Thursday, April 10, 2014

I'm a writer. Unfortunately I haven't finished a book so far, but I've written thousands of pages on several projects that end up dead in the water for various reasons. I've written tons of music and poetry and short stories through the years, but in my mind I have these ideas, these sprawling, interconnected epics. Ilet them out on paper, but I can't seem to make it a fully formed reality. However, my blog isn't really about that. Not directly, anyhow.

I'm also a father. My son is 8 years worth of adorable and a hopeless nerd, like his dad. Despite my best efforts, he's had struggles in school. In honesty, I'd hoped that he'd bypass the problems I had and take after his mother in that regard (we aren't together but we share custody down the middle and cooperatively hand  his upbringing). My son, Hue petting him to be to do wellmy hear one major difference between him and me in the scholastic arena. I remember not caring as far back as third grade, but susphopefully s only when I found the words to voicmakee my contempt for my elementary captors. Of course, he's only in second grade, so I suppose that by next year he could open up to the notion of rebellion. My blog isn't really about this either, but follow the bread crumbs and we'll get there.

I saw the writing on the wall earlier this year at our first Parent Teacher Conference. My son has marks at and above grade level in every scholastic criteria, but is uncontrollable. He can't sit still, finishes his work and starts bothering others, and seems so unaware of his own body that he is very accident prone, often injuring himself or others when he is comically flailing around trying to get a laugh. His teacher wouldn't say it outright yet, but based on my experience with the familiar concerns of his other teachers (and even preschool & daycare staff), I preemptively sought to get him tested for ADHD. I didn't really think he had it, though something was definitely inhibiting his performance. The sweet boy often asked me what he could do to be better at school, to stop getting into trouble, to be what everyone else was expecting him to be. It broke my heart and so in an effort to give him all the tools he needed to be happy, I was more trying to rule out ADHD ahead of time and hopefully find some more skills I could use to make his life less painful. 

As suspected, the doctor conducted a bunch of questionnaires and concluded that he didn't have ADHD, but believed I should go to a children's psychiatric educational professional for more thorough research. After all kinds of insurance hoops, I found a guy that I like a lot and we've conducted about eight hours worth of tests over the last two or three weeks. 

I'm waiting to hear back, and while my son is a very important part of my life and as the people we love tend to shape who we are, this blog isn't directly about him or them either.

While I was in the waiting room so the doctor could perform his tests with Hunter, they left me to fill out legions of questionnaires. The more questions I answered, the more I started to believe that ADHD was not only a real possibility, but that I very well could have it as an adult. I was tested as a kid when I displayed behavioral issues, but I was always told that I didn't have it and that I was just an unruly bastard. No medical reason required (ha ha ha). I've spent the last half a week trying to determine if I am ADHD or a hypochondriac.

In my latest efforts to complete my most recently started novel, I have been waking up a couple hours before everyone else on a daily basis to get a little writing in before work. Lately, I can't keep my mind on my novel. It's not writer's block exactly. I know precisely where the story needs to go, and I simply can't concentrate on it with the focus required to put one word after another. I blasted through the first 30,000 words in a few weeks and have barely been able to write another 5,000 in the last four months. When I started the book, it was all consuming. All of the possibilities and flesh being fit to bone... it was like a puzzle that my mind was solving day and night. I dreamed about it. I day dreamed about it at work. Before I went to bed, I would envision the next chapter or two and let the unfolding tale sing me to sleep. When I woke up, showered, made my breakfast, it was a race to get in front of my computer. I always knew I had concentration problems, so when I write I wear headphones with voiceless music mixes playing lowly, directly into my ears and silencing the word outside. 

Now I know exactly everything about the characters. I know where they need to go to end the book. I've entered the classic stage (classic for me anyways) where everything I write is boring me to death. So much that my mind would rather be working on unraveling problems at work, or whatever issues du jour happen to present themselves. My mind has already started working on the next book, begging me to leave this one behind and call it a lost cause, but I just can't. I am determined to finish it. In part, that is what this blog is about. But not totally.

As I sat in front of my computer on Monday pondering and beating myself up in equal measure, I came to the conclusion that if not ADHD, than I too possess some variant or predisposition to focus. There's lots of other reasons I could site, but I'm sure those can be talked about in due time. As I sat in front of my computer wondering why I couldn't string together a sentence without getting lost in the middle, I had a thought. I wondered if ADHD had its advantages. I've always been amazing at my job, performing consistently in the too 5-15% of employees. I've even helped develop new ways of doing things that have been adopted company wide. But I struggle with the basic, mundane requirements. Think Office Space and TPS Reports. Even in my spare time, multitasking is out of control. I can't just watch TV or I fall asleep at almost any time of day. I usually need to be playing a video game or working on something on my tablet at the same time. I can't just play video games either (unless it is hyper engaging, but I would not classify most as such. It's like the difference between TV and a movie). I'm usually listening to music alongside the video games, listening to an audio book or in some cases I am playing two games at once- one on the TV and one on a handheld, tablet or phone. In a lot of ways, people look down at that, like I'm not getting the full enjoyment of any of the multitude of activities that I am doing, and I tend to just let bygones be. They aren't wrong and sometimes it is tiring as Hell. I can't slow things down, and possibly what's worse is that I don't think I want to. 

As I started to research the potential evolutionary advantages of ADHD I discovered a few interesting things. For starters, most genetic "defects" exist in about 1% of the population and get weeded out over time, while ADHD is at 5%, which is one of the first clues that this may be a condition inherited and passed along by design and not a defect at all. Think of bees. Most bees gather pollen to make honey, but about 5% serve another function. They act as scouts to locate new locations that might serve as prime real estate for a new hive. Neither job is more important than the other, just because the scouts are more rare- the species couldn't survive without a strong hunter/gatherer base OR the scouts. Maybe it's my ego that let this analogy click for mw, but that's when everything started to make sense for me personally. 

We need a small number of people who are beyond the box, looking at things from the outside. Free to question, be wrong, and do things differently, experimental in nature. Of course classrooms are built for the other 95% right now, and it makes me sad to think that my son will have to struggle because he is different, but I see this trait for the gift it is finally. I'm not done combating some of the less desirable consequences of having ADHD, but I finally why it's worth having.

Without this "defect," I never would have taught myself to play the piano- imagining the sounds of each key on my walks home from school while composing tunes that I would teach my fingers to play when I got home. I wouldn't have ditched school, going home to birth worlds with my writing when it got too frustrating to be put down by students and teachers alike for not having the same set of skills the others seemed to possess naturally. I may not have attracted the affections of my recently betrothed.

On the same token, I get crippling anxiety attacks when I'm over stimulated in crowded public places. I have regularly scheduled nightmares. I often struggle to communicate with others. And I can't focus enough on one thing to finish my life's dream of being a writer. 

My hope is to understand this way of being, more self aware of the ups and downs, to use this blog as an exorcism for the ghosts rattling their distracting chains in my head while I'm trying to focus elsewhere. I write for an hour or more every morning anyways. Now, when it's clear that I am incapable of making progress on my novel, I want to use this space for whatever else is keeping me from it. 

This isn't a blog about being ADHD. This isn't about my home life, my job, my anxieties or fears- though I'm certain that those will all be common topics of conversation. This is about giving a corporeal form and a place to live for all of the thoughts I've been trying to suffocate into silence when I have other things to do, in hopes that after I've given them their space to be, they will leave me alone and let me get back to fulfilling my dreams.

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