come into play until later, much later than needed.
I do not want to go back there. I do not want to face them. I want to stay hidden. And I know that staying here, escaping the shame, will only deepen it. And besides, I do need my stuff.
It’s been a pretty bad day. I thought I could get through it without getting weepy. I guess not. And I wish I could ask for some solace, but I won’t because the last thing I need right now is some chirpy little sentiments like “chin up” and “brighter days are ahead.”
It’s quite possible that what I really needed was to wail and beat pillows with my fists and scream (quietly so as not to bother other guests, of course). Because now I am calmer. I am more sane. I just lost it for an instant; that split second of breakage pushed me way past the point of sanity.
Well, wasn’t this an uplifting little blog post? It might just be the first of my “tell it like it is” posts where I am truly authentic even when I am not Ms. ADDiva with all the answers (hint: I don’t have the answers … they are inside you. I just coax them out of you).
I suspect I should go back down for a few minutes and collect my stuff. And I’ll even paste on a smile; that’s socially acceptable thing to do. Actually, I do feel better. I think I can keep it together for a little while longer, as long as no one else challenges me today. Please god, don’t let me do anything else that will shame me. Not today.
My real fear is that I am not the caliber of woman that can actually do what I keep saying I want to do. Perhaps I truly am not up for the challenge. Why do I fold instead of fight? It makes me nuts and I want to change it. Maybe why isn’t the question. Maybe it’s “just get over yourself, Linda and “just do it.” Maybe…
Update four days later: I had every intention of deleting this post, but during last night’s ADDiva webinar, I mentioned my plans. Of course, that made reading the post more tantalizing (and more urgent) so it was read and now people have made comments. It feels wrong to take them down (they took time to think through and write a comment, after all). So I will leave it, slightly edited for grammar and syntax (I love that word). But it is still raw. And the shame was difficult. And I still don’t have good alternatives for the next time it happens. But I’m working on it.
I am NOT a hoarder. Far from it. I make regular trips to the Salvation Army to unburden my household of stuff (that I probably should not have bought in the first place). But I do hang on to some things past their expiration dates.
LIke empty boxes of things I bought. I am afraid I will change my mind or find something terribly wrong with a new purchase so I hang onto the box in case I need to return it. For two years? Uh, I don’t think so.
And vases. I have an absurd collection of vases that have held tenderly chosen bouquets of cut flowers delivered at great expense from the local florist. I am pretty sure the florist picked them up wholesale for a song, but there is something sentimental about those vessels, even when I can’t remember what kind of flowers were contained in them, nor the name of the person who sent them.
Makeup is another bug-a-boo that keeps my life cluttered. I KNEW I shouldn’t have caved in to the cajoling of the perky young sales clerk, but somehow I was convinced that THIS eyebrow pencil was an essential part of my arsenal of beauty weapons. It wasn’t, but I can’t just throw it away. And I can’t donate it; health regulations prevent my eyebrow germs from being transferred to someone else. So it languishes in my makeup drawers. Unless it came from Sephora which blessedly allows me to return stuff for any reason. Even then, I have to remember to take it back, which is also a challenge.
The worst is receipts, those maddening little bits of paper fluff that crinkle and wrinkle and quickly become illegible because the ink fades (whose great idea was THAT, I’d like to know?). Should I save them all? Probably not, but I guarantee that if I recycle it today (after shredding of course) I will need it tomorrow.
I am happy to report that I have a solution that finally works for me: I bought a Neat receipt scanner. It wasn’t cheap, but it gets a workout at my house. I like it because it has slots that are EXACTLY the right width for my skinny receipts. I turn on the scanner, insert the receipt and voila! the soon-to-fade writing is captured in my computer, which then syncs it to Dropbox. It’s mine forever (or until the internet collapses, whichever comes first).
Now I must brag a bit; I am what is known as an “early adopter” of new products. I was convinced that the receipts all over my house could be captured and saved in a computer, so I bought an itty bitty Neat scanner more than six years ago. It didn’t work as advertised. It’s still sitting in the closet where I tossed it (can’t get rid of it – what if I could finally get it to work?).
I’m proud because I finally got this system working. I was just ahead of my time..and the ability of the technology to deliver foolproof operations. I am a happy camper these days.
Now, do you know anyone who needs a few dozen gently used vases?
Researchers have finally acknowledged that ADHD plays out differently for women than it does for men because of our feminine hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
In an article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in April 2014, Ronit Haimov-Kockman and Itali Berger connect the dots between cognitive performance and hormone swings, specifically during the menstrual period. Neuroimaging studies indicated that the menstrual cycle impacts a neural network that is connected to cognitive control of emotion. When you draw a line between the work of Dr. Thomas Brown who now believes that emotion plays a major role in the ADHD brain and this new research, it begins to make sense that women’s ADHD brains are at the whim of forces beyond voluntary control..
Ronit Haimov-Kockman and Berger have no answers about ADHD and hormones, but they certainly raise a lot more pointed questions. They suggest that the evidence points to cognitive functions changing during the menstrual cycle for all women. They state there is growing evidence that female hormones that are involved with “synaptic plasticity and neurotransmitter systems may be associated with some of the clinical characteristics of women with ADHD.” They recommend that future studies take hormones into account when doing research on women’s ADHD.
The catch-22 is that the exact science of sexual hormones is still poorly understand even for non-ADHD women. For instance, conflicting studies show, on one hand, that estrogen plays a significant role in cognition for women and on the other hand, that is has absolutely no impact at all! The authors of the study, which was conducted at the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, conclude that hormonal changes for women may explain the discrepancies between men’s and women’s ADHD symptoms. The line between men’s and women’s symptoms is murky. Remember that men, too, circulate estrogen, and women have some testosterone for that matter.
What does it mean to us? That regardless of our current state of hormones: pregnancy, menstrual cycles, menopause or post menopause, it’s a good bet that our ADHD symptoms are being affected. It’s important to make sure our psychiatrists, counselors, coaches and family understand the influence of hormones on our ADHD. And it’s important for us to notice our hormone status when life seems out of control, then give ourselves a break. After all, our brains ebb and flow with our hormones, no matter how much or little we have on board.
My mom took “diet pills” back in the ’60s and cleaned house until 3 am! Years later she told me that she loved getting so much done. Those little pepper-upper diet pills were amphetamines, the forerunner of popular ADHD medications like Adderall.
Looks like we’ve come full circle: January 30, 2015 the FDA approved Vyvanse•, a long-acting amphetamine, for treatment of binge eating disorder (BED). Shire sought approval for additional treatment use from the FDA long ago, but coincidentally the announcement was made just two weeks after a lisdexamfetamine-BED study was published in the JAMA psychiatric journal (ref: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2089519 ). Vyvanse is Shire’s brand name; lisdexamfetamine is the generic name for this medication.
Research shows astonishing effectiveness in treatment of binge eating disorder. Some participants in the trial actually stopped binge eating, others slowed down, compared to the control group. And they lost weight, too. Not a lot of weight, to be sure, but the trial lasted only four weeks. The follow-up period was three weeks.
Not surprisingly, some of the trial participants dropped out because of side effects from Vyvanse. One died of methamphetamine overdose despite having no prior drug dependence; researchers say the death was unrelated to the study. There was evidence of increased heart rate, which is also reported among ADHD patients. This study reports that the increased heart rate was within “a known safety profile.”
I’m sure Shire is delighted to divert some of its sales force from the ADHD market to diet docs and obesity clinics. And there will be some stellar results for binge eaters, a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Young women with ADHD also tend to have more eating disorders, so perhaps this is doubly beneficial.
But I always err on the side of caution when new meds are released into the market (I know this is merely an additional use, not a new drug!). The trial ran for four weeks; followup was three weeks. Seven weeks does not indicate the effectiveness or potential side effects from long term use. Do binge eaters curb their appetite without the medication after four weeks?
I notice that a high percentage of research articles conclude with a caveat that further study is needed. This article was no exception: it reported that more investigation is ongoing, yet the FDA approved the additional use. The truth is that Vyvanse is a controlled sustance with a black box warning about the high risk of abuse. Read the fine print on the warning label here: http://pi.shirecontent.com/PI/PDFs/Vyvanse_USA_ENG.pdf
What do you think? Does Vyvanse help curb your appetite? Do you know a binge eater who might benefit from this medication? Are YOU a binge eater with ADHD wht has seen a positive effect with lisdexamfetamine/Vyvanse? I’m on the fence — would love to hear from you.
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