I first knew that I was outside the mainstream between the ages of 7 and 9. When I would get angry (I was not beaten or abused as a child, usually I just didn't get my way or I couldn't find something -- which I thought someone had "stolen" ), I would go to a corner face the wall (hoping no one would see me but they did see me) and I had an urge to bring my fingers to my face and move my fingers in a contorted fashion, mutter curses, and I'd get over it.
Eventually, even at home, I would go to the bathroom to do this.
In fourth grade, my parents took me to see a very nice older gentleman psychologist -- but not based on the strange movements ---which both they and I thought were the result of being "high strung". The reason for the psychologist visit was that I was having a lot of temper tantrums at home. What I remember was that I was put into a small advanced math group and told to go as fast as I could. For me, that resulted in nightly screaming, crying, raging temper tantrums.
The very nice gentlemanly psychologist counseled my parents, and especially my mother, that they just needed to let Valerie be Valerie. Well, I was very happy with that result and if anyone was to blame I was pretty sure it was my mother, and my mother was more than willing to fault her parenting skills for any difficulties I was experiencing.
Things rocked along, I concentrated on academics and saving the world, which is what I was really interested in-- then adulthood came.
Somehow I managed to lasso my brilliant, handsome and sensitive Prince Charming and have two beautiful, intelligent, creative, and disorganized children.
Then after a 10-year battle with Lewy Body Dementia, my father was near death. Always supportive and an enthusiastic cheerleader with a ready smile, he could have written the book on "Family Social Rhythm Therapy."
Dealing with the impeding death of my father and the normal stresses of adulthood, my eccentric nervous system went into overdrive and the next thing I knew I was at Porter South (that's the psych unit at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver). Well, it was kind of a crash landing when the anti-psychotics really kicked in as I was walking by the nurses' station and realized that it was in fact a nurse's station--and not the flight deck of the spaceship I thought I was on -- I just won't tell them about that or I'll never get out of here, I thought.
It also took me a fair amount of time to realize that the little, roundish black thing near the ceiling of my room was actually a camera recording my every move. At my first night at Porter's, I thought it was the eye of God and I was communicating through it to anyone through out my entire life who I had perceived had rejected me or criticized me to get a kind of cosmic resolution-- Crazy, huh. Well, I wasn't going to tell them about that either.
I was given a diagnosis of Bipolar I. Thank God -- this explains everything!
Well, of course, there was a camera in my room -- so everyone had a pretty good idea I was fairly whacked out. After I got out of the hospital, my husband said, "They showed me the video tape of you talking to a wall, I was afraid I would never get you back -- You were really out of it."
I went to the bathroom, one of the most private places I know, contorted my mouth, face and body into a silent primal scream, wiggled my fingers, and came back out.
Well things went on, I had found the answer, but after about six years, I realized I still had some "issues" that could not be accounted for by the Bipolar diagnosis. Chronic disorganization, forgetfulness -- it took me a long time to think that I might have ADD, because I actually was pretty good at focusing at least on things I was interested in. As it turned out, "hyper-focusing" can be consistent with an ADD/ADHD diagnosis.
When did I get that official ADD diagnosis-- oh within the last year or so -- I'm 50. I bet ya didn't know that there is a whole website dedicated to middle aged women who don't get diagnosed with ADD until mid-life -- well, there is.
What really resonated with me was a concept being proposed by national ADHD expert and Colorado Greenwood Village Psychiatrist Dr. Bill Dodson -- Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria .
For me ADHD stimulant medication was wonderful -- it calmed me down and I didn't have the constant sense of being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, my body seemed to metabolize it in an eccentric way -- and it caused a dyskinesia -- in my case it was unusual mouth movements. I felt better than ever, but I looked crazier than ever. I was counseled to stop taking the medication. C'est la vie.
The expert psychiatrist said he'd never seen that reaction to stimulant medication before. I described my history of unusual movements and suggested it might be Tourette's. Well, he said he didn't think so -- maybe stereotypies as in Autism or some kind of complex Tourette's or if all else fails a NOS (not otherwise specified) movement disorder.
Why do I say all of this -- I say this because when someone goes to a psychiatrist or psychologist they take with them their unique brain, nervous system, environment, and life experiences. Even as long as the DSM is, and it is getting longer all the time, it has a hard time wrapping itself around 7 billion people with the many variations of brains, nervous systems, environments, and life experiences and combinations and re-combinations thereof . Right now we have a quarter of the US population defined as psychologically "disordered" during some point in their lifetimes.
All of us, in one way or another need support -- I don't know that that makes us "disordered" in some fundamental sense.
So what are my biases: I see things largely through a prism of biologically based neuro-diversity and I do recognize the importance that environment plays in many situations and the critical need for trauma-informed care, exercise, a good diet, meditation/prayer/spirituality -- and whatever works from a pragmatic standpoint.
I am also well aware of the old saying, "When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I did self-diagnose myself with ADD and got confirmation from a psychiatrist -- and a lot of people have sincere concern about over diagnosis of ADHD.
Some people may get the wrong diagnosis -- but overall that is not my biggest public health concern -- rather (I'll give you a really big hint) smoking during pregnancy and what that might mean to future generations. Before I end this installment, I do not think the answer is in sanctimonious and ultimately mean and cruel (whether we realize it or not) shaming of pregnant women, but rather providing excellent multi-disciplinary support to Mom and her support system.
And we've bungled into it again, the only way out is love. And as Nelson Mandela has tried to counsel the world: forgiveness -- because the other just doesn't work anyway. Of course, there have been a few other people over the millennia with that message too.
There are studies exploring the link between ADHD and Smoking. . The first person to correctly provide official links to three or more of these studies will receive an official Orchid Genius Award (It's a certificate on card stock).
Let's Get Thru This Together (and while we're at it-- let's have some laughs -- "South Park" anyone?),
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What We Want:
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- a Comprehensive
- Effectively Working Olmstead Plan
- To bring Housing & Services to Scale to Meet the Needs
- of People with Disabilities to avoid unnecessary institutionalization or great risk of institutionalization such as is inherent in homelessness
- With Specific Measurable Goals
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