Sunday, August 30, 2015

How my ADHD ruins my social life

So I know that the stereotype of someone with ADHD goes something like this:

NonADHDer: Something really exciting happened to me recently. I was walking down--
ADHDer: Oooo! It's a squirrel!

Just impulsivity and distractibility are the well known cornerstones of ADHD, but I don't think people realize just how many aspects of one's social skills are effected by ADHD. In some severe cases people can be misdiagnosed as being Autistic if the clinician is not familiar enough with how to tease them apart.

Now, I don't think I am on that level, but I am definitely quite frequently frustrated with myself, my apparent lack of social skills, and the impact this has on my life. Here's a few examples:

- One thing people don't realize is that when you have ADHD, you can also get hyper focused on a task or topic. When something exciting or stressful happens this can look like someone who is babbling on and on about a topic to every person they see until the excitement dies down a bit. This ends up looking like you care nothing about what other people have to say.

- On that note, hyper focused means it's also hard to be mentally flexible and change topics. A shift in topic can be frustrating if you haven't finished telling your story, but it also means you may completely forget what you were talking about if you were interrupted mid way (and getting it back is pretty much impossible). It's also possible to interrupt yourself if a new thought pops into your mind. This is extra frustrating if it keeps happening. It makes you look/feel stupid and flighty.

- To not forget what you want to say in response to someone else's contribution to the conversation you either need to stop paying attention to what they're saying to hold on to your own thought or interrupt them to say your piece. Sometimes this can turn people off and it ends up looking like you are monopolizing the conversation. Both of these things are obviously rude, but it's a hard balance to have when you want to look like you're invested in what the person is saying.

- Putting a few of these points together, when you have something you need to say (whether important or not) sometimes social niceties can take a backseat. You need to say what you need to say before you can focus on others comfortably and once again that ends up looking like you don't care since you haven't said things like "how was your day? how's your mom?" etc. when you actually do care, you just 1. forget to ask (see bullet above) or 2. run out of time and cannot ask. I force myself to not talk during whole outings with friends to show that I do care and am interested in their lives which has definitely led to me leaving out truly important stuff they should know about (oh hey, my grandma died last week). Which, in turn, looks like they're not important enough in my life to know about stuff that is actually important.

- Going back to the stereotype mentioned above, it's REALLY hard to hide your lack of disinterest. Even when you want to pay attention your mind is finding other much more interesting things to think about. This is something that everyone suffers from, but someone without ADHD can force themselves to pay attention better while someone with ADHD will miss 99% of what you're talking about while taking a mental trip to the moon. You end up looking selfish after rattling on about nothing for 20 minutes. And this only gets worse when you're tired.

- Even when you are interested in what the person says if you have a to-do list running around in your head like a hamster on its wheel, paying attention is just not going to happen. Trying to multitask to calm the jets down ends up looking rude because you may simply walk away in the middle of a conversation. It's also possible to forget that person was talking to you or even in the room at all.

 - Other fun stuff based on some of the things mentioned above: not being able to focus on a conversation because you can't let go a detail that's bothering you (like toys on the ground in my supervisor's office, or that booger that's half hanging out of someone's nose, or the spider crawling on the wall), not being able to remember words you want to use, bringing up really awkward things you think fit into a conversation but that was so 10 minutes ago, completely ignoring people because you're so focused on other things you didn't realize someone new was talking to/standing near you.

For all of these reasons it can also be hard to be friends with a group of people as you now have to balance all of this stuff with many people in one setting. Or try to remember to be in contact with such a large number of people on a regular basis. I know personally I'm shit with keeping in contact with friends. Not because I don't care about them, but because I get too focused on life that I forget they exist. In today's society people expect a lot of reciprocity and it's pretty easy to fall by the wayside as a friend if one person in that relationship does not call/text/email/etc. on a regular basis.

I think for me the hardest part about all of this is I know these things are happening and can often see it's happening, but as mentioned above, sometimes it's not possible to actively change things when I'm trying to balance my part of the conversation with others' and trying to remember the social rules I should be but am not following. That's too many things to focus on at one time and my brain is just not built that way. I also recognize the impact that it has on others in my life and there's a lot of time spent explaining myself. Sometimes people get it and are patient (Thank you Hubby!) and others don't and see it as excuses for characterlogical failings. But that's too bad for them because I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When I'm not here...

My grandmother passed away after a lengthy battle with mental illness. When someone suffers for so long after generally living a positive and healthy life there is usually a sense of relief that there is no more suffering. My mom suffered a long time as her caretaker too, so as the third generation in this equation I see more than one person who no longer had to live in pain. And when she died my initial reaction was "finally."

Finally she no longer has to live in physical and mental pain. I know she believed in heaven and was looking forward to seeing my grandpa. So if anything the thought is that finally she is able to be happy again.

Despite all of this I have been left with a low level of sadness. I keep thinking about two episodes when I was a kid and things she said to me.

The first was when I was six and she came to my first grade class to present about Russian culture (her mother was from Russia). I was so excited to have her there I constantly went up to talk to her and ask her questions that she would have no idea what the answer was. She finally, very politely said, "do what you would do if I wasn't here."

That moment has often resurfaced in my mind during the episodic declines of her health, when we thought she might pass away. Now that time is finally here. Even though mentally she hasn't been herself since my grandfather passed away about 10 years ago, she still lived and breathed. Even though I was in California then Ohio for about 90% of the time she was in a nursing home, she was still my grandmother. And don't get me wrong, I am still relived that she is no longer in pain and is happy again, but there was this little part of me that always looked for the old her and wondered if it might resurface. I never thought about what I would do when she's not here 100% anymore. I guess now it's time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Moving...

Much of the past two months have been spent packing and then unpacking for another long distance move related to school. Let it be known across the land that I hate moving. Please add on to that statement about how it is exponentially worse to move with an infant.

In college I was the type of person who could not sleep unless everything I moved with was completely unpacked. The move into the dorm at the beginning of the semester. The move home at the end of the year. An entire car full of belongings was always in its designated space before I could relax no matter what time I arrived home after a long day of finals and 3 hours of driving. This is not the case when you have to juggle a baby who is going through a growth spurt, teething, and off his schedule with the fact that you do not have a dishwasher or any idea where any of your belongings are.

Now that things have settled down (we are in the new place almost 2 weeks now) life is less hectic, despite an increase in drool and accompanying pain for Little Guy (my heart breaks for him). I now understand why when my parents bought their house we stayed with my grandparents for 3 days. Moving with children is not recommended...I really hope we only have to do a long move like this one more time (to go home).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Motherhood vs. selflesshood

Since yesterday was Mother's Day I saw a lot of memes and statuses talking about what a difficult job it is to be a mother, it is selfless, and no one appreciates you for the work you do. Except:

1. We get an ENTIRE day EVERY YEAR devoted to the fact that we are mothers, and then there are things like birthdays, holidays, and any other day of celebration filled with the opportunity for you to receive cards that say you are loved and appreciated.

2. Motherhood is only selfless if you do not expect anything for the work that you do. Otherwise you are essentially offering service for goods in the form of hugs, kisses, kind words, and presents.

Yes, motherhood is not easy, but it is difficult and shitty? Only if you allow yourself to think it is. Remember my post from yesterday. Not everyone has the opportunity to clean up projectile vomit and deal with a tired cranky baby. Be grateful, not angry that you were blessed with the opportunity to be a parent.

Yes, I hope that one day my children appreciate me and love me. But that is not a given right based on the fact that I birthed them and thus I do not expect it. It is something to be earned over time free of conditions. If that's what makes successful friendships and romantic relationships, it will make successful familial relationships too. Will I be saddened and probably devastated if my children grow up to hate me? Yes, of course, but that does not mean I'll ever stop trying to earn their love or blame them for it (unless they've stopped taking their medications of course).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My first Mother's Day

Recently a woman I know split up from her significant other. The gist of their break-up was that he realized she was not "the one." As we talked about how she was doing, her anger was understandable. I have been there before and I know the hurt I felt as someone I cared about told me it was not to be. The difference between my experience and hers, though, is that we did not have a child together. The longer we talked the more I implored her to think of her child and remember that her actions would have a direct consequence on the baby. But the thing that struck me the most was that while she expressed feelings of failure and frustration towards herself for not being able to provide a full family for her child, she also said that it would be better off if her child was never born. I won't go into all of the specifics of our conversation, but suffice it to say she was serious and simultaneously felt bad for her child while also feeling that its presence would make her life difficult in certain ways.

The therapist in me recognized the difficult situation she was now in and the hurt she was feeling. The mother in me was shocked and angry with her for saying something so flippant. I wanted to say "you don't mean that" but before I had a chance to she expressed the frustration she felt towards others who tried to tell her that her child was the best thing to come out of the relationship and that she should focus on the positive and be grateful but she felt that it was "not true. I meant what I said." At that point I honestly wanted to tell her to get out of my house. I kept my mouth shut as part of me still felt like she didn't mean it and I didn't want to add to the drama or my own hurt at having heard that.

Over the past few of years I have been exposed to the world of child loss and the grief that parents feel when a child is lost in someway. I know people who have had a child pass away. I know parents that have struggled to conceive a child for years. And then there are parents who choose to terminate a pregnancy, mothers who choose adoption (and either lose their biological child or have their chance at a child taken away after investing their hearts in one), and parents who for a number of reasons have children who are alive but are not in their lives. When you are not able to experience the life and growth of your child for any reason, it is one of the most painful things a parent can go through. There is no end to the pain. And while every parent may not feel that pain on the same level of intensity, to say such harsh things, as the woman I know did, may have farther reaching consequences that beyond their own self.

Little Guy was not our first rodeo. The pain I felt at anniversaries of loss was something I had to suffer in relative silence. I have had some support through the years, but it is still difficult. Difficult to think about a child that could have been. Difficult to hear people say "well when you are a mother you will understand." Difficult to hear "I wish it was never born." And difficult as I prayed all throughout my pregnancy with Little Guy that nothing would happen again.

This morning, as I looked down at a smiley, healthy baby I thought about my own loss and the loss other mother's I know have suffered. I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him. He was worth the wait and I am incredibly grateful for the chance to be his mother. Because of the loss I suffered I will never wish he had never been born. I will do my best to appreciate every moment with him (both good and bad) because every moment is short, one day I will not be able to easily fix his distress (or he may not want me to), and not all women get the chance to love their children in the flesh.

So moms everywhere, know that you are loved, appreciated, and supported today and everyday.
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