I am very public with my co-diagnosis of bi-polor & ADD. I’m now treated for nearly 2 decades. A matter of fact, I’m available to make a presentation for your club or gathering, to demystify it for anyone curious, fearful, or suddenly dealing with a partner, child, or relative. Sadly, while bi-polar tilts toward exciting mania when young, as we age mood drifts more to depression. This past month has been a very tough, with 10 of my last 20 days spent “in bed, curtains drawn”. The “black dog of depression” at my side, is so descriptive.
Depression & ADD is a double whammy, because elevating your mood often just runs you into nimble confusion. When you finally perceive structure, as well comes an overwhelming sense it is just too much, or that long obscured outcome is just pointless. It is why people diagnosed with bi-polar or depression often chase a “hypo-manic” mood: once organized, lets go! Studies show depression is 2.7 times more likely in adults with ADD/ADHD than in general. It makes sense.
I made an unscheduled appointment with my doctor of 12+ years, asking him to attack my month in hell by increasing or switching my “Mood Elevator”. By bumping my euphoria to “first cup of coffee / morning sunrise” My vision was the energy to climb out of bed and get started might bring clarity as an by-product.
But he said no, and I trust him. Let’s bump attention, letting that push up my mood. So now I find myself with clarity of though and in just 2 days can now see my life, my projects in their entirety; even the steps; first, second, third. I race to build to-do lists, follow-up calls, notes to write. Will clarity last? Who knows.
Yet I sit without the elevated mood I wanted. So it is up to ME, to drag my sorry self out of bed and go do what needs be done.
Many people thrive despite a diagnosis of bi-polar, depression, ADD or ADHD; mostly using external structures to compensate. In many ways you become hostage to keeping these “life lines” in place; no less than kidney dialysis, or nitro pills carried around your neck.
The primary foundation, of course, is medication from a doctor you trust. In the beginning a hammer to bring wild swings into control, leaving you asleep before lunch or jittery all night. But after two or three years of tweaking, you find yourself cutting a small dose pill in half or taking others maybe 2 or 3 times per week “as needed” (or only during month-end closing or family visits). Add in good diet, exercise, a regular sleep cycle; plus family and friends that understand, empathize and support you.
But its external tools like to-do lists, reminder sheets, folders and boxes and ashtrays kept in certain places that bring order to mayhem. They begin to drive your life, and if you keep them up … you survive. Oh, but once the black dog arrives, once the curtains are drawn dark for three days and the bills go past due, the party cancelled, even starting a new list can be too steep a hill to climb. Those lists, those boxes, become the lifeline bringing air to the man underwater letting him rise into sunshine and breathe again.
Those gifted without any diagnosis have no idea just how much of life is “muscle memory”: where you put your keys, when the water bill is due, that the “24 months no interest” contract comes due in July not October. Lists, and diagrams, and “cheat sheets” bring you back when you have “brain fog” for the one thousandth return to life. We post those rescue tools during good times, may not look at them, but live or die by them some unknown day.
Who needs a fire alarm, a life jacket, a parachute, an air bag? Go ahead, disable those in YOUR life. That’s like taking down our to-do lists, packing lists, telephone reminders, maps, notes. Why am I always on my phone? Why does my phone run “a hundred apps”? Because before smart phones I had all of that written out on paper, in spiral binders and loose leafs, that I carried everywhere scared to death I would lose them.
My doctor played played a little trick this week, elevating my attention with just a tweak of euphoria. Now its up to me. So far, just a few days in, its working. Here I am finally writing again, organizing my bills & mail, and cleaning the condo. With my mood essentially flat, and while we live in a country beset with political turmoil, terrible social injustice, every possible depressing global situation. Today I climbed out of bed, opened the curtain, fired up my laptop and got to work. Like I said, I trust my doctor.
Let’s see how it goes.