ADD-ing new perspectives

My daughter is sailing rather gracefully through her pregnancy — well, as gracefully as one can when they have reached the “beached whale” stage that is the third trimester.
And yet, as with many pregnant women, she is experiencing some “third trimester brain rot”, that intermittent or semi-chronic reduction in frontal-lobe functioning.  Meaning:

  • forgetting important things you meant to do
  • not packing things you meant to take with you somewhere
  • getting sidetracked and forgetting what you were doing a few minutes ago
  • moments of being adrift when you lose track of what you were about to do
  • dysnomic moments of losing words or names you normally have on the tip of your tongue
  • being spectacular at some higher cognitive facitilities (“Look at this great post-colonialist literary critique I just wrote!”) and then realising that you suddenly can’t remember how to do something really simple (“Why are my pants pockets wrong? Oh, my pants are on backwards.”)

I’ve yet to read why this happens, aside from sleep issues or “It’s The Hormones”, that generic disclaimer for all things annoying during pregnancy (or indeed, between menarche and menopause).
The good news is that the brain fog isn’t permanent.  I reassured her that “third trimester brain rot” usually starts to go away after the baby sleeps through the night.  She looked at me suspiciously; surely “third trimester brain rot” should go away after the baby is born?  But then I reminded her about the chronic sleep deprivation that is nursing a baby every two hours.  (Were it not a normal part of human development, such sleep deprivation would surely be outlawed under the Geneva Convention.)
Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s finishing up her college senior capstone project, and it would really be useful to get a solid night’s sleep, or to wake up from a long night’s sleep feeling more rested, or to be able to schlep all those literary refs around campus more easily, or to not spend 33.3% of her life preoccupied with peeing. But, there it is.
On the other hand, we have had some bonding moments that go beyond shared maternity.  One day she was complaining about the general forgetfulness and fogginess, and I pointed out, “Hey, now you know what it’s like for someone with ADD.”
“Omigosh, I couldn’t stand it,” she replied, dismayed at the idea of being permanently stuck in such a state.
“But the thing is,” I explained (somewhat defensively) “when you have ADD or ADHD, that’s what it’s always been like.  That’s what you’re used to.”  The point being that one doesn’t feel the same sense of loss when it’s a life-long condition, compared to a late-onset disability.
And despite the obvious impairments, there are some positive aspects to AD/HD, due to the different functioning patterns of the brain.  There’s the hyperfocus, abilities to make different associative and intuitive leaps, and often a visual thinking style that lends to a variety of design strengths.
Having done through a few re-iterations of this conversation, there seems to be less of an “Oh noes!” reaction, and more of an appreciation of the chronic difficulties that I and other people with ADD or ADHD face.  Not only that, but I think the reasons for some of my demands for structure and routines that I developed as she and her brother were young, are becoming more apparent to her.
Maybe there are just some “mom-things” that one doesn’t appreciate in quite the same way until becoming a parent.
On the other hand, there are still a lot of things I do that bug her, and we must ever keep re-negotiating our relationship, especially as we continue to live in the same house, but with changing roles.

For the first time in 28 years

I have not bought a Valentine’s present for my husband. I am divorcing him.
Disabilities can change how the processes of falling in love, joining, living together, loving together, and separating happen.
For most disabled people, their disabilities affect how others perceive them as even being interested or capable to find love or sex. (WTF?!)
For many disabled people, their disabilities can even change whether or not others afford them even the opportunities to find love or sex. (Again, WTF?!)
Although my husband and I both have disabilities that have changed how we are employed, communicate with each other and others, parent our children, or even sleep together (literally and figuratively), the divorce had nothing to do with our disabilities.  It’s just about the usual sorts of moral failings that can lead to divorce (even after the sensible year of counselling to assay changes).
Because in the end, love and sex do not happen because people are able or disabled.  They happen because all people are people.  And when love and sex quit, they happen because all people are people.  Just people.  Like everyone else.

This post is (slightly belated) part of Dave Hingsburger’s “Sexy Bloggers” blog carnival on disabilities and love/sexuality, over at his blog, Chewing the Fat.

Getting permission

The last time I taught one of my gardening classes, I ran into an interesting intersection of personal change, horticulture, and pedagogy.
At the end of the sessions, the students have (optional) evaluation forms to fill out about the class and instructor. On the front is a ranking various qualities of the facility, the topic, the instructor and so on, and the back has open-ended questions about what you liked best, suggestions for improvement, other courses and what-not. These review forms are very helpful to both myself and the college.
During the last class, under the “what you liked best” section, I got a comment that I’ve never had in 15 years. Usually the positive remarks are about the handouts, the photographs, my sense of humor, and willingness to answer questions. But today one of the evaluations had minimal responses, aside from this comment: Continue reading Getting permission

It's a Real Pain

Bath time. I steady my balance by holding the sides of the tub, and ease myself into the hot water. There I play “What’s My Bruise”, trying to figure out how I acquired all the motley souvenirs. There’s a large turquoise blodge shaped like Antarctica on the top of my right foot, a constellation of dark purple marks on my left knee, several random fading-green spots on my forearms, various dull plum-coloured dings on my thighs and calves, and a deep tissue olive-green zone the covers most of the fleshy area between my left thumb and the back of my hand. As usual, I have no idea how or when these happened. I bruise easily, and between my joint hypermobility and crappy proprioception I’m always bumping into things. There’s nothing to do about the bruises, but I monitor them to make sure that things do heal up and disappear within a couple of weeks (my mother had diabetes), and to watch for infections (like the ingrown toenail cellulitis for which I just finished a round of antibiotics). And so it goes.
Unless you have a rare CIP mutation (Cogenital Insensitivity to Pain), you’re familiar with aches. We’ve all experienced the ordinary headache, the run-of-the-mill bruised limb, the annoying paper cut. These “owie-boo-boos” are annoying and ephemeral. Many people experience severe but thankfully brief* pain with childbirth or traumatic events such as broken bones or appendicitis. Yet none of them begin to describe the issues faced by those with chronic pain problems such as arthritis or TMJ, or the re-occurring severe pain of migraines.
We tend to view pain as strictly a physical problem, treated with various analgesics and/or physiotherapies. You hurt, you take treatment, the pain goes away, your wound heals, the event stops. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and if it doesn’t, then you’re not doing it right. We even have child-birth classes to teach people the “right way” to have pain (yes, I say “people” because their partners are there to learn how to reinforce the appropriate responses during L&D).
But chronic and re-occurring severe pains don’t follow that socio-medical model. Continue reading It's a Real Pain

The Making of a Geek

Well, I’ve spent the past couple days crashed abed. After dragging myself to work today, I’m still not in top form. Basically, my brain-pan is full of snot, so I’m certainly not up to a great deal of psychoeducational analysis about much of anything. But until the green elixir kicks in (so I can get some sleep), I’ll natter away about how I got to be such a geek.
The original outlook wasn’t promising. In fact, I was quite the disappointment to my father for not being a chess whiz, and to my mother for getting poor marks in nearly all my subjects. The maths particularly eluded me — I was 13 before I had a firm grip on my multiplication tables — which for reasons that still escape me, led people to decide that in secondary school I should take a year of Bookkeeping as preparation for future employment.
However, I did better with a variety of hands-on pursuits, Continue reading The Making of a Geek

Booster Pack

Sometimes you just get so run down that you can’t even remember what-for you were trying to find your get-up-and-go. You’ve been so engulfed in the Papierkrieg, so overwhelmed by the endless supplies of idiots that fill the world, and so repeatedly halted by your own internal difficulties that trying to find yet another work-around is too much to ask. On days like that, there isn’t enough chocolate, caffeine or ale to recharge the spirit.
So I like to collect quotes. Although I’ve looked through a few quote books, I’ve found them generally uninspiring. I believe that quotes should have a gritty, piercing quality to them, rather than being merely clever turns of phrase, or blandly “morally uplifting”. I have quite the motley collection on a number of topics, and not surprisingly, they’re not the kinds of categories or quotes that Mr Famous’ Big Book of Quotations is likely to contain.
In the US, Chinese restaurants often bring with your dinner bill some fortune cookies (instead of mints). These are twice-folded crispy cookies with a small paper “fortune” (trite bits of wisdom or predictions) inside. Here’s to hoping that a few of the goodies from my quote box serve you better than those insipid cookies!
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
~Audre Lorde
“You may be a geek, you may have geek written all over you; you should aim to be one geek they’ll never forget. Don’t aim to be civilized. Don’t hope that straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell with them; they put you here. You should fully realize what society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don’t do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it.”
~Bruce Sterling Continue reading Booster Pack

Fraud

I don’t belong here. Maybe I should have applied at a different department; Professor N was just being nice to write me a letter of recommendation. I don’t even know what those rec letters said; what if they were just so much “social noise” and I’m not really cut out for graduate school?
I am not getting these party jokes at all. Are they inside jokes? Are they related to people’s research? Is it a department joke? Just smile and move along…
I’ll never be able to cope with all this stuff. Omigod, they’ve added so much stuff to animal biology since I studied it years ago. I can’t believe I just got a B grade in biochemistry without knowing all these details.
How come everyone else seems to know what’s going on? Did I miss something on Orientation Day? Just act sharp and keep your mouth shut; hopefully somebody will mention something.
There’s too many people here to remember! But they all know each other. Just smile and ask “How’s it going”; maybe some clue will be mentioned.
My advisor says I ask too many questions. I thought he was there to advise me?
Oh no! How will I make it through four semesters of statistics? I’ve always been terrible at the maths. That A in Calculus wasn’t normal for me; we just had a really good teacher. I can’t hardly do these life table calculations without getting numbers turned around!
I feel like such a fake. I was just lucky. That was just an isolated event — it won’t happen again.

“You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself, and how little I deserve it.”
~Reg Smythe

It’s not just me. This is what we call “Imposter Syndrome”. Often mentioned in the context of gifted individuals, and high-achieving women, it’s also seen in quite a different population. Continue reading Fraud

The Privilege of Being Clouted By Cabbage

Yesterday I went to the grocery store.
I wandered up and down the aisles, repeating a few aisles in my (typically ADHD-forgetful) journey to fetch the items on my list (and I still forgot a couple of items, despite using a list). I selected various pieces of produce and only had one head of cabbage leap from its cruciferous ziggurat to hurl itself at my feet. (I was examining a pineapple at the time – what is it with kamikaze produce?) I paid for my groceries, uneasily navigating volleys of largely meaningless chit-chat from an exuberantly loquacious checker. I loaded the bags of groceries into my vehicle, and drove home. Aren’t you thrilled.
Doing all that was possible because I am privileged to do so.
Privilege means Continue reading The Privilege of Being Clouted By Cabbage

Random Thoughts From the Tub

“If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.”
~Albert Camus

Random thoughts from the tub (life, the universe, and everything):
Life ain’t fair.
No generation has ever created the world it grew up in.
Every generation has been bequeathed a screwed-up world.
Complaining about that is just so much spitting into the wind.
It’s not what you get,
but what you do with it, that matters.
Some of our limitations are real and physical.
Some of our limitations are imposed by what others say we “can” or “ought to” be able to do,
and therefore are what we think we “can” or “ought to” be able to do.
Some people are born with riches of financial comfort or talent, and squander them.
Others are born with absolutely shitty circumstances,
but make more out of themselves than anyone could rightly expect them to.
People are amazing.
Life is hard.
We accept that there are those things that we cannot change.
We also take responsibility for our own actions.
We are blessed and cursed with the freedom,
for all that we choose to do in life.
If you refuse to accept responsibility for what you do,
you are lying to yourself.
If you refuse to see your freedom,
you are lying to yourself.
Being stuck and “not making decisions”
is really a kind of decision in itself.
Amazingly, being sad and afraid is not giving up.
In truth, it is a position of potential power,
once you cease the lies to yourself.
Life is glorious.
Living creates hope.
Regrets gnaw away that hope.
Life is too short for regrets, for might-have-been’s.
Examine experience, learn from it, choose new actions.
You are responsible for what you do.
You cannot make others happy,
Cannot make everyone believe you,
Cannot make everyone accept you,
Cannot make everyone like you.
Never could, never will.
Move on in life.
Happiness is something you make.
It does not come from what others do.
No one else is responsible for the way you feel.
Your feelings arise from your opinions and positions on events.
This is why different people can have different reactions to the same events.
If you change those opinions and positions,
You can change the feelings that result from events.
We cannot change the past,
but we can change how we react to it.
History is not destiny.
Love is like happiness.
It comes from inside you.
We love people for who they are,
not for who we want them to be.
We accept them for who they are;
this is the love.
One must have love to give love.
One must accept their self for who they are, to have that love.
People with healthy hearts are attracted to others with healthy hearts.
The love between them gives space within their togetherness,
and room for aloneness without loneliness.
To love one person does not diminish the love for another.
Love is expansive.
Love is a resource that is too little seen,
but is actually in infinite supply.
People are amazing.
Life is glorious.