Last week I finally broke down and did it. I went to see my doctor to get help. This issue had been bothering me to varying degrees all my life, but now I figured it was time to do something about it. And while I desired my doctor’s remedy, I was afraid of it, too.
During all of my adult life I have always poked fun at myself over my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I can also look back on my childhood and youth years to see I had it then, but because my grades and achievements never seemed to suffer too terribly for it, my condition suffered a deficit of proper attention. (Bad pun intended!) So, I learned to cope with it by working around it. I also surmised that my inability to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, to leave tasks unfinished, to be ever driven by distraction, or to struggle to keep myself focused for extended periods of time was just an immutable part of my personality. I have always strained for ways to keep centered in a conversation when lots of other sensory distractions are around me. I had learned to tolerate the curse of my insufferably bad short-term memory and disdain for organization.
So, I figured that the whole ADD thing is a quirk to deal with, for better or worse. Sometimes it could be a pain, yes. I also saw it as a benefit to my ministry. It has allowed me to shift gears very quickly (a ministry must!) and to handle sudden changes, even very difficult ones, with agility.
But now that I’m married again, the father of three children, and have numerous, heavy responsibilities as a pastor of a large congregation and a leader in other arenas, the stresses of trying to cope with my condition finally caught up with me. I thank God my ADD didn’t result in losing either my family or my career. However, I did feel like I was losing my grip on my effectiveness and my sanity, bit by bit!
Then one day, it just hit me. I came home after being away for a few days and sat on our family room floor holding Jacob who was being fussy. The TV was on. Blairlee was sitting on the couch talking on the phone. Kathryn was in an adjacent room singing along to music. The dog was barking at something. All of that combined stimuli felt like sharp claws digging into a chalk board. I couldn’t think or focus on anything. Later that evening, Blairlee and I were talking about the usual family stuff– coordinating our schedules, things coming up with Kathryn’s school work, Jacob’s appointments, etc., etc. A few hours later, I couldn’t remember half of the things we had just discussed!
This had been an ongoing pattern that wasn’t getting any better. Finally, I decided that for the first time in my nearly 36 years, it was time to take full ownership of this ADD thing and get some professional help.
So, I called my doctor and asked to be diagnosed and possibly, if necessary… [gulp]… get medication.
The next day, Blairlee, a Maryland state licensed clinical professional counselor, pulled out her DSM-IV, which is a large book that catalogs mental disorders. (I’m sure she was highly anticipating being able to use that book on me one day!) Keeping in mind that neither she nor I am qualified to give psychological assessments, we nevertheless discovered that my behavior and thinking patterns fit almost hand in glove within the diagnosis called ADHD, Inattentive Type. It was as if somebody personally studied my behavioral patterns and created this disorder to describe me.
Several days later, sitting in my doctor’s examination room, I described for her my symptoms, and she heard enough to agree that yes, I’ve got ADHD, Inattentive Type. Then she prescribed Adderall XR, a drug commonly used to treat ADHD. Ironically, my daughter Kathryn, who has my same condition, took that drug for about a year and it worked wonders on her.
Now here’s the funny part: part of me felt truly relieved to finally have some help with this ADHD, for my sake and for those around me. But another part of me deeply dreaded the prospect of living on a medication like this.
It’s not that I have a problem taking medicines. I mean, I take Tylenol for headaches and other over-the-counter drugs for short-term issues. I take antibiotic prescriptions for the occasional sinus or bronchial infections.
Yet there’s part of me that despises the notion of having to take a medication on a long-term or even lifetime basis in order to function properly. It’s like I’m hinging my mental health on a chemical concoction.
Seven years ago, I had to take antidepressants for the only depression I’ve ever suffered, and while I was glad the medication got me to function again, there was something about having to take those pills that I hated. They drove my blood pressure up requiring a medication for hypertension. If I missed a dose of my antidepressant, my life became hell for those few hours until I was able to take it again. Coming off of them was sheer torture.
So, perhaps my fear is now somewhat based on that experience. It’s irrational, of course. I’ll admit that.
And yes, I know that millions of people live everyday taking necessary medications in order to function or even to survive! They take them, do just fine, and whine a lot less than I do about it. And yes, I feel blessed to have gotten this far having had only one other major experience of taking medication long-term.
Maybe my deep reservations are rooted in anxious fears. What if this medicine doesn’t work? What if I’m expecting it to do more than it’s capable of? What if it creates other side effects? What if I somehow get hooked on it? If it doesn’t work or creates too many other problems, are there other remedies that would work? On and on these anxious questions flow. The night before I began taking the medicine, I didn’t sleep well because I was so nervous about having to start it.
Well, I should know in a month’s time whether or not the Adderall will do the trick and also to see what other kinds of helps are out there to help contain the ADHD I have. So far, I have noticed some definite differences and improvements, and that’s been encouraging.
All in all, this is yet another way that Jesus is teaching me to live life one day at a time, not worrying about things that are outside of my control. And hey, if this remedy will help me be more effective in his service, then all the better!
I’m also grateful for having the means and access to excellent medical care and medicine. At the same time, I’ve been increasingly mindful of those who don’t and have conditions far worse than mine that beg for treatment. Their plight far outweighs my own rumination over medication.
So, periodically, I’ll keep you updated on how things go and what I learn. In the mean time, follow doctors orders, especially the Great Physician’s. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!