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The Care and Feeding of the ADHD Person in your Life

ADHD-brain

Congratulations! Your child/spouse/student/sibling/parent/dog  has just been diagnosed with ADHD. You are about to embark on an incredible adventure. Actually, you’ve probably been on the adventure for a while, now it just makes more sense. But what do you do now? What will be expected of you, the non ADHD person, in dealing with your loved one? I have thoughts on this. I myself have ADHD and so do my two kids, so I’ve seen this from multiple angles. Here are a few helpful things to remember.

  1. It’s not going to go away. Some people seem to think that kids will just “grow out of it.” And while its true hyperactivity will decrease over time, the ADHD person will be dealing with some form of it the rest of their lives. This will manifest in different ways. For some people it’s disorganization, for others it’s chronic lateness, For most people its an inability to focus on something for any length of time. It changes form, but it’s always with us. This is not necessarily a big deal.
  2. It’s not your fault.  No one can cause anyone else to develop ADHD. It’s genetic. You’re born with it, just like being left-handed of having blue eyes. It’s true that it can be exacerbated by certain circumstances,, but that’s something that can be dealt with.
  3. We need your help to keep track of things. Keys? Maybe they’re still in my pocket? Homework? It was in my backpack ten minutes ago. Cell pone? I called it but i must have forgotten to take it off silent when I got out of the movie. Remote control? I think I set it down … somewhere. The most terrifying thing I say on a daily basis is “I just had that a few minutes ago.” So you will need to watch what we’re doing and help us develop strategies so we don’t lose everything. I have to follow my son around and put his things away constantly so they don’t get lost. My wife does the same thing with my daughter. And it seems like no matter how hard I try and put them in the same place every time, I have to budget ten minutes before I leave the house to look for my keys. It’s just going to happen.
  4. Sometimes, we’re TOO focused.  Every ADHD person will have things they find particularly engaging, and will hyper-focus on those things. Because paying close attention is so rare, whenever we find we do have the capacity, we find it hard to stop and get severely grumpy when we’re interrupted and have a hard time turning our attention to anything else. This can be really frustrating when your kid is involved in an art project, but it’s time to go to soccer practice. For me, I hyper-focus on reading an writing. But even though we can be hyper-focused …
  5. No matter how engaging the activity, we will occasionally lose track of what we are doing. At least one point in the middle of every tv show we watch, I will have to turn to my wife and say something along the lines of “what is going on again?” Or “who is this guy and why is he shooting the other guy?” My son will look up from his video game, look around for his phone, and suddenly be cut down by those covenant bastards, at which point he’ll curse and throw his controller. And yes, this means that, if it’s your spouse we’re talking about, there will even be times they lose track of what they are doing during sex (not even kidding).
  6. We crave structure and organization, but at least at first, are unable to create and maintain it for ourselves. This can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. We have a system, why can’t we follow it? The truth is that every ADHD person needs a different approach, and will need someone to come along and help them develop it and keep it going. Eventually, the training wheels will come off, but we still need frequent check-ins to make sure we’re not getting overwhelmed.
  7. Medication does a lot, but it’s not a cure-all. I am so thankful for my medication that I can’t even express it. Getting on adderal opened up my brain power in ways I’d never known before, enabling me to actually accomplish things. That said, I still struggle with motivation and organization and occasionally when doing something boring like cleaning the house, will end up standing in the middle of the living room, lost in constantly shifting thoughts. I find listening to audio-books and podcasts helps.
  8. We’re not closers. We have a tendency to start projects, get in the middle of them, then depart for greener, more interesting pastures. My son abandons lego projects, My daughter gets bored with games. I don’t know how many novels I’ve started and  not finished. My wife looks at all of us and just thinks WILL ONE OF YOU JUST FINISH SOMETHING? So we need help sticking with things.
  9. We have a tendency to over-commit. Sure, I’ll help you with the food drive, and help you organize the 5K, and get that review to you by Wednesday, and read the book you wrote, and get the house cleaned up so we can have people over … and … and… usually this is because we don’t remember what it is we’ve already committed to, and everything sounds interesting. So help us keep track of who we’ve promised what, and remind us to use strategies to manage it all.
  10. We’re usually pretty creative at problem solving, sometimes TOO creative. Because we’re thinking many different thoughts at once, we’re somethings good at making connections neuro-typicals miss. This also manifest as using improper tools to get things done, just because that’s what we had available, like the time my daughter and I were trimming Christmas tress branches with a steak knife. It can be frustrating to watch, but it’s actually a good thing.

So those are a few thoughts about dealing with your loved one with ADHD. The best advice … keep a sense of humor about everything. And realize you probably wouldn’t want them to be normal anyway … at least most of the time.

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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OK, I Get It Already

The universe is always trying to teach me things. I am not always ready to learn them so it sometimes takes multiple tries. Here are a couple of my recent lessons:

1. Inspiration comes from work.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of years worrying that I could only be creative when I was manic. It has only been in the last couple of months since I got stable that I decided to do the work even when I didn’t feel particularly inspired. And guess what? Once I put my ass in the seat the muse showed up and I started having all these ideas.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the ideas are flowing. Bad because they are not all ideas for my current project. So this is where I have to focus on what I can use right now and put everything else in a little notebook. There are currently four or five novels (series?) Floating around in notebooks. Now I have to put my butt in gear and finish what I’m working on so I can get to everything else before I die. I don’t need for anyone to give me ideas. In fact I prefer you not to.

2. Exercise equals brain power.

I recently started running again. Last May my kids participated in a 5k color run. I had the opportunity to do it too but declined, feeling out of shape and embarrassed. They had a great time and I regretted my decision, so this summer I finally got sick of my excuses and started training.

One unexpected benefit: the exercise makes me better able to keep it together. I really thinks it’s one of the main reasons I’ve been so stable recently. My goal has been to lose 30 lbs and I’ve only lost 3 but I have dropped three pants sizes, so I’ll take it.

I usually dread the running right before I do it, and all the way through it I want to quit, but I don’t. The rest of the day I feel incredible. It quiets my brain so I can focus while at the same time gives me energy to do the work. I’m not saying exercise can replace medication, but it can help.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Summer Reading

I try to read a lot. My goal is to read fifty pages a day, which works out to about five books a month. This is nothing if you compare me to someone like Stephen King, who reportedly read hundreds of books a year, but I feel like it’s a pretty good pace. Here are my thoughts on a couple of books I read recently.

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I loved Cloud Atlas, and its Russian nesting doll of a structure  chronicling the lives of various linked characters throughout different time periods. This book has a similar set up. Events are told through various viewpoint characters, one in each time period. This time the story is more straightforward. It’s the tale of a war between two groups of immortals, told as they intersect with a woman and affect her throughout her life. It’s beautifully written, with great characters, but was confusing in places and some of its more out-there concepts don’t hold up to scrutiny. I liked it, even if it’s not as good as Cloud Atlas.

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Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey.

This is the fifth installment in The Expanse series, and, I think, one of the best. Ordinarlily the way these books are structured you get the central viewpoint of James Holden, Captain of the Rocinante, along with several other characters who are usually only around for one book. This time the other viewpoints are from the other members of the Rocinante’s crew, as they take off in separate corners of the solar system to deal with personal matters. Eventually, though, events collide cataclysmically, and they find themselves pulled back together again, fighting to become one crew once more. There are severa, major events that will change the series going forward. It might be my favorite book of the series so far.

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Armada by Ernest Cline

I ,loved Ready Player One, and its deep dive through pop culture, and this does a similar thing here. A teenage video game expert finds himself recruited into a cosmic war, discovering world-shaking secrets along the way. If it sounds a little like The Last Starfighter, that’s addressed in a clever way. It’s good, even if it seems a little shallow at times. It doesn’t let characterization get in the way of a good space battle, and I found the climax a little predictable.

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The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

This is the secret to the Hugo-award-winning Chinese novel The Three Body Problem, which I absolutely loved. This book? Has some problems. It details the preparations for a coming interstellar way over the course of two centuries. There are a couple of conceits that don’t make a whole lot of sense, and I had big problems understanding the way the conflict was ultimately resolved. It also has a problem with its female characters. They’re either ciphers offered as prizes to the main characters, or subordinates with little agency. Maybe that’s a cultural thing. I enjoyed this book and will read the concluding volume of the trilogy. It might make more sense if I read it again. It could just be me.

I read several other books, but these are the Four I wanted to talk about. Currently reading the new Jim Butcher Steampunk thing, which is good so far. Interested in what you guys have read recently. Leave your picks in the comments ….

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Chad and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Brain

Bipolar Disorder is a moving target. Its effects vary from episode to episode, and a treatment that might be effective for months or even years can suddenly stop working. Treating it is a challenge. Staying stable is a challenge. Accomplishing anything, no matter how small, is a victory.

And it’s a victory I haven’t enjoyed very much in the past couple of years.

Before about seven years ago, I would have bouts of hypomania. Hypomania is awesome. I would be full of energy, whole novels would dump themselves into my head in a single afternoon, I felt like I could do anything. I could go without sleep and not feel the effects. I would think fast, and talk fast. If I was a little incomprehensible to people around me, who cares? I was on a higher plane than they were. I could do anything.

Eventually, though, that would turn toxic and I would crash into a depression. No energy, little coherent thought, getting through the day was a challenge. I would obsess about various ways I could kill myself, but lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. If anything, this just made me feel worse, like I was a failure even at this.

I rode this cycle until about seven years ago, when the cycle of hypomania and depression stopped, and I began instead to go between stages or normal and mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are awful. You have all the energy of mania, with all the negative thoughts and anxiety of depression. In hypomania, you want to climb a mountain. In a mixed episode you want to climb a mountain so you can throw yourself off it.

Back in 2008, when I was in the middle of one of these mixed episodes, I went to my GP. He consulted some kind of web app, looked up Bipolar Disorder, and put me on Abilify.

If anything, this was worse. I was a zombie. Walking across the room was a struggle. My wife saw I was struggling and planned a family trip, hoping to cheer me up. It was a really great trip, but I don’t remember much of it. It was hard to even stay awake. I stopped taking the Abilify, but was still having the crushing anxiety and elevated anger of the mixed episode.

So we found a specialist. He diagnosed me officially with bipolar disorder, and put me on a mood stabilizer. I wasn’t fixed, but it was better.

All through this time I was trying to write. in 2007 I finished a novel, and in early 2008, before the mixed episode, I started another one. Then, with all of the cycles, writing became difficult. Hypomania gone, I found my ideas just weren’t coming anymore. The prose was bland. I hated everything I wrote. I managed to get past it and write anyway, and even sold a couple of stories, but I wasn’t happy with it. I came to the place where I thought I might now write anything good again.

This continued for several years. I got out of the habit of writing every day. I worked on editing my first novel, but had to admit it just wasn’t working and abandoned it. This only made me feel worse. I used to love this, why couldn’t I do it anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had always defined myself as a writer. What was I going to do if I didn’t have that any more. More years passed. I wrote a couple of short stories, but they didn’t sell.

Last year, I decided to pull out the novel I started in 2008. As I read it, I got excited. It wasn’t perfect, but It was pretty good. The voice was entertaining and the plot, which I had written by the seat of my pants, actually hung together pretty well. I loved the characters. If I had once been capable of this, might I be capable again. I just needed to make myself do it.

So in July of last year I signed up for camp Nano. This is like NaNoWriMo except you set your own goal. I set mine for 30,000 words. Doable, I thought. I was fine for the first three weeks, then the fourth week an episode hit and I got nothing done. I ended up writing only 20,000 words, which wasn’t bad for a month’s output, but I didn’t meet my goal.

I read what I’d written and I hated it. I put my writing away for several months. Eventually, I wrote another short story, which didn’t sell. For a year I was pretty stable, but was accomplishing nothing. I wasn’t falling into mixed episodes, but wasn’t able to get much done.

I also gained about forty pounds, which only made things worse.

This summer I finally talked to my specialist about. He decided to try an anti-depressant long with my mood stabilizers. After a few weeks, I started to feel better. I wasn’t writing, but I was able to get stuff done during my day and had more energy. I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and decided to start running again, hoping this would help me continue to balance out. I set myself for running in the 5k color run coming up in October.

In August I looked at all I had written so far on the novel, and I had to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was definitely salvageable. I decided I had worked on it long enough that it was time to finish it. It had been since 2007 since I’d finished something long form, and that was just unacceptable. I set myself another goal. I would have this book done by my birthday in January. In September I started writing again setting myself a goal of writing 1000 words a day, five days a week.

If I was going to do this, I needed a plan. Even on all my meds, organizing my day is hard for me, and I often come to the end finding I hadn’t accomplished mush. This had to stop. So, I got myself a notebook, wrote out a schedule and a to-do list for each day, and tried my best to stick with it.

It worked! I was meeting my writing goals, continuing to run, and (mostly) keeping up with all the housework and laundry.

So with the combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and exercise I feel like I’m functioning again. I’ve been in a better mood. The book is 2/3 of the way done, and none of the pets have died.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Like I said, it’s a moving target.  But for now, I’ll take it.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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And now is the time on sprockets when we dance.

My weekend of pretending I am a for realz writer person paid off in the added motivation I needed to finish the first draft of the short story I’ve been working on for three gorram months now. It is, of course, terrible, but since when has that ever stopped anyone? The job now is to go through it, change every instance of the thing I decided to change halfway through without going back to the beginning, somehow make the plot make sense, try to evaluate objectively whether or not the stunt-writey thing I was trying actually works (outside experts may need to be called in here), and probably cry a lot. If I drank, there would be a lot of that too.

But it’s a first draft. This was no particular call for submissions for this so I had to sort through the chaos myself to find something that worked on its own, which could be a good or bad thing, depending. My three sales have all been written to specific prompts, so take that for what you will.

But I still like the idea of the story, and the characters, and the basic set-up. I just need to make sure it pays off at the end, not to mention makes sense somewhere outside of my own head. This last part is the biggest challenge, since I have trouble coming up with a grocery list that makes sense outside of my own head.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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In other news …

It’s been a while. I’m now not dead. It’s been a rocky couple of months, but things seem to have hit equilibrium again. Took today to tackle the backyard, which had grown in some patches up to my shoulders. I had hoped to borrow my dad’s weedwacker for the job, but it seems that since he has his own yardwork outsourced, said weedwacker may not actually exist anymore (this according to my mother. He was at the car show, enjoying not having to mow his lawn, the traitor).

Stubborn as I am, I just used the lawnmower. In a backyard with lots of mole-holes, and a sprinkler system that may or may not have had parts sticking up out of it. I realize that none of this is recommended. I had hoped that my darling son would accompany me on this task and for a while he teased me. I taught him how to use the lawnmower (what? he’s 7! it’s time!) but in something that could only be considered a bad sign for any free lawn care of was expecting to extract from him in the future, he got bored with it. My attempts to give him the rake and have him rake up the grass behind me met with similar results. I guess I’ll guess I’ll have to give him until 8 before I make him do it all himself while I supervise from a lawn chair, which is, of course, the dream of fathers everywhere. Since I am not a misogynist, I will try to enslaverecruit my daughter next, but she was gone today, conveniently.

It proved to be a good exercise, cleaning out some of the gunk, both mental and spiritual, in my head. Yesterday I got past a hurdle and went ahead and scheduled my IT certification exam. I was waiting for appropriate test dates to be scheduled, but I was also fighting back a panic attack at the thought of taking it, since my instructor had the audacity to teach us by letting us take apart and rebuild actual computers and doing real-world problem solving, instead of doing intense online test prep. I’m nervous about it, but have a couple of study books and probably thousands of sample test questions to review endlessly, so I’m confident that I can study enough and do well. As a former teacher, I know how tests can concentrate on the ephemera because they are easy to put in multiple choice questions, and that’s what I’ve heard about this test from people who’ve taken it. It certainly seems so from the questions I have read. But it’s good to have a date and time in front of me to focus on.

In all of this, I haven’t gotten much writing/editing done. Hoping to get a better restart on that this week. I have two chapters edited (well, one of them edited on paper, needing to have the document updated), so there has been some progress.

I wish I had a pithy saying or life’s lesson to share to wrap all of this random-ness up, but I’m fresh out.

I will say that some things are hard for a reason, and some fights are tougher than you think they will be even as an upward curve can be jagged in places, with lots of places for the lawnmower wheel to get stuck and kick up mud all over your legs.

See, I tried it and shouldn’t have.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Now What?

So I have a couple week’s distance on the book. And am finishing up a short story I wrote both because 1. the idea had been bugging me and patiently waiting, 2. I need a palate cleanser between drafts, and 3. I would like to have something I can shop around now. I’m now taking a serious look at what it’s going to take to get this novel into fighting shape.

Good point 1: I still like it.

Good point 2: There’s still a workable spine for the story. I didn’t break the narrative the way I did the last one I wrote and never finished revising because of the aforementioned borken narrative. (the long Manic episode that followed didn’t help either. Nor did the following crash).

My wife will be happy to know this because she has been insisting that it would possibly be nice if I actually FINISHED SOMETHING. ahem.

The problem is two-fold:

I need to cut about 20,000 words out of it.

I need to completely expand the final act.

Yes, I realize these things kind of conflict. I’m on it.

But mostly what I see in it is that I held back from some aspects of the story because I thought they would be a little too expected at certain points, and my instinct has always been to avoid trite-ness. What I forgot was that this is a very specific kind of genre piece, and those things I held back from might actually be necessary to give the full experience a reader might want from it. I want this thing to feel satisfying at the end of it. The trick will be to satisfy those expectations in unexpected ways, not ignore them altogether.

I guess what I mean is I want this book to be even more of what it is. And I’m kind of excited about that.

But I have no clue where those 20,000 words are coming from.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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