Sitting at table taking pill

Day 1: Treatment

This was meant to be about how the pills are affecting me, and I’ve written a silly amount before I even get to Boots. I do that on Day 0, but the pharmacy needs to order the pills in.

I’m frustrated – it’s hard to hover on a perceived start-line, even for 24 hours. Still, I toddle dutifully back the next morning at around 11.00.

The Boss and his wife, Patsy, are away for the day. I’m grateful for that. I don’t like to experiment with medication in front of colleagues.

Plus, it means that I can take an early lunch.

I grab a bowl of grub from one of the vegan stalls on the market. Dr E said that eating before taking the pill was a good idea to start with, as the stimulant can irritate the stomach.

Healthful and ethical as the food is, I have to force it down as I sit outside Waterstones; hacking at courgette with an ineffectual wooden spoon and staring into the middle distance.

I suppose I am a little nervous. I really, really want this to work.

Take the damn pill already, will you?

Yes, all right, I’ve rabbited on a bit. I’m enjoying myself.

Mania, I should note, is one of the rarer side-effects that I’m meant to look out for, but I don’t think I’m as exuberant as all that.

Anyway. I go up into the Waterstones café (noting, with mild relief, that I don’t know the barista) and order a coffee and some water. I pretend to read until the drinks arrive, at which point I attempt nonchalance as I take a bottle from my bag (a bottle, like the movies! Not the foil packets I usually get) and tip a tiny, pink-and-white pill into my hand.

Here goes nothing.

I’m not meant to take the pill in the afternoon – it’s a morning activity, to avoid insomnia and such – but I’m not here because my ability to engage in delayed gratification is overdeveloped, put it that way.

I loiter in the coffee shop for half an hour – the length of time the pill needs to start kicking in – and meander back to work.

Firing up the computer, I open Facebook to check my messages before getting back to work. I perkily click on a notification telling me that one of my friends has added me to a “Terry Pratchett Book Club” group…

Looking at Facebook group - *heavy breathing*

…half an hour later (sorry, Boss), I’ve written a short essay on my favourite philosophical passages from Discworld, complimented several people on their contributions to the group in floral, effusive paragraphs (I’m feeling very affable!), and seen the truth in the advice I ignored: make sure you’re doing something productive when the meds kick in.

’Hyper focus’, that oft-misunderstood super power of ADHD, can be magnified by treatment – and it is not discriminating.

I tear myself away and open the correct site in Chrome, shutting down Facebook with a stern shake of the head. Tut, tut, Facebook. Honestly.

I get stuck into work and really bloody enjoy it, actually.

What’s changed?

Physically, I’m fine. As expected, I have very little appetite (but not to the point of nausea), and I’ve picked another common side effect off the shelf at random: dry mouth. It’s not the most pleasant sensation in the world but it’s not awful. I’ve got off lightly.

Now the hard part: describing what feels different in my brain so far. Bear with me.

English is not blessed with fit-for-purpose words to describe mental processes, which is why, when one looks back into the depths of both scientific and non-scientific literature, everything is in metaphors.

Rather wonderfully, metaphors for the mind appear to keep pace with the most exciting technology of the time.

Thus, once mankind realised that the squishy bit between the ears was worth writing about, the brain was commonly likened to hydraulics, mechanics, clockwork, steam engines and telephone lines; and, nowadays, computers.

Some argue that this tendency to try and describe the brain as things it is demonstrably not has held back brain research, which seems plausible.

However, as I am contributing very little to the field of neuroscience as it is, I don’t feel too bad about indulging in metaphor.

I’ve heard ADHD described as having a laptop with inadequate RAM. It takes a while for the (perfectly up-to-date, thank you) software to get going, and when it does it struggles to interact with the other programmes. If you try and do too much at once the whole thing freezes up.

I rather like that analogy, although it has its limitations. It only describes part of my problem with work.

The constant damn distraction is the main thing, the nasty thing.

To go a bit early-2000s on you, it’s like my brain computer has a pop-up virus – those awful, strobing ones that move around the screen and slip under your cursor.

Not only that, but my impulse control is appalling, so I deliberately click on the ones that interest me… without reading the small print. I end with a thousand windows open, and a dozen toolbars installed in my poor, creaking browser of a mind.

Bearing all that in mind (barely), I see improvement this afternoon.

While I still find it difficult to hold several thoughts in my head, I don’t feel that I am freezing up when it happens – rather, I “quit” some of the processes (hopefully the unnecessary ones, but I’m not 100% sure about that).

I see an obstacle and deal with it instead of having a little panic and abandoning the task.

Most importantly, while the pop-ups are still flashing in front of my mental screen, I find it far easier to click ‘X’ and close the distraction.

For instance, I decide that one of the articles I’m editing needs a tailor-made image rather than a stock photo. I open an image editor, but a usually-quiet voice speaks clearly: “You do not need to do this. This will take 20 minutes, and it is in no way important to the project.”

I close the editor and resume work, pleased with myself.

Despite this stymying of my more random creative bursts, I do not feel uncreative. Quite the opposite – I feel as if my writing has more flair, although I’m working on quite a dry subject today. It is, possibly, [Edit: definitely] verging on the overly-verbose.

I have a dozen ideas and file them neatly away at the back of my brain “for later”.

The first evening

Ah… but later comes, and I discover that my medication has not improved my bad memory in any noticeable way, and that said memory has ceremonially burned all the lovely things I entrusted to it. Ho hum.

I write an article (freelance, rather than Day Job) when I get home

The piece was well past deadline and really did have to be done, so there’s a good chance I would have buckled down anyway at some point. What usually wouldn’t happen is the hour of Day Job work I end up doing afterwards, entirely of my own accord.

What with all that, poor Joe was quite abandoned for most of the night. I did pause for a couple of hours to make and eat sausage and mash (veggie for me, piggy for him). Good feedback as always. It is nice to be marrying a man who is easy to please.

I had a much smaller portion than normal, but that’s a good thing. I usually struggle with portion control. Three sausages, a decent dollop of mash and a ladle of gravy is plenty of food for a small-ish woman.

Far more shockingly, I forget about the ice cream that I have in the freezer.

Takes a while to get to sleep, but nothing drastic. Joe has a much worse night of it than I do – hopefully nothing to do with me!

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