Ritalin Rodeo

Forgive me, it has been a while since my last post.  Funny thing about getting treatment for AD(H)D.  I actually have been doing the work I am supposed to do, the work that actually pays the bills (and actually paying the bills).  And that work does not include blogging.

In my last post, I wrote about my first experiences taking Ritalin.  I had not yet had any time at work under the influence.  I started taking it on the day before Thanksgiving, and over the holiday weekend had gotten a lot done.  The most important task was getting caught up on all the bills and bookkeeping.  It took awhile, but far less time than it would have without help.  Decisions seemed much easier.  The future seemed possible.

I had also made a lot of progress cleaning up my study.  My “study” is an unfinished room in the basement, filled with various shelves and cheap bookcases overflowing with books.  I also have my guitar gear, some bicycling equipment, and boxes filled with paper, a.k.a. my “filing system.”

The doctor had prescribed me two pills a day, but the effects last about two and a half hours.  He had told me that the next level of dosage was one in the morning and two four hours later.  I tried taking two, but slipped over that line from productivity to mania.  I felt unable to sit still.

I had just taken two when Laura said she needed to go to the store, so I should stay on the main floor with the kids.  She was gone a little over an hour and I had cleaned the kitchen, sanitized the counters, carried the laundry downstairs, made the bed, and cleaned out my upstairs desk.  When Laura got home I ran groceries into the house, ran the frozen food down to the deep freezer in the basement, and realized I was totally out of breath.  “I gotta slow down,” I said.  Laura agreed.

Overall, though, the weekend had been very productive for me, without unhealthy work habits.  I am capable of enormous amounts of work, but not often.  I have often saved up difficult work until I reached crisis mode and then done a “work purge,” a marathon session of work in full stress mode.  I had more regular, steady work throughout the weekend.

I was eager to see what Monday would be like.  I didn’t have any class meetings, student conferences, or committee meetings.  I had the whole day available for work.  The kids are gone to school by 8:00 a.m., and I arrive home a little after five in the afternoon.

My track record with this kind of day is poor.  It’s usually the worst working conditions.  I’ve got the whole day to work with, so there’s little sense of urgency.  I’ve got no meetings, so there’s no structure to the day.  It’s the day after a holiday, so there’s the need to transition back to work.  And there’s a lot I needed to make progress on, so it would be easy for me to get overwhelmed.

"Rodeo Cowgirl"

Image via Wikipedia

My typical amorphous Monday would go like this.  I would get the kids off to work, and then sit down with some coffee to watch T.V., just for a little bit.  Two hours later, I would force myself to get in the shower and get to work.  By the time I got myself together and to the office, it would be time to eat lunch.  I would eat, and since you can’t be expected to actually work during lunch I would read political blogs or watch The Daily Show on the computer.  I would find something to get hooked on on the internet, and two hours later I would force myself out of my “lunch break.”  I would tell myself I needed to at least open my email program, but would be unable to do so.  If anything, I would work on something interesting, but totally non-urgent, like some background reading for a class that I am teaching in three months.  Meanwhile, much-delayed tasks would continue to be ignored.  I would go home at five feeling demoralized about the wasted day, and anxious about the next day because I would have to rush all morning to be prepared to teach.

My actual Monday went much better, but it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.

I got the kids off to school and did 45 minutes of yoga.  My back hurt from the weekend; running the grill over the weekend and moving furniture for the holiday had left me sore.  I wanted to run off to work to get started—a new feeling for sure—but I knew that sitting at my desk all day would make my back worse without some yoga first.  So I arrived a little after nine and popped my second Ritalin.

I was disappointed to find my old friend resistance waiting for me.

One of the consistencies in my life is my inconsistency, how I act against my intentions all the time.  I will leave home and walk to work with complete intention to do a certain task as soon as I get to my desk and will often head home at the end of the day with that task undone.

I had several things rolling around in my head to do.  I had committee work to catch up on, a bunch of miscellaneous assignments to grade.  There were piles of papers to deal with, email to go through, and some long-term projects that hadn’t seen any work in awhile.  I thought the best place to start, though, would be list making.

I’m enamored with the Getting Things Done system by David Allen.  I think it makes sense, and I understand how it works.  I’ve never been able to keep it up, though.  I do fine for awhile and then just start ignoring it.  GTD is an entire culture beyond the scope of this post, but it involves lists.  A “project” is anything with more then one action, and actions have to be listed separately.  Actions are then organized into contexts like “computer” or “phone” call, and next actions are identified. The idea is that planning involves building up project lists, and doing involves scanning for available next actions based on the current context.

It’s a beautiful system, but I can’t make it work consistently.  I thought with the Ritalin assist, I would be able to get started.  But I couldn’t.  There are lots of free online planners that are compatible with GTD (I currently use NirvanaHQ, sort of).  I opened mine and immediately felt overwhelmed and stuck.  I had not updated it in awhile.  It looked uninviting.  I felt stuck already.

I felt the old bad feelings coming back.  Eventually, though, I got started on one specific thing, grading a pile of long-neglected assignments, and two hours later, they were done.  I got a lot of other things done too, but not quite everything.

I’m still fighting the big picture: what to do about our overall finances, what direction I should pursue for my writing, how will I get this house into shape.  I had really busy week this week, with it being the last week before exams.  I can go with less sleep on Ritalin, but that’s not a good habit.  I still need to do the other therapies to keep the off time more livable.  But I am getting used to this new me.

9 thoughts on “Ritalin Rodeo

  1. Sounds like you’re making tremendous progress!! When I start feeling like I’m not accomplishing as much as I think I ought to be I ask myself these questions:
    How long did it take (my house, health, weight, organizing system etc.) to get to its current state?
    If it took (fill-in-the-blank) amount of time to get to this point, how much time, in reality, will it take to fix/overcome it?
    Is expecting it to be all fixed in a day, a week or even a year, realistic?
    Is expecting it to be all fixed immediately going to help or hinder my progress?

    I find when I put too many expectations on myself I just feel worse when I don’t achieve those goals and then I fall into old habits. Habits which have never been helpful in the past and won’t help at all in the present.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Celebrate every victory over the ADHD, every single one! You’re winning already because you’re dealing with your mental health issue in a healthy and productive way. You should be very proud of yourself.

    • Holly:

      Thanks for your comments and insights. I’ve had some of the same thoughts, especially “Rome wasn’t decluttered in a day.”

      I’ve had a lifetime of all-or-nothing work, so it’s hard to slow down and work steadily when I am up. In fact, I am feeling today that I kind of overworked myself last week. I had some good downtime this weekend, so I’m working on equanimity today.

  2. I’m glad you posted again. I also have to do Lists of everything. I’m so bad..my husband reminded one night twice to make his lunch but since I didn’t write it down, I forgot.
    I felt terrible the next morning when I remembered..

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I don’t totally forget things. It’s that I don’t remember soon enough. I like post-its a lot.

      The other issue is willfulness. I’ll push aside something I really don’t want to do (and need full Ritalin upper to do it).

  3. Great to hear an update! I’ve been checking in and hoping for more news. So glad that “it’s all good.” I too have had some good insights and am building a pretty darn good support team to deal with my attention issues, and I am hopeful for a better New Year in the attention department.

    This comment thread is helpful too…Holly – helpful comment. I’m not sure if you feel a bit like this Jon, but it’s like the lights have turned on and the good, bad and ugly are in sharper focus and it’s a bit scarey looking…even the pretty views.

    Anyhoo…back to the election. I live in Iowa, and have decided with fervor that I would like to vote for Baby Bear from Sesame. A kinder, fuzzier America lead by a guy with a really cute lisp. How sweetly distracting would that be?

    Guess we need to clean some cobwebs and get caught up darn it…one step at a time…

    More posts please when things start to balance out!

    • Looks like y’all chose Romney in Iowa. Or was it Santorum? That’s right, the votes are non-binding and don’t matter that much anyway . . .

      Thanks for your comment, Kate, and (belated) happy new year!

      • Jon – I thought I wrote a post on this, will add to “maybe do” list…no joke, no clue what a caucus was until moving here (with my politc savey husband, who did do the caucus thing out of curiosity). I registered Ind. right away and am glad…too confusing and boring for this distractable gal.

        If I don’t do the post…long and short of it would be about gladly hiding behind my Ind. status and a thread back to our goofy conversation about electing muppets. My vote is for baby bear (sorry, looks like I’m no longer campaigning for you) from Sesame for a “kinder, more lisp friendly america.”

  4. I’ve been on various dosages/formulations of stimulants for over two years now, and I’m still struggling with the same issues you’re dealing with. Stimulants — and I do not exaggerate here — CHANGED my life, and at least for the time being, I don’t know what I would do without them. However, I’m still ME underneath the neurochemical burst of clarity, foresight, even the occasional bout of good judgement.

    Learning how to use stimulants as an adult is a long, arduous path, but it definitely shows you a side of yourself that ultimately makes you appreciate your strengths and your ability to steer the trajectory of your life and mold yourself into the person you want to be. At least, that has been my experience (though it took quite a while for me to get to that point).

    Now, every so often I get caught up in cleaning frenzies or reorganize my iTunes library before I even realize I’m not doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing, but if I consistently did what I’m supposed to, I think I’d jump off a bridge. Sabotaging myself is a guilty pleasure of mine, haha!

    Anyway, I hope that helps, or at least gives you a sense of solidarity. Good luck to you!

    • Thank you for your comment. Everything you write there makes sense to me. I’m all about sideways productivity; always doing things, almost never what I’m “supposed” to be doing.

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