Sunday, July 5, 2009
Do I Have Adult ADHD?
When I first learned about ADHD, I immediately became very interested because I thought I saw those traits in members of my family. I pretty much believed that it didn't it describe me but I did suspect it just a bit.
However, this journey to find calm is regrettably still going on and so I'm considering everything. Thus, I've been looking at my younger years to see if I had moments of impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity that were so bad that it interfered with my progress academically, socially, and emotionally.
When I look back to my childhood, I see a girl who did a good job at hiding her problems. It was easier to do this because I grew up with an older brother who always out shined me in everything. When we were kids, there was never any question that he was smarter, more popular, more talented, and always, always got into so much more trouble than me. Perhaps this might be why I felt like my problems weren't too big because he always had a bigger load. But does that mean, I didn't have any issues including ADHD? Now I'm thinking no especially since I am learning now that ADHD could be a bit different in girls and women.
I've been looking for clues these past few months and it didn't take long to figure out that there were many signs that I was not the calm kid I framed myself to be. I broke my leg when I was four because I went on some broken playground equipment just to keep up with my cousins. (Hard to explain, just trust me). My mom also told me when we were still living in Korea, I would sometimes tantrum or freak-out so badly that they had to give me "medicine from Germany." What the hell was that? I will never know. I think I was probably 3 or 4 years old.
When I was six, I did not want to lose for the hundredth time to my brother in our daily race home from the school bus stop. We were latch-key kids so we often had no supervision until my mom came home from work. One day, it was pouring rain which automatically meant that our race was canceled. However, I decided it was my day to win and so I closed my eyes and darted across the street, from the middle, not the crosswalk. It wasn't my light and so of course I was hit by a car and broke my leg.
In the fourth grade, I had a not-so-patient teacher who tested our reading comprehension every week by making us answer four questions after reading the most boring stories in the world. I failed every one of those tests that year because I could never get past the first paragraph. I would invariably just get lost. My parents didn't know because I managed to hide it from them. I was a good at forgery of which you just have to forgive me because my Dad believed in corporal punishment. The next year, I had a wonderful teacher who motivated me and had little trouble in school. I actually got good grades most of my life until 10th grade when things became harder and then I ended up with average grades.
Socially, I was somewhat awkward. I always had friends but I would be very self-conscious to the point that I sometimes didn't even hear what they were saying to me. I rarely wanted to go out to play. I was content watching t.v. and eating Chef Boyardee every day after school but luckily for me, they managed to drag me out often. I did enjoy playing but transitioning out of my house afterschool was hard for me.
In high school, I didn't really find my way socially until I founded a club that focused on celebrating Asian cultural heritage. However, the experience was so much more than that because leading a club often meant that you got a chance to practice public speaking, recruiting, advertising, and selling. This is the way I chose to interact with my classmates. I couldn't just be there and have friends, I always had to have some purpose or task.
Additionally, I had strange habits in school. I was a horrible note-taker and learning generally consisted of going home and teaching myself the lessons through the textbook. I was successful at it until the coursework became too difficult. To be sure, physics and pre-calculus stopped the "teach-thyself" method dead in its tracks. I was also a night owl, unable to study and do complicated homework until it was late at night, quiet, with no distractions.
Believe it or not, I'm not that different now. I can read much better especially when it's quiet but I still avoid reading or learning things that are boring, tedious, and complicated. Luckily, I have Kai to help me with some of these things.
I am also still self-conscious in social situations and I have a much easier time in a crowd if I have a job to do, whether it be serving drinks or serving the cause of my charity. ADHD experts say that undiagnosed adults have found ways to compensate for their condition and only find out about themselves when their child is diagnosed. For me, I still never looked back at my childhood with a clear eye when Logan was evaluated. In fact, I managed to attribute everything to Kai. (Could I be more pitiful?) But the truth could no longer be ignored because as the kids got older and the behaviors became more challenging, there was certainly no compensating my way around them. I wonder if all children have a way of making their parents uncover things they don't want to admit about themselves.
Last month I met a neurologist who quite instantly agreed with me that I might have ADHD after I told him what I have been going through and about my childhood and my child's diagnosis. It took less than twenty minutes. Could it be that simple? Perhaps it could be since I was giving him the results of all I had gone through with other doctors and yet, it still felt a bit rushed and uncaring. I decided that that this was managed care and that I should do my best to work with this person for at least a few months. I am also afraid that I am going through doctors like fortune tellers, just waiting for the right one to tell me what I want to hear (whatever that may be).
The neurologist gave me a prescription for a stimulant and wanted to give me something else because he felt that I had "two pathologies." (Why do doctors talk this way? Do they take a course in med school named, "How to Make Your Patients Feel Certifiable") I told him that I'd like to try one drug at a time and he suggested that it be the ADHD drug. I don't dislike drugs but I no longer use the analogy, "an ADHD drug is like putting on a pair of glasses." Sorry, but there are no glasses that I know of that can even possibly raise the risk of sudden unexplained cardiac arrest in children. And yet, I want to give everything a try because while an ADHD or any psychotropic drug may not be like a pair of glasses, it doesn't change the fact that you are indeed squinting to see things.
Bottomline: Three MDs and still I don't feel like I've found all the answers but I haven't given up. The doctor wants me to do an EEG and an MRI. This really annoyed me because I don't even feel like I have time for a haircut but I'm going to close my eyes, shut my mouth, and just jump. Let's see if this doctor and the Theory of Two Pathologies can help this mom be calm.
Picture: Me in my first grade portrait which obviously has not been properly stored. That year, I managed to move to a new country, adopt a new name (Jennifer), learn to speak English, make rice for dinner, and get run over by a car.