Recently I was explaining several of my daily struggles to my therapist hoping that she, as she so often does, would have some good strategies I can use to help me with them. Among my complaints was that I struggle to follow conversations, especially when the are long or intense, and most especially when the other person is talking for a long time. I also told her about how I hate that I unconsciously bite my nails and that I’ve chewed on my nails for as long as I’ve had teeth, how I can not concentrate if there are other people making sounds in the house, whether its read a book, write, or watch a video. Just now I got snappy with Mark becuase he’s running around yelling and my train of thought vanished.
I’ve been seeing her for well over a year now and many of these issues were on the original form I filled out, but I had a far more pressing issue at the time, crippling panic attacks. I can’t remember clearly how many times I thought I was for sure going to be dead in the next five minutes. The last time was just the other night when I was driving in the snow.
The difference now though, is that I recognize it as anxiety, and I have tools to get though it. I slowed my breathing, took deep breaths into my belly, and watched the pain. It took about a year before I had any idea what was meant by “Become an observer.” At one point I was provided with worksheets that showed me how to do it and they helped. Now I really get it and yoga was the biggest help with that. I can remember that my body is a body and it has all sorts of feelings, pain being one of them. I can “step back” and watch it. As soon I realized the pain was not increasing and was not in one place but moving from my chest to my shoulder to my neck and then to my head, I calmed down. “This is not a heart attack, this is a panic attack”, I thought to myself as my podcast yammerd on in the background. I realized I had not heard a word of it in at least 5 minutes and I started to listen again.
Now that I know how to do what I just described, I can finally move on in therapy to other things, my relationships, my weird habits, my day to day struggles that make life difficult; beyond severe panic. Last time I went in I rambled for a while about all these things and I got a response that only partly caught me off guard, “I’m not big on diagnoses, but you might fit an attention deficit disorder.”
There have been times I’ve wondered if that fits me, but not with any real depth. I had teachers insist it fit me when I was in primary school, and my mom fighting saying it didn’t. I think my mother didn’t want me on medication, which is great, becuase I don’t want to be on medication. In fact, I asked my therapist, are there other people I should see and talk to about this? And she said, “You could see a psychiatrist, but they will suggest medication, and I thought you didn’t want to go that route.” She also went on to say something like “I see that you struggle with these things, I’ve noticed them too, but I also see that you work very hard to overcome it.” and she talked about my strengths for a little while.
I didn’t realize that my experinces aren’t “normal” (whatever that really means). The fact that my therapist actually noted that I have some unique strengths and struggles oddly makes me feel a little less crazy, I really am a bit of an outlier.
I decided to write this all becuase I saw this silly buzzfeed list, and read it and thought again, “Wow, this really does fit me.” Maybe this fits everyone, maybe not, I’m really not educated enough to know. I’ve only lived this one life with this one brain, and I’ve never fit in or understood other people. I’ve always been a weird one. Having this information doesn’t change too much for me, except now I can try to discover more specific strategies to make my own day to day life easier and more productive.
I’ll end with said buzzfeed article.