Diagnoses come to me long after the illnesses have wrecked my life. I received the label of “Attention Deficit Disorder” a few months back when I asked to be evaluated for it. My psychologist passed the information on to my psychiatrist who put me on Vyvanse.
I like to say that my mood-stabilizers put down a floor that allowed me to put up a house based on healthy changes in my life. Vyvanse created doors and windows that let air and light into the rooms.
The effect of the medication was apparent on the first day. I accomplished many tasks that I had been putting off and kept the motivation going for the rest of the week. When I started running out of things, I looked around the condo and found others to do. I compiled a list of future projects.
One by one, I checked them off and added more.
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen
I don’t know how many times I have listened to people in support groups declare that they have decided to apply positive thinking to their lives and then watched them crash and burn. People declare all kinds of objectives for their affirmations. They will lose weight. They will master their drug problem. They will control their anger. They will grow rich. Money will come to them without effort. They will find a millionaire and marry him. They will find a fabulous new job and leave all the cares of the old one behind them. Some goals are realistic. Others are simply fantastic.
Studies show that plain old positive thinking drags people into a depressive rut. Oettingen cites the example of her work examining the attitudes of East Germans versus West Germans. East Germans spend a lot of time thinking positively. They see themselves as rich, as coming into opportunities of a lifetime which change their life situation for the better. But they still end up at bars trying to drink their melancholy away, and they never get anywhere with these plans. West Germans set reasonable objectives, put in the work, and succeed. Even though their goals are less grandiose, they are happier than their former Communist counterparts.
I wake up and throw myself into rants about how I am irritated with a multitude of issues in my life that are all intersecting to make my day frustrating and uncertain.
After ranting for two hours to various people, I start studying. I am fixated trying to complete problem after problem with undying devotion. When I get stuck I force myself to turn my attention to what is more important- the assignments due tomorrow.
What should have been a half hour at best of work, turns into what feels like over an hour. I write an abstract for my lab report and spend an immense amount of time editing it until it is “perfect.”
One time my therapist asked me one of the most personally significant questions I’ve ever heard.
She said, “What is more important to you? Cutting yourself in order to ace the test… or putting your health first and failing the test?”
(Just to explain, I used to cut myself before studying because it helped soothe me and allowed me to focus. I got all the pent up anxiety out that way so I could “ace the test.”)
And it was so embarrassing to tell her the truth. The truth I’d lived numerous times over and over. The truth that got me through so much of college.
I told her, “I’d rather cut and ace the test.”
Because it is true. To me, my academics and my future career are so much more important than my health is.
And I know that’s messed up.
But we are so hardwired to believe that success is more important than anything. That being a hard worker is so desirable.
That we ignore the damage it can have on us.
The worst part is, if you asked me that same question over again today- I’d still have the same answer.