Thursday, May 17, 2012

Left of Pluto

The following is an excerpt from a comment that I wrote today on @Julien's post, Welcome Back. If he or anyone else comments, I will add it below later.
You talk about work worth dying for, worth suffering for. I know what mine is, but have long been at a loss as to why I’ve not been doing it. I seem to be everywhere but where my heart is. It’s reassuring to hear you say that avoidance is normal, but scary, too. Will I ever figure out how to break through that wall? Do you just do it?
You ask me where I am? Lost. Very lost. Somewhere left of Pluto. You ask, what am I trying to be? Light in the darkness. Can you help? I don’t think you can, or rather, I don’t think you will, though I wish you could and would.
It helps a little that you are who you are, that you this stuff you do. You already helped me once by putting me in the orbit of some of the right people. I read Trust Agents and I read this blog. I read The Flinch, and I think of things you said in it, from time to time, and have had conversations with some of the smartest people I know about things that you said. So you will help in that way, in that you help inspire me to keep going. You can help me by continuing to provide some of your best insights and inspiration for free, since I can no longer afford to pay for them.
I just wonder sometimes if I’m not ready to be helped. I feel kind of broken down.
But your questions touch me today, so I’ll answer you honestly and publicly. This is what I think calls to me. There was an earthquake in Haiti in 2010. I saw this picture in the news shortly after it happened:
The man in the photo has lost his child. The day I saw the photo, my daughter was nearly the same age as the baby in the photo. I looked at that man and I connected deeply and viscerally with his pain and loss. I made him a silent promise that I would never forget his pain.
This is what I feel deeply called to do: to lessen anguish and unnecessary suffering in the world. To have, and teach others to have, deep compassion. To see across borders and through race and culture and economics and outright pettiness to our common humanity, and to honor and appreciate it. To comfort those in pain, and to prevent their pain in the first place.
So please tell me why I spent the day doing anything BUT that?
I have been doing a little bit. I have been volunteering since April 19 for the site called HopeMob, It’s a start.
But how do I know you’re right? How do I know who to listen to? I’m trying to listen to my heart, but it tells me crazy talk things.
How can YOU do what YOU do and survive? Does it boil down to “You just do it?”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adult #ADHD, or "Look! A Snowflake!"

Alright. This post has been brewing at the back of my mind all day, probably actually for several days.

I have adult ADHD. This should surprise no one, and I probably have even mentioned it here in this blog before tonight. But tonight, I really want to talk about it a little bit.

Like many other people, I think I have known that I had ADHD deep down inside for a very long time, but even so, for many years I have struggled with it on my own. Midway through college I had crafted some coping strategies that have helped me to survive, finish school, and more or less hold myself together, without the help of medication.

For a variety of reasons, all of my coping strategies failed me during the course of a tumultuous 2011. I had finally reached the point where I was forced to admit I might need additional help. Therefore, early this year, I began what I like to think of as a series of pharmacological experiments. I went to my doctor, asked for, and began trials of stimulant medications intended to treat ADHD.

This has not been an easy road, but I can talk more about the various twists and turns later. After about four months of various experiments, my doctor and I have finally settled in on a medication and dosage that works for me. Voila. Magic.

It's hard to describe the effect. Really hard. Maybe a good analogy is this: it's as if I had gone around being a little bit farsighted my whole life, and had always struggled to see detail up close, or to read fine print. Meanwhile, everyone around me had normal vision, so they often teased me when I had trouble, or while I struggled to see clearly. They told me if I would just try a *little* harder, I would be able to see better. So I tried, and when that failed, I learned "coping strategies," like holding books a little farther away, squinting, etc.

Then one day, I heard that there were these things called "reading glasses."

That's kind of what it's like, only totally different, of course. Because this isn't my eyes I am talking about. It's my brain.

There's a book out there for adults with ADHD called, "You mean I'm not lazy, stupid, or crazy?" Right. Guess what? I'm not lazy. I'm certainly not stupid. I might still be crazy.


(Kind of.)

Honestly, until recently, I wasn't actually sure ADHD really existed. I wasn't sure if I had it. Now, I'm sure. Really really sure. I'm even sure that I'm sure.

Recently, I have been seeing someone who also has adult ADHD. We had a quintessential ADHD moment not long after we began dating. We were walking down a sidewalk in San Francisco at night, arm in arm, and were engaged in conversation when suddenly, mid-sentence, I trailed off, losing my train of thought, which brought our discussion to a screeching halt. Why did it happen? Because we had passed under a pole decorated with a sparkly, flashing on-and-off snowflake made of christmas lights, and it caught my attention. When my date realized I had stopped talking, he looked at me, then followed my gaze to the flashing snowflake. He then proceeded to laugh his head off. He understood all too well what had happened: I quite literally had been distracted by a shiny object.

Of course, while the snowflake incident was funny, and I appreciated that it brought me closer with my ADHD-understanding partner, the truth is that it's not much fun at all to lack control over my own focus and attention.

With the help of this new tool, I can take back control of my own attention and energy. Do you have any idea what this means?

Trouble. With bells on.