Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dopey Dopamine

I’ve been patiently waiting for my mood to shift a bit, and a horrid sort of aimlessness has settled over me. Options appear to my eyes with the same dull hues, nothing bright and obvious and appealing. I read to keep my mind occupied rather than circling like a vulture.

I was really hoping that the thyroid pills I’ve been prescribed would kick ennui’s butt. I'm always hoping there will be an a-ha moment that puts everything right

My therapist says I should cut myself some slack. Motivation is a gnawing problem for people with ADD. I’m low energy and that’s just a fact of my nature. I should rejoice that I’m functional. I have my kids and husband and they’re important to me. I think of my mom: her kids and family were important to her, too, but she still went around saying, “I just don’t know what to do with my life.” She was saying that in her 70s. Drove me mad. I used to think, Hell, by this time you’ve done what you were going to do with your life – suck it up. But it’s an awful feeling, that sense of directionless motion. You don’t feel like you’re the master of your own ship, or whatever that stupid expression is. I end up reacting to events, dithering over decisions. I feel foggy and uncertain. I’ve known from a young age that structure is essential if I’m to get anything done at all, and that I am incapable of creating that structure myself. I’ve needed schools and jobs to divide up my day, deadlines to force me to focus. The moment I try to set up any sort of routine for myself, I’m doomed. Set goals? Who’s going to hold me to it, after all? Myself? Hah. And routines are not foolproof. There are days when, for example, after years and years of putting out medicine for Firecracker to take, every morning at the same time, I forget it entirely. And you know what? The next day I’ll be more likely to forget it again. It’s as if the habit were unraveling. I finally set up automatic reminders to pop up on my phone. That’s not foolproof, either, because those sorts of things tend to become just so much white noise. The only thing I can be certain I won’t forget is to brush my teeth. I have immediate sensory feedback if that isn’t done.

Did you know that there’s a connection between dopamine and motivation? Low dopamine, low motivation. I take medications in an attempt to counter what I can only think is a full-out dopamine drought. Sometimes it works sort of okay, at least for a while. But then I just have to leave the boring behind and do something I like. Tedium is my enemy. And unfortunately this often happens in the middle of a work day. It’s almost guaranteed to happen when it’s time to deal with household chores. This is not just the afternoon slump. A few wisps of mist float through, and then the full-on fog of dreamy inattention. There are no rewards great enough to tempt me, so I rely on fear. I need a job, and I need to keep Dear Husband’s ire at bay. Some people think that the contentment and peacefulness of a clean house or a job well done would be reward enough, but no way. I have no work ethic. Never cared about working my way to the top of the dung heap. Left to myself I’d never do anything. I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t born into wealth.

It sure makes me feel out of sync with cultural expectations. All these books on Get It Done, how to be an entrepreneur, how to get ahead, little tricks and bits and bobs on productivity. Seth Godin. Just visiting his website makes me tired. Do I care if I’m the linchpin? Hell no. (By the way, why are there all these blogs and books about leadership? What about books on being an astute and useful follower, assistant, or whatever?) Ambition, goals, productivity – I can understand these intellectually, but my physical self has no understanding at all. They are a foreign substance I keep trying to ingest and integrate and my system keeps pushing them out as foreign bodies.

You know, I was just on Seth Godin’s blog, and he mentioned the characteristics of losers. And I thought, No one wants to be a loser, but someone always is.

Which brings me to the last episode of Glee, with the fabulous song Loser Like Me, which expresses a sense of optimism I don’t feel.


  1. Hang on in there, Bad Alice. I've just read that there's going to be an "extreme super moon" this weekend (the moon will appear 10 to 15 per cent larger than normal). That should get us nutters dancing on the ceiling :-)

  2. David, your journal and my journal can get together and commiserate.

    Mad One, I might actually drag myself outdoors to see that.

  3. Poor girl!!

    Hey, I have a question: Do you do heart-pumping aerobic exercise every day? I read this book called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," and the author makes a good case for how aerobic exercise can help sufferers of ADD (and depression, and anxiety, etc).

    Might be worth a try! :)

  4. Miss H: Oh, I know. I've been through times when I exercised more than now. It's just that I hate exercise. I even have fun exercise available - WiiFit. But I have zero motivation.

    Mary Beth: Well, hope you are feeling more energetic now. :)

  5. i can only say: we love glee. couldn't see this video though probably because we europeans aren't supposed to "get glee". but we do! i LOVE your observations about the books on leadership. hell ya.