Drinking River Water
I have always said about life, “It shouldn’t be this hard…it isn’t this hard for other people…this isn’t normal”.
I always felt misunderstood. I was always called weird (which I was totally ok with…weird is a compliment, I think), but I just didn’t really understand what people thought was weird about me. I have a tendency to be anxious. I am completely overtaken by the moods of others.
I procrastinate. I can’t pay bills and keep track of finances, and have no emotional tie with money. I can’t keep friends, except for those who have grown to accept me (and don’t try to change me). I don’t bond easily with people. I stress myself trying to help everyone. I’m constantly on a self-improvement plan. I feel nature in my bones.
I get in a funk where I feel dead inside. I am easily overwhelmed. I don’t like to be touched. The sound of a telephone makes me want to put my fist through a wall. I can have a horrendous temper and snap, but forget about it 5 seconds later. I have horrible word recall. I always forget what I’m talking about mid-sentence. I don’t pay attention to getting to my destination when I drive, and have ended up in the wrong state more than once.
I love animals so much it’s often painful. I am emotionally and physically affected by the sadness and heartbreak of others. I can’t watch TV. Overhead lights bother me. A ceiling fan on my skin makes me crazy. Smells can make me throw up. I can’t make casual conversation on the phone. I sometimes don’t understand people when they speak (especially if they speak too fast), and have to read lips. I can’t maintain eye contact during a conversation and if I try to, I feel like my eyes are going to pop out of my head. I “have no regard for safety”, according to my husband. The list can go on and on and on…
The thing is, there is such mental anguish that comes from constantly TRYING to be organized, trying to be on-time, trying to be “with it”, TRYING to be a less loud and rowdy version of yourself, and just basically putting so much energy into trying to be a person that you PHYSICALLY CAN NOT BE (hold a gun to my head, and I get worse, not better), it slowly kills you. On top of that, there are such immense and painful feelings of self-shame…of being such a loser that “can’t keep friends… etc.” My self-talk is embarrassing…I would never speak to anyone the way I speak to myself. It doesn’t end there…you can physically feel the disappointment and frustration from others.
My mom is SO incredibly responsible. Before, learning about the mental challenges of ADD, I think it was hard for her to understand why I have such a hard time keeping up with everything. She was constantly trying to fix things, and saying things like… ”Keep a notebook by your medicine so you can write it down when you take it”. It is such a simple idea, keeping a notebook. That is just SO logical. Well, ADD isn’t logical! We have since learned that in the past, every time she gave me pointers, I would get so defensive and so angry with myself because she made it sound so simple, but for some reason, I couldn’t do it. I would try to explain… “Mom if it was just a matter of being able to do it, I would do it!”
Now she understands, but she still forgets sometimes (well most of the time), and immediately steps in with a “logical solution” to my woes, but now, I just say “GEE MOM…WHAT A GREAT IDEA!” and then we giggle. What a difference. Now, I almost look forward to her hearing her little “logical tips”, just so I can mess with her.
After all of these years, I am beginning to come to terms with my diagnosis of Adult ADD. I can appreciate my extra intuitiveness, creativity, and what I consider a pretty cool brain. I believe with all of my heart, that those with ADD have true gifts that need to be celebrated. I am even ok with the fact that after three years, I still can’t remember which house is mine when I am pulling into the garage from the back (I do it daily).
No, it’s isn’t the forgetfulness that gets me down, my personal struggle has always been fighting the anxiety and depression that seem to go hand in hand with ADD. Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour… just waiting for something bad to happen.
Well, that wasn’t really working for me, so I have decided to look at life with ADD differently. For instance, right now, I feel like I have a pretty good hold on my life. However, I am fully aware the bottom will come out and I will fall into the “dead place” again…probably sooner rather than later. I think the key is knowing and also accepting that it will happen.
With this brain disorder, I can’t count on perfect mental health, but I can let go of that terrifying, exhausting feeling of “holding on for dear life” every second of every day. I have always imagined myself constantly walking on the edge of a cliff, trying desperately not to fall off. I’ve decided to change my perception of the way my life works…it doesn’t have to be a stressful analogy like walking on the edge of a cliff. Why can’t I have a peaceful analogy for my life? It’s my life, and it’s my analogy, therefore I have decided to change it to the more Zen analogy of floating down a river.
White-water rapids are also pretty much guaranteed at some point in the river which means you’ll be “holding on for dear life” while your raft bounces off of rocks, and you gasp and choke as you unintentionally drink gallons of river water. Is that how normal people think? Of life’s analogy more described as a river? Not ADD people. Because of the physiology of our brains, we get blasted from every direction (that’s what it feels like, too…like a continuous attack, not only mentally, but physically. Smells, sounds, every sense is constantly being over-stimulated) every second of every waking day. That’s why we feel like we are walking on the edge…we are just struggling to survive the day.
When you add the juggling of life, you have to be pretty steady to keep your balance. That is sometimes more than we can handle. We panic, we drop the balls, and we fall. Anything seemingly minor can knock us right off the edge, but we struggle mightily to keep our balance, because if we fall, we will land in the dead place.
I wrote this about the dead place…
“The dead place is dark, lonely & suffocating. The voice from the dead place talks to me and tells me that I’ll never leave, I’ll be there forever or until I can’t take it anymore and decide to “check out”. I begin to believe it, because it is the only voice I hear. I can hear the faint cry from the other voices. The other voices are so far away. I can’t hear what they’re saying. I know they’re trying to tell me something, but the voice from the dead place begins talking louder now. I get frustrated, straining painfully to hear the words of the other voices.
After some time, the other voices give up, turning away in frustration. I have no idea they were trying to tell me to hold out my hand, that they brought a rope to help me climb out of the dead place. Since I’m not holding out my hand, they think I’m ignoring them. They don’t know that I can’t hear them, that their voices are mixed and jumbled. They have decided that I must like it in that deep, dark, dead place or I would hold out my hand.
My stomach flips as the dark, heavy fabric of their frustration shrouds my head, making it almost impossible to breathe, see or hear. The fabric starts to move, and slowly begins snaking in and out of my eyes, ears, nose and mouth, before settling heavily in my brain. Immediately, my senses begin to fade, and my vision is replaced with the mottled, gray-brown color of the fabric. My stomach jerks as I gag from the sickly sweet smell of it. Pain makes me recoil from the accusing heat of it burning my skin. I gag again as my mouth fills with the sharp, metallic taste of it.
Confused, angry, embarrassed & hurt, I begin to mentally disconnect and disengage from the other voices, and their judgments. Doing so will prevent this pain in the future. Afraid of suffocating, and as the feeling of shame becomes unbearable, I turn slowly back to face the dead place. Sadly, I realize I am more comfortable down here than balancing up on the cliff constantly surrounded by the other voices. I sigh, accepting the familiar sense of defeat and begin to listen to the unthinkable words of the voice from the dead place. I begin to forget about my “other life”, balancing on the edge of the cliff, and look for somewhere to rest my eyes. My energy is depleted, and it is too hard to stay awake.
As the dead place senses its victory, it begins to whisper wickedly about hopelessness, loneliness, shame, guilt and defeat. An old movie projector noisily jumps to life. I watch with dread as images of every failed job, business, friendship, relationship, etc. begin to flicker by on the wall. On another wall, I watch a parade of faces of the people I’ve let down in my lifetime. I feel ashamed, and cry out from the sharp stab of hate I have for myself. Like a broken record, I begin to attack myself.
If I love them, why do I let them down? Why am I like this? Why can’t I be normal? Why is this so hard for me? I realize with panic, I don’t have the answers. I’ll never have the answers. My throat tightens with pain, and I can’t breathe. My heart responds by beating frantically. My stomachs pinches with tension and my hands start to shake. Gasping to get a breath, every movement becomes a struggle.
Remembering the words of the voice from the dead place, I slowly realize that I’m not strong enough (I must have been tricking myself into thinking I ever was strong) to endure this mental & physical torture for another second, let alone a lifetime.
At this point, I have two choices. I can either climb, bloody fingernail by bloody fingernail, back to the top of the cliff to my designated post of teetering on the edge, (knowing full well that I’ll fall to the dead place again soon, and go through the nightmare again), or I can just kill myself…I know, it sounds pretty dramatic, but think about it…if I killed myself, I would never have to wobble on the edge of the cliff OR endure the eternal suffering of the dead place again.
My only problem with that scenario is that I just can’t imagine that my purpose in this world is to live a constant, daily struggle for a lifetime of years just to end it by gagging down some pain pills and crapping my pants while the bodily gasses escape from my butt like loud popping noises. That’s not really what I had in mind by “going out with a bang”. I want to see what this was all for. I want to see it through till the end. It’s the only way I’ll ever know how strong I truly am.
So, from now on, whenever I find myself in the dead place, I am going to choose the bloody fingernail route. When it comes down to it, I have decided I would rather go through a lifetime of my own torture than to put those that I love through the pain of a self-inflicted “going out with a fart instead of a bang”.
See? Isn’t the river analogy better? Instead of standing on the edge of a cliff, waiting with dread to lose my balance, I am floating down the river drinking a cold beer. Yes, I know there will be some crazy-ass rapids hidden around the bend in the river, but I’m not putting this beer down until I’m drinking gallons of that river water.