15 minutes: ADHD, evolution, and me

Monday, January 26th, 2009

i’ve been thinking a fair bit about ADHD lately. a good friend of mine has a son who was recently diagnosed and has begun medication, and in my own quest to understand my own scattered behaviors and bouts with anxiety and depression, i have started to humor the idea that i could probably pretty thoroughly convince myself, and at least one health care professional, that i ‘suffer’ from the adult version that is currently making the rounds in the popular psychology press. this is a touchy subject and i have resisted writing about it in the past because i want to respect the people who sincerely believe that the recent trend towards medication in our culture has really helped them and/or the people they love. i will never, and i mean NEVER, deign to judge anyone for their personal decisions regarding self-medication, prescription or otherwise. there are a lot of weights to bear in this world, and very little that is known for certain about how to make them lighter. it is up to each of us to evaluate the evidence that we are given and make the best decisions that we can. that said, it is up to me to undertake that sort of evaluation for myself, and talking about what i see and feel seems like it could help others in their own quest for understanding, so i am trying to find the courage to be open and honest while still retaining a fundamental respect for others’ ability to do the same. so.
enough preface, eh?
what am i thinking?
as i see it, the rise in ADHD and other neurological diagnoses, both in our children and adults, can be explained in one of three ways:
1) we have always been crazy, but we didn’t have the tools to diagnose it until recently, so people either just died or found a way to deal, even though that often meant living with a great deal of pain;
2) we are being driven crazy by our society – too many lights, too many preservatives, too much reinforcement of predatory behavior in the media – and we need to change our lifestyles or drug ourselves in order to cope;
3) we are evolving – technology in our society is enabling us to think in new ways, work in new ways, relate to one another in new ways, and by and large this is a positive development, but there will be growing pains as our cultural structures evolve with us in ways that support our development rather than hold it back.

this last option is not one that has a great deal of support in the current medical literature, and less in the media that seeks to explain that literature to the rest of us.
but it is the option that resonates the most with me, and i am not alone, and i think it’s about time for me to start exploring the idea more publicly so that i can start figuring out what it means.

i wrote this post as part of a new experiment with my friend erik, and the experiment is: write about something you’re thinking about for 15 minutes and then post it. no looking back. so that’s all i have time for. here goes! :)

this time, we’ll build a better town

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

that’s what i really meant to say.

miyazaki is the best there is.

jiggety jig

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

this week i learned that when i got home from burning man, i wasn’t really fully here. sure, i was in my apartment and sleeping in my bed. yes, i unloaded the truck and cooked with what edible options remained. yeah, i saw my friends and did my laundry and embarked upon a gin-weaning regimen with jonathan, and indeed i even began the employment quest in earnest, with no trip looming on the horizon to distract me.

but my mind was churning and calling out for california, where several new friends and two very special old ones were going about their business, and all i really wanted to do was mindmeld with them and careen about drunk on life in the last rays of the summer sun. this became particularly clear last friday when i realized that i was going to be in san diego this week with victor and erik whether my body deigned to actually travel there or not, so i’d best just shut up and get myself all in one place and enjoy the ride.

lemme tell ya, i’m a smart one sometimes, because i had an amazing week romping up and down california, and now that i am back? game on. all systems go. i got three new employment leads today alone. i had a lovely morning in eugene hanging out in a coffeeshop and time traveling to the beat of my shuffle on the bus ride home. i spent the evening out with good friends who i am so glad to be getting to know even better. i am resolved to make sunday dinner a part of my life again. and i really do love this town.

so cheers.

and check out my pics if ya wanna.

Our thrift store prize

nap time!

Friday, August 17th, 2007

today i achieved a schedule pattern that i think about a lot but rarely attain:
last night i went to sleep between 10 and 11 pm.
this morning i woke up at about 3:30, did some work, and made breakfast around 6 or 7, stopping to go outside and watch the sun rise.
since then i’ve been puttering around, doing some odd bits and pieces of things, and growing sleepy.
now it’s noonesque, and i’m going to take a nap. possibly for mulitiple hours.
when i wake up, i will have the rest of the afternoon and evening ahead of me, fueled not only by my nap but also by the knowledge of my early productivity, which makes for a nice cushion to ward off grumpiness. i tend to get a lot more done when i’ve already got some things done to get myself started, and getting that boulder rolling reliably is really the crux of all my sleep and motivation experiments.

the basic idea of today’s approach is to get a full night of sleep, but split it into pieces. it usually doesn’t work for long because it’s hard to get in a good-sized nap on a regular basis, and because, once i fall asleep, i have difficulty convincing myself that i should really get up after my first complete sleep cycle, which takes between 4 and 5 hours. i also don’t tend to sleep as much on the whole, which makes getting up progressively more difficult even if i’m not tired because the grog can pull the “you probably need more sleep” card.

i’m not convinced that i really do need more sleep, though, or at least not as long as i have things to keep me busy, which is hopefully most of the time. the idea is modeled upon the way i operate when i’m camping, high, or otherwise really in the zone of some project. when it works otherwise, it is usually by accident, which is what happened this time. i didn’t actually intend to go to bed at 10 or 11. i just lay down because i had a headache and couldn’t really do anything else. i told myself i would rest until my headache went away, and then get up and do more work. my headache went away after a couple of hours, but i kept telling myself i could sleep more. this is not strange for me – after an initial zonkout, i tend to sleep rather lightly and often engage in a lengthy period of “no, not yet… not yet… not yet…” with regard to the question of whether it is time to get up, and one of the greatest joys in my life is answering “no” to that question. there are two different modes of this, however – nap mode and night mode – and nap mode is much easier to break out of because i don’t think i’m supposed to attain a “full night’s sleep” feeling before i get up, and ironically that makes it much easier to relax.

the idea, therefore, is basically to trick myself into always being in nap mode, and it came about because at some point i decided that thinking of time cyclically kind of stresses me out. i do pretty well with “tomorrow is another day” kinds of thoughts at night, and can muster all kinds of resolve about how i will get up early and conquer the world, but when the morning rolls around and i face the other side of the coin (“today is the first day of the rest of your life” and all that) the grog just pipes up with something along the lines of “well, best be rested up then, shouldn’t we?” and i go back to sleep.

i think this comes from an expectation about the kinds of things that make for a successful “day” as unit of time – getting up, eating, exercising, working, doing chores, being social. as if days are these puzzles to solve, and the goal is to break life into the right shapes and sizes so that all the appropriate goals fit within the frame. that’s really intimidating to me for some reason, and apart from that it strikes me as a rather silly illusion. to me, life feels much more like a continuous game of tetris, and the core competency is more about reacting to each piece as it comes and knowing what kind of floor you have to build upon. one day there might be a lot of blocks, the next there might be a run on those little t-shaped jobbies. it is silly to get pissed off when you don’t get the same order you got yesterday, and i’d rather just pause when i’m tired than hit reset at some regular interval just because someone says it’s time for bed.

the REAL insight, of course, is that the difference between pause and reset is all in my head. and the napping approach is kind of like mental training wheels for that lesson.

so welcome to the next layer of my insanity.
if you followed all that, you get a prize.

i’ll write about it again with a bit more effort at coherence if it actually bears fruit this time, eh?


Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

i know i make a lot of references to stuff i want to post about but don’t, and you may or may not know that i think and scribble about many things that i don’t even manage to refer to obliquely in what survives the grueling gauntlet of distraction to make it into post form, but, fwiw, if you want a fun introduction to one of the concepts (arguably The concept) that drives the distribution of my interests across the worlds of design, the internet, cognitive science, developmental psychology, consciousness, mysticism, drugs, public health, and politics, have a listen to this radiolab episode on emergence.

it’s an hour long, but do what i do: listen while you wash the dishes. or eat. or put together a jigsaw puzzle of warholesque popart lips. ok maybe that last one’s not on your list, but tif and i had fun at the toy store the other day, so the gauntlet lengthens. :)

and sign up for their podcast while you’re at it, eh? folks do a damn fine bit of radio programming. even if the ideas aren’t new to you, i bet it’ll make you smile, and think a bit, and maybe ask me a question. and thus the march of progress continues. ;)

ambient noise

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

i’ve been thinking more and more recently about the impact that the buzzing and whirring and ringing and clacking of the electronic world are potentially having on our mental health. i mean, we all know that tinnitis makes people crazy, right? but we think we just tune out the refrigerator and the lights and the computer? i’m not so sure. i mean, of course we get used to background noise, and i’m not complaining about a lack of absolute silence. traffic noise and stuff is another mattter. i’m talking specifically about the high-frequency emissions that our electronic devices make, because i think we just didn’t think about it much when there were only a handful of such devices, and now they are all around us and we have forgotten to notice unless they are Really loud. a lot of people can’t really hear some of the highest frequencies anyway, so i think a lot of times we don’t even notice all that’s out there, but i’ve been sitting and listening more closely lately? and it’s insane. it would make anyone a couple notches crankier. and well, i think it just might do exactly that.

so what if we made technology that sings instead of whines? i think that’s an interesting thought.

or maybe my apartment just needs a new light. :)

job free

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

well, i didn’t know what it was going to be like to come home from bonnaroo, collapse on the floor, and wake up to the reality of not having guaranteed gainful employment.

now that it has happened, lemme tell ya: it is bliss.

i got home so late on tuesday that some would call it wednesday, missed the chance to take the light rail from the airport so had to spring for a cab, enjoyed the door-to-door service, performed aforementioned collapse onto the floor, and embarked upon the rest of my week with no schedule to keep but my own.

for the past two days i have slept, unpacked, cleaned the house, cooked what could be salvaged from the fridge (an adventure which included the preparation of what is possibly the best tomato sauce i have ever had the privilege of bringing into the world), listened to music, walked around town, talked to friends, sorted through bills, and charted the first steps along the path towards the next income horizon.

i will save the details for another post because i’m making a website that will explain the idea more fully than i care to right now, but here’re the basics: i’m making lunches. for the people in the office where i used to work. and it’s hella fun. there are few things in this world i love more than playing with food, and right now i’m looking at a world where i get up, take care of myself, find and test recipes, assemble menus, play on my computer, make people happy and healthy, and spend the rest of my time as i wish.

feels good, people. feels good. now we just need to see if i get enough takers to pay the bills for a while.

happy official summer while we wait.

stretching myself

Monday, May 21st, 2007

for several years now i have been telling myself that i should start practicing some kind of martial art, because it seems like a good synthesis of many of my goals. i like the combination of balance work and mental focus and flexibility and strength training and interacting with other people. i have been doing more yoga and keep humoring the thought of doing tai-chi, but the challenge and interactive nature of structured combat still feels appealing. and the self-defense part is a nice perk.

at some point this desire began to take a bit more shape and i decided that i should try out aikido, because it is a very go-with-the-flow kind of martial art. it’s a lot about learning how to fall down, and most of the fighting is quite literally rolling with the punches. it also, however, teaches you to play with swords. so that seals it in my book of cool things to do.

i never really had luck with finding a combination of momentum and opportunity to get started with this goal, but after settling in a bit here and starting to think more about exercise, i decided to search for aikido lessons, and it turns out there is a dojo quite literally 5 blocks from my apartment! and they have a beginning class that is only a few weeks long that teaches you the basics so that you can decide if you want to join and do more! and one of the classes started tonight and we are not traveling for the next few weeks so i can go! woohoo!

i got there a bit early because even though i told myself it should only take five minutes to walk there, i wanted to make sure i could find it. turns out it’s right next to the shoe store with the free beer and donkey kong, so that’s a good block. i walked in and it smelled like sweat, but in a fresh healthy way, and there was lots of light and people were running around sweeping the mat and chatting and folding up their outfits, for which i do not yet know the official names. it was a bubbly, happy scene. people had clearly been working hard, and they all knew each other, and they smiled at me and the guy leading the class recognized that i was new and asked if i was there for the beginner’s class and welcomed me and gave me a form to fill out. i filled it out and talked with the guy next to me who was putting on his shoes and said he’d been coming there for 7 years. i felt good about the decision to come.

after things were swept up and the class that just ended was leaving, they let us on the mat and we stretched and i bounced around on the fun springy ground. there were only a few other beginners, and one guy who has only been around for a month and wanted the extra practice. that was nice. we all got attention and there was plenty of room.

all we did tonight was learn how to bow, practice falling and standing up a little bit, and a little bit of basic footwork. it was fun, though, and it felt good, and the instructor was friendly and good at teaching, and the other people were nice. it was also an awesome feeling to put my shoes back on, chat with my new classmates, and strike out into the night to find my house waiting only a few blocks away.

all in all, a very exciting addition to the map of my neighborhood, and there is class on monday and thursday nights for the next few weeks. i’m excited to see where it leads.