Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My ADHD Story Part 6 - Current Day

Alright, back to talking about myself.

When I left off in Part 5, I had just graduated from NU and moved to California to be a first year school psychologist.

I will spare you the details and get to the important stuff.

I have worked 9 of the last 11 years in school psychology (2 years as a vice-principal), I earned my Doctor of Education from UCLA, and I currently supervise school psychologists for a living.

I got married.
You can read about that here.

I now have two kids.
I am a family man that now plays Triathlete to stay in shape, burn stress, etc.

So let's focus on the ADHD stuff.

I am really two people.

No, I don't have multiple personality disorder.
I already discussed my opinions on people with mental illness getting into psychology here.

I really am two people, and very few people know both.

First, there is Dr. Beam.

Dr. Beam is always medicated.
He is a hard-worker.
He is smart.
He is too professional, as he never purposefully steps outside of his "work" mode.
He appears organized by the way he manages his electronic devices...
just don't look at the state of his office.
He is really good at thinking "big picture" and "out of the box",
but he delegates the mundane things more than he should.
Dr. Beam has so little personality, the Autism Community would be quick to claim him as Asperger's (he isn't).

Then, there is Eric.

Eric is the exact opposite of Dr. Beam.
He is fun, but does stupid things.
Seems smart, but he says REALLY stupid things.
Eric has a lot of acquaintances, but only a few close friends.
Eric experiences a lot of joy... and frustration.
Eric misses so many social cues, the Autism Community would be quick to label him Asperger's (He isn't. Really!).

My wife says that Eric is more fun, but Eric is also the one that tends to annoy her the most.

People that know Dr. Beam cannot believe that he has a social life or a sense of humor.

People that know Eric cannot believe that he has a responsible job -- or any job for that matter.

Dr. Beam leaves work social functions early so that he does not need to do damage control for Eric's behavior when the Concerta wears off.

The time that Eric spends un-medicated helps the medication work better when Dr. Beam takes his Concerta.

The only common thread,
aside from the obvious fact that they are the same person,
is that few people are ambivalent about Dr. Beam or about Eric.
They both seem to illicit a strong response in people
-positively or negatively.

(Aside, I think that I find it revealing that I actually morphed the two identities in the name of my blog... Dr. Eric.)

There are some positives and negatives in running two identities.
For me, there is no option.
At work and career, Dr. Beam needs to be medicated and constantly struggles to remain in control and organized.
Otherwise, I might not be a good bread-winner for the family.
However, Eric is really who I am.
Eric represents both the highs and lows in life.
Dr. Beam is just kind of there - no fun -no problems - no personality.
Eric is the guy in the party who either makes people laugh or shake their head in disbelief.

I think that the previous paragraph has a HUGE implication in dealing with children taking ADHD drugs.
Think about it.
The biggest subjective side-effect of many ADHD medication is that we do not feel like ourselves.
I feel like someone else on Concerta.
How many adults communicate the following to kids who take ADHD medication?

Oh no, someone did not take their meds today!

Who are you? You are such a good kid when you take your medication, where did that kid go?

etc. etc. etc.

When people say these things, this is what I hear, and I suspect many children do too:
If you are someone else when you are on your meds, and I like you better when you are on medication, THEN I don't like the real you.

Wow! Those little comments can slip out so easily, but how many people realize what they may be communicating?

Where does this leave me?
What are the lessons learned?
Here is what I have learned reviewing my story:

1 - There may be something in here that others can benefit from.
However, in the end, this is really about one individual.
I cannot assume that what is true for me is true for others.
Be wary of professionals or peers that do not maintain that vigilance.

2 - I would have benefited from earlier diagnosis and treatment.
However, diagnosis alone has no inherent value.
It is what we do with that label that matters.

3 - My doctor did a good job of slowly and systematically titrating my medication to figure out the right balance of maximizing therapeutic benefit while minimizing side-effects.
I assumed that was the norm.
It is most definitely not.
Many issues that people have with medication is incorrectly labeled as a problem with ADHD medication.
In reality, it is probably an issue with how the medication was prescribed.

4 - I have encountered many great people along my journey.
I need to make an effort to re-connect and, possibly, mend some bridges.
I do well with my wife and kids, but not with friends or extended family.
The question, do they even really care to reconnect with me or not?

5 - There are many more chapters still to write.
Struggles to face.
Challenges ahead.
In particular, how does ADHD affect my parenting?
Will my children have the same neurological challenge?
If so, will it be a blessing, or a curse?



  1. It's nice to hear you talk about relationships (with friends and family) - I am also exploring how to re-connect with people who I've "lost" along the way. Mostly my family. My issues are mostly with communication and hurt feelings (I lost phone numbers, forgot birthdays, and often became so overwhelmed when I wrote people that I had to put the letter down several times before finishing - many unsent letters...) I really do no like communicating via telephone (in my family no calls = no love, ugh!) and can't seem to get them to really keep in touch my preferred way - email. I don't know how to undo 40 years of them thinking I'm a snob or thoughtless. I hope to read about more people's experience with this. (My last therapist was not helpful, so I'm taking a break from that.)
    Thanks again!

  2. Dr. Beam,
    Due to my own interesting history with ADHD (Married 2 men with ADHD, raising/raised and advocated for 2 sons with ADHD), I find my jaw dropping seeing your words express my thoughts, opinions and our actual real-life experiences. I plan on sharing your blog with my children- for so long I have tried to help them find words to express themselves without apology- and I believe you're on the right track.
    Thank you.