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Real Life // The Night Before The Appointment

 

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I’ve been on medication. I’ve lost weight. I’ve done all the things you are supposed to do to overcome the sinking dread inside, the insidious voice that tells you nothing will ever be good enough. If I just tried harder. If I throw myself at this thing long enough I will overcome.

But, tomorrow.

My dad goes into hospital for a fairly routine heart operation.

And I…I am going for a clinical assessment for ADHD. I’ve tweeted a bit about this. I’m not diagnosed. I can’t pretend to know what diagnosis I will come out with. It’s entirely possible to have ADHD traits, and yet not actually have the disorder.

I know this, because I’ve spent endless hours researching…everything about the disorder, at least as it applies to adults. Even if I don’t come out with a diagnosis, the research I have done has given me further tools to help me sustain my life. I’ve already had some amazing improvements to my quality of life, and that’s a positive no matter what.

Grief

Grief is something I feel a lot of at the moment. I’m happy as I’ve ever been, but some days it feels like a small tea-light, a bright spark, suspended precariously above this deep well of frustration, of longing, of restlessness, of anger and sadness. Grief that I didn’t get these tools, this strength, when I was much younger. Grief at the wall I seem to have hit in my professional life. I’ve worked so hard and I know I am valued at work, but anger at myself for not being able to become organised. I manage people, I work on projects. I coordinate and strategize. I develop and follow-up. I want to do the right things for my team to give them the best chance at succeeding and enjoying what they do. I want to, but no amount of Outlook Reminders, Evernote Reminders, Todoist Tasks seem to mean I am able to do this thing that is ‘follow up’.

Almost, almost…..no.

I want to just DO, and I find myself doing the wrong thing for hours. I find myself cycling from task to task. I try to be mindful, in the moment, but this foreshortening of my sense of time can make things worse. And everything that comes next on the career ladder only increases the need for planning and organisation. I’m terrified that I’m at my limit.

I mean, sure, in some ways I’ve made up for lost time in the last 5 years.

I study. The words make sense. There is no problem with the concepts, but trying to visualise the chronology of Renaissance painters and historical events is like trying to make a perfect circle out of jelly. I have a lot of reading to do, and I LOVE reading. However at most I can read about….30% of a sentence before I skip to the next paragraph or page. If I remember myself, I read like a child, a finger under the word to keep my eye focused. I’m like this with reading for pleasure. I am subscribed to hundreds of beautiful blogs, but I rarely make it to the end of the first paragraph.

I get compulsively stuck on certain things. Certain Reddit subs I endlessly refresh. I re-watch the same things over and over. I watch and read formulaic stuff that allows my attention to wander. I’m in no danger of missing anything.

I feel raw all the time. I’ve always been emotional, but socially I spent many years tamping down on my feelings of anxiety and sadness. Going from thought to speech is so hard for me sometimes. I sit and listen a lot. I feel so boring and dull. And yet with my SO I am goofy and silly, the filter comes off and I can just be – whether that is silent and internal. Yet still so raw. I watch myself all the time. I stopped listening to music on my commute to work, because all it did was make me bitter and sad, dwelling on the sort of thoughts I’m letting spill out now.

I come home mentally exhausted. I’ve given up the idea of online gaming – something that used to be my entire life. I game vicariously by watching Super Bunny Hop, or watching my SO play through something with narrative. I miss gaming. I miss being able to read properly.

Wait. I wish I knew what it was like to read properly. I don’t think I’ve ever read properly. It’s why books last me a few hours at most OR never get read.

Making a change

And I’m doing all the right things. I’m losing weight, eating healthy food. I drink plenty of water and drink much less. I exercise. I do yoga. I am the least yoga person ever and I now do it daily. I move more, I walk more. I practise self-compassion and work around my propensity to lose everything. I actively work on how I think about myself. Mr Pewter is so supportive and works around my quirks. I assert my need for more structure at work. I have a thousand reminders in my phone and technical tricks like scheduled text messages to ensure I stay in touch with friends and family.

Like I said – I research. I’ve played with productivity tools since 2008. From David Allen to Pomodoro (which does kind of work) I get the concepts to being organised. People make endless lists. So do I! I make lists and lists and then I find the list 6 months later. Oops. In terms of lifetips and lifehacks I have the internet at my finger tips – there’s so much advice to follow, and a bit like some people and weight management – I’ve tried it all and being told by another person that I need to turn up on time for meetings and ‘get organised’ is a moment of compounding shame and extreme frustration. Frustration that, unlike Hades, I have to tamp down on.

I don’t need the tips.

 

So what is changing? Learning to rely on other people – a big part of being a line manager, and a big part of getting help when it comes to mental health issues. We expend so much energy on being strong and doing it alone – whether that’s work issues or just trying to do the basic tasks of being an adult. And that isn’t something that might just apply to someone diagnosed with ADHD (after all it applies to me!)  I managed to reach out earlier this year and am now going through the process of getting help. Which of course culminated in me getting my assessment the same day as my Dad’s heart surgery.

Stitch is my spirit animal

Worried about my Dad. Terrified I’m going to be told I’m wasting the time of the ADHD clinic I’m going to. Trepidation about dealing with medication and titration if I get a positive diagnosis. Scared of not getting the diagnosis and being stuck in a whirlwind of workshops for anxiety and depression for the rest of my life. Outwardly my life looks fine. I have a great job, friends that I see when I can, a great relationship. I’m not failing at life, by most standards, and there are commonly times when I am happy. But I live in constant fear that it will all go wrong. Again – maybe most people do! Maybe this is all in my head, but I’m tired of it all being in my head, so here it is in word vomit form.

Everything’s FINE! FINE I …wait

I don’t want that to happen, so…asking for help.

Also, just for context – my inability to focus on things, lose stuff, zone out, and various other behaviours/secondary symptoms have gone on since I was very young. Regardless of whether I do get a diagnosis, these are not new problems for me. Let’s just say that life going well finally allows me to see the true extent of my problems with less of the ‘I am shit and crap at everything’ type of mental dialogue out-of-the-way.

Strategies for being me

So what does work? What am I actually doing? I started typing this out and then realised it could be an individual post. The individual things I do really centre in 5 main strategies

  • Make it easier to do the thing
  • Contextuality
  • Unified + Everywhere
  • Kindness
  • Consistency

Essentially, I’m making it up as I go along and my strategies are bespoke to me. It’s taken me 32 years to get here, and although I research a lot, I tend to do things my own way and at my own pace. Diagnosis or not, I’ve found some methods that really help and that’s a positive thing. I’ve lost so much weight and achieved so much in my personal and professional life over the last 5 years – I’m having to revisit who I am, and what my voice is. I’m not an angry, depressed, feminist gamer any more. I am a distracted happy art history student, girlfriend, daughter, friend, with a rich internal world that can be difficult to govern or communicate to others. That starts with true self-appreciation, and ends with happiness that is much more concrete. If a little….odd.

Melissa McCarthy’s flying chops.

Now I just need to get through tomorrow without comedic stories.

 

Future posts – expanding on the strategies above, day-to-day tips and tricks for being me, how my clinical assessment went, and probably some musings on physicality. I also need a new byline for the blog!

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