None of my ADHD behavior seemed all that strange to me. When I peeked out at other people from inside my head, I noticed their reactions, whether I was drunk or sober. Man, they were so rigid and judgmental.
by Frank South
The definition of insanity is said to be doing something the same way again and again and each time expecting a different result. I think my particular insanity pattern throughout my life is doing whatever my next impulse says to and not even paying attention to the result. But at 49, in the middle of my breakdown, I didn’t see any pattern. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t keep holding things together with denial and martinis. I thought I’d been fine up until then.
My childhood was happy -- for me, anyway. Teachers pulled out their hair. Boy Scouts kicked me out permanently for stealing a transistor radio on a hike honoring honesty and then lying about it. I accidentally set some small fires that adults had to put out, got stuck in a few construction sites, and got lost running away. To this day, I look at cops as nice folks who will get me out of jams and get me home safe.
My adulthood was happy -- again, for me, and only sort of. Two previous marriages ending in divorce, countless failed relationships, and an early history of too many jobs in too many places all over the country doesn’t sound like a joyful noise, even to me. I was flying ADHD solo, and without a net. Once in my twenties, after saving and planning for months, my best friend and I hitched to New York from Columbia, Missouri, on our way to Europe. In New York, on the way to the airport, I changed my mind, deserted my best friend and went back to Missouri on the bus. I started and quit college twice, then moved from Columbia, to Kansas City, and to San Francisco, all the while constantly drinking and smoking pot. Then I moved to New York, where I was pulled over on St. Mark’s Place by an NYPD squad car for singing and running drunk down the middle of the street on my thirtieth birthday. They were nice folks and getting me out of New York City traffic I’m sure helped get me home safe. But the point is, none of this behavior seemed all that strange to me. When I peeked out at other people from inside my head, I noticed their reactions to my behavior, whether I was drunk or sober. Man, they were so rigid and judgmental. Thing was, when I was drunk, I didn’t care what other people thought so much.
So although there was plenty of evidence outside of me to the contrary, up until this recent breakdown, inside my head I was convinced I was fine. This is how I operated: There’s out there, and there’s in here. Who are you going to trust, the bottle in here that keeps the noise down, or those nasty bozos out there? What do they know?
As nuts as that may sound, I had some experiential evidence on my side. In 1969, I’d had an anxiety triggered episode while doing my 2-year Conscientious Objector service at a stateside medical center and went to the psychiatric clinic for help. Those docs put me on a ton of Stelazine and gave me a copy of I’m Okay, You’re Okay to read. After a couple of weeks, I dropped them and got through it on beer, weed, and John D. McDonald paperbacks.
Okay, but now it’s 1998 and having reacquired my trust of any therapist who would listen to me even though I never listened to them, I’m laying exposed in quivering pieces waiting to be put back together. Or at least get a story to use to build a new little room in my head.