Messages in a Bottle #2: No-Boxed-Lunch Day

I feel like I should offer some post hoc commentary on this blog post, but maybe next time. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the most frustrating aspects of any form of chronic illness seems to be that we also become extra vulnerable to any acute illnesses that are going around. The two do not not play nice together, and there are currently a lot of acute illnesses “going around.” In the week and a half since I’ve been back to work, I’ve gotten sick with two separate strains of crumminess that are going around the office and have dealt with a “flare” (or whatever you call an uptick in symptoms of dysautonomia) in tandem with both. This three-day weekend is being spent in bed.

This post was written on 12/27/17 in Northern Iceland, after grocery stores had re-opened, we’d had a full meal cooked in our little cabin and we had seen the Northern Lights for what would end up being the only time the entire trip, because we later ran into a blizzard!

So, most places I have visited over Christmas are either “multicultural” (read: opportunistically capitalist) enough, don’t celebrate Christmas/Boxing Day as national holidays or are otherwise open for tourists on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Iceland isn’t.

Now, we knew this. We knew that we should either book a reservation at a high-end restaurant (the only ones likely to be open) before the trip – before the restaurant sold out – or plan to hit the local grocery store (our more affordable option) before about noon on Christmas Eve to stock up. We planned to stock up on Christmas Eve and drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on Christmas Day, check-in to our hotel with its electronic self-check code, and use its kitchenette to make ourselves food while we explored the area on our own. We planned to avoid the lack of options by simply cooking like we always do. You know what they say about the best-laid plans…

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Membership BADDges: Identifying ADHD in Girls with Co-morbid Anxiety

It’s rough being an intelligent girl with ADHD. If such a girl is halfway successful, multiple doctors’ 15-minute default assumptions that she merely has anxiety/depression will too often have been the reason she spent most of her twenties ineffectually medicated with SSRIs – and labeled treatment resistant – instead of receiving the medications that will eventually change her life.

Such a girl has probably railed against the gatekeepers that barred her from having a shot at becoming truly successful – not just halfway – for so many irreplaceable years. She probably has become lost in an RSD spiral at least once after scoring off the charts on her ADHD self-assessment and being shot down anyway because she “did okay in high school.”

Such a girl may even have spent the first year after her formal ADHD diagnosis doubting it. She never forgot the doctor who said her difficulties were due to a lack of skills, not a neurological condition. She may have heard the bully-in-her-brain aping that doctor – telling her that she chose a job she “wasn’t good at” – for quite some time before she learned to trust her lifetime of ADHD experience over an ignorant GP.

If she has learned to trust in diagnostic criteria over doubt, she may become incandescent with rage when she sees other smart girls in Facebook groups and on WordPress being treated the way she once was treated. She may start to write an angry blog post after thinking back on what it was like to be told that she “didn’t need ADHD medications to solve her problems” – she just needed to choose a job within her “realistic personal capabilities.” She may instead realize that diagnostic criteria and angry rants wouldn’t necessarily have helped her in her own diagnosis journey. They wouldn’t necessarily have penetrated the fog of self-flagellation at the time.

She might then wonder what would have helped her feel more confident that she really did have a neurological condition back in her undiagnosed twenties. One thing that would have helped would have been to know that the “ADHD” versus “anxiety/depression” dichotomy is a false one. If a smart girl has ADHD, she most likely has anxiety and/or depression, too. It would have further helped her to have learned how to recognize her ADHD lurking behind her anxiety. It would have helped her to recognize her shibboleths: little traits of hers that stem from the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and aren’t as easily confused with other diagnoses as a non-specific criterion like feeling overwhelmed.  It would have helped to have some way to laugh about just how ADHD she was, not internalize the issues.

The following are some of those shibboleths that one such girl, known as Lavender, shared with another smart girl still in the process of being diagnosed. (She has added a few since that original exchange!) They have no formal diagnostic validity as an ADHD screener, but they probably have a fairly high specificity (though maybe not sensitivity!) To use the guide, assign the female subject +1 points for each item as described below. There is no clear-cut diagnostic threshold for ADHD. As in Improv, everything is made up and the points don’t matter. However, if the girl happens to self-identify with a few of these traits, she is more than welcome to an unofficial Membership BADDge, at least in this girl’s book.

Continue reading “Membership BADDges: Identifying ADHD in Girls with Co-morbid Anxiety”

When You Find Your Tribe

When I started my blog, I think I fully intended to write a “what is ADHD” explanation post. In true ADHD fashion, though, I procrastinated because I could never get it “right” – until I eventually just forgot I intended to write one at all. This post sounds so much like what I would have written, if I could go back in time and write a blog during the original diagnosis process itself.

I remember that stage right before/during diagnosis where I Googled All the Things! I remember feeling like, “Oh my God, finally a questionnaire I don’t have to half fake just to score high enough to get help!” I am glad someone actually was clever enough to put these thoughts into a blog post in media res, and that thanks to the wonder of the reblog I can creatively “borrow” it with one click!

Also, for anyone reading closely, the bit in this post about women with ADHD being good in a crisis? It can still be true for those who are co-diagnosed with PTSD. I’m always the calm, rationale, almost-detached person during the crisis itself. I’ve been so calm I’ve been called selfish repeatedly in my life simply for not freaking out enough. I’ve carried that stoicism far enough you’d never even know I had PTSD if I didn’t tell you. It’s when the crisis is over, in the privacy of my own home, that the toll starts to show. Calling me selfish is also a big trigger for me, for both PTSD and RSD reasons.

`O ka hali`a aloha i hiki mai

It seems fitting that I’m finally writing a post so long after my last one.  I definitely need to invest more time in blogging since it’s both therapeutic and provides a means to remember the fun adventures we’ve experienced!

Today isn’t about a family adventure however.

Today’s post is twenty years plus in the making.

If you haven’t yet guessed, as a child I experienced more than my fair share of trauma and mental illness.  It’s impacted me long into life, but I’m grateful for the strength I’ve gained from it.  I’m the person I am today, the person my friends, family and husband love in spite of or because of it.

For over twenty years, I’ve been told that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression.  Let’s say my primary care physicians have told me that since I was eight, which means it’s been 28 years of…

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*Press It* What It’s Like to Have ADHD As an Adult

Yes. This. So much this, with a side of RSD.

I work as a statistician, but I once got told I had to stop doing a volunteer job as a registration taker at a charity walk. I got fired from a charity walk position, guys! Talk about embarrassing! (Well, technically I only got fired from that particular job duty. They moved me over to taking care of the financial recording after booting me from registration, and that worked out well for me and them. RSD didn’t care about that distinction, sadly.) I kept not being able to understand the people coming up and giving their names to register. The noise and outdoor heat, combined with the auditory confusion, equaled sensory overload and customer service failure. Math is my friend. Many loud people trying to explain what they need at once? Not so much. I could probably never have survived as a waitress!

Also, did I mention how much I hate open offices? I really, really hate open offices.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

Mental Health Matters

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