Genes

This morning, see psychiatrist. He is a colleague of Beloved Behaviorist, has multiple advanced degrees, and is very good. Asks how things are going, how kids are doing, all that.

Laughs that Beloved Behaviorist asked him if he thinks I’m ADHD. Am pulled up short by this and clarify, “If I am ADHD?” He nods. Good-naturedly. No biggie. “You know, since one parent usually is…” He’s typing into his file.

I double-check: “Me?” As in… me?? He nods and chuckles. It is, apparently, not inconceivable to others–to trained psychiatrists–that I could have ADHD.

“I think I’m just super anxious…” I aver, more tentatively than intended. “I mean, how would I know if I had it?”

Psychiatrist lists off symptomatic red flags: not being able to start things, not being able to finish things, not being able to focus and concentrate, not being able to follow a conversation, skipping from one thing to another… Red flags are generally unhelpful, however, as this is certainly my life, but perhaps not by genetic design. Am I able to focus and concentrate? Can I complete tasks? Am I late all the time? Good Lord, are these fair questions?? Of course I can’t focus or concentrate or complete tasks! Of course I’m late all the time—I was late for this appointment! Not only am I a mother of young children, I want to plead, but also they are boys, but also one has ADHD.

“The rule is to treat the anxiety first and if that doesn’t work, to try to treat ADHD. So if you’re ADHD, then anxiety medications won’t help. But if you take ADHD medication, then the anxiety goes away. On the other hand, if you’re anxious and on stimulant medication, then that doesn’t help the anxiety. … At all!”

Sounds dangerous. Have no desire for any more stimulation in my daily life or in my brain whatsoever.

“I think anxiety is my thing,” I repeat, trying to sound more convinced. “They’re closely related, right? Like my anxiety could’ve morphed or something into ADHD in McDiesel?” Wonder if I should throw out epigenetics, but am not brave enough.

“Oh yeah, they’re very similar. Often childhood anxiety looks a lot like ADHD.” More typing. “Both are associated with creativity. It’s so prevalent worldwide now that there must be some evolutionary benefit.”

I don’t want McDiesel to be anxious, but I also don’t want to have ADHD. Even the kind with evolutionary benefits. (Plus, very difficult to imagine what these might be as I review McD’s recent behavior…)

“Yeah, I’ve never thought of myself as having ADHD…” Think back to academic over-achievement, reading as preferred pastime, writing a dissertation, and detrimental capacity—after all—to dwell, ruminate, and wallow (without fidgeting) in worries. But also think about spiraling thoughts crowding my head, superhuman ability to multitask mentally and physically, sometimes talking so fast I don’t finish one sentence before beginning another. And I do have a tendency to twirl my hair and I like to think of myself as creative…

“I’m always thinking a thousand things and I worry about everything, but I always thought that was just anxiety…” I try again.

“Could be. Anxiety is a predisposition, but it’s mostly learned behavior. So you can learn new ways to respond to situations. Medication can help, but it’s 50/50. With ADHD, we usually say it’s all medication.”

He says if I want to try stimulant medication, then we can see if it helps.

I do not want to try stimulant medication.

Only later does it occur to me to worry that this was a subtle way of saying he thinks I have ADHD.

Decide rather to focus on well-known fact that when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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