What do you get when you cross an engineer with ADHD and a blog?
Let’s come up with a game plan for this ADHD management project. Here are a couple quick ideas to lay out a rough itinerary on developing the underdeveloped areas of my brain:
Counterwill aka oppositionality
I don’t know if it’s best to work on this laundry list by going sequentially or all at once. I’m guessing it’s more effective to focus on one while maintaining the others at a reduced pace. Going sequentially feels like you’re putting off the rest and choosing harm, but honestly, that’s the best idea I have so far. It’s probably too ADHD to work on everything at the same time...
Each topic could probably take a post of its own at least, so there’s no sense in rushing everything all at once. I don’t even think it would make sense to just do one week per topic either. Work on it until it’s more or less done, understanding that each area is at its own level of development, that these are lifelong pursuits, that we’re all works-in-progress.
Let’s see what the DSM says about this part. It says there are three presentations, inattentive, hyperactive, or combined. Makes enough sense. Let’s start with the first one.
(Italicizing the points that apply to me.)
a. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
b. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
c. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
d. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).
e. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
f. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
g. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
h. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
i. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
Mind you, the whole previous Inattention section took a few seconds to think about each feature and make a judgement. In this next section for Hyperactivity and Impulsivity, answers were instant. “Yup, yup, most def, absolutely.”
a. Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
b. Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
c. Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate. (Note: In adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless.)
d. Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
e. Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
f. Often talks excessively.
g. Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
h. Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
i. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving per mission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).
Like, that was just totally rude, right? All these personal attacks upon my person. That’s my perception of it, but perhaps the people close to me will have different opinions on which ones apply and how long they’ve interfered with my functioning. There’s a whole lot more that the DSM has to say about it, but that’s enough reading for one day.
All jokes aside, the hyperactivity part is a bit tragic and makes me feel sad. Gabor Maté’s framework is based strongly in Attachment Theory, so one way I’ve been looking at my hyperactivity is like an infant who’s upset and whose parents can’t be found. It crawls around and searches for their safe person to make them feel better but it just doesn’t happen, so they just keep hyperactively zooming around the room to find comfort, which leads me to my next point.
I’ve focused a lot of my writing on unravelling the complicated fabric of dysfunction and tragedy that I’ve experienced, but now that most of that is done and has served its purpose, it feels appropriate to bring attention to the positive and hopeful aspects of my situation. Note that nobody who has gone through any kind of tragedy should feel obligated to convert their past suffering into a hopeful future, but it’s something I want to do. I don’t want to be the person who complains endlessly about their situation, which is part of why I deleted my blog's archive. I've spent many years writing publicly about how sad I feel for myself, and now I want to move the conversation forward. My previous therapist once said “if we won’t make our own problems big, then who will?” I’d spent all this time suppressing these negative emotions, so it makes sense that I’d spend years expressing them. My current therapist also said “nobody is coming to save us.” With that in mind, since I didn’t have that strong and secure parental relationship, that means I’m going to have to re-parent myself.
Re-parenting myself will be a bit of an odd task, but it’s going to be part of the bedrock that I have to build my new life on. Note that I’ve been encouraged to do it since I started therapy, and while I have done so both directly and indirectly, this new chapter will mean putting the concept squarely in front of me. This is probably true for a lot of people who go to therapy for childhood stuff. Re-parenting will mean providing support and teaching in areas where I didn’t get what I need, and it will also mean tearing down what was built before and rebuilding on top of that as well.
Probably the oddest part of it all is how I'll have to talk to myself. It's not even about talking to the inner child, which is a similar technique that serves a different purpose. Anyone who's watched Archer will know how Barry talks to Other Barry. Parenting takes so much more than just talking to your kids and providing useful and interesting advice. There is a lot of deep, structural work and guidance provided in the form of things like preparing meals, providing shelter, learning about child development and all the appropriate stages and milestones, etc. (Even more, parenting is about being a good person too!) I'll have to visualize myself as two separate people, one being the caretaker and one receiving that care. This is going to be awkward, but it feels like I'll find peace at the end of this stretch of the journey.
It's funny and kinda poetic that I lamented earlier this year about the decision to not become a parent to some kids. I wanted to have that close level of intimacy that you can probably only get from the parent-child relationship. Now lo and behold, I'm a parent of two cats, and I'm also going to be a parent to myself!
Spoke with my doctor, and maybe an assessment/diagnosis for ADHD won’t be as helpful as I thought. Tying on to the idea of re-parenting, advocating for my needs as an adult is simply something that I have to do for myself from now on. There are resources to help all kinds of people in this position, but I don’t think it is really geared to help someone my age and in current position. I’ve already passed through all of the challenges and barriers that most people with ADHD would face, namely, graduating from school, living independently, and obtaining employment. A lot of the resources are rightly focused on early intervention for young children, providing medication and support for the discovery and management of their symptoms. There might be an elevator to help me get to the right floor in the office building, but if I walked the stairs most of the way, is it really going to be useful to cram into a mechanical lift? Maybe, maybe not.
There’s a more cynical and harmful view of psychology as being a capitalist tool, cutting down those who don’t conform. It says that if you’re not able to “function” in this kind of society, then you have a mental illness. I don’t believe this is true, but sadly, I think this is the belief largely at play in our current healthcare system in Canada. There is still a heavy emphasis on the medical model where you simply treat the biology with behaviour modification and/or medication.
On the other hand, the future is a bit brighter because it means I need to believe in myself when I face any of many challenges in the future. There’s more to me than a single diagnosis, so maybe it won’t be so useful to get caught up in it. Factoring in the other sad truth of my tiredness, perhaps this is not a useful adventure for me to go on. It sounds like a lengthy project, and I don’t think I’ll get much out of it. Well, that was short-lived lol.
My doctor and psychologist already believe me and can provide care for me in that respect, so what else do I need here?
Wrap It Up
There are at least a few areas that I want to work on with my ADHD self-diagnosis. It's probably best to work on them one at a time, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be writing all about it here on this blog.
The DSM-5 lists a couple of aspects of both Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity, and I feel that I lean much more heavily Hyperactivity side if I had to choose.
I may not give birth to or adopt children of my own, but I'm going to be a parent to myself! It's going to take some time to unpack what that means and how it'll look, but there's a serenity already surrounding the thought. I'm also going to rethink this half-baked plan to get an assessment for ADHD, but most meaningfully, I'm already getting the care and support I need.
That's all, folks. Hope you stay hydrated and in the shade during these heat waves.