Sunday, February 3, 2013

My story vs the tragedy of Mr. Richard Fee

I was diagnosed as a child with ADHD. Apparently I "wrote the longest, most creative stories" my teacher had ever read a second grader write and I "stared out the window the entire day." In high school I tried stimulants and didn't like them, they made me focus on things I didn't want to acknowledge, like how boring class was, as opposed to the funny things I could imagine happening to make class interesting. And I didn't really care about my grades, I wanted to be a professional soccer player, and I performed very well on the SATs, so who cares about a few Cs, right? (I still got all As in math and physics...)

I remember my mom asking me to take them, but I was not adequately invested in my classes to compromise my happiness for classroom achievement. I remember laughing too hard to sit still and having my physics teacher kick me out of class to go run laps around the school. I almost failed freshman biology because I was always either late or forgot my homework and we had to hand our homework in before the bell rang. My freshman English teacher contacted me ten years after I graduated, telling me she remembered how funny I was in her class... But her class is one of the only classes in which I DON'T remember being disruptive or misbehaving, I only remember repeatedly forgetting to do the homework because I did not write it down or lost the paper on which I wrote it down, etc. I remember my first real boyfriend, sophomore year of college, saying "I have learned not to take it personally if you start giggling while we are kissing" because regularly I'd just think of something funny and start laughing in the middle of trying to kiss a boy,  in the middle of class, really in the middle of anything but a funeral.

In college I ended up having to take time off school because I couldn't focus on my classes and didn't get anything done when I sat down to study. (During this time period I also contemplated becoming a professional flamenco dancer. My dreams of future employment are as scattered as one would imagine from a girl with ADHD). Before returning to school I came to the agreement with myself that my intellectual future was worth trying medication. So I went on Strattera, a non stimulant, and took it regularly for over a year. However, it slowly began to make me nauseous, a known side effect, and I had to go off. I finally tried the stimulant medications again for the first time since high school. I am glad I stayed off medication through most of high school and college and would definitely recommend the same to kids. I know that I am bright and high functioning. I know that I do not NEED medication. But to be a really high functioning student where organization matters, I need help. I have an organizer that comes once a month because that is all I can afford, etc. The thing that I love most about myself: my sheer enthusiasm, energy, and spunkiness, has its downfalls, and that really sucks. It upsets me to take any medication, but without it I do not think I could have gotten into or stayed in medical school.

Taking adderall scares the living bejesus out of me and I have talked about that on end with the psychiatrist about any and every other possibility  He knows the psychiatrist who first diagnosed me many many years ago. I don't like using anyone else as the whole deal of taking stimulants scares me and makes me feel as though I am a sketchyperson. Last year and this summer I kept going off of adderall in order to race, 3-5 days before races. I had a tutor say to me "you have to choose, running or medical school" referring to my decision to keep going off of my meds. This really resonated with me because she was right. If I were a patient and my doctor said "oh, renal function tests, I didn't learn those that well because I didn't study as well that week... Well, I had a race coming up and didn't want to take my medication, so sorry, but the meds you were taking caused acute tubular necrosis which we would have caught, but now you are in renal failure need a transplant... but dialysis should help until we find a donor. Sorry, just didn't see it." That would be horrible. So I worry a lot about how to strike the right balance between my scholastic training and my running not just in terms of time but also in terms of when I can and cannot go off of the adderall to race.

My legs are cramped up and I think it's a combination of adderall and all the sitting. Nothing is worse for my running than taking adderall. It is probably a big part of what is leading to my injury. This is because my body is always stressed out. I have to do workouts in the morning or else I can't do the workout because I took adderall to study... Sometimes I can if it is only 5mg much earlier in the day and it has worn off, but otherwise my legs cramp, my heart races, I get light headed and my tongue gets all tingly, and I just can't do it. It is scary! And I stop and give up for that day.

The story of Mr. Richard Fee (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/us/concerns-about-adhd-practices-and-amphetamine-addiction.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hp) made me cry this morning. I don't know if he had a predisposition to paranoid schizophrenia. He sounds a lot like my good friend, Matt, who had a schizophrenic attack while I was in college. I remember sneaking into Matt's apartment to clean when he wasn't there because if he was then he may have attacked me. Eventually he made it back to his parents house. Less than a month after he left his apartment, I called his parents house. I received a threatening message asking me to never call again and that is the last I know if him. But as he descended into madness, I was the only person there for him and the way Matt changed is seared into my memory. Stimulants can induce psychosis. This observation is what lead to the creation of many anti-psychotic medications whose action is the opposite of that of stimulants.

I am afraid of medication. I do not like taking it. This is the big difference between myself and the man described in the article. I tried every other option and continue to try every other option because in my gut I KNOW STIMULANTS ARE BAD. Currently, I am on 5-15mg/day every day I do not race/am not preparing for a race, because I am studying every day. I am also trying a new prescription fish oil supplement with the hope of forever going off of adderall: http://vayarin.com/  We will see, but the whole thing is scary and I hope that the world doesn't judge people like me. But I guess I am putting this out there, so I will be criticized. But my dream is to be a doctor and help others who have struggled to fit into society as I have struggled and the only way I can do that is by being honest about my struggle.

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