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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.