‘You Can’t Haaaandle the Truth!"

There’s something that bothers me about descriptions of adults with ADHD. It bothers me because it’s true, not because it’s somehow offensive. And it bothers me because…I REALLY don’t understand it. And I really don’t understand it…BECAUSE it is so true.

Adults with ADHD apparently tend not to set goals because…how can you set goals when you don’t know what the future IS.

There are certain kinds of questions that annoy me or puzzle me when people ask them, and they tend to be the ones that, with an ADHD brain, I am least likely to be able to wrap my brain around. Unfortunately the people asking them are usually the ones working with me at the mental health center to help me learn to deal more effectively with ADHD. Of course. I’m sure my perplexed responses only confirm my diagnosis for them.

When regular folks ask me these things like “What ARE you goals?” I have found some answers that I only now realize are kind of um…well you see, I do not HAVE goals. Not in the specific, time-oriented way. Not even in the “I want to be an X when I grow up” way. I answer these kinds of questions in a very abstract way, and thus for many years was able to avoid making concrete goals at all. And not making goals means never having to fail! It means that when you repeatedly make plans that ultimately leave your life unstable (for worse, but also SOMETIMES for the better…no really) yet nothing seems to be amiss to the untrained eye.

If you choose a nomadic life, regular people will assume you are a nomad. If you choose stormy relationships, people look to their own occasional love “near misses” and chuckle, thinking you are just having one of those moments and perhaps even wishing that they had such excitement of their own..not realizing that this drama is THE defining feature of your love life. Occasionally, when you are having a REACTION to something…they just think you’re nuts, but they’re too polite to say it, so they silently label you “a little neurotic”.

There’s all kinds of cute ways that regular people will rationalize your eccentricity. And can they be so wrong? Being eccentric isn’t ALL bad.

Until you get to that pesky ADHD diagnosis criteria called “impairment”. And do I feel impaired? Yes. Do I feel like a failure? Often. Is it because I hate my artsy, nomadic, stormy life? No actually, not at all…but I feel like a failure because I don’t seem to be able to exercise as much CHOICE over this reality as I would like, or as much as I would need to “succeed” in a regularly measurable way. I’m a very stubborn, forceful, values-driven person…who has often failed to choose accurately between chaos and peace, in her own life. I attempt choices all the time to NOT exist like this…and in the moment it seems so easy and clear…sometimes I even make what seems like the right decision and discover too late that I utterly misread the situation…either way, what I discover is enormous and painful struggle…because it’s hard for me to exist “normal” sustaining the effort…well, sustaining the effort…uhhhh…it seems like I accidentally do that sometimes? I mean sometimes my mental hyperactivity/poor self-esteem combo does a great job of stepping in for persistence even though it’s more like OCD. Which is pretty unhealthy…but it makes me effective!

The hard answers to these questions in my life then, are always bound to surface in the mental health center because…that’s the only place people ask these kinds of questions and expect concrete answers.

They ask “is the medication working”? I try to respond but it’s like speaking a second language…or living life as a second reality. I don’t know what that MEANS. So I guess…I try to describe what is happening because I don’t know how to place value on it. “It seems like I pay less attention to other things that I shouldn’t”. “I feel more calm when I take it.”.

So…what ARE my goals. I can honestly say that I don’t know, and that I don’t like that question. But to continue describing my life in terms of glamorous and dramatic abstraction…it is far more likely that I am simply describing the course of ADHD in my life, not describing life choices that I have made.

Is this all a response or backlash to my post a few days ago about how great it is to be the person my 16-year old me wanted me to turn into? Not intentionally. And I meant what I said in that post just as much as I mean what I am saying in this one…of course. (Heh…let’s hear it for accidental punchlines.) I am ready for the next step, and I don’t even know what that means. I have made certain kinds of choices, because they were the only kind I knew how to make…are STILL the only kind that I truly know how to make…in the moment, between layers of emotion, riding the wind to its maximum height, and artfully breaking the fall as gracefully as possible when everything crashes down. I’ve mastered the slow-crash ballet aftermath of my unforeseen disasters…so rational, and beautiful as the pieces disintegrate…but have never learned how to prevent the fall in the first place.

Where is the line between healthy control and decision-making…and obsessive, anxiety-driven marathons of achievement, the only kind I know how to have? I believe that grey exists, but at this point it’s a pure act of faith.

What are my goals…how do I use that only language that I know, to describe an experience that I have never had? Or that I might be having, thanks to the medication, but have not learned to recognize yet? Perhaps instead of asking me these questions, they could give me some kind of map that I can use on my way there? Oh…there’s no map. There’s just a subjective range of “normal” human behaviors that read to me like Chinese, and little handouts that my therapist gives me with a wink, telling me “you’re doing great kid, this might be a little easier to read if you hold it upside down and set a timer for ten minutes”.

I never cared what future meant. Now I want to know but I realize that I may never understand.


2 thoughts on “‘You Can’t Haaaandle the Truth!"

  1. Thank you. I have been feeling like this for a long time, like I am just drifting though life only able to reacting to what happens and not able to actually set and work towards any type of life goals…and while those closest to me listen and commiserate, it seems that no one actually understands what I am really talking about. Your writing on this seems so familiar.

    • I’m both sorry and glad that it’s so familiar 🙂 I mean…it’s nice to know we’re not alone, and yet, it would also be nice to not feel this way, of course. Looking at the date and re-reading this post, I can say that I feel a little more in control of my life now, and of my choices, than I did back in 2009. Of course, I’m on pretty good meds now and I’m married, and I just plain enjoy chaos less (thank you, therapy)…but in re-reading this, I remember what it’s like to feel this way. And I appreciate the fact that I was able to describe it, so that I can reflect on it now…

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