This is one of the things I wanted to write about.


I thought about what I tell my overly ambitious students when they take on too many extracurricular activities and their grades falter: "You can achieve anything, but not everything. If you try to do everything there is no doubt you will do everything badly. But if you choose, then you will succeed in whatever you do." Yet at that moment, I couldn't stop the voice that kept screaming in my head: I cannot choose! I cannot choose! I must do both and I must succeed! --Anjalee Deshpanda Nadkarni, in "Two Boards and a Passion"

I know. I know I know I know.

So, another thing I've been struggling with this semester is ADHD. One of the natures of the beast is that it doesn't rear its head until you cross a certain threshold of doing difficult unstructured things, so the effect on your life goes from "sunshine! puppies! daisies!" to "HOLY SHIT LIVING HELL" in a heartbeat, leaving you wondering how you've suddenly become an idiot as the world crumbles around you. I nearly dropped out of undergrad because of it.

But the reverse is also true. Cross back over that threshold of difficult-unstructuredness, and poof - the butterflies and ponies reappear. It looks like you've learned how to deal with it, but you're actually just in environments that don't bring out the monster -- and the unstructured, improvisational nature of open source communities are great for letting you pretend it isn't there. Similarly, they're great for letting me ignore the fact that I can't hear, but we're already seeing the beginning of my pushing back against that - I want to go everywhere, not just the places where I can slack off on coping with deafness and ADHD.

If any place is into difficult-unstructuredness, grad school... is it. I have been beating off the monster since March; it's gotten particularly bad in the past few weeks. For folks who've seen me recently and may be thinking "but... but Mel, you looked like you were really kicking ass!" -- yes, I was. There. Then. With other people. Getting out there into the world where I look (and feel) confident helps a lot, because when I'm by myself with it at night, my other-people scaffolding falls down and sometimes I end up crying (which is pretty epic; I'm not a bawler).

So. I have been taking advantage of the ADHD tendency to attack new shiny stimuli with great enthusiasm, frontloading on reading ADHD books, trying out new strategies, etc -- trying to get ahead as far as I can before falling off the wagon. I've seen multiple types of counselors at Purdue in the past few days. Tomorrow morning I'm going to go in and see about medications (which I have incredibly mixed feelings on, but I should try it at least once). I'm sitting in a school support group writing this blog post right now.

One important decision I've made is to not reduce my workload while trying to handle all this. I'm going to try to build in more failsafes so that the consequences of my failures will be less severe (taking things pass/fail or auditing them, and so forth), but since my ADHD only rears its ugly head above a certain threshold, I need to stay on the "hard" side of that threshold to see if any of the strategies/medications/etc are taking effect. (There's no sense in treating stuff if you're in the land of happy butterflies anyway.)

I have a second post coming with coping mechanisms I've already developed. More in a moment.