I Try to Try

I struggle with my ADHD. I wrote a piece about it a month ago, at the start of therapy. Asking someone for help leads you to a loop of your past: What worked? What didn’t work? How does this define me? Should it?

Since my first appointment, I’ve cycled through three variations of medication and doses. Advancements in research produced more formulas to try; I am no longer tied to Adderall (which makes it impossible to quench my thirst) or Ritalin (which turns an anxiety-fueled page numberer). The medication is a godsend, the difference in my work has been incredible. I’ve lost track of time while working on a design. I pay attention in meetings. I complete all my house work. I listen to people when they’re speaking.

Common ADHD medication, divided by release and ingredients

I wish I could say medication solved everything, which it was a missing key to my success, but it’s not; it is merely a stepping stone to creating a full life. In the absence of always putting out fires and flailing through my personal life, I now have a moment of clarity and introspection. My career angst, my uncertainty of the future, my fear of taking leaps centers around a common theme: my “trying” meter is empty, and I don’t know how to replenish it.

Part of ADHD treatment is creating and maintaining basic habits, habits to deter procrastination and promote focus. Just starting on something, just finishing something, just doing something even if you don’t want to. To an outsider, this seems trivial or elementary. To me, this is the hardest work I will ever do; a non-stop quest to “normalcy” and tearing down years of self-hatred and poor image.

Willpower is a limited resource, and we can only go so far before getting decision fatigue. In a practical example, the last thing you want to do after a hard day of work is deciding what to make for dinner. When you have ADHD, there’s an added level of excursion: just getting to the point of trying. Every decision I make, even as small as brushing my teeth, is doubled. And decisions revolving around womanhood or the designer identity triples or quadruples. In lurking the ADHD Reddit, I found the perfect way to describe my mantra. “I try to try.”

Doesn’t that sound so lazy? So unmotivated? I know what’s going through your mind because it goes through mine all the time: looks like you’re just lazy, seems like you don’t give a damn. But I work hard; I have to work harder than most people. I try hard. I knocked out a year of college credits while I was in high school. I applied and got into two colleges at 16. I received an artistic scholarship through my self-taught photography and design. I graduated college early, magna cum laude. I cold applied to every single job I have taken. I built products from the ground up. I supported myself for the past six years. It has taken a lot for me to get where I am.

Breath of the Wild screenshot from KoopaTV

I’ve been playing a new game, Breath of the Wild. Your character, Link, can wander around the vast expanse of Hyrule, exploring all the nooks and crannies. However, you need special protections to trek through the tundra; it’s just cold, and your character will lose health. Most people can put on a coat or eat a particular food, and go about their business. I have nothing of the sort, just wood to make fire and apples to heal myself. I can make fires, run from point to point, and heal myself if I lose health; but it’s inefficient and tiring. Eventually, I will run out of apples or wood, and I will be stranded. (The non-video games analogy is the spoon theory, if you’re lost)

And this is where I’m at right now. For six years, I’ve been running through the tundra with the resources I’ve had. But now I’m stranded, no more wood, no more apples. My medication gives me a little protection, but it doesn’t end the tedious process.

I have become obsessed with “road to success” articles, the origin stories of designers and writers. I dissect them, looking for key points I can learn from, looking for clues. I grapple with letting my disorder define me and yet; it is me. If I didn’t struggle with this, would I even be me? I look for ways to get my groove back, refill that meter.

But none of these articles speak to me. The common thread is “try hard, and anything is possible!”

I’m just trying to try.

Originally published at www.jonesish.com on March 8, 2017.