Saturday, November 28, 2009

As if I needed another reason...

...just got an email from the ex-boyfriend. Apparently the check I gave him yesterday to pay our last bills magically flew right out of his hands on the streets of Boston. Like magic! Poof! Breeze came up and just whoosh, whisked it away! Just like that!

Yeah. Well I don't believe in accidents. See, as an ADHDer, my whole life used to be a series of "accidents". There was always someone or something to blame for all of the magical, mysterious things that used to just "happen" to me. Always there was traffic, or parents or friends, or complete strangers to blame when I would forget things, or be half and hour late, or have to get up and leave in the middle of a play, or not show up to meet people when I said I would, or didn't follow through on something people were relying on me for. Always a reason...but my own fault was never the reason. My own lacking memory, or complete lack of skill in the arena of self-motivation and organization...never to blame.

About 8 years ago the pattern, for whatever reason, suddenly became very clear to me. I started trying my hardest to eliminate this kind of chaos from my life, and the first principle that I came to agreement with myself on was that no matter what, no matter where my journey took me, my ineptitude needed to stop making things suck for other people. I knew that even though I didn't totally understand why my life was so chaotic, it was INDEED chaotic and at any cost I needed to keep it to myself while I figured out what to do about it.

Coming back to this, over and over, helped me to start to figure out ways to address many of the problems that I was having. Not all of them...that's part of what lead me to a mental health center to get my brain checked out...I've mentioned hitting that wall before. I am not perfect. Nobody is...I work really hard at not crapping on others...I don't succeed 100% of the time. But I am generally aware of it when I blow things to high hell, and always acknowlege my mistake and do what I can do to correct it.

So this all comes back to my ex and he sure has a curious problem. His life is one big mysterious "OMG HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!?". Damn, that must be rough, having things just cave in on ya like that. All the time. And then squish out all over other people, all the time. Gosh...gee...I wonder what that's all about.

I'm here in the middle of finals last finals week of my entire grad school adventure, after three years of him being an unsupportive dink while I went through this process. And he emails me to let me know that the check mysteriously flew away and I of course am now going to have to cancel the check, possibly close and reopen a new bank account just to be the middle of finals week. I haven't even been to the bank to cash my paychecks for nearly four week because I don't have time to go to the bank.

I also, of course, already have a difficult time with time management, ESPECIALLY where my school work is concerned.

So of course it's no surprise...I already know that he really has no grasp of the helm of his life. Could it possibly be more symbolic, that check flyyyying away on the wind? No. Absolutely not. It's a perfect image. It's also yet more confirmation that I did what I needed to do in terms of ending our relationship. I can't share space with someone who takes so little responsibility for their impact on other people. I have spent 8 years of my life now on working not to have that kind of life. I WANT to take responsibility for my actions and impact on the world around me, I WANT to learn and grow so that I can learn to be more effective and not let my ADHD ruin my life and the lives of others.

I need so badly to just finish this school work...I have classmates that are depending on me to do this...but I can't ignore this issue.

I'm so angry. Just really angry. I'm going to go work on homework, have some pie, and jump back into the flow of the universe...and subtract the check cancellation fee from the damn NEW check. I would love to make him fix this for me, but who in their right mind has their ex change their bank accounts for them. Yes, I know, overkill on changing the bank accounts, but I'm that person that if I don't do it, will surely have a psycho identity theft and the universe go way back, and I'm just done tempting fate in that regard...

Damn this upsets me. He doesn't even live in the house anymore and has single-handedly hijacked my finals week. Bravo. I'm going to go be pissed about this for a while before I kick myself in the ass, quit having a pity party, and start taking repsonsibility for the parts of my week that I actually have control over.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Taking back our right to fail

That's right...we ADHDers have a right to fail. Every human alive has a right to fail.

Dana, a regular poster over as Adder World always posts the best topics for discussion, really meaty and terrific, with lots of facets to consider. This time she's hit the nail on the head again with a post about whether ADHDers expect too much from spouses/partners. This topic really makes me rumble the ol' Bingo balls around in the brain. Yes, I'm sure we DO at times, expect "too much". But there is also a thin line between dedicated caretaking and co-dependency. And anyone who's spent five good minutes seriously considering the effects of co-dependency knows that co-dependency is a system. Every player is a participant, even the caretaker.

I'm sure there's book or five about this out there, books about toxic caretaking. I have run into this issue before. I typically pick partners in relationships who are SO independent that they're just self-centered jerks. But there's been a handful of gentlemen that have been the total opposite. It's almost like they want ME to be that self-centered person that defines them, that gives them something to "take care" of because I'm too busy to do the little things, and because in my younger days as an ADHDer I tended to select chaotic lifestyle choices...they want to be the right hand man...but then to resent "the Boss" even though the Boss in this instance, me, doesn't even want that. Even now, even though I have made great strides in learning new lifestyle choices, and reminder tools I am aware that it could be easy to fall into these stupid patterns over and over if I don't pay attention.

At this point in my life I am very ambitious, very driven, very absorbed in my projects. In my last relationship I was very open about that fact. I very clearly stated on many occasions that while I loved my partner, I was in the middle of an approximately three-year time slot where I really needed to work to develop some things in my life to the next level. There is a big difference between this, and someone just being a self-centered jerk...but because I'm an ADHD who is self-conscious about people mistaking her focus for self-centeredness, I don't always honor my own needs as I should, and will give up things that I shouldn't in relationships. I start to question my own goals and needs because I have someone expecting something different from me.

No exception, my last relationship. But like I said at the beginning, this is not about blame, this post, because it takes TWO to allow a toxic dynamic to occur.

My real point is about how caretakers are not always as benign as they might seem. The person who is always the accommodating one is not always in the right...and is not always supportive, though they work to appear to be. And if they are giving up important parts of themselves too, because of what they think the other person wants...bad times.

Having set this all up...I really haven't taken enought time in my life to specifically praise my own strengths. Like many ADHDers, I focus a lot on my weaknesses...but my success depends on my strengths (thank you to Drs Hallowell and Ratey). And I have a lot of them...I'm very organized, I'm good at seeing the big picture, I'm a wickedly good event planner and people organizer...and I get along well with people. In order to make the most of these strengths, I am learning to identify my weaknesses so that I can figure out how to address them and help to keep them working FOR me, rather than against me as much as possible. One of the biggest things that I do in order to make that happen, is to set up visual cues for myself in my environment. I've posted about my filing cabinet before...and how I had put it in my partner's office because I knew that HE wouldn't want it in the living room, even though that would be the best place for it to cue me to do my filing. (See what I mean about it taking two people to create a destrutive dynamic?). He would also move things around on me, which would destroy my whole ability to function...and even after I got him to stop moving "big" stuff, I would notice little things.

I never asked him to just put up with me. What I asked very clearly, was for him to communicate to me when there was a problem, so that we could find a mutually useful response. But because of his OWN emotional baggage, he didn't want a solution without conflict. He wanted to make himself more in control, by controlling MY stuff, not just his.

For a long time, I let this silent control pattern eat away at me, instead of calling it out. I internalized his actions as a comment on my value, my worth, my abilities. I can't blame him for the fact that I did that to myself...but once I was ready to take responsibility for it, it was obvious that I could no longer let this type of dynamic continue. I tried a few different solutions, all of which involved both of us working toward a common goal (to be determined by the two of us).

But this isn't about this relationship...the valuable nugget here is that I had a right to fail OR succeeed on my OWN terms. In this relationship, he, for whatever reason, was absolutely compelled to deprive me of that right. For whatever reason, he needed me to be wrong...he needed me to fail, but on his terms. This dynamic deprived me of the right to either succeed OR fail, on my own terms. He could not let my ways of doing things, which were very different from his, be valid...and that's just wrong.

Yes I know, every ADHDer is different, and every relationship is different. Many times, ADHDers have partners who take caretaking roles. But there are ways to help care for someone that are respectful, that are not destructive, that are not controlling. It's that whole teach a man to fish thing...yes, there is a "deficit" with ADHD...but ADHDers and partners need to work to find the line where the actual deficit begins and ends, not where people need it to be because of their emotional baggage.

I knew right where my line was...and I kept trying to communicate with my partner about it, and because of his emotional baggage, he didn't really want to see where it was...he wanted it where HE needed it to be, at the risk of both of our happiness and potential. He continually ignored his OWN needs by manufacturing deficits that I didn't even have.

The deficits I do have are enough to deal need to make work where there isn't work! I am sad that the relationship didn't work...but I'm not going to own this as a failure, and use it to beat myself up. Ridiculous. Not necessary. I'm not perfect,but I WAS honest about my life, my goals, deficits. That's huge as an ADHDer, to be able to do that, and it's taken me years to be able to do...I deserve to be able to celebrate that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PS, it's not just ADHD

The concept of "slow blogging" inspires and encourages me to sink more deeply into my thoughts as I write and I'm not the only one. Yeah ADHD does too and lets me go on and on and on...but there's more to it than just that. I love the idea that the best things in life can't be said in "soundbite" style blog posts. It's not just me rationalizing my ADHD monologuing (which is CLEARLY a symptom that I display)'s belief that the word is powerful, and gathers strength from its neighbors. And simply, some things need more that a soundbite to reach their most effective impact.


Boys, boys, boys

...we like boys in us drinks in ba-aaarrrsss..oh Lady Gaga, you make it sound so easy! And so fun. And so tawdry...and I mean that in the good way (after all, tawdry isn't always a good thing...).

But I listen to your songs, and then I think about dating and I go "I think I'll get a dog because training a puppy is WAY easier than having relationships". I know there's nothing wrong with that, and I know I'll just roll with that a while, but I do like fun. It's just...boys just aren't that fun for me most of the time. Oh they are at first, which is probably what Lady Gaga is so fond of singing about...but that's not what I'm talking about.

Hanging out with puppies is fun. Sharing the couch with cats is fun. Planning cool new stuff for the coming year is FUN. Cleaning my house is fun (yes, I like cleaning my house). Reading about painting is fun, and so is painting. Plotting fantastic new schemes with my girlfriends is fun. So many fun things to do and dating just isn't one of them, even if boys have cars AND buy drinks in bars...

Quick, painful, true...

I remember thinking about taking my stimulant medication this morning, but can't remember actually taking it. This much I know for sure: I am so damned hyper today I'm driving myself bonkers. Wow. Time to get the pills all lined up in the case again...gah....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The uniquely painful constrictions between the hands of a clock

Reading old posts on Bryan Hutchinson's blog, I ran across one that reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a child. He writes about how ADHDers have no concept of the passage of time.

A friend of mine commented on this "time" issue on my Facebook page "Yeah, days of the week, likewise. You don't realize the tyranny of those arbitrary names until you take a week off and forget what day it is.". And he's sooo correct. Another friend suggests that he would wish to change his axis, so he can exist in a relationship to the universe other than "North-South". Smaaht asses.

I was driving with my mother in the car and I don't remember why she might have said this because in my memory, time only begins as she says "You know that time is just a human construct" or something very close. I'm pretty sure she said construct because I had to ask her what she meant because she'd used a word I didn't know. She said "Measuring of time, humans invented that. Actual time and measurement of it are two separate things.". We needed measurement, apparently. We needed to get places "on time". We needed to know how long to cook the porkchops. We needed to know how long to sit still in class. I must REALLY need it because two of three of those are highly challenging to me.

As innovative as we ADHDers can be, I am sure that it was NOT one of us that first measured time. I know that it takes 20 minutes to travel by car between my city and the next one. Somehow when I have to go there, I forget about the five minutes to get ready to get in the car, and where I put my keys, and how long it will take for me to find them, and that I will have to stop at the gas station. Also usually forget that I need to grab lunch. Also forget about the five minutes that I need to find change in the car, go to the marking meter, pay the money, wait for the receipt to stick on my dash before I can even go into the building. Several un-ideal combinations of outcomes can result from this menagerie of disconnected details, and generally I will sacrifice my own needs to make sure that others don't think I'm a jerk. If I'm running late for example, I will easily not eat for eight hours if that's what it takes. It's taking years off my life, but on a rough day, that's the kind of prioritizing I have to do to get by.

Do "normal" people always think in these terms? Shit, no wonder they never get anything done. If I thought about those kinds of details all the time, I wouldn't leave the house. I know you think I'm joking but that statement is equal parts humor and dead honesty...and I will likely have the same damn issue tomorrow when I go to my therapist's office in the next city over, because for some reason, every time I think about it I'm buzzing along and go "oh, I have to go to my appointment, it takes 20 minutes to get there".

One day, just to buck the whole demoralizing process and to test the efficacy of this "stuff" they call medication I sat down and PLANNED to arrive 15 minutes early...but in classic ADHDer style I arrived and discovered that I had screwed something up and had arrived, in actuality, an HOUR and 15 minutes ahead of time. And isn't THAT pleasant for someone who can't stand waiting. And I CANNOT STAND WAITING...oh man, it makes me nuts...if there's no good magazines it's hell on earth...and it's even worse when the music is loud and I don't know why but at the mental health center it is often the case that the radio is just a WEE bit too loud and I am extremely sensitive to noise and lighting (fluorescent overhead lights, and if you're a regular reader you know how much I hate those).

Are we really that far out of the normal scope of time that others are living in? I know it seems unreal that I would have just written this post and can still be incredulous, but I have lived 33 years of my life outside of that normal scope, apparently...I just...I just don't get it. Moments like this I really, really want to understand why my reality and time don't connect well. I know, I know, it's ADHD by definition, I know...but there's a difference between knowing and really, truly understanding something. If you do not have the ability to see, someone might explain to you what "sight" is, and you will know what they said, and understand their explanation, but that is never the same as really experiencing it. Meds help me connect with that sensation somewhat...but not totally. Never totally. Because there is no "cure" for ADHD.

I am practicing noticing the kinds of details that others notice and I am making progress. Others may not even notice my progress because much of my progress is in my relationship to myself...remember how I said I would rather not eat, if I'm running late, than let people think I'm a jerk? In general, if you met me in person you would find me to be a very articulate, extremely energetic, highly functional, very driven and ambitious person. If you spend more time with me, the cracks show more. But I'm the only one who really, truly knows how out of control I feel sometimes. And just because that's true doesn't mean that I don't have a "disorder". People look at my life on a regular basis and comment "wow, how do you do it, how do you get it all done" and the correct answer to that is "at any and all costs". Any AND all, starting with the offering up of myself on the fire, because I would rather damage myself, than harm my relationships to others, whenever possible. Because of my issues with ADHD, it is then very likely that on a regular basis, I will make...hmm, rephrase...I will accidentally select ways of getting through my day that are not to my benefit.

So I practice things that others take for granted. I practice a gentler, quieter, more calm way of being. I practice, indeed, trying to get places insanely early...which results in my getting places on time more often, or only a few minutes late, but not early, because I still have the same challenges between me and the door. Practice means thinking and acting with intent upon things that others simply accept and simply do.

Practice for me means the difference between understanding time, and its passage and how to measure it, and incorporating those definitions into my own movements and thoughts as I move through the day. Sometimes feeling it and learning to know it is pretty means that for the first time, while I am freeing myself from certain kinds of stress imposed by the outside world, I am saddened by limitation that I now see. Not the limitations caused by ADHD, I've long since learned those limitations in intimate and painful detail...the limitations that the rest of the world operates within. There are benefits to letting go of lightning speed living by the seat of your pants...and there is a grieving process too.

Sometimes I just want to fly on the speed of my thoughts, even though I realize that I'm more productive and ultimately more creative when I take medication. But even with medication there is effort in choosing to dwell on "details".

My hope is to strike a balance, as much as I am able...between the best and the worst of my possible futures...because I was at the limit of my potential (whatever that may be) when just flying. I was intelligent enough to know that I was hitting a painful wall, but too impaired to stop myself from hitting it.

I hope to make choices that will enable me to have chunks of "time" where I can just be without the comet blasts of outside-world details and that at other times, I can have the energy to spend mired and wading through details that never occurred to me previously. Right now, the constant starting and stopping littered throughout my days is a test of my energy, my patience...before I had ADHD as a label I told people I suffered from inertia...once I start I can't stop, once I stop I can't start. While this is happening, I have 1000 bits of input coming at me from the outside world and I am trying to catch them all. I am learning to let some of them go past me...learning...practicing...with time against me? Or for me? Or does it matter?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Welcome to the filter-free zone...

This is going to sound funny coming from me but...there are some things that I don't like to talk about. Oh I'm going to talk about them, I'm just not going to like it.

I am often ashamed of my impatience and irritability. I work very hard to hide them around people but they're there. I am thinking about this because...I am the only person living at my house now. There is nobody commenting on me, nobody "giving vibes" about who I am, how I do things, what I do. It's a relief, but being alone doesn't get rid of that shameful feeling, that dislike of those parts of myself. I still don't like them...being alone sometimes makes them more obvious. If you're alone and irritable, there's nobody to attribute the dysfunction to, right? Except yourself.

I'm resigned to owning it, I have no problem with that.

Here's another douchey aspect of myself to own though and it pains me: bluntness. Oh I don't mean upfront-ness...which has nothing but benefits. I mean delivering information that other people might find hurtful, or at least a bit tenderness inducing with such unadorned straightforwardness that people just think you're a total douchebag.

It often takes me a long time to make up my mind, but once I do, I'm done. I'm all set. I'm not negotiating. All. Done. So to illustrate just exactly why I am a turd: just broke up with the boyfriend. This had been about two years in the making. So for two years certain aspects of our relationship had been eating at me...I hadn't been thinking "we gotta break up" for that long, just that certain things were really grinding on me in a draining way. So here I am two years later and the straw breaks the camel's back, and boom, my mind is made up, we break up.

It took three weeks or so for him to find a new place and get moved out. which was HELL for me, because it takes so much energy to maintain "boundaries" with someone after a breakup and when you're in the same was gnawing on my soul. This past weekend was the "big" move day. I had already requested that this not be a dramatic good bye day, and made it clear that I was not going to participate in anything of the sort. So he packed and his friend helped him move the last of his stuff. I slept in, having gotten very little sleep the entire week previous. As he was leaving I was emerging from my room, looking enormously stylish in my mismatched pajamas, day old makeup, and hair askew. His friend commented on my stylishness and I remarked "now you see why he's moving out". I guess I thought that was funny. They both kind of just glared at me...because of course I'm the one that asked HIM to move I guess that was kind of a dick thing to say, and I'm not lying when I say that I had no idea how jackassy that comment would be until they were both staring at me.

I don't deal well with the things life throws my way when I've been pushed past my limit...and I was three weeks past my limit.

Another douchey moment? Earlier today on Facebook, a friend in common had posted that he was in hell because his wife and daughters had already put up and decorated the Christmas tree. I remarked "Bill, I've got a spare room you can rent.". Um...nobody HAD to tell me that was a dumbass thing to say on a mutual friends page...but someone SHOULD have, because I'm a moron and didn't figure it out for several hours when I went back and on a second read I went "oh Christ, I wasn't even trying to be a big asshat and there I am, being a big asshat and rubbing the empty room in his face". I deleted it. Yes, he would have noticed it.

I swear to God I don't say things like that to be manipulative, or even just to be a jerk, I really and truly just lose my filter when I'm past my limit. Once it snaps, it just snaps. Me, past my limit, has never been a pretty thing. To my credit, in our relationship, I actually feel that I exercised a lot of patience with some things that were really, really not good for me, which was a LOT of work, which is why we can't have a relationship anymore, I just can't sustain that level of "tolerating" for years on end. Doesn't mean it's cool to have no filter.

Maybe I should embrace this with pride? Is there a gift that I'm missing here somewhere? Haha...nope, not this time ;) With the considerable amount of ways that I'm able to sort of spin ADHD to my benefit in life I should really, really own the ones that just plain suck as being just as sucktastic as they truly are.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dogs and cats don't comment on your habits

And that's why I'm enjoying spending my day with them. How peaceful. Animals have always made more sense to me than people. We're just chillin' and reading and doing homework (and begging for snacks...yes, all of us, I'm starving).

I'm just not that big a disaster. Do I always do everything on other people's schedules? NO. My home is sometimes cluttery but is it a disaster, or is it filthy? Nope. It's tidy and quiet and peaceful here. The animals are happy and so am I. Everyone's warm and cozy. The new pup is fitting right in. And I'm diving into the core of the remainders of my homework with efficiency.

Do I miss the boyfriend? Yes, sometimes I do. Do I miss that weight of his undeserved disapproval pressing down on my heart? Nope, not so much.

I wish that I'd learned more positive lessons from relationships thus far in my life, but to be honest, I haven't. I have learned that most of the time they drain my energy and get in my way.

The dog and cats don't. Well then, they can stay ;)