Samantha, Me, and ADHDI’ve written a lot about how my dog Samantha is one of the best parts of my ADHD multimodal treatment. For those of you who don’t know, she’s diabetic. In a weird twist of fate we received our diagnoses (diabetes / ADHD) just months apart. I was still wrapping my head around not being able to maintain structure in my life when I was told that her life depended on structure.

Sam and I have managed, over the past six years, to maintain a regular routine of meals followed by insulin shots. About two years ago, she decided to up the ante by going blind. In response, I had to learn to focus. Big time.

If I didn’t, she’d walk right off the edge of the sidewalk while on a leash or careen into a tree, when running free. Either way, I’d end up feeling neglectful and guilty. What a great daily workout for developing my ability to pay attention!

Structure? Forget about it

For the past month, Samantha’s liver has been on strike. She stopped eating about two weeks ago and now I feed her with a huge syringe-like tube. In addition to her twice daily insulin shots, she now needs from 5 to 7 medications daily. Some are twice a day, some are once; some are just before meals, some are after. It’s a scheduling nightmare for my addled ADHD brain.

Worse, her meds have changed almost daily as her vet and I try to find a combination she’ll respond to. I’ve made daily visits to the vet every morning before work, sometimes twice a day, while we try to manage her diabetes, and now her liver disease as well. I’m pooped.

Of puke and punctuality

What little structure I had (thanks to Samantha) is now out the window, replaced by chaos. Adding to the unpredictability and demands of the situation, sometimes her new medications don’t sit right, and I have to spend extra time – how shall I say it? – cleaning up puke before rushing out the door for work. I’ve worked hard on punctuality since my ADHD diagnosis. I’m proud that I’m rarely late for anything any more. The current circumstances, however, are threatening to undermine those efforts (although I admit I’ve gained a new-found respect for anyone who’s ever taken care of babies – especially sick babies).

Watching the peaks and valleys as her energy and wellness fluctuates is torturous. Just as I think I have to resign myself to giving up hope, she bounces up and trots, not walks, darn near around the block. She still wags her tail and sometimes barks cheerily when a friend comes to visit. This is not a dog who wants to shuffle off her mortal coil. As long as she wants to be here, I’ll do my best.

ADHD treatment unravelling?

I’ve been thinking about how this situation has impacted my ADHD. The longer it continues, the more overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted I feel. But recently, I’ve been reminded that anyone would feel this way given a similar situation. When it comes right down to it, I think I’m coping pretty well.

I didn’t always have this perspective. It took a friend to snap me out of trying to overcompensate for perceived ADHD deficits. I’d mentioned to her that I’d reluctantly decided to ask for a deadline extension from my publisher. “Good,” she replied. “You’ve been pushing yourself way too hard.”

I was surprised by her response, given our shared reverence for deadlines (she herself is a book publisher). Her answer made me realize I had unrealistic expectations of myself. I’d gotten caught in the trap of trying to prove that I could do the impossible, prove that I could do it in spite of ADHD. But it wasn’t ADHD that was derailing me: it was life.

The toughest transition of all

I haven’t fallen apart; Samantha is doing as well as can be expected. I’m glad Sam can still rely on me even though there’s no routine for me to follow. And, routine or not, I don’t know what I’ll do without her.


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