I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –

As if my Brain had split –

I tried to match it – Seam by Seam –

But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join

Unto the thought before –

But Sequence ravelled out of Sound –

Like Balls – upon a Floor.

Emily Dickinson

I have a shiny new word (well, acronym) to explain what I’m going through: ADD. Adult ADD. Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. Which basically means it wasn’t recognized in childhood. I guess if you don’t get in enough trouble, it’s easy to miss.

I admit, I feel kinda silly. I mean, I have a hubby with ADD and a brother who was ADHD (and still undoubtedly ADD). Looking at it with new eyes, I realize that most of my family probably has it. Which is probably why our interruptions and impulsiveness, vague boundaries, etc. never bothered us overmuch.

And I feel silly that I’m a medical provider (working with psychiatric patients, no less) who didn’t realize how much there is to this. It really is a syndrome – a constellation of common symptoms unique to each individual. That said, the underlying familiarity of so much of it combined with my increasing struggle just to hold my normal days together – well, let’s just say I opted for a formal diagnosis.

In a nutshell, I was diagnosed as having both inattentive and overfocused ADD. I would think the two are mutually exclusive, but apparently not. The therapist who diagnosed me was kind of thrilled, actually – he said that combo is really hard to diagnose.

Getting away from all my thoughts about this new way of approaching my difficulties (and I have many, many thoughts… thankfully coming at me a little bit slower in the past couple of days), I wanted to write down some ideas about time before I… well, before I forget them. *grin*

So, I never realized that time is such a big part of ADD symptoms. In fact, I don’t think I even realized until lately how much of a problem I have with time.

I am chronically late. It’s gotten me into trouble before, but not so much now. My job allows for it, and that is 100% awesome.

No matter how long I think something will take me, it always takes longer. Usually a lot longer. I realize now that I am often embarrassed to admit how long it took me to do something.

Turns out, these things are common among people with ADD. It’s not that I lack some inherent skill to work efficiently. There’s an explanation for it.

It never occurred to me that TIME could be so skewed. I want to document how time has changed for me in the past couple of days.

I know that medication is only part of the answer, and believe me, I’m working on other changes, as well. I am starting to feel more hope than I have for a long while – hope that I won’t always be a disorganized, flightly fuck-up. I am on day 2 of stimulant therapy. It’s nothing short of amazing to me how such a tiny dose of stimulant, how a tiny bit of brain tweaking (tweak! ha! no pun intended) can make such a big difference.

I feel almost effortlessly happy. The world looks sharper and clearer. The debilitating fatigue and constant feeling of overwhelment has lifted. I am much more able to stay on task because I have only one or two distracting thoughts at once. I think I had 10-20 before. I didn’t even realize it. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad things are until they change. Contending with 1 or 2 straying thoughts seems entirely doable. 10-20 straying thoughts? Even if those thoughts are so, so worthy of exploration, it’s just not possible to stay on track well enough to feel like your mental health is intact. And I wondered why I was so tired all the time, so overwhelmed all the time… it seems clear now. How much energy was it taking me just to go through the motions of an ordinary day? It would seem a lot. No wonder the fatigue can get debilitating.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. There was this experiment I saw on TV not so long ago, where the way the brain experiences time in relation to adrenaline was explored. You know how people say that when something bad or scary (or even exhilarating – like bungee jumping) is happening, everything moves in slow motion? Is that just a subjective perception, or is time really moving more slowly?

This is absolutely fascinating – worth the 9 minutes (it will go fast – hee hee!).

An interesting aside (interesting to me, anyway): as people get older, time seems to move faster. The explanation I’ve heard most frequently is that when you’re older, you have more past time to which you compare your current experience of time. Like, if you’re five, a year seems forever because it’s a fifth of your lifetime.

I decided a few years ago that I didn’t buy it. I developed a theory (okay, not an actually scientific theory, but you know what I mean) that time really DOES speed up. Although the few times I’ve mentioned this idea to people, they look at me like I’ve got a nut loose, it would appear that the idea is not so far-fetched after all.

Our experience of time is subjective. What it is to one person may not be what it is to another. Brain chemicals and drugs alter our perception of time (if you didn’t watch the entire video above, go back and watch the second half about the experiments with mice on drugs).

Well, what happens if some of us are chemically designed by our genes to function at a different speed? For an ADD brain, on full-tilt all the time, perception of time moves more quickly (I can’t tell you how many days have whisked by me with not much to show for it). You notice and are distracted by a lot more, including your thoughts. Everything seems to be coming at you at once, there never seems enough time to get things done (which, combined with a constant barrage of stimuli and thoughts, don’t exactly equal optimal efficiency), and the way you judge quantity of time is pretty much fucked. You feel like you’re being run into the ground, and it takes an inordinate amount of energy just to keep yourself straight, deal with your family and job, etc.

Think about this. If a normal brain on adrenaline (stimulant) slows down time to slower than “normal,” what happens with an ADD brain on stimulant (medication or adrenaline or even cocaine)? With ADD, you feel like you’re moving too fast, there’s a constant state of stress, and in my experience at least, trying to slow yourself down only causes more stress from the effort. (I can tell you, it’s frustrating to wake up daily, determine to be on time by moving more quickly, only to find you’re as late as ever… how did it not go the way you planned? It’s like the harder you try, the more you fail.) Add stimulant to the ADD brain, and instead of making things go in slo-mo, you’re actually kind of moving at the same pace as everyone else.

I know there’s a better explanation for this, but while I normally like to get all cerebral on everyone, I’m going to leave it at this clunky explanation.

A tiny, tiny dose of stimulant the past two days has made me feel like I’m living in the world with the rest of you. Can I get high off of it? Well, do you get high off of your brain chemistry? Not likely, “high on life” cliches aside.

Getting away from ADD and moving from chemistry to physics, I really do wonder about time perception. Is time really all in our minds? Does it not actually EXIST outside our brain chemistry? We know, at the very least, that it can be manipulated. WWED: What would Einstein do?

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