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.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Focusing... by UN-focusing

Sometimes, the only way I can hope to stay focused is by remaining UN-focused.

I have a really busy day ahead of me-- there is basically "too much stuff" that needs to be done today, and getting it all done will require a lot of focus.

When you live with ADHD Inattentive, a funny thing happens. Well... at least a funny thing happens to me. When I start really concentrating on something, I can feel my brain start to shut down, within about 5-10 minutes... instead of getting a neurotransmitter "boost" to help me get a lot done, my brain gets the "message" that I clearly haven't slept in five days, and I should take a nap... immediately.

As the outcome of a lot of experimentation over the past 20 years, I have managed to build a semi-functional life around the process of "chunking small." It's not exactly the same interpretation as that term as used in NLP, but it basically means that if I make the discrete tasks I attempt small enough, I can "fool" my brain by being finished with any given task that needs doing, before I get chemical messages to go to sleep.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I also openly allow "distractions" and-- in fact-- try to work with them to my benefit, rather than making them "bad" and trying to resist them.

For example, looking at today's work load... I can't possibly hope to "list 88 items on eBay," but I might just be able to "list ONE item on eBay," 88 times. Maybe that sounds like the same thing, but I can assure you it is not, when you live inside this body and brain. In the pursuit of today's work, it is also likely that I will "allow" myself to sidetrack, at least 40-50 times... for a minute or two, segueing into some other very small task.

To many an outsider, this probably all sounds like an excuse to put a fancy label on simple procrastination. So be it. Maybe procrastination is the "ugly stepchild" (of sorts) of ADHD.

I am less concerned with "labels" than I am with functional living. And in my world, that means non-pharmaceutical functional living.

I have learned to work with "distractions" as part of a functional routine. I even wrote this article (hand written, on bits of paper) while standing in the kitchen, feeding the dog her breakfast and waiting for my toast to finish toasting. It "works" because it allows my brain to "roam" and stay unfocused, which means I can avoid the dreaded "brain sleep" that invariably seems to accompany any attempts I make to concentrate and focus on something.

Which leaves the question of what I can find to distract myself with, while typing out these words for publication. These words, which started as a "distraction" from something else I was thinking about doing...