Underneath my yellow skin

Grasping for a reason

The countdown to enforced family time is ticking, and as a result, my health is taking a nosedive. Oh, I can’t say for sure it’s related (see what I did there?), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. Let me amend. I know my mental health takes a hit during family time, but I can’t say for sure my physical decline is a direct correlation. I would not be surprised if it were, given that stress is really bad for health, but I can’t say it’s 100% true. I do know, however, that my brain starts thinking darker thoughts that get worse every day. I know that my sleep issues, which are problematic at the best of times, become even worse. The chattering in my brain that I can usually keep to a bare minimum grows louder, and it’s harder to block it out.

Side note: I’ve been grappling with the idea that I may have ADHD/ADD or at least some of the traits. I’ve never thought about it in the past because the stereotype is the hyperactive young boy who can’t sit still for five minutes, talks a mile a minute, and careening into things at a high velocity. None of that is me except on occasion the middle one, and I tend towards inertia whenever possible. In addition, I already know I have OCD tendencies, and to my mind, these two disorders are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Also, I’m a woman, and ADD is notoriously overlooked in people of my gender in part because of the aforementioned stereotype. Here are the symptoms as they may present in women, and I match many of them. I also have four of the five comorbidities, which doesn’t make me feel any better. The only reason I hesitate with the label is because I have a good memory and don’t forget things. Other than that, though, everything else fits.

What really opened my eyes to the fact that I may have ADD (no H here) is when someone who has it explained that the ‘look, squirrel’ syndrome was followed by hyper-focus when he was really interested in something. That’s what tripped me up. I can do several things at one time, but if I’m really into something, I lose sight of everything else. I cannot be distracted once I latch onto one thing (or, worse, one person), and once I learned that was part of ADHD, things started clicking. Reading the list above, I’m struck by how I was just thinking this week how I couldn’t work in an office because so much of the social bullshit was such an anathema to me. I felt that way when I was in an office, and even though I can fake it because I’m really good at small talk (even though I hate it), I don’t understand the reasons behind much of it. I feel that way in general with social interactions and especially with the office. There was a letter at Ask A Manager this week in which the letter writer said she didn’t answer every time her coworker said hi in the morning, and he would confront her about it. Sometimes, it was because she had her headphones on, but also because she didn’t feel like it once in a while. She asked how she could push back on the confrontation and why he NEEDED her to say hi every day, and I wished she hadn’t added the part about not feeling like it once in a while because I knew the commentariat would focus on that–and they did.

To be clear, her gender wasn’t known until she came into the comments to clarify. I knew she was a woman (as did several commenters) because no way a guy would get in the face of another guy for not saying hi. I also immediately pictured it that sometimes she nodded at him or whatever, but that wasn’t enough. Which she also clarified to be true. The number of commenters who focused on the minority of times she ‘didn’t feel like it’ and take her to task for it was astounding. To me, the way I read the letter was that she said hi back most of the time, nodded other times, and didn’t hear when she had her headphones on. The guy got aggressive, demanding to know why she didn’t say hi, and that made her not want to respond at all. A few commenters took it in the same way, but the vast majority put the onus on the LW/OP and chastised her for not saying hi every single time.

Now, in general, I agree that if someone says hi, you say hi back. That’s not a big ask, unless you’re wearing headphones. Which, as the LW said, she was at times. But, I would consider a head nod and a smile as a response, and in general, anything other than a complete blanking is fine. Some commenters insisted it had to be verbal and how hard is that? Also, one said that if she said hi to a colleague and they didn’t answer 10% of the time, she wouldn’t want to work with them on anything. I mean, really? Again, I’m not advocating just ignoring your coworkers, but on the other hand, if someone is wearing headphones, leave them the fuck alone. The reason I wished the LW hadn’t said she sometimes didn’t answer if she didn’t feel like it is because it really skewed the responses. The commentariat latched on that fact and ignored the rest. And, since I felt she hadn’t explained it well, even before she clarified, I knew she wasn’t going to get the answer to the actual question she was asking.

When she clarified that she was a woman; that she sometimes nodded and smiled, but he didn’t see her; and that he would confront her (that was the word she used and more than one commenter were skeptical about what she meant by it) by saying, “I SAID hi” the next time he saw her. A few women were brave enough to talk about the entitlement the guy (coworker) felt to a response, and they got lambasted for it. One mentioned it in connection to the entitlement of a man demanding a woman smile, and more than one woman was indignant by the comparison. They said it cheapened sexual harassment by making the comparison, but the women making the comparison weren’t saying it was sexual harassment, just that the entitlements were similar.

Side note to the side note: I have to remember that not everyone can think about an issue on multiple levels. I once complained to my last therapist about discussing issues with people, and she said, “Minna, you’re talking on a level way above the head. If you’re at a level 5, they’re on a level 2. They literally cannot comprehend what you are saying.” That in addition to reminding me that the lesser-known aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that smart people underestimate the gap between their intelligence and others (or ability to do something), and it was a light bulb moment for me.

Side note to the second side note: My brother made me laugh, half in amusement and half in disbelief when he once said in all seriousness that I was almost as smart as he was. When I pushed him on it later, he said tried to explain that he meant IQ wise. Which is funny because I don’t know what my IQ is exactly. I haven’t taken a test in quite some time. He said, “Isn’t it like 130 or so?” I honestly have no idea. His is over 150, and he’s a member of Mensa. I tried to explain to him that IQ is not a good measure of intelligence for so many reasons, but he stood by it. I backed off because he seemed really invested in it, but I did mention to him that I was smarter than he was in many ways. He said, “Yes, like EQ!” Well, no. I mean, yes, I am, but even in what he considers standard intelligence, I’m smarter than he is in English and writing, for example. My vocabulary is easily twice the size of his (yes, I’m flexing my vocab muscle), and I can read like a mofo. Even in some of the things where he’s smarter, it’s by a hair. I was really good at math and science in high school, even if I didn’t love them in general. Except algebra and calculus. I loved both of them. The point is, I was taken aback by him just stating it flatly like that. He’s probably on the spectrum–in fact, more than one member of my family might be–and I know he didn’t mean anything bad by it. It still didn’t sit well with me, of course.

It seems like lately I’m finding out all these things about myself that I’m not happy about. The possible ADD thing. Oh! To add to that, things from my childhood that have become validated now. My sensitivity to stimuli for one. I was told I was too sensitive as a kid for so many things. Not just stimuli, but too emotionally sensitive. When I was in my early twenties, I had a hard time dealing with people because all their negative emotions poured directly into me. I could tell who was sad, mad, in pain, etc. It physically hurt, and it made me not want to deal with other people. Simultaneously, I hated clothing, all scents, loud noises, bright lights, and anything else that hit my senses hard. I was allergic to most everything, including makeup, deodorants, nature, and perfumes. Back then, it considered a me-problem. Now, society is becoming more aware that this is a societal problem. Most offices at least understand the concept of scent-free and accommodations to sensitivities. Whether they actually do anything about it is another issue, but at least we’re talking about these issues. There is open talk about sensory overload, different kinds of allergies, and empaths. Again, it might not be accepted in all corners of society, but we at least have an awareness that didn’t exist twenty years ago.

With all that said, I don’t know what to do with all this information. I still feel like a freak, and I have no energy to deal with it. I’m dreading the family visit, and I haven’t even touched on that. It’ll have to wait for another post.

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