Day 16. Back To Real Life.

The last two weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. I managed to take time off work to deal with everything that was going on but the “vacation” (holiday for the British readers) is over and I am back in my office day job, the bill-paying kind.

Needless to say that my anxiety level is pretty high but that normally that is the nature of my occupation at the best of time. What makes this worse is that over the past few weeks I have completely fallen apart and became an emotional mess.
What makes it better is the fact that I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom and I have worried myself out. Plus, there is not so much as hope but rather a direction I am moving in instead of just flapping helplessly in the winds of change.

Today us also my second appointment with the head doc.

I’m hoping that I will be able to get in the groove of things and get my mind of the heartbreak. Of course the danger in that is that I will just start avoiding things like before. And that has me worried.

I feel also that in my current condition it will be impossible to hide what is going on with me from my colleagues and bosses for long. *THAT* should make for an interesting conversation!

On the interesting note, my boss has me investigating blogging for our company website. At least on that front I am already all set.

Yours Truly: Front and Centre (Part II).

About a week ago I started to write this post but I needed to do a lot of soul searching and remembering. So I published the original short post you can see here. In order to preserve the continuity, I will reproduce the part about me growing up here again.

Childhood

You see, as a child, although I had quite a bit of anxiety already, I was fine being in the thick of fun performing in dance recitals, plays, and so on. In fact, like my father, I am a natural extrovert. With the onset of ADHD-PI (or ADD, as it used to be called) things have started to change. Of course at the time I had no idea about any of that alphabet soup, nor did anyone else in my backward-ass place of birth. The way to deal with unruly kids was to pump them full of tranquilisers and stuff them in the room with padded walls. As my attention began to wonder quite a lot, I became more and more introverted. (The running joke/explanation was that I had “deep inner world.” So as much as I tried to concentrate, there was only so much information that would sift through the inattention filter. No matter how much I studied, my marks kept getting more and more depressing and so did I. The level of anxiety though, kept going up and up. That wouldn’t do in my society of birth and so I did the best I could (and my best was quite good – too good, as it turned out) to put up the appearances of normality and to lock down any out-of-place feeling or impulse.)

The Move

Eventually my family moved to the more civilised part of the world but by that time a host of damage has already been inflicted. At the best of circumstances, it is hard enough being a teenager. Pair that with feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, fear augmented by the fact that suddenly everyone around you speaks a language you only have a cursory grasp on, and what you have is a recipe for disaster. Within a short time I became a complete introvert. I yearned though to be accepted and put all my efforts to try to be “normal” like everyone else. Throughout school, college, university, things kept getting progressively worse. There was a smaller burnout when I failed several courses because I couldn’t get myself going to school but I managed to recover from that through sheer willpower and an inbred dose of duty to the cell of society known as family. By that time I had almost no friends. I spent all my time either doing chores, or studying, or locking myself inside my brain and getting away into the fantasy world of books and television.

Obsessions

Here’s a thing about ADHD in all of its variations: if the task at hand is interesting and exciting, we can concentrate the shit out of it. Or is it on it? Regardless… My life has always been ruled by obsessions. My mind would get stuck on the idea and I would torture it to death until a new one came along. Each new obsession would get me excited and I would be able to function better overall for a period of time. This has been the case up to and including present time. I suppose I got so obsessed with the idea of being in love that when it was torn from me in such a cruel manner my world has completely disintegrated once again.

The Change

My culturally enforced devotion and natural closeness to my family, as well as books and TV, managed to keep me going for quite some time. But eventually things fall apart. I hit a  wall again. Though it took me a several years to realise, one event became a catalyst in the emotional slide at the time. One early September morning, I woke up very early contrary to my natural inclination to sleep until the neighbours start asking me to turn off my way-too-loud alarm clock. So I settled nicely in front of CNN morning newscast. Lewis Black once joked that between a headlines panel at the bottom of the screen, and the sidebar on the right showing you the state of the stock market (“so you know somebody’s getting rich but it ain’t fucking you”), and the weather on the opposite side bar, “and in the middle there’s this fucking head that’s talking at you”, watching CNN gives you ADD. For my already jumbled mind, however, that visual cacophony was heaven of stimulation. The news anchor appeared to be sitting on the roof of the building or somewhere high up and behind them I could see a city skyline with a plume of smoke rising. It would seem that a horrible accident has occurred and a passenger jet has somehow struck one of the towers of the World Trade Centre. As I was glued to the screen I noticed something that the anchors sitting with their back to the scene did not realise straight away: I saw the second plane heading for the already smoking complex. At that point this was no longer a coincidence, nor an accident however terrible. And the world has changed forever.

(First) Disintegration and The Big Lie

Whether 9/11 played a role in me falling completely apart within a short time or whether it was a coincidence is impossible to say with any certainty but my outlook on the world and life in general has soured quite a bit. By that time I was having an inordinate amount of difficulty with school and I began hating my chosen subject of study with passion. Within a semester I flunked out. Of course being me I could not bring myself to admit this to anyone and so I lied. I kept going through the paces of going to the university library and looking for a job all the while putting up appearances of getting up every morning to go to school. Needless to say that eventually that mirage has dissipated to reveal the ugly truth.

First Glimpse

The summer before 9/11 I came across a checklist for detecting whether a child may have ADD/ADHD. At the time I remember thinking “Wow! This describes me to a T!” However, after discussing this possibility with my summer coworkers, they have all reassured me that it couldn’t possibly be true. What no one, including me, has considered was that after years of locking down my feelings, impulses, and thoughts, it were unlikely that I would exhibit any outward signs of ADD/ADHD that educators and child care specialists are trained to look for in the subject. And so I ambled on, punching my way through learning, all the while trying to come to terms with the ugly reality that I was just too stupid for university learning.
Following my flunking out, I banged around from one meaningless telemarketing job to another. Since confidence is paramount to being a good salesman, it is only logical that I would keep getting fired from those jobs. And since I kept my situation secret from everyone who knew me, my feelings of hopelessness and despair were getting progressively worse.
Eventually my non-student status was found out by my family. It was bad but not as bad as I feared it would be. Everyone in my family held at least a masters degree except for my maternal grandfather (more about him at some later post) who apparently had similar problems to mine in school.
With the renewed dose (however small) of confidence due to the end of the world being slightly postponed, I eventually found a job to my liking and decided to make that area my professional career. I knew it would never amount to anything and be stuck in an entry level position for the rest of my life, but at least I had something and I made some friends who did not think I was a freak.

Things Are Looking Up

That ADD/ADHD checklist kept bothering me. So I went to see my old college psych professor. He said that my concerns were genuine and referred me to several professionals who could talk to me about Adult ADD. The assessment for ADD/ADHD apparently costs $800–$1,000. My family thought that this was a frivolous waste of money since I clearly could not have had ADD/ADHD. I was just inattentive and it was my own fault. (Only took a better part of a decade to convince them otherwise.) And so I went on, sinking deeper into the depression, unable to cope with my desire for better life, a life I knew I could never have. Eventually though I saved up some money and went to be part of a university study on Adult ADD that required only half of the standard fee. It wasn’t because I was convinced that I had it (though the possibility did exist as faint hope in the back of my mind). No. It was rather because IQ testing is a component of assessment and I needed to prove to my family that I was just not smart enough to go back to university like they wanted me to do. After an 8-9 hour ordeal I was thanked for my participation and told that I would be contacted by the person leading the research. They did and I learned that I wasn’t a cretin and that I had a particularly nasty case of ADD-I or ADHD-PI, as it is now called. My family was doing the I-told-you-so song and dance, conveniently avoiding the part about me actually having a serious problem.

The Present and More Obsessions

While I rode the high wave of knowing that there was an actual problem that I could deal with, the future looked bright indeed. I would discover new hobbies (obsessions) and dive deep into them. For a long time photography and hiking were my go-to ways to deal with the world. I discovered a local blues festival and fell in love with the music. It spoke to me on a deeply emotional level and it still does. When I hear those sounds, they transport me to a world with no pain, no worries and they mend (if only for a while) my worried mind.
Unfortunately, all those doubts, fears, misery, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy that lasted for over two decades did not manically disappear from my heart and soul. Masked by distractions of work and various obsessions they festered in the background, slowly rotting through my inner self deep inside my own mind.
Then things got pretty bad around late 2012 and kept being pretty bad for several months. I tried to concentrate on the good stuff: going to the gym to climb and improv. We did some pretty fun long form shows and I felt ecstatic. That didn’t last long. It never did. Whatever event, achievement, good thing would distract me for a bit would not dislodge the deep-seeded darkness within me.
And then I met Her. I liked Her but was not all that impressed. But there was something. It intrigued me. So we went out for a bit but She said she was not really interested in me romantically but wanted to remain friends and continue to hang out. I was fine being friends as I liked Her and so we spent a lot of time together. I met her friends and she met mine. For a while at least, the dark clouds maybe not receded but disappeared behind Her glow. Eventually we got together and I was lost. I was in love and I started to realise how unworthy I was of Her.

The darkness came back.

I fought against it but I fought alone. I fell into familiar patterns that have been reinforced by years of not doing anything about my issues. I started losing interest in most things and started getting the same weird aches and pains. Breakup followed soon after. As much as it was an inevitability, it still floored me. When She started seeing someone else right away I came undone. I disintegrated.

And that is where I am now. I started therapy and this blog. I have gotten a lot of support from my circle of friends and this new blogging community that I am discovering. I wish I could say things are looking up. The road in front of me is long and fraught with pitfalls and obstacles. But I have a support structure and people that care. I do not wish to let them down and there are many others who went through much worse and darker shit and came out on the other side. They are my inspiration and my strength.

This new voyage I embark upon, this is my forlorn hope.

Day 14. Putting The “Social” In The “Social Anxiety.”

Today I’m feeling inspired by a post of a fellow sufferer who also decided to start blogging. She wrote about the feelings of social anxiety and why we sometimes go to these ridiculous lengths of trying to be liked.

Ooof. Been there, done that. That post sure did kick off all kinds of memories and I ended up realising something new about my current situation. We humans are social creatures whether we like it or not. We need to be a part of a social group even if we are thoroughly mortified by the idea of finding ourselves in the middle of any social occasion. When as a teenager I first found myself in this new unfamiliar environment known as the Western society, I went so far overboard trying to fit in that I quite literally lost sight of who I was as a person. I wore clothes that I did not like and listened to music that I hated and it still was not enough to feel accepted. That continued for longer that one would care to admit; and then the pendulum swung so far the other way… Eventually I went through a bit of a meltdown and I just stopped caring what anyone thought of me to the point of becoming antisocial. It was not quite an attitude of a sociopath but it was far from being healthy either. I started to feel that social conventions were somehow beneath me and that it was far more important to be myself. And apparently the self I have found was a dick when it came to social conventions.

That self importance was the beginning of my current downfall. Or rather not so much the attitude itself but more the fact that I have been using it the same way I’ve been using my hobbies obsessions: an excuse not to do the things I don’t feel like doing. Pair that avoidance technique with an unhealthy contempt for complying with social conventions. I thought of it as being my own man, an non-conformist. That attitude has cost me dearly. It cost me an interest of the woman I have fallen in love with. When she looked at me she saw all kinds of things she couldn’t stand instead of a man she could love. She tried to hint at things but I was too proud, too full of myself. So now all that is left is to try to pick up the pieces and try to move on. It is important to keep in mind what the social conventions are if we are to be a part of society. Because like it or not, we do need the society more than the society need us. Now it is easy to say that we should be ourselves and not care too much what others think of us. To that I respond: depends on who is doing the judging. Beware of the fact that if you only surround yourself with people like you, you may not enjoy the result.

I am lucky for knowing so many wonderful people who have been so generous with their time, and advice, and general support. (Who knew there would be so many damaged people in the arts community?) I am also lucky for being able to understand a lot of these things before I could have damaged myself much more or completely disintegrated. There definitely are some people I see in my life that could have used some of this enlightenment. It is my sincere hope that some of these blog posts will be of value not only to myself but to others as well.

Never Put Off ‘Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Day After Tomorrow (Or A Decade Or Two).

At first I wasn’t going to do a post inspired by the daily prompt but today’s theme did make me think of something. I am a horrible procrastinator. Part of having ADHD-PI is not being able to concentrate on the tasks that aren’t interesting. It is something that I know about myself and I try to do better but truth is that I have never tried all that hard. Plus, I do have that blind spot that helps me blank out and forget tasks that sound particularly distressing.

I should have sought professional help years ago but I told myself that things are not that bad and I do not require it. In effect, this has been a two decades long procrastination stretch. Must be some kind of a record!

So why did I do that? Well, part of it is cultural. As has been mentioned in a previous post, I come from a very straight laced culture where men are men and men do not talk about their feelings and only crazy people need mental health help. The other part of it is that it is hard to ask for help, especially this kind of help. Our inner psyche is our most private part. It is so private that sometimes we do not even let ourselves in, let alone other people. Inviting a complete stranger in has got to be the hardest thing there is. Plus, in most modern societies there is an ominous stigma attached to needing mental health help. (As some might rightly notice this is mostly just rationalisation but I’m not going to get into that all that much since there’s already a Rationalising And Reason today by thetalkingtherapist.)

Well, my misery cup hath runneth over. Yesterday was the day that I crossed that particular Rubicon and had my first session. It wasn’t easy to do this by any means but turning around and going home has never crossed my mind. Perhaps it shall later on when “shit will get real.” One of my goals in this new adventure is to change my thinking and learn to stop procrastinating. That said, however, I hope that I will still be able to enjoy lazy Sundays in bed and not get up just because I should. Now, if only I could finish the major cleanup I had started early this week…

Day 11. Palpitations.

This morning is marked by an anxiety attack that just won’t quit. The heart palpitations that are chocking me remind me with every painful beat of my heartbreak. I know it’s over between us. Even though for You it was barely anything, it was everything to me. I know we will never be together – I’m not THAT delusional. I know You probably hate me right now. I know You will likely always consider me a psycho and a creep. But I would still do it again. Suffering in silence is what I have been doing for far too long. No more. I have seen and experienced first hand the suffering caused by holding shit hidden deep inside and pretending in public that everything was fine. I would still write to You about my feelings for You. I did not expect an answer but I got one and it was as painful as it was likely true. You have cut off all contact and blocked me on Facebook. I do not blame You. From your point of view it was likely a creepy and an inappropriate message. But I would still do it again. As much as I am pained by it, I am not ashamed by my unrequited love for You.
It too shall pass as most things are wont to do. I will probably get over it. I will start anew. And when I do, the burden of never having admitted my feelings will not weigh heavily upon my shoulders.
My inner démiurge seems to have been satiated and anxiety has passed for now. I have admitted my “problem.” Perhaps these bouts will become less painful in the future but I know that the love that I will always carry for you in my heart will be lighter, for it will not be darkened by shame of hiding it.

Moving Forward.

Today was my first session with a shrink psychologist. I didn’t feel that it helped and I honestly don’t see how it could. But I know people whose lives were greatly improved by going into therapy and I have got to believe that there is an end game to this madness.
Also, not unexpected but still kinda weird, I got homework to do! Homework! Not sure how I feel about this. Schooling was never my strong suit. I need to believe though that this will work. Here’s to forlorn hopes and last resorts!

… And Darkness Falls. (Letter #3.)

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You never noted how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried

– You Are My Sunshine

I don’t know what I was expecting. You came in this morning all full of energy and light. You moved like a hurricane of divine power, darting from the living room to the kitchen to get a glass of water and my inner turmoil has matched the speed of you turning into a barrage of conflicting emotions. My heart beat enough to almost break my ribs and block my larynx. You looked so beautiful and I almost fell apart because I could not hug you, could not kiss you. You laughed at one point and your face did that thing when you laugh and all I could do was choke back my tears. You looked around the place and tried on climbing shoes that my old partner forgot. You weren’t even looking at me at first. I had no right to hope that you would care. I knew you wouldn’t. You have said before that you do not dwell on things but move on. I should have taken heed long ago but I failed. And now you so clearly have moved on and I am left alone with my sorrow.

I wish, I wish… The words of regret.

I would give anything to be with you. If only it were possible to switch bodies with Him, the one you are with now. I tell myself that things would be different this time but truth is I would still be me and no amount of body switching would make me the one you want. I have to change myself, not to change into someone else!

I have to believe I will get better for otherwise there’s no point to living. It will take months, years… Who knows? Will you still be there? Will you be single. I have to believe that we might still have a chance because it gives me strength.

But now you are gone. And I still love you.

So I hung my head, and I cried…

Day 9. Anticipation.

In about an hour or so, She is supposed to stop by my place. I have asked her to because there are some things that I needed to tell her. Granted, that could be done via email or Facebook but I suppose I need to see her one last time. What will I say? Will I be able to hold it together? Only one way to find out…

Day 8. Yours Truly: Front and Centre (Part I).

Since I have no clue what to write about today, I will use the daily prompt. Standing out in a crowd is a bit of a sensitive issue with me. So instead of screaming into the digital void about my broken heart, let us venture out into the history of how yours truly has ended up in this unenviable situation.

Childhood

You see, as a child, although I had quite a bit of anxiety already, I was fine being in the thick of fun performing in dance recitals, plays, and so on. In fact, like my father, I am a natural extrovert. With the onset of ADHD-PI (or ADD, as it used to be called) things have started to change. Of course at the time I had no idea about any of that alphabet soup, nor did anyone else in my backward-ass place of birth. The way to deal with unruly kids was to pump them full of tranquilisers and stuff them in the room with padded walls. As my attention began to wonder quite a lot, I became more and more introverted. (The running joke/explanation was that I had “deep inner world.” So as much as I tried to concentrate, there was only so much information that would sift through the inattention filter. No matter how much I studied, my marks kept getting more and more depressing and so did I. The level of anxiety though, kept going up and up. That wouldn’t do in my society of birth and so I did the best I could (and my best was quite good – too good, as it turned out) to put up the appearances of normality and to lock down any out-of-place feeling or impulse.)

Present

So how is it that I went from being completely locked inside my mind (more on that in the next post) to being someone with a bunch of friends and even appearing regularly on stage? Well, my medical condition can be controlled. I came a long way from the beaten down sorry waste of flesh to be someone that others might like and respect.  I learned to venture out into outside world. It is still difficult to do so completely by myself, without a social buffer in form of friends, but I manage to do it. And every now and again I latch onto something and become obsessed with it (more on that in the next post as well). I started going to a bunch of local comedy shows and eventually paired my love for comedy with my photography obsession. So I got noticed by comedians and became friends with great many of them. These new connections brought me in contact with a lot of new people. It seems many of them liked me but I was close only to a few. Comedians like to party (evidently to keep inner demons buried under drugs and alcohol). I never got into drugs (too level-headed for that) but alcohol has always been fun for me. (Don’t worry – this story does not end in me becoming an alcoholic.) It’s a great dis-inhibitor and that’s what I need at parties. Nevertheless, I have mastered an ability to be alone in a room full of people. I tend to retreat into a corner of my mind. Even when I join a group or a conversation, I never really feel like I’m a part of it.

Then things changed. Through my association with the comedy scene, I eventually discovered improv and fell in love with it. It has so many fascinating sides: from games, to storytelling, to masks. (Eventually, there will probably be a long post dedicated to improv.)

One of those characters is me.

One of those characters is me.

See, this art form requires one to be fully in the moment, to discard whatever else is going in one’s life. I came to improv already with some experience in that from meditating (unsuccessfully) and rock climbing (rather successfully). Improv also allows you to become someone else, a character. Then there are the scene partners. Those that I have met mostly came to this also with all kinds of inner demons. It is such a wonderful feeling of being able to connect with others going through similar feelings and craft something wonderful with them that makes us and the audiences happy. Improv allows one to stand out without standing out. We all wear masks. I have conditioned myself early in life to keep mine on all the time. So through improv there is a secret me that gets to shine while the public known me can recede in the background. Therapy, it seems, can exist in the most unusual forms.

Remember.

My friends tell me that I have to forget about her. They tell me that I eventually will.
But how can I forget her when she is the first thing that I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before falling asleep?
My mind always races thousand thoughts a minute.
How can I forget about her when she was the only one who made it stand still?
How can I forget someone who makes me forget I need Ritalin to function normally the rest of the time?
How can I forget her when that would mean forgetting her beautiful face? Her tenderness?
But she is no longer with me.
She no longer wants to come over and hang out WITH ME!
She no longer wants to kiss me, be with ME.
Remember. I remember it all.
But oh, how I wish I could forget.