WARNING: This post could be a trigger. If you have ADD, please think about your current situation and how your day is going and whether you might want to read this now or put it off. I’m not here to toxic up your life, so while there could be useful information here for you, there’s always another day to read it too. Just give it some thought.
If you have ADD and are having a bad day, I hope you’re in a place that you can avoid the downward spiral. If you read this, please use it to take comfort in knowing that you really aren’t alone. There ARE other people out there who understand how hard things are for you, and there are people who survive it every day. Hang in there. The pit is not bottomless.
Blathering is my term for a post that probably meanders all over the neighborhood before (hopefully, but I offer no guarantee) coming to a point. Odds are good that I have a lot of posts that should be qualified as Blathering, but those actually in the category are ones that (a) are generally long as hell and (b) felt they were ending up scattered or disjointed as I wrote them.
ya know it ain’t easy
for these thoughts here to leave me
I’m tellin’ you
these feelings won’t go away
they been knockin’ me Sideways
I keep thinkin’ in a moment that
time will take them away
It’s funny. It took me 25 years to go see someone (furthered by a moron who thought his brand of ‘love’ should be enough to ‘cure’ me – what an ass) and to be open to antidepressant medication (to which the psychiatrist said, “Wait a minute. You’ve had this level of PTSD and depression almost all your life and have never taken anything? You have lived in America all of that time, right? My God, how has no one helped you until now.”). The reason it took me so long? I had the usual fears of becoming a zombie, side effects, being mind-fucked by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, etc. But the truth, which I can see now, is that I was deathly afraid – not of hoping that someone could actually help me but of being told there was no hope.
When I started seeing my current counselor, a woman who specializes in eating disorders with a subspecialty in ADD, I was a walking catastrophe. It was a miracle that I was even there, after having had one previous wretched counseling experience. I remember sitting in her office, looking down to my knees where my hands were wringing the life out of tissues drenched with tears, as she told me that things really could get better and that from what I had told her she truly believed she could help me. My God, that moment. If I spend much time thinking about it, the vivid memory floods in with the smells, the warmth of my clothing, the softness of the tissue in my hand, and her gentle touch on my shoulder – so honest and reassuring. How I wanted to believe her, but as I told her, it had been so long. I’d tried so much. I’d believed so often. I just couldn’t let myself hope anymore. She promised me that I was there because the hope really was inside me, but it was okay that I couldn’t feel it right now. She asked if she could hold the hope for me. What a concept that was. That someone else, someone who said they understood what I was saying, would choose to believe in me, to hope for me — and offer herself to me to trust her to be the one who carried the hope. It’s been more than 3 years, and I’m still blown away by that.
I understand now that she was right, of course. I was there, and continue to go, because I have hope. My hopes have changed, thankfully. Whereas I started my journey hoping for a miracle that would bestow ‘normalcy’ and ‘happiness’ (because, really, who doesn’t?), I now hope only for the chance to be my best self and to find joy in all the spaces of my life, with both goals being met while finding a way to work with my ADD instead of against it.
I used to think of myself as a cynic. My life has been full of beautiful and devastating irony at every turn, so it isn’t a stretch to see how I’d think that; I learned to expect the worst. It turns out, though, that I am an optimist in practice because I always still hope for the very best. Actually, I always still hope beyond the very best; I’m working on reining that in a bit, but I’ll admit it is tough because, when it pays off, it’s stellar. 🙂 In truth, I’m an optimist to the point of ridiculous sometimes. I think we should all just be nice to each other. I believe that peace is possible if everyone would just stop thinking it is so damn important to be ‘right.’ I put up stockings at Christmas for the adults in the house, and I expect them to have something in them on Christmas morning. I believe that life should be magical past the age of 8, and I cannot fathom why someone wouldn’t want it to be.
Hope is to optimism as faith is to trust. Unfortunately, I still have a problem with faith/trust, one that is pervasive in almost all areas of my life, not just my ADD. I can’t tell you what it was that made me trust my counselor; I certainly believe the hope in me played a huge part: I wanted to trust her, I needed to trust her. Ultimately, I knew things wouldn’t work if I didn’t, so maybe I just made the decision. I doubt that it is that simple, and it certainly doesn’t give her credit for being the amazing person that she is. Maybe I should ask her about that one. I’d be interested to hear what she had to say.
But, back to faith and trust. I am agnostic. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. It means that I don’t trust the accounts I’ve been given. I’m much more neutral than that (remember that thing about not needing to right?). If God exists, it goes too much against my nature that he would be as spiteful as some believe or as generous as others believe. I don’t think God ‘lets’ people get fatal diseases or ‘cures’ them because of prayer. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray in times of crisis or fear, but that’s my way of expressing my hope. If it goes somewhere or does some good, then great, but that’s not why I do it. If God exists, who am I to ask for favors? And why would my favor be more deserving than someone else’s? No, there’s no justice in that, and I’m not about to request injustice.
Of course, that said, I also express gratitude ‘to God’ for nice things that happen in my life, just because I want to deliver my gratitude into the world. I feel grateful for all living things I come across (all right, maybe not poison ivy or cockroaches…), and I think that taking my time to enjoy them shows my gratitude to the world. I certainly look at my son and am nothing short of amazed and awed. You also can count on a “Thank you, God” when I get a great parking space.
Some days, though, it is terribly difficult for me to have faith that my life will continue to improve. On the bad days, I feel incapable – of anything: change, action, joy, communication, work, living. On the bad days, the paralysis can set in, and I feel like nothing but a lump of cells that refuse to remember to live. That’s actually a good description because the paralysis feels like a betrayal – a trap set by my body to bind me and keep me prisoner, a maze with no way out. My rational mind knows that there is a way, a door, an exit that I cannot see. It is often something that appears absurdly simple after the fact, but if you’ve ever squinted harder in an effort to see in the dark, you know that it’s merely wasted effort. There’s a ‘trick’ to it, and you have to know what it is. Have you ever driven in dense fog? Can’t see a thing. Lights on. Fog lights on. Windshield wipers going. Defrost blowing like mad to keep the window clear. You’re leaning up over the steering wheel and have a deathgrip on it, all in an effort to see just one more inch of the road. You’ve driven this road for the last 5 years; you know it well. But WHERE is that curve? Is it now? Haven’t you been driving this road for 20 minutes? It should have been here by now. It will be any second. Are those lights ahead? Are they in your lane??! What are you going to do?!?!
If you don’t know to keep your low beams on and look down at the stripes on the road, the panic sets in, and your body becomes almost immobile behind the wheel, preparing for the fight it cannot see. Exhausting itself by doing virtually nothing except being overwhelmed with possibility. That is very similar to the paralysis of ADD, and in that moment, faith is very difficult to see.
The most unfortunate part of that moment is that this is where the snowball meets the mountain, and the cycle begins. As the ADD’er becomes paralyzed by overwhelm, too many decisions to make, fear, and too much hope, sections of their life start to slide: work commitments, family commitments, the house, the bills, the car, the dog, the cat, school, appointments, nutrition, exercise, sleep – all the things that make a productive life. As that slippage grows, support fades. Coworkers start to wonder. Family members become exasperated. Needed nutrition, activity, sleep, counseling, and medication all become very shaky and dwindle. The support systems that need to be in place cannot be maintained in paralysis, which only furthers the paralysis. This is further complicated because ADD paralysis, in my experience, makes me feel toxic and not want to be around others. I don’t feel like I can be helped, certainly not by people who, by my standards, have all the reason in the world to feel irritated, angry, or upset with me, and being around those people will only add to the depths of my pit. In the past, this was cured by running away from my problems and the people around me. While this can seem reasonably effective in the short run, I’m here to assure you that it only leaves piles of your own emotional baggage that you have to clean up later, even if you never see the other people again to have to deal with the piles you left for them. Since I’m now married and have a child, a mortgage, and life insurance, that’s just not an option. So what do I do?
I’m in one of those spaces now. My beloved husband, a very good man in general and sometimes saint for his attempts at learning to learning how to deal with my ADD and still love me (and not give into the occasional urge to strangle me) (*I have to caveat that he has plenty of his own pain-in-the-ass-itudes that I have dealt with so we’re not talking canonization here, but his were more in the past and we’re currently talking about mine. This statement brought to you by a ‘not viewing myself as beneath my partner because of my ADD’ need.), ….yeah where the hell was I… Oh, my husband is feeling very fed the hell up with me right now. A feeling I don’t begrudge him. I don’t enjoy it by any means, but I recognize that he has more than a leg to stand on. The school year has just ended, the kid is home for the summer, work has gone nuts in not good ways, the deck is thoroughly trashed (see his Memorial Day blog), and every single room in our house (I wish I was kidding) is, well, wrecked. For all the energy that spring can give me, since having a kid, summer can sap it back out with a vengeance. We are into the paralysis cycle up there, and motivation is damned hard to come by for me right now – for anything.
Back to the question of what to do: I’ve had a few solid days of this crap now, so I’m hoping that I’m on an upswing. I don’t adjust well to changes in my ‘routine’ (imagine my shock at learning that I had one…), and there has been A LOT of change in the last week. During all of the insanity of the last couple of weeks, my meds have been completely screwed up, I’ve not eaten right, and I’ve not gotten enough sleep. I’ve had to cancel counseling appointments 3 weeks in a row. I’ve certainly gotten almost no daily exercise or enriching activity on my own, and if I don’t make sure to do something that actually rewards/renews my spirit in virtually every single day, things go bad quickly. SO, I need a plan.
It started a few days ago with putting one foot in front of the other and going to get my meds out of the cabinet at the times I need to take them.
- I’ve already started being religious about my meds for the last couple of days, and I can feel the difference. I also already scheduled some medical appointments I’ve needed to make for a while.
- I’m going to change my schedule at work to say that I will be working on only certain days of the week. I will then at least know that I have very specific days that I will be free of that.
- I’m going to sit down with my son and create a list of chores we complete on certain days. We’ve talked about it, and it’s time to do it.
- Tomorrow, at some point, I’m supposed to be meeting with someone about watching my kid a couple mornings per week so that I at least have some quiet time, even if I’m working, where I don’t feel like I need to be immediately responsible for his well being and/or guilty if I’m working.
- I’m going to make sure we eat dinner together as a family tonight – hopefully at a table free of Legos. (God help me.)
Sleep, nutrition, and activity need to be addressed, and soon, but that’s a list of 5 for right now. I know myself well enough not to go beyond that as I’m starting out. It doesn’t take much for it to get completely out of control, and then the snowball starts rolling again when I’ve expected too much, too fast. I’d rather have a list of 3 to 5 successes, however small, then a list of 10 successes and 10 things I put on my list but couldn’t get done.
One day at a time.
FYI: For anyone who hasn’t been able to start on the journey, I’m begging you: Find help. And if you’ve tried help, and it didn’t work, please find a way to try again. Counseling and medication saved my life. I’m still learning how to live, but I’m here to tell you that knowing your weakness doesn’t make you weak; it gives you the strength to live your own way. You are not alone, and no one goes to battle by themselves and wins. I am holding hope for you – because I know firsthand that your life can be better.