Wrinkles in Time

As I have said previously, I suffer from more than one mental illness and I have cerebral palsy. I have also said that in my reading, I have learned that cerebral palsy can create mental illness, so my physical and mental maladies are most probably related…. and always have been, because my CP was caused by what doctors call “insults in the delivery room.” To me, “insults in the delivery room” is a really nice way of saying “we fucked up.” And they did, but my mom & dad were too nice to sue. I was joking with a friend a few weeks ago that the only reason I wish they had is that the hospital should at least have to pay for all my ibuprofen. 😛

Mentally, I know that it is at least a chemical imbalance even if it’s not CP-related, because there is nothing in my history that would have created these illnesses situationally. Even my emotional abuse as a teenager wasn’t the cause. I was depressed and anxious long before that, as well as clearly ADHD by the way my IQ and my grades were inversely proportional.

As with all ADHD kids, it’s not about IQ. It’s that they can rarely handle things like remembering to turn in assignments on time, take coherent notes so that they make sense later, and create habits to make it better. I mean, I bought every single school supply I thought would help and had amazing ideas for organization. But I couldn’t stick to them for more than a week. I had so many calenders that were “Anal Annie” organzed when they started and the rest completely blank.

The “taking coherent notes” part was particularly challenging for me, because in classes like Language Arts and Reading, I was much better at sitting there and listening, later able to remember with excellent recall what had been said… but my teachers couldn’t stand that I wasn’t writing anything down, thus actually hindering learning. I could not multitask listening and writing at the same time, a disaster in math because not only could I not do two things at once, I didn’t understand what was being said, so even if I did have excellent recall, it didn’t translate into “being able to solve my own problems” (little math haha for you there).

By the time I got to college, I could type as fast as I could think. Instead of trying to decide what was important, I transcribed every lecture. That way, I wasn’t really multitasking. I was writing, and then I would “go to class” later when I was reading the transcription.

Believe me when I say that this was only successful because I type between 75-80 wpm, and 100 on a very good day. You can’t do what I did if you type slower than that, because you might be able to ask a college professor to repeat something once, but not constantly.

In terms of depression and anxiety, I remember clearly the summer between fourth and fifth grade that I was chastised mightily by both parents for sleeping all day and hardly ever putting on real clothes. I’m not sure whether they knew I was depressed, or whether they thought I was acting typically for a person my age during school vacation. As a future fifth-grader, I didn’t know words like “depression.” I just knew I didn’t feel good a hundred percent of the time. I resented the hell out of literally being dragged out of bed and into real clothes, going to the library or whatever else it was that was planned for me that day. I was okay once I got there, but the will to go was non-existent.

What I Know for Sure™ is that when I am on a down, as an adult I have exactly the same symptoms. I can and do keep all the appointments in which my presence is required. With anything that is optional, I am usually in bed…. sleeping not because I am tired, but to escape. It is the easiest way for me to receive peace. In fact, I am generally not asleep in the classic sense, but wandering through my subconscience, trying to work out whatever it is that’s setting me off.

So, to put it mildly, emotional abuse didn’t cause my mental illnesses, just heightened my reaction to it. For people with mental illness, especially ADHD (I am not hyperactive, but the DSM does not differentiate anymore), sensory perception is higher than it is for neurotypicals, often to a large degree. What might have been contained in a fireplace burned down a forest.

But if I had to pick an absolute worst part of being so neurologically atypical, it would be my relationship with time. The only thing I remember with startling clarity is how long it’s been since my mother died. Everything else is malleable. It’s lucky that I was born in Texas, because I learned early that “the other day” will cover a multitude of sins. In Texas, “the other day” could have been last week or 20 years ago.

It’s not that I can’t remember dates by rote memorization. It is “how long has it been?” or “how long in the future is that?” My memories seem to be organized by how much I think about them. If something touched me/cut me deeply, it feels closer. If it wasn’t that important, it’s further away. I can easily mistake something that happened years ago for something that happened last week, and vice versa.

Things also change places in the Z-axis of my mind. If I haven’t thought about something in a while, it goes further back. Then, the memory pops back up and all of the sudden it’s like it happened yesterday.

That is the main reason I think I will never truly get over some of the things that have happened in my life, whether it was by my own hand or someone else’s. Some days, hurt is so far away, and some days, it is extremely loud and incredibly close.

Joy works the same way. Sometimes things that have made me over-the-top happy seem like it was just yesterday, when in reality, it was years ago. I am grateful for social media in this respect, because my Facebook posts and shares are all timestamped, as well as my blog entries. Timestamps are the one indelible thing that help me understand linear time.

The rest is just wrinkled.

Surprise!

Last night I went to Dan & Autumn’s White Elephant Holiday Party. It was great to be back on Leslie Ave., and don’t think I haven’t thought about stealing a street sign more than once. If I win the lottery (it would help if I played), I’m buying that house right from under them (watch your backs, dear hearts……). The only thing that would keep me from doing so, and this is big, is that I love Maryland so much. It’s a bit more liberal without Richmond to deal with…….. but Del Rey is just so damn cool.

25438828_10155716438840272_5761970691560350761_oNot only is it a funky neighborhood reminiscent of Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon, Dan, Autumn, and my cousins, Nathan and Emily, all live there. It’s nice to have so many people I adore at one Metro stop (Braddock, in case you’re wondering… one past National Airport on the Yellow Line…. as if I will ever get used to calling it “Reagan” instead). I took this picture at about 12:30 AM as I was on my way home, and the lights just spoke to me. I remembered my first day in DC, when Dana and I patched our relationship up just enough that I called her just to laugh about the fact that I’d gotten on the train going the wrong way and ended up at Braddock instead of Ft. Totten, where I generally transfer to the Red Line, even though it’s faster at other stops. This is because I am just lazy enough to want a longer trip on one line…. Don’t make me get up…. I’m playing Zen Koi here, man……. WMATA is changing things up a bit, though. You can’t transfer to the Red Line right now because it’s closed for maintenance from Rhode Island all the way to Silver Spring. You either have to take a shuttle bus, or Uber when you’re running short on time. The shuttle buses take twice to three times as long. By the time I got to Silver Spring station, the bus home had stopped running. I got an Uber, and then my phone died. My driver couldn’t find me, and canceled the trip. I ended up at Dave & Buster’s, where the bar has USB plugs, and after about ten minutes, tried for another ride home. This time, it worked. I didn’t get home until after 2:00, but it was completely worth it.

25438879_10155716165570272_5618868711594337185_oHere’s a picture of what I brought to the White Elephant party, which got a big response. I picked it out weeks ago, and the excitement was killing me. It was so hard not to just blab all over everywhere what I was taking, but I didn’t until after it was opened. I am generally not very good at keeping secrets. One of the funniest things that happened between Kathleen and me is that when we lived in Alexandria, for our third anniversary I booked us one of those cruises down the Potomac where you can look at all the monuments at night. I kept the secret for three months, and then, the day we were supposed to go, Kathleen asked me if there was anything she needed to bring, having no idea where we were going. I said, well, you might want to bring a jacket. It’s going to be cold on the boat. I clapped my hand over my mouth and we both fell out laughing. Since that particular dumbass attack, I have had to try a lot harder to hide my nefarious-yet-generous activities, because it just slipped out. I didn’t mean to spoil the surprise, I was just on the “think it, say it” plan, which often leads to very heavy face palms. Although I did spill to my dad and Lindsay, because there was no way it would make it back to DC. Friends and family that are so far away come in handy.

So, I open the present I picked, and tears came to my eyes. From the moment I opened it, I knew it was the perfect present for me. I valiantly tried to stay neutral because the reality was that it could have gotten stolen at any point. I did, however, hide the bag behind my back, hoping that everyone would forget it was there. I don’t know whether it was the tears that did it, or whether my plan worked, but after the gift exchange I told the people who brought the gift why it meant so much to me. Busboys & Poets is my favorite restaurant here, and one of the last meals I shared with my mother was at the Takoma Park location, where I am fairly sure the gift was bought because that’s where they live. In addition, the restaurant gets its name from one of the most famous writers in American history, Langston Hughes, who was the busboy poet.25398107_10155716200820272_144966618721340104_o

As you can see, not only is the gift a coffee mug with the logo, it came with a Langston Hughes finger puppet with a magnet in his hat so you can hang it on the refrigerator, or in my case, the mirror above my dresser. My stepsister, Caitlin, will be happy to know that it holds much less coffee than the Doctor Who tankard she gave me a couple of years ago. I told her that I loved that mug because it holds four cups of coffee at once, and she said, isn’t that a bit much? Well, probably, but between the depression and ADHD, coffee acts as the right amount of stimulant to get me out into the world and give me some modicum of concentration without having to resort to Ritalin, Adderall, Stratera, et al. If I accidentally drink too much, too late, I just take a Tylenol PM. However, I rarely have to resort to that, because in a person with ADHD, stimulants have the opposite effect. They actually make me calmer…. well, as long as it’s just plain cups of coffee and not a Starbucks monstrosity of shots. I don’t need those kinds of highs and lows…. I just have to keep the bus from going under 50 (wow, that reference just aged me). It does not, however, stop the stream-of-consciousness in my head where tangents lead to tangents which lead to tangents and possibly the loss of the original point… but I’ll get back there eventually.

With presents like this, it feels like the universe is telling me that my mother is still right here, with her own nefarious generosity. Who knew that a White Elephant gift would tap into my emotions so deeply? I went to the party expecting to surprise everyone else, but the real surprise was mine alone.

But one more surprise before I go. Dan’s birthday is coming up, and I asked for a minute alone with her to give her a present. When it happened, before I took out the gift, I said, because you travel a lot, I’m giving you jewelry appropriate for a friend. I figure that wherever you go, when you look at it, you’ll think about where you got it and smile… and for that moment, I’ll be with you on your journey. If that sounds too practiced to be off the cuff, it’s because I made the exact same speech to Argo years ago, because was also one of my “dames on a plane.” But just because it was the same speech, that doesn’t mean that the sentiment was any less heartfelt. I don’t know if Argo still wears hers because of our blowouts, but I’d like to think so. I won’t tell you what hers was, only because it might identify her in some way. But I will tell you that Dan’s is a beaded bracelet that looks too fancy for an old school “friendship bracelet,” but it’s the same idea. They’re Tibetan prayer beads, which, to me, represented prayers without wax…. and as I joked with her, “no homo.”

In Michelangelo’s day, sculptors who made mistakes often filled them with wax to cover the impurities. A complete sculpture without doing so were called “sin cera,” Latin for without wax. It is the origin of the word sincere. “Prayers without wax” is code for the deeply felt message of thanks for being that friend who understands me the most since we’ve both lost our mothers, which are different conversations than the ones I have with people who haven’t. It has been amazing to have someone who knows how to catch me when I pitch forward in the haze of loss.

It is just as miraculous to have a gift I will look at every day in order to smile through pain… a sign to me that God moments happen in the most unexpected places.

A surprise, as it were.