Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fix the Brain or Fix the Environment?

During my usual morning "creative convolutions" (actually, while preparing breakfast), I got to thinking a bit more about how we-- as humans; as a society-- deal with those who don't fit the prescribed norm of... normal.

I should preface this by saying that I have never made any secret of the fact that I have a fairly strong dislike for pharmeceutical interventions in people's lives except when it is completely evident and clear that they are inhibited from enjoying a decent quality of life. Even then, I believe pharmaceuticals are best used to create a "bridge of sanity" we can temporarily use while we establish a new way of life that allows us to become function without meds.

Why do I feel this way?

Well, there's a long list... so I'll just stick to a couple of main points.

Here is the west, we tend to "treat" conditions rather than heal people. That is, we throw medication at symptoms to get rid of them, and then pretend that people are "well" because they are now "functional" and yet? Nothing has actually been done to assess and address the underlying causes responsible for the issue.

My biggest issue, however, is that most pharmaceuticals and other courses of treatment are are centered around a rather mechanistic paradigm of "adjusting people to suit their environment," rather than adjusting the environment to suit people.

Think about it, for a moment:

When we decide to medicate Bob, what are we really doing? It's a pretty good bet that the underlying idea is "How can be make Bob 'normal' so he can fit into society?"

Similarly, when we medicate kids with ADHD, what we are (in many-- or most-- cases) really doing is trying to "normalize" them so they will fit into a school system where they get to learn to take "standardized" tests that serve little more purpose than to churn out a bunch of trained monkeys incapable of engaging in independent critical thought. From where I am sitting... there's a disturbing element of disrespect for individuality and differences inherent within such an approach.

Naturally, there's a whole flock of doctors, psychologists and ADHD "experts" ready to crucify me for holding such beliefs... and they will viciously defend themselves.

To be honest, I can't blame doctors as they are the product of a medical and psychological establishment that teaches that "medical success" walks hand in hand with healthy patients being compliant with the defined "norms" of the moment.

It all makes me think of that rather famous quote by thinker and author Jiddu Krishnamurti:

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

Isn't that what we are promoting, here? Or at least some variation thereof?

Again, don't get me wrong-- I believe medications have their place, and they can be part of the solution. But they are not THE solution. And unless I am out there endangering myself or pulling the ears off baby bunnies, am I not better off creating an environment that suits me, rather than trying to shoehorn myself into a box labeled "normal," in order to fit the environment?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Unfinished Projects and Angry Intolerance

Maybe it's just part and parcel of being human that many people walk through life with a deep rooted sense of fear and dis-ease that primarily bubbles to the surface whenever they are faced with people, ideas, concepts and situations that are "not like them."

I've spent a good 30 years in the self-development, psychology and consciousness "industries" and there often seems to be this subtle subtext of "exclusion" in many places... ostensibly created in the spirit of healing.

It's hard to explain, but I experience this in many places. People (especially "doctors") specializing in ADHD are often prejudiced against those who opt for "natural management" of their symptoms... and seem outright threatened if those choosing that natural path are actually succeeding.

In the consciousness field, there's a deep rooted suspicion of those who come "into realization" without first suffering for twenty years. They are not to be "taken seriously" because they saw fit to jump out of the "fires of pain" quickly, rather than sit and burn for decades. It's almost like there is a "nobility" in pain.

In the field of spirituality, there are prejudices against those who don't eschew all things material in the pursuit of a spiritual path. It's almost shades of the old "self-flagellation with birch branches" from times of old.

It's probably just part of being human, as I said.

What I find ironic is that most of these fields want to "welcome" you, an help you "heal," but it turns out that newcomers (or even late comers) are only truly welcome if they neatly fit into a bunch of neat and tidy boxes... or are willing to take them on.

For example, I am also a "Highly Sensitive Person" (or HSP) but in many cases I have been "rejected" because I don't fit a certain stereotypical mold... and than I have the "gall" to speak up and state that there are multiple ways sensitivities and traits can manifest.

I find this sort of baffling-- on an overall scale-- because I am failing to "get" how my mere existence can be a perceived "threat" to someone whose perception is different from mine.

I mean, if I come across someone who experiences ADHD differently from me, and manages their life differently from me... I don't experience that as any kind of threat to my belief system... if anything, I might learn something from them that can improve my own life. I don't quite understand this type of intellectual myopia.

As always, this very post is an example of how ADHD sometimes rules my life. I actually came here to write about something completely different... and got sidetracked. In fact, I was going to write on a different blog altogether-- so I have changed directions three time already. Yes, there are times when I genuinely wish I could have an idea and follow a train of thought from conceptualization to final outcome, without having to do "47 things" in between. But on the whole I do OK, and manage to fumble my way through life on my own terms.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah... angry intolerance. I don't get it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

ADHD and Randomness in my Brain

I don't remember where or when it was that I read a blog post by someone who coined the phrase "Too Many Interests Syndrome." All I remember is that I read those words and immediately related to them.

Seems like I have always had "too many interests," but none (or very, very few) of those interests have actually been interesting enough to hold my attention for any period of time. As such, I have struggled immensely to develop any level of "expertise" at anything.

This morning I was-- as I often am-- thinking about "things to write about" while I was cooking breakfast. It's that thing I have mentioned before, that I call "Bacon Creativity."

Anyway, as I was jotting down several quite interesting and insightful ideas for articles, I got to thinking about the small ocean of loose scraps of paper floating around on my desk... all of them with various "ideas for articles" and "ideas for blog posts" and even "ideas for web sites." Most of the time, they just "sit there," and never get developed into anything.

On one hand, it makes me feel a little bit sad because there actually some very worthy ideas there. On the other hand, I feel a certain sense of peace at knowing that I did take the time to develop these ideas far enough to put them on scraps of paper... and by the mere fact that they have been written down, I gain the "therapeutic benefit" of no longer needing to store them inside my head. Because that's what happens to me, with ideas: If I don't take some kind of "action" on them, they stay inside my head, dancing around and taking up valuable space in parts of my brain I really need to use to deal with the daily business of Earning A Living™.

Somewhere in the middle of my flurry of committing ideas to scraps of paper-- while simultaneously making sure that the bacon didn't burn-- I got to think about my college daze.

In a sense, college was no different from my life now.

My ADHD was just as evident back then (early 1980s), even though I had no idea what "ADHD" was. nor that I was having any kind of "problem."

I mean, after all, I got a degree, right? And I even graduated with a 3.8 GPA. You can't "do that," if your brain is malfunctioning, right? Right?

Of course, the "dirty little secret" underlying that very fine college degree from a major university is that (a) it took me five years to graduate and I had 180+ credit hours at a school where most undergraduate degrees required 120-128 credit hours... and (b) I didn't actually decide on a final major until the beginning of the semester in which I graduated.

Yes, I just said that...

After 4 1/2 years of taking an assortment of classes that (mostly) seemed "interesting" I went to see a Degree Advisor and we plugged my completed courses into probably 50 different degree programs to eventually determine that I was closest to a degree in Finance with a minor in English... and if I took three more course, I could graduate.

So I did.

Maybe more people go through college that way than I give them credit for... but it always feel like the Degree Advisor regarded me with a mixture of amusement and the sort of fear/disdain typically reserved for lepers.

Looking back a bit further... when I was a kid, I was no good at the whole "What do you want to do when you grow up?" game. I had no idea-- there were so MANY things. 18 years later-- armed with my freshly baked college degree-- I had no more idea of "what I wanted to do when I grow up" than when I was seven.

The only things I could come up with was "something enjoyable and meaningful."

Which is about as specific as saying someone is "nice" and that you like to "have fun" in your spare time.

Now-- at 55-- I am not really any closer to having become "specific." Most of my life has actually been very UN-specific.

What I have learned in the course of those years is the the more I have placed myself in positions of "doing what society thinks people should do" the more UN-happy I have been, and the more I have "walked my own very random path" the happier I have been.

But unfortunately, there has been a rub; a conundrum: The more I have followed my own path, the poorer I have been; the more I have followed society's path, the wealthier I have been.

Which suggests to me that there must be something terribly wrong with the way we "measure people" and their successes and accomplishments... what does it truly say about our world if "doing what you love" means you get to live on food stamps and doing something you don't like earns you a McMansion and a new Mercedes? Don't we have it completely backwards?

I realize that the whole "Capitalism vs. Contentment" discussion is far beyond the scope of this article... I am mostly interested in exploring the role ADHD has played (if any?) in my pursuit of a "random" life... and the potential "price tag" associated therewith. Is ADHD even "a thing?" I am also exploring the interconnectedness of being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) with ADHD... how the HSPs tendency to process and experience deeply may be part of what leads me to eternally study and analyze myself and how I operate in the world.

What do YOU think? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vignettes of Life Inside an ADHD Brain

So here I sit, getting ready to write something; nay, determined to write something.

What I sat down here to write... is actually about my experience of standing in the kitchen earlier, cooking breakfast. And while cooking, my brain slid into its typical "creative overdrive" and I actually "wrote" (inside my head) six full articles in the time it took to fry up some sausage for breakfast.

You see, I can never actually just sit down and write. I do all my best writing and brainstorming, while engaged in something other than writing and brainstorming.

I think scientists actually have a name for that. Non-parallel thinking? Divergent thinking?

I dunno, I have always called it "Bacon Creativity."

So here I sit, getting ready to write something... and now I notice a hair from my beard is irritating the corner of my right nostril... which reminds me that I should go trim my beard which is getting a bit shaggy.


So I abandon the writing and go off and trim my beard because... personal grooming, and shit.

But that's not the point. The reason I do it now is because I am well aware that if I stay in front of the computer long enough to write this, by the time I am done I will have forgotten all about the shaggy beard... and I will not remember again till I catch a glimpse of my reflection somewhere/sometime when I will have neither scissors nor mirror handy.

It's how my brain works. Maybe it looks chaotic, but I like to think I am working with this "thing," rather than against it.

But to get back to the start....

.... I stood in the kitchen, feverishly taking notes on small pieces of paper... writing down and outlining ideas for articles and blog posts. Even though that may sound like a distraction, dangerous or even nonsense-- it is actually a way of  making the most of my time... the ideas would be lost forever, if I didn't take time to write them down... as they happen.

That said... even as I stood there, writing down all these thoughts and feeling pretty good because they would not be lost (as they would have been in the "old days," before I gained a thorough understanding of my cognitive processes)... there was also an underlying sadness... a sadness at the knowing that even though I managed to "capture" these fleeting creative ideas, odds are the pieces of paper would never get further than to join their 100's of compadres living in a box on my desk.

And there's the rub. Sure, I have created a "system" that helps me not lose good writing (and other creative) ideas, but I almost never actually seem to have the time to sit down for a few contiguous hours to turn any one idea into an actual article.

To be honest, the fact that today is the 13th of January and I have actually managed to write and publish two complete articles during this young calendar year is a small miracle.

I have enough material to publish 500 articles in 2016.

If I didn't have to worry about "making a living," I'd probably write them. At least I like to tell myself that. Alas, I only get paid a few cents for writing... so it's unlikely that I will reach the end of 2016 with more than 10-12 articles written, and maybe 30-40 blog posts. Because I like electricity. And running water.

Actually, let's make that a small "focus experiment." I'll point back here in my 2017 New Year's post and we'll see how I did. I'll be curious to see if my prediction holds.

See how I just "digressed" again? I think the phrase-- often used by writers-- "But I digress" was coined by someone with chronic ADHD.

Of course, writing these  words was a sidetrack, in and of itself. Now I need to do some actual work...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Another Year... Filled With Distractions?

It's a fresh new year.

I have always tended to spend the first couple of weeks of any new year "taking inventory" of where I am in life and writing myself a series of "status updates." I suppose it is what I do, in lieu of focusing on so-called New Year's Resolutions.

There is something comforting (at least to me) about looking at "what was" and "what is" and examining "How I Am Doing."

I ponder the process and realize that the "comfort" I get from it comes in part from having this little island of "known" in my life... and because it allows me to give myself an occasional "cookie" for having done something pretty well in such a way that my eternal tendency to get distracted didn't completely derail some plan or project I was trying to work through.

Somebody-- who may or may not have been wise-- once said that our tendency to get distracted from our Present as much as anything is the result of not particularly liking that Present. It's more pleasant to go into some distraction from that Present so that's what we do. This would apply to all people, not just those of us living with ADHD.

Of course, the implication there is that we are unhappy with our "Present."

I have sat with that conundrum a number of times, because I definitely like my Present-- getting back to "taking inventory--" and am pretty happy about the life I have managed to create for myself.

But on deeper reflection, there are flies in the proverbial ointment.

Even though I totally like my present... hereunder the odd way I have managed to create multiple micro-businesses that earn income... my "dirty little secret" is that I don't like the way it feels like a draining, 24/7, balls-to-the-wall effort to do enough with those things (which I enjoy) that they can afford our household even the most basic of livings. Feeling like you have to constantly "be working," simply to live "from shut-off notice to shut-off notice" (the self-employed version of "paycheck-to-paycheck") is extraordinarily draining.

And for someone with ADHD... the temptation to UN-focus, and not merely do the human thing of tuning out the difficulties of the Present, but fall prey to ADHD distraction is huge. Almost insurmountable.

Of course, I may simply have unrealistic expectations about "what it takes" to make it, in life. Seems like half the world is struggling to make ends meet.

So anyway, in the process of taking inventory and looking at what 2016 might hold-- what I would like it to hold-- it would seem like I have done a pretty fair job of creating "systems" to help me be as efficient as possible while switching between tasks. Now the challenge just becomes about efficiency, or how to put in about the same amount of time and effort, to come out with an increase in revenues and income.

I'll have to get back with you on how that turns out!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Inattentive ADHD and "The Laziness Issue"

When I was in grade school, I was "pursued" by the words "Peter is a bright student, but he would do much better if only he applied himself."

I suppose there was a superficial truth to this. I was never a trouble maker, nor was I ever "that fidgety kid always bouncing off the walls." But I did frequently "drift off" during class, and I had a hell of a time concentrating on anything without "going to sleep."

At a different point in my young life I replied to my mother's lament about why I couldn't keep my room tidy with the words "Because I am basically a lazy person."

My mother scoffed and sternly told me "Nonsense! There are no lazy people in OUR family!!"

To those who live with the Inattentive version of ADHD, these anecdotes probably have a ring of familiarity to them.

For most of my adult life, I have contemplated "the laziness issue."

I have never been a very active person. That is to say, I have never been a "high energy" person. Don't get me wrong, when I was in my 20's I ran half-marathons and was extremely fit. At 55, I still go on 15-mile beach combing trips that last eight hours or more. But I do so slowly and methodically, not "energetically."

Maybe that seems paradoxical... but I would arrive at running events yawning and feeling sluggish-- then I'd "run like hell"-- and then I'd feel sluggish again. These days, I can be walking and be close to "asleep" at the same time.

The thing that continues to puzzle me is trying to figure out to what degree brain chemistry ("ADHD") lies behind feeling this way, and to what degree I am simply a "low impact" person, from nature's side.

If I am understanding this "condition" correctly, brain chemistry accounts for the part that makes it super hard for me to concentrate, and possibly for the part that makes me want to go to sleep-- at least if you also factor in the possibility of SCT.

However... I have never had much ambition. I have never really felt much drive to "go places" and "do things" with my life. Mostly, I've just wanted to be left alone and my "ambition" has historically amounted to precisely enough "drive" to support that desire without imposing myself on others.

At the risk of coming across as conceited and self-important, I am really good at a lot of different things, ranging from research psychology to business management to writing. I am highly educated-- both in the academic sense, as well as in the practical/experiential sense-- and have been offered a variety of "excellent opportunities" over the years. But I generally "just don't give a shit" and I am also UN-motivated by not wanting to work that hard.

An assortment of "Success Coaches" and "Life Purpose Experts" have insisted that I "just haven't found what I am passionate about, yet." Now in my mid-50's, I remain open to that as "truth" of some sort... but I am also skeptical. I'm not motivated by money, success, fame, wealth, popularity, power or any of those metrics humanity uses to "rank" itself. When I am completely honest with myself, I feel motivated by the opportunity to sit still and watch a blade of grass grow. Sincerely? If someone would pay me $20 an hour to sit and stare into space for 10 hours a day, I'd be delighted.

Not kidding.

On the surface, that may "sound delightful," to some people-- but once they've contemplated the deeper implications-- the idea of "being alone with yourself and your thoughts for ten hours a day" is terrifying. For me, it's sounds like something akin to Nirvana.

"You're just lying to yourself!" I've been told, a million times.

No. Not really.

But I digress... the point here is that I am trying to identify the exact intersection of Inattentive ADHD-- which I acknowledge is definitely "an issue" in my life-- and a natural inclination towards preferring to be a "stationary object."

It leads me to pondering whether I would come across as more active (or "less lazy") if I didn't live in the eternal brain fogs of LaLa Land, 24/7? Would I be more "ambitious" and inclined to "do things" if those didn't always feel like SO MUCH WORK!!??!! (Yes, I "shouted" those words...)

I don't really like "work."

It's a more complex issue than immediately meets the eye... since I am also an HSP, some of my reticence can be attributed to avoiding getting "overstimulated" by (what feels like) excessive input from my environment. But that's more of a "complication" than an underlying reason.

Last but not least... philosophically-- and politically/socially-- speaking, I lean towards a paradigm centered around "enough," rather than the greater cultural norm of "more." I have a strong (almost pathological) dislike of large organizations who rape the globe and its inhabitants in the name of "profit," as well as individuals who measure their "worth" in terms of material accumulation and power over others... rooted in the fear that they will not have "enough" no matter HOW much they have. So "activity" due to a compulsion to achieve things is not really relevant to me.

I mention this because it has nothing to do with neurochemistry.

As I keep making these verbal explorations, I feel like I am getting closer to some kind of truth... or "insight." Why do I care? Because it feels like "knowing" would offer me a measure of inner peace. And that does matter to me!

Then again, it's entirely possible that I just "think too much."

Friday, May 1, 2015

ADHD... and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo

In recent months, I have increasingly been considering the issue of "Sluggish Cognitive Tempo" as it relates to my life, and as it relates (or not) to the "Inattentive" variant of ADHD.

Feeling like I am a "slow thinker" has plagued me since I was quite young. I use the word "plagued" because my world changed around age nine when psych evaluations and IQ tests revealed that a seemingly "slow and dreamy" kid turned out to have an IQ in the 157-163 range... by most measures considered "genuis" level.

Science isn't quite sure where SCT "fits," as of now. The medical field leanings are that it is a separate "concentration deficit disorder."

For me, it makes sense... from the "sleepiness" and "brain fog" perspective I have experienced since I was quite small. And continue to experience, as an adult. As I have written many times here, I was never HYPERactive... if anything, I was HYPOactive... which is a core characteristic of SCT.

And it certainly helps explain the slowness vs. intelligence factor. I can manage and solve incredibly complex "systems thinking" problems, but only IF there is no time pressure.

In my case, the "brain soup" is further complicated by the fact that I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), which means factors like "easily overstimulated" and "immobilized by stressful situations" also become relevant.

What originally led me to looking at SCT was researching my strange "reflexes" and slow cognitive reactions.

Put in very ordinary terms... I arrive at a 4-stop intersection, and the part of "reaction time" that concerns itself with "seeing the scene" is super fast in me. However, the part of "reaction time" that concerns itself with "interpreting" what I am seeing (OK, this is a 4-way intersection. OK, no cars are coming. No cars means I can go. OK, go.) is extraordinarily slow (lowest 5%) in me.

That doesn't really "fit" any of the ADHD criteria... it's "something else." But I am not-- to use a blunt and socially incorrect word-- "stupid,"

These are just lines of thinking I am exploring,.. more to come.