how am I not myself

In preparation for the school year,  I have been visiting with my office’s ACCESS office. Since I have ADD – PI I qualify for accommodations and other services through our disability office. I have to say I am thoroughly excited about these services and I wish I had had them years ago.

My first meeting was last week and I had another one this morning. I will also meet with my counselor once a week as needed.

I was super overwhelmed after my first meeting. First there was this whole idea that I am disabled, which is an identity that I am slowly engaging with. Even though I have various impairments, my above average intelligence and reasoning abilities have allowed me to develop coping mechanisms. Yet when I entered graduate school, my coping mechanisms hit a wall. I could no longer act as if everything was fine. I was drowning. At my first meeting, I began to see how extensive my coping mechanisms were and that I was truly a wreck. But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with that because it meant that all I could do was get better. right?

My first meetings focused on my organization skills, or lack there of. My schedule for the semester is beyond packed and true to my ADD mind, I have not said no enough. It’s all doable, but I tend so suffer form ADD inertia and waste entire days on nothing. Let me pause to do a little recap on the ADD brain. There is a lot of research, rabbit holes, and conflicting information out there on the ADD brain. Yet, there is some consistency about the fact that ADD brains differ from non-ADD brains. One of these differences is in the production of dopamine.

Dopamine is that feel good chemical in the brain and controls the pleasure and reward areas. People with ADD are said to have low levels of dopamine and their brains have this eeyore quality. In me, that means my body is constantly searching out ways to increase my dopamine and so I engage in activities that are exciting and stimulating like shopping sprees or climbing walls or other socially acceptable activities. When I need to work on a project, my brain slows down if it doesn’t sense excitement. YET, if I have procrastinated to the point in time where I HAVE to get the project done, the drama and excitement shoot my dopamine level up and I suddenly have all the focus and energy I need to get work done. This is a problem because I can’t just procrastinate till the last minute, but this is what I always do.

I am currently on Concerta which increases my dopamine level, stimulates my brain,  and gives me the focus I need to get things done. However, my way of life has been procrastination and impulse and so I am learning how to incorporate structure, routine, and discipline into my life so I can get things done on a more realistic schedule. This is where my ACCESS meetings come in.

I’m already incorporating my new time management skills in and they are proving to be a huge life-saver. Most of all, the anxiety that used to fill up my day has subsided. I feel like I’m living in a miracle. Of course this is just the beginning and there are many hurdles to still climb but I’m already feeling really good, more mature and more control of my life.

Best of all, I’m learning to work with my brain in a healthy way as opposed to a anxiety producing crazed way. This is good, real good.

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