Archive for the ‘accommodations’ Tag

Self-Care   Leave a comment

Something I’ve noticed a lot of disabled people are actually pretty bad at is self-care. (Yeah, it could just be my circles, but somehow I doubt it.) We push ourselves to do as much as we think we’re “supposed” to do (for me that is apparently like three times more than other people do in a day) and beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve that goal. When we have a bad day (as in, a day when our body or brain just won’t let us do stuff), we beat ourselves up over how useless we are.

Let’s be clear here: self-care isn’t coddling, it’s taking care of yourself and making sure you get what you need in order to be healthy and safe. Sometimes it means forcing yourself to do stuff, sometimes it means just going with the flow.

For example, when I get depressed one thing that often helps is spending time one-on-one with a good friend. I know this helps my mood lift and gives me energy and motivation, but when I’m depressed I often don’t feel like seeing or interacting with anyone at all. I’d rather just hide myself away in my room and stay there until I feel better. The problem is that doing that won’t help me feel better and is actually more likely to make me feel worse.

Meanwhile, sometimes I have what I call “bad brain days”: days when my executive functioning is shot all to heck and I am doing well to remember to eat. When that happens, I have to take it easy on myself. I lessen my expectations, choose just a few things to try and get done, and promise to be nice to myself if I don’t manage it. It’s not like I have any control over whether or not my brain is going to be able to do stuff on a given day; that’s part of having ADHD.

It’s taken me a long time to learn this, and I still have to work hard to make sure I look after myself properly.

Self-care is different for everyone. We all need to learn to do right for ourselves.

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Disabled Animals   Leave a comment

Luther has a brown bum; both are brown and white Abyssinians.I have four guinea pigs right now, and two of them are rescues – surrendered by their owners due to allergies. One of these guinea pigs, Luther, has some chronic health concerns:

  • he has to be checked daily to ensure that he’s not impacted (kind of like being constipated, but at the point of expression rather than up in the intestines, and I get to clean him out if he is);
  • he seems to have some scarring on his lungs that makes it difficult for him to breathe;
  • due to his breathing difficulties he sometimes has trouble cleaning himself properly, which results in the cleaning fluid guinea pigs secrete in their eyes to spill all over the fur around his eyes and drying there; and
  • his grease gland needs to be checked to ensure that it’s not in danger of becoming infected.

Luther lives with his brother, George, in a nice big cage. They live happy guinea pig lives, eating veggies and pellets and hay and grass, and sleeping and chasing each other around the cage.

Luther’s health concerns are, as I said, chronic, which means that they aren’t going to get better. He will always have these conditions, and will always require the extra care I provide. George and Luther are also both five years old, so they are considered elderly; my job is to keep them comfortable and happy until that’s not possible anymore.

Flame is a tortoiseshell tabby, or torbie.Along with the guinea pigs, we have a cat, Flame, who is seven  years old. Flame was abused when she was younger and spent two years living in a home where the other cats hated her. When she came to us, she had licked all of the fur off her tummy and rear legs, as well as most of her front legs and part of her tail. She was eating a food for cats with allergies.

We aren’t sure if she really has allergies, because the “lick until there is no more fur” behaviour is common in cats who have allergies but also in cats who are incredibly stressed. Now that she is in a less stressful environment, her fur is growing back. Once her tummy has filled in we will take her to the vet and start working to find out if she is really allergic to some kind of food or if it was all just due to stress.

She is also very needy and wants to snuggle with anyone who has a lap. Her purr could shake the house!

Chronic conditions like those George has and the one Flame has can be disabling. But with appropriate care (checking Luther’s bum every day) and accommodations (Flame’s special diet, a less stressful environment) some of the effects can be ameliorated. That doesn’t mean they stop having these conditions, it just means their lives are happy ones and they can do the things they need/want to do without so much difficulty.

Responsibility.   1 comment

Someone made an incredibly ableist, bigoted, horrible comment on a very good post about how ADHD is harder on us than it is on the non-ADHDers in our lives. (I would say fantastic but there is some ableist stuff at the beginning about wheelchair users. Don’t worry, the blogger has been informed and responded really well to the criticism; I think I love her now.) This post is basically a response to that comment, which I will not reproduce here because I would need to ask permission first and I don’t particularly want to be in contact with this person directly. But I am going to try and respond to the comment’s points in the order they were made.

ADHD is a neurological condition (not a chronic illness; I am not “ill”) in which our brains simply do not work the same way as the brains of non-ADHDers. It is not our fault that our brains function differently.

[The comment makes comparisons to alcoholism and depression here and I am very uncomfortable with such comparisons, so I’m not going to do that here.]

It is important that people who have ADHD take responsibility for themselves and their lives. Explore treatment options, learn coping mechanisms, and develop and implement techniques and methods that help us manage our symptoms. When things don’t work, we need to be responsible and make changes and figure out what didn’t work and why, so that we can get things going again. Blaming other people is not a thing we usually do; blaming ourselves, on the other hand… incredibly common.

I have taken medication. I was diagnosed in February 2005 and took Concerta, then Dexedrine, then Strattera, then Dexedrine again. I stopped taking medication in 2008. In 2010 I started taking Adderall, and I took it until July 2013. I stopped because the medication was giving me indigestion and causing me to hyperfocus and giving me anxiety. And amazingly enough, the systems I had implemented while taking Adderall held up to the lack of medication. I have now been med-free for eight months, and I am doing really well.

I do not have a job outside of my home. I am a housewife and I work from home. This was necessary due to anxiety and how completely working decimates my executive functioning. Add to that my introversion, and you have someone who really needs to be alone a lot of the time anyway. I have used alarms, I rely on my day planner, I have routines in place to help me stay on task and get stuff done.

Here’s the thing about ADHD: even medicated, even with all of the strategies in place you can think of, even with all of the “fluff” taken out of your schedule (and then what fun is your life?), even with all of those things in place… ADHD is inconsistent. The only consistent thing about my ADHD is its inconsistency.

I lose track of time really easily. This is a hallmark of ADHD. Time is not concrete. I set alarms, I write things in my day planner, and I aim to leave at least half an hour before I need to be somewhere because it takes half an hour to get to the city from my house. In fact, I plan to leave 45 minutes to a full hour early so that when I am actually heading down the driveway it might actually be half an hour before I need to be wherever I’m going. That strategy doesn’t always work, of course. And when it doesn’t, I try to text or call my friends who I am going to be late for (same with babysitting). I don’t have to worry about appointments because I make them for during a weekday and I spend the entire day in the city so that I can be on time for the appointment without having to worry about that half-hour drive.

I don’t lose my car keys because I keep them in my purse. When I didn’t carry a purse, I kept my wallet and keys in a bin by the front door. Most of us have these systems in place. When we do lose something like this, it’s because our system got disrupted somehow. We dropped our keys or got to talking to someone on the way into the house and put them on the counter instead of the bin by the door and then the mail went on top of the keys and they’re missing because looking underneath things is hard.

ADHD is well-known, to be sure, but it is absolutely not well-understood. We have to deal with jokes about squirrels, comments about how we’re just making excuses, articles by doctors about how ADHD doesn’t exist, and diatribes like the one I’m responding to. We are doing our best. We are trying as hard as we can. We are being told, at every turn, that we are lazy, that we are incapable, that we are incompetent, that the label that helps us understand ourselves is fake, that the medication we take to manage our lives is unnecessary, etc. etc.

“Taking responsibility” for our disability (yes, it is a disability for most of us, please don’t pretend otherwise) means trying everything and still failing. It means that sometimes we are going to have to say “I’m sorry, my ADHD makes that really hard. I’m working on it.” It means that sometimes we need your forgiveness and understanding, because we did our best and everything fell apart anyway.

Because, frankly, listening to you tell me that I’m just making excuses doesn’t fly in polite company. It is disrespectful for you to assume that you know all about my life and how I manage my disability. You need to understand that when I have an ADHD-related “oops” that is not me thinking that “I’m soooo special and important and my time is soooo much more valuable than everybody else’s so just put up with me!!” [I quoted that bit directly. It was too perfect to illustrate this person’s attitude.], it is my ADHD choosing to bugger things up so that I look irresponsible.

I am not irresponsible. I am the complete opposite of irresponsible. I am not inconsiderate, either.

What I am is a person who has ADHD.

And that is not an excuse, it’s an explanation.

Disability vs Impairment: My thoughts.   4 comments

Yesterday I shared this link on Facebook with this comment:

This is a good article. I’m rather iffy on the bit in the middle where she talks about “impairment” being the bit you can’t do no matter what and “disability” being the thing society imposes upon you, because I sure as heck don’t feel “impaired” when executive dysfunction kicks in. 😛

So I was asked how I define “impairment.” Here’s my answer:

The word “impaired” implies that things are not as serious. The distinction she says the social model makes between being “disabled” by society (having ability taken away by something external to oneself) and being “impaired” regardless is cosmetic at best.

When I really want to do something and never get to it because my ADHD decided I should hyperfocus on something completely different (and usually fairly useless), that’s not an “impairment”; it’s an inability to do something I would like to do. That’s a disability. And it’s within, not without.

I feel like sometimes these distinctions are made by people with physical/acquired disabilities and they have forgotten about those of us who don’t fit that profile.

Having said that, I don’t like person-first language either and I am frustrated that the name of my disorder doesn’t lend itself well to identity-first language.

Someone else has now talked about what impairment means and so on, and how “disability” is about social and “impairment” is about objective difficulties with things. But their examples are, again, all about physical disabilities. My response:

Except there aren’t always accommodations that will help. A lot of mental disabilities can’t be accommodated. It seems that the biggest thing for something like what I deal with is often “change your expectations” or “be okay with not being able to do the same stuff as well as you did yesterday” and stuff like that. That’s not an accommodation at all; it’s not allowing me to still get things done (both things I need to do and things I want to do), it’s expecting me to just change my attitude. And that’s not always possible. (Adjusting my attitude has resulted in much better self-esteem and I am much more able to deal with life when ADHD derails my day, but it isn’t an accommodation because it’s not making it so my day stays on track.)

The kinds of accommodations I need from society also aren’t exactly things that you can expect anyone to give. Flexible appointment times for doctors and dentists and so on? It is to laugh. (And by flexible I don’t mean “pick from these available times,” I mean “it’s no big deal if you’re half an hour late because your ADHD is a pain in the butt.”)

And this is the frustration with the social model of disability, and the frustration with the terminology of “impairment” vs “disability.” I don’t experience these things as “impairment”; I experience them as “disability.” As in “I have a lack of ability in this area.” And it’s not something that can be fixed.

I know I’m probably shouting into the wind here. I like the social-relational model of disability a lot, but I don’t like replacing the word “disability” with “impairment” because it implies that it’s not as severe. It implies that if society doesn’t expect my brain to function just like non-ADHD brains, and makes allowances for that and accommodates the difficulties I have because of it, then I am somehow not as disabled/impaired by my ADHD. Like removing stigma and discrimination magically makes my ADHD easier to live with.

It doesn’t work that way.

I know it doesn’t work that way because I have bent and twisted my life as much as possible to accommodate my ADHD, and I am still disabled. I have friends and family who accommodate my difficulties and accept me just as I am, and I am still disabled.

I will always be disabled, even if I wake up tomorrow and everyone believes in and accommodates ADHD.

That’s just how it is.