Month: October 2014

A Laying Down of Arms

Another thing that has happened with this new phase of my treatment is that somehow, I have stopped fighting with myself. I think of this as a laying down of arms, because I have been so angry for so long. Author of Scattered Minds Dr Gabor Mate writes of a process of learning to live with ADD that includes the need for healing from years of guilt and frustration and shame. I hadn’t realised how angry I was until I stopped feeling that way. I have had a miraculously smooth ride so far, borne of the privilege to go to good schools and university that had an inclusive approach to education. And much more significantly, from having parents who only ever treated me like there were things right with me, not wrong with me. So I escaped, somehow, the battering that many people with ADD experience in a school system where you have to sit mutely at a desk from age 5 or 6, and achieve, achieve, achieve.

But that didn’t stop me from being angry with myself. Now I am detoxing from years of a very masochistic relationship to writing. if we were in a relationship, me and my writing, it would surely be characterised as abusive. Write on demand! write now and it had better be good! Why do you start so late! Why do you always produce this shit? why don’t you live up to your potential? This is a crash-and-burn style of writing, and I could only bring myself to do it at the last moment, drunk on no sleep and desperation, spit spit spit it out do it now.

And then cringe in shame at the outcome, handed in missing commas and some sense. And then the flagellation would start up again. Is it any wonder we were missing trust in this relationship? With the guidance of Julia Cameron’s free writing exercises and novel ideas like “artist dates” I have started to detox. I have started to talk to “my writer” as Cameron would say, and ask what it wants.

My writer wants no internet. My writer wants loving encouragement. My writer wants low stakes. My writer wants to go dancing often. My writer wants adventure – to write on trains, in art galleries, in sleazy cafes with interesting patrons. Now I am producing writing like other people wash dishes. Regular, and sometimes messy, and rather good.

This part of the process is so subtle its hard to describe. Living with ADD is not (just) about concentration and planning schedules. Much more than that, for me its been about this laying down of arms, calling off the fight. The peace of that is so sweet it makes me marvel every day.

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Presence of Mind

I never realised how literal that phrase could be.  To have “presence of mind.” Another one is “self possession” – to be, somehow, in possession of yourself. For the first time, over the last 6 weeks, I can say that I have a reliable stream of presence of mind.  Not that I have never been present before, but it was erratic to say the least.  i came across an old research diary written in Australia last year.  In it, I say despairingly “my thoughts are flying around like bats i can’t control.” Once again, I was at sea, in the library.  It made me so sad to see that because it reminded me how long this struggle has been, and from where I am now, I can see how futile it has been to fight for so long alone.  seeing that now makes me think that that person who wrote that needs help.

i have been taking Concerta for the last six weeks.  This was my “last resort”, borne of desperation when yet another draft came out muddled beyond recognition and was returned scratched all over with “track changes” comments that showed the entire thing would need to be rewritten. the despair was deep.  Imagine, knowing that you are bright as plum pudding, and knowing that you have a lot to say, and then it comes out as muddled mulch, or mulch with a few brilliant flashes.

So I thought I would take this lifeline that is a health system where i can afford to see a psychiatrist and psychologist and try medication in a way that I’ll be carefully monitored. So I have been taking Concerta for 6 weeks now, and the effects feel nothing short of miraculous. After a few days, i realised i could concentrate like never before. And think clearly. And structure information. I could “hear myself think” – maybe for the first time. It has meant that i am not scared to work anymore. And now I can hear myself think I remember how much I have done already. I realise that I love writing and I always have. And I love reading what other people have to say. And I love thinking about that, and then putting a spin on it in my own way. And that is all, but I mean all, that academic work is. So the next few months will be spent doing just that. Hungrily, intensively. Reading and writing and reading and at the end I’ll have something they call a thesis. My life has changed, and the fight is over. I have presence of mind.

With this new presence, I feel like my shape can get clearer to other people as well. At least to people in my work. This is who I am. This is what I am arguing for. This is where I stand. That presence can be threatening, maybe. I am not anymore vague and amenable. I have thoughts and arguments and I am Up to Something with an ambition I could never before admit.

I dunno what this ambition is exactly. It certainly is not becoming a professor or High Up for the sake of prestige or some such rot (I know many who do that for other reasons, don’t get me wrong). My ambition is to write, to share my ideas with people. My ambition is to make art (in a very wide sense of that term) and my ambition is to be the kind of teacher who gives you a whiff that the way you think is beautiful and you are too and that you are Up to Something in your own way.