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Monday, March 17, 2014

Hell Bent ADHD

Please note ouradhdstory shares opinions and thoughts from others which are solely the thoughts of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this blog.

Margo shares her struggle with ADHD and how she found how to make her ADHD work FOR her instead of against her. Warning some language may not be appropriate for children.

I moved away from home and in with my boyfriend (later my husband, later the father of my oldest child, later my ex-husband, and then later nicknamed Numbnuts for the purpose of this blog) at age 17.
Ah crap, I did it again.
Do you see how this story is going to go?  I’ve tried to write this story several times throughout my life, but my ADHD takes me on a ride through back stories and wanting to explain who, what, where, when, and why of every situation.  I was asked by thehiddenillness to share my story to be included on their page.
Okay, let’s begin again.
When I was a teen my mom had me read Driven to Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey, so I had heard of ADHD at a pretty young age.  But, my mom was a bit hypochondriac, so I didn’t give it much thought.  As a teen, I would skip class, but always get makeup work done at some point to allow me to pass the class.  My Senior year I was told that I screwed off so much that I wasn’t going to graduate with my class. I didn’t like that idea, so I hyperfocused in independent study, caught up on 3 semesters of school work, and did, in fact, graduate with my class.  I was the first in my family to graduate on time with a high school diploma.  I don’t know if its relevant, but to paint the picture, I was a loud, outgoing teen, but was overcompensating for insecurities probably derived most likely from the fact that I was extremely obese.  I graduated high school at 340 pounds.
I met Numbnuts (remember, my now ex-husband), in high school.  We moved in with each other when I was 17 years old right after graduation.  We moved in, out, in, out, in, and out.  Finally we married when I was 21, and had a child when I was 22.
My first “real” job was at the Aetna Healthcare call center.  I was confined to my death, oops, I mean desk doing repetitive, mundane, tasks 8 hours a day in a tiny cubicle with no window.  I kept trying to be “happy” in my job, and felt very inadequate and started to notice that something was seriously wrong with me.  I also had very low self-esteem from a traumatizing childhood, so I would allow many people to treat me like a doormat, including asshole supervisors.  However, knowing there was something wrong with me, I kept trying to fit ME into that job.  I finally had a full on nervous breakdown, and reached out to the companies Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  I was sent to Bart – who became my counselor for the next 15 years or so.
Bart worked with me through behavioral counseling.  I kept beating myself up, and he kept putting the focus back on managing this thing called ADD.  I read the books he recommended, and we started to dissect my daily living.  He also had me go to see my primary doc to ask for Ritalin.  But, I was so freaked out about taking medication that I never stayed on it for long enough to see it help, and relied on willpower and force to get my life in order.  (My aversion to medication comes from the alcohol and drug abuse I witnessed by my parents growing up.  I was hell bent to not be like them.)
I learned things about myself.  I learned that I tackled life as “all or nothing” and to extremes.  There were no gray areas.  Either something was horribly bad, or fantastically good.  I was either “all in” or “all out” on every decision I made.  Once I made a decision, I beat it to death, even after it had proven its ineffectiveness, as I felt like I was a loser if I didn’t make it work.  I was in a horrible, crazy, prison of my mind that took years to see differently.  To further keep me in that prison, being married to Numbnuts provided enough ridicule and negativity on a daily basis to keep me heading down the wrong path.  However, through counseling, I was making small strides towards a functional life.
Also, I had amazing resolve and tenacity surrounding my dedication to raising my child right.  I did not want to repeat the mistakes of my parents, and again, was hell bent to get it right with my child.  For me, my child was my compass to being the best me I could be.  I would not have had the motivation to do so had it not been for my child.  I am so grateful for that today.
Bart (my counselor) and I worked on baby steps.  We faced head on the fact that I would let things build up and mount because mundane tasks were, well mundane and weren’t “shiny” enough to hold my attention.  We took one task, like opening and sorting the mail everyday.  I would do that for a few weeks, and then we would add an additional task, like washing the dishes every night.  These small tasks might seem like “no brainer” activities for others, but for me, they went completely against the grain.  However, once I incorporated these simple things into my daily life, I began to realize how much better I felt about myself and how it alleviated much stress and depression.  I constantly felt like the world was going to swallow me whole one day, and these little maintenance tasks helped me feel better.
Through therapy, I also learned how counterproductive my marriage was, and I begged Numbnuts to go to therapy with me.  He didn’t.  I kept getting “better”, so we separated, got back together, bought a house, separated, and finally divorced.  I was on my own and away from a man’s ridicule and judgement for the first time in my life.  This is when I started to shine.  I continued to take baby steps, week by week to bring order to the comfortable chaos that had sabotaged my life.
Between the ages of 17 and 32, I had lived in 12 houses/apartments.  Between the ages of 17 and 32 I had at least 12 different employers.  Numbnuts constantly reminded me that I was a flake, and I hated that I felt he was probably right.  However, at age 26-32, I did a lot of work on myself, more counseling, tried different medication combinations, and ton of soul searching.   Being single and not worried about what a spouse might think really helped me start to understand what looked like flakiness, disorder, and erratic behavior was my ADHD.  I kept “shoulding” all over myself.  I should be happy in this job.  I should be happy in this home.  I should be happy in this relationship. I should be able to see this task through like other people.  I should enjoy this activity.
I finally quit shoulding on myself, and found some backbone and self-esteem.  Instead of looking at life like the situation was a privilege that I need to TRY and not piss away, I started to see my qualities and strengths, and shifted my thinking so that I quit putting myself in situations that weren’t right for me.  I started acknowledging my strengths and what I was good at.  Like:  multitasking, creativeness, meeting people, small talk, building rapport, meeting short term goals, motivating people, drive…  Through this, I also found I had a knack for discerning if people were in the right job, and if they should be moved to better fit their strengths and weaknesses.
This period of self-awareness built my self-esteem.  I finished my Associates degree, then worked on my Bachelors.  I switched majors a few times, but finally finished my Bachelors (all the while accidentally securing a 2nd Associates), and now I am 3 classes from finishing my MBA.  Before, I didn’t have the self-assurance to know that switching paths is OK.  I felt like a failure anytime I changed course.  But, my time being single helped me build the awareness that I CAN BE PROUD of the fact that I FINISHED, even if my path didn’t look stable.  I still got there.
6 years ago I was extremely fit and felt very self-aware, strong, and empowered.  I started making my ADHD work FOR me instead of against me.  I loved my life, and felt that I had reached a point where I was finally living up to MY full potential based on MY assessment and MY own values.  I finally found me.  My life was filled with dating men for “fun” and being extremely curious about others.  I loved dating.  It fed my need for learning about others and constantly new stimulating activities.  I loved sorting out how people were different and seeing what made them tick.  My job at the time involved the same activities.  I was an enrollment counselor for a University, and was very successful.  Yes, I spent a lot of time at my desk, but my cubicle had low walls, a ton of activity, and my days were split up with meeting new people face to face and uncovering their hopes, dreams, and goals.  I was great at my job, and great at my social life.  I also fed my need for challenges by joining Team in Training and trained and completed an olympic triathlon.  For the first time in my life, I saw that I was good at MANY things.  I used to just think I was BAD at EVERYTHING.  I felt athletic.  I went hiking, by myself, 2-3 times a week.  I also went on scuba diving trips once a month.  I love looking back on that time in my life.  But the most important thing, and the thing that I was (and am) best at is being a mom.
I met my Hubby (my current husband) 6 years ago.  I had intended just to “date” him, but I met him, and I fell head over heals (oops, I mean heels) in love.  He too has ADHD, but wasn’t as screwed up as I was by his childhood, and somehow accidentally structured his life to help him be successful.  We traveled and hiked together, quickly married, and quickly had 3 more kids.  See, even though I am much more self-aware about my ADHD, if I see something bright and shiny, and worth it, I go after it and jump “all in”.  The best part of Hubby is that he was the first person who didn’t tire of my pace in life, and could keep up with me.  However, having children slowed everything down.  I left my job to stay home with my babies, and am still hell bent to be a great mom.   Through time I learned that my oldest has Aspergers (and in hindsight, I think Numbnuts did too).
The stay-at-home-mom gig has been tough to figure out.  I had to reinvent myself again to find what would continue to fuel me to balance out some of the mundane and routine tasks of motherhood and housekeeping.  Once my uterus was shut down for business, I began taking those baby steps I learned way back when I first met Bart the Counselor.  I struggled with severe depression.  I hadn’t taken medication for many years.  But here I was, again, not having the freedom to jump up and find something stimulating to do, and it started to choke me again.  But then, after waiting and waiting and waiting and hoping that my 2nd oldest would “grow out” of some things, we finally saw a psychiatrist.
Guess what, the child has SEVERE ADHD.  Worse than mine.  Rages.  Stress.  Tics.  Anxiety. Biting.  Self-harm.  This child was tortured by her own being.  This child has scared us to death by running off, escaping our home, and impulsively putting self in harms way.  A few months ago we put our child on Adderall and Risperdone.  It’s been a roller coaster, but the change has been amazing.  I also got myself back on real medically managed Rx’s.  I take Vyvanse, Seroquel, and Prozac.  It has been seriously amazing to see ADHD properly managed.  We are continuing to adjust to find the right levels.  But seeing the change in our child, watching our child become calm, and happy, and not so tortured by just “being”, has been so rewarding.  Now, in this season of life, I am learning even more about myself by learning more about my child’s Dx.  I see how much I needlessly struggled when medication could have made all the difference for me as a child.  I love that I get a chance to do it again through my child’s eyes, and I see that I was picked to be this child’s mommy for a reason.
Now, I am HELL BENT to make sure my child’s diagnosis is something that can be capitalized on – meaning, my child can use its strengths and not be tortured by its weaknesses (like I was for so long).  I am going to point out the advantages, and how in the right setting and right behavioral framework, the sky is the limit.  In many ways, I have learned to love my ADHD.  I love how spontaneous I can be.  I love that I have ideas constantly….like every single minute.  I love how technology can aid in the organization of “brilliant ideas” instead of just seeing those ideas as chaos.  I love how I can harness my energy to achieve great things, and also know when I need a “break”.  I love how I have learned to ask for those breaks without guilt, knowing that a focused break will give me the fuel to perform at much higher levels than the average bear.  I think my ADHD makes me so interesting.  I am so fascinated by my child.  My ADHD child is by far the most challenging to parent and raise, but at the same time, the most interesting, fascinating and rewarding.
I WISH THAT my parents could have seen me that way.  I wish that my past relationships would have nurtured, fueled and sustained me.  I mourn for the lost years that were filled with self-loathing.  I see the potential, and it often depresses me over the opportunity lost.  But, it also gives me hope for my future and for my child.
ADHD is not illness, it is an attribute.  It is only an illness when we try to fit ourselves into societies traditional roles and molds.  ADHD can be a framework for brilliance.  ADHD, if understood and used to its full potential, can make a person almost superhuman, and the envy of peers.  There is no normal with ADHD, and I think “normal” and it’s judging disproving eyes is what is wrong with our society.
My wish is for every child with ADHD to grow up believing they are gifted with this great attribute that makes them stand apart from normal society, and see that as wonderful thing!
Yes, I’m different.  If I was given the choice, and they were handing out these attributes, I would be the first in line for ADHD.
At 17 years old, I began to discover the impact of ADHD and saw it as what was WRONG with me.  Now, at 38, I see it as everything that is RIGHT about me, my husband, and my child.
Hell Bent,


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