All my life Ive felt like an alien
August 16, 2019 7:48 AM   Subscribe

21 Comics About ADHD By A 29-Year-Old Artist That Only Got The Right Diagnosis A Year Ago, featuring the work of Pina, an artist from Germany who makes comics about her life as an smart, quiet, introverted woman with Attention Deficit Disorder.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious (68 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
 
ADHD person here and a lot of this hit home, especially the RSD thing. I've lost two jobs over it, the second being a job I really liked until I got a new boss that never said anything positive about my work.
posted by SansPoint at 8:02 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


I was hoping this was the same person who did the ADHD/anxiety comic (which was so small on my phone I couldn't read it, and then I couldn't figure out how to make it bigger, and it didn't occur to me to bring it up on my PC, so it all became A Thing), and it is! I am glad to see it, especially in large enough format I can actually read it now!
posted by mittens at 8:10 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this feels right. I especially like the cartoon about the "buttons". And the one about the balls. And the one about RSD. And the one -

OK, that's enough. I have phone calls to make.
posted by nubs at 8:14 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Ahahahaha. Whether it's ADHD or autism, these comics are so painfully perfect and on the nose. I've been subscribing to them lately and really revelling in them, and her perspective is so very astute about why these things happen and what happens to them.

God, the anxiety ones. Yeah, that's my life, right there. I'm trying to fix some of the anxiety, but it's not easy throwing off shit like "try harder" when it's been infused into your bones since birth.
posted by sciatrix at 8:18 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


  1. Holy shit these are great.
  2. I wish "media about X by a person who just now learned about X" was not such a thing. Like, writing/drawing your way through a new experience is real and valid, and also I see a lot of mental health stuff online from newly diagnosed people, and I want to hear more from people who got their diagnosis ages ago and can draw on years of accumulated experience.
  3. Holy shit these are great!!!
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:20 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


One of these days I'm going stop reading posts like this and thinking "haha this is me, I should maybe do something about it " and start thinking "Haha this is me, I'm glad I'm doing something about it".
posted by Reyturner at 8:22 AM on August 16 [22 favorites]


I've been seeing some of these making the rounds the last few days and have really enjoyed and appreciated 'em; Pina's doing really nice work.
posted by cortex at 8:23 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


So. Very. Much. Me.
posted by evilDoug at 8:26 AM on August 16


Oh, hi.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:37 AM on August 16


I read this comic maybe two months ago, felt seen, and finally got a diagnosis and prescription a week ago. I doubt I would have sought treatment otherwise.

Time will tell how it works out, but I'm cautiously optimistic. Maybe the cycle of inaction, shame, and anxiety doesn't have to be the story of my life.
posted by a series of tube socks at 8:44 AM on August 16 [18 favorites]


I cleaned almost my entire apartment on Wednesday, and it went exactly like she describes in the comic. I had one goal in mind but it just kept being put under new ideas. Luckily, I had a few hours to just ping pong between tasks endlessly every 1-3 minutes as each new idea worried and overwhelmed me. At one point, I spent 20+ minutes popping out keys on my keyboard, cleaning them with rubbing alcohol and getting (oh god so much) fur/gunk out of the bottom part.

Why? There was no real reason to do this except I suddenly noticed I had never cleaned it.. but I also never really use my desktop computer and it's very old. Of course, I cleaned about 1/3 of it by popping out random keys and doing that after being able to focus on just the F keys. Again... why! So yeah, I get it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:45 AM on August 16 [13 favorites]


Oh, do I ever resemble these comics.

I currently resemble the one about sending emails. I just worked my ass off on a membership email for a group I'm in and... 1) I sent it out at the last minute; 2) I really think I could have done a better job at it but I just couldn't figure out exactly HOW; and 3) I forgot to add the attachment. At least it's better than the time that I accidentally sent out a faux-personalized letter to prospective vendors...and put them all in the cc column, not the bcc one. I thought that I was going to simply die that day.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:47 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I wish "media about X by a person who just now learned about X" was not such a thing. Like, writing/drawing your way through a new experience is real and valid, and also I see a lot of mental health stuff online from newly diagnosed people, and I want to hear more from people who got their diagnosis ages ago and can draw on years of accumulated experience.

Is Pina newly diagnosed? She's been doing these comics since May, but there's nothing about her work that struck me as that rush of self-identity that comes from a new, adult diagnosis that you didn't already kind of expect was coming. (And in fact I'm pretty sure that she was an adult diagnosis who was, indeed, pretty sure it was coming based on this comment, posted well after she had started making comics.) The Bored Panda article says she's dealt with ADHD for "a while now," but Pina herself didn't write that article and was surprised (and delighted) to find it posted.

All of this stuff resonates really strongly to me, but also, like... I got diagnosed with ADHD circa 1997ish, my autism spectrum diagnosis happened around 2002, and I'm still trying to figure this shit out and work out how to balance my brain with the things I want to do and say and be. Sometimes having a name to put to it is really important, in part for trying to face down the shame of all of it, but that isn't a panacea. (I made my partner and roomie late for a gym class we were all going to last week, traffic patterns meant we wound up being 35minutes late, it was my fault for not paying attention or keeping track of time, and I burst into tears and wound up throbbing with the pain of that and cycling fruitlessly around how I was going to keep it from happening again for hours. It will happen again, and I still carry a lot of shame about that. There is so, so, so much shame.)

In some ways, also, having a childhood diagnosis bakes the shame into your bones (you're so bad at pretending you got marked out right away), and in some ways it gives you a shield--I'm not stupid, I have this disability. And in some ways the diagnosis becomes the tool of shame: you know you have this problem, how can you not have fixed it already? Well. It's fucking hard, okay!

Also, task switching is the absolute worst, and I would like to just marinate in hyperfocus forever some days. That's life, I guess.
posted by sciatrix at 8:49 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I love these. I'm a non-ADHD person who always falls for ADHD people. My current 11-year partner is an ADHD guy. We work well together and our various ups and downs seem to really mostly line up in ways that are delightful. But a few of his... quirks... have always been tough for me to adjust to, stuff like "We've been together HOW long and you can't remember my middle name???" I had always looked at it like a memory thing (which is how he always portrayed it) but reading these I guess it's just an ADHD thing, and that's actually really good to know.
posted by jessamyn at 8:50 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


He knows your middle name. It's if you ask him on the spot, he will blank out completely. I have an absurdly good memory for things, like I could walk you through games I played all the way back 25+ years, but if I am asked what was my favorite movie I saw this year? I will be unable to remember a single movie I saw perhaps. It is very strange and very real. I often run through facts just so they're top of mind.

My partner thought I never listened because I'd ask about the same thing a few times. But I usually know it if I focus or rather am not focusing too much.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:00 AM on August 16 [21 favorites]


I had always looked at it like a memory thing

I mean, ADHD itself is in large part a memory thing. My friends call me a goldfish, and a big part of why things become overwhelming is that I struggle with juggling multiple unrelated pieces of information in my head at any given time. So I can't think "oh I should do dishes after I pick up in my office" and expect like anybody else to finish picking up my office and think, yes, now it's time for dishes! Since I know I won't remember that if I don't keep it front-of-mind the whole time, pretty soon I'm simultaneously thinking about literally everything that could possibly need doing, and then I'm basically also the person hiding under my desk gibbering.

But it also means that tools to get things outside of my head have been reasonably effective, and would have been even more so if I'd learned to use them as a kid instead of as a 30-something adult. Storing information in your brain is so overrated in an age of smartphones, but then you have to have the habits to remember to keep checking your calendar and to-do list and all that.
posted by Sequence at 9:15 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


A friend/former roommate was finally diagnosed with ADHD a couple years back and she's started sharing these. She's got a lot of other stuff going down in her life at the moment, and the sense I get is that is that she's taking great comfort in "yes, at least THIS is going right for me, I have something to point to that explains WHAT LIFE IS LIKE FOR ME!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


He knows your middle name. It's if you ask him on the spot, he will blank out completely.
Lol yes exactly this. I've blanked on the FIRST names of some of my closest friends when I needed to introduce them to someone and I was nervous.

These comics are all so, so, so relatable. Unfortunately I can't take ADHD meds for medical reasons so I have to just struggle along the best I can. I'm finally able to live alone now and that has helped a lot, I don't have to struggle with the horrible cycle of executive dysfunction (can't do dishes today) > rejection sensitivity (everyone's angry at me for not doing dishes!!!) > anxiety/self harm (if I don't eat anything I won't make dirty dishes so nobody can get mad at me) etc. Now I do the dishes when I can, and when I can't I'm not bothering anyone but myself.
posted by 100kb at 9:21 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I have a freakishly good memory, but I can't always access it in the moment. I am definitely the person who remembers factoids that I have heard once but forgets my debit card PIN when I'm trying to pay for my groceries. I think I read somewhere that ADHD people have deficits with working memory but not with longterm memory. I feel like I'm a closed-stack library, and I have everything in the stacks in my head, but I don't have a good system for organizing and finding stuff once I've got it from the stacks and I'm supposed to get it at the check-out counter.

It is weird to me how specifically some of these comics resonate. Like, that running thing about not having drank enough water but not wanting to have to pee is a major reason that I don't go for runs. (I also forget to eat lunch, and then I eat when I get home from work, and then I worry that I haven't had enough time to digest before it gets dark, and then it's too late to run.) And yeah, I agonize about emails and then forget to include the attachment. And then I agonize that people think I'm flaky because I forgot to send the attachment. And then I worry that I've over-apologized.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:22 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I did once get evaluated for ADHD but was told I was too high-functioning as a child to have it and that I was "borderline" but didn't have it. Looking back, that doctor definitely had some obvious biases so I should maybe consider getting reevaluated, but for the most part I've constructed my life so my borderline non-ADHD or whatever the heck it is is not a huge problem. But it has required a considerable degree of strategizing and a not small amount of privilege to get to this point.

For example, I am now in a role where I don't have a ton of hard deadlines, repetitive cyclical work or constraints on what I do each day. I can, for the most part, come in to work and think - oh I think I feel like working on x today, produce some cool stuff, come back the next day and work on y etc. My husband does a ton of everyday planning and making sure that all the gears of life are well-oiled. When he goes away for a few days and everything starts to fall apart I realize how much he does. I have constructed planning and reminder systems that work for me - bullet journaling for planning (no pressure, just add stuff to a list if you want, or not, no pressure) combined with calendar alerts, and, crucially, Siri on my phone. I find it way easier to just set a reminder for when I need to do something ("Remind me tomorrow at 7 am to mail card to my mom") than to try to remember or remember to consult a list of things to do. This way, I can forget about things entirely, and they'll still pop on an as needed basis. But it's still an ongoing process that I struggle with and I'm constantly reminded of my inability to hold more than one thing to do in my head at once.
posted by peacheater at 9:26 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


I was diagnosed at 39, (almost) 4 years ago. My whole life, I felt something was off, and was confused why some things were just hard or even impossible for me. I'm smart, in some ways wickedly smart. Why the hell was everything so hard? Why did even tasks I excelled at take so much longer for me than other people?

I honestly had not thought of or considered ADHD, at least not seriously. Largely because I didn't understand the disorder wasn't lack of attention, it was inappropriate attention. I dismissed it in my own mind (when pondering why I couldn't human) because I COULD focus on certain things for a long ass time. Even when I should have stopped.

Oh....

Reading about (and watching Dr. Russell Barkley's lectures) was like someone had my user manual. I finally understood instead of just going "what is wrong with me? Why can't I do this?"

I think there is a variant of people with adhd who hyperfocus on learning new things. We can be smart as a whip, and that makes us all the more perplexing to those around us. To ourselves too.

(And the shower or new clothes or get dirty first or shower first loop; fuck.)

ArbitraryAndCapricious, I have trouble with running and what order to do things in. For me it's not even drinking more water, but when is the "best" time to run, when should I eat, when should I shower, how do I do thing? My god it's not that hard. Except it is, for us.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:32 AM on August 16 [15 favorites]


I have ADHD. I've been trying to do something about it for years. I'm at risk of losing my job right now, which would mean a lot of trouble for me in many reaching ways a lot of people don't understand. It doesn't make it any easier with that threat looming over my head. It's not motivation for someone like me. A few weeks (or months?) ago I saw my GP to refer me to a psychiatrist. She could tell it was serious and said she'd have a social worker call to try and get me in as soon as possible. Shortly after that I lost my phone. I never got the call about the psychiatrist, and I'm still where I started. It took almost a year between getting up the nerves, and making appointments, and then making it TO appointments to finally start getting medication to help me.

I can go 10, 12, 14 hours without eating or using the bathroom or doing anything that normal people do. I count things obsessively when I'm bored. I catalogue things in my vincinity like some b-rated sherlock holmes. I can't sleep without medication because my brain is always "on". It constantly feels like i have 3 or 4 trains of thought going at once. I'm a crafty DIY person, but it takes me forever to finish projects (or mostly I don't finish) because when I come to a solution I have to move. I'll be sitting at my desk trying to figure something out, and when I do i HAVE to get up and walk around the house. Time doesn't exist. I've always been this way, since I was a child, but it hasn't occured to me up until the past 4 years or so that it could be from ADHD.

A thing that people don't realize is that executive function isn't just about things you don't like. It could be getting a popsicle from the freezer, and if EF is acting up it just won't happen.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:38 AM on August 16 [18 favorites]


Unfortunately I can't take ADHD meds for medical reasons so I have to just struggle along the best I can.

You know, stimulants don't seem to work for me--they amp up the anxiety, so I freeze more, and I don't process them well enough. I tried them again a while back and gave them up because the anxiety titration effects were fucking up my life more and more, and given the stigma and gatekeeping on the meds and the inherent difficulties of getting your damn meds on time when you have major executive function issues, I don't miss them. I'm shamefully kind of glad they don't work for me, because there's so much stigma attached to them, but it does make me question whether ADHD is the right diagnosis or not--although in the long term, I suppose it doesn't matter too much as long as I work out what the right one is; the executive function deficits are clearly the thing I'm struggling with.

You know what has been a life-saving med for me over the past year and a half, though?

Fucking clonidine. Which is normally a blood pressure med, but which I first encountered being discussed in the context of PTSD: it's an alpha agonist, and specifically one of its actions is to inhibit the release of norepinephrine, blunting the severity of the fight-or-flight trauma response. It's gotten more and more commonly used with ADHD recently, apparently, down to William Dodson, whose work is... apparently controversial, but me, I always find myself struggling to breathe when I engage with it because it is generally so intuitive to me. I'm afraid of things that are intuitive and healing to me in this area; they're painfully novel.

It was terrifying to bring my desire to try this med up with my psychiatrist--I hadn't bothered disclosing either the ADHD dx or the autism one, because they didn't seem relevant to the issues I was seeing her for (anxiety, depression, constant tension) and I didn't want to deal with the fucking stigma. But. I found this article, and went "rejection-sensitive dysphoria--wait, wait, this is a thing?" and I brought up the possibility of just trying clonidine. It's dirt cheap, has pretty much no side effects for me, but hell, I've had so many checks and nudges to don't do those things that are natural for you that it took me months to get up the courage to just... bring it up, and then my psych was pretty skeptical until I explained those childhood diagnoses.

And.

You guys. It works. It works so well. Like, it isn't perfect, but it's like--it's like I can breathe and engage again. It means I can work on the things I find traumatic, sometimes. It means I can grit my teeth through the screaming horror of rejection and reject some of the well-meaning advice to just be a different person, and sift out valid criticism from background radiation. It's like having skin again when I was wandering around totally raw.

I wonder sometimes about that, the notion that we're all walking around with the kind of chronic trauma that gets named PTSD when it comes from gunfire and burning cars. It feels dangerous to claim that. But it doesn't feel wrong, either.
posted by sciatrix at 9:42 AM on August 16 [31 favorites]


Question for people diagnosed late in life. What did the diagnosis mean for you? What did it change? I feel like getting it at this point in my life would be a formality but I'm also not sure what I should do about it.
posted by Reyturner at 9:42 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


A thing that people don't realize is that executive function isn't just about things you don't like. It could be getting a popsicle from the freezer, and if EF is acting up it just won't happen.

Ahahaha, I have had that "okay, time to get up and make the ice cream you want"... "come on, get up, get the ice cream"... "if you don't eat it now you won't have room for dinner".... "what is wrong with you, get up, get the ice cream, you want it, it's three feet away" conversation with myself more times than I can count. God. It's so infuriating.
posted by sciatrix at 9:44 AM on August 16 [11 favorites]


I was diagnosed as a child, but my parents opted not to medicate me for various reasons. (It was the early '90s, my parents are older, and they'd heard a lot of stuff about Ritalin side-effects.) As an adult, I realized a lot of my issues and symptoms were synonymous with ADHD, and worked to get some therapy and medication. Even that was a hassle, after going straight to a psychiatrist and being ordered to get an ECG before they'd prescribe me anything. I put off doing anything for over a year after that.

What did it change, though? It changed how I thought of myself, how much of my fuckups and issues I could say were truly my fault as a person, and how much was a result of faulty wiring. It's helped me understand myself more and be a better me, whatever me actually is. It's also given me the focus to see that I don't fully get... myself.
posted by SansPoint at 9:57 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Fucking clonidine.

OH MY GOD. I am so glad to hear this actually works. About a decade ago, I was doing my obsessive little "what med shall we try next" research and came across clonidine's psych effects, and so I proposed it to my doc, and it wasn't even like, off-label or anything, since I also have hypertension. And I got the prescription and I was so excited because getting what you ask for at the doctor is inherently exciting and also I felt like some crazy biohacker getting set to modify my brain structure...

...except that instead of helping my anxiety, it just knocked me out cold. I couldn't even stand up, it was so strong! I remember this family get-together where I just sat in a chair very, very carefully, because one false move would bring out the fainty black blotches in my vision.

So naturally, instead of titrating the dose to something workable, and letting me really follow through on the anxiety experiment, my doc took me off of it and put me on a different med which had no effect on anxiety.

But now I feel vindicated. "SEE! It COULD have worked!"
posted by mittens at 10:02 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Reyturner,
Well, I was diagnosed in my forties, I was in school and having a rough semester, so I went to a counselor who told me "Some people shouldn't be in college, the world needs ditch diggers too!" I had to politely walk away, but I really REALLY wanted to punch her and tell her that "Some people shouldn't be counselors, the world needs ditch diggers too!" Instead I told a school friend who said "Yeah, we know your crazy, don't listen to her." Which was surprisingly affirming (guys, we're idiots). I called my ex wife who was both awesome and seriously deeply involved in the mental health scene and she said "Congratulations, you've just had your first bad session! Know go find someone better trained."
So I did.
I was told "No, don't be silly, you're not ADD! You're ADHD!" And he sent me off with my diagnosis to a Psychiatrist to get a prescription, which apparently worked. I made it through school.
In the meantime, I've lost that diagnosis and I'm afraid to tell my GP, because he might think I'm scrounging for highs.
So, I live with it, drink a respectable amount of coffee a day and try hard to keep to schedules. I have a personal trainer, because I won't remember to work out otherwise, and a running partner. I have good friends who don't get upset when I'm late, and try hard not to be too ADHD. None of this probably helps, but there you are.
posted by evilDoug at 10:12 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Question for people diagnosed late in life. What did the diagnosis mean for you? What did it change? I feel like getting it at this point in my life would be a formality but I'm also not sure what I should do about it.

I got diagnosed at about the age of 40. The formal diagnosis both meant nothing and everything, in a weird way...I mean, hearing my doctor say the words felt nice, but it was what having the diagnosis gave me the room/permission to do:

-trying meds - the first day I got on an effective dose was fucking amazing for me, and I still periodically get to feel that again because I do things like forget to take the pills for a few days or do stupid things like leave them behind while on holidays
-giving myself permission to laugh (sometimes) at how I sometimes freeze up/get overwhelmed, instead of beating myself up about it for the rest of the day
-just feeling more comfortable with myself and who I am and acknowledging the fact that I sometimes just can't deal with certain situations and things and that it's ok to limit exposure to those or just not do them or to say to my partner to back off and not keep throwing questions and thoughts and ideas at me, because I need to focus on one thing right now
-recasting large segments of my life - I can now look back on my struggles and challenges as a student/younger person and understand that it wasn't that I was lazy/a bad person/whatever label
-starting to learn about it in a serious way - the way you learn about any health condition you need to manage

I mean, I think it's largely a personal thing. It may not mean what it has for me to someone who has acknowledged/accepted this in their life previous to the diagnosis, and made adjustments for it.
posted by nubs at 10:18 AM on August 16 [11 favorites]


It's always a bit fascinating to read these kinds of life histories as someone who hasn't been diagnosed with ADHD or any sort of neurodiversity, though there was times when depression or other kinds of mental issues were mooted, but didn't quite fit. There are so many strong similarities in some of the things mentioned, like that of executive function, but some of the other elements don't seem to fit at all, like no trouble staying focused on lectures or, what to many, would be tedious tasks, even as being around people in normal social settings without proper space could send me up a wall.

Like Reyturner, I sometimes wonder about what a diagnosis would mean at a late age, since I've accustomed myself to fitting my life around my "quirks". I'm not sure if I even would want a diagnosis of some specific condition now since it could be as disruptive as helpful and wouldn't seem likely to actually effect helpful change at this late stage, with so many irrevocable choices already behind me. Then again it might just be some internal prejudice at work too, as if having a diagnosis would somehow invalidate my "choices" as them not having the same significance as those made by neurotypical people. I don't really know what that leaves and I certainly wouldn't want to sound as if I'm arguing against anyone else's decisions, I just can't quite figure what I want from this kind of information. Sorry if that's a dead end spiel, but that's how it sits for me.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:22 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking I should see someone, because like some of these things ring true but definitely not all of them, but maybe that's because I've figured out coping strategies over the past few decades? Even if I got a formal diagnosis I wouldn't take medication so what help would it be? Maybe my problem is actually just a sleep disorder, but I've had no luck getting THAT diagnosed, ughx1000 anyway these comics are really interesting
posted by hishtafel at 10:34 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


hishtafel: You should see someone. The worst they can do is say you don't have ADHD.
posted by SansPoint at 10:46 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


I can relate to aspects of this, but not all. I mean, that's fine -- we don't all experience things the same way.

I was officially diagnosed with ADHD when I was 8, and then when I was 12 I got like 5 hours of cognitive testing, but all I ever knew about it was that they'd estimated my IQ. I was on Ritalin or Adderall until I was maybe 15, but I can't say it helped at the dosages I was getting. My strategy as a student, starting in 7th grade, had been to never do any homework or projects, but ace the exam, nudging my grade up to a passing D every semester. By tenth grade, that stopped working and I started failing a lot of classes. Then I started skipping classes altogether. I dropped out when I was 17.

10 years later I buckled down and starting working hard in college, but it was an emotional nightmare. I actually tried to get an ADHD assessment, but then I had kind of a breakdown and my case manager determined that I was only experiencing ADHD-like symptoms as a result of mental illness. So I went into treatment for mental illness and cancelled the ADHD assessment. I continued to struggle, but thanks to official disability status I was able to do well.

In my last year of classes, I went to get a comprehensive vision test that included an eye-tracking segment. They noticed that my eyes were constantly scanning and rescanning every line on the page, even when I wasn't aware of it. In the absence of any obvious vision problems, the ophthalmologist told me it must have been a cognitive problem. I called my mom and she said "yeah, when you got that 5-hour test as a kid, they diagnosed you with executive dysfunction." Huh! Good to know.

But by then I was almost done with school. I got my BA with highest honors, summa cum laude, when I was 32, but I was pretty emotionally wrecked by then. And it's been a roller coaster since. I think one of the things people take for granted is that someone like me might be able to get stuff done, but it comes at a cost. So they'll say "well, diagnosis or not, you're clearly very successful!" But getting through school was an extreme experience. I thought it was just something wrong with me until I found out about the executive dysfunction diagnosis. Things started to make sense, especially the emotional aspect of things.

Sometimes I think about what my life might have been like if I hadn't listened to that case manager, and if I'd gone in for the ADHD testing anyway. Would I have gotten medication that helped me focus? Would I have had a better understanding of my emotional regulation? I did well in school, but there were so many things I didn't do because I couldn't remember to apply, or I couldn't remember to follow up, or I didn't know how to manage the anxiety of trying. I mean, everyone has regrets about the things they could have done, but I know there are things I missed out on solely due to executive dysfunction. So frustrating.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my story because in some ways I was diagnosed as a kid, and in other ways I remain undiagnosed even now. I've been trying to get some kind of diagnosis and treatment, but it's hard to come by, especially on Medicaid. There's also the issue of comorbid mental illness clouding diagnosis. If I were to present with only attentional problems, that would be one thing. Attentional problems and emotional issues, it starts to get a little fuzzier; patients are often diagnosed with various mental illnesses rather than ADHD, even if the latter might be more appropriate. But in my case (and with many others, as well), there is undeniably significant mental illness, which always takes priority in diagnosis. Even if I tell someone I was diagnosed with executive dysfunction, that's ignored as more or less a product of mental illness; never the other way around.

There's no conclusion to this story, because it's ongoing. I know that there are some issues with my cognition that present significant challenges; I just need someone in a position of medical authority to believe it enough that they investigate further. We'll see how that goes.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:46 AM on August 16 [11 favorites]


Executive Dysfunction: Overwhelm. Man, I wake up at night from planning for the next day in my sleep trying to make my day like a linear delivery route. No extra stops or steps. Haha, it can be maddening. But yea, most of the comics are spot-on for me.
posted by snsranch at 10:53 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Question for people diagnosed late in life. What did the diagnosis mean for you? What did it change? I feel like getting it at this point in my life would be a formality but I'm also not sure what I should do about it.
posted by Reyturner at 11:42 AM on August 16 [+] [!]


Two things.
1.) Medication is great. I take Adderall, and it gives me calm and focus. I don't feel like shit all the time anymore. There is a reason why I am the way I am.
2.) My last talk with my dad was a few days after I told my mom about my diagnosis and how medication seemed to really help. We talked about how he saw that in himself now that he'd read up on it, and that he wished he'd gotten me treated when I was younger. It was the best conversation I've ever had.

I was 35, btw. (I still am, I suppose.)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:23 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


I really appreciate the responses! Maybe I'll finally do the thing!
posted by Reyturner at 11:33 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


Thank you for this post. I relate 100% with everything here. I was diagnosed at 27 (3 separate evaluations because each subsequent doc refused to believe an adult "woman" could have ADHD - fun) and being medicated has improved my life, but the symptoms are still so pervasive. I find myself getting overwhelmed and frustrated, and subsequently paralyzed, when I feel I haven't made as much progress as society expects. I'm going to show my friends and family this comic in the hopes that they "get it" a little better. But I have my doubts, because ...culture. Because culture.

So many people act like ADHD is just a quirk of personality. So many people feel the need to to blame me. It's not them just being jerks. It's part of our culture.

My question is always:
Why would I do this to myself? Why would anyone live life like this if they had another option? Do they think I purposefully refuse to maintain my own life, to the detriment of my physical and mental health?

And it's like society is so obsessed with the lazy moochers gaming the system to get more social leeway by claiming MI/ADHD...but that? is hilarious to me. My entire life, depression/anxiety/ADHD has ever functioned as an excuse for my shortcomings. I always take full responsibility for everything I fail to accomplish, because neurotypical society is obsessed with assigning blame and downplaying disability, and terrified of the suggestion that they might have even the slightest neurological advantage.

I have now reread and rewritten this comment 8 times. Time to post. (I'm learning to install my own buttons.)
posted by captain afab at 11:48 AM on August 16 [23 favorites]


I've got a few quirks that might point vaguely in the ADD direction, others that gesture in the vicinity of Asperger's. There's a point or two in these comics that remind me of my wife.

My youngest, though? Hoo boy. It's not a 100% match, but *so much* overlap. Not really a surprise, he's had the diagnosis for most of his life, though they usually sort of trail off hinting at other issues (several professionals have stated that they've never encountered anyone quite like him).

So, speaking as a more-or-less neurotypical parent of a neurodiverse child, it is very, very hard to always be taking this into account, aggravated by the fact that it probably isn't 100% neurodiversity to blame--a couple of the comics do note that sometimes her issues are directly related. I really appreciate a couple of the comics not on the main link but which are on her own page, about how to help someone with ADHD, and am sharing them with my wife.
posted by Four Ds at 11:59 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Question for people diagnosed late in life. What did the diagnosis mean for you? What did it change? I feel like getting it at this point in my life would be a formality but I'm also not sure what I should do about it.

Adderall did not fix everything for me, but Adderall enables things to be fixed. I think it's a very YMMV thing, of course. I think a lot of it is just identifying that whatever is up with your brain, it doesn't work the way you were told brains were supposed to work, and you have to figure out how to work with how your brain does instead of how you wish your brain did. So that's a good start. But Adderall, for me, was the enabler, the thing that made it possible to remember to add stuff to Todoist, the thing that made it possible to get up on a Saturday morning and clean the kitchen, all that. I still had to plan those things and then execute those plans; it doesn't replace all the work. But without the meds, all the planning in the world did not get me there.

There are people though who need similar help but can achieve that without stimulants, obviously, but I'm not one of them. I think it's possible that there will be a point later where so much of this is habitual that the stimulants are less of an important part. For right now, I'm not going to get to that point without meds. It didn't magic the whole problem away, but I'm only occasionally late on bills now instead of regularly at least a month behind on everything, and I have clean dishes and clean clothes almost all the time, and just those things made a huge difference for me.
posted by Sequence at 1:29 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this - my wife just recently (at 40) got diagnosed, so not only do I have a lot to learn, but she's still learning as well. I suspect this will be helpful for both of us.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:42 PM on August 16


"ADHD person here and a lot of this hit home, especially the RSD thing."

I've only been to the appropriate kind of doctor once, but they diagnosed me and gave me medicine for it. Haven't been to any doctor in the 10 years or so since, but I assume I still have . What's new to me is this RSD thing, but I related a lot to that comment. I remember a few weeks ago I was just miserable at work, feeling like a complete failure, stressed about it at home and all. Then I got some positive feedback on the same thing I had been feeling like I was garbage over and I instantly felt a huge weight off my shoulders. I can't remember if I always been this way with work, or if it's because my current job has a great deal of creativity and personal art labor poured into it so I am actually emotionally attached to my labor.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:46 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Yeah, RSD and how it connects to ADHD just unlocked a final puzzle piece for me, I think it is going to be an interesting next couple of weeks.
posted by davejay at 2:12 PM on August 16 [10 favorites]


To anyone who doesn’t know what the RSD symptoms would be like or can’t imagine it... picture a negative criticism and then immediately picture a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud and the explosive power is how angry/hurt/upset you feel for approximately 30 seconds to a minute. It might taper but you will still have a bad feeling. Often rumination for a very long time.

But the explosion is what I really want you to focus on. Like... I dunno, what’s the biggest shock that you’ve ever gotten? Someone startling you really suddenly? Pain from an injury? It’s up there and we apparently can’t control it. (Knowing what it is helps me at least because I realize it’s happening and can be alone and talk myself through it.)

It has to be some sort of stimulus process is the best I can figure because it is immediate and like the biggest tidal wave destroying every part of your positive self. Temporarily.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:28 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


Re: medication, I meant that I can't take stimulants. But having an antidepressant that actually works has made my life so much better. I mean, I also have depression, ymmv. But for me it's impossible to draw a line between where the ADHD ends and the depression begins, and treating depression has helped my executive functioning a lot - and even when it's not so good at least I don't beat myself up about it.

Re: adult diagnosis, I'm in my mid-thirties and was recently diagnosed. My mom didn't believe that ADHD/autism/depression/etc were real things (she was largely opposed to western medicine, especially any medication of children, and yes, also anti-vax) so getting a diagnosis as a kid was a non-starter. Getting the diagnosis as an adult hasn't really made much change for me beyond doctors trying different meds. It has helped me accept myself more I guess, and helped me see/understand my patterns of behaviour a bit better. I'm more creative about problem-solving around my barriers and less likely to just force myself to power through something that isn't working.
posted by 100kb at 4:19 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk, emotional issues; are they possibly related to emotional regulation? Those of us with adhd struggle to manage our emotions because our executive functioning is weaker than neurotypical people. It’s part of the whole ball of wax and why understanding adhd is so confusing to many people.

It’s also a reason why it can be confused with bipolar disorder. (Especially bipolar II). Except our moods aren’t out of step with our experiences. They’re actually very in step; but our little brain manager doesn’t know how to say “calm down, ignore that emotion”.

There are times when I’m so excited I feel like I have to be manic. I’m not, but boy, it feels that way. And something bad happens and I’m low. Even if I know the thing is temporary. To a neurotypical person, I’m sure it seems crazy
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:50 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I just learned about RSD a couple months ago & simply knowing that it's a thing has been HUGE for me.

I used to go into every meeting with a project manager convinced they were going to tell me I was doing a terrible job & was about to be let go any minute, even though I was actually doing a great job (the "AAAAAAAH THEY LOVE IT" panel really hit home).

With the RSD framework, I still have those thoughts, but I know that they're bullshit & I can have a little conversation with my brain, like, "hey it's reasonable for your project manager to want to check in on how the project's going, they're not gonna yell at you, their goal is not to find reasons to tell you you're a horrible person, their goal is for this project to be done & good & they're here to HELP you, ya big ol' doofball."

It's a huge relief.

I think about going on meds sometimes but I feel like I'm really using the weird-leaps-and-connections plus side part of the ADHD in my day job as a writer/designer (plus just like, being me in my life) & I don't want to fuck that up. What's y'all's experience been with that?
posted by taquito sunrise at 4:53 PM on August 16 [10 favorites]


Adderall has not impacted my creativity in the slightest if that’s what you’re worried about. I am actually more creative and have been working on stuff again since I have less anxiety and more focus. If you took it, it wears off quickly and you’d be back to your old self. I don’t see the harm in trying something.

I don’t know if there is any sort of medication that helps with RSD from what I’ve discerned except knowing that it’s a temporary burst. I am normally a quiet person but... I have a reputation of getting unbearably excited and loud sometimes (maybe a lot?!) but in a cute way... and I do think it’s related. I just burst into tears reading a MetaTalk thread then was okay a minute later. And I really don’t feel depressed or irrational... I just feel... hard. Big moods. Previously never would have occurred to me it’s because of weak executive functioning.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:50 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


I have never heard of RSD before, but holy crap it explains so much of my childhood and teen years. I was the kid that would burst out in tears the moment someone suggested I did something wrong. I learned to wall myself off from most of those feelings by the time I got to college, but the more I think about it, the more I'm certain it's had an impact on my life to this day, and I'm in my late 40s now. Ever since my son got diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's/ASD, I've been reevaluating my own experiences, and I think I need to have a conversation with my GP, at the very least.
posted by mollweide at 6:09 PM on August 16 [10 favorites]


Too adhd-brain to write a comment, lol, but this thread makes me so happy. Dreaming about a day when I can try medication (the clonidine brought up is interesting). Struggling a lot with EF lately/forever and feeling bad about myself but stuff like this helps.
posted by gaybobbie at 6:18 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


mollweide, there is a genetic component at play in ADHD; my son's diagnosis was the impetus for me to seek a diagnosis because as we were reading up on things for him, I came across enough information to really make me think about seeking my own diagnosis (In fact, when I found a proposed list of adult diagnostic criteria in one book, I read it to my wife, who then asked me which ones didn't apply to me).

I also want to share this, although I suspect it may be region blocked outside of Canada - The Nature of Things: ADHD - Not Just For Kids (I'll see if I can find a link for an international audience)
posted by nubs at 6:35 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Here's that Nature of Things episode on YouTube
posted by nubs at 6:43 PM on August 16


shapes that haunt the dusk, emotional issues; are they possibly related to emotional regulation?

Yes, and also things that strongly resemble RSD, for sure (which stands for Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, for those of us who kept seeing it and trying to remember). People hear "ADHD" and think it means only "can't pay attention and squirms in their chair," but it's really very disruptive! Over the years it's been suggested that I might have bipolar II, borderline personality disorder, OCD, PTSD, something on the autism spectrum, severe generalized anxiety, severe major depression, or just a lack of motivation.

The frustrating thing is that I still could have something like bipolar II or BPD. I mean, it's undeniable that I have clear OCD symptoms, some of which -- like obsessive rumination -- are not far off from the kind of rumination that may be present in another diagnosis. That's the tricky thing when it comes to diagnosis. So many different things overlap with each other in so many ways. As I understand it, what it really comes down to is which avenue for treatment might be the most successful. And so many treatment plans seem like exact opposites of each other! I've had psychiatrists refuse to consider stimulants because they were concerned about anxiety; but then I'd get some kind of downer and be too tired to focus. Sometimes it feels like it's just a matter of finding some kind of compromise that works well enough.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:31 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


bipolar II, borderline personality disorder, OCD, PTSD, something on the autism spectrum, severe generalized anxiety, severe major depression, or just a lack of motivation.

(Psst, also, the last one is the only joke -- all the others are serious things I've either never been assessed for, or things that have been pointed to as the only real problem I have to deal with. They're all equally plausible, and honestly, even the lack of motivation is probably a factor on some level. I wanted to clarify this, because I realized after the edit window that my joke about motivation might make it look like I was downplaying some things, or making it look like any of those are ridiculous or shameful things.)
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:41 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to read these discussions here, and relate to some things so hard, and other things not at all, and see the range.

It’s also a reason why it can be confused with bipolar disorder. (Especially bipolar II). Except our moods aren’t out of step with our experiences. They’re actually very in step; but our little brain manager doesn’t know how to say “calm down, ignore that emotion”.

There are times when I’m so excited I feel like I have to be manic. I’m not, but boy, it feels that way. And something bad happens and I’m low. Even if I know the thing is temporary. To a neurotypical person, I’m sure it seems crazy


This is the first time I've heard this. I've wondered many times if there was a "bi-polar lite"
posted by bongo_x at 12:32 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


I should probably add that I have some complex feelings about reaction sensitive dysphoria, in that what I actually think is probably going on with it isn't something that derives directly from ADHD or autism as a state of being. I don't think there's anything inherent about the neurodiverse brain that produces this really intense, terrified, painful reaction to rejection.

I think it's a reaction to complex trauma.

Being expected to do things you are not able to do and treated as stupid or lazy for not managing to do them is, uh, a feature of neurodiverse experiences. Speaking directly to ADHD, there's a reason that perhaps the seminal work on adult ADHD is called You mean I'm not lazy, stupid, or crazy? You get used to certain forms of criticism as having consequences from loved ones, from colleagues, from acquaintances. You get gas lit, too, about your perceptions of difficulty and your self assessment of your abilities, on a truly epic scale. There is a lot of being set up to fail, and then a lot of being blamed for it.

We know that trauma is strongly exacerbated by lack of social support. To be neurodiverse is to go through the world struggling with certain things that are easy for other people, and being rejected for failing at these things is an almost universal experience. We are social animals, and this pattern of mysterious rejection followed by blame begins in early childhood.

And we know that very powerful sympathetic nervous system arousal is a feature of trauma reactions and flashbacks, when the traumatized brain is presented with cues that suggest the painful thing is going to happen again.

There is a reason that a medication that was first used in a psychiatric context for PTSD patients so commonly works for people with ADHD that it is now listed as a drug for that purpose. The existence of living in a society that expects you to do the impossible without help and blames you for failing teaches you to associate rejection with further and more intense rejection. It isn't you: the world is unfair.

Of course, we still need to exist in that unfair world. And that's why medication is helpful, to give us the skin to exist in it while we re-learn an idea of what is going on and why the pain of rejection keeps happening and think about how to honestly communicate ability. But I do think that it is important to consider this feature in the context of trauma as part of a journey to handle that fear and pain and learn to understand and defuse it.
posted by sciatrix at 3:23 AM on August 17 [25 favorites]


Fucking clonidine

Excited about this review. I have hypertension, and I’m currently unmedicated so we can do all the tests again because I’m young and it’s relatively medication resistant. My psych has suggested we try an alpha antagonist, since it has success with ptsd treatment of nightmares.

I identify strongly with all the comics. I was diagnosed as an adult about 8 years ago. But my psych recently weighed in that he thinks my ADHD symptoms are more in line with developmental trauma. My dissociative symptoms basically prevent me from having any Executive Function. I am like Hugh Jackman in The Prestige. I am constantly handing my life over to a new copy. It mostly works, but things drop out and I am always disoriented.
posted by politikitty at 3:34 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


I don't have ADHD, but I have impulse problems. I'm loud and I interrupt people - I don't mean to, and I try really hard to stop. I sometimes find myself writing things down when people speak, so I can ask questions later and won't interrupt.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:17 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


I think it's a reaction to complex trauma.

I wish I had enough time this morning to talk about this, but I sense it would take a while, and a lot of energy. But that idea, that trauma builds behaviors and ways of thinking and reactions, I think is really central to my understanding to myself, when I allow myself to admit that there is trauma at all, rather than just me being a lazy dilettante who can't finish anything and is too self-absorbed to care about anyone else's issues.

This week there have been two painful business problems I have been dealing with, and the phrase I used to try to explain how they made me feel was spiritually harmed, because I wanted to capture not just the emotional effects of this pain, but that it went deeper, and harmed my identity, my dignity. Dignity being a part of me that I am not in touch with, that I am walled off from, that I have been treated as if I do not have for much of my past, and yet am expected to demonstrate as though that part of me has never been harmed.

In one of those problems, people rushed in, and I was supported and heard in a way I didn't expect, so that even though I felt I had no self-respect and was simply an engine that generates pain in repetitive cycles, I wasn't alone, and not just wasn't alone in a general sense, but understood other people found this problem painful in similar ways, even in similar magnitude. They found it an assault on dignity as well. A spiritual harm.

In the other problem, a different business and different set of people, no one rushed in. I was left feeling rejected and unheard; one person I spoke to was dismissive of my anxieties around the problem, another was clearly uninterested in my reaction and more interested in just ticking off boxes on this business problem. And I had nightmares and woke up an hour early several days in the week, suffered from a kind of bodily tightness like I was all bound together, jittery and afraid, and--this is the part I find least surprising--worked harder than I have in some time, because that's the reaction to that rejection, trying to be good, trying to deserve support, spending hours and hours focused on two projects, huge amounts of information, getting lost in their structure, their pattern. Other projects I needed to think about received no focus at all, I continually forgot assignments, the presence or absence of things in my attention totally outside my control.

Now I worry this is all too vague, but my point is, my reaction to the second situation sure felt like a reaction to trauma, especially how centered it was in how other people would judge me, because that is what I always come back to.

There's this thing other people are able to do, where they can judge the quality of what they're doing, they can tell how well they're doing; but I think that in myself, I don't have that capacity to judge whether I'm doing something well or badly, or at least the capacity is rudimentary, and I think that is because the judgment of others--teachers, parents, religious leaders, the God I was taught watched me every moment--was so enormous, so strong and pointed and painful, that I simply wasn't left to my own devices enough to grow a sense of judgment. One of the comics mentioned the little alien not knowing how to know what she wants to do, she's so wrapped up in what she thinks others want her to do, and I feel that. The "environment that insists on being important," as they say. For all the talk of us making excuses, it was them, the people in that environment with their opinions and judgments and punishments and utter lack of empathy, who made the excuse, who forced crutches under my arms so that I couldn't learn to walk on my own (metaphorically, I mean), and then accused me of needing a crutch to get by.

Well. I said I wished I had enough time, and then I went on for a thousand pages. But the idea that complex trauma accrues and accretes as the world reacts to one's difference in thinking and feeling and perceiving and reacting, and that this has a feedback effect and changes our reactions still further, is very persuasive to me, and I'm going to be thinking about this all day.
posted by mittens at 5:53 AM on August 17 [14 favorites]


RSD being about complex trauma totally gels for me. Makes me think about the social model of disability, which did change my life, and the comics from this artist about the ADHD-anxiety cycle of masking and probably maladaptive coping strategies - things about ADHD that aren't really about ADHD internally but externally.
posted by gaybobbie at 9:13 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


I should probably add that I have some complex feelings about reaction sensitive dysphoria, in that what I actually think is probably going on with it isn't something that derives directly from ADHD or autism as a state of being.

well yeah, it's blatant rebranding of assorted personality disorder traits (so-called). I don't think there is anything more or less objectively accurate about calling it RSD instead of, say, avoidant or borderline traits; as a label, it's not notably inferior to or less intelligible than those ways of naming and categorizing things.

except that trying to attach it to ADHD makes it sound -- to some -- more neurological and scientific, and less psychological/characterological. for whatever various reasons, people feel good about that supposed association, and I think that both the fact of that widespread preference and the social reasons for it are bad for people across the entire mental health and illness spectrum. but what can you do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:33 PM on August 17 [5 favorites]


I think it's a reaction to complex trauma.

Being expected to do things you are not able to do and treated as stupid or lazy for not managing to do them is, uh, a feature of neurodiverse experiences.


This makes way more sense to me than the idea that it's a comorbid brain structure issue or something.

It's... so what you (or me at least) receive from grownups when it looks like you're not trying at school is kind of a social norming: "You are putting yourself on the fringes of society by refusing to participate in Tribal Educational Activities A-Z, now we must shame/punish you into conforming, because we don't understand & are using the only framework & tools we have."

This isn't even considering any social shaming/rejection you're concurrently getting from your classmates for being "weird." (I changed schools in sixth grade & was basically not spoken to by a child my age for TWO FULL ACADEMIC YEARS. Still can't decide if that's better or worse than the bullying I got before & after those years.)

I'm not a psychologist at all but I can imagine this treatment is especially damaging when you're trying to participate and want to succeed and have been told from a young age that you're bright & things should come easily to you...

It's really easy to internalize that you're inherently terrible. (You are NOT inherently terrible! You are GREAT and you have been trying VERY HARD your ENTIRE LIFE & you don't deserve ANY OF THIS SHIT. For real.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 12:38 PM on August 17 [12 favorites]


except that trying to attach it to ADHD makes it sound -- to some -- more neurological and scientific, and less psychological/characterological. for whatever various reasons, people feel good about that supposed association, and I think that both the fact of that widespread preference and the social reasons for it are bad for people across the entire mental health and illness spectrum.

!! thank you for explaining why i always felt weird about this exact thing. because im very happy for people to find something that gives them comfort about a problem they have, and i'm included, but it does seem like, oh thank god, it's a medical thing! and then left at that weirdly instead of exploring why we'd end up like this or strategies for managing it in a psychological way. not that avoidant or borderline pds are treated better, but it does get into the area where diagnoses become clearly arbitrary and a little goofy. (RSD is not goofy, to be clear - the way we categorize things is.)
posted by gaybobbie at 8:46 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Sciatrix- your comments on this subject are consistently helpful to me, thanks. The framing of RSD as a sort of trauma-related cptsd makes so much sense to me.

A couple days ago one of my best friends implied that I was a good person. I nearly cried. I've gone my whole life subconsciously thinking I was a shitty failure, and that there was a moral component, something inherently bad about me that made me this way. I have never been assessed so positively.
posted by captain afab at 9:17 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm always fascinated by the ways that different models of neurodiversity and mental illness function on a societal level. In my life, I've seen and been told to see myself through a bunch of different lenses, depending on who I was talking to. And it's always framed in terms of what's empowering for me; or it's whatever model allows the other person to take the most negative possible view of me. There's the medical view, which says it's an issue of the chemistry and structure of the brain. The narrative view, which says that I'll be unable to recover if I consider these problems to be intractable biological ones; the real problem being almost entirely the product of environmental factors throughout my life. Or the pervasive view that any and all problems are entirely motivational: the well-intentioned person saying that I just need to motivate myself and play the game, or the unhelpful person saying that I'm lazy and need to learn some goddamn self-respect (or the one person who told me I had a Nietzschean slave mentality). For each individual person, any model can be a weapon or a way of seeing a path forward, depending on how they respond.

Nowadays I tend to strike a balance, to think of it almost like inherited traits that are expressed under the right environmental conditions. Certain aspects of neurology that present specific challenges, but also certain aspects of trauma and struggle in one's environment that may create or exacerbate neurological or psychological issues. But that's my own-self perspective, and it's the one that currently makes me feel the most empowered in understanding and addressing my problems.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm really glad sciatrix and others have brought up trauma, because it's something I'd never thought about in myself in this context. It works as an explanation for certain feelings and behaviors, but on some level it also just validates our experiences. So much of the way people collectively view neurodiversity and mental illness, including other people who might share your diagnoses, seems to be based around shame and invalidation; at worst it can feel like people are like lawyers looking for loopholes to justify shame or hate. So they'll say "yes, she has ADHD, but..." Simply having your experiences taken seriously is something I think a lot of people with ADHD have never really gotten, even if there's been a nominal acknowledgment that ADHD exists.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:59 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


And I'm sorry if I'm just restating what other people have already said -- I haven't read through this thread in a day or two.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:02 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


well yeah, it's blatant rebranding of assorted personality disorder traits (so-called). I don't think there is anything more or less objectively accurate about calling it RSD instead of, say, avoidant or borderline traits; as a label, it's not notably inferior to or less intelligible than those ways of naming and categorizing things.

Oh, yes, of course. Except that RSD is early enough in the naming/shaming/euphemism cycle that it hasn't accrued the stigma yet, I suppose.

It's worth noting that borderline PD especially can be easily summed up as "badly traumatized, no coping skills". It's also worth noting that at least the constellation of reactions and behaviors organized under RSD aren't explicitly being labeled in a special cluster of parts of your immutable personality as a reason for writing you the person off forever. For that reason alone I would frame it as a superior way of talking about the same phenomena, especially when you're talking about helping people who experience it remediate it rather than talking to people who have experienced abuse and trauma from people with the same trait and helping them process that trauma.

But a lot of that is differences in stigma, not really objective differences in the traits themselves. And I think that, yes, it's important to point that out in discussions of these things.
posted by sciatrix at 3:06 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Referring to a string of comments early in the post: every ADHDer who forgets the names of those near and dear to you, you can rest easy knowing that I always always always referred to roommates as "Whatsherface--my roommate" because my ADHD brain absolutely would not supply their name.

This continued to happen the three years I lived with two different women (sequentially) WHO HAD THE EXACT SAME FIRST NAME AS ME.
posted by telophase at 4:06 PM on August 18 [10 favorites]


Wow, I just read these and it's so affirming to see my experiences echoed back to me, panel after panel.
posted by not_on_display at 6:28 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]


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