As the post from 22 October 2013 notes, I had to see a therapist at Healthlinc. It is part of their procedure before they will prescribe ADD medicines. I actually understand it from their point of view. There are things that are important to know about before giving someone ADD meds, especially the stimulant category, so having them talk to a therapist makes good sense. It also can highlight other problems. For someone like me, it also can be a stress inducing nightmare.

At this point, I’ve seen the therapist twice, each visit a week a part. The first visit was emotionally and mentally exhausting. I was trying to keep up with what felt like a mountain of information about myself, a lot of it things I don’t like to talk about, particularly not with strangers. The tricky part was that it was important that I talk about those hard things so that I could explain who I am now. The path to here is pretty important and laden with many challenges. From talking about previous family stress to talking about being a sexual abuse survivor, it was difficult. There were times I wondered exactly what the hell I was doing and why I was bothering. I mean, clearly, I’ve made it through the last year without the meds, I can keep going this way. (The answer to that is, “No, not really, genius, that’s why you’re here.”)

There were a lot of things to discuss and several different types of questionnaires to fill out. Those are harder than they seem at first glance! You are asked to both note if you have specific types of traits or behaviors and how often you have those traits and behaviors. You also have to answer questions about how often those things interrupt your daily life. For some, I had to ask Rin who was with me, helping me sort through all the information and answer his questions to the best of my ability. Others made me laugh. A lot. Like the question that asked something like, “Do you ever find yourself in conversations in social situations where you talk a lot?” Gee. I dunno. I’m just a shy, quiet… yeah I can’t even finish the sentence. While I have become more reserved with people in recent years, I’ll still talk people’s ears off if they give me half a chance. There were other questions that I wanted to lie about because I had to battle the mental voice that said, “You shouldn’t tell the truth about those types of things or they’ll call you crazy.” I had to answer questions about past self-harm…which of course as I am writing this right now sends me on a hunt to find the actual date because I knew I had written about it in one of my Livejournal’s. This hunt led me to the discovery that one of my LJs was blocked because someone tried to access it somewhere else (I suspect it might have been me sitting here in Cleveland instead of South Bend), but I changed the password first and THEN unblocked it because I’m not dumb. Anyway, so after all of THAT hassle, I went hunting for the entry through my 381 tags on my twisteddaydream LJ and actually stumbled into it. So, the last time I cut myself with the intent of self-harm was 19 July 2003. Over ten years. That’s pretty damn good in my opinion. Anyway, so yes, talking about all of the things at that first appointment was hard.

When I left I wasn’t sure how I felt. I knew I was more determined than ever to not go on anti-depressants because that crap doesn’t work for me and I’m not in the mood to play with my brain chemistry right now. I also was vehemently against the idea of finding a therapist for myself now. (There’ll be more about this later.) I felt a bit better about the therapist himself. He was surprisingly easy to talk to and he has a sense of humor and perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t think -my- sense of humor is weird. He also let Rin come into the session with me which was a pretty huge deal for me and it made it easier for me to keep up with things. She helped me get back on track several times and helped explain things when I couldn’t quite find the words to make sense. I actually did give him the journal entry, unfortunately I forgot to point him to the second half first so we ran out of time. I left on the note of “come back for a wrap-up session next week” and went home (to tasty soup and a nap!).

Rin and I talked about a lot of different things, trying to decompress. There were some concerns about some of the things that he had tried to focus on and we both realized that we needed a better list for the next session, particularly since it was going to be shorter. After talking about it off and on across the week, we made the list about an hour before we had to leave. I’m not going to share all of it because there are things that I don’t really want to write about just now; however, I will share the general gist because I’m actually pretty proud of parts of it.

We started with what my goals for having ADD medicine were. It was something he’d mentioned at the previous session – that the doctors liked to have a reason or a goal behind prescribing that type of medicine instead of taking for the sake of taking it.  (I’m going to share the goals at the end but I want to go over the outline first.) This actually makes a lot of sense to me, and it required some extra thought on my part. I had some of the obvious goals like wanting to not feel dumb in the brain all the time, but I actually had to find more than one or two reasons.

The second part was “Strategies I’m Already Using to Help Deal with ADD and Anxiety.” This list was also a bit harder to write because it involved thinking about both what I don’t do well and what I have actually managed to change. Rin helped a lot with this part because it wasn’t always easy for me to just sort it out from all of the random chaos that exists in my brain.

The last part was perhaps the hardest and the one that I’m not going to share parts of just yet. It was basically an organized list of things that I do differently now versus how I did them in the past. I summarized some of the things I had discussed in the last session and pointed out that he had seemed to focus on some things that weren’t really as large a problem as they might have sounded and how there were other things that were perhaps a larger focus. It involved having to weed through hard things and come up with a succinct list.

When I arrived at the appointment, I realized that the best plan of attack was to address the third section first. It actually made it much easier to focus on the things that perhaps really did need to be discussed. As I discussed things on all three lists, the therapy question came up again but I told him I couldn’t properly answer him until I finished my list. Because, damn it, I made a list and I HAD to finish it because my brain wasn’t thinking about anything else.

The first part of the list was this: Things I’m Trying to Do

  • Homeschooling: I’m already doing this, but it would be nice to have more focus and be able to do a bit more with her. As it stands there are some subjects I can’t work with her very well on because I have no focus for them, math being the biggest. It is frustrating and it would be better for all of us if I had my brain a bit more in gear.
  • Running a Girl Scout troop: We’re already behind on this, in large part due to the health issues that I’ve been dealing with. There was too much in the air to try to organize things. I am hoping to be able to get a better handle on this by the beginning of the year (before cookie sales). As it stands, I REALLY need some help with this one. It’s one thing to have ideas and another entirely to execute them.
  • Writing: This is a multi-tiered category that includes personal journaling (for obvious reasons), NaNoWriMo, and professional short pieces with the goal of publishing
  • Potentially trying to find editing work online. I love editing but this is something that just really is not working right now. It requires more focus than I have.
  • Day-to-day organization: this one should be pretty self-explanatory.
  • Knitting for fun and for profit: Knitting is helpful for me in a lot of ways plus it is really fun; however, through a Kickstarter for a local convention, RiverCon, Rin bought us an Artist Alley table. I have ideas for what I want to do but I’m going to need help in the focusing department both to learn new patterns between now and April but to stay on top of organized lists and the like.
  • Being scatterbrained makes it harder to get out of the house on time causing anxiety about being late: this one is one many of you are familiar with. No one knows how irritating it is to constantly be late and yet it doesn’t seem to matter how much earlier we get up (or don’t sleep at all), something inevitably comes up. It is typically a combination of not being able to move quickly because of pain levels and not having things in organized spaces (which hearkens back to the day-to-day organization thing). I’d really like to not be late aaaall the time.

A couple of other notes that were made with this page were that ADD and pain both impair focus and that the ADD meds help with both of those and would make the list more feasible. I also noted that writing helps keep my brain organized but it isn’t enough by itself. [Medicine] helps me to write better by increasing my ability to focus. One of the fastest ways for me to be upset when I’m writing is when I can’t find words. (Hell, pretty much anytime. Writing is not alone in this frustration.) Not finding words is also a dual problem.

The second list is: Strategies I’m Already Using

  • Being more forgiving of myself when I feel overwhelmed. This includes talking it out with my partner or my friends as opposed to falling into the bad habit of mentally berating myself when I feel overwhelmed.
  • Trying to keep a regular calendar (though this one is definitely a work in progress).
  • Actually writing things as opposed to saying, “I should be writing things” even when it is frustratingly difficult. This also includes using that writing to work through things like disagreements to help clarify my feelings and to look at other views.
  • Knitting
  • Taking short daytime walks (and the occasional nighttime stroll around the circle key).
  • Reading motivational writing like Momastery, The Bloggess, and The Militant Baker.
  • Talking about things that make me anxious/worried/scared instead of trying to keep it all to myself which helps with ADD problems and anxiety and depression.
  • Taking online classes through Coursera.
  • Cutting screen time late at night and trying to knit instead of goofing around online (also a work in progress).

Once I actually put that list together I was actually pretty damn proud of myself. It’s a viable list with things that I’ve actually been working on doing to make me a better me. This is really cool. Even more cool was the fact that the therapist told me that I have good coping skills. That was kind of huge for me. I’ve been notorious in the past for either ignoring things until they went away or shoving them to “be dealt with later”.

After going over the lists he agreed that he felt medicine would help. Then he dropped a bit of a bomb. He had a suspicion that since it had been so long since I had been on my other medicine that the doctor would likely want to try a non-stimulant first. I…was not thrilled; however, I understand that there has to be some give and take in these types of things. I’m willing to try [new med] because I am not willing to take an SSRI style medicine. I know that if I flat refuse too many kinds of medicines then I’ll be up a creek without a paddle. So, he and I talked about it for a minute and then he went to hunt the doctor down to ask her what she was willing to do.

While he was gone, I made myself address the “therapy: check yes or no” question and why I was so stubbornly saying no. Rin and I talked and I jotted down thoughts as they came up. The first was a sheer stubborn reaction. No, it isn’t helpful and likely not rational, but I am who I am and stubborn is part of that. The second was stemming from my VERY strong desire to not be on anti-depressants. I’ve been on around half a dozen in the past and they all left me feeling varying levels of numb and not myself and they all impaired my writing ability which is a HUGE problem. Third, though I know I won’t have the same problems I had in the past with therapy, those old anxieties do crop up and are still there. After writing it down on paper and thinking about it like a rational grownup instead of a stubborn asshat, I realized that it might not be a bad idea. There are things that I could use some help with and there are other coping strategies both for ADD, chronic pain, and depression that a therapist might know. The worst case is that I try it and it doesn’t help, so I agreed to let him send a referral over to Oaklawn in South Bend. It is the office he works out of and so he has experience with the people there. I was supposed to give them a call a couple of days after the appointment; however, this week has been a bit hectic, so I’m going to do that this week and we’ll go from there. The diagnosis he sent over is anxiety/NOS which is “not otherwise specified”. It’s a start. He said they will do their own assessments so I’ll get to answer all of those fun questions again. (Yay? Ugh.)

All in all, I’m glad I went to him and I wouldn’t mind chatting with him occasionally if I needed to for medicine purposes. I agreed to try a new medicine. [Though the new medicine is INSANELY expensive. Thankfully the company has a 30-day free trial thing. I still had to buy 5 of the half dose of the dose the doctor wants me on which cost $50 which was ANNOYING but it was the fastest solution since we were on our way out of town. I need to get started on them this weekend because it takes between 2-6 weeks to see a difference. Yeah, I’m not thrilled about that part either; however, I am trying to be positive. It will be different because it is clearly a non-stimulant whereas [old med] is a stimulant, but we’ll see. Worst case is that I try it and then go in and say, “Okay, I tried your expensive medicine and it’s not helping so can I have my medicine now please?” And that’s the mini-rant about that.]