Friday, November 18, 2011

Forget the blind leading the blind. We have the distracted leading the . . . squirrel!

I've mentioned before that I have ADD.  Not ADHD - I've never been hyperactive, just easily distracted and overwhelmed.  Back in my lawyer days, I think most people who didn't know me well would have been surprised by my diagnosis.  I used to be good at pretending that I had it all together.  I generally seemed to know what I was talking about.  I produced good work.  I worked well with others.  But what most people didn't know, was that just getting through a day back then took a tremendous personal toll.  The energy that it took to hold my life together was ridiculous.  I was constantly checking and double-checking things.  Fixing (and, unfortunately, sometimes hiding) mistakes. Worrying that something would fall through the cracks.  Freaking out when things inevitably DID fall through the cracks.  I ended up taking more pharmaceuticals than a depressed Beverly Hills housewife.  And yet I still never felt right.

Back in those days, I worked while my then-husband stayed at home.  He took care of a lot of things at home that I simply couldn't handle.  We had, I thought, a pretty good division of labor.  But my ex was also an abusive son-of-a-b*, which I've spent too much ink on.  He constantly reminded me of my limitations, as if I needed any reminders.  I thought that once I left the high-pressure legal profession and my high-stress marriage, things would calm down in my life and I would be better able to handle the day to day crap better.

But, according to Buckaroo Bonzai and Jon Kabat-Zinn - "wherever you go, there you are."  It's easy to blame things outside of ourselves for our problems and think that if we just get rid of the bad situations, and away from the bad people, things will be all better.  But the reality is that if we don't deal with our own shit, it doesn't really matter how many external changes we make in our lives.  My ADD affected my life as a lawyer and wife.  It affects my life as a massage therapist and a divorcee.  It is part of who I am and isn't something that is caused by external events or the people in my life.  So, even though I love my job and I don't have to live with someone who makes me feel like crap on a regular basis, I still have ADD.

Adding further complication to the situation is the fact that my older daughter was diagnosed with ADD and is struggling in school.  Throw in the fact that my ex has recently decided that he doesn't want to be a parent anymore, making me a 24/7 single mom and my life has suddenly become very stressful again.  All the things my ex used to do for the kids - even after the divorce - are now my sole responsibility. Plus I'm starting my own practice and I've never, ever run a business before.  I think anyone in my situation would find it difficult to manage.  But for someone with ADD this situation is unmanageable.  And it feels like it's getting worse by the day.

Although I'm not responsible FOR my girls, I am responsible TO them. (And maybe the explanation of that needs another post . . .) I need to be the best mom that I can be in order to guide them through their teen years and get them out into the world as happy, healthy, productive adults.  And right now it really feels like the blind leading the blind (or the distracted leading the distractable).  How can I get my kids - especially the one with confirmed ADD - on a schedule and organized, if I can't do the same for myself?  We constantly lose things. It takes so much energy for me to remember all the things that have to be done for the kids that I rarely have energy to do things for myself.  I haven't had my "annual" check up in years.  My mother comes to my house to visit and spends the whole time cleaning up because the apartment is a disaster.  How can I teach my kids to keep a reasonably organized house if I can't even do it myself?

I'm a huge believer in natural remedies. I've gotten myself off of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds more than once.  In the past, I felt guilty for taking ADD medication because I know that if stopped eating all processed foods, ate only organic whole foods, did yoga every day and meditated regularly, I might actually be able to get the ADD under control without resorting to pharmaceutical management.  I'm sure there are people out there who are willing and able to make the sacrifices that lifestyle requires.  But in my world, those sacrifices seem too great to make right now.  I have two busy kids.  I'm starting a business.  The work, time and money it would require to eat only organic whole foods is too much for me.  And the protest that would erupt in my house if I tried to make the kids start eating only organic whole foods would rival the Occupy Wall Street protests.

So I made the (clearly not easy) decision to go back to medication to help me manage my ADD symptoms. If I can't model good management of my own symptoms, how can I expect my daughter to manage her own symptoms?  I don't want her to feel bad about relying on medication.  There's no shame in needing help.  I hope that medication is a short-term solution.  I hope that things will settle down, at least a little, so that I can feel like I'm in control again.  And once I feel in control, maybe using natural remedies won't seem like an insurmountable goal.

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