An attempt at an introduction

Beginnings are hard… it feels like there is enormous pressure to draw the reader in, to give an inkling of what is to come without giving away the whole of the story, to establish tone, to introduce the characters or the topic or the themes that will be addressed. In starting, I already feel overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility to write well, to represent myself, my approach, my orientation, and my ideas adequately. “Adequate” seems like a relatively low bar to clear, and yet… still daunting, because my thoughts are constantly in motion. Even the things I think I know or, at the very least, about which I believe I have some provisional certainty… for even those things, I am regularly finding new names or new metaphors or new stories to tell, which feel like they bring new and more precise or more powerful descriptive power to bear. And if that’s true… then to commit what I am thinking in writing means to set those names and metaphors and stories in stone. So many of my instincts are actively fighting against this undertaking. But that experience of living in tension is completely familiar to me, as it is to all of us with ADHD.

Writing about my trepidation with respect to setting my ideas in stone recalls a countervailing story (why not be in tension around the idea of tension itself):

Twenty-something years ago soon after I moved to Vancouver, I enrolled in a beginners course for mindfulness meditation. It was a long time ago and my memories of the class, how many times I attended, whether I reliably went, the other people in the class, and really any other details are completely lost… except for one moment that is still incredibly vivid: on the very first day of class, the leader of the group produced a bunch of objects from a bag. They were a collection of random objects that could fit in one’s hand. We are all asked to choose an object that represented something about ourselves or something about what we hoped we might get out of the class. I chose an unremarkable smooth, grey, and white flecked stone. The teacher went around the circle to ask each of us why we chose the object we did. I don’t remember thinking about the rock when I chose it. But when it was my turn to talk about why I chose the thing I did I remember very clearly saying the following: “I chose this stone, because a stone only ever thinks one thought.”

Photo by Anthony

If I knew then what I know now, namely that I am person with ADHD, it would have made  a lot more sense. As I reflect back on the person I was, I think I was responding to the durability and simplicity of the stone. The object in my hand was perhaps hundreds of thousands of years old. In my mind, the idea that something could be durable in its form seemed very appealing to me, because my own thinking was—is—in constant motion, never resting anywhere much at all or for very long. This is fundamental to the experience of being a person with ADHD, a compulsion to be in motion. For some of us that means to be in physical motion, for some that motion is internal: thinking, emotional experiencing, remembering, and projecting (i.e. futural). I was drawn to the stone, because it was everything I was not: quiet, cool, and reliably the same from one moment to the next.

Back to the tension: one the one hand I feel great apprehension about setting my ideas down in writing, because I know that historically I have never felt comfortable in stillness. But writing is the very practice of setting things down in stone, rendering them still. And yet… I was a person who admired the stone for its singularity and simplicity… for its stillness.

This is regularly the experience of being a person with ADHD—if it’s not too dramatic to say it in the following way: to be at war with oneself. And this is one of the themes I will explore in the work that follows. Some of the other themes I would like to write about include the following:

Topics for future posts

  • Thoughts on the name of the condition (i.e. why I write ADHD as ADHD) – Kill the meaning. Keep the name.
  • Introducing and expanding on the idea of rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD)
  • The function of oppositionalism – the “no of adhd.
  • Emotions and ADHD
  • ADHD through a systems lens
  • ADHD and posthumanism
  • ADHD through a temporal lens (how people with ADHD experience time distinctly from neurotypical people)
  • Existentialism and ADHD
  • Aristotle and ADHD
  • Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
  • Perfectionism: “The brittle heuristic”
  • Inflexible vs disorganized
  • The movement of life and ADHD—recursiveness
  • The structure of care
  • The poverty of behaviourism
  • Phenomenological approaches to psychotherapy: what is “the trouble generator”
  • “The discounted self”
  • “Anticipatory resoluteness”
  • Defining authenticity and the movement towards it

Beginnings, as I began with, are hard. That, itself, is a theme in working with people with ADHD, i.e. finding a way of transitioning from being motionless to being in motion. Difficulty in starting can be the result of lack of physical resources—fatigue or fogginess—or fear of failure—one client beautifully named it “grief prevention”—or any number of anticipatory concerns or anxieties or dread. And the word “anticipatory” will play an important role in my thinking, as the future is the prospective place where we project either a static version of a difficult present or the site of our complete dissolution. The percentage of clients with ADHD whose future includes the thoughts “living under a bridge” or “living in my car” is approaching 100.

But as difficult as people with ADHD find beginnings, so too are endings fraught. I’ll discuss beginnings and endings in greater detail in future posts, but for the time being, let me lay my cards on the table and offer what I think is the therapeutic terminus when working with clients with ADHD. That end point in contained in words of the Greek Poet Pindar from his work composed around 470 B.C. Those words are the following:

Become such as you are, having learned what that is.

Bust of Pindar
Bust of Pindar. Photo: Stas Kozlovsky.

In the posts that follow, I will endeavour to share my personal and professional experience of having “learned what that is.”