Aside / Health

Stirring it up in my mind

So, ADD has its advantages. When I get into something, I really get into it. The emotional stimulus is nice and keeps me super focused. I will read about it, dream about it, talk endlessly to my family about it. They really love that part.

It also has some challenges. If something isn’t interesting, if it doesn’t give me a hit of dopamine, then it turns into background noise. No matter how many times I tell myself to pay attention to something that doesn’t push that button it just feels like something happening in my peripheral vision. Stimulation is the name of the game. And sometimes negative stimulus works just as well as positive, which kind of sucks for everyone.

Last night I had a weird, hard to define conversation with my wife. The neighbor got a new toy. Listening to him talk about it I felt myself getting agitated. It wasn’t jealousy, seriously, since my main feeling was that it was a ridiculous purchase for where we live. But I couldn’t contribute to the conversation and ended up standing there like an idiot while he and another neighbor gushed about his new boat (stereotypical male conversation about superior engine size and optimal length. Seriously.) I just hung out feeling awkward.

Afterwards I tried explaining that feeling to Micki and ended up kind of all over the place with it. As I finally explained it came down to competence. I used to feel really confident in my work as an actor and an EMT. I had a strong sense that my work mattered. And one of the results was that when conversations like this arose I would chat along, feeling like in the end none of it really mattered because I had something going on at a whole different level. Now as a teacher it sometimes doesn’t matter how well you do the job- you may never know you had a positive effect on someone’s life. So that feeling ‘different level’ doesn’t really kick in. Like I said, it was an odd conversation because how the hell did my brain go *that* direction? From rambling about how “that was awkward” to complaining that “I liked my old job better!”

This morning I realized- it was all about that stimulation. I felt unsettled and like a third wheel. I couldn’t for the life of me identify why I felt that way. Lots of times when I dig in and try to figure out where a feeling is coming from I get a little emotional *hit* when I think of the correct thing. Nothing came up as I started trying to explain it, so my brain started creating a scenario that had some emotional content, some stimulation, and latched on to feeling inferior and discontent in my work. Because right or wrong there is some nice emotional content to those for sure.

My wife hung in there like a champ- she didn’t roll her eyes at me (her back was to me for a while, but I am sure I would have heard it if she did!) or sigh and ask what we should cook for supper. She asked questions. Then she asked follow up questions. Then she asked clarifying I-really-don’t-get-where-this-is-all-coming-from questions.

Of course, as any outside observer could have told me back in paragraph 3 I *was* jealous of my surgeon neighbor buying a ski boat. I didn’t like that I felt jealous, so tried turning it into some self-doubt inducing story that kicked up some emotions- negative ones, but that doesn’t usually matter to that part of my head. It wasn’t until Micki told me the following that I snapped my head out of its spiral

We used to have tons of debt. We have now paid a bunch of it down.

We can travel when we want without that breaking us.

We were able to move into a better home.

We have what we need and then some, which is pretty damn good. And I can tell you that *none* of that would have happened on an actor’s or EMT’s income.

On top of that we have two amazing and healthy boys, and friends and family that we like and care about.

Realizing that (and reminding myself of it) may not be the dopamine hit of performing on stage or helping the sick and injured, and it sure as hell isn’t a ski boat, but I will take it any day of the week.

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