Archive | June 2021

Symptoms

I have been frustrated a long time. As I have been doing healing work, I have read some wonderful authors, like Gabor Mate and Pete Walker. I have also been watching a lot of videos by The Crappy Childhood Fairy and Mate. The Fairy is not for everyone. She has videos with titles like “Three things you are doing to piss everyone off.” A little blunt, but she provides tips and tools for dealing with brain dysregulation. She doesn’t just say, “You have a problem. There is no solution. Too bad.”

Mate is phenomenal. He describes addiction as a solution, not a problem. What emotional pain does the addiction alleviate? That is the issue. He also wrote a book on ADHD, Scattered, that is amazing. This man is a genius, by my definition: he takes complex psychological concepts and makes them obvious to the point where you say, “Duh! How did nobody see that?” Scattered upsets me because it was published over twenty years ago. And he connects the dots between ADHD and addiction. Are you serious? We’ve known about the connection since the 90s?!

As a culture, all we ever seem to do is deal with symptoms. There is a commercial on TV for some drug for “dry-eye disease.” Is that even a thing? Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great there is a treatment for annoyingly chronic dry eyes. It does sound painful, but I do wonder what the actual underlying condition is.

Stay with me. Imagine if someone woke up every morning with a hangover. They had a headache and really dry mouth every day. Now imagine if they went to their doctor and said, “Doc, I have a horribly dry mouth every morning. Is there anything you can give me for that?” Then the doctor says, “Ohhhh! You have dry-mouth disease. Here’s a new drug big pharma cooked up especially for you.” He writes a prescription and the patient says, “Oh, by the way, I also have headaches every morning. Can you help me with that?” You can see where this is going. Any half-wit who knows the patient could tell the physician, “This guy is an alcoholic. How dumb are you? Or are you just getting kickbacks from the drug companies?”

What is the point? Look deeper. Don’t just treat the symptoms. The cure to “dry-mouth disease” is sobriety. Once the person is sober, then the original issues and pain can be dealt with more openly and honestly. Or is there simply no profit in that?

Scrupulous

I am annoying myself. I am a pain in my own ass. It reminds me of the movie “Liar Liar” starring Jim Carrey. He is in the bathroom before a trial and basically beating himself up. Someone sees him banging the toilet seat on his own head and asks what he is doing. Incapable of lying, he responds, “I’m kicking my ass!” When he gets to the courtroom and the judge asks who did this to him, he says, “A guy, about six foot tall, kind of gangly, with big teeth!” in a self-description.

I am okay with making mistakes. It’s aggravating, but humans do that. What I am definitely not okay with is not being able to fix my errors.

I have been doing a lot of cashiering simply because they are desperate for cashiers. I don’t think I am the best cashier, just the most reliable. Sometimes, I am all they have.

The other day, there was a transaction where two dimes were involved. I only touched one of them for certain. I could not recall the other dime. I looked around to no avail. It’s easy to drop change and have it go rolling around. I thought, “Oh crap. Now I’m going to be a dime short.” So I took a dime out of my skirt pocket and threw it into the till a few transactions later.

Guess what? I was a dime over. My favorite manager (female) counted me down and the store manager (male) was there, too. She’s the more by-the-book one. She told me I was a dime over. And I confessed to the two-dime “incident” involving only me. She is sitting there with her forehead in the palm of her hand, shaking her head. She asked her boss if she should simply count me as even and he said yes.

I asked if I was in trouble, and the store manager said, “No. That’s why we love you.” He thought it was quite entertaining. We had been discussing my oddities, like when I do a cash-drop. The manager comes, counts out some money, and prints up a little ticket. I then re-count it for myself, initial the ticket, place the ticket on top of the money, look for the manager’s hand, and place the ticket and money into the the manager’s hand. I am using my senses and trying to be precise.

The point? Technically, I could be fired for putting money into the till. However, as a non-profit, any extra can simply be counted as a donation. What I have done oh-so-many times is termination-worthy. One time, I donated two quarters (because I was so tired of being a little short) and ended up 48 cents over. It pissed me off because it meant that, in reality, I was two cents short, but oh-so-close to being even. I could not explain out loud my aggravation to the manager who counted me down.

My problem? I am perhaps a little OCD about not being short at the end of the day. If I think I have erred, I compulsively try to fix my mistake, even if I did not technically make one.

I was thinking about the right adjective for me. The word “scrupulous” popped in my head. I had to look it up because the word is out of common American parlance. Nobody talks like that anymore. But it is the perfect descriptor for me. “www.merriamwebster.com › dictionary › scrupulous Definition of scrupulous. 1 : having moral integrity : acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper. 2 : punctiliously exact : painstaking working with scrupulous care.”

The fact that I am so compulsive about this will definitely be discussed with my psychoanalyst.

In the meantime, to quote Jim Carrey, “I’m kicking my ass!”

ADHD and Addiction

This is one of those frustration posts.

I have been learning about PTSD, adverse childhood experiences, etc. My husband was in AA for 30 years. I was reading “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Mate, a Canadian physician. One of the appendices was about ADHD and addiction and he talked about how “inevitable” the connection is. I flashed back to my decades in the recovery community and how extremely ADHD some of the people (adults and children) in it were. The connection is well-researched and established. Peer-reviewed and everything.

Why the hell isn’t this more common knowledge?

The neurotransmitter pathways are the same in the two disorders. ADHD people often use caffeine and alcohol to modulate their moods. I’ve seen this, up close and personal. The problem? If you have to use something as toxic as booze to control your moods, you already have one foot in alcoholism. It’s almost like being pre-addicted.

I now see people differently. I see the alcoholics in my life as undiagnosed ADHD people and I see the ADHD people as potential alcoholics that caught the issue at an earlier stage.

It’s like the ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) study in the 1990s. This was done over twenty years ago. The knowledge has been out there for decades now.

Even the Southern Baptists (or at least one of them) is starting to see the societal implications. Al Mohler, one of the smarter Southern Baptists online, talks about the new Disney movie “Cruella” about the villainess’s pre-“101 Dalmatians” life on his blog:

“There must not be something deeply evil inside a human being that runs against our pride. It must be that something has happened to people. So these newer tales tell us something of the psychotherapeutic revolution that has taken place around this as well. Cruella is not really evil, she just had a very, very hard life.”

He is practically quoting the title of Perry and Winfrey’s book “What Happened to You?” The book is about trauma, of course. Mohler’s thinly-veiled contempt at healing and recovery does not bode well for conservative Christianity in our country.

The problem with Mohler’s analysis is the usual one for conservative Christians: a total lack of empathy. A complete absence of loving inquiry as to how people–even villains–come to be as they are. A maintenance of stereotypes at the expense of people’s humanity. And then they are mystified as to why people who desire healing and wholeness avoid Christianity altogether.

I only got turned on to the whole PTSD thing by my psychoanalyst. She recommended the Crappy Childhood Fairy to me. The Fairy turned me on to Pete Walker. Somehow I heard about Gabor Mate. These people explained so much that thirty years of therapy and being in Al-Anon didn’t explain to me.

I just get so frustrated that this knowledge has been out there for so long and I’m just hearing about it now. We have the answers–and have had them for decades. I could have saved myself so many years I wasted in churches that do not now and never will have any useful answers. Theology is no substitute for love and connection, which can be found without any belief in a deity whatsoever. If only I had known.

Risk Factors

The pandemic is doing bad things to people’s mental health. Isolation is not good for humans, in general.

My friend in Maryland is so over the edge, I find myself having to let go of her because I cannot agree with her scary logic. She is homeless. Her lease ran out. Her new contractor job at the FAA in DC doesn’t start until September. She has a dog that costs a lot of money to care for and is pushing 100 pounds, making finding an apartment difficult at best. She needs to find very specific housing–a house with a yard for the dog, hopefully rent-to-own. It may take months to find such accommodations. Is she looking for housing now? Nope. She is on the road with her dog, living at camp sites. What she calls a “vacation” I think of as scraping the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (food, clothing, shelter). I know older people that take off and run around the country in an RV, but, and this is the point, they have a permanent address, a place to come home to.

And she is drinking a little. Probably not a lot. I told her about recent research showing that there was no level of alcohol consumption safe for the brain. She said she didn’t buy it. Fine. It’s her brain. The article in The Guardian talked of alcohol consumption as a “modifiable risk factor.” Meaning: it’s a lifestyle choice, completely within the individual’s control. Most risk factors for brain problems are not completely your choice. Brain health is an extraordinarily complex matter, involving blood flow, genetics, inflammation, intellectual stimulation, traumatic head injury, diet, exercise, and environmental pollution. (Can you tell I have read a fair amount of Dr. Daniel Amen?) Here is a risk factor you can walk away from and simply choose not to have. You drink at your own risk. And my friend has had precious little human contact since the pandemic began. Her judgment is beyond compromised and I blame the pandemic for a good size chunk of that. I now think of her like a wino on the street yelling at a critic, “At least I don’t drink beer!” Uhhhhhh……good for you?

Dr. Amen compares alcohol to sugar and caffeine. Let that sink in. Who doesn’t consume too much sugar sometimes? I’m not saying an occasional drink will kill a person, just that it is unnecessary. It is a whole lot easier to avoid alcohol than sugar. Improving one’s diet is truly a lifetime task.

Many years ago, I was a very conservative Protestant. I went to a church with not the world’s brightest people, but they possessed a certain basic level of common sense that I now think of as rare. Farmer folk. Their basic attitude was, “Why take unnecessary risks? Life is hard enough.” These were people that had lived hardscrabble lives. Perhaps they lacked courage, but they also lacked HIV, for example. People have always made fun of Southern Baptists, sometimes with good reason. Their list of things not allowed was always ridiculously long–and not always biblical. No dancing, no playing cards, no gambling, no drinking, no sex outside of marriage, etc. The Bible says nothing about dancing or playing cards. So it was always easy to dismiss them. The problem? Their basic attitude is correct, even if the application seems beyond the pale. I learned growing up that it is a whole lot easier to stay out of a bad situation than it is to extricate yourself from one once up to your eyeballs in it. Taking personal responsibility prevents a whole lot of problems.

I used to watch way too much true crime TV. Here is a fairly common scenario. A woman goes to a bar or a casino alone on a Friday evening and is never seen again. I am not saying that every woman going to a bar alone on a Friday night is going to end up in a shallow grave in some dude’s back yard; I am only saying that she is taking a risk that her friend staying home watching Jeopardy! is not taking.

Many years ago, one of my cousins drove drunk and ran over a guy. She didn’t get much time because there were extenuating circumstances. The guy she ran over had actually attempted suicide by walking into traffic previously. There is plenty of blame to go around. She only had a blood alcohol level of .1, not fall-down drunk, but still above the legal limit. The point? It wouldn’t have happened at all had she taken a cab, drank at home, or simply not imbibed in the first place. She made a series of poor choices and someone is dead because of it. She has to live with that for the rest of her life.

I want to be supportive of my friend, but my conscience won’t let me endorse some of the unnecessary risks she is taking. She wants my approval and she ain’t got it. Circling the drain is her choice, but I’m not going with her. I really desperately hope she wakes up soon and realizes how scary her behavior is. I don’t want her to get robbed at some national park or raped or any other horribly traumatic thing. Right now I feel like I am more concerned for her welfare than she is.