Final Chapters: Scattered Minds
The real scattered mind was the friends we made along the way
So my return to work was pushed back. I needed one of my medical therapists to provide a note and a modified schedule to return to work, so after a couple delays, I'm heading back after the long weekend.
During my extra week off, I finished reading Scattered Minds. Hurray! The last few chapters were on addiction, medication, and loving yourself.
There are lots of ways to understand addiction, but in this context, it's a way of avoiding emotional pain. As you might know from experience, pain in this life is inevitable, so engaging in an addiction merely delays the moment where you need to feel the emotion. I think this categorization of addiction makes for a very wide net and includes many that wouldn’t consider themselves as abusing substances. Freud said that “unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” Yeesh, take a deep breath, Sigmund. Scattered Minds says that those with ADHD tend to struggle with addiction because of poor impulse control.
Famed social worker Brené Brown said her therapist diagnosed her with having a “pupu platter of addictions,” which I can relate to. It doesn’t look like I struggle with a traditional understanding of addiction, which typically appears as one of three vices: alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Viewing addiction in relation to pain, a person can use anything to avoid feeling anything, like adrenaline, romantic relationships, social media, food, working out.
What’s the cure, says Scattered Minds?
“The task of integrating thought and feeling is called striving for ownership,” writes the psychologist and addiction expert Robert J. Kearney
When people are response-able and not in denial, they are aware…of what they feel and they know…what has gone on inside them to generate those feelings. It is a three-part chain connected by awareness: awareness of events, awareness of interpretation of those events, and awareness of the emotional reaction following those interpretations. If the chain is broken, ownership of the feeling is lost. When the task of ownership is being performed, the chain is solid.”
In short, awareness of events, interpretation of those events, and the emotional reaction. Understanding what's going on around you, what you think of it, and how it makes you feel. ADHD brains tend to have a deficiency in neurotransmitters like dopamine. I’m prone to anxious thoughts, my mind misinterpreting risks, and thus I overreact to small concerns. Knowing my brain's biases will help me to take a step back, to ground my thoughts about what's happening in reality, and to recognize that I probably have exaggerated emotions around the ungrounded thoughts. Then I can correct and compensate for the biases.
Additionally, a person could use the sophisticated technique of feeling your feelings, aka stop delaying the inevitable. That's the most effective way to make them go away. Rage, be sad, grieve, lament, mourn, elate, laugh. When you constantly procrastinate your feelings, you tend to think of them as persistent. However, when you fully engage with one, it disappears.
I’ve spent all summer sitting in my emotions. I feel generally caught up with the backlog. Maybe not perfectly, but enough. That seems to have put a stop to a lot of the compulsive behaviours like stress eating and binge drinking. The darker emotions can be sticky, so at the same time, I got deeper into the healthy coping like lifting weights, journaling, meditation, all in an effort to clear my mind again. After four months of this loop, I'm ready to go back to work while I strive for ownership of my thoughts and emotions.
Scattered Minds suggests that a person try medication last after trying other interventions, but other proponents suggest starting with it. It probably depends on your specific situation. Medication won't cure anything, but it can certainly make the other strategies more effective or make everything worse. The focus should be on finding the right type of drug, and then you can figure out the dosage level. The child or teenager with ADHD should be given the autonomy to decide many aspects of their medication, if even to use any at all, unless the adults in their lives feel like activating the counterwill endemic to the disorder. It's already hard enough to discover who you are as a young adult without throwing medication at your brain.
Adderall extended release somewhere between 5 mg and 10 mg has been a big hit for me recently. It reduced my appetite, but man, I haven't been this productive in a long time. I’ve been opening up the gel capsules and changing up the quantity. I was originally prescribed 15 mg, but it turned out that that was far too much. The first day I had 5 mg, MAN, I got shit DONE. I take it first thing in the morning and my energy crashes around 6 PM, which feels lucky. You may recall from earlier that I wasn’t stoked on the options for ADHD drugs, but I finally activated a part of myself I hadn't seen in a many months, maybe years.
I started drinking decaf coffee again. Probably should play it safe instead of introducing two chemicals into my body at the same time. Better to make one change at a time to gauge its impact on the overall system. Boring. Annoying. Ugh. Getting a full night's sleep for a couple weeks has been amazing.
Funnily, some people with ADHD need to have their stimulant medication working later into the night in order to sleep. It helps them to regulate their thoughts enough to quiet their minds, whereas being unmedicated means their thoughts race while they’re laying in bed. And I’ve read multiple comments where others said the first thing they did upon waking was to take their pill and then go back to sleep for an hour. Seems wiser to play it safe with amphetamines.
The final chapter was short.
The people who seek out support for ADHD management tend to be tired and exasperated from the struggle to be accepted, to be different yet trying to blend in, to understand the mystery of one's own experience. There can be loads of grief and strife in relationships because of ADHD that is minimally managed, so a lot of grace and understanding need to be extended to housemates, friends, and family. There are some simple and effective strategies for managing the disorder.
The Latin root for attention, tendere, means to extend, to reach. Love and forgiveness need to be extended to the person with ADHD, especially to oneself, in order to create space for the interventions to work.
It's only been about six months since I've been digging into this, but I have dedicated a lot of brain space to the topic in 2022. I think I'm loving myself a lot more than usual by dedicating most of this short term disability period to healing and equipping myself with knowledge and techniques. I'm being less critical of myself for a neurophysiological developmental disorder impacting my executive functioning. The message to love myself is well-received. I’ve historically been pretty bad about it, and terrified as I am this time around, I'm trying.
The Need to Read
Scattered Minds is supposed to be an older resource, so it'd be nice to see the current state of the art. Gabor Maté brings that unique perspective from attachment theory, but it tends to feel a little one-dimensional after a while. Even before reading the book, I got annoyed at hearing my own voice saying "attachment" out loud every time. If you know any good books or resources on ADHD, let me know!
ADHDevidence.org popped up in a quick search, so it'll be a very interesting read, digging into the scientific papers side of the discussion.
Wrap It Up
Finished reading Scattered Minds, which talked about addiction, medication, and loving yourself. I'm working on addiction by sitting in my emotions, on medication by taking Adderall XR 5 mg, and on loving myself by being less critical. Next up, I'll dig into ADHDevidence.org or whatever you guys suggest.