Explaining ADHD… to My Doctor
I assume my doctor is being judgmental at first, but then I realize all of his questioning is because our children share an ADHD diagnosis.
I’m in the doctor’s office for my yearly physical which with I manage to get every three or four years, or sometimes five. I don’t trust most doctors. At least when they’re in their offices or the hospital. They just seem like detached bearers of bad news and pain. Lucky for me I’m a pretty healthy guy — if you put aside the rabid greyhound in my brain straining to break free and run around howling in tighter and tighter circles chasing nothing and yapping incessantly about everything and everybody everywhere, except for who or what is right in front of us. (I had a therapist a while back who impressed on me the importance of not referring to myself and my brain as “us.” He felt it was a dissociative pattern that kept me from dealing with my problems constructively. But we never trusted that guy either.)
But this GP in front of me right now seems like a pleasant guy. I’ve seen maybe once or twice before, but I still keep my guard up and have to work at keeping eye contact and actually listening to him as he goes over my history with me. No recent illnesses or injuries, which I’ve accomplished by staying locked inside my house in front of my computer avoiding other people and exercise. I promise him I’ll get outside and lose weight, and this time I think I might mean it. I know it won’t be easy. I’ll have to remember to write “Go Walk” on my calendar every day ahead of time in order to remember to do it. Maybe I should fill up every day in the whole calendar at one sitting. But that’d be stupid. How far ahead do you write reminders in calendars? I realize I’ve been mumbling all this out loud as the doctor nods and glances down at my chart.
“So,” he asks, “How long ago were you diagnosed with ADHD?”
“Eleven years ago,” I tell him. He nods some more as I elaborate on the comorbid conditions — be careful what you ask an out-of-the-closet mental patient, they’ll never shut up about all the interesting junk going on in their heads, and whatever they read about that junk online this morning. I mention that this spring I’m eight years sober and he says that’s good and then asks, “Do you think the ADHD and the drinking were connected?”
I tell him yeah, in a way, but it’s not an excuse. I’m an alcoholic, and as any recovering alcoholic will tell you, the drinking is really just connected to you and the drink and whether you drink it or not.
“You take Adderall for the ADHD. Are there any addiction problems with that?”
Whoa, wait a minute. This guy isn’t one of those anti-med, ADHD deniers is he? Usually you don’t find them in doctor’s offices, but I’m sure it’s happened before.
“No,” I say, “That’s not an issue. Sometimes I even forget to take it, and only remember when my day starts going off the rails. Honestly, if you have ADHD, this is in no way a recreational drug. It’s a life-saver.”
“Uh-huh… And both of your children have ADHD?”
“And they take medication as well?”
“Yes, and they’re both doing well with it.” I realize I’m sitting up very straight on the exam table and my voice has gotten definite and authoritative, and a little defensive. And the truth is, my 21-year-old son refuses to take his meds these days and I don’t think he’s doing that well without them. But so what? This is not this GP’s area. I have a psychiatrist, the doc I trust with my brain, and he’s the one in charge of us.
“Do you or your children experience any oppositional behavior problems?
Okay, what’s with the third degree? I’m getting irritated, so I don’t answer right away. I know my coping skills when it comes to ADHD anger management. I take a couple of slow deep breaths.
Then the GP leans back, his features soften and he says, “I’m sorry I’ve been asking you so much about you and your family’s ADHD. I’m only curious because…”
He takes a breath himself and smiles. He’s suddenly starting to look like someone I could trust. “It’s my son,” he says, “I’m concerned about my son.”