Saturday, December 31, 2016

The I Hate This Book Club: The Rainbow Fish


I'm either a terrible person or too analytical for preschool literature: I strongly object to Marcus Pfister's classic picture book The Rainbow Fish. Until going to the book's Amazon page to grab this link, I hadn't been aware that I'm far from alone in feeling uncomfortable with this story.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that Rainbow Fish perpetuates rape culture.

For those who have not read the story recently, go have Ernest Borgnine read it to you in the most endearing way possible, or settle for this summary: 


Rainbow Fish was the most outwardly-beautiful fish in the sea, covered in shimmering scales. Everyone thought he was pretty, but he was too stuck up to talk to them. One day a little fish asked Rainbow Fish if he could please have one of his beautiful shiny scales; Rainbow Fish says "Who do you think you are? Get away from me!" The little fish tells all the other fish that Rainbow Fish is a jerk and they all shun Rainbow Fish. Rainbow Fish feels lonely: "What good were the dazzling, shimmering scales with no one to admire them?" A wise octopus tells him to share his beautiful scales with the other fish. He does, and the other fish love him, and he lives happily ever after.

Let's break this down:

First, Rainbow Fish is a snob. The other fish call out "Come and play with us," but Rainbow Fish won't even talk to them - he just glides past looking pretty, too cool to bother with non-shiny fish. This is no way to make friends.

Then one of those fish who only wanted to play with Rainbow Fish because he was beautiful asks Rainbow Fish to give him a scale - to rip out part of his body, to cause himself physical harm, to give up some of what makes him unique

Rainbow Fish says No.

The little fish respects Rainbow Fish's bodily autonomy enough not to assault him then and there and take a scale, but he tells all the other fish that Rainbow Fish won't put out. The little fish is basically a bro at a party who gets slapped in the face by a girl for getting fresh and then tells the guys at his frat house that she's a cock tease/whore/fat/ugly/bitch.

For saying No, Rainbow Fish is ostracized, an outcast. He seeks advice. "I really am beautiful," he says, "Why doesn't anybody like me?" Unpacking that further: The only value he sees in himself is his appearance; he feels that being pretty should be enough to merit having friends, regardless of how he has treated people (ie being too proud to talk to the fish who invited him to play).

Rainbow Fish goes on a spiritual journey. The local sage advises him to buy the friendship of the frat bros who call him a whore behind his back. He is advised to rip out chunks of his own flesh, to scar himself, to violate his body, to allow the whole frat to rape him. He is told that stripping himself of what makes him most special - the aspect of himself which he most values - is the only way to make friends. Don't save yourself for someone you love, if you really want to be popular just get drunk and lose your virginity in a gang-bang.

And he does.

Rainbow Fish is again propositioned by the original fresh little fish, and he rips out a beautiful scale and gives it to him; this makes the little fish treat Rainbow Fish kindly. So Rainbow Fish rips out more scales and gives them to more and more fish, buying their love by diminishing his own beauty. The other fish have successfully bullied Rainbow Fish into submission. Rainbow Fish now looks just like everyone else and is therefore socially acceptable.

To summarize:

  • Bullying works.
  • It is morally imperative to cave to peer pressure.
  • Friendship can be bought.
  • Sacrifice what is most special about yourself to be just like everyone else.
  • Only outward beauty matters.
  • Fuck your way to the top.
It is telling that while writing this post I had to keep reminding myself that Rainbow Fish is male, because everything about this story reads to me as a parable for how women in our society are treated and are expected to behave: nothing is more important that your appearance; take care of the needs of others before your own; popularity is more important than being true to yourself; if you think you're special society will find a way to knock you down a notch.

But hey, the illustrations are pretty and shiny, so let's just tell the kids it's about sharing and not think too hard about all this.

God, I hate this book.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pro: Amazing Memory. Con: Amazing Memory.

Ryan, like many on the spectrum, has a fantastic memory. To clarify: he has a fantastic memory for certain types of details, like the length of each track on a CD, or the order in which we picked up groceries, or all the words to every movie he's ever seen.  Ask him where he left his toys or to identify his own grandmother by name, though, and you're on your own.

This kind of memory is known as Declarative Memory, and a strong declarative memory can help compensate for some deficits that go hand in hand with autism, like learning a script of what one should say in a specific social situation.

I think the brain wiring behind the awesome memory has something to do with keeping the memories readily accessible for longer than usual, rather than overwriting and pruning the neural connections. Don't quote me, this is just my hypothesis: I'm not a brain scientist, and I'm totally making this up.

My anecdotal supporting evidence is rooted in my observations of how Ryan seems to experience time. For Ryan, something that happened months ago is just as current as something that happened five minutes ago.

Today for example, we were having a perfectly relaxed evening, playing checkers and looking up cookie recipes, when Ryan suddenly flew into a panic, bordering on a meltdown. His heart was racing, his face crumpled with anguish. He shrieked, "We will not see Hard Red any day this year!?!"

Several minutes of interrogation and calming strategies later, we figured out that he meant that he had lost a tiny plastic Angry Birds toy (the red bird) somewhere in the basement... at some point in 2015. This was the first Stu or I remembered hearing that it was missing.

In Ryan's head, last year might as well be yesterday. When this memory surfaced for Ryan, he experienced it with all the urgency we would expect to see if he had lost that toy today. (Side note: I found Hard Red within 5 minutes of learning that it had gone missing. I am just that good.) Today, last month, that one afternoon when he was seven, it's all the same to him, and it's all fresh.

His memory is a blessing and a curse.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Missing

I had a close friend, and because we spent a lot of time together, our kids spent a lot of time playing together. Earlier this year the friendship ended. 

When Ryan noticed he wasn't seeing those kids anymore, he started asking for play dates with them; he was rejected. He insisted on inviting them to his birthday party; they had other plans. Stu eventually set up a play date through their dad, but then he got sick and had to postpone. 

Today, seemingly out of the blue, Ryan started sobbing. He said he was crying because he missed his friends "so much." In theory they have plans to get together in a couple of weeks, but Ryan wanted to play with his friends Right. Now. And he found it completely unacceptable that he would "see them only one time this YEAR." 

Unfortunately, the play date is just going to have to wait a few weeks. Still crying, Ryan asked if he could call them Right. Now. I suggested he make them a card. He immediately sat down and wrote them a (barely legible) note: 
Dear _____,

I miss you so much!

Love, Ryan

My heart hurts for him.

"I miss them, too," I told him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The one thing that almost humanized Donald for me. Almost.

I've had so many thoughts about the results of the presidential election but neither the words nor the stomach to articulate them. Combinations of Heartbreak and Terror swirl around with good measures of Disgust and violent impulses aimed at stomping the patriarchy into the floor.

Amid news reports of how the American taxpayers are going to have to pay for double protection of the presidential family and New Yorkers are going to have to add hours to their commutes because Melania and Barron will be staying in New York through the end of the school year (New Yorkers might have to pay $1 million per day!), I started reading rumors that Barron is autistic, and that his mother is understandably wary of disrupting his routine.

As the mother of an autistic child, I thought that would help humanize the Trump family to me. But it's only made Donald seem more alien to me because of how he has chosen to handle - or not handle - the subject.

Assuming Barron actually is on the spectrum (again, I have no inside info on this), I would have expected that at some point during his presidential campaign his father would have talked about autism and the needs of autistic children and adults. Maybe he would have said something like, "Our schools are a disaster. They can't handle all the kids with autism. Can't handle them! And once they graduate, they can't afford any services at all! This is a huge problem. Huge, believe me. My son, he gets the best therapists. The best. But here in Pandersville, you can't afford an OT, you can't afford speech, because Obamacare doesn't cover that!"

Instead, Donald tweets garbage about vaccines causing autism, mocks a disabled reporter, and says nothing of his family's personal experience, as if admitting that his own son were autistic would somehow reflect poorly on him. He shows no compassion, no empathy, no policy-based solutions for the challenges the autistic community face. He promotes junk science - crap that has been debunked again and again. And he doesn't use any of his countless hours of public attention to promote an agenda that supports individuals on the spectrum.

I didn't expect any better. I had just been hoping to be surprised.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I feel all the emotions at the same time.

We just got some academic testing results from last March - something or other about 5th grade science and how independently Ryan can "explain how senses let you know fire is nearby" or "Describe Earth movement for night/day." I marveled that Ryan managed an overall score of "Independent" - the lowest threshold of the top category, but hey, he was able to answer enough test questions "independently and consistently."

"This makes me feel hopeful," I said to Stu. "Maybe he's going to become a fully functioning member of society."

Then I looked out the window and saw Ryan twirling maniacally in the backyard, arms out, head back, bringing himself to the brink of falling over but managing to stay on his feet.

I felt all the emotions at the same time.

Pride, fear, hopefulness, anxiety.

My baby finally has the ability to ask questions. But he asks the same nonsensical question over and over.

He can operate a web browser, but he chooses to use it to find videos of the Teletubbies.

He can remember everything that has ever happened, except where he left the toy he was just playing with.

He goes to a wonderful public school that hired a para so he could be in the school play. But he needs a para to participate in the school play.

I feel all the emotions at the same time.

I try to focus on the positives, on the progress - and there are so many positives, so much progress - but my depressive brain fixates on the negatives. I try to refocus myself, but I find it easier to try to turn off all my feelings.

Because feeling nothing is easier than feeling everything at once.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Middle School Drama Club, BYO Drama

I always have a hard time taking Ryan to the playground, watching how preschoolers socialize so naturally, and then watching how much effort comparable interactions are for my almost-11-year-old.

Attending the mandatory parent meeting for the middle school drama club was ten times harder.

Ryan wants to be in the middle school production of Shrek The Musical. The drama teacher says the school can hire a para to help Ryan at rehearsals. In theory, then, Ryan is cleared to try out next week.

But holy cow, it's going to be challenging for him.

For one thing, rehearsals are after school. Most days when Ryan comes home from school he needs an hour of time alone just to recover from the demands of the day. But if he is cast in the school play, two days a week for the rest of the year (plus tech week) he will have to hold it together for an extra couple of hours. These couple of hours will coincide with his ADHD meds wearing off for the day.

Also, rehearsing a play requires skills that are either non-issues or manageable for the majority of middle school students but are difficult at best for Ryan. Reading along with the script. Writing blocking notes in the margins. Following those directions.

Looking around the packed school gym at the scores of typical middle school kids who attended the parent meeting, I felt like I was being assaulted by normalness, taunted by an alternate reality in which my child doesn't have to struggle to get other kids to understand him and gets to ride the long bus to school and can engage in conversations comprised of original material. An alternate universe in which I have no doubt that someday my child will be able to live independently. A world in which my biggest worry for him regarding drama club would be how he might handle the rejection of not getting the part he wanted.

I gained so much from the experience of performing in plays throughout my childhood, and I want Ryan to reap the same benefits. Actually, he has far more to gain from this experience than I ever did. Maybe he will learn to be quiet while other kids are talking. Maybe his reading skills will improve. Maybe he will finally find a good use for that fantastic visual memory of his.

Or maybe he'll just annoy the rest of the cast and start on that sad path to isolation that so often begins in middle school.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Best Show You'll Never Get to See

Me calmly pinning my child to the
playground floor to try to end
a meltdown. As you do.
Lately, my favorite people to spend time with are parents of kids with special needs. They're empathetic, they're patient but have no time for BS, they tell you what they think, they have their priorities sorted out.

And they're freaking hilarious.

Nobody tells better stories than the mother of an atypical child. And nobody is better at finding humor in seriously dark material.

For example, my friend Missy* tells the tale of a time her then-seven-year-old her daughter, Little Miss, had to be hooked up to an IV. Little Miss has huge sensory integration problems and a hair-trigger startle reflex when confronted by sounds she can't handle. All of this is written up in her medical paperwork.

So, one day she had to have an IV. Like any child would be, she was anxious, so the medical professionals in the room were trying to be gentle and encouraging as they stabbed her in the arm. When the needle had been inserted, one of them cheered "Woo-hoo!," whereupon Little Miss immediately punched the nearest nurse.

"What was that?!?" cried the nurse.

"You woo-hooed." stated Missy calmly. "You can't woo-hoo."


A bunch of us agreed we would love to watch a sit-com based on our lives, but nobody would ever allow such a show to be made. I can only imagine the uproar: You're making fun of handicapped children! You're terrible people! Where are some pearls I can clutch?!

Obviously disabled people should be treated with the same dignity as "typical" people. But the caregivers' lived experiences matter, too. So often we are kept segregated from the general population - if our children can not participate in the activities enjoyed by typical families, we're off on our own. Even if our children spend part of the school day in an integrated setting, their names often won't be printed on the class list, so they're unlikely to ever be invited to typical kids' birthday parties or play dates. Children with disabilities tend to be relegated to society's shadows, and we, their parents, are largely hidden from the public view, unless we're fighting for something for our kids.

Caregiving is important. Our lives are real, our experiences matter, and our stories can be dramatic, touching, funny, even scandalous. But at this point we're just swapping these stories amongst ourselves, because we doubt anyone else could handle them.


* no real names from here on down

Friday, June 3, 2016

World's Saddest Tiger

When Ryan came home from his school's Field Day wearing full face paint, it was a Big Deal. I think about a year ago he let someone paint a ladybug on the back of his hand and resisted washing it off for several minutes, but that might have been his only previous experience willingly wearing the sort of makeup children tend to clamor for at birthday parties and carnivals.

When Ryan stepped off the school bus with his tiger makeup, he was crying. He was crying because he doesn't understand how raffles work, and he thought the teachers running Field Day had skipped his ticket number on purpose and that this was a terrible personal slight. I tried to comfort him, praising him for telling me "I am feeling sad." 

But mostly, I was dying to ask him about the face paint. Because it was a Big Deal. 

I oohed and aahed enthusiastically about how great he looked as a tiger, and how proud I was that he had stepped so far out of his comfort zone. He indicated it was time to wash his face. It was hard at that moment to tell if his crying was in any way related to the face paint.

"Should we take a picture before we wash it off?" I asked.

Through his tears, he agreed.

Thus, I present to you, the world's saddest tiger:
sad boy in tiger face paint
The plastic party fedora on top of the baseball cap is just standard tiger apparel.
As soon as his face was clean, he stopped crying and went out to play.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Quack of the Month: Sweat Therapy

There's a story going around about a preschooler in Guangzhou, China who died after experiencing Xia Dejun's unique treatment for autism: sweating it out.

I asked some friends who are fluent in Chinese to help me interpret the treatment center's website because Google Translate just left me with more questions than answers (like, what is the "cerebral palsy buffet network" and what does it have to do with treating autistic behaviors?). 

Xia Dejun says autism is a disease for the rich and lazy, so the cure is to un-spoil the children and take a significant payment from the parents. His treatment requires parents to leave their child at his facility 24/7 for two years and cut off all contact. The child is put into a "right living environment," undergoing "militarization management" to "strengthen the constitution." The child is put through a vigorous regimen of exercises, including weightlifting and walking 10-20 km per day while wearing heavy clothes to promote sweating "to increase the body's energy, eliminating toxins." They also spend time lying in incubators, to further promote sweating.

Mr. Xia has no medical training, and there is no scientific evidence backing up this sweat-out-the-autism treatment. The center is currently under investigation.

Exercise is a terrific treatment for just about everything; dehydration and heat stroke are not.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sand Art is Back

Ryan's fifth grade dance had a carnival theme. Face painting, ring toss, stick your face in a hole and take a picture of yourself as a clown, sand art, snow cones. The kids jumped around the school's all-purpose room to pop songs played by the world's loudest DJ while Ryan and his bestie clapped their hands over their ears.

For most of the kids this was a drop-off affair - ten of the girls actually got picked up at the end in a white stretch freaking limo. Stu and I provided a bare minimum of support for Ryan. At first this meant walking into the school with him, pointing him in the direction of games, letting him cover his ears with our hands (sometimes one's own hands just don't cut it, I guess). A group of girls approached Ryan and said hi; we alerted Ryan to their presence and encouraged him to say hello.

We watched from afar as Ryan stood awkwardly near some boys who were playing some sort of ball game - positioning himself between children who were throwing and catching but not in a way set him up to participate. Then, we witnessed the magic of Inclusion as the boys took him by the arm and patiently showed him where to stand and how to play, going so far as to put the ball in his hands and encourage him to throw it to a particular kid.

I had to excuse myself for a moment.

By the second half of the evening he was navigating the party mostly on his own. Eventually Stu and I positioned ourselves outside the main entrance, watching kids put their empty cotton candy cones on their heads and declaring themselves to be narwhals, and scolding the occasional child to get out of the parking lot. A PTA mom manned a hairspray station, coloring kids hair in various unnatural and glittering colors on demand.

Ryan had a glorious time in his own way. He played carnival games and won tons of prizes (pencil sharpeners! fancy straws! scented bookmarks!). He drank lemonade - something he has never previously enjoyed. He tasted cotton candy, scrunched up his face in confusion and asked, "Is this food?"

Then, in a move that truly stunned both of us, Ryan asked the PTA mom to spray his hair blue. This is a child who has zero tolerance for marker on his fingers or any sort of makeup on my face, a child who will freak out if someone has a zit and will not cover it with a bandaid. But there he was, delighting in having sparkly blue hair. Later he returned and insisted on having red sprayed on top of the blue "to make purple."

Things were exceeding our expectations until the final moment of the party, when the DJ called off the winning raffle number (I have no idea what was being raffled). It seems that Ryan does not understand how raffles work, and was devastated that "they did not remember my number!" Averting a meltdown, the PTA mom exchanged Ryan's raffle ticket for most of a can of green hairspray.

I'm proud of how much Ryan has grown in the last three years, and tremendously proud of his neurotypical classmates, who go out of their way to be kind to him and include him even when no teachers are watching them.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Challenger League

Ryan just started playing Challenger League baseball.

And it's hilarious.
Ryan playing shortstop? Maybe second base? It's all very fluid.
The league is for kids of all ages with any special needs, so you'll have a tiny six-year-old girl playing alongside a boy in his third year of high school, or a kid inching along in a power wheelchair that wasn't designed for off-road use sharing the field with a hyperactive autistic kid who feels compelled to run back and forth between third base and home plate several times while his teammate is still at bat.

The game play itself doesn't appear to have any rules, but the cheering is hearty and pure. A kid can swing at the ball 15 times during a single at-bat and all the parents on the sidelines will clap and voice their encouragement for every one of those swings; kid makes any contact with the ball at all, the parents erupt in cheers. If the coach (who pitches from about five feet away from home plate) catches the ball, he chucks it backward through his legs so someone can field a grounder. Instead of having traditional innings, every kid on the bench gets one turn at bat.

Ryan seems very happy with the whole affair. He seems proud to put on his uniform and loves running around the bases. And I'm enjoying hanging out with the other moms and cheering on all the kids. His youngest teammates include some of the most joyous children I've ever seen - their smiles are truly infectious. And no one bats an eye when the girl on third base randomly books it for the fence instead of running toward home - the nearest parent just picks her up sideways and runs comically carrying her back toward the infield.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Transparent Dreams


I dreamed I was a vendor at a craft fair. My assigned place was a card table on a sidewalk. The other vendors were in a row of ten-foot-long folding tables on the street; we were separated by a wide grass median and a line of parked cars.

As soon as I unfolded my table, an old, toothless woman appeared and began berating me about the futility of those nylon straps that tether a baby's toy to her stroller. "I don't make those," I told her. As I laid out my first quilt - a pink and white queen-sized quilt with a hand-appliqued alphabet, priced at $99 - the toothless lady said it was nice but far too expensive. I calmly told her I thought it was reasonable for me to expect to take home $1 per hour of work. Look at all those tiny stitches!

Many people crowded around, simultaneously admiring my work and getting in my way, putting their drinks and large boxes on my table, but none of them stood up to the old lady who kept yelling at me.

------

I dreamed I was traveling alone in India. I picked up a package of food or something and noticed that the label listed every company who had put money into the manufacturing of that product and ever individual who had labored to create it. I thought this was a brilliant, progressive approach to packaging - one that I would like to see applied to American politics - but I had nobody to share that idea with.

At that moment I looked around for a restroom and saw a sign for one on a nearby door. That door actually led to a hotel pool deck where college students were celebrating spring break; it was 6am, so it must have been the tail end of the evening. A policeman directed me back out that first door and told me to make a sharp left to find the restroom.

Through another door, also marked Women's, was a beautiful hiking trail along a reservoir. This brought me to a small concrete plaza with two staircases: the Up staircase led to a pedestrian bridge to lower Manhattan, the Down staircase led to several lines of the NYC subway system. As I tried to plot the cheapest and most efficient route to get to East 63rd Street, a tourist appeared, desperately confused as to how she would go north. I didn't really know where I was, but I knew that the A train goes uptown, so I confidently told her to head for the train station. Then I went back to figuring out if I would have to pay for a subway ride when I eventually crossed the pedestrian bridge, and if it would therefore be pointless to walk across.

I never found the ladies' room.

Monday, February 8, 2016

You don't know something is hard until it's easy

I didn't know unloading the dishwasher was difficult until it was suddenly very easy.

This was my big revelation yesterday when I took Adderall for the first time. I had no idea how many strategies I'd been using to cope with the symptoms of a condition I hadn't even know I'd had before last week.

It struck me while I was putting away the clean dishes. I had been completely unaware that this seemingly-mindless task actually took a significant mental toll on me until I tried it with the aid of Adderall. I found myself simply taking dishes out of the dishwasher and sorting them into cabinets. Well duh, I hear you saying, how else would that chore go? Mind-spinningly differently, as it turns out.

Normally, putting away the dishes would take three times as long, because my order of operations would be significantly less efficient. I would put away a couple of bowls, then notice that a couple of mugs were still wet, dry them, put them away, go back to bowls, remember I wanted to make a cup of coffee, put water in the coffee maker, rinse out the reusable filter, get coffee from the pantry, get a clean mug from the dishwasher, turn on the coffee maker, put away a spatula, go back to the bowls, notice my phone needed to be recharged, plug it in...

I literally broke down crying and laughing at the same time when I realized how easy it was to unload the dishwasher yesterday. I laughed and cried with relief until my abs were sore. Then I joyfully finished putting away the dishes.


My first day on Adderall made me aware of how many ways I have been self-medicating: caffeine to improve alertness, carbonated beverages for sensory input, doodling while listening to something important to quiet that other part of my brain, playing with my hair to help me focus on a lecture, coloring while watching tv, snacking while reading just to do something with my hands, running my fingernail over my eyelashes to...I have no idea why I do that; it's a weird fidget.

Exercise has been the single most important way I self-medicate. I had always thought I was working out to fight my depression, but now I see that the relief I feel when I'm finished at the gym is due in part to my brain being able to relax and focus. I've also discovered in the last year or so the benefit of following a pre-written exercise regimen (like on BodyBuilding.com) because I have trouble organizing an effective routine for myself and following it. Lately I've been taking a clipboard to the gym and physically checking things off as I finish them, and I'm loving the results, both physically and mentally.

So today, not on speed, I am more mindful of my coping strategies, and better able to consciously deploy them to get through my day.

It has been a week of revelations.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adderall: Day 1

Experiment conducted on a Saturday on which I had nothing important to do.

8:20am  Took generic Adderall XR on an empty stomach with my other medications.

9:45am  Read an entire magazine without doing anything else.
Ate breakfast without feeling compelled to read, wander around, do chores, etc.
Did not make coffee - did not feel the need for coffee, because I was on speed.

11am  Unloaded the dishwasher and broke down sobbing when I realized how easy this task was.

12pm  Very thirsty, head felt dried out like when you take antihistamines. Headache could be weather-related, but who knows.
Happy to drink plain water - did not crave carbonation.
Heart rate slightly elevated, because on speed.

3pm  Successfully and safely operated a motor vehicle while on speed.

4pm  Mind alert, body calm. Completely, shockingly calm - zero fidgeting.
So thirsty.

8:30pm  Some physical effects remain, but I can tell the mental effects are beginning to fade by the number of open tabs on my web browser.

11pm  Felt sleepy enough to go to bed. Slept normally.

Conclusion: Adderall is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A serving of alphabet soup for me, too.

This morning, at age 40, I was diagnosed with ADHD.

Three years ago - four years after my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS - I sat back and asked myself if I was autistic. After careful consideration, I determined I was not. Not being aware of any other ways to label my particular constellation of atypical traits, I concluded I was just weird.

When Ryan was recently diagnosed with ADHD, I started reading about it for the first time. About two weeks ago my dad forwarded me this article about how ADHD presents in females, and suddenly I started to suspect ADHD might be the root of every problem I've ever had.

I spent the last week basically replaying my entire life through the lens of ADHD, and suddenly everything clicks. Everything.

This is why I scored consistently lower on tests in school than my teachers felt I should. 

This is why I can't stop myself from saying stuff that gets me in trouble. 

This is why I can't remember what groceries to buy even if I have a list with me (I don't remember to look at the list, or I read it wrong, or I freaking lose the list in the middle of the supermarket). 

This is why I find being self-employed so much more difficult than working for someone who just hands me a schedule. 

This is why as soon as I go to tell someone about a story I just read all the details fly out the window.

This is why I find is so difficult to manage normal everyday things like paying bills before they're due or making Ryan breakfast without taking unnecessary detours to empty the dishwasher and look up that actor's name on IMDB.

This is why I find it so difficult to maintain eye contact during a conversation: I can't concentrate on listening to someone while being bombarded by all the information being projected by their face.

This is why I'm constantly fidgeting or playing with my hair, why I prefer using my computer at a standing desk, why I have sensory integration problems.

This is why I always click Publish on blog posts and then go back in to fix the typos, rather than proofreading first and publishing second.

I have spent the better part of 40 years hating myself because I felt incompetent, forgetful, careless, disorganized, flighty, generally not good enough. I've battled depression, an eating disorder, and general self-loathing because I didn't know my brain is wired atypically; I thought I was just an idiot.

I feel the strangest type of relief now that I can put a name on what I've been experiencing forever. Like, I finally found permission to treat myself with a little more care and less anger. Someone out there understands how my brain works and has written lists of tips for how I can manage daily life in the neurotypical world. And when my insurance company finally approves my doctor's prescription, there are meds available to help me find a sort of focus I've truly never had.

I think things are about to get a lot easier.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I'm Supporting Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley is what the US needs right now. Yes, he's a solid progressive with executive-branch experience. Yes, his vision for his presidency covers subjects I think are important (increase employment by shifting the energy sector to renewable sources, end childhood hunger, implement campaign finance reform). But above all, he's the only candidate elected Republicans haven't already vowed to tear down.
Over the last 7 years the Republicans in the House and Senate have made it abundantly clear they are willing to pull this car over and make us all sit on the side of the highway if they don't get their way. They've been running against Hillary perpetually since the early 1990s, and I can practically smell the strategists salivating over the prospect of facing off against a Jewish Socialist with a Brooklyn accent (someone get these guys a breath mint, please).

O'Malley is a clean slate. He does not trigger the knee-jerk revulsion that Hillary seems to engender, and his views are closer to the center than Sanders'. He also comes across as charming and reasonable - traits that would further help bring the left and right together. Under an O'Malley administration, I can imaging our government actually getting things done.

Also, have you seen pictures of this man without a shirt? Tell me America couldn't get behind this:

You like guns? Look at these guns!

So while part of me is rooting for our first female president, and part of me is rooting for our first Jewish president, I'm looking forward to casting my primary vote for the Catholic dude.

To read about Martin O'Malley's vision for America, visit his website.