S2 E4 - 4:14:20, 2.43 PM
8:45PM Apr 17, 2020
Lee Skallerup Bessette
Welcome to season two, Episode Four pre COVID pre recorded edition of all the things ADHD. This is the last of our pre recorded episodes that I've edited down. And so this week, we are actually talking about the stories that we tell about each other picking up from the end of the last episode. And then the stories that we see or don't see about ourselves and that when we do see them, what kind of impact that has. So I talked about seeing Hamilton at the end of this for the first time going in knowing absolutely nothing about musical ahead of time and I actually wrote about it and published it self published it in a book that I just did, called Learning to breathe where I talk about my struggles with mental health as well as coming to terms with my ADHD diagnosis. I self published it and I put it up on Amazon, just ahead of the whole COVID-19 crisis. I was doing it to celebrate being online and blogging for 10 years. And while I don't usually self promote on the blog, I decided that make the best of bad timing and any proceeds from that book and the other book that I did, which was twist weave untangle, which talked about my critical digital pedagogy journey. And I decided that any proceeds from the sales of those books would go to hope for college, which is an emergency fund the students can apply to, in order to help them with minor financial emergencies that can help get them over the hump. It's based out of Temple the hope Institute is based at Temple University, and they do amazing research on precarity financial precarity food insecurity And really work to support students in higher education be successful. So I'll put a link in the show notes. But you can also look me up Lee Skallerup Bessette on Amazon. Or if you go to my website ready writing.org you'll find links to be able to purchase the book. So I'd love for you to read them. But also I'd love to be able to make a nice donation to be able to help students in need who aren't as fortunate as Amy and I are right now to still be fully employed and to not have to worry so much about the finances. So thanks so much. Enjoy the podcast and I hope you pick up the book.
This like really common like surprisingly common is something I might write about actually surprisingly common childhood self narrative among autistic people, that they are robots masquerading as human. Or, I should say that we are robots masquerading as humans, or that we are aliens who have been deposited into human culture in order to study it, but that someday our people are coming back for us. It is remark completely common among autistic people. I mean, these, these are ideas that I had when I was a child to write this, like sense of fitting in So, so poorly, that the best narrative to make that fit was that you were not, in fact human. Right? Yeah. So that's like kind of a version I think of, of what you're describing, which is like, sort of captured by you know, the internet saying, you know, like, due to reasons I am now back on my bullshit, right? where like, that, you know, people become aware, you know, of being back on their bullshit and are just tired of themselves, right. Like, I wish I could just stop sabotaging myself, I wish I could start over right, and be something different, which is part of that same thing of being aware of There are certain types of standards and norms that you are not able, despite your best efforts to hit, right. And so like you just need, like Janet in the good place with the reset button, right? You need like a hard reset. You just just kill me. Just kill me.
Yeah, it just
doesn't press the button. We'll start over. Just going to reboot, right? You're like maybe next time? Yeah. I'm going to respond. And, and when I do write, the bugs will be gone. Right. So I'm familiar with that impulse to I mean, every time I start a new degree, right, I have a peach. That's times I'm started. Every time I'm like, okay, it's gonna be different this time, right? I'm gonna start over fresh context. No, it's a brand new day, no mistakes in it. And I'm going to not miss any deadlines, right, or whatever it is. So yeah, I mean, I mean, those are, those are big existential questions to where you don't know why. That you can't do the things that you feel like you ought to be able to do and it feels like not like, there are certain actions that you can't do, but you cannot be the way that you should be. Right. Yeah. Which is just feels a lot more than like, you know, Oh, I can't, you know, I can't do this one figure skating move or I can't do like a flip turn when I'm swimming. It's just a skill. And if I practice it, I'll get it. It feels more fundamental than that. Right? If you think there's something wrong with who you are, that either you don't want it enough, or you're not trying hard enough, but like in your heart, you know, you're trying as hard as you can. And like, how terrible it feels to still not be able to do it. You're like, I just need to start over. Right? I need to start over and it's a terrible way to feel.
Yeah. No, it is. It is. And it's, you know, and I and I think that one of the things that I want to like tell people is that if you feel that way, you're not alone. Right? It's it's absolutely it's, it's, it's you hate to say this, and this is like the normal not normal sort of things. It's like Everybody's not normal, but at the same time, it's like it's actually pretty normal to feel this way, like you said, like the the, the a lot of people who have autism are have that narrative, right of being robots or aliens. And so it's sort of like it. It's good to know that you're not alone in those kinds of things. Because sometimes it can be extraordinarily isolating. And it is something that's incredibly hard to talk about. Right? Yeah. How do you explain to people that, again, it's sort of it's sort of really interesting because it's this also this negotiation because we have functioned for so long the way we have and now we're making, trying to make fundamental changes in the way we function and the way and with the idea of how we process the world, in the forefront. But we still have to go to the same jobs and be married to the same people and parent the same kids and interacting in a world That has known and known us to behave in one way, and then get getting to be able to change that. And yeah,
there's no fresh out there, right? Like, it's not like, okay, tomorrow we're hitting the reset button that's like walking to the beach reset button and Janet's gonna crumble. And then there'll be a new Janet, right? Like, you know, it's not how it works, you have to sort of like, muddle through, and those kinds of changes, I mean, especially when you tend to have all or nothing thinking right in and dimples, and all those things that he sort of brings, like the grand gesture, right? And it's a little bit less grand gesture and a little bit more grind. Right? Yep. But like, these stories, make me think like as a literary scholar that I would like to foreground for people the power of narrative and of self narrative, right? So this idea of a fresh start, you know, people will call it like, you know, the tabula rasa or the blank page or like, you know, it's, it's, I'm starting it's my new book, right that I'm writing Or like or people's tendency every September to buy like new blank journals and start bullet journaling right? This idea that you are crafting a story of who you are and and we will go to great lengths to craft stories of ourselves that are internally consistent, right and and so in some ways like people will say about my autistic peeps that you know how tragic and dysfunctional it is that we imagine ourselves as robots deposited in human society and it just goes to show you know, how poor we are at being subjects, right? But instead I think it shows the lengths that people will go to find a story that allows them to feel that they belong somewhere. Right. So when you know when when we are always desiring as as sort of ADHD people to have like a fresh start where we stop screwing stuff up that is not in any way hard for anybody except us. We think, right? We just really want to fit in. We want to stop letting people down, right? We want to stop letting ourselves down. We Want to participate in the story that we think is available to everyone right to slot ourselves into that particular mode of life narrative called adulting. Right? Where our intentions somehow match the outcomes. You know, like I, there are many people who I love. Do I send any of them Christmas cards? No, I don't know, do I want to? Yes, I write. And somehow I don't follow through, right. I am so mad at myself for not being able to use the available cultural scripts and actions to adults and friend and wife correctly, in ways that are legible to other people. And so I always want to do over to just like as, as an autistic person, I'm always waiting, you know, for the mothership to come down and get me right where it won't be so hard for you to make sense to people. I won't always be offending them with my bluntness or my you know, it's a fun fact that whatever right like I just people want to fit in, right and especially neurodivergent people are always crafting stories for ourselves that allow us an opportunity to fit in somewhere. So I think that's really, you know, we can talk about, you know, get a bullet journal, or we can talk about like set a timer, or we can talk about, like, take these drugs, but ultimately, it's the story we tell ourselves about who we are. Right, that makes life bearable.
Well, I think that that's probably Yeah. And as you're saying that and, you know, I jokingly said that I'm gonna write all the memoirs. But I think that that's part of what I am trying to do is to wrestle control of the narrative, right? And to retell the story, again. It's probably also why, when I've made this, I made this connection. So one of my one of the authors that I've studied and was particularly drawn to was a Haitian Canadian author danila Fabia, and he literally keeps rewriting his life story. We have Like it, he doesn't call them. He doesn't call them autobiography and lots of people call them like ultra biography and autobiography and all of these different kinds of terms for it. But he does tell the story of his life in sort of a 10 book cycle, and then he quits writing. And then he goes back and rewrites half of them write ads to them an expense. Oh, I know, right? And literary scholars nightmare. And then he says, and then he's like, Oh, well, I'm not retired anymore. Here's my new novel, or here's a series of two novels, which basically rewrite his whole story again in these two books. And he also did television specials that told versions of his stories. And he had a column in that pies that was a French language daily Montreal that sort of did this and then he was on to Canada and was doing some of this and so he has like volumes and volumes and volumes, and then not to mention all the interviews that he's done, which tells these stories as well. And so I became fascinated by this idea of like writing and rewriting and re narrating and adding layers and changing things as as he grew older and as he got perspective on it and as his life situation changed, but but had the novel that he released after his after his sort of retirement or his when he event when he quote unquote, stopped writing, which he didn't do, obviously, on it. Yeah. So he's a Haitian Montreal writer, and he titled his novel, this novel is coming back and it's in French, it'll say the English it's I'm a Japanese writer. Yeah, yeah. Oh, it's, it's fantastic. It is. So like, just, I've taught it, it's lovely. I have an essay on it around how when he's about to deal with something traumatic. He goes back to Japan in order to kind of escape himself and to try and escape what's going on, but then he inevitably comes back And that was a total oversimplification, but it's something he does. And, and the dedication of I'm a Japanese writer was, I'm paraphrasing, so I don't remember the exact translation is. This book is for anyone who wish to be someone else.
Oh, man. So everybody.
Yeah, right. Yeah. And it just and so like it. Again, it's one of those hindsight things. It's like, Why? Why did I become so obsessed with this author and there's other reasons his novels take place in Montreal, and I think they're really fun and playful, and I love his sort of journalistic minimalist style, and it's one of those. I like teaching him because it was deceptively, deceptively simple, right? everybody's like, this is an easy read. And then you start unpacking, and it's like, oh, my God, how did this happen? You thought this was gonna be fun, but it's actually Yeah, okay. But it's actually really complicated guys. But, but ultimately, I was really drawn by This idea of him writing and rewriting his own life over and over and taking control of the narrative. He grew up in a dictatorship where, you know, it was dangerous to tell stories and you you it was dangerous to have narratives about yourself. It was dangerous to tell the truth. And so this idea that he he took that and was able to sort of make a life for himself. in Montreal. Again, I tweeted this at one point I wrote myself to into existence, right, why do I write I wrote myself into existence? And that's exactly what danila furrier does, right?
I think, I think everybody does that, too. It sounds like really great. And, and those of us who have more sort of literary inclinations, like you and I with our six literature degrees between us, right, it's like a surfeit of degrees. But I mean, many people write themselves into being through, you know, memoir or through diary, writing or journaling, when they're bullet journals. They're kind of stories of who they are and what they value and what their aesthetics are and other people, you know, like, create their, you know, pseudonymous tumblers or their, you know, live journals back in the day, their WordPress or or whatever. But I think everybody internally tries to tell themselves a story about themselves where they fit somewhere, right? I mean, that's all we want. All of us is somewhere. But this idea, I think, is really intriguing. For those of us who receive information about ourselves in midlife, where the story that you've written for yourself changes. Yeah, and you're not sure how, right how far back does that change, extend? Right? It's like, your own history is pulled out from underneath you. You're like, Oh, I know, I thought. I thought the genre I was writing was slapstick comedy, but it turns out to be more, you know, tragedy and overcoming possibly, right like your genre changes and that's the stabilizing. It's like a process we need to think a little bit more about it and less like like getting an illness or later disability diagnosis is is like not just about how do we move forward and what is the treatment but who does who I am even retrospectively change now that I have this different filter through which to understand my experiences and I don't know that we always give as much sort of respect and space to that process as we might because it kind of hits you sometimes in really surprising ways. Like you have this memory kind of pop up where you've always wrapped a certain kind of frame around it and then all of a sudden, you know, the memory pops up again and you realize that the frame doesn't fit anymore and you have to like reconsider an entire incident out of your past in ways that sort of destabilize your understanding of who you are and what value you have or what capabilities you have and and that that narrative process is hard to undertake. And the drugs fix up you
know, don't think that drugs they, they make my to do list snap into place in my mind, but they do not have They do not make those existential questions just solve themselves. Yeah. So I finally saw Hamilton for the first time. Oh, wow. jealous. I know. It's and and I think if you can go to the one in Toronto because I know it's coming out in Toronto zoo. Yeah. You should definitely go. So I went in completely blind, right? I went in, I'd never heard the full the full recording of it. I only heard I don't even think I heard a full song of it. You know, I knew it was like the story of Alexander Hamilton. But, you know, other than my husband doing American government, I didn't know much about Alexander Hamilton generally. And so my daughter is of the perfect age to start becoming obsessed with Hamilton. And so I got her tickets for her birthday. And it was a whole ordeal of course, because I had to If you'll love this too, I mean that I've managed to do this is monumental and I don't think anyone understands how monumental it is. So you have to sign up to apply to be validated to be able to buy ticket Oh hell
no, no, no, that sounds like at least three steps too many
for you. Oh no, it's like five steps to man. Oh, wow. Then you get like, yeah, so you get validated and then you have to validate the validation and then they techno you know,
the whole No, they don't then you have to enter. Oh, no, I already lost the code. And I didn't click on the thing to validate and now I am in a shame spiral.
Yeah, so I am and they go on sale at 10am. And they tell you you're allowed to enter in and this is a lot better than it used to be mind you where you just like had to refresh the page constantly. And by the time it finally woke up, it was like Sorry, it's sold out. So you you are allowed to enter into three different waiting rooms for like three different shows three different dates because it was there for, you know, six weeks or whatever it is.
Yeah, the effort
I bring, right. And so so then, and you're not even sure at this point because they released zero information about it because they don't want to like overwhelm. I don't even know how much the tickets are going to cost. Right? So I'm going into these waiting rooms and and just hoping that these tickets are not going to cost like a billion dollars or, you know, whatever other I mean, not exaggerated. If you have to ask, you can't afford it. Right? Cuz you're just like, go in and be like, whatever I can get. I'll just take it. I clicked on it's Hamilton. It's Yeah. So So anyway, so I picked like a Saturday show and I picked like a second. a matinee and then I picked like a random Tuesday night because I like my random Tuesday night is going to be is going to be like the emergency one so so picture me on patron at 945 in my office with like my phone and everything on my computer like ready to go I have updated everything I'm in my non secure browser, just in case it needs flash or has some sort of weird pop up that my you know, secure browser blocks. That is it. I'm like, Oh, well, you know and and so it says that the waiting rooms are only going to be open 10 minutes before but of course I'm like, I wonder maybe the waiting rooms are open now and they are a shithole
you something French Canadian.
Yeah. Yeah. So I'm so I'm like okay, so it but and it also tells you finally where you are in line, right? And so the sad So there were like 6000 people ahead of me and I'm like, well, not going to the Saturday show. And then the the Sunday show, it's like there are, you know, 8000 people ahead of you. I'm like, nope, random Tuesday show. There are 54 people ahead of you. I'm like, well, we're going on a random Tuesday. And then, of course, it's like, we're only going to hold these tickets for three minutes, and they were like,
button mashing, button mashing button mashing, right. kind of feels like,
right, and I'm like, I have my credit card out. And I'm like, everything is everything is ready. And I'm like, but I buy 1005 I had to take it. So I have to be I'm pretty impressed. But still, and I got them for my daughter, and she was very happy. And so we drove into Baltimore, and we went and saw Hamilton and I bought her a $75 sweatshirt. Oh, God. Yeah. But the other thing was, is that again, this is the planning part I thought of because it was for her birthday. And it was like, Okay, well, we're gonna make it an event. We're going to go and we'll have a nice dinner and a girls day or girls evening, go to a nice dinner. But of course, I didn't research it and realize that the theater is is in the middle of nowhere in Baltimore. Right and so there's only one nice restaurant and of course you would have had to have gotten reservations three months before
so probably before you even got the tickets yet reserved the restaurant for like the random Tuesday that you were hoping to get tickets for.
Yeah, so we ended up going to like Panera right so I felt you know mom guilt about like the the nice dinner that was promised so good. She's like, a sweatshirt instead. Or like in her Yeah, okay. Yeah. So anyways, long story for because that's how I roll. So I'm sitting in the theater and I know nothing. As I said, I know nothing about this other than it's about Alexander Hamilton and everybody loves it. And I'm like, Okay, well, let's let's just go and I get emotional. In the best of times, right like I cry at the right moment and Disney movies and even movies that that like, aren't like they're ridiculous but there's that point where they're playing tugging on your heartstrings and they get tugged every time for me right every time that Me too. Every time. Yeah, yeah. And my kids make fun of me like, Are you crying mom? They're like no. And now I just say yes, I'm crying you have a problem with that.
But I watched Hamilton and sobbed the entire time. You're kidding. No, I'm impressed. Did you like bring have the forethought to bring Kleenex with you? Or did you have to use the $75 sweatshirt to wipe your tears with?
I just I just had to like suck it back. Oh my gosh. impossibly I'm sobbing but trying not to salt
right you do nothing really like kind of tipping your head back so you're not going to wreck your makeup? Yeah,
yeah. Yes. Does it yeah, it doesn't the legs not work. No, no. And try not to like snap backs not in a rude sort of way for the entire duration of the show. Because
it was Really indiri to the people around you, I'm sure.
Yeah. Yeah. So and, and, and it in the moment, I was like, Well, you know, I mean, there are very emotional moments, especially for me as a parent and and, you know, various stages in my life and all of that, but I'm like, even these other parts, like I couldn't understand why it was so emotional for me. Like, like sobbing, heaving sobs and, or at least like I would I wanted to, but I didn't because, you know, I understand some things about social norms. And so, of course, my daughter like, partway through. She was like, Oh, can we get the soundtrack? And I'm like, of course, we're getting the soundtrack. I'm downloading it right now. And so I start listening to it obsessively on my commute in to and from work, right. And as I'm listening to it, it finally hit me. And again, you know, you want to see these diagnosis everywhere. But I'm sitting there going, you know what Alexander Hamilton probably had ADHD. Oh my god. Plot twist. I was not expecting good. So there's literally a song in there called non stop. And like the line and it is why do you write like you're running out of time? Why do you write like your life is on the line?
I mean, no, no, that's the way the deadline works for me.
But it's just like, this is like this idea of like, having all of these ideas and doing all these different things. And, and he wrote, right, he wrote prolifically. And you know, and so I realized that it was like, this is the first time I've ever sort of seen someone that I could relate to in this way. In some piece of pop culture where they weren't the kind of torture they were the hero, right? They were the hero of the story and not an enemy. Maybe you could say he was a tragic hero, but I didn't find it that tragic, right? You know? I don't know, like it was. Um, yeah. So it was just, it took me a while to realize that that I was watching it and I was I was over identifying with the killer character, Alexander Hamilton, because there was so much in his character that reminded him of me, and reminded him reminded me who provided him with me reminded me of him. And, like, so many of these traits that I know now are because of my ADHD. And so I was just like, and I mean, even if he didn't have ADHD, and you know, whatever modern diagnosis and all that kind of stuff, but it was just like, how he was always moving that it was nonstop that it was like his mind was always racing. Like all of these kinds of things. It was just like, and then there was another point at the beginning of it when he first meet says, like, merry band of friends that he goes through the rest of his sort of career with like Lafayette and all of that. And then he stops. He goes, Oh, I'm sorry. Am I talking too loud? I sometimes I get carried away
while Ali doesn't say that I know, you know. Oh,
so that concludes the pre taped pre COVID-19 taped in late 2019 pre recorded episodes of all things ADHD with Amy and I. As always, you can visit our website all things ADHD calm. You can email us at all the things firstname.lastname@example.org I'm ready writing on Twitter. Amy is Digi walk on Twitter. And as I said at the beginning, if you visit my personal website ready writing.org or looking me up on Amazon, you can pick up two of my self published books that includes a lot of writing that I did online over the past decade, but specifically learning to breathe which folks On my mental health journey, my damage, ADHD diagnosis, parenting with ADHD, talking about these things with my children and with others and the impact that's had an all proceeds from the sale of that book and my other book twist weave untangle, which is more about digital pedagogy which you might not be interested in and that's fine. All the proceeds will be going to charity to help students in need to for the hope for college fund to be able to give micro loans to students who are in emergency financial distress. We will be coming back with guest episodes after this. So I hope you've enjoyed these pre recorded episodes is a bit of a break from the COVID-19 and a time where we were still allowed to go to musicals and see live shows and go places and do things. Hopefully we will be able to go places and do things again. Soon, but if not, we will We'll be having guests on and we are going to be recording and editing those episodes as you are listening to these episodes, pre recorded ones to be shared out. As soon as I get around to editing them, which is a lot faster now that I have nothing else to do. So with that, thank you so much for listening. Have a great day or evening or morning or afternoon. Whatever time of the day you are listening to this and join us again for our next episode of all the things ADHD. Thanks, everyone.