Six months... That is how much time has passed since I have returned to the US. Six months ago, I had a plan to return to my home, reintegrate with my community, solidify friendships I did not take the time to solidify the last time around, and fix my failing business.
I had a good start. I came back, spent time with friends asking questions about THEM and THEIR lives, trying to make connections were I was unsuccessful the last time. I made some progress, but then life got in the way and I sank back into my old hermit routines of hiding behind a busy family and a headache I just cannot shake off. It's not a real headache, but rather, it's a bit of depression... or, inability to focus... or unmotivation, whatever. I'm just not on my game.
My wife went back to school for a graduate program in an area of practice she has been speaking about for years. This is a wonderful accomplishment for her, but in return, I have given up my routine, my sanity, and my ability to function as a cost. I am very happy for her and I will do whatever I can to help her get through it, but I'm suffering as a result in ways she will never see.
You see, it's been roughly ten years since I started this blog, and I started it to clarify religious concepts of frumkeit that I was still thrashing out, and to understand myself and my surroundings from a philosophical point of view. I stumbled onto other blogs which led my observation inward, where I attributed every psychological disease to myself, trying it on as one tries on a new dress in the fitting room, only to realize that the hips are too wide, or the dress doesn't quite fit right.
It's been ten years, and I kind of figured out what it is I suffer from, and it embarrasses me how simple an answer it was... ADD (or, as they now call it, ADHD). The thing is... as a rule, I don't believe in ADD. I also don't believe in medication for ADD, and I really believe that people should work through their problems, so here are mine (I've figured them out).
I suffer from depression as a result of being unable to focus. My mind works at high speeds, but my ability to keep up with my thoughts tires me out. I can't focus well, very often I can't think straight. You wouldn't know it by my thick shell and my calm and cool demeanor, but I am very emotionally sensitive and am usually overstimulated by simple interactions with people (even my own family and kids) to the point that saying hello to someone or having inconsequential interactions overstimulates me to the point that I cannot think, and I often need quiet time to recover (and sometimes I am unable to recover so I know to isolate myself and distract myself with some activity until my mind defuzzes). My wife thinks I need a psychologist from this, but I have tried a few of them over my years and we don't get anywhere... ever.
I live in a state of overwhelm, even when the stressors are minor. I should be much better than the person I have become, but I live in the shackles of a head that keeps me from being able to be organized enough and motivated enough to do the things I know I need to do, so I procrastinate until deadlines loom, and I forget and forget and... what was I writing about?
My memory is horrible, not because I have a bad memory, but because I am having difficulty remembering that I am working on a subject, or that some thing, event, or to-do is important to do. I'll start plunging a stuffed toilet, and then I'll walk into another room for whatever purpose, and I will 100% forget that I was plunging a toilet. Or, I'll start a course on whatever topic I determined was important to take my law practice to the next level... or to learn a new skill... or to reach a goal... and mid-way into the project, I will 100% forget that I was doing that project, only to realize months later that it has been weeks or months since I was working on a particular topic, and I never continued it.
This is fine for a goal or for a project, but when it comes to remembering to pick up the milk, or to pick up my child from school, well, that's an issue. I solve most of my issues by setting clocks and alarms, and this works somewhat well, but I forget simple things, like, what day it is, and... to eat, or to come home from work, and I'll look at the time and it is 10pm, and I was doing who knows what... but not work. That project still had to be submitted because it was due the next day.
I could go into 1000 more examples. I wear two watches (one on each hand), the watch on the left which reminds me to move every hour or so to reach my step goals, and the one on the right which merely beeps every 30 minutes to remind me that 30 minutes have passed by. It's silly, but seven hours can pass in a few minutes.
So, I fight through my life with discipline in order to get by. When we returned from Israel, my wife and I arranged that I would focus on what is important to get everything back on track. Our business was failing (believe it or not, not because of my inattention, but because I allowed one client to become 99% of my law firm's business, a big 'no-no', and that client went out of business as soon as I returned to the US, and I needed to rehabilitate it. I took a class at a local law school to teach me the skills I needed to move forward (pretrial litigation, something I never took in law school but was very important), but part two -- trial advocacy -- well, that was this semester, and the professor wouldn't allow non-law-school students to attend, so I bought the books for the course which I hope to get to and read one day.
NOTE: If I ever wrote a book on this topic, I would call it "Open Parenthesis," because this concept (opening parenthesis) embodies my experience of opening topics, but never getting around to completing them.
In addition to getting the law firm back on track, I had the project of buying the home we were renting from our in-laws (who bought it for us so that we can buy it back from them when we arrive on US soil), getting our taxes in order with back-filings and IRS estimated payments (the Israeli accountant we hired did not do a number of things we thought he was doing for us, and our accountings were a mess when we returned to the US for more reasons to outline here). On top of that, and possibly most importantly, I wanted to get my 'daylight' schedule back on track.
I wanted to wake up in the morning, shower, get to minyan, help my wife get the kids to school, get to the gym, then get to my office and have a productive day. For me, this was a brutal undertaking, but for six months, I made it happen... until my wife started school in January.
I could totally blame her for my life falling apart, but really it is my fault and my inability to be able to handle certain things a normal person should be able to take care of. Since my wife started school, now I do the morning routine with the kids. The first thing I do upon waking is that I wake the kids, get them dressed, fed, and then off to school. Because of the number of kids we have, it makes sense to do this in two shifts -- an "older kid" shift, where the first set of kids are out the door by 8am, and a "younger kid" shift where the younger three kids [who fight, don't get dressed easily, and throw temper tantrums] can get my devoted attention getting them dressed, fed, and out the door by 8:30am. When the younger kids wake before the older kids are out of the house, well, that's a nightmare.
I tried doing one morning shift with all of the kids together, but I can't handle the crying, the 'he hit me' or 'she's wearing my shoes' or the youngest one's tantrum when she doesn't like what I feed her, or what I dress her in -- and she NEVER likes what I feed or dress her, and it's a daily struggle. Finally when I get them to school, honestly, I have nothing left in me. Really, almost every day, I get them to school, and I collapse, emotionally, physically, or otherwise. I get to work and I lay on the floor looking at the ceiling. Or, I stare at a wall until my emotional tanks recharge. Or, I waste time doing something inconsequential because honestly, I would at that point want to do anything but work.
This hurts me so much, namely, that I am unable to get them to school and get myself to work. I tried putting davening in the mix, but it doesn't work. I tried putting the gym in the mix, but it too doesn't work. I can't --- and believe me, I am saying this with a cry and a tear -- I really CAN'T do anything after the morning routine except want to roll into a ball and cry. I really don't do this, rather, I walk around in a fog and a stupor for the next few hours, and this sometimes lasts the entire day where 7pm rolls along, and I still haven't gotten any meaningful work done. My wife -- well, she doesn't understand this, and she is dumbfounded and offended why I do not find pleasure in the interactions with the children. She thinks I should treasure these moments, and that there is something seriously wrong with me that I don't. Honestly, I really love my kids, but I find the morning routine very draining. Again -- roll into a ball, want to cry.
So I've thought about going to a doctor and taking medication for this... ADD, or whatever it is, but I remember the last time I went to a doctor during law school, and he prescribed me Adderall. What I remember, however, was not the increase in productivity, but the feeling of being a failure because I couldn't function on my own two feet without the help of a drug. I remember not wanting to do anything except get off of the drug, which is exactly what I did. I took the bar exam, I got off adderall, and I got married and started a family, started a successful law practice (which [with G-d's help] has kept our family fed, comfortable, lacking nothing) and now we are ten years later.
I sometimes wonder how life would be different if I stayed on the ADHD drug, but instead, I powered through every mood swing, every bout of depression, and every inability to function with self-medication (usually coffee did the trick -- many, many cups of coffee each day), vitamins, exercise, and a whole lotta discipline.
Today I take a nice regimen of vitamins, including L-Tyrosene, DLPA, Ibuprofen, GABA, and a good multivitamin. I am doing this based on a book recommendation from a text which goes through the various types of ADHD with an exhaustive questionnaire and a description of the six-known types of ADHD (the book is called "Healing ADD, the Breakthrough Program That Allows You To See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD" by Daniel G. Amen.). The book also recommends medication, but this vitamin regimen is an alternative to it. I am probably three or four weeks into it, and quite honestly, I feel nothing because I don't think it's working, but the book suggested that it might take up to seven weeks before the effects are felt... and, I am not that disciplined in taking the sufficient dosages (...3x/day, or on an empty stomach, etc.), but either way, I am still optimistic.
Lastly, I haven't been to the gym in a month, and I have regained all of the weight from before I started going to the gym in July when we returned... What a waste of time and energy! I say that with a bit of jest, as no doubt the six months of discipline that I had MUST have had some beneficial longterm affect on my health, and I must think that the months I spent sweating away on the treadmill MUST have benefited my heart or my fitness to the point that I am probably not the same unhealthy body I was when I returned from Israel six months ago. I just somehow gained back all of my weight in one month from snacking and eating unhealthily.
In sum, life sucks. I have bought a house, rescued my law firm from disaster, got the state and federal taxes in order (I hope), got our finances in order, reintegrated with the community, got fit, got fat, cut out all zero-calorie drinks and aspartame, took over the morning routine, stopped going to minyan, lost all meaning in life (another blog entry for another time), and now I'm just trying to pick up the pieces and get through each day before I find the motivation to pick myself up from the bootstraps, as they say, and push through this last bout of fogginess so that I can get my life back in order. Yeah, right. That'll happen.
NOTE: This doesn't need to be here, but I'm writing this article from a completely self-involved point of view. There are so many people with so many problems far, far worse than anything I am going through, and it is almost embarrassing to think that anything I am dealing with in my own head compares in the minutest way to the 'real' problems others face, e.g., poverty, death, divorce, cancer, abuse, oppression. I live in a free world with apparent free will. My financial needs are taken care of, I have health insurance, I have a way to derive a healthy income (for the time being), I have a happy wife and baruch hashem, a healthy family. While I regret a number of decisions in life, my life has turned out quite well. ALL THIS BEING SAID, I am focusing the conversation in this article on the issues that I personally am struggling with because I want to be and to function at my best so that I can contribute to the world and give thanks to my creator in order to succeed in the mission for which I was created, whatever that may be. I also know that I am not the only one who is dealing with issues such as these, and so perhaps this article can be of use to someone who is also suffering with similar circumstances.