Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Juggling and spirals

I'm having trouble keeping all my balls in the air.  I keep focusing on the stuff that I can't manage because the tools aren't there.  And with that--with being focused on the stuff I can't manage--I'm starting to drop other balls.  Ones that, were I paying attention to the right thing, I wouldn't be having trouble with. All the balls I've dropped are rolling around underfoot, and I'm not just dropping the rest, but losing my balance.

I need to stop, breathe, refocus, and pick up one task.  One ball. 

Imp is having trouble with school.  I keep reminding him to hang on, he's got a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and we'll have an updated 'scrip in another week or two, but he really is having trouble.  

I think we've got things adjusted so that he's not overwhelmed by all the crap in his locker--the system with the one, big binder with all his stuff for all his classes seems to work better than the one with a binder for each class.  Each class has its own section in the binder: there's a folder for the class, then divider tabs, and paper for each class's work and notes.  

Right now, his problem is a negativity spiral.  He can't pull out of it.  He's stuck on "I can't remember/I can't do it/I'm going to fail"--stuck on the problem, and can't re-focus to fixing the problem.  He doesn't even know where to start to fix the problem (remember that problem with under-developed executive function?).  

He's stuck.  His focus is stuck.  He's feeling like he's starting to drop the balls that are being thrown at him.  

I know exactly what that feels like: I cope with that, too.  I'll be managing things on my limits and then boom--something goes wrong.  And then everything goes wrong when I change focus to deal with the one thing.  The routine gets broken, because my checklist to help me remember things can't cover the extra.  And neither does my energy or focus levels.  

As an adult, I know that the only thing to be done is to slow down, take a breath, focus on what I've dropped, and pick up one ball.  Not immediately try to get them all back in the air, just one.  

For example, with the line to the kitchen outlets being broken or having a short somewhere, I have no dishwasher.  I don't have the energy to deal with dishes on top of taking care of the kids' back-to-school needs and rebuilding routines,* and without the dishes, it's a lot harder to keep up with cooking.  The summer heat making me not want to cook isn't helping.  Feeding my family is one of the big things in my routines.  And not having my dishwasher or cooking every night is making me drop all the balls.  And having one of the two kids in desperate need of extra support and help isn't helping me pick the balls up.  

I need to focus on one ball

I'm focused, right now, on getting the imp on his feet in school. He's got a system that will work when his meds dose gets adjusted...and I've got his doctor's appointment made for tomorrow afternoon.  It was the soonest I could get him in.  

He's missed a few assignments.  I took him back in to get the book one of the assignments was from, and I got him to do one of them last night.  I contacted the other teacher, and got the low-down on what happened in her class, and got the imp to admit he needed help, but didn't know what to do.  I got that managed (son, you need to ask for help when something isn't working).  

One ball managed.  Next ball: getting my kitchen back.  

Working on that one.  Got an appointment set up with a different set of electricians because the first set is dropping balls.  I sympathize, but I need my kitchen.  

It's a step-by-step process.  But it's taken me decades to figure out how to manage when all the balls go everywhere.  

The imp is dealing with all the balls going everywhere, and he doesn't even have the tools to know where to start picking them up.  So he gives up and curls up and does nothing.  Which...is entirely typical and understandable for someone with his challenges.  

First ball: get the dropped homework done and turned in.  I think we've got that managed, now.  And got a system so he doesn't lose it instead of turning it in.  He just has to build it into an automatic habit.  

Where my challenge is ME/CFS draining my energy and triggering brain fog (and sometimes triggering my body into attacking itself), his challenge is that he's growing.  He's needing constant monitoring of his weight, size, and dosage, and he's almost 13--his hormones are starting to step in and interfere.  Eventually, that will settle, but right now, it's making him crazy, and he doesn't have the perspective or the tools to pull himself out.  

So, right now, it's my job, as his mom, to pull him out of his spiral.  It's...not easy, with all the things that push his focus to keep him in it.  Especially when both he and I are still trying to figure out what's working, what isn't, and what's not just not working but backfiring.  And when I'm trying to keep his spiral from making him withdraw, curl into a ball, and stop listening and trying.  

One ball.  Once he's got a handle on that--once I have a handle on that--we'll add another.  

Tomorrow, I get to work getting the kitchen back, which will let me get that ball at least picked up so I don't stumble on it when it rolls underfoot.  And tomorrow, I get the imp to his doctor and get that ball picked up. 

One ball at a time.  Pick them up.  Stop letting them take my feet out from under me.  Then work on getting them back in the air. 

*I'm not talking about building routines for the kids.  I'm talking about building routines for me.  Because my limits keep changing.  I think I'm doing something right, because sometimes, I can add things, rather than drop them.  I just wish I knew what I was doing right, so that I could keep doing it, and maybe someday get closer to my old normal than I currently am. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Balls. (FFOT)

I've still not got my kitchen back.  I think we may have to go with a different electrician.  I really, really need my dishwasher.  This is not on.  It's been a month

I found out the hard way that I can't tolerate quinine.  I made myself a cocktail with tonic water, and reacted badly to it.  Bad, bad side effects that lasted for more than 24 hours (although the worst was only about 12 hours.  I am...disappointed...by this.  Because a glass mostly full of ice and tonic with a shot of Kracken and a little bit of lime is damn tasty.  And refreshing when it's so stupidly hot and heavily humid as it's been recently.  

My imp's school specified a 1" binder for each class.  We...tried that.  It didn't work.  So didn't work.  Five binders, plus books for classes equals overwhelming for any kid, but neurotypical kids adapt and organize fairly quickly and with varying degrees of well.  Not so much with a neurodivergent kid (like mine, with ADHD).  What we are doing instead is simple: everything goes into a 3" binder with a shoulder-strap.  The classes are divided out by a folder that matches the color we used on his class schedule.  I need to simplify his schedule, too--it's cluttered and confusing for him.  He still doesn't have it memorized, after two full weeks.  

The housework is...in need of attention.  I am trying to keep things picked up off the floor so that I can justify getting a self-emptying robot vacuum.  I can't keep up with the picking up and the sweeping/vacuuming.  Especially not with having to do dishes by hand (even the few that can't be disposables).  

Stress.  Stress sucks.  Especially when you can't stop worrying about things you can't do anything about.  Not because it's national, but because the things you are worrying about aren't things, but the people in your life that you can't do anything to help, either because they fight you on it, ignore you on it, or you've flat given up on trying because they sabotage it.  Stress brings on extra inflammation, and eats energy, and one bad thing about a multitasking brain is that, even when I'm doing something else, I'm still worrying.  Because one track of my brain is still able to focus on that (and does) even when I've got all the others working on something else.  

I have two more weeks before I can get back into my fucking hotmail account.  Two weeks ago, it told me I had to update my security or else.  And then booted me out.  And when I signed in, it told me to input a code from a text.  Sent to my home phone number which doesn't receive texts.  I gave the fucker an alternate email address to send the code to, and it let me in just long enough to input the code from that, then booted me out again, and said I couldn't sign back in until 9/11.  Everything goes to that email addy.  Everything.  Because it's the one I've used for everything since I got married in 2004.  

Dusty Hill died.  So did Charlie Watts.  Yes, I know they were on the older side, especially for rock stars, but damn.  Two of the greats.  I am dreading who's going next.  C'mon, Death, take one of the pop tarts that can't sing or play instead of the greats, this time.  It's been a hell of a month, and I need a fucking break. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

ADHD sucks.

Middle school.  


Changing classrooms and classes and teachers every hour.  

Trying to keep up with the supplies, organizational demands, and the work load that God has not gifted you the tools to deal with that everyone else has.  

ADHD kids don't even know where to start.  They've got no idea how to deal with any of it.  And worse, the shift toward a high-school-type schedule has thrown off whatever routine and equilibrium they'd had built up.  

Why is it so hard?  

Executive function.  It's a fancy name for how your brain organizes and prioritizes projects and tasks.  It's the framework most people take for granted in dealing with their day.  The alarm goes off, and your average neurotypical rolls over and smacks the snooze, stretches and dozes and works on waking up, then gets up when the alarm goes off again.  They wander thoughtlessly through getting dressed, eating, grooming, and getting ready to go.  They don't have to think about every single step.  

ADHD includes something called executive function disorder.  It's what turns a routine into a disorganized mess.  Someone with ADHD cannot run on autopilot through their morning--they have no autopilot.  Some work around it; others are the disorganized mess running out the door with an armload of papers drooling out of their grip, having lost or forgotten anything and everything from keys to writing utensils to phones to...well, everything.  

Part of the problem is that the brain lacks several key capabilities--someone with ADHD does not make sufficient dopamine.*  There's less insulation between their emotions and their impulses and their actions than normal people have, because their brains do not reward them for correct actions by producing dopamine.  And that "reward" is what helps build executive function in neurotypicals.  From toddlerhood

A lot of people with ADHD lean on waiting until the last possible second to do things, and depend on the adrenaline rush from panic to snap them into focus so that they can do thing things neurotypicals expect to be easy for everyone: things like planning out a draft, planning the steps, estimating the time each step takes, and working slowly, steadily, methodically, and without stress to finish the project.  

Without executive function, people with ADHD lack that sense of how long something is going to take.  They think it'll take forever, when it might be half an hour or so, at most.  So they start out not knowing where to start (and feeling overwhelmed), or how long it's going to take (making it worse), and can't push themselves to get started at all.  Literally cannot.  They want to.  And can't.  And if they try, nothing works--their brain goes off in a million directions, with none of them useful.  

Parents can provide some framework; parents can teach their kids how to build scaffolding so that they have something external that takes the place of internal executive function.   It's hard, though--neurotypical parents don't have any idea how to break down and teach what comes so automatically to them; parents with ADHD may still be suffering from the same problems, and can't help without figuring it out for themselves, first.  

Building that framework is essential.  Start with the very basic step: what is it you need to do first?  Write that down.  Then write down what goes next.  Build a checklist.  People with ADHD can't simply build a routine and get it into autopilot.  They have to keep double-checking that list, or they'll get out the door and find they've forgotten deodorant.  Or that they didn't get their hair or teeth brushed.  Because they got distracted by something else their brain flung at them instead.  

Build a checklist for once you get where you're going--work or school.  Color code it.  Match whatever supplies you need to the color blocks on your schedule.  

Build a framework: make sure reminders are visible and attention-catching.  Set alarms, use timers.  Use bright markers and bright colored sticky notes.  If it's out of sight, it's out of mind.  

And then forgotten.  And not done.  

Medication does help, but it isn't a miracle or a cure, and won't build the scaffold.  It only lets people focus long enough that they can.  

ADHD sucks.  It's awful.  People with ADHD have to find work-arounds to mimic what neurotypicals do as a matter of course, and they have to work four times as hard to have half of the success.  

*Dopamine and serotonin production can be supported, but it's hard to do, and people with ADHD have to be careful.  One of the best ways is through diet; one of the most common ways to trigger dopamine production ends up...backfiring.  Finding foods that stimulate the production of serotonin can also help with stimulating the production of dopamine, but the issue is that dopamine is also produced by empty, simple carbohydrates--junk food and sugar--because it tastes good, all of which exacerbate the inability to focus, and further damage any executive function abilities.  

Thursday, August 5, 2021

It's one of the best times of the year!

Missouri has, for the past several years, set the first weekend in August (from 12am on Friday morning to 11:59pm Sunday night) as a state sales tax holiday on everything needed for back to school, including clothes and electronics.  Tomorrow, I do back-to-school shopping.  Without paying state sales taxes.  Or city, since I'll be shopping in a township that participates in the sales tax holiday.  I hate the shopping part, so we go as early as I can get everyone around and out the door (before 8:00 am).  And we go through and methodically check off things as we acquire them.  

Yesterday, my enterprising pixie asked me to find and print their school's supply list, and went through, gathering everything on the list she could get her hands on.  It was a surprisingly large amount.  I think I can give her a small list and have her find her things she's missing (I think there's a total of five things).  

My son, on the other hand...he's going into middle school.  His school is wanting an inch and a half binder for each major core class.  He needs zipper binders.  As in really needs zipper binders.  He's the world's most awful klutz where dropping his binders is concerned, and the most likely for said binder to explode papers everywhere.  Because the rings either pop open (it's happened), or because he hasn't managed to put the things in the rings, yet.  

My wallet mourns.  As does my determination to buy as little "made in China" as humanly possible.

Thankfully, the reduction of what the pixie needs should make it much easier to afford what the imp needs.  

Both kids will need clothes, but not a lot just yet--they've got sufficient summer-weight stuff, and winter stuff isn't even out yet.  Some I'll have to order online, since the girls' polo shirts are limited in local stores where the city's participating in the tax-free holiday to two colors: navy blue and white.  The imp is starting to need different sizes than what I can find in the kids' section (bigger sizes assume "hefty" and he's...the opposite).  Shoes, on the other hand...yeah, the imp needs shoes.  Badly.  His are worn out.  

So, there's a big shopping push this week, then next week...Tuesday is back to school night, where they take stuff and load their desks and locker.  We'll be signing paperwork, picking up information packets on drop off and pick up while they get set up for classes starting back up.  Then Thursday, they start back to school (yes, I'm very excited about this, if you can't tell).  No masks will be required, no "hybrid of online and in person for middle school and high school" like last year...the only thing they're still doing is staggering when you can get in and out of the building by last name, and trying to keep kids isolated by "color groups" (however well that works...).  

I know they've been busy all summer, but I am ready for them to go back.  Partially because I need to know--sooner, rather than later--if the imp needs his meds adjusted for school, or if his current dose is still good for him, and I won't know until school actually starts