Skill in the Pill

Posted: September 15, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

ADHD artHonestly, had a doctor diagnosed me with polio I would have been less shocked. An attention issue was never on my radar. I can carry on a conversation in a crowded room for at least two minutes before I start looking over the person’s shoulder at who else might be in the room. If I had attention deficit issues I’d start doing that after 15 seconds, right?

Well, as part of “middle-age reconstruction,” Life Coach Laura decided we should consider putting Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) on my menu of issues. Her credentials in the field spoke for themselves, with more than 20 years of clinical study and analysis devoted to attention deficit. After a lengthy true-or-false test and a couple short-answer responses she concluded that, yup, I’ve got it.

Well, turns out there’s more to ADHD than just the inability to carry on a conversation in a crowded room. What exactly were my test results? Well, only that I:

* have trouble focusing on mundane tasks
* get bored easily
* overlook details
* rush through unpleasant tasks, resulting in mistakes
* act without thinking about consequences
* have a sense of underachievement
* don’t deal well with frustration
* suffer mood swings
* have trouble staying motivated
* feel insecure and have low self-esteem
* crave excitement
* don’t do well following corporate rules
* have trouble managing finances
* am impatient when things are slow
* prefer doing things my way
* take things very literally
* have fleeting thoughts of suicide

Um, OK. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Laura and I then started talking about practical ways this might be showing up in my daily life. And slowly the evidence became convincing.

I could see how ADHD may have affected my business as a real estate agent. When things were running smoothly and the process worked as it was supposed to, I was fine. But when it dragged on and on, writing multiple offers and losing bidding wars, putting deals in escrow only to have them fall out of escrow, and having to put those same buyers back in my car to start the process all over again, I went nuts! As things dragged on, my professionalism lagged. My interest waned. I couldn’t stand it. I was ready to move on to something new.

And I could see how ADHD may have impacted the paperwork part of my work. God, I hated the paperwork! I would prefer a Yanni listening party over paperwork. I couldn’t wait to get through it, so I rushed, making mistakes along the way.

Or reading a book? I would sometimes stop and realize I’d just read all the words on the page–all the while thinking about something completely different. And I’d have no idea what I’d just read.

Or my relationship with other people. Now this got a little spooky. I can see how I could have treated certain people who didn’t capture and hold my attention. I tended to surround myself with people whom I considered to be considerably smarter and more interesting than me. I was challenged (in a good way) by being around them. And if someone didn’t do that for me, I guess I’d cut my losses and move on.

I had a “eureka” moment right there on Laura’s couch while we were looking over all of this. When I understood all the symptoms, I was convinced that I did indeed have an attention issue.

Never one to shy away from a pill to fix a problem, I jumped right into a daily regimen of Ritalin. I was in the midst of a full-blown review of my life and I was failing miserably, by my own account. Perhaps ADHD was a factor in that failure. And if Ritalin was part of the solution, then let the pill popping begin.
ADD art post
After some tweaking (now 20 mg a day, for those scoring at home) I have to say I believe the medication has made a world of difference. I know there are plenty of skeptics who think ADHD is an invented condition, or that Ritalin is overprescribed, particularly to school-aged kids. I’m sure some think Americans are just looking for justification to take an amphetamine (a.k.a. speed).

I don’t really care what you call it. If it’s truly a fictitious ailment I can only tell you that the remedy for the fantasy problem is pretty remarkable. My frame of mind is much healthier than it’s been in years–even though my financial situation is no different and my pursuit of meaning in middle age is far from finished. But I am now focusing on important things like goals and solutions. And optimism.

Here’s what I know to be true, before and after:

Pre-Ritalin: I’m hopeless. I’ll never find another job. I can’t get out from underneath this debt. I’m old and there’ no place for me in the world. I’m a loser. I’ve squandered all of my good fortune. No one wants to be around me because I’m pathetic. I’d consider offing myself if my mother weren’t still alive.

Throw in hyperventilating, panic attacks, nervous pacing, night sweats, and insomnia. And of course, depression (which I’m now combating with a daily dose of Celexa). It was a recipe for almost complete paralysis.

On Ritalin: A not so cut-and-dry explanation, but here’s the reality: I now spend very little time obsessing about money problems. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still there with no conclusive fix in sight. The only thing that’s different is how I address the issue on a daily basis. My new approach is that my life belongs to me and not my debtors. I will not walk away from my financial responsibilities (and I never have). But I’ll no longer let them control how I feel about me and my future.

Speaking of the future, I’m not as freaked out about it as I’ve been. I have developed a multi-pronged attack to tackle my professional goals (more on this in a future post). It’s a plan that, for once in my life, I haven’t abandoned after a couple hours or couple weeks. Trust me, this is progress.

It seems the self-defeating merry-go-round has finally slowed to a crawl. Maybe, just maybe, the days when gloom crippled my ability even to get through the day are finally over. And if Ritalin is to thank, then I give credit where credit is due. Because I don’t really need a label for what it’s curing. I just know it’s working.

(To be continued…)

  1. Steve Fox says:

    Nice work. Sounds all so familiar

  2. Rick says:

    It sounds as though Laura is doing a good job of giving you insight also!

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