I was diagnosed with ADD quite a few years ago, although I was already out of high-school and halfway through an unsuccessful attempt at an engineering degree when it happened. It didn't do me any good at the time, though, because I didn't go through any effective treatment. There was neurofeedback therapy, which was not offered to adults at the place I went to, and medication, which I was offered at the drop of a hat on my first appointment with a psychiatrist without a whole lot of discussion, explanation or qualification. I said no. Then I tried an unproven, ineffective treatment, then forgot about the whole thing, because ADD.
Anyway, here I am years later, at 29, and I'm on my third day trialing Ritalin. I reached a point where I decided that, no matter how scary it may be to dose myself with a mind-altering substance, the alternative - continuing to beat my brains out against the Cliffs of Achievement in spite of mounting evidence that it was futile - was a whole lot scarier. The difference is really quite astounding. I've written a quick list of things that I should totally do now that my brain works:
- Write a bunch of blog posts about WHATFACKINGEVAR BECAUSE I CAN
- Make some BLEEPADURNINGMONIES
- learn a bunch of new stuff REALLY FAST
- Get in touch with people I miss
- realise that I actually do miss people sometimes
- Spend more quality time with the missus
- Code for FUN
- Prime number stuff, and that website that I forget what it is (oh yeah, Euler Project)
- Make a sudoku puzzle game, and then a sudoku solver
- Make the sudoku solver more intelligent, harder, better, faster, stronger
- WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN
|Did I mention I'm totally tweaking right now?|
So first of all, the mind-altering substance. I feel like I've responded pretty well to the drugs, because I can feel the difference. Thoughts are flowing a lot more easily, and they don't slip away before I can act on them. More noticeable is that the anxiety of feeling like the thought will slip away is gone, because I feel like I can call up the thought I want when I want it. I don't have to wait for happenstance or compulsion to bring the thoughts back.
Hence the DRINKIN thing. It seems like a weird thing to want to learn about. I mean, you just have a drink. Maybe you do some research into how different drinks are best consumed, and... drink some. Done, right? Except that I always worried that I would somehow be susceptible to getting addicted. I mean, what if alcohol somehow managed to soothe the pain of not being able to think properly? Would I accept that over actually trying to fix the problem? I don't feel like that's going to be a problem anymore, and I want to learn about what's out there and what I like.
In fact, when I'm on my medication, I feel like I do when I'm in the car, and I've got music playing. Those two things together seem to give my brain the stimulation it needs to rise up out of the mire and actually work, and the thoughts just start to flow. I've been reading Driven to Distraction, which is all about adult ADD, and a lot of people who have it report being able to do their best thinking in the car.
So self-medication, as I've known for a while, is essentially the reason I play so many games. Unlike a lot of others, I don't just get in the car and drive, I play computer games. I was talking to a friend about this a few months ago, and she asked, "But is it really medication, or is it just an escape?" Well, I guess that depends. If the thing you're medicating is the inability to get things done, then yeah, it's not a very effective method, unless the thing you need done is gaming, which it seldom really is. There are jobs where gaming is what you need to do, but they're not actually any fun, according to reports.
But if the purpose of the medication is simply to get the fog to clear, then games are excellent for someone with ADD. Unfortunately they also prevent you from concurrently doing the things you might need to be doing, but that's just a side-effect. The primary effect is still working. So what's the purpose of medicating the lack of concentration if you can't actually use the concentration on anything?
The thing is, it might be only indirectly visible from the outside, but from the inside, not being able to hang onto your thoughts is maddening. Given the choice between trying to get things done while flailing around inside a haze hoping you fall onto a train of thought that might take you somewhere useful before you fall off, or not trying to do anything but at least having control over your own mind, I'll take option two any day of the week.
Which is another reason why addiction was a worrisome prospect for me. If I'd discovered speed or cocaine, which apparently have similar effects to Ritalin, and are closely chemically related, and they had this effect on me? Would I have been able to give them up? Would I have wanted to? I don't know, but I'm glad I've found a supplier who operates under a modicum of legal accountability.