This one is a longer read than usual, but it seems the story doesn’t condense well; more of an accordion that expands like a bellows to fan the flames.
For frequent readers who’ve been following Musings before July 8/2022, this is another periodic progress report, I suppose, in the ‘how things are going saga’ since the DIAGNOSIS, the trail, not a recovery story as much as a discovery story, how Mark and his ADHD meds are getting along …
It has been four months since confirmation of a diagnosis, four months on a daily medication, four months having that early morning chaos in my executive office, to feel that 5:30 AM dosage doing its work. I’ve been asked by many, wanting to know answers as much as I do, what it feels like.
I find difficulty answering with any clarity how it’s only a tiny bit physical in terms of feeling something as my body gets its dose every morning while at the same time seeing changed behaviour and improved results in many things without any physical sensation. That said, given only four months of experience, I’m so grateful for science and my doctor because it is life-altering mentally.
All problems still need to be dealt with – actions required, thinking required, decisions required …
And all opportunities fly through the air the same old way – but the ones grabbing my attention are better ones, more rationally chosen/pursued, and the crazy-making rabbit holes are more likely to be avoided, dismissed, or only explored a little.
That’s part of this learning – I haven’t changed who I am, what I do/how I do anything – nothing dramatic or radical, but in understanding myself better, noticing what I’m doing, almost like a fly on the wall observation; well, that has been powerful. A little unsettling at moments because the fly recalls being on the wall many times in my past life, and the view of situations and decisions gone by are unpleasant to re-run in my brain.
On the hand, how effectively I make choices and stay focused on something through to its completion without getting distracted has been a significant transformation.
While it would be nice to know that will translate to a happier life, better years, longer vacations, and a fatter bank account, there is no guarantee in life, but I’m so glad to continue this exploration. It’s only been four months, so probably too soon to know where this is going. I started on a low dose, increased that almost immediately and upped it again about a month ago – a level that I’m told is pretty typical for my diagnosis.
There is zero desire to turn back to the way I was – no desire to opt off these meds or deny this ‘little condition’; it’s not a condition, and I want to own this. It’s not an illness; it’s a disorder I’ve always had and always will. But it’s treatable, and now I know that a mighty change is underway. I can’t imagine not dealing with this or not wanting. For me, it’s like having the fastest bike in town.
But fast bikes, cars, and fast anything has to be driven carefully, or you risk a crash.
Methinks this is not a lot different. I’m confident it is going better than before; so far, I feel comfortable with the ride up the learning curve and a few ‘surprise curves’ in the road – so I’ll need to buckle up!
However, I’m at a life stage when, aside from learning this significant difference in who I am and how I can operate, part of the learning is about better clarity on what is important to me and how I intend to do what I’m committed to doing. This is more evident as every week passes – internal clarity and actual results, billable transactions, clients saying maybe, clients saying yes …
And some no’s as well.
Saying no to things I don’t want to do.
By saying no to things not aligned with my compass heading and saying no graciously to some opportunities that I see as a drag factor or distraction on my pursuit of specific targeted *BHAGs.
There is a coaching program many in our company participate in, and I’m a convert to its philosophy of not chasing hard or selling hard, but instead offering to be of service, to adding value beyond our costs and giving vs. taking. Given my upbringing of very modest means, it is hard to breed abundance when you’ve been raised by a family and schooled in the early stages of my career to a hungry go-getter, rooted in scarcity-think.
That said, the coaching program is in alignment with my enlightenment and recent revelations. I was a fan of the program’s values, but I admit to not being as fully committed as I said I was. That has changed – not in ways the world sees yet, but it’s an empowering change and perhaps an emboldening one too.
By actions, I mean new things I’m pursuing more deliberately, finishing lingering projects/ventures, picking assignments and developing client relationships using my new-found compass.
In Calgary, oil industry folks have taught me an oil industry term – measuring while drilling – the concept of not slowing a process and figuring out how to measure what you’ve accomplished or how far you’ve gone while not slowing down the activity. I think that’s as good a comparator I can use to describe it at this point.
In a few more months, some traction on new things will prove whether I’m measuring something real or simply something I wished to be true. Feedback and a sense of knowing I’m on solid and more confident footing are palpable. Validation from others who observe this morphing feels great too.
By 6:30, I can feel it, almost like the buzz you get from a strong caffeine hit when you are tired – it’s that ‘sit up and feel both calm and controlled’ moment of feeling empowered to take on the day.
As I’ve been learning more about executive function in the brain, one of my most vivid feelings about it is a contradiction. I wonder, “Wow, how did I manage before?” – set against, “I can use this like driving a new fast car.”
Those aren’t facts. They are feelings.
But explaining this to anyone, to readers, and explaining it to myself is difficult – I feel inadequate to this task – and while I’m rarely at a loss for words, this is a 100% new experience.
Still, I try to explain it as having two elements; first, to recognize I have a powerful and empowering new tool in my box; and second, to not be overconfident in terms of what I can do and how quickly I can manifest results …
Because of impatience, my strong desire to not waste time is, at times enormously frustrating, because I can’t unwind a clock from so many years of ticking to capture opportunities missed.
No one can. So there is a frustration of having missed so many opportunities along the way to take charge of things better, to have not-avoided or delayed things, to have chosen different paths in education, career, lifestyle and locale.
I’ve spent most of my life on or near Highway 2 in Alberta; while I’ve travelled to many places, my knowledge of the world beyond North America doesn’t come from first-hand research and travel.
There is some amazement of ‘what could have been’ mixed, ‘what can still be’ …
I’ve been recording my experiences – bits and pieces ‘to be assembled’ together with columns I’ve written about ADHD.
I hope to stitch those together soon while these recollections of happenings and feelings of the last few months are fresh. I was chatting about this learning with several friends in recent days – and admit that most of my learning so far is light on ‘understanding ADHD’ where I am still ‘just beginning to learn,’ because my experience has been about ‘learning to run my life on ADHD medication’ which is not the same thing.
Rather than learning more about how the engine works, I’m more focused on what I can do with this new fuel --- and I hope that conveys a sense of both the thrills and the fears.
I fear I won’t learn enough, fear that I’ll quit focusing on the road ahead and focus too much on regrets of paths not taken. I fear that my new understanding of myself will cause too many feelings of shame, regrets and inadequacies in my life, ones I can’t unwind, relive, or repair.
There is a fear, too, a rather constant one, that now I’ll be more able than ever and won’t have the life force and commitment to sustain new resolve, to spend the time to accomplish things I am firmly committed to doing.
I fear death – not for the reasons many do (that deserves an entirely separate column one day) but for not having enough time and stamina to start and finish bold new things. I mitigate that fear by reminding myself of good genes and a good doctor, better health/diet practices, and the confidence to dream large while awake and dream larger when I sleep.
The other day I had this driven home for me in a strange way – en route to the office, I was listing to a news program on CBC. Someone was interviewing a couple, farmers in Abbotsford who are third-generation farmers recovering still from flood damage to their mixed farming/dairy operation. Their emotions were palpable, among them a shared desire to pass on a viable farm to their children, who would, in turn, pass it on to their children.
I smiled and remembered a day, early in my business life when I too was imagining/hoping that my children would want to follow in my footsteps, to take over what I create and sustain.
That never happened for me, though I explored the notion to no avail, but I wonder in retrospect – if I’d had a properly functioning executive function in my brain, it would be comforting brain candy to imagine a different me might have appeared more worthy of following, the reality has been great. They pursued what interested them most. And, this is my opinion only, children of those farmers deserve the freedom to choose their path as opposed to having their future decided for them. We all do.
Life is something we live in forward-gear only. We have brakes and an accelerator. We can shift gears – but there is no reverse in this car. No matter our speed, road conditions, or vehicle, there is only one way to go, forward. It’s a one-way freeway, single line sometimes and a wide runway at others – ahead, the only way we can go.
Special thanks to several unnamed counterparties lately – to those I’ve chatted with, thank you. To those I’ve opted not to chat with, your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Special mention to Hazel, who has been amazing of late (that should come as no surprise!), for being a steadying influence I value so much. I would be sailing choppy waters into headwinds without you, your wise counsel and support.
And, when the regret-rearview mirror shows up in my day, there have been moments – twinges really, not so much of regret but of ‘what ifs’ about things not said, not done, not explored, and never tried. I can’t go back and do what I never did or correct what I wish I had not done. That’s a crazy-making moment to avoid, but I admit to going down that path from time to time.
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve found something that in itself is measurable change, given my history and anxiety, something I’m now taking for granted as a new strength/ability – and finding some moments to ponder that amazement. You see, I sat down at 5:30 with only one notion – to be writing down a few thoughts to capture how I’m feeling, how I’m doing – to record it in real time for my record, and to share with readers. And without interruption, wrote continuously to 7:06, when I stopped. I’d not moved from my chair, not felt any urge to do any of dozens of things in my head or on my ‘to do’ list for today.
The executive function can triage all that – my schedule for the day is full, set, yet flexible – and purged/postponed of not-necessary elements before I turned off my computer last night. I allocate morning time for writing and walking, as I have for nearly 20 years writing this column every day. The difference lately, as readers will have seen, is the writing is longer, the writing is better, and the value to this writer/recorder of events is improved beyond any measure I could have imagined.
I’m early days still, and with no definitive conclusions yet reached and no sage advice for anyone, but I do have a wish for everyone: if you know anyone of any age who you think might be ADHD, I believe encouraging them to consider getting assessed, to get advice, get informed and get treated will be something they will be enormously grateful for your encouragement. Sure, they’ll have moments they’ll hate you for it, but those few moments will be eclipsed by days full of untold learning and self-exploration you will have unlocked for them. My daughter’s research led her to see herself, and in turn showing me that learning you have ADHD when you never knew is a key that unlocks a door to untold surprises. It unlocks a vast, exciting unknown. It enables a refreshed and empowered way to see every day as never imagined. By 7:15 it was time to go for walk in the very damp accumulation of snow.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for your patience and understanding, and be assured tomorrow’s column will be shorter!