Sunday, July 15, 2012

Could You Repeat That? I Wasn't Listening.

Since I deleted all of my prior blog posts in a moment of insecurity, there's really no back story left.  And, I don't particularly feel like inserting one here.  So, to make a long story short let's just say that I had quite a traumatic childhood which led to a slew of psychological problems that I've spent the better portion of my 20's coping with.  And, when that was pretty much done, I assumed the rest of my life would unfold before my eyes, that the red carpet would unroll and lead me to a glamorous and fulfilled life.  And...  It didn't quite work out like that.  Like, not even a little bit.  Something was still wrong.  I was still running myself ragged spinning in circles.  I tried to go back to school but after a semester I was self-destructing again.  My house still looked like it had been ransacked by burglars.  The relationships I had been so excited about building were stagnant.

And, I discovered the one major drawback to psychotherapy.  You view every negative behavior as stemming from your unconscious.  You analyze yourself over and over again trying to find that buried negative feeling that's poisoning your psyche.  You assume that all your problems are psychological.  You dig deep, looking for any hint of damage that could explain your behavior.  I couldn't find anything.  I really felt certain that I had come to terms with those things that used to haunt me.  Instead of looking for another explanation, I started getting paranoid that I had repressed memories.  So, I went back to therapy to uncover what I was hiding from myself.  But, it wasn't helping.  We weren't getting anywhere.  I assumed that I had closed myself off and was refusing to allow anyone to help me.  It was hopeless.  My life wasn't going to ever be any different than this because I was too broken to fix myself.  I became depressed, which made all of my problems seem even bigger.  The circles I was spinning in became ruts.  My house was starting to look like it could be on an episode of Hoarders and my stagnant relationships were becoming non-existent.  This is what my life was going to be like.  I just had to accept it and move on.

And, that's when we had a breakthrough in therapy.  We were having a particularly bad session.  I had decided in our last session that I was never coming back, but I had not been able to muster up the energy to cancel our next appointment.  Since I was going to be charged if I didn't show up, I decided to just go.  I mean, it couldn't really get any worse...  He was asking me why I wasn't doing my homework or going to bed on time and I kept saying, "I don't know."  And, he kept grilling me.  I was starting to get pissed off.  And I was sort of yelling when I told him that I really wanted to finish the things I was failing to accomplish, but I just wasn't able to.  It was like a scene that repeated itself over and over again in my childhood.  My parents came home, and my chores weren't done.  And, because this happened pretty much every single time they came home, they were red-faced when they asked me why my chores weren't done.  "I don't know."  I could tell by the wide eyes and shaking hands that I had just written myself a death sentence.  It always played out the same way.  I wanted to be good.  I wanted to make my parents proud.  And, I failed, over and over again.  I was rebellious and lazy.  I was wasting my talents.  These episodes, which happened all the time, cut a little bit deeper every single time.  I really did intend to do what they asked me.  I would just get distracted and either forget about something altogether or put it off indefinitely, saying to myself, "there's plenty of time."  Well, time is a slippery little bugger.  It always slips away at the last second, and I find myself empty-handed and ashamed.  Eventually, I started to both resent my parents and believe the things they said to me when they were angry.

So, I'm sitting on my therapist's couch getting increasingly angry over this line of questioning because it's hitting a little too close to home.  And, he puts down his clipboard and says, "It sounds like ADD to me."  I had been expecting to see a concerned look on his face while I received a speech about how I would never get what I wanted out of life if I wasn't willing to work for it.  I had NOT been expecting that.  I don't think I realized how significant that moment was.  I just sort of cocked my head to the side and said in a mocking/disbelieving tone, "Really???"  He (quite patiently, I should add) described the disease to me.  He had been diagnosed in his forties, which is why he was able to recognize the symptoms in me.  I left with my head spinning faster than it normally does.  It made sense. It took a while to get into a specialist and receive an official diagnosis.  During that waiting period, I kept dreaming that the psychiatrist told me I didn't have a disease, I was just lazy.  I experienced a very interesting mix of hope and apprehension waiting for that appointment.  And, at the end of our first 45 minute meeting, she confirmed the diagnosis.  It was official.  She recommended a couple of books, wrote me a prescription for the first medication we were going to try (150 mg of Wellbutrin XL), and shuffled me out the door.  I burst into tears the moment her office door closed behind me.

Of course, there's a lot more to treatment than that.  Perhaps I'll get into it later.

At the moment, though, I'm experiencing a very new and fabulous sensation.  I feel hopeful.  I feel like I really can do anything.  It finally seems like every step I take is leading me down a path that doesn't end exactly where it started.  I'm excited to see what happens.

For anyone curious about this neurological disease that is more prevalent in the US than any other country, I highly recommend this very awesome and easy to read book.


  1. This is such a vulnerable and insightful post, Stevie. It's obvious how much work you've poured into yourself over the years. I had a parallel series of events happen in my life that resulted in the same diagnosis last year. However, the psychiatrist made the prescription about twice as much as it needed to be, so I might as well have been extremely coked up for a week. It created a nightmare that was much worse than the malaise I experienced in the first place. That said, I'm excited for you that you're getting to experience things differently now. With hindsight, I decided that the world (and the people who have occupied it) have created a place that makes us seem disordered. The truth, for me, is that our environment is accidentally creating the appearance that we are all disordered when, in reality, we were flawless before we had to deal with the traumas other people and their systems inflicted upon us.

    Anyhow... I benefited from reading your post and hope things keep going well!

  2. I'm glad you got something out of it. I've heard a lot of horror stories from people who have had truly terrible experiences with bad psychiatrists. In that regard, I've been extremely fortunate.

    I certainly don't think we're disordered. If it makes any sense at all, it seems to me like those of us with ADD operate spherically, and we're stuck in a linear world. There's an awful lot of stuff I want to do in this world, though, so I'm willing to experiment with ways that help me function in the here and now.

    I heard that you had an enlightening experience. I'd be interested to hear about it, if you'd be so inclined.

  3. I hear you about being a spherical thinker having to operate in a linear world. The way the world is set up can all too often fail to match our true intelligence, so I don't believe that it comes down to some deficit or deficiency on our part. I mean, have you seen what passes for an adult around here? :)

    That being said, I remember how liberated I felt on Vyvanse the week that I took it. It made it feel easy to be myself, partially because I was so energized. It was as though my otherwise typical worries about what other people thought melted away into this genuinely deep and profound sense that we're spiritual beings making art and that life is meant to be enjoyed, not fretted over. What I didn't realize is that the vast majority of people have never felt that kind of liberation, so it seems foreign and scary to them to see someone being the way I was. Consider that I seemed completely sped up and out of touch with so-called reality, and I can understand their reaction. More or less, I was tripping balls and enjoying it, but no one else could relate because they weren't my brain on that drug. What I thought at the time, and maintain in hindsight, is that something about mind-altering medications/drugs change our subjective experience of ourselves and reality. If we're the kind of person inclined toward improving our self and the environment that we engage, then taking a consciousness-altering drug can itself prompt a shift in our development (I like Robert Kegan's model of development to categorize the different levels). Even after the drug was out of my system, I had gained a great benefit from the experience, so to observers, it seemed like I was still on a drug. But, I knew it was something that had been triggered. I like to think of it as a "level jump" that just required time to be assimilated. I ended up being forced against my will to go to the psych ward, and it remains the most traumatizing bullshit I've ever been through. Unexpected drug reactions I can handle, but being taken against my will because of misplaced concern is something that will never be ok. It's the most fundamental flaw of mental health systems that they're manipulated into feeling entitled to be enforcers of society's rules.