Tag Archives: mental health

When you can’t tell anyone how you’re feeling…

Adolescent angst is annoying but also somehow cute. We’re all nostalgic for those days when life was filled with drama and every little thing was “the end of the world.” Then, adulthood comes along and life gets harder but we’re supposed to be happy all time time unless things are real shit… I mean, like cancer shit. Otherwise, as long as we have a stable job and can afford basic cost of living we shouldn’t be sad. There are so many reasons to NOT be sad. Yet, when we are sad, what should we do about it? Who should we tell? What should we do with the dark thoughts in our minds?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because of my cousin’s suicide attempt. As I’ve written about a bit in the last few weeks, it brought me back to my own quasi attempt in high school taking six tylenol and then realizing it was a bad idea and stopping myself from taking more. I never really wanted to die. I just wanted to not be so alone in my sadness. I wanted to be allowed to be scared and confused and maybe I wanted attention but more than anything I wanted to feel not so alone. Continue reading

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When It All Adds Up: Am I Autistic?

In the course of my mental health history, I’ve been diagnosed with, in no particular order, major depression, bipolar II, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD and, as I aged out of hyperactivity, Adult ADD. Yet my current therapist first to allude to the suspicion that I may be “on the spectrum,” so to speak. At first, I thought she was nuts. Well, I generally think she’s nuts because unlike my other therapists who have been more traditional talk therapists who don’t give direct advice, she’s more of a crossover psychologist and coach. And, maybe she actually sees something that others have missed. Or maybe she’s just crazy. Continue reading

Budgeting to Achieve $500k Goal Before Kids

As my long-time readers know, my “impossible” goal of hitting $500,000 in individual net worth before I have my first child is somehow within sight. It’s still seemingly impossible, but I always aim high and see how far I can get. I’m not pregnant yet, so that gives me at least nine months to get there. Below, I’m going to detail my budget plan to take me from where I am today to where I want to be before my first child is born.

On 7/15/16, my networth calculations = $379,412.

This leaves $120,588 to save prior to having children.

Continue reading

Panic is My Default Mode: Life with Anxiety

Logically, I know 99% of my anxiety is completely unnecessary. But in 32 years of walking this earth, it’s just gotten worse. This crippling sense of constant panic keeps me from finishing projects and achieving sustainable success. I’m very concerned I will again let panic get the best of me and given time I will lose my job. I know I have a lot to contribute, and my contributions are valued, but the constant panic loop in my mind plays on and on and on…

You’re not doing it right.

You’re not doing it fast enough.

This is the best you can do and that’s not good enough.

You’re a fake.

You’re not going to be found out – you’ve already been found out. It’s too late.

Why do you bother trying? You’re just stupid. Stupid and not equipped to do this job.

It’s 6pm again? How’d it get to be 6pm? Where did the day go? Why am I so tired? Why am I looking at a long list of to-dos with everything 21% completed and nothing close to being done? Why can’t I just FINISH things?

… I’m feeling rather down right now. More, beaten down and hopeless by this redundant plot line. At 32, I should be able to do this better. I should be able to get my hair nice and straight in the morning so it doesn’t look like a gnarly broom with fringes poking out in all directions. I should be able to wear clothes that make me look professional and confident, not like a hot mess. I should be able to find shoes that are comfortable that I can wear to work that aren’t embarrassingly clunky and flat. I should be able to handle all this. I’m making the big bucks now and I have to be great. I’m far from it. I feel my world falling down around me yet again.

And, I know, so many of you told me – don’t take the small company job – take the bigger company job where there will be more support. Maybe you’re right. But, honestly, that isn’t the issue. I’d have the same challenges at the bigger company – in any leadership role. In any role where I don’t have someone constantly guiding me and telling me that I’m doing an ok job. It’s my upbringing by narcissistic parents. It’s giving in so quickly to this track of self-defeat no matter how hard I try to scream quietly to her to just shut up so I can get my work done in peace.

I want this to work. I really, really do. It has to. I can’t fail. I’m not afraid of failure or ashamed of it, but this time, I have to be great. Or, at least really good. I put so much pressure on myself and I don’t come close to achieving my goals. This is a job. A tried-and-true adult job. This isn’t a passion. This is work. This is work that I have to do and do well and I want to do well and I even want to do well because I like the people I work with and I want them to do well. Still, I’m nose diving and ready to soon go splat.

And who do you talk to about this – at 32? Who do you say, help me, I’m hopeless, I’ve managed to trick the world into thinking I can do something and maybe I can do some of it but really I can’t keep up. I can hire a therapist – I spend so much money on therapy and where has it gotten me? Alive, maybe. I’d probably still be alive. I’m not actually suicidal. I’m too scared of death. But it’s gotten me – an apartment, and a fiance, and perhaps the ability to stand up again when I fall. It’s a psychological loop as well. It doesn’t get me anywhere. It feels like a waste of money. I know I need help, but having someone talk me out of my head and shock some reality into it is only helpful as far as I believe it. And I can’t pay anyone any amount of money to make me believe it.

Here I am, staring down at the next five years of my life which may include having children – children(!) – who I will be responsible for and who I want more than anything and I’m so terrified to bring anyone into the world when I can’t even handle taking care of myself. Yea, sure, I’ve managed to save $350,000 in the last 10 years. That’s my one and only life accomplishment – one that I can’t even talk about with anyone, except for on this blog, because I’m as proud as I am ashamed of having accumulated a modest amount of wealth for my age, and horrified that $350k is nothing when it comes to being able to afford the life I want without having to work in this field until I’m old and grey.

I want to work. I like working. I like making and creating and doing. I like the feeling of getting things done. I don’t want to be a lazy ass and sit around and stare at a wall all day. But this anxiety is just unstoppable. I fear that it won’t be long until it gets me into trouble at this job. My fiancé won’t let me say the “f” word (fired) and he’s right, there’s no use in talking about how I’m going to get fired when I’ve only been employed for less than two months. I just want to make this work so badly. But I don’t know how to. I feel like no matter what I do, my panic will see to it I crumble yet again.

I Don’t Give A Fuck / I Give All the Fucks

Time continues drifting onward so quickly I can barely catch by breath. The sea of life seems to flow constantly at different speeds so that it spins you around when you stop to try to follow it in a nausea-inducing dance. As a teenager your memories of 10 years ago were a blur, a clearly different time from the “now” then. Today, 10 years ago seems like yesterday, and also 100s of years ago, and also only a moment ago if you close your eyes you can hear the sound of the wind lashing against your window, howling in a summer’s storm. You see your house in different forms, a kitchen prior to redesign, walls wallpapered versus painted, a swing-set twice replaced and now long gone. And in this adult life, especially one in which you still have living parents, you exist in this limbo of child-adult, responsible for your own well-being yet judged like an adolescent with wrong choices sans youth’s excuse.

If my life is prosperous now it’s filled with a simple, humble, constant love, and a semi-consistent check coming in for a job that I don’t do all that well and one that I’m pretty sure isn’t going to have the longest tenure no matter how hard I try at this point. I’m caught up in all the details of life that hardly matter on your death bed and find myself constantly gasping for air, desperate for a way out, with no exit in sight, only the jabbing, embarrassing reminder that I have it so easy — easier than most in the world – most in the world of all time of all the worlds.

Maybe it’s depression or exhaustion or the hatred of myself in failing to make a living from creating or perhaps the acknowledgment that the only options for a fulfilled life is either the narcissistic one in which one has an ego fueled by those who they associate with, or one of complete giving, which is still a narcissistic one, if to be fulfilled by the gratitude of others or the chance at entry to some post-mortal promised land. Or maybe you can just sit and meditate and be a monk and stare out into the distance and find peace in being as close to a plant as one can be while still breathing and thinking and experiencing as we do as humans.

And so I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t give a fuck / I give all the fucks. I’m nearly 32 and writing bad angsty teenage-style ramblings because I still fall deep into a dark place of anxious sorrow. I weep for the passing of time, the death of the me that was yesterday, who never had a chance to be who she wanted. I weep for the me of tomorrow, who has but 24 hours to prove herself wrong, to make up for all the hours of anxiety and wasteful thoughts and wasteful moments. And I weep for the me of 70 years from now, if I’m still awake and aware of the world, knowing that any second my breath would be my last, and in that breath I’d know that all that’s left is eternity underground with my flesh decaying and being eaten by the tiny bugs which when alive I accidentally would step on and squash without second thought. And I weep for knowing that even the few things that make me happy such as being held closely by my best friend and lover and future husband is a ritual that can only be recreated a finite amount of times before one of our pairs of arms go limp and can hold each other no more.

I try so hard to just live in the moment. To focus on the now and to be happy for what is… all that there is. And there are those moments when I do find some peace. But they they’re gone. Gone with memories of my childhood tainted spectacular through rose-colored glass. Gone with the stresses of my job and guilt and fear that I’ll never be able to do much of anything to maintain a stable adult life. Gone with the acknowledgment that all is temporary, that all that grounds me is saving money and getting one step closer to some form of freedom. I can’t let go. I can’t let go. I can’t let go.

 

 

Three Years Since My DUI – Life After a DUI

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In the summer of 2011, I made a terrible decision to get behind the wheel after attending a networking event and drinking away my anxiety with one too many glasses of wine. I could have killed someone or severely injured myself. I was fortunate to only end up in handcuffs and $10k poorer as a result of that horrible night.

As I learned at my required “first time offender” program, the events leading up to the DUI rarely describe a typical day. We had to do a writing exercise to detail out the events of the day, putting focus on any warning signs so we could recognize them in the future, in order to avoid a DUI habit. (Shockingly, despite the embarrassment and fees, there are still many repeat offenders.)

The day I got my first (and last) DUI, I was trapped in a deep depression, unable to get out of bed to drag myself to work. This does not at all excuse my actions, but looking back three years later I realize just how lucky I am to have escaped that evening with “only” a DUI. I pried myself out of bed to attend a networking event I was looking forward to having not eaten so much as a cracker during the day. My anxiety quickly kicked in and I downed a few glasses of wine (I think it was three oversized glasses, but the servers were refilling so I could have lost count.)

To my own credit, I knew I was not ready to drive immediately after the event. I went around the corner to a bar with a group of event attendees and stayed there for an hour or so until everyone went home. At that point, I walked back to my car, and the rest is a lesson in terrible decision history. A woman called 9-11 on me as I walked to my car and five cops were waiting to arrest me around the corner. I wasn’t ready to drive. Another hour and I would have barely made the cut off for the legal limit. I shouldn’t have even been thinking about driving. I blew a .10%.

It was the roughest night of my life. A night handcuffed to a chair in a freezing waiting area of the jail in nothing but a small, thin, summer dress because I was under psychiatric watch due to informing the cops about my very real intention to kill myself the second I had a chance. Thank god for my boyfriend at the time who, while being sad at the situation I had gotten myself into, picked me up at the jail the next morning and helped me through the very trying next year of my life. Thanks to him, I got through it.

Three Years Later

In hindsight, while being bipolar and massively depressed is not an excuse for driving drunk (ever / at all), I definitely now can recognize the signs when I’m emotionally not in a good place to think about drinking. And since when you have a DUI on your record you cannot have a drop of alcohol in your system when you are driving, I’ve learned how to handle the best practice of never driving if I plan to have anything to drink.

In my professional culture, this is not always the easiest, but people tend to understand. I typically take public transportation to work, which helps, because a work happy hour can still occur without a challenge in getting home. Even when I do drive in to work, if I go out with my colleagues after work for “drinks” I make sure to have just one and then spend a good three hours or so wandering around the mall to make sure any trace of alcohol is out of my system.

The hardest part of my DUI was the first few months when my license was taken away and when I had to participate in “volunteer work” and first offender classes, not to mention hire a lawyer (useless) and go to court to find out what my fine and punishment would be. I really don’t know what I would have done without my boyfriend helping me through the very dark time in my life. I feel bad for people who get DUIs and don’t have a support system in place, especially those who have others relying on them — like single parents or adult children responsible for taking care of their elderly parents. It’s amazing how many things you take for granted about your freedom and ability to transport yourself from one place to another until you’ve been arrested.

Fast forward three years and it seems everyone has a story about a DUI – whether they received one or knew a close friend that did. What drives me absolutely batty is how many people I know go out and drink a couple than get behind the wheel. For instance, I had a colleague who would drive extremely drunk and there was no stopping him (though my coworkers and I tried taking his keys away on numerous occasions.)

The reality is, there is this massive group of people in this country who drive drunk repeatedly and just never get caught. Or at least they haven’t been yet – one day they won’t be so lucky. Some people boast about their driving skills while others are more silent about their repeated choice to get behind the wheel after a few drinks. Last year my boyfriend and I were driving on the freeway behind a blue car that was clearly swerving over the lane back and forth and while we didn’t call 9-11 on the driver, we did follow them off the freeway and saw a police car finally spot their poor driving and pull them over. I was relieved the police got the driver off the street and no one got hurt.

Lessons Learned

Today I’m actually grateful for the woman who called 9-11 on me walking to my car that day. While I might have gotten home safe that night without hurting another person, that could have been a much uglier night. But what’s more – I clearly had a big problem, one that extended much broader than just my occasional alcohol binge to fight my anxiety and depression — and I needed help. I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t caring about my own well being and wasn’t thinking about how this may effect anyone else. I was selfish and a danger to myself and society. I needed a wake up call.

That wake up call set me back over $10,000, cut my pride in two, made it impossible to get into Canada, and shot me straight from the last flickering embers of my dumb youth into adulthood. I still wish that day never happened, and I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about that evening as I sobered up at the local police station and was driven in the back of a police car down to the county jail for the night.

I think about how humbling the experience was – going from being the girl who didn’t have so much as a sip of alcohol until college – the prude, abstinent one, the one who literally won a poster contest for M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) and was honored at one of their events, to the girl behind bars that they warned you about. The whole experience taught me a lot about judging people so harshly for their mistakes. I think, in a strange way, my progress after the DUI made me a better person – or at least a wiser one, now that I’ve lived through it to tell the tale. There are certainly much safer, more sane places to gain wisdom than one that could result in you spending the rest of your life in jail or worse.

Mental Health System Failures

What I didn’t expect was the amount of people who would find my blog (apparently it shows up in a lot of different searches for DUIs) and, barring the few trolls telling me how terrible of a person I am, how it would help many people who had, like myself, made a very bad decision, and were in a world of hell trying to recover from their mistake. I would get emails, sometimes very long emails, detailing out how much people could relate to my situation and how reading my blog posts about my DUI process made them feel a bit better and more able to handle the brunt of the storm to come.

I continue to be willing to offer my time and support to “DUI victims,” which includes the people who have untreated mental health issues which lead to their DUI arrest. I won’t respond to letters of people who are angry about getting arrested and feel they didn’t deserve it, but I’m happy to support those who know they made a terrible mistake, and who need help. If my blog can help someone bring some reality to their situation – see the light at the end of the tunnel, then writing about all this has served some good.

The Thing About Growing Up

You know the feeling of being far from a place you’ve been so real to you that you can’t imagine it’s really gone forever? That is what it feels like to grow up. You may be able to go back to the physical place, but it’s gone no matter how there it is. And time itself is this strange continuum that seems to be on your side until about your mid twenties when suddenly it becomes your worst enemy, pulling you further and further away from the security of your long lost home.

Some days I close my eyes and find myself, as if it was yesterday, sitting in gym class frustrated beyond belief for my inability to climb a rope or run a mile. I can taste the fall air as we would be forced through physical fitness testing, cold on my lungs, as I failed pretty much everything besides the flexibility test. I can smell the leather of my friend’s dad’s car as he drove us to dance class, the burn in my lungs as I chased a school bus down the street in the rain yet another morning of waking up late, the dizziness of being a child and spinning around fast looking at the ceiling in our empty dining room to entertain myself, or lying on the cold floor of our game room pressing start and go of my tapes in order to write down their lyrics. Some moments are crisp while many are a blur, but nonetheless the place feels so real that I can only imagine if I try hard enough I could find my way back to it, despite knowing that I never can.

It’s not that I had a wonderful childhood. I was miserable most of the time. I was bullied by my parents and my friends. I was hyperactive and annoying and constantly trying to figure out a way to fit in. I was lonely and bored and unable to handle my own many imperfections. But there I was safe and free all at the same time. And growing up means letting go of that person you once were, the place where you’ll never truly return. You might as well have blasted off to another planet a one-way trip because that’s life, shooting you fast towards the night stars, whether you’re ready for it or not.

I used to be terrified of death — I’d stay up all night and try so hard to imagine myself not existing for a moment, and I couldn’t find the feeling. In eleven days I turn 31 and I know that life is not forever. I have twenty years ahead of me of either/and a strong career or family, and time is ticking onwards as a little part of me hungers to return to that place I once took pity on myself and hid in my bedroom, looking out the window at the tall trees swaying in yet another storm.

There were things to, like stability, which used to scare me that suddenly are what I long for most of all. I think this is because I grew up with such a theoretically stable life (despite constant wars raging in my household which begged to question if the stability was a benefit or a curse) I wanted none of it when I left home. At seventeen I left for college in Chicago and never once considered returning back permanently. I was running ahead full force, faster than I ever had in those mile runs of the physical fitness testing, trying to find comfort in change, afraid to settle down, afraid to stop before I was ready.

Even now I’m restless in many ways, probably more than the average person, but I still need the stable base in which to build from. I’ve found that in my boyfriend who has been there with me for the past nine years. He’s level headed and calm and he has no desire to run away from stability like a man running from a loon wielding an AK47. With a childhood where he had never-married parents who didn’t know how to handle their accidental child, he is perfectly comfortable with a planted life. And, despite not knowing each other in our childhood, we can look in each other’s eyes and still see that person we once were. For a second I am able to transport back to my home, but locked up in the arms of someone who wasn’t forcing me into a box of something I’m not, jabbing at me at every opportunity. With him I have acceptance of the girl who never got that as a child. With him, despite being lightyears away from where I’ve been and can’t physically return, I’m more home than I ever was.

 

Playing it Safe vs Taking Risks: Fighting the Fear

A few weeks ago when I was in my home state my father was kind enough to drive me to a friend’s birthday party dinner about an hour away. As he drove me to this party (which, by the way, was a dinner at a respectable venue, not that it should have mattered) he, with much paranoia, told me to stay safe and shunned my plan to be driven to the airport after the party was over so I could sleep there for my 6am flight.

I didn’t realize how paranoid my father is about any sort of risk until I grew up. I always thought he was just logical – that it made sense to be worried about all of the horrible things that can happen to you if you test the waters a bit, even if those waters mean arriving at the airport early and spending the night uncomfortably sleeping on a chair.

When I look at the success stories of my peers in the tech industry I look at a bunch of people who thrive on risk well beyond an early arrival to the airport. These are school dropouts, people who believe in themselves so much that they make shit happen whatever it takes. They don’t second guess themselves. They don’t worry that despite their instinct that getting to the airport early will be more convenient than sleeping four hours, catching a cab for 30 minutes and getting to the airport equally exhausted and probably late.

I wonder for these types of risk takers if they grew up in families that supported this type of risk or if they were rebellious and went off and did their own thing anyway. I also wonder if my parents – my dad especially – would have been different with his kids if they were male. Would he tell a 31 year old son to be careful? Maybe. It probably wouldn’t be the same.

Before you say that it’s sweet that he cares so much about me, it really isn’t like that. What he really should be worried about is my killing myself for all of the mental health issues his abuse of my mother and emotional abuse of me over the years has caused. Not that I’m going to kill myself, just saying – on the days I think about it, I picture his reaction, of course not thinking it has anything to do with his behavior and how I’m a mental wreck largely thanks to it.

I’m an adult now and I can make my own future. But I’m still so scared of so much. I want to be someone I’m not but I’m tired of trying to be that person, whoever she is. I’m a scared, timid, shy and weak person in a lot of respects. I’m not a risk taker. I hate risk. I like stability, I like routine – to some extent. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. I just want to be that person who can be bold and confident and amazing. I hope if I ever have children I can raise them to not be afraid – to not feel criticized for every little thing they do. To be able to have opinions and to learn that there is no such thing as a “right” opinion (that’s why they are called opinions.) To always allow a reasonable amount of forgiveness before making someone feel like shit for making a mistake.

I’m having a difficult time with growing up. Being grown up. I’m turning 31 this month… in less than 15 days. I’m a real adult now and here I am still kvetching about my parents. That’s what therapy is for, right? I didn’t have a terrible childhood in the sense that I wasn’t neglected or beaten to the point where I was unable to walk the next day. But I’m still mentally shot over the barrage of paranoia and criticism from both my mom and my dad – to this day they continually judge me for everything I do or wear or think to do. That’s why they’re fairly removed from my life right now, though I wish they didn’t have to be, because I know they won’t be around forever and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time with them, even though it can be quite painful.

The other day watching Shark Tank with my mom she made the comment “why don’t you come up with a brilliant idea?” I’ve never been encouraged to take risks, that’s why. Entrepreneurs are some of the world’s most productive risk takers. But my mother doesn’t get that in order to get to the point where you have a successful pitch on Shark Tank or to any VC you needed to take a ton of risks. You need to not be afraid and to trust yourself and your ideas. You need to not be afraid.

I wonder who I’d be today if I didn’t grow up in that environment of neurotic paranoid fear and hyper criticism. Would I be a very different person? Would I be able to stand up in front of a room and speak without stuttering, without the ums and the likes? Would I have the respect of my colleagues because my presence garnered respect just by walking into a room vs having to build it slowly and painfully through hard-earned results (and sometimes it being too late to get those results with all the lost respect?) I just wish I was someone else. I wish I was a confident, well adjusted woman. I’ll have to make due with the actual woman I am because that’s just the way it is.

 

Why I’m investing $400 a month in an ADHD Coach

Despite wanting to believe I’m capable of being a highly-functioning adult on my own, data has shown that this is not quite the case. While I manage to pick myself up after every fall and keep going, each time I fall the cut is a bit deeper and harder to recover from. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought help, but this is the first time that I felt that I desperately need it.

There are so many different kinds of “help” one can buy. Psychiatrists seek to uncover a chemical imbalance to explain your shortcomings and treat you with costly medications. Psychologists use talk therapy to help you approach situations differently, largely looking at your childhood and how that has affected the current scripts your replay over and over again in your mind. Acupuncturists poke and prod you to reduce stress. Hypnotists claim to be able to help you achieve your goals through mind control. And coaches, well, help you with practical advice and ongoing support so you can determine and then reach your goals.

ADHD coaches are unique in that they focus on helping people who are driven to distraction, as they say. The reality is that so many of the simple tasks that high-functioning individuals can do without batting an eye present a huge challenge to the ADHD mind. I dislike jumping to conclusions that my mind is somehow different than the norm, yet anyone who knows me at all and believes ADHD actually exists would say obviously I have it. I can check off every single requirement in the DSV.

That’s why I’m splurging this year on a coach. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy and what has it got me? Maybe I’m a little more aware of the scripts I play in my head that aren’t really rational, but that hasn’t helped me avoid losing my job (multiple times) or fix my relationship (which is great except for the fact that I’m a huge mess and my boyfriend can’t marry a girl who can’t keep her house remotely clean.)

If you don’t have ADHD or know anyone closely who does, it’s easy to say “just clean your damn house” or “stop losing your job.” It’s not that easy. Ultimately people with ADHD have issues with their temporal lobe functioning properly as well as a lack of dopamine to drive proper task-oriented motivation. Tie this with years upon years of beating myself up for my challenges focusing and staying organized and I end up wasting so much time lost in anxiety and failing to accomplish anything – until it’s late at night when I should be sleeping and only then can I start to hyperfocus and get my work done well.

This clearly isn’t a sustainable model. Now that I’m in my 30s I even feel my body starting to break down. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I’ve been sick three times in the last three months. I’m pretty much driving myself batshit and I need help.

In selecting an ADHD coach I wanted to find someone who has worked with ADHD individuals – especially adults – over the years. I want someone who can share tips and tools that have worked for others with similar minds. And I want someone grounded in reality, not someone who is going to try to flatter my ego (one woman kept saying that people with ADHD are brilliant so it’s clear I must be brilliant. While I briefly enjoyed the flattery I need more tough love than some ego boost.)

ADHD coaches are also often very expensive. This is largely because parents – many who have disposable incomes – are convinced their children have ADHD and are willing to send a ridiculous sum on coaches so maybe their kids can do well in school and make it to an Ivy League. And it happens – kids with ADHD, taught the right strategies and put in the right educational environments—can do very well academically. So maybe it’s worth it for parents who have the money.

However, these big-spending parents inflate the cost of help. I wrote to quite a number of ADHD coaches online (many of who do their coaching via Skype so location is not an issue) and one literally responded to me that “if cost was a concern” I would be better off talking to someone else because she charges more than others due to her “years of experience.” When I responded to ask exactly what that meant she didn’t respond. I assume she was in line with another organization I talked with where ADHD-specialist psychologists and psychiatrists charge anywhere from $300 to $500 per session.

The woman who I found is not cheap but she’s not ridiculous. I understand that coaches do this for a living and thus their expertise is worth a reasonable rate. The more standard fees I found were in the $150-$200 per hour range. Some coaches refused interactions between meetings while others – who clearly understand how ADHD works – note that they allow emails throughout the week as long as they don’t get excessive.

I’m meeting with my ADHD coach for my first 90-minute session. She already sent me an intake form and an anxiety/depression questionnaire which I had a strange kind of fun filling out (man, I am SO ADHD.) I am not sure exactly what to expect from this project but my primary goal is to learn how to be better at time management and organization… and ultimately not lose my job (or boyfriend.)

The plan is to invest in the $250 intro session and then three months of $390 worth of sessions (3 45 minute sessions.) We’ll work intensively on very tactical strategies while I’m sure discussing options (not included in cost) to resolve my problems further through the use of medication ($$$.) I’m going to try to solve them with coaching and willpower alone, but if shit starts to hit the fan I’m going to head back to a psychiatrist and see what they think would help this crazy little mind of mine.

That is, it seems to be I have Bipolar II co-morbidly sharing the space of dysfunction with a solid case of ADHD and a touch of anxiety to top it off. Mental illness is real even though I’m the first person to try to avoid labeling my issues as being anything more than just some personal crazy. Yet at 30 I have a pretty good view of my life thus far and these are the reasons for what is going on in my head and heart.

I’m not self-diagnosing either, I’ve been officially diagnosed with these issues (as well as others) but these three seem to make the most sense. I’m going to be entirely open with my coach about this too – and I already have been (bipolar/depression/anxiety are often found co-morbidly with ADHD, so this isn’t going to throw her for a loop at all.) I’d really like to make significant progress and fast. It is certainly worth $400 a month to remain gainfully employed and highly productive. At least for the short term until hopefully at some point I can sustain such “normal functioning adult” baseline on my own.

 

In Limbo but Trying to Relax in my Looney Toon life

With so much up in the air and this cold that won’t go away and my grandfather’s deteriorating condition it’s certainly hard to do what I need to do this week – relax. Every day spent at home is certainly an eye-opening reminder of the makings of my psyche, for better or worse. It’s useful as I pry myself out of my narcissistic personality to address head on the makings of this neurotic mind.

Are your parents crazy? Are everyone’s parents crazy? Are mine just a bit more crazy? It made me chuckle out loud yesterday when – out at a very awkward lunch with my father at the local Indian Buffet – he described my mother as “looney toons.” While that, in fact, may be true, he isn’t exactly Mr. Sane himself. What both of my parents do not have is the ability to understand how their actions effect other people. It isn’t that they don’t care, they just don’t even stop to empathize with another person. Their lives are, individually, more important than any other thing in the world, except maybe – conservative politics, to my dad – and the holocaust, to my mom.

We walked into this nearly-empty Indian Buffet restaurant for lunch and my father, a regular frequenter of the establishment, puts on his awkward fake charm introducing me to the workers at the restaurant, making a comment about “this is my daughter, isn’t she beautiful?” and then he makes some awkward comment about the woman who owns the establishment and how beautiful she is two, he’s “surrounded by beautiful women” and for her to, jokingly, not tell her husband he said so. While that alone was not terrible, what gets to me is how unaware he is of other people and what is going on in their minds. Our waiter – a very awkward probably 18-year-old Indian male who seemed to speak little English and possibly have some sort of minor autism – was greeted with the following message by my father “this is my daughter. Ask her out, maybe you’ll have a date.” What dad? What was that?

I hoped the waiter he didn’t hear or understand what my father had just said. I briefly thought to explain why it was absolutely inappropriate to say such a thing, but saying anything of the sort would be fruitless in use anyway. I got up immediately and walked to the buffet, blushing. Despite letting everyone at the restaurant know how “beautiful” I am this didn’t stop him from later in the dining experience, when I was explaining my braces and how they work, spurting out that my teeth are yellow and I should get them whitened (as if I do not know this already or are not completely self-conscious about it.) A person who thinks about how other people feel might say the same in different words — maybe even “have you ever tried teeth whitening, I was looking into it myself” or “I heard about this teeth whitening thing but it probably costs a lot, are you going to try that for your wedding? I hear a lot of brides do.” There are just more elegant ways of telling someone such news, or not at all. But with him the comment comes out of no where in the middle of an otherwise momentary pleasant conversation. Sure – you’re spending thousands of dollars to straighten your teeth and fix your overbite, and I just told everyone here how beautiful you are – but your teeth are yellow. Nevermind that my father’s teeth are cracked and falling a part, that he has been morbidly obese in various ranges throughout my entire life, and that his own teeth are not exactly pearly white. I held my breath and changed topics.

The Game of Risk: We’d Rather Not Play at All

One thing I never quite realized about my father until this week was just how risk adverse he is. It’s not just risk aversion, which played into his career where his job was to calculate risk, he’s absolutely paranoid. For example, when I got dropped off at my friend’s bridal shower after he screamed at me for failing to have the right address (my phone internet was not working as I planned to look it up in my Facebook history and it took a few minutes or drive time to get into a better reception area) he then didn’t believe me that I had seen the restaurant a few blocks back to let me out of the car, as he was worried I might get hurt. This from a man who used to beat me with my belt and to this day if he gets the strength for it can shove my mother across the room. His definition of hurt needs some work. I convinced him to let me out and walk back a few blocks to the restaurant. He sat on the curb until he saw I got inside, as if I was 2.

My father also could have been a great physicist – for all the crazy he is a very intelligent man. I had forgotten and reminded my week by his sister that he received a full ride to MIT for undergrad, chose not to even apply to Princeton, and went to a much smaller, less prestigious school despite being able to go practically anywhere he wanted for free with his stellar academic career. He didn’t want to go so far from home or to be in a bigger school, so he went somewhere with 1000 people only. Then as a grad student he dropped out of Cornell, unable to take the pressure, it seems.

His parents are fascinating as well – a father who was both to a man from Naples who disappeared when he was less than two – and a Slovakian woman who raised him with a German stepfather in a very Catholic household. He was in the Navy and raised his kids as such. Seeing the shell of the man he once was at the hospital this week is unnerving as he’s always been full of spunk and an energy you know not to piss off. Now he can only make out a few grumbles while squeezing his fist so tight you think he’s going to rip through his hand.

My dad’s mother, on the other hand, is a Jewish woman of Hungarian and Polish decent. She, at the least, has the ability to somewhat understand how her actions effect other people. Yet her six children – my dad being the oldest of the six – all have their larger-than life personalities shaped by her parenting. She’s a strong woman in my mind, though a bit OCD, and I can see where my father gets his monotone range of panic over any unsettling situation from her. Everything that doesn’t go her way is, momentarily, the end of the world. It’s the same with my dad, though she doesn’t react in the same violent frightening way.

Mom is in Her Own Little World

Mrs. Looney Toons, my mother, is probably certifiably crazy. It’s interesting pitting the psyches of my mother and father against each other because in a lot of ways they are the same – living in their own self-entitled world. However my father – to give him some credit – has a limited grasp on reality (working to support a family of four for so many years and a wife who quickly spends a ton of money without understanding of what this does to ones savings can do such a thing to a person.)

A friend of mine recently shared some insightful wisdom on how kids don’t generally know how to do things well, they must have a model to follow. If the parents are constantly screaming at each other and being violent and then the child starts to act up and the child is punished for her behavior, well, then, the parents actually taught the child the same behavior they are punishing her for. It’s a vicious cycle. Same goes for my achilles heel – my lacking ability to clean up my room and keep my life organized. While this was the main source of my own beatings as a child, I had a mother who would simultaneously tell me to clean up my room while freaking out should I ever suggest throwing anything away. My father’s organization skills were no less troubling, his own room and desk flooded with papers and books. Yet somehow I had to understand how to keep things organized without throwing away any of the items. I guess organization comes naturally to some without the model but for me it was very difficult and to this day is a huge challenge. My mind runs on a thousand times in this paranoid loop of whether I will ever need an item before I can part with it – making cleaning take much longer than it would for the average person and causing more stress than it ever should. No wonder I avoid it.

While my father will comment about just anything about you without concern or thought for how such a statement makes you feel, my mother’s comments are much more shallow. Her primary goals are for you as a child are for you to look good in pictures and have a job that she can explain ad nauseam to anyone she encounters who she might possibly somehow know. For example, a neighbor walking down the street with her dog, obviously not intending to stop and listen to my mom’s story vomit for fifteen minutes, got caught up in this by stopping to say an unavoidable hello passing our house while we were out front. My mom – completely unable to grasp that someone may have better things to do then hear her life story du jour – starts to tell my life story, my sister’s life story, the story of what is happening to my dad’s father in the hospital. The woman, who is trying to not be rude, smiles and nods at her dog tugs at his lease and tries to move her along. It isn’t that the woman wanted to not stop and chat at all, but my mother – likely aspergian to some degree – doesn’t have it in her mind to read people’s faces and understand it’s time to stop talking.

In another example of my mother’s childish narcissism, and this is something she does often, we were at a sort of outdoor museum and in one garden area a wedding was being held. It was in public so it was her right to peer inside like many others were doing – however, while the other group remained further back from the opening between two sets of bushes she walked right up to the hole, loudly announcing that her daughter is looking for a wedding venue too. She wasn’t talking to the people inside the wedding itself, she was talking to the air, because she thinks people care. To her credit, this is how she gets into conversations with others about whatever topic she wants to be talking about at the moment – someone usually takes the bait and often it’s another Jewish woman with a similar penchant for rambling on and on and on. My mother, to her credit, has no social fear. She can walk  up to just about anyone and start talking to them on the topic of just about anything. I don’t know how she does it as the thought of such a thing makes me shrivel up and a panic attack arise, but she doesn’t have this fear at all inside of her. Maybe it’s a blessing. But it can be quite awkward and embarrassing in many situations. As my mom explained to the air and to the workers blocking the opening to the wedding that her daughter is looking for a wedding venue, her daughter, struck with the panic of embarrassment, disappeared into another exhibit.

Both of my parents are in many ways like children who are unable to be pleased. Another conversation I had yesterday with my aunt was around how I feel terrible for never buying my cousins and grandparents gifts but I have an honest neurosis around buying a gift that isn’t good enough for them. She said that’s silly, that it’s the thought that counts. I countered with the reminder that my parents would judge any gift I got them with contention, and often the gift would be not good enough for their tastes. My father would complain about it only to later make some comment boasting about his daughter got him a gift. My mother would, unless I got lucky, complain that the gift wasn’t useful or it was something she would buy anyway or she just didn’t like it. So I rarely buy people gifts. It’s not just a financial thing, it’s also this mental freak out I have every time I try to get anyone something.

What my immediate family never had was this ability to care for each other. Everyone is in their own world of self importance. We are a family of egos, my parents hyper-critical of everyone but themselves – and myself and my sister – caught up in this web of learned narcissism paired with a lack of trust in who we really are. That is why, for me, it is so remarkably refreshing to be in a relationship with a man who is the complete opposite of what I know. Where love in my family is only defined by financial support and the basics of life – “I love you therefore I feed you” – my relationship is filled with love and care. I’ve had all of this love boiling up inside of me for so long that I didn’t know where to put it or how to use it. But it really is simple. I love my guy and we can sit and cuddle and laugh and – I try my best – to care for each other no matter the other’s choices. His life is not my life and vice versa. I have no right to judge his choices as long as they do not severely effect my well being. And he doesn’t judge at all. He is there for me in my best and my worst and my worst again. That’s what actual love is. Money can get in the way but as long as you focus on yourself and the money you need to live the life you want and support your children in the way you want then it’s not an issue. Financial independence – from each other – in a relationship makes love possible. Then it can’t be about what the other person provides beyond love, care, and ongoing moral support for the chaos that is life.