Sunday, April 26, 2015

Discovering, fighting, and living with ADHD

Before you read further, I want you to read this brief past post of mine -

Now replace those chain of thoughts with everyday chores and actions. Replace that one hour with every single hour of a life. That's my life.

After coming across Deepika Padukone's story about depression and the overwhelming response it got, I wondered how little we as Indians talk about mental health problems. So little that we look forward to a celebrity talking about depression. I acknowledge the fact that everything written below can turn out to be a good reason for my future employers to not hire me, in case they read this, but I am willing to take chances, because this should be get out. It should have, long time ago.

I have ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most well-recognized childhood developmental problems. It is now known that these symptoms continue into adulthood for about 60% of children with ADHD. This condition is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. My disorder is leaning more towards inattention (ADD) than hyperactivity.
Here is a link to some more information about ADHD in adults -

Some of the most prestigious scientific-based organization in the world have concluded AD/HD as a real disorder as a commonly seen neuropsychiatric syndrome.

The easiest way to explain this disorder is this. Imagine that our mind is like a clean white board. Throughout the day, it automatically take notes of every single information on it. Everyone is gifted with the ability of erasing unnecessary information from that white board, with a duster and only keep the information that is important and needed.
People with ADHD went to gaze at the stars when the dusters were being distributed.
So now they have to deal with every single information on that white board. And every single information is written in a RED BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS!

I don't remember if I had ADHD as a child. I was good at school, had good average grades, don't remember teachers calling my parents to complain about my inability to complete tasks or absorb information, etc, but as far as I could remember I have suffered from ADHD all my adult life. I discovered and learnt about this disorder around a year ago.
My life has been a constant struggle between choosing what I have to do and what my mind pushes me to.

I started noticing it when I was out of school and joined college.

- Getting assigned a list of tasks is like getting wet in heavy, cold showers while you are constantly struggling to find an umbrella that you don't really have.
- I have a very sharp memory. I remember things from when I was 3-4 years old, but remembering small things like today's date or day is a mental trauma.
- My Google chrome have an average of 20 tabs open at any given time. I once witnessed 40 tabs. Loosing them gives me anxiety.
- I have hard time concentrating and keeping up with conversations when I am with a group. I lose the track and I end up staring at their faces, but thinking about something entirely different.
- I get up to drink water and while I am filling my glass, I suddenly remember that I have not closed the closet door, I keep the half filled glass on the side and head towards closing the door when I see a hairbrush and I realize that I haven't tied my hair properly. While doing my hair I remember that I wanted to have tea, so I head to the stove with my half-combed hair. While making the tea, I see my glass of water and I leave the stove on and head to drink it and the unending chain of events continues until the end of the night when I am in bed and I remember again that I haven't closed my closet door.
- Trying to fall asleep is harder than trying to push wood inside water.
- When I start to read something, I get to involved in every word, only to realize I am thinking about something else, something related to the last word I read in the book.
- Deciding what to order from a menu is like picking up the right shoes from a warehouse of shoes that only has the left pair.
- Shopping is the biggest struggle. Probably one of the reasons why I hate it. I go to shop for a shirt and before I realize I am noticing patterns and prints on various fabrics of clothes that are not even my size.
- I go to YouTube to find a recipe and 5 minutes later, I am watching the inner working systems of North Korea.
- I constantly move my feet, which I am very sure I got from my parents. I have seen them doing that too.
- It's a struggle to start a task. I think about what I could do about it, I think about what I CAN do about it and I procrastinate thinking about the best time to do it.
- It's a struggle to keep track of time. I head over to do something that is a 2 minute task and notice I am nowhere around that task two hours later. It's also hard to figure out what I did for 2 hours.
- It's a struggle to start a task that badly needs to happen, but it's a more serious struggle to end a task that I am engrossed in.
- When I get texts messages or emails, I mentally respond to them and think about answering them later. 10 days later, I realize that I have never responded them. I am out of excuses to offer my friends.
- I work the best when I have a deadline. My presentations that I have worked on for 10 minutes before the deadline are more top notch than the ones I have worked on for a month.
- Following a written recipe is like memorizing lyrics of song in a foreign language, that you don't speak. I read ingredients a dozen of times. When I start cooking, I go back to the recipe to make sure the amount is right. I go back to check if I checked properly.
- When I am multitasking, I mix tasks. I write what I listen on TV while I am writing something else.
- When it's worse, I think of around 3-4 chores at one single time. I end up doing them all or a little bit, one after the other, at the same time.
Every task is a struggle, every chore is a mountain to cross. Nothing happens automatically. Sometimes all symptoms rushes together and brings panic attacks. It hurts in the head and I feel like shutting it doing permanently.

That was basically my all adult life, up until last year. I thought I was crazy. Firstly, it took years for me to notice these patterns. When I did notice it, I felt like a freak. I thought I was stupid. I blamed myself for not having an attentive mind. I didn't think it was normal until I came across this video of one of the YouTubers that I follow -
This video is so accurate that it's creepy. I feel like he spied on me and my whole life and made a video about it just to annoy me.
It was bittersweet to discover it. I was relieved and happy that I was not abnormal. It is common and thousands of other people have been going through the same things I've been.

My blog and my writings have been victims of my ADHD too. I currently have 45 drafts on my blog, which I have not published. I have either started writing them, or have written them haphazardly because I get unstoppable ideas in my head 24 hours. I can't seem to ever finish writing them.
When I DO write things, I start to write something and end up writing something else. I am not sure if you have noticed, because I edit a lot before publishing anything and that is the main reason I hardly publish anything on the blog, but my writings are very jumpy. I start to talk about one thing and end up talking about something else. My sentences hop from one point to another. The only real problem is, I don't notice it. Not at least in that moment. It is only when I read my old posts, I realize I was spreading 'raita' all over the place

I am very thankful that my ADHD hasn't interfered too much in my professional life. In fact, I am usually the first one to learn a software or a procedure. I did face a lot of minor issues like remembering what shift I had to work for or reaching late to work or leaving late from work.

I am not taking any medications currently. I don't think I ever would, unless it gets really out of my hands. I am trying to fight it by different methods, like -
1. Making lists of everything I am supposed to do everyday. I list down even the smallest tasks.
2. When I realize that my thoughts are wandering and are not where they are suppose to be, I stop myself and come back to the beginning.
3. I am using applications and sticky notes everywhere that reminds me tasks every hour of the day.
4. I am constantly searching for tips on better organizational skills and trying to learn and adapt them.
5. I break large tasks in to smaller tiny tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed.
I am learning to live with it.

It's hard, but it also benefits my creative side. It's only when I am thinking about one thing that I start discovering other things and write about them.

Sometimes I don't realize my own symptoms because it's doesn't get too complicated and sometimes it's too hard to even breathe. It's like a non-stop circus in my head all day. I feel like shouting out loud. I feel like locking myself and deal with everything one thing at a time.
Heredity makes the largest contributions to ADHD and I had my worst nightmare when I discovered that my mother have ADHD too. She suffers from exactly the same symptoms as mine. The sad part is, there is less to no awareness about ADHD in India. People with ADHD symptoms are probably sitting sad in their house after being labelled as stupid, dumb or fool. I am personally very guilty of nagging at my mother for being very distracted all the time. She has faced some dangerous situations because of this disorder and it sucks that it took me such a long time to understand her problem.  I am happy that I have a loving father and a dotting sister who takes care of her and I am sure it will be okay.
The same way, I am utterly and graciously thankful for my husband who deals with my paranoia like a piece of cake. Somehow he has figured out the mechanics of my mind. He predicts what's coming and makes everything, including myself, ready for it.

When I learnt about ADHD, it was like a slap to my face. It's shameful to admit, but when I discovered about it, I felt ashamed. I felt flawed. It's like you were practicing for a marathon your whole life, falling and running again and again, and suddenly someone comes and tells you that you don't qualify because you don't have the right shoes. Tight slap. I was meant to run to win, I was supposed to pull up my socks and tie the strings of my perfect shoes.
But I don't feel ashamed anymore. No one should. If you are going through the same struggle, I assure you, you can beat it. You can learn to live with it.

I am prepared for the outcomes, but I am also preparing to do better. You can too. So what if we don't have the right shoes, we can learn to run with bare feet, right?



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When I hit an eve-teaser

As much strong as I want to be, I'm a wuss. Even after growing up, I used to cover my face and shout for my mom, when my sister harassed me. I am a kind of person who'll probably take a turn and walk away if you slap me for no reason. I am really really not proud of it, though.

One evening, my sister and I went for grocery shopping at our market in my hometown. It's a typical Indian vegetable market; dark and Mumbai-local crowded with women yelling names of vegetables and their value, people with two-wheelers trying to drive their vehicle with feet on the ground, path all muddy and soft and you really have to shove your face into someone to talk to them. We only had to pick up a couple of things so I asked my sister (the shopping enthusiast) to grab them, while I (the lazy shopper) take a u-turn on my Street-smart bike. That way we don't have to park and can easily drive away.

I took a u-turn and was waiting for her near a Khaman shop, when a man walked passed by me with his hands swaying on his side. When he reached me, he swayed his hand on my thighs and kept walking. I blamed the crowded place. After few seconds, he returned from the opposite side and swayed on my thighs again. This time I was sure he did it deliberately, but before I could react, he turned immediately, repeated the same action and walked away hastily. He mingled in the crowd and I wasn't able to spot him.

I decided to not tell my sister when she came back. She sat behind and we started to ride our bike in the crowd. We were going at the pace of a bullock-cart when the same man came from behind and touched my thighs again. I have never felt so angry, ever. I felt my blood boiling and I wanted to shout, but instead I did something amazing. Because of the crowd he couldn't walk fast, so I drove a little faster to reach him and hit him SUPER HARD on his back. Yes.
Something like this

My sister was horrified.
She yelled, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? Drive fast or the crowd will attack us for doing that."
The man escaped like a chicken because he knew he'll be broken in to pieces if I shout for help from the market crowd.
I had to explain my sister the backstory. For days she couldn't stop laughing. She was utterly surprised by my aggressive gesture.

So was I.

We agreed to not tell our parents about it. I've never laid my hand on anyone, but this will remain as one of the proudest moment of my life. This incident proved how horribly disgusted I was, by people like him.

This happened years ago when news of rapes, eve-teasing and molestation were not constantly blinking in the newspaper. Maybe it was the absence of this same kind of news that kept me fearless during this incident. Because a similar incident happened few years later, where I was not able to react as bravely. I hardly remember this incident. It has not managed to be a part of my life because I never felt like a victim. Not when it happened, not right now. In fact, it amuses me when I think about it. Whereas, the Ahmedabad incident still terrifies me. Maybe the fear that arises from listening similar stories have crippled our strength. Maybe all  of us are very strong from inside. Maybe the real way to rediscover this strength, lies in not feeling like victims, but feeling like the Protector. Maybe we all have the ability to say, "That's enough!"

All I can remember right now is his scared, sorry face when this wuss managed to gather the strength to hit him.