Debt Management and ADHD

As the cliche goes “…nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Which is true, however; we need to put debt in the mix given our current climate. Even without having ADHD, people are surrounded by debt nowadays. We have student debt, mortgage payments, credit card debt and so much more. The cost of tuition has gone up so much over the years, that people straight up avoid going to school because they can’t afford it and can’t qualify for OSAP.

When I was entering university, my mums income made it so I didn’t qualify for OSAP. That sounds great right? Mum has money, so I get free school. Wrong. She didn’t have enough money to pay for my university while paying the mortgage or whatever else she had to deal with. So we went to the bank and they loved how young I was and were so ready to set me up with a credit card and loan for school.

Having a credit card and ADHD is a bad mix, given our issue with impulse control. It’s hard to keep track of all those little purchases, but they all add up. When you know you are in debt, you start to avoid looking at your bank account. Which only makes things worse.

The first step to getting out of debt, is to know your situation. It sucks and is humiliating, but you have to do it. If you don’t know how much debt you have collected, you won’t be able to make a plan. Honestly, that embarrassment might be the thing you need to calm yourself down when you get the shopping itch. I know it doesn’t feel good. I’ve been there myself. But it is an important step.

Next, reach out to someone for help. This could be your bank, your family or a non profit in your city. If you are in Canada, I suggest reaching out to Credit Canada. They help you with credit card payments when you are getting swallowed up by the interest charges.

You also need to stop using your credit cards. End of story. Don’t sign up for new ones. Don’t go to a same day loan shop. Stop using any and all money that is going to increase your debt.

Sit down and make a realistic budget for yourself. Work on making whatever payments you can, but try and pay more than the minimum fee, because otherwise, you will be swimming in interest charges.

So many people are in debt, so at the end of the day, it’s not that embarrassing. Put energy towards getting debt free. If you are stressing about paying off your OSAP loans, you can apply for a repayment plan if you are under a certain income bracket or have a permanent disability.

Something I found out when I called my credit card company, crying about how I just got fired and wouldn’t be able to make payments fast enough to beat the interest charges, was the balance protection insurance. This program pays off a percentage of your credit card for every month you are unemployed. You only pay a small fee, probably 80$ a month and they make a large payment that helps chip away at your credit card bill until you find a job.

There is hope at the end of the tunnel, and you will find so much peace by being debt free.

Depression and ADHD

When I first sat down to write, I wanted to write about debt management for ADHD. I can’t seem to pretend that I have everything together when I’m pathetically unemployed and depressed beyond all measure. Everyone I talk to says “things will get better!” and “you have so much time to do whatever you want with!!”. The thing is, when you have ADHD, you can’t just do things. You can’t just not focus on your depression. Last week I went to the pharmacy to get a refill on my medication, only to find out that my antidepressants aren’t covered by government funding. Meaning, I would have to pay $235 for them, when I clearly do not have that money to spare. I was unable to get EI because I didn’t work enough hours last year since I was in school for most of the year. Instead, I am on OW, which gives me around $850 a month. That barely covers anything, given that my rent is over a thousand dollars. Sure, my mum and grandma are helping me with the remainder of my bills; and for that I am grateful. But it also makes me feel like a piece of scum getting money from my mum and gran. My friends keep saying “you should go out and do something, maybe volunteer”. I can’t afford to go out. Sure, I don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant or go anywhere that costs money. But I can’t just go out without a purpose. I can’t just go for a stroll. Especially when it’s freezing cold out and I already feel so defeated before I even lace my boots up.

All I can focus on is how pathetic my life is. I know there are people out there with less. I am lucky to be scrapping by enough to afford my apartment, which is a steal now considering the current market.

Looking back on how many times I have been fired, for various reasons. Some sillier than others. I feel like there is no point even going back to work, because I’ll just be fired again. I’ll somehow mess it up because my ADHD will burst out and say something wrong. Or I’ll start working on a project that no one asked me to do because I misinterpreted instructions.

I want to scream and tell everyone to leave me alone. But I also want someone to just sit there with me and that’s it. I don’t want to hear “everything will be alright” because right now, nothing is going right.

Getting Back on Medication

Throughout my life I have been on various types of medication for different things. As a teenager, I was prescribed medication for my asthma because according to my doctor at the time “teens were better at popping pills, than remembering to bring a puffer with them”. I didn’t mind taking pills for my asthma, but that came to an end when we found out I was actually missing part of my lung, and didn’t actually have asthma causing me to have difficulty with breathing.

As I mentioned in the Getting Diagnosed episode, I was on 36mg of Concerta for most of my childhood. My mum gave me some of my brothers medication and wanted to see if it helped me with my schoolwork. It did, I guess, so she brought that up with my psychiatrist and he wrote me a prescription. That was the start of my hell.

I hated my life on Concerta. At the start, I took it every morning regardless of if I had school or not. I did feel a bit special because I had this thing that I had to do every morning that my classmates didn’t. But that faded really quickly and was replaced by a feeling of total weirdness. Life on Concerta was like being on autopilot with an alien taking control of your body. 

Maintaining friendships while on Concerta was weird and confusing and eventually I started to take my Concerta less frequently.

When I got to university, I started taking way more Concerta than prescribed for the sake of assignments. I would be sitting alone in my room, typing away for hours and hours. No food, no water and no communication with the outside world.

I started to realize how strange this behavior was. I also noticed how my heart felt funny when I took two or three pills. Once I graduated, I decided I would never take Concerta again. I hated how it made me feel. I wanted to be able to sleep without getting drunk or taking a bunch of sleeping pills.

Not taking my Concerta made things difficult in work settings. I was always scatterbrained and forgetting the simplest of tasks. I didn’t want to tell anyone I have ADHD, because I didn’t want to be seen as lazy or stupid in any way.

After talking to my doctor about this, we decided to try out Biphentin. The reason for this switch is because it is said to have less side effects than Concerta. My doctor knew how much I wanted to be able to sleep properly while taking medication. I developed intense anxiety around taking my Concerta, because of how it would affect my sleep. Thankfully, I have yet to experience that with Biphentin.

I haven’t been taking my Biphentin as religiously as I should, which is why I have decided to start taking them with the rest of my daily medication. I don’t know what to expect, but I will post an update in 30 days.

Let’s Talk Day

TW: This post contains personal stories of suicidal ideation and attempts, as well as struggling to find therapy and the right medication.

When I was 14, I went with my mum, sister and uncle on a trip to Ireland. It was a birthday present from my uncle to my sister, and I got to tag along because, well I don’t know actually. We visited our family, explored the city and even toured a castle in Kilkenny. The castle wasn’t wheelchair accessible, so it was just me and my uncle that day. I was so excited. At the time I was heavily into medieval history. As we walked throughout the castle listening to the tour guide, I started to get a bit fidgety. This happened after the guide mentioned (for the sake of the story) that family ghosts would appear whenever someone tried to move or sell anything from the castle. This resulted with me touching things on the table and moving chairs by a few inches. My uncle started to notice and told me to stop. But in my defense, I really wanted to see a ghost.

We got back to our hotel and started to get ready for temple. It was Purim that night, a Jewish holiday similar to Halloween. We dress up, give out candy and the adults get wasted. However; the story behind Purim involves a genocide attempt on the Jews and we are told to get so drunk that we mistake the villain in the story for the hero. It’s honestly a very fun and interesting holiday, but this story isn’t about that. It’s about me and the first time I attempted suicide.

I was getting dressed and when I went to show my mum how proud I was that I managed to tie my tie perfectly, she yelled at me. She said “You’re not wearing that! My family will be there! Go put on the nice dress I got you.”. I hated the dress she got me. It had frills and wasn’t my color. I really wanted to wear the tie. I rushed myself to the washroom and started panicking. I was screaming in my head that my life was horrible, tragic and that there was no point in going on. I looked at my tie and I started tightening it around my neck. I realize that probably wouldn’t have done much, if anything. But I was 14 at the time and didn’t really understand that. I did manage to calm myself down because I started to think how shitty it would be of me to have my mum and uncle worry about bringing my body back to Toronto.

I didn’t tell my mum about this until much later in my life. I think it was last year that I finally confessed to her that I have dealt with suicidal ideation my whole life. Everyone in my family does, except my father apparently (according to him). My eldest sister has gone to the hospital countless times throughout my childhood and teen years to be put on suicide watch. Being that she uses a wheelchair for her Cerebral Palsy, her options are rather limited; so her mental health struggles always ended with a trip to the hospital. My other sister confided in me recently that she has also struggled with suicidal ideation, mostly after she went through a divorce and had to move back home. My younger brother as well. His were always, dramatic, for a lack of a better word. I remember one time he tried hanging himself from the upstairs balcony with a scarf. My mum scoffed at him, saying how he would just hurt himself, rather than kill himself. She called the police and they followed up with a mental health check on him the following week.

I know this story is getting pretty dark, but here’s where it picks up. Two years ago I was going through a horrible friendship break up that essentially broke me. I was incredibly depressed and it didn’t help that my relationship was on the rocks and my job was grossly underpaying me. I had no benefits from work, and because I had graduated university, no insurance either.

One day I decided enough was enough. I asked my mum if she could book me an appointment at her doctor’s office. It was the first time I spoke with a professional about everything that was going on inside my head. It felt liberating.

Everything was on the up, but that all changed when I switched jobs and needed to find a doctor that was closer to me. This proved to be a tremendous challenge. Having ADHD put a lot of doctors off, with one doctor telling me outright that they don’t prescribe adults with ADHD medication. I started to panic, but on the inside, as was usual.

A few months later, someone on Facebook posted about their doctor who was accepting new patients. This doctor was close to my house, so I figured what the heck. I went and was blown away. This doctor was understanding, caring and supportive. I blurted out my entire life story to her and she listened to everything. She took my needs seriously and that meant the world to me.

I was curious about medication for my depression, but couldn’t afford to try a whole slew of prescriptions. So I took part in the CAMH Impact study. Once the results were in, my doctor and I looked at the options and worked out which medications would be right for me. I pair my medication with therapy from JFCF and have regular visits with my doctor to check in and let her know how things are going.

I know things aren’t perfect yet, and I don’t think they will ever get there. But I am much better today than I was two years ago. There was no quick fix. This wasn’t like the time I broke my leg and went to the hospital right away for an xray. This is more like when my mum noticed my left hand looked different than my right, and how she took me to doctor after doctor to find out why. To this day, there is no simple answer for why my hand is different, much like why my brain is how it is; but I now have a system in place where I can talk about it and can seek help. And that has more good than I could ever express.

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