Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elle is officially a space cadet.

So, as if my life isn't hectic enough, this past week in addition to weaning down my dose of fluoxetine/prozac that I take for Seasonal Affective Disorder during the dark part of the year, I took a break from my Adderall XR. Adderall is a Schedule I controlled substance and a common medication used to tread children, adolescents, and adults with Attention Deficit Disorder and ADD with Hyperactivity (ADHD).

I've had symptoms of ADD since I was a kid, and been medicated almost as long. In classrooms and colleges students with learning disabilities either keep up or get put in special education classrooms where college is never even talked about as an option. The fact is that I would never have made it through my three high schools without some help to concentrate and stay on-task, and it turns out that even now I am still not very good at that.

When I take my meds, I can prioritize, make lists, accomplish tasks without getting completely sidetracked.

Without it, like this week, I am easily overwhelmed by the many things I have to balance in my life, lack tenacity and have a hard time building up steam to accomplish large, complex tasks. I don't know that many people who've never been affected by ADD or ADHD can understand that it's pretty hard for us to function in highly-productive highly-organized environments.

When I'm outdoors with my girls in the summers, it's okay for me to lose focus quickly, , they do too! Summer camp is a place that empowers lots of children who may not do well academically or who experience a huge boost in confidence because these kids are gregarious, impulsive, adventurous, and think outside the box in problem solving.

But in most contexts I am much disadvantaaged not to be on medications. So, we come up with ways to cope. These ways include:

  • Physiological - Exercise can help disperse energy and wake up the brain, get you going in the morning. Stimulant medications can do the same thing. Some people even wake up early, take their meds, and get up an hour later once it's kicked in to make their mornings run smoother.
  • Psychological - Coping techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, and eating foods that power your mind and body for long periods of time can increase productivity and reduce stress reactions and hormones.
  • Behavioral modification - List-making, setting timers if you tend to lose track of time (ADDers hyper-focus as well as lose focus easily), prioritizing the least pleasant work for the time when you have the greatest chutzpah and energy. It can also include hiring an ADD coach, relying on a significant other or room-mate to help you stay in line.
Unfortunately, this week has sort of proven to me that I can still really use medication as a n accommodation. At $3 a dose, I can't afford the brand-name Adderall XR that's a time-released capsule. So I'm meeting with my doc here at school to decide what's going to be the cheapest way to manage my ADD symptoms post-graduation. Still, though, at least I'm getting my ducks in a row.


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