Hostile interrogations of the moron

ADHD! Dyslexia! Anorexia, forsooth! I’m a fraud, trying to steal the sympathy and support that belong to others, people who have earned it with far greater sufferings and misfortunes than mine. I am undermining the validity of their experiences by equating it with my own pathetic complaints.

So is it all a nothing?

But, fuck it, why shouldn’t I make these claims? Everyone else’s interior existence is unknowable. If these conditions exist at all, and it would be unfair to all those other sufferers to say they don’t, if I exhibit the characteristics, why should I not have them? At least mildly. Isn’t this the point of the Turing test?[1]

All these experiences share a hint of agitation. I’m just a tiny bit more edgy, more obsessive, than the situation requires. I’m clearly not bi-polar, but woven into the fabric of my consciousness is a sense of urgency and anxiety. It’s not the dominant experience. It simply accompanies all other states of mind, adds a texture, a mild flavour, and is unwarranted.

I’ve always lacked a calm breadth of vision, a sense of the wider landscape and my place in it. I think I’ve said before how it’s all close quarters stuff for me, a confused melee of the immediate. My head feels stuffed with bits and pieces. I always have an inane fragment of a song, or a random phrase, going frantically around and around in my head. A sign of ADHD? Or is it just the caffeine? Or is sensitivity to caffeine a symptom of ADHD? Or is this just how thought works?

Is there a touch of mania in my need to be constantly occupied, in having quite such a fear of being idle? At university, my obsessive love of Lulu pre-occupied every waking moment, filled my life with meaning and purpose[2]. There was no time or room for ennui, the terrible pointlessness of living. It certainly fits Carrie Arnold’s definition of “obsessionality”, “a pattern of thinking, in which someone focuses a lot on a particular subject or detail.”[3] This is also a benefit of being anorexic. When your mind is completely taken up by hunger and food and exercise and getting to the next meal, you are always looking down at the road immediately ahead. You can’t lift your eyes to the vast and pitiless universe. Ms Arnold quotes Steven Tsao: “With Anorexia, this obsessionality could be something they think a lot about, but they don’t actually mind thinking a lot about.” He paraphrases his patients’ comments as “if I don’t spend my day thinking about food, what else do I do with myself?”[4] (First World Problems?)

And it’s true of my desire to write. Ever since I first decided that I was going to be a writer, I’ve had something to aim at, something I should be doing whenever I find myself at a loss: sitting on a beach in Norfolk, while children dig pointless holes; crabbing[5]. The brilliance about the writing obsession is that, as I can never concentrate, as I never get anything finished, I never have to deal with the dreadful anti-climax that (apparently) follows the completion of a project. I always, always, have something I should be getting on with, any time I have an idle moment.

That’s why I don’t like going on holiday or reading books that are simply diverting and enjoyable: this frustrated, unfocussed energy threatens to convert itself into the most poisonous soul-destroying boredom. “What’s the point in this? I need to be doing something useful”, I’m always whining, much to everybody’s annoyance.

But is this something everyone feels? Am I just weaker and less empathetic than they are, indulging my stupid self?

  • Footnotes:

[1] Turing’s thought experiment, as I’m sure you know, concluded that once a computer’s responses to the world became indistinguishable to a human’s, we would have to assume they’d achieved sentience.

[2] I say again, Poor Lulu! She showed saintly tolerance. How could I have been so blind to the imposition I was putting her under? Or was it a sort of passive-aggressive revenge?

[3] Carrie Arnold, 2013, Decoding Anorexia, Hove: Routledge, p65

[4] ibid

[5] What on earth is the point of crabbing? Has any human activity been more perfectly designed to foster a sense of despair?

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