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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