I went to a psychiatrist last Friday. As a matter of protocol, I had to fill out a suicide questionnaire. Which felt weird. I mean, if you’re feeling suicidal (which I’m not), I can think of few things more soul-crushing than filling out paperwork. Especially poorly worded paperwork that treats sensitive, personal questions with all the delicacy of a sledge hammer.
Q: Do you really want to die?
No, I don’t really want to die. I only kinda wanna die. Indeed, rather than dying, I’d much prefer filling out paperwork for the rest of my life!
Q: Do you ever experience feelings of hopelessness?
Why, yes. Now that you mention it, there is one very particular occasion where I experience massive feelings of hopelessness: while answering stupid questions.
Q: What would your mother say about your smartass answers? Well, Nurse Ratched…
Just kidding. That last one was not a real question.
Maybe this is totally Elitist Writer of me, but is it too much to ask that suicide questionnaires exercise a little more eloquence in matters of tone? And also, how about not giving me how-to ideas? This next question really DID appear on the suicide questionnaire:
Q: Do you have a suicide plan?
Oh! I need a plan? No wonder I suck at killing myself–I’m an ENFP! We don’t make plans. Thanks for the tip, Suicide Questionnaire.
Against all odds, I completed the necessary paperwork without fleeing the building screaming at the top of my lungs.
Actually, I am nowhere near wanting to kill myself. The only thing I want to kill is my ADD.
I’m finally taking it seriously–after only 35 years.
For one thing, when I was growing up, we didn’t believe in ADD. We did, however, believe in character defects. I was a sinful procrastinator, daydreamer, tangent-taker–oh! look! unicorns! I was “unfaithful” in properly completing my chores. I was “inconsistent” and “all over the place.” I had “flashes of brilliance” but bad follow-through. Furthermore, I was intentionally inflicting my character defects on other people.
I believed this about myself. And so I created elaborate coping mechanisms. Since I knew I was prone to being late, I used all kinds of timers to make sure I arrived early. I am now consistently punctual if only because I see tardiness as a huge character defect.
Guess what? Guilt works! Shaming works! Voila! And mwah-ha-ha.
Through the years I’ve used planners, to-do lists, calendars, timers and punitive consequences to bring my errant, scatterbrain into line.
“I expend tremendous amounts of energy to execute tasks that come easily for other people,” I explained to the psychiatrist once I was seated in her very comfortable, calming office.
“Take, for example, going to the grocery store,” I continued. “That task completely overwhelms me. I go in looking for carrots and end up getting all distracted by oooooh! what kind of mayonnaise is this?”
Unless I enter the grocery store armed with an iron-clad shopping list, I am utterly distracted, overwhelmed and rendered useless. This is why my husband does most of the grocery shopping.
There are other things, too. I don’t see mess. I literally don’t see it unless someone points it out to me. The other day I cut a bunch of roses and put them next to the sink. Ooooh! So pretty! All I saw was this:
But take a wider shot. What other people see is this:
I honestly didn’t see the dirty dishes until I snapped the picture. I mean, part of this is being an ENFP—I tend to prioritize picking flowers over washing dishes anyway. But this is only exacerbated by my ADD which renders the dirty dishes invisible. Also, the laundry is invisible. And so is the layer of dust on the furniture. You see how this is going?
I am very familiar with people reminding me (through clenched teeth) that I have, once again, forgotten something.
I leave drawers open. My desktop is a scattered mess. Right now, a strand of used dental floss is sitting next to me. I know it’s mine but I don’t know how it got there. I suck at emails, returning phone calls and writing thank you notes. Usually, I reply in my head and then totally forget that I haven’t done it in real life.
I used to think I had a major character deficit. Like maybe I was lazy and doing all these things on purpose and if I just tried harder I could stay on task like everyone else. I have overcompensated and struggled to smash my errant brain into being orderly, detail-oriented and analytical. I have berated myself for making my friends feel like I didn’t care about them. I have hated myself for not being a Good Wife who keeps up with things.
On the other hand, I can hyperfocus and organize on a micro scale. Also, I have this thing with words. I can write (but only in small chunks). Hence, blogging.
The point is, I live with a near constant state of static in my brain. I have tried terribly hard to manage it on my own.
But I’m tired now. I’m ready to ask for help.
Next week, I’ll be starting a similar medication my son with ADD is using. It worked miracles for him. If it only works partially for me, I’ll consider that a slamming success.