Category : ADHD

Getting Things Undone

I’m starting this blog post with some ideas bouncing around my head and no idea how, or if, I’ll finish it. Here we go!

We live in a society built from industrialism, an ecosystem of factories connected to other factories, all within larger factories. Our school lives and our work lives revolve around the clock. Our schooling is mostly centered around being productive. Most of our jobs are centered around being productive. (I remember a McDonald’s commercial that ran while I was an undergrad, where an actor playing a McDonald’s employee says proudly, “At McDonald’s, we say if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”) The unemployed, people on welfare and other social assistance, are demonized as being “unproductive” members of society. The business world has produced books, videos, self-help lectures, webinars, blogs, etc etc etc about increasing your productivity, and this has spun off into the creative world, home life, school. We’re wasting time doing things that don’t help us be productive, so we need to be better at managing our time, better at prioritizing our projects, better at getting things done. (more…)

Year’s End Self-Diagnostic

It’s been a while since I wrote about how I’m doing. Considering how little I’ve posted over the year, the short answer is: not great. But thankfully, the long answer is much better than that. (more…)

At Rest, in Motion

My fellow ADHD people! When you’re sitting or laying down, do you tend to feel more and more lethargic but also restless? Unmotivated and unfocused? Gluestuck in torpor? Do you feel more motivated and focused when you’re not just standing up but moving around? Or is that just a me thing?

I’ve become more aware that my mood and energy levels frequently drop like a tranqed bear when I’m sitting or lying down. Standing in place is better than sitting, but when I actually get moving, I tend to be more cheerful, positive, and energetic. I was never a physically hyperactive child–which is probably one of the reasons my ADHD went undiagnosed for so long–and exercise routines don’t do much for my mind, but more and more, I’m finding it harder to motivate myself and be mentally active when I’m being physically inactive. I wonder if that’s pretty typical for people with ADHD or if it’s more personal.

Behind the Mask

Depression and anxiety lie. Jenny Lawson has said it many times. So has Wil Wheaton. I’ve said it to many people, friends and strangers. I tell it to myself.

The sad thing is, even when you know it rationally, you can still fall for their lies. The saddest thing? The lies aren’t even all that good.

A couple of days ago, I had a very, very good day. That morning, two of my best friends told me I seemed more confident lately. When it came to digging at the roots of my anxiety and depression, “You’re making more progress than you think you are.” They both told me they were proud of me. I was beaming. Later that day, I got to hang out with one of them and chat on the phone with the other. With both friends, we made each other laugh so hard, I had trouble breathing. It was a very, very good day.

Sadly, the next day was terrible.

For the most part, I like my ADHD brain. Honestly, I don’t really mind being easily distracted, having little sense of time or space, going nonlinear, being creative and imaginative, being emotional and sensitive. Except…the sensitivity and high emotions also come with Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria, which I only recently read about but which resonated strongly with me and explained a lot of bad interactions I’ve had with friends and romantic partners throughout my life.

Saturday was an RSD day. All it took was me sending out a few “Good morning! How’s it going?” messages to friends and not getting any replies for…oh, an hour or two, and I suddenly flipped into “I’ve been rejected!” mode. My brain started spinning all kinds of lies, one on top of the other, spinning out into a thrilling combination of spiraling-up anxiety and spiraling-down depression. “Your friends don’t really love you. Nobody loves you. You’re needy and insecure, a burden on everyone! If you withdraw, nobody will come for you! If you reach out for reassurance, you’ll push everyone away! Even when you explain what’s going on in your head and they tell you they understand and it’s okay, they’ll still ditch you as soon as they can to get away from your craziness! They’re probably all talking about you behind your back right now, asking each other how long they can stand it before they have to cut you loose!” I kept telling myself these thoughts weren’t true, they weren’t helpful, they weren’t good for me. I did my best to keep my breathing deep and regular. I talked to myself internally as if I were talking to my best friend instead of myself, because if your best friend came to you and said “I’m having these difficult feelings,” you wouldn’t tell them they were a crazy burden, no, you’d comfort them and tell them they’re loved and accepted for who they are. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from the feeling that I was driving everyone away with my poorly-controlled emotions.

This went all day and into the night. And then just as suddenly as it had come on, I saw through it all. The monster that was yelling all these things in my head was revealed to be the cheesiest, hammiest actor in a cheap, rubber suit. Everything it was saying was nonsense. Yes, I’ve had people tell me I was weird and annoying, but they weren’t friends of mine. Yes, I’ve had romantic partners break up with me for reasons that probably had to do in some way with my ADHD, depression, and anxiety, but for the most part, it was because we weren’t a good match romantically, and that’s nobody’s fault, that’s just life. How many close friends have I lost because they couldn’t deal with my depression, anxiety, my emotional sensitivity? I can’t think of any. How many close friends have told me they love me, stuck with me during the difficult times, accepted me for who I am? Pretty much all of them. Sure, some friends drift away, the closeness fades. That’s nobody’s fault, that’s just life.

Sure, I’ve had friends tease me and hurt my feelings, but only unintentionally, and when I told them, they apologized. And the friendships continued. Sure, I’ve gotten embarrassed and felt uncomfortable when my emotions amped up around friends, but my friends have always assured me they still like me. And the friendships continued. Sure, my sensitivity and insecurities have gotten the better of me, causing me to react badly, but I apologized. And the friendships continued.

Depression and anxiety feed off of and into the emotional sensitivity that comes with ADHD, but they lie. They fucking lie. They tell you over and over again that you’re broken, unlovable, on the verge of being rejected and abandoned. But the reality is this: the people who truly love you, the ones you would stick with if they were acting this way, will stick with you when you’re acting this way. And the horrible monster telling you what a terrible loser you are is just a shitty, cheap special effect delivering badly written dialogue.

Rewriting the Story, Part 2

A little nerd history: Champions, a superhero tabletop role-playing game, was one of the first RPGs to have characters that were created by spending an allotment of points, instead of rolling dice to randomly determine characteristics. You could get more points to spend on your character’s attributes and powers by taking disadvantages. The disadvantages could be things like having a secret identity or being hunted by a particular organization or villain. They could also be physical limitations, like being blind or having a heart condition, or psychological limitations, like having a severe phobia or depression. Disadvantages were only worth points if they caused real complications in the game, so if having a secret identity didn’t really matter to the story, it wasn’t worth any points. But having a physical or mental condition that got in the way of your character living a “normal” life? That would give you points you could spend to have better superpowers.

I’ve written about how growing up with ADHD–and living with cyclothymia and anxiety on top of that–can do a pretty fantastic job of screwing with your self-esteem. I recently had to leave work early because I got hit with a migraine, something I’m prone to (like my brother, my mother, my grandmother)(yay, genetics!). Because I’ve had to miss work due to anxiety attacks and depressive episodes, missing work when I’m physically ill makes me feel guilty. It’s not enough I miss work because I’m crazy, I also have to miss work because I’m frail? As I drove home that day, my sunglasses didn’t just shield my migrainey eyes from the too-bright sun, they hid my tears. I was letting my co-workers down. I was failing everyone. Because my brain and my body are broken.

But what if I’m not broken? What if that’s not my story? What if…?

My girlfriend recently posted this piece by Bunmi Laditan┬áto my Facebook wall. It resonated so strongly with me, I cried reading it. And this part was like a flash of lightning in my mind, illuminating everything I’ve been thinking about lately:

People with mental issues, I’m talking to you. I know we’re in mixed company with the normals, but this for you. What if we’re special? Yes, it hurts. Yes, we get sad. Yes, we’re tired of being in body that tortures us regularly, but what if we’re special? What if there’s a reason?

I don’t want to bring Marvel into this because DC Comics is superior, but what if we’re like X-Men? Take Cyclops. He has to wear those special glasses or he’d burn holes in everything with his laser eyes which must be hard, but he’s also used them to save lives on missions. And Rogue. She hated her ability to absorb powers and longed to be able to do simple things like touch her boyfriend without possibly harming him, but through her interactions with Wolverine and Magneto, we all learned how amazing her gift is. Eventually, she learned how to hone and better control it.

What if we’re like that? What if our brains that cause us so much torment, have hidden potential. What if we’re special?

(For the record, I don’t think DC Comics is superior to Marvel. I’m an equal opportunity fanboy.)

And so. What if my depressive and hypomanic episodes, what if my anxiety and panic attacks, what if my lack of time sense, my distractibility, what if all of those things are side effects of my superpowers? What if I need the points from those disadvantages in order to have my talents and powers as good as they are? What if I would be too much awesome for people to handle if I didn’t also have to deal with my mental health issues?

I know I’m tired of feeling broken, fucked-up, a failure. I know I’m tired of seeing so much of who I am as a negative. I know I’m tired of apologizing for being daydreamy, talkative, socially anxious, loud and dramatic, imaginative and unrealistic, nonlinear, and emotionally sensitive. I know I’m tired of beating myself up for not being “normal” when I’ve never really wanted to be “normal.” I want to be a superhero. And being a superhero means accepting your weaknesses as well as your strengths. It means realizing that your disadvantages just make your advantages more amazing.

I’m ready for my story to be amazing.