Monday, May 2, 2011

No, I Don't Have ADHD....Oh Look! A Chicken!

I admit it, I stole the title for this post from a t-shirt my oldest son used to wear.  But sometimes I swear that I don't have bipolar disorder.  I have got to have ADHD...ahhh, questioning our diagnoses.  Since it takes so long to get the right one and then we're never really sure if we've got it, not to mention how little time our psychiatrists spend with us every three months to get our medication refills, sometimes I have to really wonder.  Is it bipolar or am I just depressed with a huge dollop of ADHD put in there?

The Washington Post Magazine ran an article in yesterday's paper about mothers who are suffering from ADHD and are undiagnosed and driving themselves and everyone in their world crazy.  Here's one quote that caught my attention:

Its hallmark symptoms - the inability to pay attention, get organized, and start or finish tasks; a penchant for spacing out, forgetting or losing things; and, for some, the inability to sit still, stop talking or be patient and a tendency to act or blurt things out impulsively - have long been thought to affect only children.  Particularly boys. read that to Justin and he started laughing when I asked him who that sounded like.

One of the women who agreed to be interviewed for the article was referred to a psychologist by her doctor before he would agree to prescribe a schedule II drug like Ritalin, since apparently ADHD symptoms are commonly used when people go in to see if they can score some drugs.  The psychologist led her down a list:  Difficulty concentrating.  Distracted.  Disorganized.  Restless.  Fidgety.  Impulsive.  Mood swings.  And, finally, excessive talking.  Oh that last one really got Justin going...if there was an Olympic medal is excessive talking, I would be standing on the platform, accepting the gold.

People in my life have long complained that they can never finish a sentence when they are around me.  But here's the thing.  Even though I have pretty much every single symptom listed above, I've tried Ritalin and it just doesn't work.  The only thing I got out of it was a stomach ache.

How do you know if you've got the right diagnosis?  I don't know myself.  I am pretty sure they got mine right, because I was hospitalized and psychologically tested out the wazoo.  And that was before I learned how to keep the bipolar symptoms from popping up when I am given a psych form to fill out.  When you have a degree in psychology and study it all the time, it gets pretty easy to spot the questions on the forms that will make you stand out as one thing or another.

And the symptoms of ADHD overlap so well with the symptoms of bipolar.  Manic people are restless, fidgety, can't finish any task they start, and talk too much and also too fast.  Bipolar people clearly have mood swings.  They also can't focus on a topic for more than 30 seconds and have grand plans that never come to fruition.

I'll give you an example.  This morning.  I finally got myself alert around 8:30.  Went downstairs around 9:00 to get breakfast and meds.  Realized I needed to wash our sheets.  Came back up to get the sheets and thought I should probably check my email.  The email had a comment waiting to post on my blog, so I linked to the blog and posted up the comment and my response.  Saw there were new entries on the blogs that I read, so read a couple.  Thought I should put up a new entry, but first, what was going on on Facebook.  Oh, wasn't Bin Laden killed last night?  Check the news.  Remember I was supposed to be doing the sheets, but thought I would get a shower first.  Then my mom called, so I talked to her for a half hour or so and totally forgot about the laundry.  Took my shower and remembered the laundry, so got dressed and went downstairs with my wet hair still in the towel and put the towels from the boys' bathroom into the washer.  Damn it, I forgot the sheets. Oh, the boys' sheets probably need to be washed too, so I gathered all of the sheets together and threw them over the railing to pick up when I went back downstairs.  Went back and dried my hair and put on makeup.  Back downstairs, but the washer hadn't finished, so talked to Justin about dinner and went to get the chicken out of the freezer.

Oh.  Geez.  I've totally forgotten the cat needed meds this morning and it is now noon.  The sheets are not yet in the washer, although it's probably stopped by now.  When I rechecked my email, there was a notice from the libary that my books were due in two days, so went back downstairs to get my library card and renew them so I don't have to run over there this week.  Came back up and renewed the library books.  Thought I should start a blog entry, so opened up the new post screen and started writing.

The sheets are still not in the washer.

Are you exhausted yet?  This is my day...every day.  But it is not ADHD.  It is a bipolar lack of ability to follow through on any task I start along with a hypomanic mixed state.  I've been here long enough to know exactly what is going on with my head, but I am totally powerless to stop it.  I would love to be able to slow down long enough to remember where I put my water glass or set down my medication on the way to some other task that I began two hours ago.  But my brain just doesn't work that way.  There are times, like right this minute, where I am insisting to myself that I finish one thing - this blog entry - before I go do something else and stop that in the middle.

The funny thing is that even with all of this rolling around in my head, things still manage to get done and kids get where they need to go (thanks, in large part, to my husband).  The laundry will all get done eventually.  And even put away eventually.  I will medicate the cat - eventually.  These things will happen.  I just seem to work on a different time schedule than the rest of the world.  Call it bipolar or call it ADHD...whatever it is, it affects my ability to function properly.  And it also is somewhat funny in a weird kind of way.  But living in my brain wears me out most of the time.

The point of this post is that if you do have any of the symptoms I listed above from the Post's article, you might want to go see your doctor.  Apparently, women with ADHD are way underdiagnosed, as most people always believed that ADHD was a boys' thing.  So if you have way more trouble concentrating, focusing, finishing things, you might want to check into that.

I've got to go put the sheets in the washer.  And get the cat's medicine.  And walk the dog...and I might want some lunch, since it's now lunchtime.  Where, oh where does the time go?

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