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Escapism and Responsibility

So I saw something today which fired up an odd train of thought for me. Basically, there’s a school of thought out there which sees ADHD as (more or less) a natural fit or neurological adaption for our ancestoral hunter-gatherer ways. I’d heard of it before but it never really made any waves in my mind. Without (again) going into why I’m disinclined to see ADHD in any way beneficial, I want to share where my mind went, because, I don’t know, blind nuts sometimes find squirrels.

There’s something in me that fairly regularly wants to blow everything up and disappear to the wild and be that inspirational meme stock photo guy looking on with a thousand-mile gaze from the top of some high mountain peak, maybe living in a mountain-top cabin: I’ve told “the Man” to kiss my wrinkly old donkey, no company phone resting easy as unexploded ordinance by my side, all ties to Society cut…. Freedom – no more rules, expectations, social cues, being needed at 10 PM by some customer….

But I never do blow everything up. Probably never will. Not that my soul doesn’t crave and need solitude, natural beauty, and quiet to change pace with the sort of career I have, but there’s something a bit problematic–naive–about that urge as a guide to life, as if there really is a place where I can live free without rules and I’ve been going about life all wrong. Not to mention I’m happily married, and the missus would have something to say about all this.

And that’s where ADHD comes in. I have to learn to differentiate between the very real need for humans to rest and recharge from stress, and that other urge – the one which believes one can cast off from responsibility and rules and find some vague idea of “being free”.

For the well-to-do folks on the planet, like many of us in America, we’ve traded one set of rules for another: I probably don’t have to worry about freezing my ass off at night while I try to sleep, keeping one eye open for the bear, sticking near a supply of fresh water, or where my next meal is coming from; my points of stress have been redirected a bit to things like highway traffic patterns and health care costs. But Nature is a harsh mistress they say – it damn sure has a set of rules. The more I see it as recreation, the more privileged I show myself to be. Folks who truly live off the land, living and dying with the seasons, rain and drought – you think they get by without paying attention to the rules? Think Mama Nature and Daddy Time don’t have deadlines (the hell do you think we call em deadlines for anyway)? You think attention lapses ain’t gonna be fatal while hunting, or haphazard planning won’t screw you out of your year’s crops and threaten your very survival? I mean, if we want to look at unsubstantiated but totally plausible theories about ADHD from an evolutionary standpoint, it might be worth considering that we’re only seeing such high percentages of ADHD diagnoses over here because we’re privileged enough to have circumvented some of the, err, more strict evolutionary checks and balances on self-destructive behavior in a species.

I like to think I’d make it if I had to learn how to survive – the human race is pretty darn resilient, and I’m a pretty resourceful sumbitch, but if I’m honest with myself in those afore-mentioned urges, I’m not talking about trading in one set of responsibilities for another, I’m talking about escapism. If it ain’t just simple naivety, it’s some kinda cultural appropriation – as if folks in poorer parts of the world live “simply” because it’s fun and they have a choice, and choose to live daily under threat of “natural” death. Buried inside that thought process, I’m counting on the fact that I know I can “come home” somewhere, I can find gainful employment – somewhere there’s a damn grocery store every 1/2 a mile and I can shrug off freezing my ass off by hitting a few buttons on my thermostat, and flip the bird to some crazy-ass mosquito-borne virus just by keeping my windows closed at night (individual results may vary). When I find myself sick or injured there’s probably an urgent care center close enough to take me in. And unless it all goes to hell there’s probably something worth binging on Netflix.

So basically I’m saying I can’t run like this and still live honestly. Yep, I can still run off somewhere, but I’ll doing just that: running, escaping, quitting – I’ll be leeching on someone or society in general somehow, someone is picking up my slack while I figure out my shit. Someone’ll be paying for my escapism, and I don’t want to live with that. But I can learn to stick with things I’m committed to through those urges to quit, and see that often powerful impulse to run with a more cautious eye. I can figure out if there are things about my life that actively and unnecessarily suck me dry, and make reasonable changes. I can find medication that works. If I need a real break, I’ll have earned it and paid for it.

Lord knows there’s aspects of our affluent society that just ain’t working for our good, but my periodic compulsion to simply escape it is largely irresponsible in a number of ways. There may indeed be things about our ancestors’ existence beneficial for us to keep in mind today as we navigate technological advancement, population booms, PTSD, and other things, but there’s no good in sugar-coating what our past existence involved. It’s no good deflecting your inability to find success and fulfillment in the here and now as “society doesn’t accept me”. It’s here: find a better path through it by all means, but you can’t escape paying your dues by running to the past.

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Depression and the “Gift” of ADHD

I’m porting over another Twitter thread into my blog today. I feel this is one of the more important things I’ve touched on in my writing over the past few years. Not that I don’t feel religious matters and spiritual abuse processing is unimportant, but, well, none of that stuff really matters if one is too dead to think about it. So here goes, with light editing to convert from 240 characters to long-form.

Fairly regularly in my life, I’ve experienced a powerfully overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, strong sense of being rejected, or a “left-behind-ness”, and this is one reason why I take medication. Over the years, I’ve made a ridiculous amount of resolutions I’d never keep for things I don’t really want for the approval of people who may or may not care based on these powerful waves of emotion.

People talk about ADHD as a “gift” sometimes, and while on some level I get where they’re coming from, I can’t say that. Not even a little. This is one reason, and I’ll try to explain.

I’ve been diagnosed with depression, which is, among other things, a fairly common co-morbid with ADHD – it is often hard to untangle which is which, or if one (usually ADHD) is accounting for symptoms resembling the other. Combine these two? That racing brain, jumping 4 steps ahead in an instant kind of thought process can literally be fatal.

Imagine you’re already feeling kinda low. You reach out to a friend, or just comment on something they post, whatever. They’re busy, maybe they see & don’t respond, maybe they don’t really get where you’re coming from and the comment doesn’t hit the nerve you thought you did. Or worse, someone randomly attacks you over it, or your friend responds bluntly. Does your brain calmly take in the interaction or confrontation and so you explain yourself, try again, etc, or does it make 10 leaps per second and end up in a dark place before you even realize it?

“Eh, they didn’t have time to respond” or “I didn’t say that as clearly as I could have” turns into “I said something wrong, because I am wrong, because I missed something important like I always do, because I’m a failure, I missed the boat in life, what the hell am I doing…”

“Why do I even bother, I should just blow everything up, run and hide from everyone, or, hell, what’s the point, I’m just going to do this over and over again because I’m a failure, so save yourself the pain and end it now because you’ll never be on top of this”

If your brain is working halfway normal, maybe you have a bit of time to press pause between, I don’t know, EVERY FREAKING STEP OF THAT MENTAL RACE TO NOWHERE, but when it’s not, sometimes you’re 10 steps down the road before you even realize you started.

For me, often enough, it’s not even really thoughts which form, it’s just an emotional avalanche which takes me from “I’m feeling ok enough to engage/reach out” to some really black states of mind when the situation takes an unexpected turn.

There’s no real process or ability to talk back to your thoughts and feelings (like my therapist gets me to do), no chance to remind yourself that things don’t have to end this way and even if your worst fear might happen, I have a choice for every step of that way. The racing brain of ADHD can really screw you. That ability to jump a few thoughts ahead at an instant which might feel like intuition and brilliance in the light of day is suddenly a roller coaster which has left the track in the middle of an inverted loop.

Even if we take depression out of this, I still find it driving a lot of my social anxiety. Making 10 leaps of logic in a second… One of those leaps is likely to be wrong, and here I am tearing a friend a new one or boiling in rage after making an assumption I didn’t realize. We can all be wrong or miss a point here and there and need correction–welcome to being human–but missing a connection at 800 thoughts per minute is going to hurt someone.

My meds (for ADHD along with antidepressants) don’t always work flawlessly – sometimes I don’t take care of myself, rest, manage things like PTSD triggers, etc, and I’ll find myself in the same familiar patterns of thought, but for the most part the difference is, well, night and day. Medicated, my mind gets slowed down enough to allow a few precious moments of self-awareness to talk back, or to just stay focused on whatever is more important in the moment (ADHD meds), and antidepressants keep the whole thing from weighing me down too much – always taking that turn for the worse, feeling the heaviest and darkest of emotions in inopportune moments.

Anyway, wrapping this up before it gets too much longer, I don’t want to know how many lives this whole thing has claimed. As a friend and I discussed recently, a lot of suicides aren’t planned for weeks ahead, they’re impulsive. That’s easy for me to believe, and awful to think about. Please, for the love of everything, take this seriously. Get help. Find something that works for you. Don’t think you can keep managing this on your own. I thought I could, but people who love me didn’t let me let it get far too far. People cared enough to help me recognize things – often having to tell me it was worse than I was trying to tell myself (and them) it was.

It’s almost shocking sometimes when I finally come out of some of these episodes and realize just how twisted my thought process was going through it. I tried to talk it out with my wife the other day after the fact and it was just… What the hell. The concept of logical insanity is intriguing to me: a series of seemingly reasonable conclusions which only appear so if a faulty foundational premise is accepted. In context, depression informs much of the mind’s thought process foundationally, subtly twisting everything built on it.

So… Yeah, I’m gonna pass on “The Gift”. Well, I wish I could, anyway. I’ll keep doing the next best thing and, umm, keep that junk wrapped up via medication.

That’s about all I got. Stay sane, my friends.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

So here’s a heartwarming gem – no doubt played for a nudge and a good laugh, and when all is done, a solemn pronouncement, “It’s true though”.

Besides the unforgivable fact that they both appear to be morning people, there’s plenty which bothers me about this. Yeah, yeah, it’s “just a joke”, whatever. No, it fits right into a harmful view of humanity which twists us into stereotypes and stunts character growth.

Continue reading Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Self-Hatred

I suppose I’d be fully justified to be angry about the quote I’m sharing below (many are, and for a number of reasons), but I’m mostly just sad as I almost empathize with the sentiment. I do tend to hate my body, or physicality in general.

We were so very isolated as children. Sometimes I forget that. In this context, the only people I knew or saw with any kind of regularity were family. We had few movies and fewer connections to pop culture – for a long time not even internet. As a boy going through teen years, there was no one to even have a crush on, much less talk to. Sexuality was little more than a few kissing scenes in movies (I’ve probably never actually seen the kisses in some of these movies). This was just one facet of my life which was stunted – all feelings repressed, internalized, no idea what to do with them or even what they are, so you bury them.

I found a woman in my life when I was around 19. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it and I just figured things out with her as we went along. But in some ways it was like floodgates were opened. I was in love and committed to her (we’ve been married over 5 years now <3), but the feeling of attraction–my sexuality in general–was awakened.

I’ve learned over time that you can’t really selectively shut down emotions or feelings. You repress one you don’t want, and the world seems a little more dim. You find an attraction you can’t indulge, and you can crush it and feel nothing, or redirect it towards something (someone) acceptable. Or, in many cases something unacceptable. Repression, and then directing my attention to my new spouse, is how I coped through late teens-mid twenties. If it wasn’t self-deprecation, I probably hid it.

With teaching like this, you do indeed learn to hate yourself. You slowly cut yourself off from the simple pleasures, and as the physical sensations of the world grow dim, the less interest you have in opening yourself to the possibility of feeling.

This always seemed like “life on the highest plain”, where your joy comes from the Lord, and you find purpose in living in light of eternity. I experienced what I thought was true joy and contentment vicariously through others – Sunday worship, or Communion, posting something profound on Facebook and feeling spiritual about it when someone would respond with commendation.

Depression finished the job. Getting my happiness from the high of social acceptance or community experiences? Depression sapped the energy I have for social life down to nothing. Sex? There’s not enough in the tank to do what needs to be done for it to be the emotionally connecting and healing experience it can be when meaningful. Food, drink? Eh, I need it to live, but it’s not like I’m particularly invested in living.

Life on the highest plain was little more than just a high. Depression and the relentlessness of the ordinary wears us down, the thrill of newness replaced with daily upkeep, and I’m empty and spent. I’m numb to the reward of anything I do. It’s a sort of twist on the story of the prodigal: thinking I could live above the physical, I left it behind, only to lose it all, and I must swallow my pride and beg for a taste of the humblest of ordinary pleasure. George Bailey crying out “I want to live again!”

Hatred of myself, the physical–because I see it as a failure and sinful as I choose greed or laziness–is in the end just what it is: the opposite of love, a violation against nature and, yes, God’s grace if you believe in that sort of thing. We curse God when we hate the physical because it is doing what it is designed to do: give us pleasure, pain – feeling and meaning to our existence. And for the love of God, it is not sin when our bodies fail in what they were designed to do – disease, allergies, depression and other disorders of the brain. It is not sin when we feel, and enjoy food, and sex, and beauty. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…”, and it isn’t what a man takes in that defiles him. It is what we put out – what we choose to do with the input that brings heaven or hell to earth.

The next life will come when it comes, and how it comes. For now, I’m here, present, physical. Hatred is easy, and futile. Love is the only way forward.

A Way-Too-Long and Not-Long-Enough Talk About Masculinity

I’ve wanted to write on this subject for awhile. There’s been a lot of words spent on the concept over the past few years (at least) – what it is and what it is not, or, more specifically, what is a healthy vision of masculinity. What does it mean to be a man – a “good man”? As someone who claims allegiance to the Christian faith, I believe I must qualify this question further, to reflect our desire to follow Jesus. Maybe I’ll just be adding more noise to the already considerable wall of sound, but some of y’all have been kind enough to leave my mic on, and I’d like to share on a subject deeply personal to me.

Continue reading A Way-Too-Long and Not-Long-Enough Talk About Masculinity

Of Fried Chicken and Outrage

It’s early 20th century Mississippi, and you’re in a small town barely on an actual map much less the map of public consciousness. The world outside is large, but yours is quite small – it’s just the way things are.

Some dadgum factory upriver has been in the local crosshairs on the suspicion they’ve been polluting the river. There’s been a few sick kids, and an ol’ ne’er-do-well who died after allegedly taking a dip in the river and then coming down with fever and such. It became a hot topic in the public houses around town, and a few folks tried to get the attention of factory ownership and find some answers. But they ain’t been forthcoming, and their apparent apathy has only fired public furor. A growing number of folks insisted they wouldn’t buy their products no more, and one of the general goods stores was considering pulling inventory from the shelves until “something was done”.

Continue reading Of Fried Chicken and Outrage

A Short Black Panther Review

My wife and I saw Black Panther last night. Here’s a few initial thoughts.

I loved the world-building and presentation. It looked unapologetically African, and they didn’t take the action “home” to one of the usual major cities in order to bring familiarity or a reason to care. It asks you to care for the people and cultures and their stakes, on their own merit and worth. That jumped out at me from the start, and there were no cheap gimmicks, or any sense that they were simply playing an angle in the 1st 30 minutes to get you hooked into just another superhero movie.

Continue reading A Short Black Panther Review

Gun Laws, or Heart Change?

Every time (how awful is it that I have to phrase it in this way?) we have a mass shooting in this country, there’s an idea that surfaces. I believe it can come from a place in the heart which is truly wearied and sick of the tragedies. With some, I get the sense it’s almost a shrug though – something akin to the “it’s all gonna burn anyhow” attitude. I’m referring to the idea that these mass shootings over the past few years are a heart problem, often couched in a zinger, “America doesn’t have a gun [or race, or drugs, or…] problem, it has a heart problem.”

I’m not here to discuss our laws – where they fail and where they work – or how far they should go. I strongly lean towards more regulation or even bans, for what its worth, but others have gone there in a much more informed way than I can, so if you want a rational plan you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So let’s talk about the heart, because frankly, I agree that the heart is a huge issue here. But how deep do you want to go here?

Continue reading Gun Laws, or Heart Change?

“History is Written by the Victors”

History is written by the victors, they say.

It seems easy for us Americans to think of our nation as victorious in our history – in our fight for independence, the civil war and the fight for our soul, WW1, Nazi Germany, and others. Other nations might just have a different view.

But how has our individual history been written by the victorious? Am I aware that I’ve been a victor, or rather, to put it another way, a beneficiary, result, or instrument of another narrative’s defeat?

Continue reading “History is Written by the Victors”

A Sunday Drive

It’s been months since we’ve attended church regularly. Having no steady social activity to fill the void, rarely do we venture out in public on Sunday. The freedom and peace is welcome, if sometimes lonely.

Family invites us over for the day – we love them, I’m feeling up to it, we go.

It’s mid-morning. The Bible Belt is tight around us – it hasn’t taken the day off even if we have, and church after church shows a loaded parking lot as we pass by. It’s Florida in January, and though the temperature reads cool, the sun is out. It’s stuffy and dry – one can almost taste the sand, and you wait for the sweat to start trickling.

Continue reading A Sunday Drive