ADHD and belonging

PREFACE: This is being written at about 11 in the morning on EMU campus. I haven’t taken my meds yet. I left my wallet at home, I’ve had two phone calls interrupt me, and I’ve started this entry 3 times already. So, don’t take the negative tone too seriously – life is very good right now and I’m thankful for that.

This is (or at least should be) my last semester in graduate school at EMU. Between now and the end of the year, I am committed to putting together a performance piece, the last requirement for graduation. It will be about ADHD, probably about ADHD and relationships. Since that’s where I’m doing most of my work right now, it seems like a sensible choice.

As part of getting myself mentally and emotionally engaged, I’m trying to spend more time on campus. Today was the first day for that. Classes started 2 weeks ago, so the students are already in the swing of things. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the campus, it feels good to be here. At least in a general sense.

In a specific sense – the sense of “how do ‘I‘ feel being here?” – I feel like a tourist.

There are a lot of reasons for it, I expect.

For one thing, most of the people I’ve taken classes with have either moved on or are probably in class themselves right now – some of them teaching.

For another thing, I’ve always been a commuter student, so most of my time on campus has either been for a class, an event or prep for an event. So, there’s a limit to the how involved I was at any time over the last 4 years.

But, I think there are some important ADD components to it too.

For one thing, the very fact that I am involved in so many different things feels very ADD to me. Am I a musician or a writer or a performer or a visual artist or a code developer or X or Y or Z? The answer is “yes”. So, how deeply can I get involved in any of those worlds? With the people with whom I interact? How do I get a feeling of “yes, this is where I belong?” Answer: it’s hard.

The other ADD component is something many of us are familiar with – the feeling of being a perpetual outsider. I’ve heard this from a lot of ADD people and it’s all over the literature. (One of my favorite books is “What Does Everyone Else Know That I Don’t?” by Michele Novotni.)

It’s very important to recognize this because it can help minimize the effect. To the extent that it’s true, it is not an atypical side-effect of ADHD to not fit in, to not pick up social cues and know how to engage. Over and above that, it’s very easy to read other people’s actions as having a negative undertone. But it’s usually not a correct reading.

This is a blog entry, not a long analysis of the situation, so I’m going to stop now and go walk around the building again.

Who knows, I might run into somebody I know.

Busses are not Magic! (subtitle: “now and notnow”)

Today, I discovered something fascinating: Busses have schedules!



In general, my experience with busses goes something like this: I decide I am going to use the bus today to get somewhere, so I go walk down to the bus stop. I look up and down the road and, if the bus is not coming, I start walking toward my destination. In California, this was usually the nearest BART station, about a mile away. In Ann Arbor, it’s usually the coffee shop downtown, also about a mile. So, I figure that worst-case scenario is that I will get a good walk in.

However, that approach is not intentional. It’s the result of a kind of magical thinking about busses. While some people would look at the schedule to see when the bus will arrive, for me, it’s more a matter of “are the stars aligned correctly and does the Universe love me today?”

This is not a very good way to catch a bus. But it’s a good way to demonstrate the way “now/not-now” thinking works for us ADDers. When I am standing at the bus stop, the bus is either there or not there.  Which mean my luck was either good or bad.

At least, that’s the way it was in the past.

Now, we have better tools to help find the bus. I have an app on my phone that actually shows me the location of the #12 bus on the AATA route. So I can tell whether it’s worth waiting or if I should just start walking.

It still isn’t the same as looking at the schedule and getting to the bus stop on time, but it’s better. Someday, I’ll take that final step and become a person who checks the bus schedule before leaving the house.

But not yet.