Did you miss my introduction or Part I of guest blogger Shawn Ladd’s adventures? Read them here:
After the second SPECT scan, I had a long chat with Dr. Christine Kraus about how to read the qEEG results and what my specific readings could mean (Dr. Kraus only looks at the qEEGs, to avoid any possibility of bias.) The electrical activity in my brain is characteristic of a person who has ADD, who is prone to anxiety, and who may have a mood disorder. Cool. And there are several options that could help, which she’ll report to the psychiatrist for integrating into treatment options. Also cool. Then back to the hotel for my first drink in a week (I took the “no alcohol before testing” admonition very seriously), which turned into several, and one more sunset pee.
On the morning of Day 3, I arrived at 8:30 and spent two jam-packed hours with the psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Farrell, who brought the history, the electronic and paper questionnaires, the qEEG results, and the SPECT scans together to reach a diagnosis and lay out some options. Having these four approaches run independently, and each coming up with the same two or three issues, I was finally intellectually satisfied that we knew what I was dealing with. My SPECT scans and qEEG results were completely consistent with my ADD diagnosis, but there was also confirming evidence of my suspicions about physical coordination and social interaction being harder for me than it is for most people. Over three days, we’d come up with a refined diagnosis that might otherwise have taken years of trial-and-error.
It turned out that my stimulant was overpowering my antidepressant, making me anxious and irritable. We dropped the Adderall from 30 mg to 25 mg daily, an easy fix. Plus, I received plenty of recommendations for nutrition, physical activity, supplements, and therapy. I was done and out at with fresh scripts, and a binder with 45 pages of personalized and specific history, diagnosis, images, and advice, plus another 50 pages of recommended background information and resources.
It will come as no surprise that some patients, when handed a 100-page binder, go into overwhelm and just ignore it. To avoid that, two weeks later I had a follow-up consult with a therapist and with Dr. Farrell, to see what I had done and how it was going.
I was really struck, not just by the rigor and thoroughness of the Amen Clinics’ exams, but by the respect and understanding that all the clinic’s staff showed us. Adults, teenagers, and small kids were all treated not just politely and humanely, but with genuine pleasure and warmth. A frantic four-year-old, who was wound up after his exams, was gently led to a play area with his family, where he could run around or watch a video. An eight-year-old made inquiries was taken as seriously as his parent. A couple of teenage brothers and I joked that we must have the same flavor of ADD, because we share the leg-shaking tic that annoys our family members so much.
This level of care costs money, and I don’t know yet how much of the roughly $4,000 bill my insurer will reimburse. But if I don’t get a penny back, it will still have been worth it to have a clear road map for treating my ADD and anxiety, and avoiding future bouts of depression.