Slow down you’re doing fine You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.Billy Joel
I started The Winter Of My Discontent at the very beginning of what I view as my path to recovery. It was when I finally put my foot down and said, “Enough is enough. I’m going to beat this beast in my brain, once and for all.” I started the blog partly to educate and to create community, but also to give a picture of what finding recovery looks like. I feel like I’ve been so focused on education that I have neglected my purpose of giving my readers a glimpse into my recovery process. I decided to start at the beginning of my decision to get the medical care I needed to find recovery from my brain.
How I Got Here
First, let’s go back to the Fall. I had already decided on and started recovery. My first step was getting my diagnosis but, honestly, I was falling apart. I had been locked in the house with my husband and daughter (8), who also both have ADHD, for several months. We were driving each other crazy. Socializing with people outside our home was near impossible with the pandemic and we were all missing being able to leave the house freely. My office area had always been in the living room area and it was getting to a point that concentration was almost impossible; for my hobbies and my day job.
Speaking of day jobs, I was floundering in mine. We have strict numbers that we have to meet every month and my boss is…hard to deal with sometimes. I had been treading water for months, possibly even years. Every month, it was getting harder and harder for me to produce. My coworkers were easily surpassing the numbers that I was struggling for every month and, though I was hitting the goal, it was constantly a question of, “Yeah, but why aren’t you closing as much as the rest of the team?” The anxiety became debilitating.
The harder it became to produce, the worse my ADHD symptoms got; a vicious cycle that just created more and more anxiety. By October, I was having severe anxiety 12-16 hours a day. I started to leave early more often than I normally would. The anxiety would be a literal static inside my brain; I couldn’t even see the screen in front of me, let alone get any work done. My whole body would feel like it was trembling from the inside out and my heart would pound. My boss was understanding, but I knew that her sympathy would only last as far as my ability to produce would go. Once I wasn’t producing enough, I would be seen as “less than,” and treated as such.
I had been here before, you see. There had been another time when my mental health had swallowed me up. I didn’t know the things about myself that I know now or maybe I could have found the strength to stop what happened before I did. The way it stood, I went through several months of abuse and harassment before I had a complete breakdown inside my head. I couldn’t eat or sleep. It ended in a dissociative episode severe enough to feel like an out-of-body experience. In that state, however, I was able to stand up for myself and the maltreatment stopped for several years.
As the survivor of any workplace trauma, it’s always in the back of my mind…it can happen again. I always know that as soon as I can’t produce anymore, I will once again become a second-rate member of the human race. So it was in October. I was floundering. I was still going to therapy and I was trying to find a doctor to get my medications corrected, but it was a slow process, sometimes with weeks in-between appointments. Soon after the severe anxiety started, so did the obsessive thoughts. Which, of course, made the anxiety worse. All-day, ruminating over nonsense, feeding the anxiety. Scuttling my already mediocre performance at work.
By the middle of November, I was at my very worst. I was having intrusive thoughts all day, every day. They were different when they showed up this time, but they were no less distressing. As each day passed, they got worse and more disturbing. I started to panic that I wouldn’t be able to keep my control over them. Luckily, I had started on my medical care. After about a week, I called my doctors and told them I had an emergency. My meds weren’t stable then, obviously, but they made some adjustments and I quickly righted the ship, but the waters were still choppy.
By the end of the month, things had started to get scary again and my therapist suggested a leave of absence at work. I needed desperately to be able to get my brain and my illnesses under control without the added stress of work. The meant that I needed to be able to get my medications stabilized, meaning finding a dosage for each medication that works for me and we don’t need to change it for an extended period. I needed to work through ancient trauma and new traumas and…just lots of trauma. I needed to work with someone who knew and understood ADHD and who could help me to find the tools that I need for my life “toolbox.” Things that can help me to thrive instead of simply survive. I need to be able to do all of these things without the 10 tons of stress that work was providing.
On December 1st, I started medical leave. On December 7th I had my first appointment with the doctor who would eventually become the 3rd provider on my “team” of doctors. As of this writing, I am seeing 4 different doctors to tame my mental illnesses. I see an NP, Jill, for medication management. My therapists: Elizabeth (EMDR, trauma therapy), Dr. R (ADHD, grief, and trauma therapy), and Dr. W (my main therapist and an absolute saint). Because of the holiday season, appointments were spread out and progress was super slow, but here’s how things are going as of now.
My Recovery: Medication
Most people who have ever been on psychiatric medications can tell you that it can be a long and arduous process to find the right medications. We all have different physiology, circumstances, and comorbidities and psychiatry is not an exact science. Providers often have to start with an educated guess and then rule things out as they go. To be clear, it sucks, but it can’t be helped. Since I have been on close to a dozen different depression and anxiety medications, Jill (my NP), did gene testing on the very first visit. From that testing, we found the medications that my body will metabolize and we started from there.
We’ve managed to get my anxiety, depression, intrusive and obsessive thoughts, and moods to a manageable level. Where we are falling short is the ADHD. So far, I haven’t tried anything for my ADHD symptoms that have helped me in any meaningful way. There was a 3 week period where Adderall seemed to help, but the effect wore off quickly and never came back, even when we upped the dosage to the maximum amount. So, today (3 months into my recovery) I started Vyvanse. Based on today, no change, but we’ll see what happens.
My Recovery: Therapy
Therapy is going okay, but I plan to sit with Dr. R and Dr. W during our next appointments and come up with some solid plans. I had something happen recently that made me realize that my “recovery” time off work is running out and I still don’t feel well enough to go back. I want to start getting more specific about what recovery looks like for me and how we get there. I still need some ADHD tools and tricks for when I get back to work. I’ll also be working with Dr. W to figure out some appropriate accommodations to implement when I go back.
Elizabeth and I haven’t started on the actual EMDR treatments yet, but we’ve been putting in the work to prepare for that point and I believe that we will be ready in the next couple of appointments. I find it fascinating and I have such an open mind about it, but I’m feeling skeptical and I’m feeling scared. Skeptical because I can’t believe that it could actually take away the pain and anxiety that trauma has always caused me to carry and scared because I know that I’m going to have to face some really painful truths about my past and it makes me nervous. Despite those feelings, I’m ready to put these bags down and I can’t do that without first working through it all.
My Recovery: Me
I’m doing okay, all things considered. I worry a lot about my impending return to work, but I haven’t had a panic attack or an intrusive thought in a couple of weeks. Depression is harder for me to reel in. It isn’t bad, but it’s like a low hum in the background. As I’ve said before; it’s like it’s become my operating system instead of a virus in my software. It is manageable. Here’s where it gets tricky…my ADHD has been running amok for the last few weeks. I can’t concentrate. My days have no schedule; no aim. I’m not even posting blog posts with any regularity; just a hodgepodge of random posts whenever I can get my brain focused enough to write.
I’ve been trying to implement more tools and tricks to help with the things I have difficulty controlling. I have started using a smartwatch and I have reminders set for everything. I realized at dinner tonight that I probably need to set reminders about lunch and dinner. I lose track of time very easily and I sometimes don’t realize it’s time for the family to eat. Everything that I need to remember, no matter how small, I have set as a reminder and it is helping so much. It also reminds me to breathe, so you know. I’ve strayed away from my planner for the last couple of weeks because I’ve had no direction…again, it’s the ADHD. Hopefully, the new medication will start working soon and I’ll be able to get it under control so that I can implement the tools that I’m learning.
Anyway, that is how I got here and where I am currently on my road to recovery. In 3 months, I’ve come a million miles and not but a few steps, all at once. I’m learning how to deal with my disorders, how to identify them, and how to tell them to shut the fuck up when I need to. I feel strong and vulnerable, at the same time. I’m feeling impatient, at the same time understanding that it’s a process. The results will be worth it in the end, I hope.
I guess the first lesson that you can take from my progress so far is that it is slow going and you have to be patient. There will be times when you feel like you are backsliding, but don’t give up; don’t give in. Keep fighting because you are worth it. I’m lucky that I have the resources to get the help that I have, but I have been in a place of no help; no hope of recovery. There are resources out there for you; communities waiting with open arms to take you in and help you heal. Reach out, speak out, do whatever you need to do to keep hanging on.
That’s it for the recovery update. I have a lot coming up and I promise there will be more. I have a lot of great content planned, including for the My Mental Health Series. Stay tuned and subscribe by email for updates! Also, follow me on Twitter @amboinreallife and follow the blog on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the The Winter Of My Discontent. We also have a new Facebook group! If you want a safe place to talk about ADHD and mental illness, vent, ask questions, laugh, cry, or rage…this is the place for you! Come join us on The Winter Of My Discontent: ADHD and Mental Illness Community!
Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight. 💜💜