To say that my childhood had an interesting variety of bullshit would be an understatement. On the one side, I got to spend the majority of my childhood in various hospitals for both myself and my brother. Being there for myself was better. When I was there for my brother, I got to face the potential that we were there because he would die. I learned from a young age to sit still, be quiet and wait for the storm to pass. Having learned to sit still is a bit of an irony…
From a young age I seemed to find myself unable to sit still for extended periods of time, my mind would drift away from the matter at hand and I was always living life with my head in the clouds and preferred not to pay attention to the realities of life. This made sense when you factored in my health complications and my brothers. A world of make-believe was obviously better than dealing with the multiple comas I suffered through due to Diabetes or the constant threat of death my brother faced due to the multiple health conditions he faced.
But soon after my seventh birthday, I attended a doctor’s appointment that changed my life. I thought I was getting a check-up because of my Diabetes, which I had learned to zone out and let the adults talk. Turns out that was part of the problem; this appointment was the day I was diagnosed with ADD. ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder, is usually diagnosed when a child’s school work begins to suffer as a result of lack of attention, impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity. That last one never really applied to me but I found myself frequently unable to sit still for longer than a few seconds at a time (a problem I still face as an adult).
Being the stubborn French-Acadian woman that she is, my mother refused to allow the doctor to prescribe any mood-altering medications often associated with ADD by virtu of the fact she had to watch my older brother shovel a dozen different prescriptions down his throat every day. She felt the risk of how new meds would affect my blood sugars far outweighed the benefit of “calming me down.” I’m grateful to her for that, but it still made for a difficult childhood and even my teens years. It would get WORSE once I hit my teens…
Worse, you say? How could it possibly get worse? Well, my attention issues became compounded by certain compulsive behaviours. On their own, one wouldn’t think much of them. As a combined totality, I was soon diagnosed with OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour. Contrary to what most people believe, OCD doesn’t just involve a compulsive need to clean things. It can involve annoying and intrusive obsessions, repetitive behaviours and strict routines that can cause wicked anxiety if they aren’t adhered to.
One good example is my inability to purchase only ONE of something, when the special indicates that you can get two for the price of something. The urge is stronger than I can overcome. I do have some cleaning and neatness compulsions that piggy-back on my many ticks and compulsions. That doesn’t make it better. I’m jus’ sayin’… Even though OCD isn’t genetically inherent, it’s a good time to point out that my mother has full-blown signs of OCD, cleaning and neatness compulsions. My grandmother was so bad that she’d walk by sliding on two squares of paper towel for a full week after cleaning her floor.
Then I decided I need to do my part for the world and train to protect others. As a result, I spent thirteen years working as a police officer. The population as a whole have a love/hate relationship with the police. Some see them as an important part of keeping our society safe. Others see them as part of the problem. No matter which side of the balance you happen to find yourself, I shouldn’t need to explain that we’re often subjected to situations that can cause severe damage to a person’s psych. that’s where the next acronym comes in: PTSD.
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is defined differently depending on the source you read. For the most part, it involves having a person exposed to traumatic events, sustained violence or threats of injury or death. Although a bit biased, I would say that policing puts one in this context, easily. I won’t get into some of the situations I’ve lived through during my policing career, as reminding myself of them is problematic. But some of the things I’ve seen and experienced haunt me years later, cause nightmares and trigger me at the worse possible times. Like the way being in a crowded restaurant sets my brain on fire. But I digress…
Over the years, I’ve been “blessed” with having all these acronyms attached to who I am as a person. They’ve provided significant challenge and combining the three has made a fantastic milkshake of difficulty and complications that I struggle with from week to week. It makes it difficult to sleep, difficult to deal with large public masses of people and exceptionally difficult to want to do anything outside the house (with some exceptions).
Before I get too maudlin here and spoil the mood (if I haven’t already), the reason I bring all of these up is that the last ten years or so have seen some fantastic strides in recognizing these conditions as something genuine and not just “all in one’s head.” ADHD, OCD and PTSD have come to be acknowledged as actual conditions and not just something that one needs to treat by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Despite these strides, there’s still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding associated with these acronyms. It makes one’s life difficult, in work, leisure and home life. How it’s perceived by public carries a lot of weight to how society chooses to understand these conditions. Food for thought and more to come… ☯