It’s a long one but then again I haven’t posted in a LONG time!
Well, it HAS been a long while since I posted on the blog. Its been a rough first quarter of 2012 for me. My last true post was on 6 January. I don’t think this quarter would have been this hard had I been prepared for the Australian Government’s control of some types of prescription medication. I’m going to get personal but it’s helpful to me to explain and maybe someone else can be helped by me explaining. At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD. To some of you this may not be much of a surprise; to me it was life shattering and life-giving, I guess you could say. The diagnosis rocked my life’s foundation and devastated me. So much I had lost, so much I had missed, so much I had dreamt of and so many lies I had lived with.
When I was around 10 or 11, I knew deep down in my heart that I wanted to be a vet and I wanted to live in Australia. I shared it with anyone who would listen. My parents even enrolled me in private school beginning in the first grade. I don’t think this had much to do with my dream more than they were able at the time to afford private school for 1 out of 4 kids. Why not start with the one just beginning to go to school? In my mind, I limped by in school. I was more in trouble for being noisy than I was getting commendations for my academic prowess. It took me twice as long to learn things because every time I got to the end of a paragraph, I had no clue what I had just read. Literally I couldn’t tell you whether I had just read about an English lesson or a History lesson because while I was reading, there were thousands of other thoughts going through my mind. Those thoughts raced and raced and collided and magnified. I felt stupid. What was wrong with me? I was average but I felt a very lost average. When I went to a private college preparatory high school, I felt way out of my league. I just had to work harder, care less or find another way to pass my courses. I am inventive in that way.
I was in high school with kids who aced their SAT’s and ACT’s. Me? I hated those tests because my brain always used those racing thoughts to fake me out. It would tell me, “Hurry, hurry, there is going to be something in here you don’t know. Hurry, rush through the test. Find that one question that is going to ruin the whole thing. Look at everyone else. They’re doing just fine!” By the time I rushed through, I had no clue what had happened, which question was answered correctly, which one I was supposed to come back to, etc. Studying was difficult and I didn’t sit still for long. I also contended with the racing thoughts. I didn’t know that was what they were. I thought everyone had them. Mine tended to be negative observations about myself physically and always did a number on me emotionally. I was overwhelming in relationships; as though my life depended on you being my friend. I still hear the hundreds of comments, “Jeez Susan, you are so hyper. Calm down!” If my perception was you didn’t like me, that gave me license to try harder. It was always something wrong with me. I compared my insides to your outsides and I never measured up.
I graduated high school and was accepted to Texas A&M into their Pre-Veterinarian Program. So many things happened that first year of college that beat me to a pulp. I was cut during sorority rush which seemed to confirm the negative racing thoughts in my head. I gained 24 pounds that first year, same confirmation. I was lost in a math class of 600 students after spending the last 12 years in classes no larger than 25. The one thing I had been feeling in high school that was becoming clearer to me in college was that I was definitely not smart enough to be there nor to become a vet. After 3 semesters I transferred to TCU and got a business degree with which I have never done a thing with…why? Because it isn’t what I wanted to do with my life. In my mind I personally haven’t accomplished much. I am a wife and I mother but I have always felt a sense of loss since I transferred from A&M.
Back in the 70’s to early 80’s, there wasn’t much information on learning disorders, especially ADD or ADHD. I have a brother who was diagnosed with Dyslexia in high school in the very early 80’s but very little was known about it either. He struggled; I watched him struggle. The reason he got help (from my perspective) and my learning disability wasn’t diagnosed was that he was failing some classes and no one could figure out why. Hell, ADHD was not even a recognized disorder until 1980 and it was more common in boys. I think so much of my ADHD was internalized and being a female, the hyperactivity wasn’t an issue. I graduated high school in 1986. Go figure…
When a dear friend mentioned ADHD to me under the assumption I knew I had it, I was dumbfounded. HUH? Why would she think I have the disorder? She mentioned a few symptoms…ones that even I knew were a part of my makeup. I looked at her and asked, “Is this why I can read a paragraph and have no idea what I have read?” As she slowly nodded, I broke down in the most gut wrenching sobs I have experienced. It hurt. It hurt deeply. So many years of feeling like a failure from not being a vet to not being able to keep a clean house. So many racing thoughts had pounded my heart and soul for 40 years, I wasn’t sure I would recover.
So in 2007 when I was diagnosed, I had a great psychologist to help me with the ADHD and a psychiatrist to prescribe the necessary medication to get it under control. My life changed that year. I went from unorganized chaos to organized chaos – HA! I gave myself a break because the racing thoughts had stopped. I could focus on what was in front of me. Some of the most simple things in life can waylay an ADHD’er for days trying to figure out how to start the process. Once they start it, what are the necessary steps to finish it? AND God forbid something looks colorful or interesting along the way that catches their eye and their attention. All of this cleared up for me and I had felt more successful in the last 4 years than I have in my lifetime.
The problem here in Oz stems from a group of mothers in the 1980’s who decided to sell their children’s Ritalin to make extra money. The government got involved and pulled all ADHD medication “in-house.” I have been working the process since before Christmas and I am still not on the correct levels of medications. I know this because I feel like I did before 2007. I have thoughts like I did before 2007. But most of all, I don’t like how I fell and think because I know I can be better. Patience was never one of my virtues but I am quickly learning.
The process goes like this: I first saw a General Practitioner. God love that man. He worked his rear end off trying to get me the medication I needed or at least to a doctor who could prescribe me what I needed. He even sent me to the hospital emergency room thinking the doctors there had the pull to prescribe the medication to tide me over until I saw a psychiatrist. Nope. He referred me to a Psychiatrist. It took a month to get an appointment with him. I have worked with this doctor for almost 2 months with 3 different kinds of medications each to the max level that he is allowed by the government to prescribe. These are low levels. He has now determined that he wants to refer me to the ADHD Psychiatric Specialist who will also evaluate me just as the previous doctor has done. This new doctor will then petition the Australian government with his findings and recommendations for the restricted medication and the dose he wants to prescribe. The government then decides whether I should have it, grants the doctor the approval and the doctor prescribes the ADHD medication for me. Sadly, this must happen every time a new prescription is needed. So I am waiting to hear back from the specialist to schedule an appointment. We are out almost $2,000 and I’ve dealt with some pretty bad lows in the last few months.
I feel on the upswing though but it will take time. I’m very involved in MBD’s school volunteering in the school’s canteen. It gets me out of the house and around other people. The laid back no worries attitude of this culture has helped with the racing negative thoughts. I feel off kilter and not quite “me.” In the end, I DO know it will all work out.
Thank you to my wonderful husband for all he has endured and to MBD for all she has survived. 🙂 They have both stuck by me on this roller coaster. Thank you to MWH for keeping in touch with all of you. I promise to keep writing. There is so much I want to share with you about this wonderful country – there are some definite quirks here! To all who have or have not noticed, the new banner photo at the top of the page is the incredibly talented work of MWH! Hugs and kisses to you all!