Getting medicated for ADHD before it ruined my life
I’ve had ADHD for my entire life. It's a condition that has been described it as being like “diabetes of the brain”. This is a story of why I decided to seek help.
Over the course of a 51 day period I finished just one painting. Just one. That’s a big departure from my old habit of finishing one every week. Thinking back over the last couple of months, I can easily spin a yarn about where my time went. It’s fair to say that I was working on the largest, most involved painting I’ve made for Angelarium to date. Considering it was painted while I was trying to put my taxes together and travel to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con, I might have a plausible excuse for why this took me so long. The truth is far more embarrassing.
Discovering how bad it got
I recorded my painting process for my Patreon campaign. I did it to share with my patrons but it also finally gave me an accurate account of how long a painting takes for me to finish. What I discovered was that over the course of 51 days, I spent only around 25 hours actually painting. Let’s look at some plausible uses of the remaining time:
- Online marketing and promotion? Nope, I did a shit job of that during that same period.
- Filing taxes? Nope, I had by brother do most of the work and we filed an extension anyways.
- Travel? Somewhat, I did spend 15 of the 51 days traveling.
- Family time? Nope, I rarely saw my family and took no days off.
- Day drinking? No, I almost wish this was the problem. At least that would be tragic.
- Goof around on the Internet? Yep, probably for 4-6 hours a day.
- Video Games? Yeah, that too.
I feel fucking stupid for admitting how much time I wasted. But what's really sad is that I honestly don’t think I could have done better. This is a mental health problem, not a lack of information.
My quality of life and my income have both suffering as a result of the long hours of inactivity. I was starting to get depressed, but that felt more like the symptom than the cause. Spending that much time browsing Reddit just feels bad. The problem was that I was at my computer every day, feeling like I was working but had literally nothing to show for it.
None of this is really new to me. Sitting in a haze of distraction, watching time wash over me describes basically every year I spent in school. Looking back over my history as an adult, another pattern begins to emerge. Every couple of years, I get antsy, I mouth off and then I get fired from my job. I use that as an excuse to move to a new part of the country and start over in regular intervals. The newness and adventure of a fresh start has allowed me to escape my disorder because the symptoms are lessened when everything is new and exciting. The problem is, running my own business isn’t new to me anymore and no one has the authority to fire me. There’s no more running.
Dumping Angelarium and the extensive obligations that come with it isn’t an option. So, I’m finally stuck facing this thing. Fortunately, I’m not the first person in my family with this problem and I reached out to them for help. It turns out that ADHD is one of the single most treatable mental disorders you can have. What’s better is that many of the habits I developed to maintain my productivity over the last 2 years were right in line with the best practices for treating ADHD from a behavioral perspective. The missing piece seemed to be medication.
This week, I started taking 27mg of methylphenidate per day. It’s a slow release stimulant that increases brain activity. In people with ADHD it’s been known to help increase dopamine receptiveness and boost executive brain function. It turned my brother's life around. If it works for me, I’ll have more strength to make choices. That's not really a cure, since I still have the choice to act poorly. But considering how badly I want to do better, I'm feeling optimistic. So far, the medicine has either been working or I’ve been getting one heck of a placebo effect. The side effects are minimal and manageable.
I don’t need a miracle cure, and I don’t want to reinvent my life. I just need to do more than an hour of work in an 8 hour day. That’s going to take a dedication to good habits and a careful management of my environment. Exercise would help. Same with a healthy diet, regular breaks and an external system of accountability. My hope is that the medication will help me choose to enact some of those habits. If all goes well, I’ll be able to take back some of my time.
So far, so good. Fingers crossed.
If you want to learn more about ADHD here's a video about treatment that I found really helpful for understanding my own needs. If you believe you need help in this way, please contact a psychiatrist.