Saturday, December 27, 2008

Possible way to descirbe ADD with Anxiety

Like the (in?)famous Dr. Howell wrote, most everybody has some of the symptoms of ADD some of the time (I believe this goes for anxiety as well). Rather, its the collection, duration, and intensity of the symptoms that form that murky gray line between "having" and "not having" ADD/ADHD. Perhaps because its all so murky, many of my friends have asked me, sincerely, what having ADD and/or anxiety feels like. I hope this explains my experience (and maybe someone elses?) a little bit more.
One of my earliest memories is of lying in bed night after night, sure that my necklace would choke me in my sleep, yet unable to remove the thing. At the same time I felt that constant, disgusting frightened feeling in the pit of my young stomach, it never occured to me to just take off the necklace and be done with the anxiety. Anxieties, I think, aren't like that.

I might analogize having ADD with Anxiety to being alone, on a pitch dark night, in the woods. I don't know about you, but this doesn't exactly sound like a night well spent to me. I'm feeling around with my hands and feet, searching for a path, a focus. As I feel around, I'm bumping into so many things--probably just twigs and stones, but I don't know that. Each twig I catch my shirt on feels like the knife of a serial killer, each branch I step on feels like the tail of a sleeping mountain lion, and each stone I kick? I'm just sure its half a corpse's head (you know, the one of the serial killer's previous victims). Basically, I'm unfocused, searching frantically in the dark and haunted by fears that may or (usually) may not be "real."

Seems like a pretty frightening situation, right? It does to me, too! Let me remind you, though, that I have lived with this for a quarter of a century (25 just sounds too green! Ha!). It didn't stop me from (finally) getting to sleep when I was a kid, and it didn't stop me from working my way into and through an Ivy League education (and, when you've got my educational background, that amounts to a LOT of work! Lol!). Fumbling and frightened though I may be, I continue to press on in the dark.

Hanging out in the dark, I do use whatever is in my knapsack to help me find my way (or ways, plural). I play mind games to calm myself. I organize all the smells and sounds as best I can. I give myself a lot of small tasks to achieve, and I make sure to celebrate when I finish one.

When these things don't work, the dark is scarier, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve: my stubborn nature, my resilience, and my sense of humor (wry though it may be at times!). Most people I know with ADD seem to have those things, too. Considering all the ghosts and goblins that my anxiety produces, I think I'm pretty lucky to have them!

One additional tool that I need and benefit from (but, thanks to a lack of health insurance, do not have) is medication. Like the experts always say, medication isn't magic. Meds do NOT make things ALL better. I'm still in the dark, I'm still feeling around for any sort of a tenable path, and I'm still catching my clothing on murder weapons at every turn. The meds do help some, though.

When I take anxiety medication, distances me a little from the the scary things closing in on me. I'm still in the dark, and I know there are scary things still closing in, to be sure, but I just don't care as much. Being afraid doesn't take up so much time and energy. Instead I begin to notice croaking frogs, the smell of pine needles (I'm from the American Northwest), and a million other, more positive things about my surroundings.

When I take ADD medication, its different. Its like someone's handed me a flashlight, or the moon's suddenly come up. The light still casts ghoulish shadows, but at least its also illuminating part of a path. I finally have something smooth for my footsteps to land on. I can't see infinitely far in front of me, but I can see just up ahead to the next small goal marker. And, since I can actually see some of the path, I can concentrate on it, and better resist the distractions of irrational fear.

I feel so much more confident in my abilities and my future when I take my meds. Meds don't work alone. For example, I find that if I don't have a list of tasks and a plan of attack, taking my ADD medication doesn't help me much at all. If I don't exercise my sense of determination and humor (including turning that humor on myself), I will lose the battle with my anxiety, no matter what.

I have to use all of the tools at my disposal or things just. don't. work. I mean, even when I do use all of the tools at my disposal, I still have SO many days where things don't work. I have SO many days where the wind and the wolves howl louder than I can sing, where I shake and bang the flahslight against my palm, and it just blinks, gray and ineffectual against the night.

I realize this isn't all that positive, but it is what it is. I cannot say, on the days when things just suck, that I'm always looking forward to a brighter day. Hell, if this were a Disney movie, I'd be 60 lbs thinner and receiving royalty checks. Its not, and I'm not. Like so many with ADD, I don't only live in the moment, I'm stuck in the moment. Each moment is an isolated experience unto itself. I live at No. 001 Here And Now Blvd., and when its dark outside, it is that way forever. When things just don't work, they've never worked. On the flip side, the opposite is equally as true when things ARE working.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Unless you're one heck of an insightful horror fan, you probably don't think of fear as a form of entertainment. At least, I sure don't. But, can I ask, is fear just something else to do? For those of us with ADD/ADHD (or a delightful combo of ADD and anxiety like myself), is fear just another distraction, another thing that sidetracks and holds our attention as we struggle to focus on, well, whatever happens to be the task at hand?

I know that when I'm bored, when I'm not going warp speed, stressed and busy, I get really depressed and anxious (for someone who suffers from anxiety to begin with, the word "really" shouldn't be taken lightly). Ironically, I'm deathly afraid of pausing--no matter how much I whine about wanting a vacation, a slower paced lifestyle, or less personal excitement--lest fear take over. Sure enough, out of the eight weeks of R&R I promised myself after Fulbright, I've spent seven weeks overly scared, overly anxious, and THOROUGHLY bored. Fear has been my only form of entertainment, and baby, I've been simultaneously broadcasting it on the radio, the television, AND the computer 24/7!

I probably shouldn't have been bored these past eight weeks. Most people wouldn't be. I helped with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the birth of a niece. I applied to graduate school and began job hunting (though in this economy, my fears have definitely been validated). I have been caring for my toddler nephew, supporting my sister while her husband is deployed, and trying to help keep my family functioning. Nope, not enough. The fear set in almost immediately, and has the staying power of The Simpsons franchise. While (thank God for ADD) I am easily distracted by other NASTies (New And Shiny Thingies), that never lasts for long. My inability to focus on my Santa-length "To Do" list somehow synergizes with my anxiety and voila! Fear takes over.

Fear is, after all, sort of like having to pee. I can live with it for a while, but I'll bend to its will eventually. When not on medication (and, sometimes, even when on medication),

Also, I'm lazy and I procrastinate (actually I don't think I'm lazy, but my tendency toward extreme procrastination sure comes off that way!). Fear is easy and quick and always on hand to punch myself in the gut with. Cheap and addicting. And for someone who craves stimulation like an ADDer, fear is like non-fat manna from heaven--always good, always lying in wait!

So there you go. I may be addicted to fear for a different reason (brain chemistry), but I'm addicted, just like the rest of you movie-goers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anybody for a little Italian tonight?

For all my talk, I certainly can be an a-hole about ethnicity. I don't *think* that Italian cooking has been proven a genetic trait. Still...

Whenever I hear Dad mulling around the kitchen, clicking his tongue overly loudly and saying "nice nice"--all with the accompanying hand gestures--I just KNOW whatever he's making will be horrible and tasteless. He'll oversalt everything, drink too much cheap (or not cheap!) wine, and overcook the pasta until its the consistency of Tuna Helper. In my head I get all uppity like, "You're not one of US--know your place, DAMN." How screwed up is that??

In my undeserved defense, he does tend to "doctor up" things that come in jars, doesn't take any sort of pride in the process, and doesn't cringe at the mere thought of what the elders (or my sister, a culinary elder to most people on the planet) would think.

Still, he did marry into this whole spaghetti-eater gig, and he's stuck around. He has put up with all of the negative cultural stereotypes that happen to be true in our case, and even though the family circle is often closed to him, he always plays nice and keeps bouncing back with a smile.

This begs the questions: Does he (or me, with all my relationships with ppl outside of my little Italian-American enclave) get points for being there? For trying? Does effort really get you an A, make your junk more edible, or earn you the respect of your children? Does any of this have anything to do with cooking, or the fact that I cling on to my Italian heritage just to have something to call my own?

With a jerk of a daughter like me, the answers are all MAYBE.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

As I View Birth

So, my sister finally had her baby on the 18th (not under the best of circumstances, though I don't know how exactly that factors in). For me, and, I think, for some (if not many) preferential adopters (at least the young ones among us), being anywhere near pregnancy and birth is just. so. not. fun. I've tried to make the best of it, or at least, to hide the worst of my self-centered angst from my sister and the family, to just get down with the party, and to be happy (again, under the circumstances, which I don't care to go into at the moment).

It's not been easy.

I've been immature sometimes, at least in my head.

I've avoided making possibly superfluous connections to genetics (and this I stand by--somewhat--he is, after all, a baby, and they kind of all look similar), even while everyone else was reveling in the fun of "did he get E's gas?" and "did he get J's hairy back?", etc.

And yet, I think, as I sit here in the airport during the third hour in what will surely be many hours of delays, maybe this is a good experience (well to be fair, I've tried to think before, and it hasn't worked that well). Perhaps this is something that will make me stronger. I am seeing birth, and you know what? Maybe it's actually fortunate for me that I've been privileged (in some morbid way) to see conception, pregnancy, and birth under less-than-ideal circumstances (as "less-than-ideal circumstances" is generally how we idealize the process of making an adoption plan).

I've seen--no--I SEE my sister sit and cry over the culmination of the pregnancy that she did not want to bring to term.

I see the incredible depth of love that, despite any past context, can and will not be made shallower.

I see her look at herself in him.

I see her hope for herself in him.

I see her despair for herself in him.

I see her look for her own faults in him.

I see her look for her own weaknesses in him.

I see her look for the strength of her partner in him.

I see her fear the possibility that the flaws of her partner will rise in him.

I see her know that this is, perhaps because of and perhaps despite the influences of both the self and the partner she looks for in her child, a brand new human being.

I see her contentment as she breathes him in.

I hear her say, "you are a new person."

I see her take ownership (for lack of a better word) for this being. I hear her say, "you are mine."

I see her take responsibility for her child.

I see her hope her partner will take equal responsibility for their child.

I see someone who is still unsure of her love for herself.

I see someone who is not unsure of her love for her child.

I see her, in a change that only took one moment, decide to choose her child over her partner, and decide to choose her child over herself.

I see her who looks for a balance between her own happiness and that of her child, when those needs conflict, and errs on the side of her child when they do.

I see her sadden and brighten, at different moments, when she looks at her son.

I see the incredible array of emotions that co-exist in her heart, and see that love, distilled from all of these varying emotions, is the emotion that she holds toward her child.

I see how intractable (and I'm not trying to decipher or question the reasons, here) the tendency of our society is to look, and to find hope, despair, and fear, in the eyes, the face, the actions of those whom something so obvious and tangible as the process of conception, pregnancy, and birth connects.

Although this is, still, not something I desire to engage in, I hope, and hope sincerely and humbly, that seeing and being a part of this will help me be a better adoptive parent.

*I realize as I look over this that the statements are, indeed, all *I* statements. *I* am not my sister, her partner, or her child. *I* realize that my observations will always be tinged with *my* own emotions. *I* hope you understand.*

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Excuses, excuses.

I'm sure we've all heard the old adage that blogs are like diets, we've all been on them, and they rarely work for the long haul. I haven't decided whether to think of this as just part of life and personal evolution, or something to be ashamed of (well, I'm hoping for the first and naturally inclining toward the second).

In service of excuses, here's the skinny on my whereabouts:

-been in China since August (blogspot is actually censored in China, so its tough to post)

-been in my head since August (probably earlier). There are so many things I would love to blog about, but just read about instead. I feel SO incredibly unqualified to have opinions, much less blogworthy ones. And so I just continue to think.

-been, oddly enough (or not), afraid of my own blog. As in, I keep a site updated for friends and family with no problem (email me if you'd like to see some of my adventures), but writing personal things is just such a big responsibility, somehow. I feel the need to be intelligent and witty and readable. I feel the need to grow, and to grow visibly!

I will try to do better in the following months. I may not, though.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

muy personal--the prestige of adoption

Perhaps it is just not knowing when to stop analyzing, questioning, etc. Yet, in the interest of fully-examining what looks to be the biggest choice in my life, I need to press myself to examine the "prestige" involved in the choice to adopt.

Frankly, I am not sure what to say about this. As my first and only choice in family formation--a choice made not via infertility, or other concerns, I think the problem of prestige concerns me more than it might need to concern others (or, perhaps I just concern myself with it more than others?).

During the course of a private conversation the other day, the person I was conversing with made mention of the idea that I was adopting for the prestige of it. In fact, this was not said in malice, but in quite a matter-of-fact manner. The idea has been a huge slug in the gut since that time.

I mean, do I adopt for the same reason I persevered in attending an Ivy League school? My first instinct is to say that, in fact, the two can't be compared. And, oddly enough, I have been far enough out of touch with pop culture to be ignorant of the situations of Angelina Jolie, the Kidman-Cruises, until far after I effectively made my decision to consider myself a preferential adopter.

Yet, like any good monster in the closet, the idea that "Oh my goodness, what if I really AM doing it for the 'prestige' of it all, and don't know it?" continues to haunt me. Perhaps it is anxiety (chronic sufferer here!), but perhaps it is.....?

Any insight into the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Fate versus Choice

On the order of a post I read today from Heart, Mind, and Seoul, I continue to think about (and, indeed, be prompted to think about) exactly why adoptive parents make the choices that they do. Within the course of the post, the author elucidated the prominent modes of thought that equate birth/firstparents to the concept of "choice," and adoptive parents to the concept of "God's will," "fate," etc. To the author, and indeed to me, these equations do not work very well--especially, for my purposes, the equation of adoptive parents to circumstances beyond their control/choice. Claiming God's will, fate, or even just emotions or feelings to the choice to adopt really seems to relieve adoptive parents of the responsibility for the analysis of their own choices.

The choice to pursue adoption, and indeed to pursue it as a singular method of creating a family, is not, and should not be, a decisions made lightly. On that note, creating a family at all should not be an lightly-made decision. Yet, especially in the case of the Adoption Knot, the choices involved in forming a family must be conducted with gravity, humility, ethics, and, dare I say? Analytical introspection. Perhaps not devoid of an acceptance of the idea that spirituality can serve as a guiding tool--but emphasizing that spirituality is but one tool in a process of choice.

Apart from spirituality, the emphasis on fate (as opposed to choice--and I'm beginning to see them as a bit more opposed than I did, previously) also, if not exactly in the same terms, seems to me to relieve adoptive parents of the responsibility for an analysis of choices that they themselves make.

Apologies for the incoherence. Not currently on the ADD meds...and it's starting to show. ;)