add and fear: a false dichotomy of choice

for most of my life, fear has worn robes of royalty in the court of my psyche. it strode about, a tilted crown gleaming and twisted scepter raised hi, whispering

‘you cannot do that.’

or something like

‘best not tell anyone; you will be hated.’

one of fear’s favorite pastimes is convincing me i only have two impossible choices, either of which will leave me suffering, ashamed, embarrassed. a metaphor i’ve used recently in discussing my add and how it has wrecked such havoc on the entirety of my life goes something like, ‘i have lived almost my entire life trying to find the emergency exit.’

and when i picture someone moving towards the emergency exit, it’s not an orderly movement – engulfed in fear, the body clamors over and through, not worrying about collateral damage or what’s left behind, eyes wild and focused on nothing but survival. what makes this so unfair, though, is that the plane usually isn’t actually crashing.

fear is a liar, and an add brain – especially undiagnosed, unmedicated, unaided – is built for fear.

i didn’t begin applying for teaching jobs for summer session at community colleges because i was afraid i wouldn’t earn my masters degree this semester. fear left me paralyzed by two impossible choices – work hard and fail and be ashamed, or give up and fail and be ashamed. when i graduated, i actually wasn’t prepared for the success, so fear still won that round.

add and fear rarely allow me to see anything beyond black and white. only until very (i’m talking this week) recently have i been able to start seeing choices in color. if i mismanage my time, i must either skip my workout, which will make me fat (it won’t, but my brain doesn’t care, nor does the fact that for a long time i’ve built my self-worth on things outside of me, since i’ve hated myself inside of myself), or i’ll have to run by the store later (which means i probably won’t at all, and i’ll know that somewhere in the back of my head). both choices are presented by my own brain with negative outcomes.

i am learning, slowly, awkwardly, a fawn walking for the first time, to see that i can go to the store first and shorten my workout. or i can not work out and i won’t get fat, because that’s absurd. i can trust people with what i assumed was the darkness of my heart instead of being forced to live isolated within my own walls, because i’ve finally started trying it out, and not one person has said ‘you are hopeless, i hope they lock you away.’

i challenge readers who may think or know they have add to try and make eye contact with their most paralyzing choices and ask steady questions, like, ‘are those really my only options?’ fear is a bully – eye contact usually causes it to shrink away. it’s based on intimidation and hopes it isn’t directly challenged. every individual fear is a battle. every choice, for the add mind, can be a painful process, be it cereal on aisle seven or life-long choices like whom to trust and where to live and do i want . . .

ah, yes, one last bit on fear, inspired by my abandoned ellipses: fear whispers to us about what we do not have. and tries its hardest to convince us that either choice robs us. instead of choosing what to have or pursue, fear would rather we remain seated and calm while the plane may or may not go down, because we’re scared we might lose that seat. if i pursue a career job at a university, i might lose the chance to start working right now at a shoe store, but if i start working right now, i might miss the chance to accept that career job.

i smiled – it isn’t fun, but it’s fun to be able to name it, now. i know there’s a little more hope, because i know i can start using different levels of shading and saturation in my choices instead of black or white or letting idleness make choices for me.

i smiled again, imagining fear hearing about this piece and knowing its reign is coming to an end, and i laughed wondering what the hell does fear do when it finds itself afraid.

let’s find out, i said aloud, typing this last sentence and clicking ‘publish.’

One thought on “add and fear: a false dichotomy of choice

  1. i’ve read a LOT of books on add but none have given me insight like this. thank you for sharing your perspective so honestly.

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