Archive for the ‘success’ Tag

Acceptance III   Leave a comment

As promised, I’m going to talk about the treatability of ADHD.

Russell Barkley says that ADHD is the most treatable mental disorder. He’s sort of right, but there are problems with that statement. There are actually problems with the concept of treatment as it currently stands.

So let’s look at the concept of treatment and then we can talk about whether or not ADHD is actually treatable.

Society has taught us that it is best to be neurotypical. We should be neurotypical, we should live our lives as though we are neurotypical, and any difficulty we have achieving that goal is a failure. Treatment is meant to bring us “back to normal” – that is, it’s supposed to make us more neurotypical, so that we can live like neurotypicals and have a better quality of life and be happy. Because the assumption is that you can only be happy if you are neurotypical, and your quality of life must be horrible if you aren’t living the same way as neurotypical people do.

There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t really know where to begin.

Let’s start with the assumption that you have to be neurotypical to be happy and to have a good quality of life.

I know lots of people who have mental disorders and developmental disabilities that affect their cognitive functioning, and most of them are happy and have good quality of life. Obviously neurotypicality is not necessary for either happiness or quality of life.

So if that assumption is incorrect, then it must also not be true that we need to live like we’re neurotypical in order to be successful, to be happy, and to have a good quality of life. Which means that treatment in order to be “more normal” is ableist and unnecessary.

Now, that doesn’t mean that treatment itself is unnecessary. If a condition is causing difficulty in an area that really matters to you, and you want help with that area and there is something out there that can help, treatment is a great thing. But the goal of treatment should never be “change my brain and my life so that I am neurotypical,” because not only is that impossible, it’s ableist and an incredibly negative way to approach something that is so pervasive and intrinsic to your life and your identity.

So that’s why the current concept of treatment is a bad one. And I know this is what people think, because I get questions from people all the time asking why they still have trouble with particular things even though they’re taking medication. I get questions asking if medication is going to change their personality. And I get these questions because people are told that medication is the most effective form of treatment for ADHD, and they think that “treatment” means “no more ADHD,” and that’s just plain wrong.

So how treatable is ADHD, really?

Well, in the current concept of treatment (as sort of a cure), it’s not treatable at all. There are no treatments out there that will make a person suddenly have a neurotypical brain. The best medication can do is make it so that our brains function more like they’re neurotypical, so it’s easier to do certain things while it’s in our system, but it doesn’t actually make us neurotypical, and we still have to work at things that neurotypicals find easy.

There are a lot of treatments for ADHD. I’ve listed a lot of them here:

Medication – This is the first-run option. A lot of people never get past this component of a treatment plan, and that’s not great because you need to be prepared if you have to stop taking medication for some reason.

Diet – A good diet that has lots of protein (not like ridiculously high, just higher than average) is important for good brain function. Other important components here include Omega-3 fatty acids (found in eggs and fish, for the most part) and plenty of vegetables, as well as complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole wheat bread and pasta, beans, potatoes).

Exercise – Regular exercise (especially cardio) is amazingly good for your brain! It wakes up your entire body and keeps dopamine in your system, which is great since dopamine is one of the primary neurotransmitters involved in ADHD.

Sleep – When we sleep, our bodies do a bunch of things like healing and rejuvenating. Our brains do that, but they also work through all of the events of the day, committing things to long-term memory and stuff like that. We need to make sure we’re getting at least eight hours of sleep per night to make sure our brains are functioning at their best.

Supplements – Krill oil (or other fish oil), rhodiola, reishi, and other supplements listed here (my father-in-law’s business) can be helpful in promoting optimum functioning. Dr Amen also has some suggestions in his book Healing ADHD.

ADHD Coaching – ADHD coaches help you learn, develop, and implement strategies that work for you, so that you can better manage your ADHD symptoms and be able to do well if you have to stop taking medication.

Talk Therapy – Sometimes you have a lot of stuff you need to work through, so this can be very helpful, whether you see a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This is a type of behavioural therapy where the practitioner (a psychologist or social worker with training in CBT) helps you think through your behaviours and come up with better ways to react to different situations.

Meditation – If you’re able to meditate, this can be really helpful in getting your mind centred and teaching your brain to actually concentrate or focus on what you want it to.

Mindfulness – This is something I’ve been hearing more about lately, and it seems to be about getting us to focus on the actual now and the immediate future, rather than dwelling on the past or thinking really far into the future. Being truly present in the moment instead of jumping ahead in conversations or tuning out because something else caught our attention.

That’s rather a lot. And not one of these things is going to make you neurotypical.

But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Why should we try to live like we’re neurotypical, when we aren’t? Rather, shouldn’t we be working towards living the best life we can, as people who have ADHD? Yes, some of my symptoms cause me distress and those need to be managed somehow, but other than that does it really matter that my mind makes random connections, that I lose track of time, that I hyperfocus on silly little things?

My life has a number of qualities that are the same as the life of a neurotypical. There are also lots of things about my life that are different and are probably kind of strange. And, of course, there are things about my life and about how my brain works that cause disasters, but there are also things about both of those things that are amazing and wonderful, and I don’t see why the presence of disasters should automatically mean that my life or my brain is wrong, that I shouldn’t be how or who I am.

I am a person. I have ADHD. I am valuable as I am, regardless of how “neurotypical” I make myself seem. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be neurotypical to be worthy of respect, of attention, of achieving success on my own terms.

Society doesn’t determine those things about me. I do.

This is part three of a series. I don’t know how long the series will be or when I’ll post the next installment. I’m not sure what I’ll talk about next. I just don’t think I’m quite finished talking about this yet.

Acceptance I   Leave a comment

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being told to think of my ADHD as a gift instead of as a disability. I’m tired of having things suggested to me as ways to overcome my ADHD. I’m tired of being encouraged – expected, even – to try and force my brain to function like that of a neurotypical human being. And I’m tired of being told, when I express my dislike of these kinds of things, that I am being too negative or something like that, when I’m not.

I see it everywhere I turn. It’s all over the ADHD web sites and you can read all about it in ADHD books of all kinds. And the people saying these things are, just as often as not, ADHDers themselves.

I can be negative, absolutely. And in my youth I was angsty as heck. I’ve even been clinically depressed (more than once, though I was only diagnosed and treated once). I don’t think that my objection to the above is negative. It’s realistic, and it’s evidence that I don’t think of ADHD in quite the same way as other people.

Here is how I think of ADHD. You do not have to agree with me. This is what works for me, and it is what I wish I could see more of on the web sites and in the books.

ADHD is not a gift. It is a disability. It is a disorder that causes serious problems, regardless of how many accommodations you have at school or at work, and regardless of how much you twist your life to make it fit the ADHD mold.

ADHD does not need to be “overcome.” I’m not sure what that even means, since at its most basic level ADHD affects how we perceive and interact with the world around us. It’s a pervasive disorder, after all; it affects every single aspect of our lives. I would prefer to work with my ADHD, to find ways to use it to my advantage and ways to convince it to allow me to get stuff done when I really want to do so.

My brain does not need to function the same as a neurotypical brain. It is my brain, and it is an ADHD brain. I think that’s beautiful, even if it is disabling and annoying and frustrating most of the time.

Is this revolutionary? It feels like it must be, because it flies in the face of so much conventional wisdom.

I run the Actually ADHD blog on Tumblr, and I answer a lot of questions every day about what ADHD is, how to deal with ableism, and what kinds of things might help people accomplish things they need/want to achieve. On Tuesdays we have “Terrific Tuesday,” which is a chance for people to send in things they’re proud of having accomplished lately so we can all cheer for them. It doesn’t matter how big or small the things are, we want to hear them all. On Fridays we have “Feel Good Friday,” which is a chance for people to share any positives they have found in their ADHD.

When I’m answering people’s questions, I do research. I look up medications at drugs.com so I can discuss potential side effects. I look on PubMed for studies about things that I don’t know a lot about (sometimes I’m not very successful). When they’re asking how to deal with ableism, I try to use common sense. Same with things like how to study for a test or disclose their diagnosis to a friend.

Throughout all of this, I try to maintain a positive tone. I don’t pretend that ADHD is all sunshine and roses, because it definitely isn’t. But a lot of the time, if someone asks if something is normal, I will tell them that obviously it’s normal for them and as long as it isn’t hurting anyone or disruptive to others, it doesn’t matter if it’s normal for anyone else.

I still recommend those writers and those web sites, even though I disagree with some of their ideas on a very fundamental level, because it’s all we have right now. And I find it so frustrating that the way I think of my ADHD is not something I can find anywhere except on a blog that I run. Sometimes I don’t want to be revolutionary, I just want to be supported the way I support other people. I want to be accepted as an ADHDer, no strings attached. No “as long as you don’t talk about how disabling it is.” No “as long as you work to overcome it.” No “as long as you’re trying to pass as neurotypical.

I shouldn’t have to “pass” to be accepted.

ADHD is part of me. Accept me, accept my ADHD.

I won’t accept anything less.

This is part 1 of a series. I’m not sure how long the series will be or when I will post the next part, I just know I’m not finished with this topic.

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.

Accepting disabilities   Leave a comment

Lots is going on right now.

This month is Autism Awareness Month in the US, which means that it’s become Autism Awareness Month all over the world, because heaven forbid other countries choose different months (did you know that Canada’s Autism Awareness Month is actually in October?); today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day.

The online autistic community [a group in which I am including allistic – non-autistic – allies] has rallied around Amanda Baggs, a prominent autistic activist, because she is in the hospital and the medical staff had been trying to convince her she shouldn’t get a feeding tube – something she needs because she’s been aspirating so much that without the tube she will probably die sooner than later. The campaign of e-mails and phone calls worked, and she is receiving the tube today.

Lots of other people have written about how the kind of awareness that is promoted by days and months like this leads to situations like Amanda’s. The wider autistic community has chosen to reject the idea of “awareness” and instead promote acceptance of autism.

Disabled people are devalued in our society. The attitude that Amanda has been dealing with is far too common. Expectant parents are routinely pressured to abort fetuses if prenatal testing shows any kind of abnormality (and babies born with disorders like severe apoxia are neglected, on the doctors’ orders). People’s medical needs are ignored because they have mental or developmental disorders. People are encouraged to seek their own deaths, to relieve the pressure on their caregivers. Supposed caregivers (including staff, who are paid to support individuals with disabilities) get away with systematic abuse (of every kind). And supposed caregivers (all too often, parents) are given light sentences after they murder the disabled people they’re supposed to be caring for, because it is so stressful to do so.

Note that the links in that paragraph are for more than one country.

We shouldn’t have to justify our existence.

Every day, I read things from people that basically say “I may be disabled, but I [do all of these things] so I deserve to exist.” The worse ones go so far as to say “At least I’m not [X].” (Where X is a “more severe” disability.) We shouldn’t have to say these things, but we do, because if we can’t prove that we’re worthy of respect and rights and all that other stuff non-disabled people never have to think about, well… people die.

I find it demeaning that I have to point out all of the ways in which ADHD disables me, in order to get people to accept that this condition is real and damaging, and then turn around and point out all of the ways in which I am successful, in order to get these same people to recognize that I am a human being. I don’t want pity, I want understanding and acceptance.

Let’s talk about acceptance for a while, shall we? So many people think that “acceptance” means “stop trying.” I don’t know how to tackle that, so I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’m going to describe what acceptance really means.

Acceptance means meeting people where they are at, right now. It means seeing the person as a whole, not just a small part of them. It means finding out what is important to them, what they want to achieve in life, and what kind of help they might need to get there. It means understanding that people’s differences are important and valuable. It means learning what is hindering people from living the lives they want to live, and working to help them have their lives as they want them. It means quality of life, it means success on their terms (not society’s terms), and it means respecting people.

Promoting acceptance automatically promotes awareness. The more we accept people for themselves, as they are; the more we respect others simply because they are human beings; the more we refuse to be afraid of showing our unique traits to the world… the more the world becomes aware of us, our needs, and our humanity.

About being “strong.” (October 4, 2012, Tumblr)   Leave a comment

From this post:

I want to talk about how I’m a “strong person.” I lived for 28 years without knowing I had ADHD, and even though I couldn’t figure out how to adult, I somehow managed to achieve “success.”

I want to talk about how I don’t feel strong a lot of the time, and how I spit out the phrase like it’s poison, because it’s something I feel I have to be, not something I want to be or even really am.

I want to talk about how I’m a “successful person.” I have a university degree and completed the coursework for a second, and I worked full-time (or something resembling it) for nearly a decade.

I want to talk about how I have never really felt successful, and how I never feel like I deserve the praise I receive from people for the things I do, even though I know that I do those things well and worked hard to do a good job.

I am not “strong”; I am determined. There is a difference.

I am determined to achieve my kind of success. I want to prove – to everyone, but particularly to myself – that I can do that. I want to make my life what I want and what I need. I want to be happy. And I am determined to make that happen.

Also, I am not “strong”; I am stubborn. There is a difference.

I refuse to give up on something because it’s hard. I return to things like moderating the Reference Desk and being an ML for NaNoWriMo every single year because I’m stubborn.

Being determined and stubborn are probably the two character traits that led to the “success” that I have.

I remember once a friend told me I was successful. I was flabbergasted.

How could I be successful when my house was a disaster?

How could I be successful when I was always broke?

How could I be successful when I had so much trouble paying my bills?

How could I be successful when I was always late for nearly everything?

How could I be successful when I still hadn’t achieved my primary goal, which was to be a published author?

How could I be successful? How?

…because I had a Bachelor of Music and had completed the coursework for a BA in Psychology.

Education makes a person “successful,” apparently. The fact that I was barely managing to adult “properly,” barely keeping a roof over my head, and – really – barely getting by… had no impact on whether or not I was perceived as being “successful.” And this friend knew all of my struggles.

It took me a really long time to stop explaining away compliments people gave me. It’s something I’ve done all my life. I finally learned to just say “thank you” and leave it at that. People don’t want to know (and don’t care about) the reasons why whatever it is isn’t really as good as they think it is. And that’s okay.

Another quote from my other post:

I want to talk about how changing my environment and my life situation to better suit my brain hasn’t cured my ADHD. About how all those “experts” who say that ADHDers find it easier to focus on things they enjoy and things they’re interested in are full of shit. About how hard I’m working to get my house in order, because I want it to be comfortable and I want to be able to redecorate and I want to be able to finally organize our books and things like that. About how much I hate my medication right now because it’s making me miserable physically due to indigestion, but I can’t stop taking it or I’ll eat everything in the house and regain all the weight I’ve worked so hard to lose over the last few years.

I work so very hard, every day, at making my life bend to my brain. I have established routines, because it is easier to get shit done if there’s a natural flow to the activities, to the tasks, to the chores, whatever you want to call them. And I still don’t get things done the way I want to.

I used to read constantly. I fell out of the habit and I’m slowly building it back into my life, a little at a time. I love writing and creating in general, whether it’s drawing or painting or working with clay or yarn. Making these things happen is extremely difficult. These are preferred activities, things I want to do. But they are not things I do, they are not things I hyperfocus on easily anymore, they are not things that happen the way I want them to happen.

In 2008, I weighed 255 lbs. When I got married, in 2010, I was about 245 lbs. Since taking up running last spring, I’ve lost 20-25 lbs and plateaued. I still run. I am still hopeful that I will lose more weight and manage to get back below 200 lbs someday soon. I am beginning to wonder if that will ever happen. I’m pretty sure that eating too little due to Adderall-induced indigestion is not going to help matters.

I’m very tired, you know.

I’m tired of trying so very hard. I’m tired of working so very hard. I’m tired of expending so much effort in order to meet expectations. Not just others’ expectations, either; I’m tired of my own expectations, too.

I’m not “strong.” Never tell me that I am.

I am a broken person. Not because I have ADHD, though it is obviously a disability and some people would say that it means my brain is broken. But because everyone is broken in some way. Because other people have broken me. Because I have broken myself.

Yet on I plod, pushing myself to keep going, to be successful, to figure out what success means for me so I’ll know when I’ve achieved it.

I’m not “strong.” Strength left me a long time ago; it was beaten out of me years back. I’m determined. I’m stubborn. And determination and stubbornness will get me where I want to be, where strength never could.