Let’s talk about feelings.
No, not really. Let’s talk about drugs.
Not like DRUGS drugs. Not “just say no/I learned it from watching you” drugs. Not FUN drugs.
Let’s talk about the drugs that make my life even remotely bearable. Let’s talk about the drugs that I basically need to function. The drugs that help me to do things that normal people with normal brains don’t even think about.
I have ADD.
I know, I know… you’re thinking “Ed, don’t be an asshole. You don’t have fucking ADD. Just because you have shitty work habits and you’re lazy and spend too much time dicking around on Twitter it doesn’t mean that you need magic medication to fix your brain. Your brain is fine. Just try harder”.
And you know what? Fuck you. Not for being kind of an asshole and presuming to know ANYTHING about me, but fuck you for basically READING MY MIND and repeating exactly what I thought for years before I finally accepted that I needed some goddamn help.
I have NEVER been good at asking for help. Like EVER. It’s why I’ve struggled with school my whole life, it’s why I fucked up at work and got demoted and exiled to an off-site position for fewer hours and a lot less money, it’s probably why I manage to fuck up every relationship I’ve ever been in (well, there are lots of reasons for that, but this might be one of them).
I get lost. I get stuck. I don’t know what to do next and I freeze up. I go dark and draw within myself and hope that no one comes asking for that thing I’m supposed to have. Guess what? Someone ALWAYS comes asking. It shouldn’t be this way… It’s beyond stupid for me to live my life this way, but here I am.
Long story long (and we’re nowhere NEAR done yet so strap in) my head doesn’t work like your head no matter how badly I want it to.
So finally, as my personal and professional lives were crumbling before my very eyes, I looked for help. This was a MONUMENTAL step for me. It’s telling that it took everything falling apart for me to even ask for help. To make one phone call and make an appointment to talk to a doctor and explain my suspicions and theories about why my head was like my head. Some people reach out at the first signs of trouble. The first wisps of smoke and if they’re not calling 911 they’re at least looking for a hose or a bucket.
Not me. I wait until the house is on fire and I’m trapped under a pile of burning rubble and everything hurts real bad to even look up the number of the fire department. Ridiculous. You’d think that at least being aware of this would help mitigate the damage. That admitting that I have a problem would help me fix it. No dice. Vicious cycles aren’t just vicious. They also cycle.
So I asked for help. Because that’s what normal people DO when they’re in trouble and oh holy shit was I in trouble.
As a result of that phone call I met two doctors: My talky doctor and my drugs doctor.
My talky doctor listens to me try to explain what the fuck it’s like inside my head. This is no easy task for me. If you know me you know that I like to talk. I talk a a lot. But trying to describe my brain and how that makes me FEEL? I’d really rather not. Can’t we talk about baseball or Spider-Man or something? So that’s hard for me. I don’t KNOW her. I don’t TRUST her. I don’t tell most of the people that I know about my crazy filled melon so how am I supposed to tell this lady? I’m working on it, but so far that particular tree hasn’t borne much fruit. It’s a trust thing and trust takes time.
Then there’s the drugs doctor. We had a brief chat, I took a test to gauge my symptoms. I described my struggles with what I call “ping-ponging”. That’s when I sit down to work on a report or sort my email and before I know it I’ve ping ponged across 12 different things, started six different emails, written four partial to do lists in three different places, and I’ve completely forgotten what I initially set out to work on. Again, you’re all “yeah dumbass, it’s called trying to work and having access to the internet at the same time. We ALL have to eventually learn how to close Facebook and get back to work. Stop being such a melodramatic pussy about it. Your brain is fine. Get back to work.”
Fuck you’re judgmental.
The problem is, that when I start to ping pong I can FEEL it happening. I KNOW I’m doing it. My brain is SCREAMING at me to get back to the thing I’m supposed to work on and it’s like my hands and the part of brain that’s aware of what I’m doing are completely separate. And I’m off and running.
Think about that. Think about KNOWING what you want your brain to do and having it basically tell you to fuck off and then do whatever it wants. Not just sometimes when you’re tired or can’t focus, but ALL the time. That would be enough to drive a guy a little crazy. Or at least frustrate him enough severely affect his mood. Trust me. That’s exactly what happens.
Where was I?
(Do you SEE how frustrating this is?)
Right. Drugs doctor.
So I talked to her and talked about options and she put me on some medication (which, considering that it’s medical grade speed was a bit easier than I thought it’d be… I guess I have an honest, non-junkie face). And I did what I assume EVERYONE does when they get a new prescription for a possibly life altering course of medication: I picked up my prescription, took it home, put the bottle on the table in front of me, stared at it, and cried for about two hours.
It felt like giving up. It felt like rolling over and admitting that I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or strong enough to fix my own life. It felt bad. But feeling helpless to corral my own brain felt worse so I sucked it up and took the pills first thing the next morning. Then I cried a lot more.
And I tell you what, I didn’t have to wait very long to decide that I DEFINITELY wasn’t taking a placebo. These were not sugar pills or Tic Tacs or baby Aspirin. I took detailed notes for the first few days to try to track exactly what I was feeling both emotionally and physically. Here’s a brief excerpt of my crazy from day one:
“Sweating. Hyper. Talking really fast. Even for me. Stomach feels a little weird, but that might just be nerves. This whole thing makes me really nervous. Sweating. REALLY sweating.
Dry mouth. Fat tongue. Mild buzzing in head. Does this go away?
Upside: Brain still sharp. Moving. Zinging. Thinking quickly, if not as quietly as I’d consider to be ideal.”
The rest of the day (and the next couple) are some variation or expansion on that. Some days I STILL feel like that. It’s a process. It’s a FIGHT to feel normal and productive and to have a good day.
It wasn’t a miracle. I knew it wouldn’t be. I’ve talked to some people who said they felt “normal” for the first time when they went on the drugs. I didn’t have that experience, but the drugs DO help. Side effects? Sure, there are plenty. I get hyper and sweaty and a little on the motormouthed side. My mouth is almost always dry and whether it is or isn’t I find myself clenching my jaw pretty tightly. There’s a pretty severe lack of appetite (I told my drugs doctor that, she looked me up and down and said “well, that’s not the worst thing in the world”. Nice, right?) and my blood pressure is a little up, but I’m probably not going to die suddenly and I can get some work done so I’m sticking with it.
The biggest thing is that the block that used to keep me from doing what’s next, that frozen panic that I’d get stuck in when I wasn’t sure if I should zig or zag, has all but disappeared. I don’t stand on the edge of action worrying about what happens if I do the wrong thing or do the right thing and do it badly. I leap. I ask questions. I take action even if I’m not 100% sure I’m doing the right thing. It’s not reckless or impulsive action. I’m not flailing wildly in every direction (I mean yeah, there are times when I’m flailing pretty wildly, but it’s usually not in EVERY direction… At least not all at once). I can function. I can start AND finish things.
Bottom line: It’s better. I like my brain BETTER like this. And that’s a whole NEW set of problems because now I’m the guy who NEEDS the drugs to do work. To finish things. TO LIVE. That’s scary and I think about it a lot. But we’ll get to that some other time.
I don’t know what my long term plan with any of this is. The drugs, like anything else, are just a tool. I still have to do the work. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I don’t NEED that particular tool anymore. Maybe once I learn how to live ON the drugs I can figure out how to replicate that OFF of them. Maybe my heart will explode and the whole thing will be moot.
But right now. Today. I’m a little bit better. And that little bit is kind of saving my life right now. Because it’s dark out there. And lonely. And frustrating. And I don’t know how many more bad days I can take. And if this helps me fight for the good days then this is what I’m going to do right now.
Thank you. Be well.