positively life-altering: on ADHD medication

Until you have been in my brain you cannot tell me ADHD is not real.
Science says ADHD is real.
Why I have to on occasion argue this fact with people, is still very confusing to me. Although I guess it is the same reason people choose not to vaccinate their children and re-start outbreaks of diseases previously eradicated from the developed world—they choose to remain ignorant.

As I once said to Jess in Calgary, “Stupid people are not your problem”.

Sometimes stupid people make themselves our problems, though, which is unfortunate.

Other times, though, smart people affirm what you’re putting out there. (Thank God for smart people!)

Yesterday morning, I shared a video on Facebook about “pill shaming” people with mental health issues. You can see the video here.

And yes, ADHD very much falls into this category. After all, everyone is just popping Ritalin (or now, Adderall more accurately) as a study drug and nobody actually has ADHD, right? Wrong. Obviously.

I have a have a friend who recently started ADHD medication again, after we had a conversation about ADHD on a dark drive home from a friend’s party in the country (I have a half written post about this somewhere that I really need to get out into the world). He, like me, has found the of meds after not treating his ADHD for over a decade positively life altering.

Yet, when he posted this on Facebook, that he was starting meds, the doubters, the disbelievers came. And—thankfully—many of us fought them back with science. I’m not sure disbelievers enjoy PubMed links being thrown at them, but damn it, I went there. Because that is how we fight ignorance and misinformation.

With freaking science.

Yesterday, when I posted the link from Mental Health on The Mighty, I did so with the following text:

This.

I’ve had so many people ask me why I need ADHD medication.
Because there is an imbalance in my neurotransmitters, that’s why. No I can’t just “try harder”. I tried life on hard mode without a diagnosis for 21 years.
Maybe it doesn’t keep me alive like other meds do, but it does make my life so much better.

Six minutes later, my friend from above commented this:

I like how this publicly happened on my Facebook lol

I replied

Um, FACT.
And we SHUT DOWN those haters. 😉

Alongside this, as of the time I am writing this, 20 of my friends chose to “like” or “love” this post. Another friend commented “Yes! Well said.”

There is power in finding people who get it. People who understand.

Because we all spend enough time fighting misinformation. Fighting people who shame you for not trying hard enough, even if you’ve tried harder than just about everybody for decades to get by without medication—often without so much as a diagnosis to understand why your brain is differently wired.

It’s much better when we fight ignorance and misinformation together.

The only way we can stop stigma is to share our stories, and being fiercely proud of our stories—they make us who we are. ADHD is a piece of me that makes me who I am. I’m proud of that piece, proud of my quirky, neuroatypical brain. Of seeing life differently. I chose meds to be part of my journey, to help me harness the joys of my ADHD brain better. Vyvanse (or previously Concerta) doesn’t cure me. It doesn’t make me neurotypical. It just makes me better able to balance the joyful parts of my ADHD with the frustrating parts (and I still get endlessly frustrated with myself. But it’s so much better).

Sometimes medicine is a part of “trying harder”.

And I’m thankful that many of my friends seem to get that.

tech thursday: c-pen reader [05/31]

This thing is cool.

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Awhile back, I learned of the C-Pen Reader from the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba. After learning more about it, I felt like the C-Pen would be a tool that would help me as a person with a learning disability who learns best through listening rather than seeing—as I’ve written before, I primarily now read audiobooks, and frequently use text-to-speech or VoiceOver on my MacBook, iPhone and iPad when reading longer texts. This switch has greatly enhanced my retention of what I read. But what about actual paper documents? It becomes a hassle to scan dozens of pages to have them convert. 

Enter the C-Pen.

In video, because it probably makes more sense that way. 

Disclosure: I contacted Scanning Pens in the UK requesting to review the C-Pen Reader. They got back in touch quickly sent me one out via a Canadian distributor. I am in no way obligated to provide a favourable review.

adhd/ld month 2017: hello. [01/31]

Hello, October.
Hello, Fall.
Hello again, ADHD/learning disabilities awareness month. 

My last 3 posts have been somehow swallowed up by StableHost following a tech issue last week. I’m really unsure what the deal is, but they have been trying to help me for several days and I am just hoping that I can actually start my October blogging on time. Because, like last year, I have plans.

Plans to hit refresh on the blogging, and this time, perhaps try not to throw myself into too many things at once, although we know that, hello, it is me. That’s not going to happen. Like last October, things will look roughly the same around here:

  • Self-Care Sunday
  • Mantra/Motivation Monday
  • Travel Tuesday (as I still have many things to report on!)
  • Wordless Wednesday (honestly, because I am lazy)
  • Tech Thursday
  • Fun Fact Friday
  • Recap Saturday (in which I will perhaps tell you just normal stories or tales of my ADHD brain from the week.
Since we missed Recap Saturday this week, here is an ADHD story for the week:
 
I went into my room to find a specific hoodie from my closet-I-mean-floor, and I could not find it. I resigned to another hoodie and picked it up and carried it out of my room.
The hoodie I was looking for?
I was wearing it.
Um yes. Hello, ADHD.
 
So, welcome to the adventure, people.
Now let’s hope my blog stays functional. 

reading with my ears [part two]: hello, technology.

You can find “reading with my ears: part one” here.

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Reading with VoiceDream reader on my iPhone – a PDF or electronic text document is read in fairly life-like synthesized voices. Also shown, my Bose noise cancelling earphones.

 

Unlike many people with learning disabilities, I have always enjoyed reading. However, enjoyed is probably somewhat of a loose term. I read constantly, but remembered very little of what I actually read. (Bonus: buy books once, reread them a bunch because you don’t remember what happened). This all started to make more sense when, in 2013, I was diagnosed with a learning disability affecting my processing and memory of information acquired visually, and my processing speed, among other things. In the few years since gaining this information I’ve found a lot of resources that have helped me in ways I hadn’t realized were actually a struggle for me. Now I almost exclusively read audiobooks, retaining far more information with my ears (and allowing me to keep my hands busy at the same time).

Fortunately, audiobook or eText access goes beyond costly audiobooks at Chapters and Audible subscriptions (look, I’d rarely spend $14.95 on a print book a month!), and there are more options out there if you are a person with a disability. To this day, I’ve not touched an audiobook on CD, although I’ve experienced some technology oddities I now avoid (looking at you, Direct-to-Player app of last year!)

Upon learning of my newfound love of audiobooks, my friend Stephen told me about CELA–the Centre for Equitable Library Access, also/formerly known as the CNIB Library.

CELA membership is available to Canadians with a library card to a participating library, who also have a print disability. My learning disability, as well as visual impairment or physical disabilities that prevent people from reading print books, are classified as print disabilities under Canadian copyright law, which also allows people to access works in an alternate format. Signing up for CELA was easy, as it was based on self-disclosure. Other services sometime require proof of disability from a doctor, psychologist, teacher, or other “authority”, as in the case with the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS – Canada) or Bookshare (Canada/US). (I’ve got forms for both stacked up beside me for my yearly appointment with the psychiatrist later this week!) Each of these services provides electronic books either as a recorded mp3 or that can be read by the right technology, such as a screen reader or app. 

 

CELA opened a whole new world for me in reading, in tandem with the audiobooks available through my public library. As well, assistive technology, such as Voice Dream Reader and iOS speak screen (a recent find compatible with kindle eBooks!), has helped me rediscover reading, and allowing me to access longer or more complicated texts without just being completely lost. Now, I don’t just read books–I enjoy them. I remember more of what I’ve read. I can recommend books to people because I remember things about them. It’s exciting. 

 

And because of audiobooks, because of CELA, because of assistive technology?

I hit my 2017 GoodReads reading goal of 52 books before August 9, 2017.

With 144 days to spare.

 

After failing my 25 or 30 book reading goals in years past, that feels pretty awesome. Because even if it works better for me to read in a different way… I’m still reading.

archery + adhd: on target.

The sign outside my friend Diane’s archery range (AKA Heights Outdoors and Archery if you’re a local), at one point read “ARCHERY IS FUN. TRY IT.” 

The sign is not lying. Even though Diane has had to teach me how to do everything properly like three times (so far), ARCHERY IS FUN. I think I maybe mastered orienting the bow tonight finally (trickster ambidexterity-allowing recurves), and yes, when they say to draw your hand back to your face, they mean it and it actually does help significantly, thank-you-very-much.

It may just be me, but as I posted some photos of our archery Special Olympics wind-up on Facebook, I became aware of many parallels between archery and ADHD (and undoubtedly, the archery experience with ADHD). 

To preface this, I must say: Diane is awesome. She and I have a great rapport, and she puts up with my pestering (and returns it!), sarcasm, and repeated need for instruction well. She likes fun and I like fun and that is what matters, people. And although she says archery is like riding a bike and you don’t forget, I can say with some confidence I don’t think I’ve ever gotten on my bike backward like I’ve tried to hold the bow backward or upside down ;). Other than that, everything else she tells me I believe to be accurate. (If you’re in the Peg, you should do archery with Diane.)

I’ve done archery with Diane a good number of times now. The thing is, thanks ADHD, I remember safety instructions because not-death is a motivator, but it takes me quite awhile to get other stuff down. I am just about there, maybe.

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One of the first rounds of the night where I hit a decent number of arrows on the target. And two in that pretty gold area, though not quite centre.

I’ve been told before that I need more consistency to keep my ADHD brain in check. Like, to schedule my life a bit more. Here’s the thing: what is consistency? Also, not exactly interested. I should be, obviously. Had I external motivators, well, I likely would be. 

As well, consistency takes practice. Guess what? I’m not expecting to have consistent archery performance when the last time I shot was six weeks ago. Although, each round today got a bit better (inconsistently, mind you), as I repeated my way through the things that work, and on occasion, totally forgetting. Which is both an ADHD thing and a thing in learning how to coexist with ADHD—being consistently inconsistent or inconsistently consistent about just about everything. (Don’t tell me that doesn’t make sense. ADHDers, you get me.)

Note: I realized later I was like half the distance from the target this time compared to last time. That helps. 

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Hey, I did get two in the gold… Just not where I was aiming on one, mind you…

Especially when I realized when they tell you to put your draw hand against your face basically for a reason. And especially when I actually remembered this part of the instructions. Archery has a lot of damn steps to remember—kind of like life. And attention problems? Yeah, here’s an unexpected area for where executive functioning issues randomly interfere!

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Sometimes, you are all over that shit, without exactly realizing how, even though you are trying pretty hard.

…And sometimes, trying equally hard, less on the mark but still close.
Or… Way off. (…That top arrow ;).)

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And sometimes? You’re THERE and all over it, literally, but you still don’t quite hit the damn balloon. Even though you’ve done it before.

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Who knew a two hour progression through a few dozen arrows could summarize the inconsistency of ADHD life so well? 😉

I’m joining the Manitoba Blind Sport archery program next Fall, because hey, why not? Given I’m already paying a membership fee, the add-on athlete fee is a great deal for archery. Plus, while I’m not visually impaired, I don’t see all that well. Look, I could not exactly see my arrows from halfway down the range, never mind the full distance. And people will know how to deal with my questionable vision. And given I roll around on the floor and announce every ridiculous thing I do at goalball, the same will happen at archery, except not the rolling on the floor part. Except maybe if Guide Dog Murray is there.

My attention issues? Well, I roll with that pretty well, too, since it’s just who I am. And yeah, practice sort-of makes perfect there, too. At least in terms of semi-patience and laughing at myself. And I know this particular archery group, is good at that, too ;).