Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Our Weekend Without Meds"

The most common question I am asked about Adult ADHD (other than "Is it real?") is this: "Does the medication really make a difference?"

I used to recite the facts and figures. After all, double-blind research should provide rock-solid persuasion that yes, for some people with ADHD, the medication is positively life-changing.

Wrong. After only a few times of watching eyes glaze over during my recitations, I got wise: I started answering the question by sharing before-and-after stories of real-life adults with ADHD.

As one of my college journalism professors used to repeat: "Show, Don't Tell." In other words, don't tell your readers what to think by laying out tedious facts and arguments; instead, provide richly detailed stories and let the readers decide for themselves.

With that in mind, I offer you this "as told to" tragicomedy from a friend named Jason about the weekend that Robert, his partner, ran out of medication. (It's not a typo; Jason and Robert are both men, a reminder that ADHD's effect on relationships is not a "Mars-Venus Thing" and that ADHD does not discriminate on the basis of gender, age, or sexual orientation.)

It's important to note that Jason did not know Robert before he was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking medication. In fact, he had assumed Robert was making "too big of a deal" of his ADHD by taking medication. This "lost weekend" made him a believer.

It seemed like no big deal when my partner, Robert, said he’d forgotten to call his doctor and would run out of medicine over the weekend. "I'll just pick it up on Monday, no problem," he’d said. With hindsight, I should have packed a bag and gone to Vegas. He missed only three days’ medication but the downhill effect was dramatic.

I first noticed the difference on Saturday when it took him three hours to pick up cleaning supplies. On Friday, he’d planned to clean out his home office on Sunday. Unfortunately, he made the plans while on his medication and the event took place while he was off.

Sunday I sat down to enjoy some basketball games on TV in peace while Robert cleaned the office. Eight hours later, he asked me to come see how it looked. I didn’t know what to say. Yes, the office was cleaner. But the hallway was lined with junk and massive quantities of cleaning supplies.

Then he checks his e-mail. Two hours later, at midnight, I wander in to tell him goodnight. He is staring at the computer. I asked him what’s the matter. "I don't know." He is a born geek. Turns out, his PC was fine. He couldn't remember what he was trying to do! It wasn’t easy, but I finally got him to recognize it was because he had not had his medication in nearly two days.

On Monday, he found out that he couldn't get the prescription until Tuesday. He spent the evening on EBay shopping for things we didn’t need. Tuesday morning, he asked me to pick up his prescription; he didn’t have time during lunch hour. But he’d transposed two numbers in the address, and without the doctor’s name, I couldn’t find the office.

Luckily, he went by after work, got it, and had it filled. But he’d gotten lost trying to find his own doctor! He called me for directions, extremely frustrated and blaming me because I couldn’t find the doctor’s office earlier. Huh? He slammed down the phone, saying he would call back.

Two hours later, he arrives. When I asked why he hadn’t called back—I was worried— he didn't remember saying he would call. Where had he been for two hours? “Shopping.” But all he had in his hands was the prescription. "Oh, I forgot the things in the car.” He brings in groceries and more of the same cleaning supplies he purchased Saturday! Now, we have two of everything, including the world’s largest bottles of Simple Green!

When we finally got the air cleared over who was responsible for him being lost, we sat down to relax by watching TV. He picked a show about terrorist training. After all the bad news on this topic, not to mention the last three days' tension, I didn’t consider that relaxing. “But it’s really good!” he insisted.

After 20 minutes of watching him “self-medicate” by seeing torture victims suffer atrocities, I said, "No, I don't want to watch this," but he stubbornly left it on. I left the room. He said, "If you don't like it change the channel!" He had forgotten that he was holding the damn thing in a death grip. Argh!!!

He took a dose of the medication this morning. Hopefully, we will be headed back to a more even keel shortly. Hopefully, he will remember to fill his prescription next time before he runs completely out. In fact, I think I’ll put it on the calendar.

How about you? Can relate to these examples? Do you have others to share? What's the biggest difference medication has made in your or your partner's life?