Adventures du jour! (July 1, 2023)

Bad ADHD day…Tesla writing group meetings…pondering accommodations

I’m having a bad ADHD day, or rather a highly disruptive one.

Brain: fast and slow at the same time. Emotions: disconnected, so I got up this morning going, “I don’t feel like I’m feeling anything” while sobbing. I finally realized that I felt like some kind of young pet with the zoomies, racing around the living space, staring at “ghosties” and too spun up to eat or drink. No regulation.

This is exactly the kind of mood that I used to turn toward the ex in hopes of getting him to keep me from doing something stupid. It turns out that was the stupid part; me with the zoomies isn’t really much more serious or dangerous than a pet with the zoomies. I still have part of my brain that can assess things like “don’t run in traffic.” I don’t have to be scared of what I’ll do, mostly, although I did just buy something on impulse (an inexpensive art print that I know I’ll love later, regardless). Not a big deal. But it’s still uncomfortable; menopause is making things worse and I might be having non-headache migraine symptoms. Hands and feet have been swollen and painful for days; tangs have been toungled. Yesterday was draining. I did many good things but it feels like the screws have been stripped today.

Someone made a comment about acting kind of weird in a social situation that made me go, “I totally do the same thing and didn’t really think it was weird. One more thing to track,” then realized I didn’t need track it. Screw it. If I’m at a non-safe occasion, I’m already on my best, most regulated, most locked-down behavior. If I’m at a safe occasion, it’s safe because I don’t have to be on my best behavior, just considerate. And what is considerate varies from person to person, and must be judged in the moment, not beforehand (well, unless I’m in charge of an event or cooking for someone).

The train of thought lead me somewhere interesting, though: I wish every conversation was required to have a side napkin where you just jotted down topics that you want to switch to if the current vein peters out. I’d have a lot easier time paying attention if there were guidelines for taking turns.

Which reminds me about how I used to run Tesla meetings.

So (for people who don’t know it) I used to run a writers’ group called Tesla, for writers of science fiction/fantasy/horror. You didn’t have to be of any particular skill; we didn’t critique; the fun parts were meeting up in person for suppers in various locations around the Colorado Springs/Denver area and running our mouths without having to worry about boring or freaking out the non-writers. I’m not doing it now because I’m in Florida and I still don’t have the same network down here that I had in Colorado Springs, mostly because I haven’t exerted myself. It’s only been the last few months that it’s even occurred to me.

Tesla is defunct but not dead; I said that I’d stop holding meetings online after the first time nobody showed, and did so. But if the opportunity makes sense, I’ll start it back up.

(Ahhhhhh I still have made no progress in starting a Florida group, which I said I would do. I feel bad but I also realized I have no extra spoons for it at the moment. I’m keeping my ear out for low-key writer things in the area, but most of the ones that catch me are over in St. Pete, and I catch myself thinking, “Oh, you don’t get to DRIVE places for something that only YOU want to do!!!” BUH. Dammit. Okay. After I get back from Vegas class, time to relook at that. I get to do things that I want to do, that give me connection with people I want to know, that further my ability to make interesting choices in life. I used to drive back and forth daily for the day job, for someone else. I can drive back and forth biweekly or so, for myself.)

Anyway: Tesla.

Here’s how I ran the meetings. No politics, no religion, no telling other people what to do. Everyone checks in to make sure they know everyone else and gives a topic if there’s something specific they want to discuss, everyone gets a chance to talk about their topic, I step in if things get weird, before we move on with each person I stop and ask, “Did you get what you needed?”

Sometimes the answer was “No, but at least I know there’s not an obvious answer.” And that was okay, even if I had to learn how to stop trying to solve the problem or come up with the information.

When I first started running meetings, I’d be so drained that I’d crash for a couple of days afterwards, thinking: Everyone hates me, I talked too much, why can’t I ever shut up? I was interrupting, wasn’t I? It took a long time to build the strength to stay present for the whole thing, and a long time to figure out when to nudge things to prevent trouble. The ex both hated that I did it, and would take advantage of the periods after meetings to pressure me into thinking ill of myself. But slowly I got better at it.

I still feel weird in some social situations, but mostly in the uncanny valley type situations that are somewhere between being on my best behavior, and letting my hair down. My brain is kind of all or nothing; I can do subtle but it’s not like someone who doesn’t know me well would notice. (Hey, it’s subtle; you’re not supposed to.)

But I’ve never actually stopped to think, “Here’s how I want to be treated.” I only ever rate my social skills in terms of being able to figure out other people, not in my ability to know what I need or ability to communicate/enforce same.

So, thoughts.–These are a lot. I didn’t realize I had so much to say. Is it too much? I worry about these things. I’ll probably have to sit with all this and go, “How can I sum this up? How can I make this more comfortable for other people?”

–If I ask you to email or message me, DO SO. In groups of more than like five, no matter how well I know other people, I’m using so many cognitive resources that my ability to make long-term memories goes haywire. I don’t just forget things; they’ll get mixed up. Dates, people, what I said: my brain will just cut and paste random-ass shit together and go, “Look! I made memories!” This is unutterably distressing to me, that I can’t remember a lot of cool things or that I can’t trust my memory of same. I worry that I’ve fucked things up, done something stupid, and really it’s just that people don’t want to be a bother. Please reach out so I can reconnect with you and get my shit sorted out. Ugh. Crying.

–Not fluorescent lights. They fry my brain.

–Not places that are designed to feel loud and busy. I don’t mind actual loudness, oddly, but there’s this weird design thing where some restaurants are designed to have more echoes so they feel busy and hip. WHYYYYYYYY. A concert should be loud. Theater should be loud. Actual crowds should be loud. Echoes in a mostly-empty restaurant shouldn’t be so loud that I have to raise my voice.

–If you want an interesting conversation, smaller groups and/or take turns in a semi-structured way that lets everyone talk but doesn’t require them to. Otherwise I’m going to be busy handling the cognitive load for making sure other people feel comfortable. I care more about the fairness than about the topic, sorry.

–If it’s genuinely noisy and nobody’s upset, I’m cool. Your kids and doggos can be part of the conversation. It’s not an unwelcome interruption. I can weave it in. If someone’s upset and nobody even tries to deal with it, I’ll start shaking and have to leave the room. I may never come back. If someone’s being an asshole and nobody even tries to address that, either subtly or overtly, I’ll start shaking and have to leave the room, ditto.

–Give me permission to deal with the upset and I’ll deal with it. There are sooooo many things I’m bad at, in groups and organizations. Do not force me to handle the important details. I’ll pick where we go but double-check me on dates and times and locations. Let me have this instead.

–Music, please. I have trouble focusing on multiple conversations, particularly ones where I don’t get to engage with other people constantly. I’ll be thinking of the things I want to say but have to wait for my turn among like four other people, and be so distracted that I miss cues. It’s soooo frustrating. Even a barely-audible level of music will keep me on track, though. I’ll be wiggling and singing along to the music. But I’ll *also* be able to track the conversation, unless multiple things are happening at once.–I do this during gaming now, too, which is a big help.

–I’ll listen to almost anything musically, but if it’s too angry I’ll get upset after a song or two, probably because I’ll try to soothe the upset music somehow, defend it from whatever is hurting it, or escape it. I get that that’s kind of a trauma response. I like angry music when it’s just me. This is just for groups where we’re doing social stuff and not in a mosh pit. Mosh pits, I understand. They’re calming.

–“Don’t worry so much! You’re overthinking!” = You can’t manage your reaction to me, feel uncomfortable, and are asking me to mask who I am for you without admitting that’s what you’re doing. I will, because I try to be courteous, and because I no longer feel safe. More on alternatives below.

–In situations where I lack emotional regulation, I am also desperately trying to shut down so I don’t hurt other people. Numb is better than cruel, and I can be intentionally, deliberately, razor-sharp cruel. Nobody reading this has seen me be cruel. A few people have seen me start fucking with assholes; I always feel guilty later but if someone starts bullying someone I care about, the filters start coming down. Usually the worst intentional thing I do to people is cut them off. The unintentional stuff I do is usually worse. I am often SO very clumsy around things I don’t grok. I try to take responsibility for everything I might be fucking up. In public am almost always ashamed for stuff that may not even be a problem.

–If you’re overwhelmed around me, say so. “I’m overwhelmed and tired. Please give me a minute/hour/week.” Whatever you need for accommodations become priority, if you’re direct.

–If you’re actually worried about me and trying to find out whether I need help, ask. “Are you okay?” Be direct. If you’re in person, touch me on the arm or shoulder gently but firmly. I will be upset for like five seconds as my brain goes, “You’re not supposed to know that I’m not okay!” and then the rules I set for myself to be around Ray will kick in, and I’ll go, “No, I’m in pain/overwhelmed/whatever.” So I’ll glare at you or go silent for a few seconds as I try to interrupt whatever is going haywire. But Ray has me trained pretty well. Ugh. Crying again.

–When I’m in distress, I will first make sure my distress isn’t distressing someone else. So sometimes I will avoid people whose empathy is strong but feeds back into the situation. Ray does this sometimes and I have to get away from her. I tell her what’s going on directly, though, so she can be upset but not compound it by trying to manage my emotions for me.

–If you’re safe to be around and still want to help, first be steady and calm; if that sticks, when I’m done crying or freaking out, make me laugh. Laughter is my mechanism for putting myself back together. First I’ll have to cry it out, though. The less you resist the crying, the quicker it’ll be over. One of the ex’s favorite tricks was to demand that I tell him why I was crying, then argue with me how it wasn’t valid, while I was still crying. Don’t do that.

–There are a few people I trust to be manipulative around me. One of my best friends just herds me like I’m a disobedient sheep when we do anything together–she’s a border collie of a person, though, and we’ve worked it out, more or less. I have to laugh about it. She pokes me until I cough up an idea, then makes me follow through with it. She believes in me VERY LOUDLY until I get it done.

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I don’t mind that kind of thing when it’s agreed upon. “You be the X person and I’ll be the Y person” is fun if mutually agreed upon.

–I absolutely WILL cry in public if I get upset. I can’t stop it unless I shut a big part of myself off, or unless I have someone else who needs help more than I do. I WILL cry at movies, the theater, sappy songs, etc. I WILL laugh at inappropriate moments. The moment I see a joke coming, I’ll burst out laughing. Sorry about your punchline; I’m sure it will be very funny when it eventually arrives

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–I feel safe getting into spirited arguments. I feel unsafe around politeness. I feel safe getting roasted by friends but unsafe around being called an expert. I feel safe when people I care about compliment me; I feel cautious around everyone else. I feel safe in noisy environments that are full of various moving parts. I feel unsafe in deadly quiet environments that are full of unstated expectations and tension. I feel safe around people who are acting weird but not threatening. I feel uncomfortable around people who are bullshitting me, for whatever reason. I feel comfortable waiting, although I’ll be doing twenty other things while I wait. I feel uncomfortable having to rush through organization. I love to explore and play. I hate routine not because it’s boring but because I feel like I’m trapped in a Twilight Zone episode full of unnamed horrors. Routine makes my skin crawl.

–I don’t form habits the same way other people do. Every “habit” that other people have is for me really a separate, fresh decision. Every decision is either a highly mindful one, or one that I immediately erase from memory because I’m focused on other things. Telling me to focus on what YOU think I should focus on, or to decide faster, will not help. I have all kinds of rules of thumb to help me make decisions quickly (*very* quickly). Sometimes the reason I’m taking forever to decide something is that I’m really deciding on good rules of thumb so I don’t have to take so much time to decide next time. I’ll get grumpy if someone tries to get my attention while I’m doing this. “Earth to DeAnna” was my mom’s phrase for sneering at me while I struggled to decide things; don’t do that.

–If I say something’s off, it’s off. Please trust me on this. I struggle to trust myself but I’m rarely wrong. I might be wrong about why something is off. I’ll sometimes read cues as threatening because of triggers. But something unspoken is off. Likewise, if I say “it’s all good,” trust that I’m having a blissful experience where I don’t have to do anything but enjoy myself. “There’s nothing wrong with it.” Also double-plus-extra good. “I don’t know how to think of it.” YESSSSSS. This is great; it means there are new things or ideas to explore and play with.

–“WHYYYYYYYY AREEE YOUUUUU LIIIIIIIIIKE THIIIIIISSSS??” is my best compliment ever. It means that your behavior, which is about something ordinarily considered offputting, has surprised and delighted me. You have made me laugh

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and even have given me a little faith that there’s something worthwhile and genuine about humanity. Thank you.

There. I’ve gone from crying without being able to feel it, to smiling and feeling it intensely, which means it’s good enough for now. I’ll figure out how to better communicate what I need in social contexts as I go. It’s nice to know, though: I want complex things, but not impossible. Most of it seems to come down to “I’m going to do weird stuff when I’m spun up. Mostly just let me know you’re there and ride it out. Let me know if you need things. The end.”

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/1119652666994331648/1123763223678681138/dknippling_caryatid_in_a_bad_mood_the_stone_is_heavy_but_I_am_s_251d703a-6a48-4be2-a267-667f367485f3.png

The Stone Is Heavy But I Am Spiteful.—This one amuses me. It must be difficult to get an AI to correctly navigate the space around bare chests. I think the chest here is mostly pulled from “male” statues. But now with breasts! The nipples look sort of flat and masculine, too. Anyway, every time I manage to get Forbidden Body Parts in an image, I do a little happy dance.

I’m on a kick about things that look female but aren’t: dolls, statues, robots. Things like that.

Medusa selfie.

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