Tell Me Something Good

There was something that happened over this past weekend with my family–my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law–that has really put me at a standstill with my progress in our relationship.  A point, just a few months ago to be exact, my brother had a breakdown of sorts, and he had to be checked into a psychiatric ward, in which the staff helped him find a better medication and better ways to deal with stress at work and home.  I wasn’t there for that, because they are all two hours away, but my parents and I were in constant contact.  It opened up or at least shed light on a possibility of what our relationship and methods of communication with each other would be; to be more open and honest and to start a dialogue, in the moment, despite how uncomfortable it felt, was the goal.

We promised it had to change.  It did, for a very short and temporary time, but it made it easier to move on in a healthier way for all of us.  Because I’d been in therapy both one-on-one with a counselor and in a new group therapy session for other women with ADHD, it was something that I was constantly aware of and obviously, to be that open made me much more vulnerable to any new and unexpected change.  However, it did not prepare me for things to go back to what they were before; to be quiet and to be as contained and as private as possible (I say as waspy as possible) with everything again.

This bled over into what our wedding next year would mean.  Before this recent revelation–same as it ever was–what we wanted to share with friends and family, in terms of who we were as people, what we meant to one another and what our new family would look like went back to a feeling of uncertainty.  In our minds, a sense of pride and happiness was the ultimate outcome; this would influence our creation of this special event.  I felt a little trepidation, sure, and a little gun-shy about the possibility of a conversation with them about my recent diagnosis with adult ADHD.

The fear was there, only I knew it had to be shared, as it ultimately could create a sense of togetherness moving forward with this whole process.  What it meant to me personally, if they noticed any patterns during childhood, or ways we’ve communicated that made it pretty clear what I had, was something I actually looked forward to, despite how terrifying it felt.  We talked about it in my group in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day weekend.  How to prepare, the talking points, what to share, what to keep back and share later, and what the overall sentiment should be, kept the door open for this conversation.

The week of, in the days after group, there were a couple instances that completely slammed that door shut.  And it was not because I was gun-shy about that particular subject.  I saw so many possibilities arise for miscommunication, and saw moments of passive aggressive behavior about such insignificant details in travel plans, times, the methods of communication, inserted into what they HAD to do because of my disregard.  The framing of all this was the reasoning, “because of your brother” and “well, your brother and ___” to excuse these little slights toward my character. 

I realized again that the opportunity to be open about ADHD would not be received in such a way and it never happened.  The weekend was okay, and I held back many times to just make it easier to get through the rest of the time I had there.  It was nice and I could point out positive things, but when you have something in mind to happen and it’s so important, and you know it isn’t possible, it only makes you feel stunted.

Now, I can’t shake those hurt feelings; the fact a great opportunity was taken away (my decision and it was a good one) to just make things easier for everyone.  That is our standard and it will change at some point, yet it does make you feel like the level of progress you thought you had made in yourself, the forward momentum and the slow building up of the self-esteem, isn’t as much as you thought it was…I am so controlled because I have to be, at certain times and with certain people.  Only, why do I translate that into most other areas of my life?

My work interaction, my professional life, my writing, my Art, contained a hesitation to share completely who I am, what I’ve become, what my goals and dreams were and that was present enough that it made the decision to not share anything with my family so much easier.  That was when it came to me and my life, though.  When it came to my brother, the door opened a couple of years ago with his mental disorder diagnosis and stayed opened.  Jealousy played a part, in that I felt I couldn’t be vulnerable or show a (perceived) weakness.  I had to be in control and confirm who I was to them; their expectations of me remained intact.

What does this mean about my wedding?  What do I mean as an adult to them?  Can I change this in time to be able to talk about this openly at any point in the future before the stress levels kick into high gear and I just won’t be able to deal?  My mom did settle in, at some point over the 24 hours I was up north, and requested for me to “tell her something good.”  What that means needs to change…

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People Who Have It

I met a person on Friday night, which happened to be the first day of taking a new medication for my ADHD.  This time it’s a stimulant and really something to get used to if you’ve never had anything like it before, and I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it with the way I ate, the way I drank, the way I talk to people–my social interactions–all of that.  I felt so much uncertainty about what to do with so many things and whether or not this type of medication would be a positive thing or if it would be more proof that I needed to incorporate more natural ways to combat it, in order to feel better.  To feel myself again on a regular basis.

So, then, by happenstance, we were outside of a local move theater/bar, on a break from watching the NBA playoffs, and my fiance, a friend and I discussed blockbusters and the nature of them. How did it compare to what it felt like when we were little, growing up and was it really all that different?  Was it that we were more naive or more open?  Were we really more cynical than kids today?

This became a conversation with a stranger, standing close by, about the way that different blockbusters are represented on the big screen, and why some directors/screenwriters/actors were brave enough to show something that was a little more complicated, more gray, morality-wise, than the movies who portrayed superheroes who saved the world over and over again–to then be re-booted and shown in practically the same way less than ten years later.  (Hints on what movie played at the theater?)  Gradually, we turned it to what defined a sociopath, or a psychopath, and do they represent well onscreen?  In that, do they need to be tweaked and made a little more fuzzy-wuzzy, so that way it wasn’t so intimidating for the audience?

To encounter something so complicated in the form of supposed entertainment isn’t likely to be what they looked for in the summer time and it wasn’t an escape to a cool, dark place, safe from the boiling outdoors.  I opened up about personal situations from my past and if either one of us knew someone who suffered from these tendencies and how that exposure stimulated various symptoms of ADHD throughout our lives.

It turned out that we were the same age, that we had the same kind of romantic interactions and self-discovery:  attempts to rescue men from sociopathic behavior, to save boyfriends as our love was so strong and pure, potent enough to render a “sick” man well again.  We weren’t allowed to be selfish because someone had to be freed from the chains of mental illness; our ADHD tendencies shoved under the rug because the relationship forced us to be otherwise.  When the relationships inevitably imploded, the aftermath was an absolute feeling of blindness frozen in a place black and far, far away.

Now that I’ve had to be so reflective about my past and present, I haven’t stopped thinking about myself and what I had to do to feel 100% myself again.  What was obvious from this interaction is that this medication created a moment for me to surrender to and to feel confident.  That I interacted with intelligence because I heard what he had to say, reflected, and actually responded.  I didn’t wait with a rising tide of impatience for him to finish, so I could talk, and therefore not hear what he said.  In other words, I had a conversation with a smart person about a fascinating topic and we became friends in that moment.  It was a comfort, a joy (and even liberating) to know that I could still make new friends and that I understood how to communicate and talk to people again.

Part of it was the way that the “happy” hormones/chemicals flooded my brain and the beer and pretzels helped, too.  The knowledge that to feel this way was normal?  It was a nice change of pace and something I haven’t felt in a very long time in that context.  Friday night was a lesson that I am headed in the right direction.  Everything that I’ve done, the steps I took to get to this point, and the hard work I’ve put into have led to something good…

An Experiment with Exercise

I know that cardiovascular exercise improves the cognitive function of the brain, but does it help the ADHD brain, which has trouble with executive function—the management of various processes in the brain like reasoning, problem solving, working memory and planning—and how to regulate its neurotransmitters to produce proper levels of feel-good hormones and chemicals? Obviously, any action that floods the brain with more dopamine, a hormone-neurotransmitter my own brain can’t seem to keep enough of in order to stop the potential to bite someone’s head off for daring to interrupt me at work or in the middle of a really good book, is a positive step. Is it enough, though, that I can incorporate the potential to wean myself off of medications or at least my iron-grip reliance on how much it’s recently improved my life at work and at home?
One thing I struggle with is how to keep the motivations going to do the things that make me feel better and keep me on the path to discovery. I make plans (and usually abandon them halfway through); I write lists (and lose them in my workbag); I create folders full of reminders of my talent when I need to. All of this, to keep my self-esteem at a level high enough to force that essential forward progress, and not create another setback. Except now I have to take myself to task for not keeping the one New Year’s resolution that ninety-nine percent of us end up dropping in frustration?
To remember how much better I operate at a 9-5 corporate job (someday that will be in my rearview mirror, I promise), after a run at the gym during lunchtime, works if I schedule it as though it’s time to take my medicine. It is much more uncomplicated to frame it in that way because it becomes necessary to exist and be okay with where I am in my work life. I can’t forget to take my medicine no matter how a meeting unexpectedly comes up or if I’m running behind on a project or get caught up on a phone call.
The only thing that stops me from this lunchtime workout turning ritual is how long it takes me to remember how important it is. My brain needs a zap every 30 minutes or so and if I have trouble wading out of the morning coffee or the dip into last night’s television recaps, the delay to my workday is inevitable. I set a timer in the schedule tool on my phone to keep that zap on the visual level; anything that will shake me out of my reverie to keep on task and continue on with my day.
Any article that discusses the benefits of exercise makes sure to point out that it is a natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent. These are two things I struggle with, and to think that it also helps with my ADHD, again, should be and will be seen as a gift to my very special brain.
This starts the experiment, as I’m currently in between medications to try and find something that not only works a little bit better than my previous one, but that doesn’t leave me broke after refills each month.

Your Eight-Year-Old Self

sun gaze

Third grade was a big year for me: the first time I was in public school after private school proved too expensive for my parents to justify on my brother and I despite the level of education and my first mentor happened to be my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wallen.

At the time, of course I didn’t think of her as my mentor. I just thought of her as my best friend. She introduced me to the world of Shel Silverstein, let me stay indoors at recess to read and write, and submitted an application, after my parents’ approval, for the Young Writers’ Workshop.

Before that, I only thought of writing as something linked to book reports during the summer reading program at a local library and an activity to pass the time during the mini sermon given by the pastor before the dismissal of the kids to Sunday School time. The book reports led to a special award created for me the previous year, at age seven, during the end-of-summer award ceremony.

“We couldn’t believe this particular little girl wrote these reports, so of course we figured out she had a lot of help from her mom. But, when we spoke to her mom, she explained that the reports were written entirely by her daughter. We were very surprised to hear that and knew we had to create an award for this talented budding writer,” the head librarian explained. I had no idea she was referring to me and felt a happy knot of anxiety explode in my abdomen when she called my name.

The stories written during church were of the most silly and innocent of topics, generally with nature such as the sun itself hiding out from the moon and twin girls I unwittingly referred to as the Andrews’ Sisters, who solved local neighborhood mysteries. Carefully drawn pictures accompanied the stories, all found in a tiny memo book, which I showed to Mrs. Wallen later during a sunny fall afternoon recess while everyone else was outside.

Throughout the school year, I tried my absolute best to keep her close to me and win her approval, as she encouraged me with kind and constructive criticism. In my previous years, in private school, I made it a point to know these teachers as well as I could. I’d play with their kids, after school, or write them letters in the summertime to “check in on them.”

The precociousness of this never crossed my mind until much, much later in the course of a career exercise meant to find your “true passion.” Yet, it made me realize that there had to be a place where I could tap into that and discover if the slow unfolding of the creativity was still within me.

Today, this blog/place serves as a welcome home and a crystal-clear sign that I need to re-discover a writing mentor. I hope she/he appreciates my candor and proves to want to be a partner on my campaign to a purely creative existence…

Hyperfocus hyperbole

A term spoken of in very non-glowing ways in the psychiatric and educational environment, hyperfocus is the very thing that saved me in the past few months.  Saved me from what, exactly?  The reality of my day-to-day existence before I re-framed this supposed bad habit wasn’t too full of any optimism; it was more ‘how do I live through this day?’ than anything else.  It isn’t meant to be dramatic, rather a comparison to the level of happiness I feel now.

Hyperfocus makes you lose yourself in the moment until that moment is a string of them and the sun sets in fast motion like a film in fast-forward.  Only I didn’t have those moments, anymore, and speaking as an artist, that was as though I lost a limb.  More dramatics!  This is how I am, though, and the melodrama is me; she keeps me warm in the brain.  Now, there are habits incorporated that help me re-direct that focus in other areas, while at the same time I schedule in the things that make me go blind with concentration…Otherwise, I won’t be able to complete the tasks I need to get done which put monies in the bank–or give me an allowance for food and beer, at least. 

When there was a lack of time spent on what made me content, despite the people around me who offered any sort of fulfillment through conversation and support, then I grew resentful and cranky.  Somehow, the moment that made it click was a perfect slurry of resolutions made good, production, events, an Adult Clinical ADHD diagnosis, counselors, dedication and the realization that my boyfriend and I picked the same night to propose to each other.  There is a tangibility to it all when we cook dinner, or drift off to a bad Hong Kong film on the couch or list off the ways we’re rearranging the space we occupy at home to spark creativity.

We have an agenda and my hyperfocus guided that into fruition.  This is where I will come to reflect on the steps, the development into who I was meant to be, as I have a second chance at that.Image