Monday, August 6, 2018

ADHD Update--Blips on the Radar, Acceptance, Hope

It's been kind of a wild time lately full of so much change. I got my official ADHD diagnosis, started meds and moved into a new house. The past few weeks have been full of looking back and trying to make sense and understand, and moving forward and feeling compassion and hope.

Phase one: Acceptance, Exhaling, and Relief

When I took my medicine for the first time a two months ago, I was nervous about how I would feel and wondered if it would actually do anything.

It did/does help. I felt calmer, less scattered, like my brain wasn't racing a thousand miles a minute. It felt good. It felt like relief. It felt like I had forgotten what being calm actually felt like. I was amazed by how bad and scattered and anxious I had actually felt before I took the medicine.

I seriously had no idea how bad it had gotten. Which is incredibly surprising because I thought I was hyper aware of my mental state. But I had no idea. Trying to pick a thought, a feeling, a mind, my heart, my brain, my body constantly racing and buzzing and exhausting me.  The medicine slows it all down and gives me some peace, some relief.

I come from a long line of troubled brains and a mother who suffered so much...from mood disorders, mental illness and addiction. So, to get an answer and find a medicine was a huge relief. For the first time in my entire life I felt hope that I would not end up just like my mother. Whether it was a valid fear or not, it had guided my life since I was 12 and I truly thought I was destined to be just like her, and that I would leave my family like she did. I write that and it seems silly, but it was a deep-seated, unconscious fear that impacted my entire life and all of my relationships for forever.

When I realized that the medicine was working and that I was feeling better and that I had a chance for a different future, I cried with gratitude.

When I went to see my psychiatrist I told him, "This is life changing. I feel calm and like I can be more clear and thoughtful and make a decision. I mean well, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and then it kind of wears off, but I'm so grateful and I told my husband we can have important conversations between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. everyday and I can actually be pretty clear."

He smiled at me and replied, "Well, you can do that or you can take a second dose that will help your clarity last a little longer."

"Oh, well that would be just wonderful," I exclaimed.

And now, I take Ritalin twice a day. (Metadate CD)

Phase two: Setbacks and Some More Hope

So yeah, then we decided to move and all hell broke loose. I mean moving is stressful for everyone right? Even people whose brains don't need a little assistance and can process information in a more "normal" way, right?

Our move is a good thing. We found a house almost in our price range that we could rent that would fit our whole family and is nicer and just kind of a house we never thought we'd live in, ever. So it's good right? Yes. It's great. But change can be tricky for my brain (and actually a lot of ADHD brains as I'm learning more about us). My hyper-focus is a real asset in times like these however because once I start packing I can't stop until it's all done, dinner be damned.

There were a couple setbacks over the last couple weeks. Emotional meltdowns. Moments when I thought "well, I guess I'm still broken. medicine doesn't work. I'm still messing everything up. what's the point." But those moments didn't make me change my course, which I believe they might have before. They were blips on the radar, nothing more.

There were a couple days when I forgot to take my medicine and well, those were the days when more blips were on my radar.

During the last couple months, I realized it isn't just medicine that helps. It is my medicine, working out everyday, getting enough sleep, having a supportive partner/husband/best friend, and a good therapist. It isn't just "self care," it is a very deliberate "I must do this to think clearly and be a good person for my family and my job" kind of care. It is all medicine if you will.

As I was cleaning and going through boxes during our move, I found journals and diaries from my whole life. It was interesting and emotional. "Basically, I've always been a mess," I told my husband. It was sort of sad to see how I've struggled with identity and figuring out my emotions and my brain for so many years. It was like I have been just around the borderline of normal for forever....functioning enough to get by but not feeling right. Until now. Now, I truly feel like I am understanding my brain more and respecting that it processes a little differently and there are good things about that and hard things about that, but it doesn't mean that I will become an addict and leave my family and I'm not doomed to feel anxiety from my racing brain for forever. And that, feels like such sweet relief. It's not perfect, but life is not perfect. I feel relief in working toward more understanding and less blips and more relief and calm and acceptance.

Where I am Now

I am learning to apologize less and accept myself more. I feel calmer. Less stupid. I say things like, "I think I got this." Even after I pull out my driver's license to sign the new lease agreement on my house and realize my driver's license expired three weeks ago. It's a process. Life is a process. I'm learning to understand and forgive myself. I'm learning to not take on too much. I'm learning that mistakes don't mean the end of the world...even if they do actually mean that I might have to pay more or not get the job or lose the job or make someone really angry. I am learning that doing my best doesn't always fix things and that it will be okay, I mean I hope it will. I am learning that accountability isn't the same as shame and self-hatred. I am learning that it is okay to feel sad that I can't be the person that I thought I should be and to be interested in the person that I can be. Just like the classic Whitney Houston song says "you'll find the point when you'll exhale" and I have been exhaling with relief and hope and it's going to be okay feelings for a while now, and well it feels really hopeful and really good, right now.

Because duh, I can't write about a classic Whitney song and not post it.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Connection, Positivity & Good Hair--A Drybar Review

The world feels overwhelming. Not just my world, our world. The level of bad news online and on TV is exhausting and so upsetting. It seems strange to write a blog post reviewing a new business that focuses on drying people's hair. But maybe it isn't that strange because when I visited this new business it felt more about community, connectedness and positivity than hair, and boy do we need more of that right now.

I had the opportunity to go to the new Drybar that opened in the town next to me. All I really knew about Drybar before going was what I learned on celebrity Instagram feeds and Twitter--they loved it. Getting the chance to go to the grand opening celebration and getting to feel like a celebrity sounded pretty awesome to me.

The only problem was the grand opening was on the same day as my kids' last day of school. It meant I might not make it back to see them get off the bus and hug them and do the happy dance while saying "happy summer vacation!" I mean I'm not sure the high schooler and middle schoolers would miss me all that much, but my second grader might. I scheduled my appointment early enough so that I could race home and hopefully do the dancing and hugging with Wade.

On the morning of my appointment I called Tim and said, "Maybe I shouldn't do this, I mean it feels excessive and I should stay home and make a summer vacation cake and be there for the kids." He reassured me that it was okay and told me to have fun. I said a reluctant "ok," parked my minivan in the parking garage, and followed the blinking light on my phone navigating me to Drybar and my shot at feeling like a celebrity. "Arrived," my phone told me. But there was no Drybar in sight. I walked up and down the street frantically looking for the salon and checking the time, watching my appointment time slip away. I walked and walked but couldn't find it. Not going to lie, I started crying just a little bit. In my defense I was probably crying because the last few weeks of school are insanely busy and tiring, I felt stupid and like I was letting down Drybar and the PR firm who asked me to review it, and I hadn't done my big project for my college class, I started worrying that my stylist would be mad that I had planned on going here I mean is it cheating on her?, I was low on gas, and well bad stuff is happening everywhere and ahhhhhh. Right when I was about to say "forget it" and go home, I saw yellow balloons swaying gently in the breeze. "There it is," I said. 

I walked in and was immediately greeted by friendly people everywhere. Many of them wearing the coolest yellow earrings. Music was playing, hair dryers were blowing, and people were talking and laughing. 

The salon is all white with cheerful and sophisticated yellow accents everywhere. 

I went straight to the front desk and apologized for missing my appointment and told them I would write a review about them anyway. "No worries, we'll fit you in," a woman said smiling. "Would you like water, coffee or a mimosa?," another woman asked me. "Yes, please, thank you, ahhhh," I said.

Drybar is based on the simple concept of focusing on one thing and being the best at it: Blowouts. Here's the lowdown straight from their website: "The idea was a natural one for curly haired founder Alli Webb, a longtime professional stylist, who constantly found herself overpaying for blowouts at traditional salons. In addition to 100+ locations throughout the US and Canada, our growing product line (created specifically for the perfect blowout), is sold through our own shops, as well as Sephora, Nordstrom, Ulta and Bloomingdale's."

I sipped on my mimosa (which was given to me with a napkin that said "feeling crumby, I can help" like they knew exactly how I was feeling before I walked in!), sat in a comfy chair by giant windows and exhaled.

I looked at the Lookbook to pick a style I wanted. It's so fun--all the styles are named like drinks at a bar, get it? There's the "Straight Up" and "Dirty Martini" and the  "Mai Tai" to name a few. There are also braid and updo options.

My stylist, Cindy, came over to where I was sitting and asked me what I wanted. I chose the "Mai Tai" which was a blowout resulting in "messy, beachy hair" according to the lookbook. 

She washed my hair, massaged my scalp, asked me about my life. Then she did her magic. As I sat under her cheerily bright hairdryer I looked around and saw so many women talking and laughing and supporting each other and affirming each other with kindness and positivity. When I was done, I took a boomerang selfie with my stylist because duh, that's what I do.  We hugged and I said I'd be back (because I'm totally coming back and bringing friends and my daughter!).

It was actually over so fast I wanted to do it all again. But I looked at the time and realized I could make it back home to hug the kids after the bus. I said goodbye, took a last look at the smiling women and yellow accents everywhere and walked out into the world feeling pretty darn great about people, and my hair. 

It turns out it's not just a good idea to do something for yourself sometimes, but it's also a good idea to go be a part of a positive environment at a business that cares about making you feel good. Even with good hair the world is full of things that are upsetting, things we need to care about and be mad about and worry's important. Connecting with other other women, supporting women-owned businesses, laughing together, finding community with people other than's important too.

I made it home for the last day of school hug!

For those of you that live near me, the Drybar is located at 137 W. Maple in Birmingham (not 137 E. Maple like I typed into my phone navigation app! ugh). They have great hours, 2-hour valet parking for clients, and the blowouts aren't that expensive, $45.  They also offer monthly memberships and sell products at the store. 

Click here for information about Birmingham's Drybar.
Click here to find a Drybar near you. 

I participated in grand opening event at Drybar and was provided a blowout to review my experience, all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A calmer, less scattered future....maybe

This past Saturday I took medicine for my ADHD for the first time. I was nervous and scared and hopeful all at the same time. Would it change me? Would I still want to dance? Would my superpower of hyper-focus be gone? Would I still be able to do 3000 things at once? I just don't know. But I do know that I hope it gives me more clarity and peace. I hope it makes me more reliable. Forgetting to pay bills isn't cute in your mid forties. Neither is being completely scattered so much of the time. Hormones have amplified my ADHD which has mega-amplified my anxiety and made me a complete, I took medicine and now I wait and hopefully still dance but worry less.

My post medicine selfie. I think I look calmer, maybe?
I know for sure that I really will only take selfies laying down from now on. The gravity pulling my worry wrinkles back definitely makes me look calmer and a tad younger.

I've always been pretty fun. I like to laugh and dance and talk. Most of the time I'm pretty easy to talk to and be around. Most people like me or at least don't have a problem with me. Unless you are the people that I forget to call back. Or the people I let down because I commit to something and then don't do it. Or my kids when I am the last mom at pick up or totally forget (lose) the sign up sheet for everything.  Or my husband when I have a panic attack because I just can't calm my brain down and it scares me and I pick a fight or cry to him.

It wasn't until my brother and I took a quiz on vacation about eight years ago in a magazine that I thought I might have ADHD--attention deficit hyperactive disorder. He and I were laughing and checking boxes on the quiz until we weren't laughing. "Holy shit, this is us," I said to him. I threw the magazine across the room and we went to the beach. We didn't want to have a disorder. We didn't want to think about 'what if we had known this years ago and gotten help....maybe I could have...maybe I would have..." Um nope, we wanted denial and the beach.

Then a few years later my son, JT, was diagnosed in third grade. The similarities between the two of us are/were undeniable. It was like taking that magazine quiz. Do you get lost in daydreams, like really lost, like you don't hear or see what's happening around you? Check. Do you like routine but also want freedom to do what you want? Check. Do you have a lot of energy and feel happy when you are moving/running/jumping/being active? Oh yes, check that. Are you loveable but moody? Yup. Do you lose everything? Um, yes. Do you feel like you are always trying to play catch up? yeah. Do you lack follow through? Uh-oh.

The more I learned about ADHD, the more I was convinced I had it for sure. 

This past winter it all came to a head. I was tired of being "flaky" and forgetful. I was exhausted by losing things. Everyday I felt like a failure. Everyday I worried I was letting everyone down everywhere. Ahhhhhh.  Then I got an opportunity to go back to school and knew that if I was going to do that and work two jobs and keep up with four busy kids, I was going to need help. I decided to go to  a psychiatrist and get some help. Actually I had gotten a referral two years earlier, but you guessed it, I lost the paper with the name and number on it. 

The doctor suggested extensive testing to rule out mood disorders, personality disorders, and depression. The test involved IQ testing and a whole bunch of questions and pictures and it took hours. When I went to get the results I was nervous. My mother has been diagnosed with bipolar, depression and personality disorder...that could be me. It was all a bit overwhelming. The doctor walked into the room looking at a file. He said hello and then he said the most shocking thing I ever heard-- "You are an incredibly intelligent woman," he said. 

I laughed and blurted out, "No one, I mean no one, has ever said that to me, ever."

He went on to tell me I also had ADHD, but nothing else based on the testing. One word on the paper was highlighted under the personality-- "turbulent." Which was exactly how I'd been feeling the past few years in my head...turbulent. 

I explained to the doctor how I have tried everything to try to think clearly and feel less turbulent--running everyday, meditation, diet changes, oils, vitamins, running more. Those things helped but not all the time. 

He suggested medicine. "I'm nervous," I admitted to him. "I understand," he said.

After the appointment I sat in my minivan and I cried. It all felt like a very big deal...the testing, medicine, the acceptance, the fact that I hadn't been dumb and flaky my whole life. My inner child was doing a happy dance and saying "I knew it, I told you I wasn't stupid." All those years of extra studying, losing papers, stressing, failing, apologizing over and over..."I'm smart," I whispered out loud to no one. I wiped away my tears, smiled at my wrinkled middle-aged face in the mirror and put the car in drive. I felt nervous, but ready to face the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Will Never Fit In, And I Blame John Hughes

I will never fit in, and I blame John Hughes.

Growing up in the 1980s, John Hughes movies were my everything. I related to a lot of the movies--I grew up in a mostly white middle to upper middle class suburb, I had divorced parents, I desperately wanted to fit in but also wanted to be different, and I had a crush on the cute guy down the street that looked like Jake from "Sixteen Candles."

I wonder what happened to all the John Hughes characters as grown ups...what do their lives look like now in their 40s and, gulp, 50s.   Here's one version I recently read about Sam from Sixteen Candles (click here to read it) but what about all the non-Sam Bakers/Molly Ringwolds? 

The character I most related to isn't from the bigger hits like Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club or even Pretty in Pink. Nope the movie I loved was Some Kind of Wonderful, and the character that I felt the most like was Watts. The misfit drummer who was best friends with guys, had a dysfunctional family, played the drums and wore kickass fringe gloves. 

And she said things like "It's 1987, a woman can be anything she wants to be." She was my angsty feminist icon before I knew what that was. She was weird, misunderstood and just wanted to be respected AND loved. And she didn't love rich people. She had a big chip on her shoulder. 

That was what I felt like. Except I was too scared to wear the gloves in high school and never played the drums.

In almost every other way she was me, I was her. 

In the end of the movie, Watts found some good in a few rich people and got a nice-ish guy. 

(The above pics: me during the actual John Hughes movie years and me in the post John Hughes movie years...less attitude, but still an are you kidding me kind of expression/disbelief/wonder at life/circumstances/luck...)

Fast forward 30 years and um, I still feel a lot like Watts. I still feel like a misfit--weird, misunderstood and I want to be respected AND loved. I got a nice guy (a very nice guy), live in a different but still mostly white middle-upper-class suburb, and also feel distrust of the rich (leftover from not just John Hughes movies, but all 1980s movies, think Karate Kid, Can't Buy Me Love...dude, all the rich white people were so over the top, the poor guys=the good guys...Right? Remember Daniel Son from Karate Kid who lived in an apartment with his mom who drove an old stationwagon and had to battle the awful rich guys from the fancy karate studio?).

Now I'm a mom driving the beat-up, rusty minivan (my version of Daniel Son's mom's station wagon) and trying to figure out life in my post John Hughes world...adulthood. This past fall my oldest was going to his high school homecoming dance with a group of friends. The friend's house where the parents were gathering to take pictures of everyone was owned by a dad who drives a Lamborghini, I felt my inner Watts starting to come out. I was judging that dad like he was the bad guy in an eighties movie. I said things to my kid like "money isn't everything" and felt like I needed to be in a drumming montage. It turned out that the dad seemed nice and my kid just rolled with it all and had a great/drama-free time at homecoming (so un-John Hughes movie-esque).

But I mean really, I still have all these 80s feelings. But now my role is an over-worried, underpaid mom of teens just trying to pay the bills, keep my kids healthy, happy and out of rehab, and stay married. It's a lot. I remember watching Sixteen Candles and being horrified that parents would forget their 16-year-old's birthday, but now I totally get it! 

I find myself channeling my inner Watts and other misfit characters from John Hughes movies. I drive around in my rusty minivan trying to hold it together and hold my head up and not be too judgey (of others or myself). Sometimes when I'm walking the dogs (because of course none of my kids will) I walk across a field and hold one fist up in the air like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. When the nice guy that I married takes me on a date I say let's get drunk at Chili's because I know that is what Watts would do, while all the Molly Ringwolds and Lea Thompsons of the suburbs are going to the trendy restaurants that cost a gajillion dollars after shopping at LuluLemon (not that I'm judging, nope I'm rebelling like a sad middle age bad ass). And always wishing for a dance off in a dimly lit gymnasium or a kind loving parental figure to give me some good advice while synthesized music plays from somewhere in the background.
Me getting drunk at Chili's while my good guy looks at Twitter...modern romance. Would this be Watts' life?

Maybe I'm thinking about my teen angst and how John Hughes movies wrecked my perspective because having teenagers is intense (and trigger-y AF). It's nerve-wracking and anxiety inducing and interesting and exciting and  overwhelming and fucking exhausting. Phones and sexting and vaping and driving and bullying on social media and the list of worries and things that could go wrong goes on and on. All while I'm trying to manage my own hormones and mid-life bullshit and not repeat my parents' mistakes and try and finally grow up. 

A lot of the times, I find myself wondering what would Watts do? I mean really, WWWD (What WOULD Watts Do?)?!?!?!?!

I need to see THAT movie. I'm a mess. Thanks a lot John Hughes.

Maybe it's actually not such a horrible thing that I'm so in tune with my inner angsty teen. I mean, maybe John Hughes wasn't only making movies so I could relate to teens when I WAS one, but also for when I had them of my own. I mean the only thing weirder than parenting a teenager is being one. 

Life is hard and weird and so many of us feel like we don't fit in when we are young and old and in between. I personally think it's kind of a cruel joke that teenage hormones and midlife hormones happen at the same time in the same house for a lot of us. 

I know for sure that I would totally want to see the movie about a middle age bad ass Watts figuring shit out while drumming in her garage to get away from her own teenagers and maybe getting high in the library after a heated booster club meeting with a bunch of middle age parents from different cliques who also need to remember what it was like to be angsty and how hard it is to parent kids who are mad at them but still need them and how rejection sucks no matter how old you are and how it doesn't matter who we all voted for in any election because us parents have to stick together if we are going to get through this whole midlife raising teenager business, and then they'd all do a dance, and the nice guy would take Watts to Chili's and get drunk and she would put her fringed gloved fist in the air saying hell yeah it's still a John Hughes movie kind of world...cue synthesized music...end scene...roll credits.

Me on a good day feeling like I got this,
 in an Uncle Buck kind of hat. Don't even get me started about how much  I love John Candy John Hughes movies like Uncle Buck and Planes,Trains & Automobiles because I LOVE them.

I will never fit in and I guess John Hughes, you were right, that's not such a bad thing.

Oh my god, I love this.