Blue Pill, White Pill

I have a constellation of neurodivergent traits, the pu pu platter, the deluxe kit of neurocognitive differences. Some of these qualities fit together nicely; I’m socially anxious and I have misiphonia and hate loud rooms, so I don’t go to many parties. Easy peasy. But other ways of perceiving clash so aggressively that they occasionally put me in danger. Synesthesia plus ADHD are the worst offenders.

I’ve made medication mistakes both for myself, and in years past, with my elderly dog. The most recent error came after an oral procedure. I’m a natural redhead and a bit of a bleeder, so my dentist suggested I use acetaminophen for post-surgical pain. He did not want me to use an NSAID like ibuprofen because that drug can promote bleeding. This is straightforward advice, and should not have posed any problems.

(synesthesia has entered the chat)

I have lexeme-color synesthesia, which means I see all of my words in various hues. Typically, my words are colored by the shade I see with their first letter. The word “acetaminophen, like my letter “A”, is the most beautiful shade of aqua blue. But the acetaminophen tablets I have at home are white. The drug I was supposed to avoid, ibuprofen is a beautiful aqua blue. But the word ibuprofen is pure white.

(ADHD has entered the chat)

I have the “ever onward” tendencies of my ADHD kin which means when I am working on one task, I am typically thinking of the next task to be completed. The night of my dental procedure, I was getting ready for bed and took the medication that I saw in my mind’s eye, the blue medication, acetaminophen. And of course, what I actually swallowed was the aqua blue capsule, ibuprofen.

Nothing terrible happened with this mistake. I was fine; my gumline along the tooth that was fixed seemed to bleed a little more in the morning, but no big deal. But I live in fear that I will make an error like this on a larger scale, either with myself or with one of my dogs. I hate the feeling of ineptitude the comes from the clash of synesthesia and ADHD. But this is the brain I’ve got, and I’m doing my best.

One of the most helpful ways I’ve learned to work with my neurocognitive differences is by connecting with other neurodivergent folks. I’ve had some lively conversations in the last month with Maike Pressing, the host of the Let’s Talk Synesthesia podcast. We spoke recently about the double whammy of synesthesia and ADHD, and the ways these brain differences can create confusion and cognitive dissonance for those who have both of these neurodivergent traits.

On episode 15 of Let’s Talk Synesthesia, Maike interviewed ADHD coach and synesthete Candin Phillips, who’s active on Instagram via @humanity_hive. It’s a relief to hear the dialogue between Maike and Candin, which reminds me that neurocognitive differences have their blessings and their curses, and we don’t get to pick and choose how they will impact our activities of daily living. But I can show myself compassion for the mistakes I’ve made. And, I can come up with creative solutions, like saying the words “white pill white pill white pill” the next time I have oral surgery.

Creativity really is the key for me to working with my neurodivergence. Some of the hacks that make my life easier have come when I’ve been focused on creative practices. And making art is as calming for me as it is rewarding. Maybe it’s time to make something interesting from my medication mistakes, a sculpture from blue pills, white pills….