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.
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.