S2 E2 - 4:12:20, 1.17 PM
8:47PM Apr 17, 2020
Lee Skallerup Bessette
Welcome to the second episode of the second season official second season of all the things ADHD podcast. In this episode, Amy and I talk a little bit about what it's like and how our identities have been shifting, given our diagnosis but also as we've moved through being medicated and learning how to live with medicated ADHD after spending 40 odd years living with unmedicated, an undiagnosed ADHD, hopefully some of this will resonate with you in terms of that shifting idea of identity and what ADHD means, for said identity. Who are we as as people who are neurodivergent as people who have chosen to medicate existing in the world
well Yeah, I mean, it's it's interesting because I have been having a bit of a crisis lately, where I've been like trying to think about what's what's going on why I'm being so hard on myself lately. I just feel like I should be getting more done. And I was talking with my husband about it. He's like, my name's sounding board because like, for me, an idea does not fully form or a question does not resolve itself until I can have a conversation with somebody about it. Right? So, like, we make jokes about my brain is like a slot machine, right? Somebody has to pull the handle, it's a jackpot every time, right? But somebody has to pull the handle and so so I was talking with Tom about how lousy I've been feeling lately, like I definitely I don't feel like my meds are not working, but I'm not, you know, getting done the things I wanted to get done. And I think what happened is, you know, medicated me. Well, unmedicated me used to get rapidly overwhelmed and have to have a nap every afternoon, right? Because I was just so done with stimulus By that point, and unmedicated me and undiagnosed, me would have real trouble sitting down and reading an entire thing from start to finish, even though I wanted to. And so unmedicated me would wind up, you know, producing lesson plans or academic writing or like grant proposals, kind of like, from the minimum number of materials that I've managed to get into my head. And in the minimum amount of time remaining for me to produce the thing that I needed to produce, right. So that was like, always my experience and now that I'm sort of diagnosed and medicated, and I'm not sleepy all the time, and I'm not overwhelmed all the time. And I can read things from start to finish. What I'm finding is, things are going into my head so incredibly fast, but they're not coming out at that speed. You know what I mean? Yep. So I'm able to Hoover up information without exhausting myself because I do things really fast. And I've always had to do like, you know, do 10% of everything really fast and the other 90% just didn't get done because I ran out of time, but now I'm doing like 130% of the things really, really fast. And then I'm having trouble getting it to come out. So the existential question for me then has been partially about who am I when like my inputs, and my outputs don't match right now, right? So I always thought I was like, doing my best to live up to my potential because I could hardly get anything to go into my head and then I could hardly get anything to come out. But now that I am sort of medicated and less physiologically impaired in the sense that my brain doesn't give up on me every day. All of this stuff is coming in, but I don't have the work habits to get it out. Right. So my work habits for writing are about how do I spin you know, the two potatoes and an onion and a packet of ketchup that I have in my fridge? How do I make supper out of that right and so all my creative energy would be devoted to I have really very little here to work with but I got to make a go of it right. But now I'm like, have an entire fridge stocked full of exotic fruits and vegetables and you know, some choice cuts of meat in my freezer stuffed full of things and now I'm like, I have to I have five minutes to make Like suffer out of this. And I don't know how to deal with that kind of plenitude now, right? So of my work habits, as someone who produces an end product from inputs, right? And none of my work habits work for me anymore, because I've always, you know, I've got the bare minimum. And if I do it just right, it's going to be good enough, right? But now I'm like, I read 180 things. This, you know, 10,000 word article, like I
just had an article
published now that it's like, in the journal, it comes out to be 30 pages long, and it's 18 pages of text, and 12 pages of Works Cited, right? Because that's what I read. Right? And I can't now I've turned into the kind of person who can read as much as I have always dreamed of reading, but I have no coping skills for how do I window that down? Do you know what I mean? Yeah, I've never had this problem before. Right? I've never had the problem. I've always like tried to, you know, spin gold out of candy floss kind of thing. But now I'm like, a volts full of gold. And I'm like, well, geez, now what? Where do I start? So yeah, I've been having a lot of questions for myself about like, Who am I? Right? But how do I need to change? So, for me, it's not just been about, oh, my brain is broken. And I will get some meds and then I will learn to forgive myself for what I thought were character flaws, and then I will be able to stay awake all day, and my brain will not be broken anymore, the end, right? But it doesn't work like that. So in some ways, my brain is now broken and in some ways, I am able to forgive myself for what I thought were character flaws, but I have a whole lifetime of habits that I understood to be a part of who I am that actually are maybe maladaptive coping mechanisms developed around my disability. Right? Yeah. So now that I am, in some ways, substantially less impaired in my workplace, I don't know how to deal with that. It's like, I got, you know, taught to drive on a riding lawnmower. And then, you know, I ride this riding lawnmower everywhere. And it's like, not the greatest, but I get where I'm going if I leave myself enough time, and I know where to get the fuel for it. And I know that I have to, like, lift up the blade, so I don't like, you know, cut the grass in the parking lot or whatever. And then I wake up one morning, and now I'm driving a Lamborghini. Right? I don't know how to do it. And it's leading to whole new kinds of insecurity, right? Because I'm like, oh, now my brain is working and I can't handle it, or I can't handle the brain. Right? So I've been thinking lately about how you know there is a you need to get therapy for those and you need to like do this and CBT and all this stuff. And I'm like, No, but meds. But it's both right. Because I I don't know how to be who I am, when I'm not trying to compensate for the way that my unmedicated brain used to undermine my goals. And so now I'm undermining my, with my behavior, because I don't know how to behave any differently.
Yeah, yeah. Well, and I think that that's the most difficult part about the diagnosis coming later in life is that we've had 40 odd years of living. Right. Yeah. of getting by. Right. And, and obviously, again, I mean, we talked about this last season, obviously, we've gotten by pretty well, right. Like, you know, we're, you know, fairly successful. It's in and we've, you know, really you're at you're you're a Canadian academic famous as a Trudeau fellow, and I'm
Jason Lee Canadian famous, but, you know, we'll get there
And and you know, I've managed to make it to a fairly prestigious American primarily tuition prestigious institution that people will bankrupt themselves to attend. Right. So that is that is substantial. You have arrived, my friend. Yeah, yeah. I mean, and, and and yes with this diagnosis while it has been liberating in some ways it is sort of brings into sharp focus all of those, as you said all of those habits that
that that are that are hard to break that we did so that we can get by, but they're not set up so that we can thrive, right? Yeah, we're off the riding lawnmower. I mean, and and the Lamborghini is obviously a superior machine and all all respects. But if you're used to having to like jam your foot down, full throttle, just to Get 10 kilometers an hour. I don't know what that is in miles. Not very many does. It's point one miles. So if you get by you get in the Lamborghini and you like full throttle and suddenly, like you shot through the windows of the Walmart, right? And now you're on the news. Oh, like, I just don't know who I am now, in some ways that are important in some ways, I feel more like myself, right. It's nice to not fall asleep every afternoon. It's nice not to be so exhausted by four in the afternoon that I can't even bear the thought of talking to my family and making suffer like That's nice. This is you know, I always felt that that was not the right version of me and, and now I can do those things and be happy and that's great. And there's a lot of ways in which I can see clear improvements, but a lot of ways in which kind of, I am undertrained, right in some of the essential skills that I now need and distressing to I find that your impairments are being mitigated, but what they are revealing is a new kind of impairment that is behavioral. Right? Yeah. And I'm not sure how to change some of that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I don't know. Like, so I used to this is how we would develop a course. I mean, I already have tenure. So I can say this. So I would be like, Okay, get the deed. And I'd be like, Alright, great. And that's an 11 month super. I've got lots of time. I'm gonna work on that for like, two hours a week, you know, and then I don't, and then I was like, Okay, well, now I have two months left to do it and work on this one entire day, a week, and then I don't do that. And then it's like three weeks before the class starts. And I'm like, I have read one book on this topic. So how am I going to turn one book on this topic that I know, into 12 weeks of syllabus, and that's what I do, right? But now my problem is, I still need doing things a little longer than I should but I know. I have a much better sense now of how long things are going to take me. My problem now is not I don't know enough about this topic to credibly teach you course on it. I'll have to learn as I go to. I read 400 things about this topic, and I am overwhelmed by the extent of my own knowledge. It's like, like you and I were talking Marie Kondo, right, and you don't mind clutter, and I go bonkers around clutter, right? Like I'm a real minimalist. Yeah. And when I was never able to read sufficient amounts of information to really master a topic, it was a kind of minimalist knowledge, right? And I knew how to work with but it becomes sort of like this reading and research maximalist,
right, I read all
the things and then like, they're all laid out in my head in front of me, and it's like cacophonous and I don't know what to do with that, because I've never been in that situation before of being ridiculously over prepared. In terms of what I you know what I mean?
Yeah. Well, it sounds like it's so interesting to me, because, like you say, Now, I know I can read all the things. And so it's almost like it's it's enabling our ADHD in a different way. Right, like, like I hear in this the two muchness is that we've had in other parts of our lives are now manifesting themselves. And so, you know, it's how do we how do we manage that because that too much pneus doesn't go away, right?
No, it doesn't know. And the thing with the two muchness, too, is that occupationally that's a kind of dysfunction that is valorized. Right? So, is anybody going to say to me ultimately, oh, we read that article you wrote that had 106 things in the works cited, right? And be like, Wow, you really did too much research for that. They're not gonna be like wow, encyclopedic, masterful, right? Yeah, we did it. That's incredible. Your command over the material but like I pulled chunks of my hair out while doing that, because it was like way too much. So nobody is saying you should do less except my coach. Actually my coaches like no reading right. It is not possible for you to learn Anything else about this topic that's going to help you finish this article? Right? She's the only one. Everybody else is like, more reading is always better. Right? It's like when here, I would
want you to stop. I would have told you to stop that. I would have I, I think I watched you doing this article. Yeah. Because of course we both overshare and social media, so we get proceeds to each other's too much. Yeah. And, and I seem to remember it say, thinking to myself, and maybe I even commented that I'm like, man, she just needs to stop.
Yeah. Yeah. everybody's like, you need to stop on campus, but you don't understand. Yeah. A good one. He?
Well, and I totally, I totally understand that too. Because, again, it is valorized in academia, where your greatest fear and what reviewer number two almost always says is that like, you haven't done enough research, right? Like you haven't cited the right people. And you're always like, who are the right people? I don't know who the right people are. Because again, my, my brain does that where I like I go for whatever is interesting. I don't necessarily go for like the right people.
And so I was like I was literally talking about earlier. Yeah, you were interesting. I'm not concerned with hierarchies.
Yeah. And so it's sort of like, very often when I pull down those rabbit holes, I end up getting to the seminal literature because everybody else knows who they need to read. And so you're like, oh, everyone introduces their essay on x topic, citing X, Y, and Z people. I guess I should go read them.
Right. That's why I know about granovetter and weak ties strong tie and why I know about like the Dunbar number like that's why because everybody that I read cited those people and I was like, I guess I should look that up. Yeah. All right. Otherwise, I don't want to go.
Yeah, and and I and so it really becomes it really becomes difficult because again, we work in and it's one of the reasons why we excel in academia, but it also empowers These the worst kind of impulses that we have, right? In that sort of way. And then and then so like, like we said, when we talked about medicating, and it just doesn't make things go away. Right. It does make some of the things more manageable. And you know, as it shows, it makes other things. It enables you in different ways that you were never enabled before.
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's been really eye opening for me in ways that I, I had some things in my mind when I began this process of diagnosis and treatment where I was like, I know this is a problem, right? And I would like to change this, or, you know, this is something I would like to do and I think if I get treatment, I would be able to do that. And then other things are just like, completely knocked me back in my house. I'm like, What? That was my ADHD. I don't have to do that way anymore, right like, and I've been so surprised and surprised and kind of like ways that have shocked me fundamentally right things that I, in no way attributed to my disability that I thought were choices that I had made that were sort of based on my personality or my character or my aptitudes have turned out to be surprised, right, ADHD all along. And which is not to say that they are any less part of who the authentic me is. But then I had some how been trying to attribute different levels of agency to some of my own choices, right. Like, I was thinking of myself as being constrained in some ways by, you know, certain characteristics of the dopamine structure inside my head. But other things were just a matter of my own behavior. Right. So I think that the most thorough kind of embarkation of ADHD not just as a neurological difference, but also as a neurological difference that has fundamentally shaped the expression of my personality. Right. Yeah. in ways that I, I didn't quite see, you know, and that piece I had where I read all the things and decided 106 of them is about is about identity first activism, right, which in in the first case posits that the neuro queer framework posits that like, there is no separation of the disability from the person, there is no normal person over whom, like this blanket of dysfunction has been laid. And if you peel back the blanket, right, you will have the underlying normal person back, right, like that's not how it works. So like formulations like, you know, a person with autism tries to separate the fundamental person from a disability that somehow tragically layered on top of that. And so I don't believe that right, I do believe that it's like, like in sociolinguistics. It's like the disability of the person or two sides of one sheet of paper, right, you cannot separate one from the other and yet, somehow In my own journey through diagnosis and treatment, I have been surprised again and again, at things that I thought were one thing or the other that have turned out to be both. Right. Yeah.
Yeah. And and I think that it's, it's, it's one of those. It's identity is complicated. Why don't I just pull out another platitude, but it's good, but it is. Sure. It's a platitude, right? Because it's true. Yeah. And I think you know, and it's part of and you start at least for me a lot of things you start questioning, Is this why I was good at x or is this why I enjoyed y or is this why I was really bad at you know, z or is this you know, and, and it just it kind of snowballs and a lot of cases, right? If you start thinking about it too much, because that's what we do. And and it's hard to like Sorry, I've, for me, one of the most challenging things has been, again, to sort of slow down. This is why I really appreciate being able to do the podcast because it has forced me to slow down. Right? Where I for, for me, it's, it's been a little bit about, like making almost like making up for lost time. Right? Like I have to do all of these things that I haven't been able to do before or that I struggled with or, you know, like, I have to try and get things done or get this thing done because now I have this better understanding and then I could do it and, and just to sort of slow down to be able to kind of process it right. And to be able to have these kinds of revelations and, and, and have that kind of moments of reflection. So that that's been that's been my challenge is You know, and you could say, haha, she's on stimulants. And so of course, she wants to do everything faster. But, but I mean, at the end of the day, is it sort of like, like what you've said about now I can read all the things. You know, for me, it's sort of like, Oh, I can really do all the
things, right, I can go 10 times faster than I used to.
Yeah, I can go 10 times faster than I used to. I might be able to go 10 times faster, but I'm going to try and slow it down a little bit here. Anyways, this was a good place to end this particular episode and talking about this topic. You can always find us online at all the things adhd.com you can email us at all the things firstname.lastname@example.org you can also get in touch with me I'm ready writing on Twitter and Amy is Digi walk on Twitter. We would be happy to hear from you. Enter your email, tell us a little bit about yourself. Also If you want to be a guest let us know if you have a subject you'd like us to talk about. for future episodes, please let us know that too. In our upcoming episodes, we have a couple more. We're going to talk about narrative and storytelling and the stories we tell about ourselves, as well as some more tips and tricks. So we hope you'll join us again next week. For our next episode of the all the things ADHD podcast. Thanks so much