It took 30 years for me to be diagnosed with ADD. How did it take that long? How did it miss 10 years in a schoolroom, an undergraduate degree, an MA, countless jobs…
Maybe because my parents saw my dreaminess as evidence of an imaginative nature. Because they saw my chaotic disorganisation and losing of keys as eccentricity (prized in our family) rather than pathology. Or maybe, as one psychologist notes, because girls are so much more rarely diagnosed with ADD being usually much more dreamy that hyper, pleasing than trouble-making and therefore less noticeable to the teacher’s eye.
Or maybe because this is the first time that I have tried to do a PhD, this unique mindfuck of four years with no structure and the end goal of “an original contribution to knowledge.”
A friend of mine in Cape Town remarked sadly “does anyone escape their PhD without being diagnosed psychoactive drugs?” I don’t know.
What does it mean to have an ADD mind? Beyond the checklist of “symptoms”at the doctor’s office. What does it mean to live in my mind?
One thing it means is that I need action. My body needs movement like water. When I am moving, dancing, to good music or bad but anything loud I feel so free like my brain is cavorting. Thoughts flicker around (like the idea to write this article) but then disperse playfully. I am blanked. When I don’t move, I feel the consequences very quickly. Nagging thoughts, sluggishness, looping anxiety going over the same ground like picking a scab. And yet my life is built around thinking, not moving. Sitting in front of a computer, reading, typing. Sometimes after a day of work in Utrecht as I return home I feel fossilised. And i see that staring back at me in the eyes of the commuters around me.
I have been described Ritalin to try by a psychiatrist who was either chronically awkward or just creepy. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, and assuming the former. He gave me 5 mgs to take every 3-4 hours, increasing to double that if necessary. The first time I tried it I got a headache and felt edgy, like I was at a party coming off bad drugs and noticing for the first time the shit strewn around on the floor. My lips tingled and suddenly I felt far away from Annelli, mentally and physically. Far away from the world outside.
I didn’t take it again but I will, I will persist and see if after a while the edginess wears off, and it helps. And increase the dose if needs be.
And at the same time, I am thinking what if I went the other way and instead of resisted this mind I went with it and heeded its call to move. If I took gym like you would take medicine, dosing on treadmills and yoga-cat-cows, salsa-ing to frenetic Zumba beats, lifting weights with the prowling men in the iron forest of the of the gym, going danhcing on the weekends as religion, soaking in a sweet beer numbness.