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“Please Say You Understand”

“I am a nomad. I don’t stay anywhere long. But after 36 years of constant motion, I still haven’t outrun my ADHD — or the deep sadness that has seeped in lately.”

Perhaps this city’s lack of sun and its smothering gray sky are responsible for my recent funk – more painful and longer lasting than others I’ve endured. I’ve been trying to swim or write myself out of it, but without much success. It is like one step forward two steps back.

Then again, maybe it is the anticipation of visiting relatives, or the cultural differences that have progressed from amusing to annoying and now painful. One way or another, the dam is starting to crack; the pieces are crumbling to the ground. I can’t escape this one, it seems. What am I annoyed or angry about? The root perhaps lies in the anger with myself.

The other day in class I gave the students an assignment: Interview and write profiles of one another. The odd student out interviewed me. “Ms. Jane D., tell me about yourself and about your work. Where have you worked before?”

“Well where do I begin?” I answered. “I’ve had roughly 14 jobs over the past 14 years, averaging one job per year.” This 20-year-old student stopped scribbling and looked confused.

“Seems like you have seen many places but not stayed very long.” She hit it dead on. I don’t stay one place very long and not always out of choice – sometimes I get cut; other times I feel the other shoe dropping and I jump. I made up an answer, which sounded like a lot of bull.

“Oh, traveling from place to place makes for good life experiences. I’ve learned a lot at each place,” I started. But somewhere the sentence trailed off and I didn’t sound very convincing. Who was I trying to fool? Myself? I am nomadic. Why can’t I just accept this part of me rather than trying to talk myself out of it.

This reminder by a relative stranger was enough to throw me into a tizzy. Life is perhaps more about the choices that we make than it is about fate. If I could choose things all over again, would I choose this life? Would I choose to be me? On this day as I write, I can say that I would not.

Last week, I shared with the British counselor my feelings about things – this funk, this unhappiness with myself and circumstances, and the absolute misery and moodiness I carried around this past month or so. She nodded sympathetically and said, “God helps those who help themselves.”

We talked about my problems sustaining long-term relationships whether professionally and personally, and she suggested that it may be my body language, tone of my voice, and perhaps my own difficulty with reading others.

Mostly, though, I wanted to ask her if there was a medication that would take it all away, that could dull the pain and renew my spirit in myself and others. She said she did not know because she was not a psychiatrist, and she said she thought these were behavioral issues that I could change however slowly and painfully.

I don’t see any hope at the end of the tunnel. After sharing my deepest and inner-most fears with the aunt, she looked away and had little to say except maybe this comes and goes in phases, maybe you have to stop telling yourself it’s a problem. It felt like a slap in the face and a betrayal.

“How could you say something like that?” I asked. “It feels so heartless, it would be nice if someone just said they understood.”

I could not get even that, and I felt more alone than ever. A chill had entered the room and remained.

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  1. I don’t think there’s any magic pill, but there might be a combination of medications that help things feel better. What do you take now? I am on Adderall, and it definitely helps me focus, but it also calms how impulsive and scatterbrained I can be in conversations. This helps me have more deliberate and meaningful interactions.

    I also take a whole host of other medications designed to help my mood, decrease my anxiety, and keep me from having violent mood swings. The one that has helped the most is Limictal. It’s use for psychiatric disorders is still off-label, so you might have trouble finding someone who will prescribe it. My psychiatrist thinks it can be a wonder drug for people who don’t do well on regular mood stabilizers though.

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