Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brain Battles of 2018 Summarized.

I read in a biography of William M. Gaines about his experience trying on glasses for the first time as a kid. He didn't know that there were leaves at the tops of trees. He thought that tall trees had fuzz at the top. He was amazed at his new clarity of vision. He didn't know what normal vision could be like.

I quit paying for health insurance last year. Or maybe it was the year before, I have no internal meter for dates or elapsed time. Seriously. In any case, I reasoned that if I could get ADHD meds from India for cheaper, then fuck the United States, double middle fingers. I despise convoluted paperwork and systems designed to take your money and still screw you in the end. So I stopped taking Adderall.

The India meds, specifically Modafinil, seemed promising at first. Over time my opinion changed. I found that as the Modafinil wore off, I was released into an anxious state where minor tasks felt more overwhelming than ever before. I adapted to the Modafinil to a point where it wasn't helping me get any more done, but the anxiety would still occur, and I was drinking much more on those days to numb the discomfort. Taking an extra half pill would help with getting things accomplished, but I am wary of increasing the dosage of chemicals I jam into my skull.

In early 2018, I was traveling back from California and I stopped for the night at a cold and dirty truck stop in New Mexico. I was lonely and uncomfortable, just as I had been for weeks. It was snowing in Joshua Tree. I was not mentally equipped to take care of myself during this time. I drank two or three bottles of wine and I woke up abruptly at 2am bawling my eyes out. Fuck. We have to deal with this again. ["we" as in "me and all of my aspects." I am usually an "us"]

I quit everything. For about three days my emotions felt short circuited. I would feel overwhelmed and weep spontaneously. Or I would burst out laughing and crying at the same time, which wasn't actually unpleasant, except that I would prefer to avoid those outbursts in public. I needed time to settle down and normalize. After a few days I got better, and after a week I had a sense of normality. I'm not sure if I can call the outcome "normality" -- perhaps more accurately, I felt a comfortable abstraction of what I believe to be the typical reality experienced by the majority of humans. This is good. I am at my best in a functional absurdity.

I made it back to Austin and replaced substances with bicycles. I was rejuvenated with a new hope. I am no longer naive enough to believe that my battle is won. As mental warriors, our battles are most likely to continue. I accept this, and am grateful for a reprieve so I can take stock of myself and prepare for the next challenge.

I left Austin after two or three weeks. This was toward the end of March. I felt strong and healed enough to head back to Kennett Square. My next mission would be to remodel my tiny house and begin a path toward mastery of sewing machines. I would make punk rock quilts, and learn to construct different types of handbags, bicycle bags, and camping gear.

What I forgot is that I have ADHD. As such, confidence and keen interest do not translate to progress. Lack of progress often does translate into frustration. A further result might be hopelessness and depression. I know I am not lazy per se - but that is exactly how this condition presents, including to those of us affected. We judge ourselves on a false perception of normal. Even when we recognize that our standard of self-measurement is flawed, we are still left with the depressing task of survival in a society designed by and for boring normals - bean counters, paper-pushers, et al. My path has been one of resistance, but to what end, employing what physics, I have not a clue.

I bought an incredible Juki TL-2010q sewing machine, and I couldn't bring myself to open the box for weeks. Progress is a battle. The fight is confounding for us. Victory appears to be easy: those around us take it for granted every day. Meanwhile, we can't tie our shoes, and we shit in our pants when we try. Not literally, of course, but the reality inspires the same self-confidence.

Kennett Square was ice cold when I returned. I got depressed. I entered again into the bad kind of abstract reality. Still I tried to soldier on and force any kind of victory I could muster. I tried to drive to the grocery store and I had to pull off the road because I started crying too hard to drive.

I paid in advance to join the annual 3 Speed Tour in Minnesota, so I would be forced to participate in something. I knew that if I paid well in advance, I would go. I love bicycles, 3 Speeds in particular, and I reasoned that a little adventure might give me a healthy new perspective. When the time came, I headed west. I slept in my van for two nights. On the second night, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store where I knew I wanted to stay over. I went inside to get food, and saw that liquor was also an option. I watched myself in slow motion as I purchased a fifth of vodka. I continued to observe myself as I poured dribbles and then drinks into a styrofoam cup with bad soda. It was awesome. I felt a bit aloof at times, but the 3 Speed Tour was a great experience, and I met people who I like very much. Happily, the 3 Speed Tour includes way more drinking than I would have ever assumed.

Time passed. Wellbeing teased me all summer, often visible, yet evading my grasp.

I was hanging out with Shelly last week. When it comes to getting basic tasks done, Shelly is my opposite. She seems to hum along confidently with a constant and steady aplomb. Shelly has had a profound influence on my life, as I have on hers, I would humbly hope I may claim. We went for a short walk in the woods while we talked and joked and caught up. On the way back, we stopped for small coffees. Then Shelly stood up abruptly and said "Come on, dude, let's get you signed up for health insurance." And so we did. Minor mental stumbling blocks were gently set aside. Beginning in January, I will have access to Adderall and perhaps talk therapy if I can figure out where to be geographically situated for a useful period of time.

I have two ten-packs of Modafinil left. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up before I go south for the winter. I had been paralyzed for weeks, unable to conquer the most basic of tasks. I couldn't move the ball forward even an inch. Knowing that help is on the horizon, I took a Modafinil pill. I was reminded of the story that I had read many years ago about William M. Gaines trying on spectacles for the first time. The effect of introducing a stimulant to my central nervous system is no less profound. The trees have leaves at the top, not fuzz. The battle will continue, but for the first time in almost a year, I mastered tasks, and then felt like I'd won the day.

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