It took me eight months to write and publish one post for this blog, to give you 43 Reasons Why You Should Read It (and Netflix Should Buy My Show) Once, this used to take me no more than a couple of hours and a few days of “It will never be perfect; publish it!” Now, something has butchered my attention and my IQ, and it’s aiming for my pride.
Frustrated and eager to publish a second post, this past August I searched for a psychiatrist specialized in neuroscience. I’ve met countless psychiatrists throughout my life, who diagnosed me with “ADHD / Don’t worry, you’re smart and hyperactive”, chronic depression, chronic stress, anorexia nervosa, hyperacusis, panic attacks and ‘PTSD of a lifetime’,” and who also have put me on meds that never worked and even made me feel worse.
It feels like I’ve been swiping left on “Pshychinder” for a lifetime… But after meeting Dr. K, I believe “It’s a Match!” (Gift list will be available asap) Following an exhaustive and exhausting investigation, he concluded that all the evidence points ADHD as the primary suspect in the case of my attention and IQ’s massacre.
He showed me its profile and I spewed: “I told you I had it!… but it is not what I thought it was; Where were the signs? Why didn’t I ever see them? That was my hyperactivity!? Why do I need medication now?” Then, as I was researching to answer those questions, I spewed a new one: Did having ADHD save my life?
ADHD: “That is NOT what I thought it was”
“Smart and hyperactive;” that’s what they told me when I was a child. Then in 1999, a psychiatrist said, “Oh, we call it ADHD now; don’t worry; you’re doing well in Law School, right? You have depression; Pills?”
I spent four decades thinking that “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” was simply another bullet in my upper jelly’s resume, which I’d summarize as:
- [70s to present] ants in my pants;
- data processing at speed light;
- related skills: prolific use of a cool IQ.”
I thought ADHD had to do only with this unmeasurable amount of energy I’ve always had. I was wrong. These past months I learned ADHD is so much more.
Think about the human body as a walking lab with a wiring system (the nervous system), in which there are workers creating chemicals (neurons creating neurotransmitters) that will send different messages to our brain. You may have heard, “Have some sex and get some endorphins! They’ll make you feel happy!” Well, endorphins are one of those chemicals saying “human, feel happy!”
When it comes to ADHD, there’s a problem with a neurotransmitter called “dopamine”, which has the task of sending two messages: “human, please regulate your emotional responses (be cool and behave like the rest of the flock), and please take action to achieve specific rewards (get some shit done to feel rewarded)” What is that “problem”? The science guys don’t quite agree yet, so let’s keep simple today and say that in an ADHDer lab, the dopamine is not being properly handled.
Consequently, ADHDers cannot control our emotions as we’d like to; and we cannot set ourselves to do something and just do it. We need to do new stuff constantly, because the feelings of pleasure and reward don’t come soon enough, and we need to find something goooood… Hyperactivity sets us on a wild quest and, in that pursuit, we end up chasing squirrels, …, and probably having a colossal meltdown if they don’t eat their nuts exactly as we expected to.
Signs of ADHD: Where Were They? Why Didn’t I See Them?
Failure at regulating emotional responses? When I was eleven years old, my best friend began telling me “You need to use your brain first, before opening your mouth!” … He crushed me and made me feel ashamed; however, growing up I came to accept that I was a cute weirdo who was brutally honest and wouldn’t shut up. As for my deep and uncontrollable emotions, which would make me burst into tears of pain as much as of joy, I always felt “I’m sorry people cannot see the world the way I see it.”
Failure at taking action to achieve specific rewards? I have a remarkable collection of unfinished activities; at ten years old, for instance, my foster mother said, “Ok. We’ll get you the guitar, but are you sure you’re going to attend the classes?” The corps of that stringless wooden piece of craft remains in the back of my closet and, from to time, I go like “Next month, for sure; I’m gonna write a huge note in… this paper I’ll never see again.”
Regarding that, I always believed – and I still do – that I was seeking for something very interesting; the things I tried and loved doing (such us learning English on my own, photography, writing!) I still do. I banned the word boredom from my dictionary.
And as for my hyperactivity? I lost most of my milk teeth falling out from places I shouldn’t have climbed; but it was the eighties! My mom would say, “Honey, you should have been more careful,” and I’d show off with my friends saying “Hey! Look at my new scar!” Eventually, I switched the high places for sports (field hockey, basketball, figure skating); I knew I needed to drain the immeasurable amount of energy I had.
What I see now as clear signs of ADHD, I always saw it as the cute little things that defined me as a person. Holding my head high against the “you’re childish; nothing is ever enough for you,” … it was hard, but I knew my way of seeing the world was right… And then, I got lucky: at nineteen – while fighting my first depression – one day I took a bus and a boy left a bookmark on my lap, for some dimes, which read, “Being a child is wonderful, but even more wonderful is to keep that inner child throughout our whole existence.”
I was right; and I was not the only one.
Hyperactivity: “Not What I Thought It Was”
I always believed that my massive energy was that “hyperactivity” and what was forcing me to do sports, and so many activities! I thought it was only physical and, again, I was wrong.
As you know, life hit me with a lot (a primary trauma, aka top secret early illegal adoption; sexual child abuse, sexual harassment, domestic abuse) and I fought back, because I had a dream: to collect these inspiring stories of survival so I could share them; somehow I developed a way to set myself on “resilience mode”: “Do sports! Find a new happy thing to do! Set it as a goal, reach the goal, take the win!”
All clear? No! My body and mind began saying, “Girl! Ouch!” and they responded with chronic depression, chronic stress, anorexia nervosa, panic attacks and “PTSD of a lifetime.” Without doctors nor medication that could help me, I’d say, “Suck it up! Turn resilience mode on for this too, and grab some vitamins.”
Now, it amazes me to see realize that my “resilience mode” had ADHD printed all over it; my “new happy thing to do” was always something “to learn, from books”, which would keep my mind very occupied and my soul happily absorbing new knowledge, and which would also give me a diploma so I could say “I may feel stupid, but I’m smart, and look what I got!” And, what is that? “Pleasure and reward.”
How did I know that? I wondered about it a lot over the years; I began reflecting about the ups and downs of life during my teenage years, but how did my little girl have such a happy childhood after that disgusting trauma? How did she stand tall and come up with a: “My life is going to be like a movie; I’ll be the hero and it will have the best ending ever. It’s going to be so amazing that not even I can imagine it. And I’ll tell people about it!”
Recently a psychiatrist told me, “Some people are simply born resilient; you know you are that little girl, right? … Pills?” Fuck off! Soo not ready for that yet. I swiped to the left, googled “resilience”, and I found out psychologists believe that resilience can be developed. However, Dr. K has another hypothesis; he believes that the hyperactivity that comes with my ADHD, is what has helped me to develop that resilience; what has kept me going through mud and blood yelling “Run Laly, Run.”
Why do I Need Medication now?
I pushed my brain too hard and for a long time; I began failing on some aspects of my “resilience mode” and then… crash, bum, bang. At my late twenties, I started focusing on “work, money, pay the bills;” I stopped doing sports and I began eating junk food; smoking more, drinking more and doing cocaine; that was a tricky and stupid thing to do, because those things boost our dopamine!
At my late-thirties, life – and depression – began to hit harder, and I couldn’t work anymore… But, I still had “that dream” … So, I opened a blog to start sharing my stories; I found “my home” in NYC and then, on 2016, on a cold December night, a man I was in love with put his hand on my throat, and squeezed it…
Yup. That too.
Five months later, my brain shut down; on May of 2017 it said, “Honey, I took you as far as I could; I’m out!” My attention dropped down to fifteen minutes, per day (on reading, writing, watching a movie). Thinking I had early Alzheimers, I got brain scans done and “the best neurologist in town” said, “Yes; your frontal lobe shrunk and connections your brain broke; you have – drumroll please – PTSD of a lifetime. Pills?” I swiped left.
He should have added, “ADHD! Messengers not talking! Your lab needs some methylphenidate to handle properly the dopamine!”, but he didn’t… and I didn’t know what he should have added. I smiled…, and in a state of waking coma I said, “I’ll put myself on resilience mode again!” and he said, “You do that, girl!”
Resilience got me back on my feet, one more time; oh no, wait! My hyperactivity did that! And now, two years later, I have health, peace of mind (“ish”) … I opened this blog! and I achieved the outstanding amount of two daily writing sessions of forty minutes…, which resulted in… eight months to write one freaking post? No sir; hit me with the Ritalin. This brain needs some juice!
Is ADHD a “superpower”?
Looking at life through the eyes of a child, with wonder, excitement and wildest dreams, kept me alive; and the “nothing is ever enough”, saved my life. I look back and see people saying “She lives in the clouds”, and I think “Oh, no, people; she flies.”
Having common sense, is what I did to have a decent social and academic life: healthy diet, sports, no drugs; what I did to fuck it up, was getting rid of it. But having ADHD is what gave me something more important: a magical wild pursue of happiness.
You may find that on #WednesdayWisdom, “Do things that make you happy!” What’s happening to the world that people need a reminder for that? Maybe that’s why we see more ADHDers: the human kind is evolving by messing up its dopamine, so we can keep the wisdom of our inner child alive, and then teach mortals about it…
… We’re like hummingbirds; always flying so fast that people cannot even see our wings, constantly seeking for the most colorful flowers to eat from… Some people may makes us feel small, but we are glorious!
I’ve watched and read ADHDers saying ADHD is a “superpower” … But, what kind of superpower needs a pill to kick in? Is Ritalin my Sword of Power? Shouldn’t it be only my resilience? Maybe…, but it won’t work now, and being resilient also means acknowledging when to tell our pride to back off.
Thus, I’m not sure about it yet; even though I always had ADHD, I just got accepted into the Hummingbirds’ Academy; and all I know is that, without training, I did kill many monsters but I also made my brain explode.
So, there you have it. “By the Power of Methylphenidate!” Two weeks; one post. Not bad, huh?
Laly York. B.Ed. Lawyer. Writer / Researcher. ADHD advocate
Developer and author of the blogs "Neurodivergent", "NKOTB" and "Laly's."