April 24, 2022

Trigger warning: Mental Illness

Very recently, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—first, by a doctor here in Japan and, second, by a psychiatrist based in the Philippines. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with the diagnosis and I’ve been spending a lot of time looking back and trying to recall the ways ADHD has affected my life.

The first time I ever considered the possibility of having ADHD was in my last year of college. Back then I wrote quite regularly on various blogs, and about eleven years ago, I wrote about suspecting I might have the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD. I guess I never considered I was showing symptoms of hyperactivity, only to find out over a decade later that I do, in fact, show some level of hyperactivity.

As I’m writing this, I’m shaking my left leg nonstop. I’m also habitually furrowing my brow—a habit that has resulted in unwelcome wrinkles—and blinking heavily. And as I was thinking of what to write next, I found myself fidgeting with my hands. These are minor, though, compared to how ADHD has been affecting my daily life.

I grew up believing I was defective. As a child, I did pretty well in school, but often got in trouble for talking too much. In high school, I still did okay, though my interest in my studies waned, and I spent more time fooling around and being a teenager with my friends. College is where my self-esteem really started to shrink, and this was well-documented in my old blogs.

One important thing I learned about ADHD is how it is often comorbid with other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This revelation was what prompted me to finally get assessed. For so long, I’ve felt as if my brain always worked against my best interests. I knew the right things to do. I knew how to solve my problems. But they persisted. Why?

Neurodivergence. Impaired executive functioning. Dopamine and norepinephrine deficiency.

Do you know how it feels to suddenly have scientific and medical terms to explain the behaviors you’ve been criticized for all your life? How liberating it is to discover that you’re not defective, only different? How it feels to suddenly have hope that there might be a way to turn things around and make changes that would last and that finally—fucking finally—I can stop disappointing the people I love? That I can stop hating myself so much and thinking the world is better off with me gone?

My psychiatrist in the Philippines suggested I find a doctor here and get treated for ADHD. Unfortunately, my experience with the first doctor I went to wasn’t very good (I was assessed only through questionnaires and was immediately diagnosed with depression and ADHD. We probably only spoke for fifteen minutes or so), so I searched for another English speaking psychiatrist and found one with a clinic in Shin Osaka. They’re fully booked until mid-May, however, so I have no choice but to wait until then for my first appointment.

I was also advised to start therapy to help not only with ADHD, but also with depression, anxiety, and disordered eating. As my doctor said: there are too many issues. LOL. I’ve been wanting to start therapy for years; I just couldn’t afford it. But since online therapy is more prevalent now, I have choices beyond fucking BetterHelp (it’s really not better help ugh). Last Friday, I had an initial consultation with a center back home, and they said I’ll find out this coming week who my therapist is going to be. It’s still expensive, but at least it’s more affordable than therapy here in Japan (20,000 JPY per hour!!!).

There’s still so much I want to talk about, but it’s late and I’m having trouble putting my jumbled thoughts into words, so I guess I’ll end this here.

I Hardly Ever Write Anymore

April 1, 2022

I thought I’d find the time to pick up a pen or, more realistically, the folding plastic keyboard I got off Amazon for my iPad since the Magic Keyboard costs too much—

But, no, the time to write was never found. Or perhaps I simply ignored it when it did arrive at my doorstep. Maybe it rang the bell but got ignored like an NHK fee collector.

すみません。日本語喋られません, I say. I don’t speak Japanese: a half truth.

When I do try, a blank page stares at me with its unseen eyes, intense and intimidating. So does an audience that exists merely in my head, criticizing each poor lexical choice I make, picking apart my sentences and finding nothing worthy of note.

Writing used to be my solace and my pride, only to realize later on that this pride was rooted not in ingenuity but in ignorance. Where do you go when the very place you ran to for comfort has transformed into the source of your shame?

You can hide behind new names, but you can’t hide from yourself.

Is there anything more impossible a task than having to silence the voices in your own head whose incessant chatter only consists of your frailties and failures?

And yet I hear my own voice mouthing words of encouragement to the children I hope to convince into loving the art of the written word, a few of them reminding me of my own youth, of how thrilling it was to discover, at age ten, that I could fabricate a world where I was god, that I could paint a picture in somebody else’s imagination with words alone.

Words that—when strung together like pristine pearls—could sound like a song that could move one to tears.

But for years, I could not sing. I hardly ever write anymore.

Not even when my mind is restless, or when emotions are high. Instead I turn to screens, to sweets, to shopping carts. Anything that is easier than having to stare down my own insecurity.

But this morning, I thought I’d tell myself the very words I often find myself telling my students these days: I want you to try. Perhaps all life is, is trying.