Monday, February 1, 2010

Medicated, Not Fixed.

I couldn't clean my apartment without stimulant medication. But medication doesn't get me into the habit of keeping it clean.

Medication is an important first step for any useful AD/HD treatment plan. Stimulants are amazingly effective for around 80% of adults with AD/HD. Being amazingly effective and in most cases an essential step doesn't make stimulant medication a cure. Especially for those diagnosed of us who were diagnosed as adults.

I saw a psychiatrist who, after thorough analysis, was pretty quick to say "AD/HD, without a doubt". He promptly began treating me with stimulants. The results were amazing. There was a marked improvement in pretty much everything I did. I could focus for a lot longer, I could listen better, and I spent less time frustrated with myself. This improved further over the years as we fine-tuned my doses. Things improved a little more when I got around to fixing my diet and totally abstaining from recreational drugs and alcohol (which is probably good advice for anyone, really).

It took me about four years before I realized that the medication wasn't adequate. I'd always been told it wasn't going to be, but I saw myself finishing things and I had a lot more self confidence. But there were a lot of subtle tell-tale signs that things weren't quite right. I did my assignments well, but I handed them in consistently late. I'd forget things. Wherever I lived, I couldn't keep the place clean. At best, I'd do a big clean up every couple of weeks. I'd spend a lot of time wondering where my money went. I'd often forget to wash my clothes. Basically, I still had no structure. Any task that was immediately apparent, I could do. But the little habits that everyone else had established I was still missing.

Eventually, it all caught up with me. My girlfriend noticed that I couldn't connect with her without putting it into words. I was controlling - not out of jealousy or male insecurity, but because whenever something unaccounted for happened, my whole world and fragile semblance of structure would fall apart.

If you get a diagnosis of AD/HD and you're an adult, don't just take the medication and assume everything else will follow. Your psychiatrist will advise you to look into the disorder and to find help from specialists psychologists (unless you're lucky enough to have a psychiatrist who is also an AD/HD specialist). You have to take responsibility for your treatment. Take the medication, then read all you can about the disorder. Find that specialist, get a coach.

Remember that pills are important, but they're not the cure. They don't get you into productive habits or create structures out of nothing. They are the keys to the door, but you have to walk through it. You may very well be on them for the rest of your life, you might as well make the money you spend on them worthwhile.

As a general rule, if it rails against medication it's probably crap. Don't listen to anyone who says that AD/HD is not real. If your diagnosis is from a psychiatrist, don't second-guess it. If you suspect you have something else, you may have it in addition to AD/HD. AD/HD is often comorbid with other disorders such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder (especially in adults).

In Australia, it can be hard (trust me). It can be hard anywhere in the world. If you're finding that resources aren't immediately available to you, get on Amazon and buy all the books you can. I'll post a list of books and websites I'm finding useful in the near future. Until then, use Google. You have to take responsibility for managing your own AD/HD. If you've had a lifetime of people telling you that you're irresponsible, trust me, its especially rewarding to see yourself making progress.

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