Focus! Focus!

This last week has brought some interesting possibilities. Some I rejected, and some I’m still wondering about.

The doctor I saw last week suggested that I might have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I’d never considered this before. I know that I was a hyper kid, with lots of nervous energy, but I figured that I wasn’t much different from any of the other kids I grew up with. Kids are hyper, right?

I know I was bored in junior high school. I was allowed to skip a grade because of this, and I adapted pretty well. I still didn’t enjoy school very much, though. I was always frustrated, and had difficulty finding things that had real meaning to me. I can’t remember a single lesson from biology or physics. There are some golden moments from English/Literature and Fine Arts, but not a whole lot of practical knowledge.

Lately I’ve found it extraordinarily difficult to focus on anything. I’ve been miserable and frustrated, and most nights I’ve been opening Flash to work on my latest cartoon, only to stare at it. Things reached a head on Tuesday, when I had a panic attack and couldn’t hold out at a job that I started. I’m hurting for cash, and I’m trying my best to get my life going again, but there’s this thing in my head that keeps holding me back. It assesses my situation, calculates, comes to a conclusion, and then screams, “Get the hell out of there!” until I finally break down and comply. I’m so ashamed, that I usually hide out, away from everyone, until I gather the courage I need to tell my family.

Medicines have been my companions for nearly twenty years. I’ve tried several different brands. Wellbutrin worked for a while, but then the panic attacks hit me again when I realized I was taking classes I didn’t care about, and didn’t want to waste time in. I didn’t know the alternative, though, and that terrified me.

Paxil worked for a long time. In fact, I’m still taking it, at the maximum dose allowed. It seemed to help me for years. I started working part-time at a little trucking company in my hometown. No commute. Tricky work, but I got good at it. Life came together. I had control. I was free to do what I wanted. When they promoted me, I got in over my head and crashed again. I hated myself. I hated what I was doing for a living. I hated everything about myself, and I was ready to cast it all away. I even tried to run away one night. I left my keys in my apartment, locked the door and took off into the sunset. I was prepared to walk until my legs wouldn’t work anymore, and my body dehydrated.

I don’t know exactly where I was when my hips began to ache, but it was far from home, and the stars were shining. I was near a shipping yard and a field, with a railroad bridge on the horizon. I wanted to get to that bridge and sleep under it for the night, but my legs wouldn’t work. I lied down beside an electrical transformer at the edge of the field and stared at the sky. Eventually I decided that I was doing something stupid, and I got back up and walked home. My hip protested all the way back, and I limped by the end of the night. I sat outside my apartment as the sun rose, and I waited for the apartment manager to show up to let me back into my place.

That wasn’t the end of my troubles, but it’s representative of the patterns of my mind. I punish myself when I can’t get things to work right. The problem is, things only stop working right because my brain concludes that they can’t.

Where are these calculations coming from? Why does my mind continually look for roots and causes, seeking the pathway that explains what the hell I’m doing in the first place? This world is completely illogical; there’s no answer to this question. Still, I know there are times when I’ve felt all right with everything. I’ve been okay, capable of handling myself; proud to carry on along a path, even if the purpose was unclear to me. It was nice to feel like I was good at something, and that people appreciated and respected me.

It’s also a very rare thing to achieve.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has helped with other issues. I don’t worry as much as I used to about relationships. I used to hate myself in this area, calling myself ugly and unloveable, but now I hardly think about it. Of course, this is because I have evidence: truths I can hold up to shut down the doubts and the hate. There are other fields where I’m yet unproven. I don’t know if I’ve paid my dues, I don’t know if I’m good enough at work, I don’t know what to say to counter the negative thoughts that tug at my brain. I feel like I’m starting all over here. All I can think about when I set out on something is whether I’m set to succeed, or to fail. My mind often determines this before I even get started.

My counselor calls this thinking “the twenty-four-hour bad news radio.”

Are these irrational, racing computations symptomatic of ADHD? Why is it that I most feel like writing when I’m stuck in an office where I should be performing mundane, repetitive, pointless tasks? Why is it that I most feel like animating when I’m running from a job that I hate?

If I have ADHD, that means that there’s a whole new foundation to start from in terms of my treatment. Perhaps there’s a reason that sodas and coffee helped me to stop thinking and focus when I worked at my previous job. Stimulants work to slow down the minds of those with ADHD. Perhaps that’s what I need for myself?

For all my disgust and disdain with myself, there are still many things that I wish to accomplish. It sure would be nice to advance on that road without fear or self-hatred, and just go and do these things. Whether I attain fame or not shouldn’t matter. What matters is that I’m happy with what I’m doing.

Expressing myself, even though I don’t like my own feelings.

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Author: lisvender

Writer and animator in Central California.

2 thoughts on “Focus! Focus!”

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