“Taming the Tiger”
In ADHD group therapy, I share the part about brain blips, paper piles, all the things that are on the symptom list, but myself…I don’t want to talk about it.
Last night I was late again for the guinea pig pow-wow. I haven’t been on time once. So what if the psychiatrist jots something down and touts me as the group delinquent? When I walk in, all heads turn. I haven’t seen them in close to a month.
I sit at the same seat every time, and am always sandwiched between the reed-thin blonde and a chubby middle-aged woman who is very jittery. Of all things, she needs candy, soda, and magic pills (it might be Vicodin) to calm her down.
She taps at the table with her fake nails, the click and clack on my ears like a buzzing mosquito. She swings wildly between laughter and white-hot anger, lashing out when one of us dishes advice to her. I feel for the big beefy guy who always gets a verbal lashing from her. He just means to help.
They nominate me to share first because I’d missed two sessions, and because maybe they’d missed me. Got me thinking that maybe I was unconsciously rebelling. I’m not crazy, I’m not one of them, I don’t have what they have. I think of myself as the observer, the intrepid reporter, and the fly on the wall. Only my ADHD self is no cover, and ten years ago I wouldn’t, in my wildest memory, have imagined that I’d be here.
They want to hear about turkey day and the weekend, but I keep the little romance to myself. I’m afraid that emotional strip-teasing in front of them will somehow bite me in the back.
This is my ADHD self in group therapy. I choose to create a wall. I like the wall. I share the part about brain blips, memory loss, disorganization, paper piles, all the things that are on the symptom list, but myself, no, I don’t want to talk about it.
But they share, they striptease without reservation.
The reed-thin woman talks about the struggles with her young son, the new job, and an adolescence as a wacky pot-drinking “life of the party.” She has all of these degrees, collecting them like stamps, but struggles to keep herself focused. When she tells it, her face contorts, as if she’s an actress running through a skit. It’s funny, only it’s really not.
The woman next to her with a thick Hispanic accent spent her Thanksgiving catching up on paperwork after her tyrant of a boss questioned her productivity.
The blonde struggled with a childhood of being yelled at by her family for simply being herself. She says she felt sidelined and that she always existed on the fringe of what was “normal.”
The woman with nervous nails has been hospitalized for ADHD and other disorders. When she says she wants to kill her boyfriend for messing up the laundry, I believe her.
And then there’s me, my self, where to begin.
Tonight, it is perhaps the most revealing and heartbreaking of discussions. I hate when people are late, I hate broken promises, and yet how many times have I flaked out, how many times am I late? It’s as if I’m looking at myself in the mirror and really hating the whole thing. It’s as if I hate myself.
The pretty black woman looks at her hands and says that she just realized recently that she can really be annoying. There are people who are social dummies, who stand too close, who have bad breath. There are people who are obese, who take up two airline seats. But when she reflected on her life, one word buzzed in her head: inappropriate. Her words, her behavior, her existence. I feel like collapsing into a major depression.
The blonde woman says that she can’t deal with too much noise. That, at family gatherings, she needs to lock herself in the bedroom and be alone; otherwise, she goes batty. I feel for her, I really do.
At the end of the session, there sits a heavy silence. I wish someone would laugh and say, “Well that was fun,” but no one speaks, except to ask if we’ll meet over Christmas. The answer is a resounding no, and for the first time I smile.