Accepting New Realities: Sleepy Season
Taking a break from dissecting ADHD material for a minute.
I am self-regulating. Since starting work at the beginning of September, I had three quiet weeks and then two massive weeks. As such, I am pulling back and saying no to new commitments. I’m back to my full salary, full-time work, full-time life.
Canadian Thanksgiving came and went just last week, and I had a mini crash of energy then, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. At my company, you can either take the day as a statutory holiday, or you can work it and bank the hours for a different day off around Christmas. I was on good behaviour for about two months straight, and after deciding to take the day to rest, I unravelled pretty hard. Went out dancing on the Friday, but I only had one drink. Then it was two straight days of hyperfixation on hobbies, forgetting to eat, all the stereotypical ADHD problems. Didn’t go outside, had disorganized play with computers and video games, let the chores pile up as my muscles cramped from working at the desk or on the couch too long. On the plus side, one of my wired speakers can now also operate as a wireless speaker, my smart light bulb responds more reliably than before, and I can play Nintendo GameCube and Wii games on my Wii U. (My controversial take: the Wii U is a better console than the Switch, aside from the new games. Fight me.)
I know, my big confession is that I indulged in hobbies on a long weekend. What a monster. What caught me off guard was just how severe it was and how long it lasted. But once I got it out of my system, I was able to resume my normal functioning. I hadn’t been in that kind of headspace since before the spring. This whole autumn season has been quite unusual compared to the last 30, so the hope is that I won’t struggle with keeping balance moving forward.
So that’s the personal update. Onto the main event.
I’m not sure if this is still true, but a few weeks back, when you took the C-Train on the portion connecting the northwest of Calgary to downtown, there was this massive banner on a building that said:
How do you go back to the way things were?
[edit 2022-11-12: managed to snap a picture of the banner on a recent trip on the train, so adding it here.]
It’s true, but it’s hilarious to me how stark and aggressive it is, especially for all the remaining oil and gas workers taking the train to work into downtown every morning for who-knows-how-long that banner has been up. If you don’t live in an area run by essentially a single industry, then perhaps you may not be able to appreciate the mental gymnastics performed and logical fallacies used by people in said industry, solely to justify their own salaries. It’s not enough that they out-earn people with far more education and training because of the supply and demand of that market, but apparently they need the oxygen to be taken from every other sector in order to artificially boost their own, cutting taxes and social services. Eventually and appropriately, when the market suddenly devalues their job and they’re laid off, it’s completely unfair and some liberal politician is the sole culprit and needs to have death threats sent to them over Twitter and stuck on the back of their spotless pickup trucks. Then they’ll complain that the social assistance, the ones that their employers and coworkers voted to defund, somehow doesn’t have enough funds to support them. Somehow everyone and everything needs to stop and Time itself needs to be reversed just so they can enjoy the good ol’ days, which, in Alberta’s case, was a once-in-a-lifetime dynasty that lasted 40 years. We can’t go back to the way things were. I think the banner was hung on the SAIT building, a technical school which admittedly has a vested interest in training students for future jobs, but still, Chad move. A stronger wake up call than the average cup of coffee.
Aside from enjoying the schadenfreude of dunking on O&G workers, there’s probably a lesson in that banner for the rest of us. I’m entering into this new season of accepting new realities. There are probably some truths floating around in my head that are still pending board review before being approved and integrated into my broader existence, so let’s follow the banner’s call and look at some of them.
One of those truths is that I’m in a transitional phase. Back in the spring, I mentioned that a lot of things were suddenly very different, but I don’t think I’ve exactly hit the next stage of stability and equilibrium yet. It feels like when you drive in a city with a ring road surrounding it and you’re passing through one of the four corners. At full speed, which is at least 10 km/h over the speed limit if you’re in a major Canadian city, you could settle into a curve for more than 10 seconds. Thusly, I have accepted that the road isn’t straight anymore but that I haven’t hit the next straight yet. I am still in the corner, in a prolonged state of change. Better than a state of carnage, I suppose.
Here are some aspects of this transitional phase:
I went from taking my ebike almost everywhere all summer to now a mix of car and pedal bike. It is taking time to develop the muscles. I may loop the bus back into the mix in the winter, but we’ll see.
I used to hit the gym for 1.5 hours on almost 5 days a week, and now I’m at a more realistic 45 minutes at 3 days a week. Got a day job.
With the reduced activity, I am gaining a bit of weight, which is normal. Additionally, knowing that people with ADHD are more likely to have eating disorders and to be obese, I need to give myself a lot more credit. I used to compare myself with the average person, but I need to accept where I fit in the larger picture. There’s probably a similar effect for people with trauma.
The days are getting shorter and colder, so shifting to sweater weather. Almost my entire wardrobe is designed for it, so bring on the hoodies with dropped shoulders and the oversized crewnecks.
I'm transitioning past the days of toxic stress. The short term disability cemented my new/old spot in the economic ladder where I can take proper care of myself in order to keep working. I spent a few years in the labour market a few rungs below that, and it was not exactly fun. Necessary but over, thankfully.
My feeling of hopelessness is gone. More on this below.
When studying literature in grade school, I was always drawn to the stories of man versus self. These days, I realize the better way of framing my conflict is person versus their brain. Sometimes I wake up and we start fighting right away, before I even have a chance to get my Adderall. Pretty sneaky, brain.
Given that I’m back to full-time life, my brain keeps trying to tell me that this is it. I'm an adult, and it’s all on me now. I'm alone. Now what I think it’s trying to tell me is that I’m independent and responsible for my choices, that I’m accountable for my actions. Sure, I get that, but I’m not alone, dude. The sentiment hearkens back to my parental abandonment among other rejections and disconnects, but where I am now, I know it's also just a feeling. It's likely an outlet or scapegoat for a host of other melancholic or depressive emotions, but it hits like a break in the dam. I know that I'm not alone. I have many people close to me who love me and got my back. I'm fully aware and convinced of this notion, despite what my brain is trying to make me feel.
The reason why this complication gets so tangled can be attributed to my experience of being gaslighted by my family. It’s quite the mindfuck when one person gaslights you, but when your whole family participates in the dysfunctional cycle and pursues the alternate reality, you can’t look to the people around you for validation. I learned this the hard way later than I would have liked. I mentioned earlier how I no longer feel hopeless, and the dysfunction is where I learned it. I valiantly/foolishly tried to fix it, a child battling against a carefully crafted and powerful Reality Distortion Field, and thus the child internalized a deep feeling of powerlessness and futility. The struggle wasn’t completely pointless as it was where I developed my skills in communication and persuasive speech. I worked hard at reversing the effects of gaslighting by trusting my own judgement of reality and verifying my answers with others.
And that brings us to this new conflict of person vs. their brain, where I can confidently say that I can’t always trust my assessment of reality. An emotion is a fuzzy sense, an instinct, a different way of knowing, and it's fickle. It's somehow both more wise and foolish than I need it to be, a jackal and a saint. Being generous, my brain is right that there are times when I feel lonely. But bitch, I'm not alone. Go home, brain; you're drunk.
So that's it for the Short Term Disability saga of 2022. There are still has a few months left in the year, but this defining period is wrapping up. The chapter isn't over as there are still some storylines and other loose ends to tie together, but the final battle is finished. I won. I took some injuries and lumps along the way, but I came out the other side as a better person. I'm ready for its conclusion. I thought it would never arrive, and yet here we are. This may also signal the end of my deep dive into ADHD research. I'll still run through the ADHDevidence.org Consensus Statement before I call it quits since I already did the work, but I think I got what I needed out of the entire exercise these past few months.
I am tired. So very tired. It's the beginning of sleepy season. It’s more than just a function of the colder temperatures and shorter days. We're well into the fall by now, but as the Stark family and other northerners say in Game of Thrones, "winter is supposed to be coming but climate change has made for a longer summer." I'm going to mostly keep up with being sober and choose sleep. I won’t say no to every outing, but it’s certainly not the default option after a full work week anymore (and hasn’t been for a while). Gonna choose compassion for other people in the same sleepy season, whether or they realize they’re in it. People be taking sabbaticals, quitting their jobs, not responding to any emails or texts. Honestly? Understandable. I don’t know what to do with sleepy season, but if SAIT has anything to say about it, we can’t go back to the way things were. We have to march forward, sleepwalking.