Things With Acronyms

Starla Jackson

Starla studies chemicals.

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32 Responses

  1. atomickristin says:

    Great piece! I loved it!Report

  2. pillsy says:

    Great piece.

    My reaction is probably going to be a bit involved and weird, because I have a lot of overlapping experiences. Hell, I even ended up getting my ADHD diagnosis in grad school, and it was more due to disorganization and lack of focus than actual distractibility.

    The places where the “ADHD Is Different for Women” didn’t resonate me [1] involved this:

    The idea that young adults, particularly women, actually have ADHD routinely evokes skepticism. As a fairly driven adult female who found the strength to sit through biology lectures and avoid major academic or social failures, I, too, was initially perplexed by my diagnosis. My peers were also confused, and rather certain my psychiatrist was misguided. “Of course you don’t have ADHD. You’re smart,” a friend told me, definitively, before switching to the far more compelling topic: medication. “So are you going to take Adderall and become super skinny?” “Are you going to sell it?” “Are you going to snort it?

    I had a similar trajectory in my life, and all my friends were like, “LOL pillsy of course you have ADHD I can’t believe it took you this long to realize it.”

    So yeah definitely gendered social expectations around, and reactions, to the diagnosis.

    As for how the diagnosis helped (and it helped a lot) it made me feel less like a lazy jerk and more like someone who just had an especially hard time with some tasks (like remembering where I put my car keys or paying even vague attention to a lecture for a whole grueling 45 minutes).

    I had done a fair amount of teaching math and science at that point (as a TA, a tutor, and an adjunct), and knew that some students just don’t click with math. They aren’t dumb, or lazy, or hopeless, but they are going to have to work really hard just to get basic competence.

    Whether it was a disorder or not was mostly immaterial to me (as with you, the only material change was that it provided access to medication which, for me, is somewhat helpful). But it allowed me to reorient myself to issues of organization and focus as stuff I was bad at, and either commit to really double my efforts in the occasional cases where being organized was desperately important, or basically just accept the fact that I suck at some tasks that most people handle pretty effortlessly and plan my life accordingly.

    As I’ve gotten older and, well, somewhat more comfortable with myself, I’ve increasingly just viewed it is who I am (and since I’m an atheist I generally take an even more “you are your body” view), for better or worse.

    Again, great piece. Thanks for writing it.

    [1] And since I’m not a woman, I was mildly surprised it was only one part!Report

    • veronica d in reply to pillsy says:

      The trick with keys is to always put them in exactly the same place. When you get home, keys and wallet go into keys and wallet place. Always. Exactly that place.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to veronica d says:

        This. If I don’t put them down at once in the same spot, I will set them down on some random flat surface or lose them in the door for a day or two.Report

      • pillsy in reply to veronica d says:

        That is the trick.

        Eventually I decided to back things up with one of those little Tile gizmos, though, which helps on those occasions when I forget the trick.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

          Because I have been leaving my vehicle to run around in the woods for so many years I have an elaborate system for not losing my keys. Every hunting vest or bag I carry has a dedicated spot for my keys with a clip so they can’t fall out. If I’m hunting on private land I just leave my keys on the roof of the car. And I have a key safe bolted to the frame underneath the car with a spare for if any of the above systems should fail.Report

    • Starla Jackson in reply to pillsy says:

      I had a sentence (which I deleted) about how what *really* helps me is the combination of the drugs and my to-do list app, which I also discovered after being diagnosed and really committing to do what I had to to finish my PhD.Report

  3. Mike Dwyer says:

    Great post.

    I have a close family member that I am about 95% sure has Borderline Personality Disorder. As you reference, just having a suspicion of a disorder can help you understand what is happening and plan to deal with it. Interestingly, for people with BPD, even their therapists/psychiatrists are very hesitant to reveal their diagnosis (and many do not) because BPDs are very prone to grouping everyone into Allies and Enemies and the mental health professional needs to stay in the Ally camp in order to help them. So they treat the symptoms without naming it. Also, BPD itself doesn’t really respond to medications so there is less necessity in formally naming it for that reason either, as opposed to something like depression or ADHD.Report

  4. North says:

    This is a fascinating piece and very well written. Well done!Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    When properly medicated, I become more of the person I want to be, and I feel less like myself.

    I haven’t smoked marijuana since… 1995? I miss it.
    Smoking it allowed me to do stuff like watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a movie rather than as a set of Christian allegories.
    Quantum Leap went from being a schmaltzy hour-long show into a three hour Shakespearean Epic.
    And I slept oh-so-very well at night. (I sleep well now, of course… but, man, that sleep…)

    Who knows what the coming years hold.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

      I was thinking about weed in relation to the preceding paragraph

      But even when I manage the “correct” dose and can focus without feeling like my chest is exploding, there’s something unsettling about the way the stimulants make the inside of my head feel unfamiliar, the soft edges of my consciousness turned papery. I can tell my mind is missing a quality it has had my entire life, something I never noticed because I always assumed that it was just what having a mind feels like.

      I know a lot of people use marijuana medicinally, and I imagine I’d have a similar sort of feeling about it if I ended up needing to do so. I enjoy marijuana on occasion, when I get to choose to experience its effects. But being in a constant slight marijuana buzz as a necessity to handle some other symptoms – I don’t think I’d enjoy that at all. There’d have to be some pretty serious symptoms before I wanted to do that to manage them…

      (And it would I think be just the other way around – things normally crisp turned fuzzy)Report

      • George Turner in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Yesterday I heard that a state approved “anxiety” as a valid reason to get a medical marijuana prescription. I have lifelong anxiety disorder, but heck, allowing anxiety to qualify just means that state is okaying de facto recreational use. Is there anyone who can’t honestly say they suffer from anxiety at times, except perhaps for the people who already stay stoned?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

          The list in Colorado was as long as your arm. Lower back pain? Insomnia? Diarrhea? Cha-cha-cha?

          Yep, all were officially reasons to be approved for a Red Card.

          The notable thing that was *NOT* an official reason to be approved? PTSD. (As Colorado Springs is spitting distance from 4.5 military bases, this is more relevant here than many other cities.)Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to George Turner says:

          Is approving Xanax, Proxac, or Zoloft as treatments for one or more anxiety disorders the same as okaying de facto recreational use of those drugs?

          We could look at it another way: The state is recognizing that
          (1) cannabis can be effective treatment for the disorders, potentially more effective and / or with less severe side effects for at least some patients,
          (2) there will probably be some people abusing this recognition to get a false diagnosis (just as some people currently try to get false diagnoses to get access to Adderall, Ritalin, opioids, benzos, etc.)
          (3) the benefit of 1 outweighs any harm of 2, (editorial: probably by a considerably greater margin than in the case of opioids)

          I will be curious to find out what happens to medical cannabis prescriptions in Canada in a few years, now we have legal recreational. How many people drop the medical pretense and just go to the cannabis store for their recreational supply, how many people try cannabis recreationally and go “oh wow this helps with my anxiety and lets me function better than the Zoloft does, I’m going to see about getting my prescription switched over”.Report

          • George Turner in reply to dragonfrog says:

            I think they really cracked down on Xanax prescriptions once the party crowd discovered it.

            I had some housemates who were still in college, were extremely drunk, and wanted to snort some pills. They knew I had SSRI’s (like Zoloft) and I tried to explain that it takes many days to have any effect at all. They wouldn’t accept the validity of my argument, so finally I gave them a pill. They ground it up and snorted it, and a few minutes later they were all lined up at the sink trying to get massive amounts of blood out of their noses. It turns out that an SSRI attacks nasal passages like it was Crystal Drano. I couldn’t stop laughing at them.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

        For me, the slight buzz (the equivalent of a glass of wine) was a low-level pleasant calming. Like, it became easy to get on the stairclimber for 45 minutes. It didn’t matter that it was boring.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

          I have a similar experience. Like a glass of wine, but where wine sometimes disinhibits me from being inconsiderate, weed makes me if anything more patient and gentle – much more helpful in parenting.

          It’s just, I wouldn’t want to go around with a glass of wine in me all the time either. I like being sober and able to focus clearly. Also, marijuana messes with my sleep – lots of folks find it helps them sleep, but it keeps me awake. I’ll be nice and calm, just not asleep and still having to get up at 7.Report

      • pillsy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I’ve taken a number of different meds four ADHD. None of them are fun. The early ones sucked because they were the opposite: they basically leeched all the fun out of life when I took them.

        The new on works better but it’s expensive and still sometimes causes anxiety.Report

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    One of the things that makes me ambivalent about the increasing tendency to assign medical diagnoses to things like ADHD and autism is that it tends to shift what might have once been considered something to be coped with and adjusted to, to something to be vanquished and eliminated.

    I want to be cautious and stipulate that for some people these sorts of conditions are in fact in need of being vanquished.

    But I also connect it to the maladies of old age such as mild incontinence, heartburn, cholesterol, those sort of modest conditions which are not crippling but annoying, but for which there are all sorts of promised chemical remedies.

    It seems that the recommended treatment in both situations is not a medicine which is taken until the illness is “cured” but a lifelong course of treatment where there is never a cure or end, but neverending purchase.

    And, an unstated model of “correct” behavior and physical condition which is assumed to be universal.

    How many people need actual medicinal treatment versus lifestyle changes? I don’t know. But I do know that things like eating differently and exercise are discouraged if only by omission.

    And the idea that mild autism and attention issues could be successfully coped with as merely an aspect of a personality which has other, beneficial aspects to it seem to get very little play.Report

    • I think looking at it as something to be fixed versus something to be coped with is looking at it as something to be managed. That helps put in perspective that the thing itself is not bad. They are, to an extent, what make us who we are. But if we lose control of them, bad things can happen.

      Medication is one tool in the toolkit. Maybe it’s one we reach for too often because it’s easier than the rest. But the neverending purchase part often tracks to the fact that the thing never stops needing to be managed. And coping is almost always a part of the any treatment because pharmaceuticals usually don’t work on their own. Often, the pharmaceuticals make the coping possible.Report

  7. DavidTC says:

    It’s interesting having both ADHD _and_ a sleep disorder. It’s weirdly much easier to get people to believe I have ADHD than delayed sleep phase disorder.
    My ADHD is a pretty mild case and doesn’t actually affect me much, at most it means I want background noise, TV or music or something, to help me focus on things. And I make sure, as people have said, as people have said, to have exactly one place to put my car keys, and sunglasses, and when I go to places that I visit a lot, I tend to pick a certain area and _always_ park there regardless, etc. I take notes of what I need to do. I put things in my car the day _before_ I need them. I pack bags in advance,and make a list of what I can’t put in the bag yet on my phone, and erase the items one by one off it.
    My coping strategies for my ADHD are pretty good at this point, in fact I often seem to have things _more_ together than other people just because I have _rules_. It barely bothers me, and I don’t take any medication…in fact, I don’t really like medication because, like most people with ADHD, stimulants and depressants have screwy effects.
    My delayed sleep phase disorder, OTOH, means I naturally want to be awake from, at earliest, noon to four in the morning, (And that’s forcing it, I naturally end up from around 5 in the morning or so to about 2. [Edit: No idea why I gave awake times before but sleep times here, heh. But you know what I mean.]) which naturally makes it rather difficult to hold certain jobs. And there’s not really any coping strategies for that except systematically trying to lie to your body about when daytime is, but that is fairly complicated and doesn’t work if people actually have to go places, so…there’s no point unless I want to live in a house with blackout curtains and sunlamps.
    I.e., the DSPD is actually a _disorder_, in the technical sense, in that it causes impairment in my life. The ADHD is…not really.
    It is much, much easier to get people to believe in my ADHD than my DSPD.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

      It’s weird talking to people about it, honestly.
      Them: ‘You should just go to sleep earlier!’
      Me: ‘So…you know night shifts jobs. And how for most people, those jobs are hard to deal with, right? Even after people shift their schedules, they are tired more, they are stressed more, they are in worse health. Right? Everyone knows this, there have been studies done, etc. right? Most people who work a shift from ten in the evening to six in the morning have a rough time of it.’
      Them: ‘Yes, most of them.’
      Me: ‘Right, except those who have different internal clocks.’
      Them: *figuring out where I’m going with this and trying to come up with an objection* ‘I think those people just don’t mind. They can vary it.’
      Me: ‘Possibly, some of them, sure. I’m sure there are people with some sort of ability to ignore the sun. But…that fact _itself_ means there are variations in how different people’s body deals with what time they’re awake, so there surely _could_ be people whose bodies want to be awake at a _different_ time, right? So they can’t vary to ‘normal’ times any more than most people can work a night shift and feel normal.’
      Them: ‘I…maybe. But we’ve got no evidence that you’re one of those people. You’re probably just staying up too late.’
      Me: ‘What sort of evidence would you like? That I haven’t been able to go to sleep before two o’clock literally my entire adult and teenage life, and I can’t even do it that early now?’
      Them: ‘Well…I just think you should stop staying up so late.’
      Me: *starts plotting to call them at four in the morning every night*Report

      • George Turner in reply to DavidTC says:

        How do you know you’re not just a regular nocturnal mammal with no disorder at all? The clock modifications that switch a mammal from one mode to the other are no doubt trivial compared to re-evolving genes for color vision or developing ultrasonic navigation.Report

        • pillsy in reply to George Turner says:

          I’ll grant that if @DavidTC has the ability to do ultrasonic navigation, it’s much more likely that he’s a regular nocturnal animal.

          Of course, a lot of what makes things a “disorder” are socially determined.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to pillsy says:

            I actually am surprisingly good at navigating in total darkness and remembering where things are so I don’t run into them, but that’s not anything genetic, that’s ‘almost two decades of backstage work at a theatre and dozens of shin rammings until I started subconsciously keeping track’.

            Theatre is actually a _really good_ hobby for people with DSPD to get into. It’s not only on an evening schedule, but because everyone gets used to the schedule together, it sorta becomes the norm….everyone stays up late and wakes up late. It’s so ingrained that theatre people call shows that happen at two in the afternoon ‘matinees’, which is from the French word for ‘morning’.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to George Turner says:

          I always figured it that is was probably a ‘deliberate’ genetic variation, in that it’s probably a good idea to have some small percentage of the population wandering around in the middle of the night to keep a watch out for panthers sneaking into the cave. Granted, this is the sort of evolutionary biology I hate, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite there. 😉

          And the ‘early risers’ would be the flip side of that, taking over watch right as we go to sleep. Although they currently have a much easier time in most things, because we have, for some odd reason, scheduled most ‘official’ activities to happen as soon as we wake up. They gain a couple of hours before the start of their day, and lost them at the end, but normal work hours are well within that…they just don’t have much to do for a few hours, but honestly most people need a few hours at home doing stuff and they can just do that stuff until someone murders them for vacuuming at 5 in the morning.

          Actually, part of the real annoyance to me is we’ve idiotically managed to schedule ‘normal hours’ so early that even people with a normal sleep schedule have to wake up early to do them…we’re still starting work at nine. Perhaps that time seemed reasonable when we started doing it (1), because most people sorta want to wake up around eight-ish…but it makes a good deal less sense when there’s an hour commute involved, and that means kids are being put on buses at seven. Most people _can_ force their internal clocks to change an hour or two(2), but few have the discipline or willingness to do so, and end up both rushed _and_ tired in the morning. So basically the _entire population_ is slightly suffering from sleep deprivation because we’re too stupid to change our ‘business schedule’.

          1) Honestly, I’m not even sure of that, I think what happened is we were all working shifts from daybreak to sunset and we decided to remove hours from mostly one side of that.

          2) Heh, now I sound hypocritical, but I’m not. I do force myself to go to sleep before I want to so I can wake up sooner…it’s just that the time I end up at is two or three in the morning instead of four or even five. This is why I get annoyed when people with apparently normal sleep schedules who _decide_ to go to sleep at one or two in the morning (instead of eleven which they would be perfectly capable of doing and do all the time) because they were binge-watching a show or out party and thus are tired all day, then turn around and say to me like ‘You should go to sleep earlier.’. Maybe _you_ should go to sleep earlier, doofus, I’m _already_ going to sleep early. Early is relative! I could (and have) stayed up until like seven in the morning stupidly watching TV too.

          I have a, probably completely unfunny, joke I make when people talk about having to do things at six or seven in the morning, in that I say ‘Man, that’s way too late for me, I’ve usually been asleep for hours by then, I don’t know how you do it.’.Report

          • Starla Jackson in reply to DavidTC says:

            I read something exactly once arguing that insomnia was associated with intelligence so it went in my “Everything wrong with me is associated with intelligence” file.Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Starla Jackson says:

              Yeah, I used to point that out also, when I thought I had insomnia, which I don’t actually. (I mean, not like permanently. I sometimes get small amounts.)

              But for the longest time, all through high school and even past, I assumed, and was told, ‘Laying in bed until two o’clock before you fall asleep is due to insomnia, and that’s making you tired in the mornings and fall asleep during school. You need to work on getting to sleep earlier. You should remove distractions, follow a pattern, blah blah blah insomnia stuff.’.

              But I eventually I realized I had DSPD and I actually could usually get to sleep easily, basically like everyone else did! Just…lay down, close my eyes, and go to sleep in maybe thirty minutes, usually!

              Provided I did it on the _correct_ schedule instead of insanely trying to do it at a time that, to my body, was the equivalent of trying to go to sleep at six in the afternoon.Report

          • George Turner in reply to DavidTC says:

            There has been a fascinating recent sleep study of African hunter-gatherers that figured out why adults have more and more trouble sleeping soundly as they get older. Older folks have always talked about how they’ll just wake up for no reason at all, and then lay wide awake for an hour or so before they can get back to sleep.

            It turns out that in a natural tribal setting, the sequence of elders who keep waking up in the middle of the night provide an almost continuous night watch for the rest of the group. There was almost always some older person who was laying quietly but wide awake, listening to the sounds of around the camp for an hour or so before going back to sleep.

            All the children and younger adults slept the whole night through, never realizing that there was almost always an older person who was awake, and the older people didn’t realize that they were serving as a night watch.

            This is going to hold true with almost any large and representative sample of humans, based on all the older Westerners who complain that they can’t sleep through the night, so pretty much every hotel will have some old codgers ready to warning everybody about a fire or anything else that’s an imminent threat.

            There was another recent archaeological dig in China that found the first evidence of domesticated chickens, but the researchers were perplexed because they couldn’t find any evidence that people were eating either the chickens or the eggs, so they suggested that maybe early farmers were just using them for cock fighting. I thought “No. They were probably using chickens as an alarm system so nothing could slip into the village without causing a ruckus.”Report