Thursday, February 20, 2014

Extending Acceptance to Myself

For the last few days, I've been down. Actually more then down. Sad, irritable, moody, anxious. I've been laying awake at night worrying over so many things: who likes me, who doesn't like me, who thinks I am awful person, oh no maybe I am an awful person, am I not doing enough with Jude, the homeschooling has been sucky, my writing is filled with errors, why if I am smart did I not get into graduate school, maybe I'm not smart and I've been deluding myself all these years, why am I so big? why can't I stop eating? I feel gross from all the eating but here I am pinning all kinds of cake recipes on Pinterest. This is my brain for the last few nights. This is kind of my brain all.the.time. Of course I'm getting little sleep and this doesn't help the self-defeating chatter that lulls me into a restless sleep most nights.

The other morning, I was sipping my coffee, and settling into my daily dose of anxiety when I started to wonder if maybe I was depressed. Depression does tend to prowl up on me and pounce and still has to bat me around for awhile before I notice it's there. But it seemed an odd fit this time. I was uncomfortable with the idea. Wrote a status update about it and deleted said update. Depression didn't feel right. I was anxious yes. Pretty down about some things. I was feeling insecure. Feeling like a failure. Yes. Check. All these things that come along with depression but...there was something off. Despite some snappy bs with the homeschooling kids, I was pretty content in my home life. I was happy with the few friends I had made in this little town. Spring is around the corner so I had been outside with the sun warming my skin. I had even got to enjoy a little snowcation in between the spring days. Is it possible, I wondered, to feel depressed about what a loser you are but be not depressed about your life? That would be a new one even for me, I thought.

But as I sipped on my coffee, thinking about some posts I wanted to write, I started to think about my own experience with what is likely ADHD. I wasn't sure if I was ever properly diagnosed (I was not I asked my mom) but I remember a childhood that clearly pointed to this category. I was the kid who was constantly out of her seat, who was in dream land (as my teacher's called it) most of the time. I sort of remember being insulated from the jeers and mocking because I wasn't really quite there. But I also remember that whatever made me think the way I did and act the way I did was not a good thing.

"Sit down and be still."
"Can't you stop moving?"
"OMG, stopping talking. All you do is talk."
"Calm down!"
"Stop chewing..your pen, your pencil, your crayon, your clothes, your hair."
"Don't click that pen."
"Stop moving your legs!"
"Just look at this desk. It's a mess!"(I was actually kept back a grade for a messy desk even though I was academically "advanced.")
"Snap out of your dream world."
"Earth to Ginger!!"

And really things didn't got much better when I grew up. I had an English professor tell me he couldn't understand how I could be so smart in class and yet be such a horrible writer. My proofreading skills were dismal (and still are as you've no doubt noticed) because I couldn't sustain the attention to proofread. My spelling skills were lacking and I often used less complicated words so I didn't have to figure out how to spell something correctly. What I could spell was often jumbled with all the right letters in the wrong order. But even with this, college was better than most other places. In college, my ability to focus on many different topics was an asset. I still think I switched from English to Religious Studies because RS allowed me to explore many different areas aka I never got bored. And boredom plagued me. I was always bored. Bored with relationships, bored with school work, bored if a book or movie got too long. Hell if a party went over three hours, I got bored.

Thinking about all this, I wondered why I was so afraid to own or to at least explore my own mental world that many consider a disability. As I finished up my coffee, I went to a site that gives you all the "symptoms" for ADHD. I hit 90% of them. I even read them to my son who cautiously nodded agreement on each one. I also found out that people with ADHD are 7 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety. And a light bulb went off in my head. I kind of think that what's been happening in Athens has little to do with depression and more to do with ADHD.

Being inside my body is rather akin to being inside some place very loud, very noisy and very bright. I think it's why I sometimes have mini break downs when I'm in crowded bright places. Overload. There is a constant stream of chatter, ideas, thoughts, memories and pictures all at once. When I am in school or a very structured job, I am forced to kind of wade into that storm and fish out what I need to function. I do this with very structured to do lists, and with deadlines. I've been quite successful at following through (my professors would have preferred more careful work I'm sure and a lot more proofreading) with papers, etc. But that said it took me six years to finish my BA and another four years to finish my MA (I got distracted. For real.). When we moved to Athens, I went from a great part time job that allowed me enough focus and rigidity to structure my life a bit to a life totally untethered by an external schedule. I've been floating on this sensory overload for three years now. THREE YEARS.

And because I couldn't manage it, I felt like a failure. This feeling bleed into other aspects of my life that I was already feeling pretty low about. Like not getting into grad. school. If I had only studied harder for the GRE, I would be in school right now. If I wasn't so lazy, careless, irresponsible, etc. It's always been pretty easy to beat up on myself. It became even easier when I wasn't tethered to a job or to school. My do lists mocked me as sad little attempts to make myself feel important. Each time I couldn't fulfill a bullet on the list, I abused myself mentally. I called myself names. I sneered at the girl who thought she was smart enough for a Ph.D. I snickered at her dreams to be a writer. "Look at you," I snorted, "What a loser you are! You can't even focus enough to do the damn dishes. Your kids are feral! You can't write a sentence without eight spelling mistakes. You're not only not smart, you're not committed." I started to eat uncontrolably, often eating myself into sickness. I would consume bags of Hershey kisses without even pausing to taste the flavor. The eating was automatic. And that lead to even more self-hate "You're huge!" You have zero will power!" What kind of person eats until they are sick?" "You're disgusting." This is my head nearly every day.

What occurred to me the other morning after I got done reading the lists that so explained me was that here I was fighting so passionately for my daughters to find acceptance in the world, I had forgotten to give myself that same radical acceptance. I had a million reasons. I wasn't officially diagnosed. I was just looking for an excuse to be a minority. People were going to scoff at me. I was just trying to excuse my innate laziness. But what I realized was that I owe myself a chance at this acceptance. I owe myself a chance to explore a road that may make it easier for me to accept what is going on in my head, to live with myself. To figure out a way to work with me rather than abuse myself.

This is partially why I need a Facebook break. Facebook in some ways is wonderful for me. The constant flow of such different information is exciting and interesting. (H said it's like the Walmart of the screen). But it's also really really hard for me to negotiate so many different social relationships, to figure out the nuance of one conversation and not carry that nuance into another. I make a lot of missteps while I try to handle the social media world, and have alienated a lot of people unwittingly (sometimes wittingly and I'm okay with that part of it). I end up being really anxious over these things, and then I just kind of explode from too much. This is why I have to keep going away for awhile. But this time I also really want to pursue a diagnosis and look at ways to work with the ADHD. I am even allowing myself to be open to the ideas of meds. This may not be a full time thing but I think that at least right now I need something to help me get through all the noise.

And mostly I just need to spend some thinking about what radical self acceptance is going to look like for my mind. What will it mean to re-frame ADHD as not something negative but as something positive?


Jesi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The BearMaiden said...

You're not that different from a lot of people, Ginger. You're definitely not that much different from me. I had started writing my blog to keep those inner voices quiet. I think there are a LOT of people like us. I think that there are so many people like us that they "invented" a name for it, and are selling us drugs for it. But I'm not sure it's something that needs to be "corrected". Rather, I think that if we recognize it, and learn to work around it or with it, we can function better. But everything you've been feeling... I've been feeling too. You're not alone.

Ginger Stickney said...

Thanks Jesi. Like I said I am open to meds but it's not something I am sold on. I think therapy is in order LOL but I'm also aware that because of our effed up system I might not be able to do the therapy. Irregardless I am very much going to be exploring this in terms of how to make it a positive.

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful post. I understand your haivng a hard tiem accepting yourself even as you fight for acceptanc eof your daughters. I remember wheN I was still self-diagnosed as autistic, I had a much harder time accepting myself than now thaT I'm formally diagnosed. Then again, should such a professional confirmation matter? I don't think so.

Diane Hill said...

I don't have a lot of experience with this, but just wanted to say I love ya friend and I hope you find the answers you're looking for. XOXO

Ginger Stickney said...

Blogging Astrid, the diagnosis thing is an odd one isn't it? I am pretty sure I have ADHD and I suspect a hefty LD as well. I know that if we had been settled in one spot long enough the school would have picked up on it. But I can't help shake that an official diagnosis will somehow validated my experience. I don't like that feeling and I need to examine it.

Thanks Diane. I hope so too.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I get it! And it feels so good to hear someone else say it, too. I am so tired of my lack of focus and initiative and all the voices in there telling me what a failure I am from the moment I wake up to the moment I finally manage to sleep.
Like you, I succeed in the structure of school or work; but without those, I am adrift on the sea of too much with too few concrete expectations (my expectations of myself are myriad). I am pinned down, immobilized, and I hate myself for it.
I was always the daydreamer who spent too many recesses inside finishing class work , the only kid in the class with homework because I just couldn't manage to focus in class. My second grade teacher thought I was mentally deficient...till a test showed that I was reading at the ninth grade level. I was constantly criticized at home and school for my lack of focus (though my mom has undiagnosed ADD as well). I still lug all those stupid attitudes around with me in my hyper-fixated, depressed brain.
I have two wishes that I have been seeking to fulfill for years. The first is to be able to focus on the moment. I don't want to be so disengaged and I want to experience life in the now; to drink it all in and embrace it and then move on to the next moment. Instead, my mind lives in the past and the future and in the what ifs and in some distant place I can't even define.
My second wish is to be strong enough to exert my own structure, so I have something to work within, so I can feel successful again. It's been a long time since I've felt successful.
I wish you the best in your journey of self discovery, and I wish the same for myself. I pray we both find solid ground, no longer adrift. Thank you for sharing and for listening.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this sure made me think a lot. Sometimes I'm so inside my own experience that I forget how odd it is and why I might be anxious for a reason--and that maybe I don't even need to be.

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