Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ritalin and the Two Sides of Me

On Super Bowl Sunday, I celebrated my second aniversary of being Powered by Ritalin. When I reflect on the past couple of years, a recent compliment pops into my mind. A manager in one of my employer's main offices phoned me with accolades regarding how I handled a recent meeting. She also said she's noticed that my ability to take command in such meetings had catapulted in the past couple of years. Coincidence?

That manager's compliment sums up one side of me. I occasionally lead or participate in high-level meetings in which I must be clear, articulate, on my game, and thinking fast. Pre-Ritalin, I used to dread these situations because after a few minutes I would feel like I fell face first into a mud puddle because everything said in the meeting would just form a traffic jam in my brain.

Post-Ritalin, I relish these opportunities. I'm able to address what's being said, and even go off on tangents because I can easily return to my main points. Even better, I can do all of this with little effort. I've thus discovered my new ability to think on my feet. While other colleagues require detailed notes before they speak in public, I can expound for a while with just a few bullets.

But then there's the other side of me. This other side of me forgot to do laundry the night before one of these meetings last week. I realized well after midnight while I was still surfing the Internet that I had no clean hosiery to wear to the meeting in the morning. I quickly handwashed a pair and rolled it in a bath towel to speed up the drying process. However, I forgot to unroll the towel and hang up the hosiery before I went to bed. As a result, I had to blast my hair dryer on them so as not to don moist legwear. And though I knew what I planned to wear, I chose not to iron until the morning. I could have used the hosiery-drying and ironing time to eat breakfast. Instead, I arrived at the meeting with an empty belly and ample gratitude for the person who brought donuts.

Another one of the meetings involved overnight travel. Though I'd only be gone for a couple of days, I still could not decide what I wanted to wear. I partially attribute my indecision to a temporary post-Thanksgiving weight gain in all of the wrong places and not liking the way my clothes fit. I ended up going to bed at 3:30 in the morning without having my attire selected, and had to get up 2 hours later to catch my flight. I ended up packing my stuff right before I left for the airport, and the 10 minutes of crunch-time decision making worked out just fine. Had I curtailed the procrastination, I wouldn't have needed to frequently squirt drops in my red eyes, prop myself up with caffeine, or scarf down every carb that came within an arm's reach.

On the job, I'm able to keep the harried and frantic side of me hidden away. I show up for these professional confabs by presenting my poised, confident, and smartly attired. But on the inside, I feel as exhausted as someone who just finished a marathon because of all the hoops I make myself jump through to get myself out the door.

Shortly after becoming Powered by Ritalin, a former friend (I alluded to her in a previous post) expressed her skepticism about ADD in general. She mentioned that one of the characters on "Desperate Housewives" took her kid's Ritalin and then cleaned the house in one fell swoop. Then she asked if that was how the drug would affect me. If only! ADD drugs provide us with an ability to do things, not the discipline. I'll continue to muddle through the latter, because discipline doesn't come in pill form.

1 comment:

Tac said...

Yeah, I love the ADD-Skeptics. "We all have a hard time staying focused." I want to reach into their brain and ask them how well they are thinking now?

Distracted professionals can force themselves to focus when they need to. Non medicated, I have no control over when I can pull it together and when I can't (and usually can't). I remember trying so hard to pay attention once that I ended up paying attention to paying attention and completely lost what was going on.

I also love the anti-Ritalin ADD crowd. I'm fine with someone choosing to not take meds (my brother) but don't lecture me for choosing to. I've tried it both ways, and I very actively manage my meds. Things always work out better when I'm on them than when I'm not.

I work full time, married with three kids and am going full time getting my MBA. I would have blown up months ago if it wasn't for my meds.

When I'm on my meds I can run mental circles around any one at work or school. When I'm not on my meds I'm just running in circles.

Like you said, meds don't make me do better, they just make it so I can do better.