Diagnosis II: Eeyore gets groceries

I came away from my day of testing last month with mixed messages.  Yesterday’s results session offered absolute clarity.  Any doubts I had about testing went away yesterday when the doctor went over the report with me.  No one has ever described my interior life so accurately.  It is shocking to feel so deeply understood by someone who I’ve only spent a few hours with.

She began the report by saying how insightful the cognitive testing is, and how grateful she was to have such a tool.  She told me when I went in for my first interview, that she had me pegged for ADHD, that I hit all the criteria.  Then, when she began to go over the results of the testing, at first things seemed unclear, until they took a look at the whole picture.

She started with the measures of IQ.  On the verbal measures I tested at 98th percentile (“so, you’re in the right career,” she said).  Reasoning tested at 95th percentile. Damn, not quite Mensa, I thought,  but still, yay for me.

Then she started to go through the scores that measured things like visual and auditory processing and executive function.  It seems on a lot of measures I tested at average or just below average.  For example, on the test where I had to click when the computer said or flashed 1 but not 2, I had good accuracy, but surprisingly slow reaction time.  Below average for the visual, in fact.

They were astonished that I worked so slowly on the connect-the-dots test (called the “Trail Making Test”), and that I even made mistakes, practically unheard of for people in my IQ and advanced degree range.  The report says:

It is quite striking that Mr. Taylor struggled so much on the Trail Making Test.  Not only was his speed significantly slower than expected for his age and intellectual ability, but he actually made errors, which is very atypical for someone of his intellectual level and educational background.

Throughout the meeting the doctor marked where my tests fell on the bell curve of averages for my age and the split was striking.  IQ at the top; everything else middle or below.

They were also confused on my divided memory test: I had to remember three letters while counting backwards by threes.  I did okay on the short duration, lousy on the medium duration, but better on the long duration.  I told her that I had figured out on the long duration just to make a word out of the three letters.  I could remember one word, but not three letters.  She said that’s the intellect at work, constantly compensating for deficiencies in memory and processing.  There was a note on my evaluation that my performance often improved once I “settled in” to a task.

Something else I found really interesting was that my own perception of how I did on many of the tests was way off.  On the “1 and 2” test, I thought I was clicking really fast, especially when responding to the visual cues. But my response time was low, especially on the visuals.   On some of the language stuff, though, I thought I was struggling, but I scored really high.  I thought I did really well on the tower test, but again, only average for my age.  And I had no clue that I did so poorly on the Trail Making Test.

One thing we discussed about these problems in my life was grocery shopping.  My wife’s in charge of the food, so sometimes I go to the store with a list of things to get.  If there’s more than three things, I need a list because I can’t remember four things.  However, if I have a long list, I have to triple check the list.  I get things from the list, check the list frequently to remind myself what I have done and what I have left to get.  At the end of the trip, I have to stand in the store and check the entire list one more time to make sure I got everything.  If I don’t, what happens is that I’ll have thought something like “I’m in frozen foods now, but I should get the ice cream on my way out so it doesn’t melt.”  At the end of the trip, that somehow has translated in my memory to “I got the ice cream.”  I’ll get home and can’t believe I don’t have ice cream.  So I have to check the items one by one right before I check out to make sure I actually got them.  Add to that my slow visual processing, and I have to be extra careful that I don’t get something “diet” or “lite” (’cause we eat real food in our house).

This all adds up to far more mental effort than it should take, and my wife worries about me because I’m gone ninety minutes to pick up ten things and we live two miles from Meijer.

So certain tasks, which should be easy for me end up being mentally taxing.  Because they are simple tasks, they are also frustrating because I keep making mistakes, or my mind moves faster than my perceptions or my execution or there are gaps in my memory.  (In fact, in my technical communication class today I could not for the life of me remember the name of our textbook.  A student said “um, Technical Communication.”)

When I teach an online class, there are a lot of things to keep track of and a lot of settings to manage on the web site.  When I get a new week’s materials ready, there might be twenty or thirty tasks to get the materials ready to go.  I can think of all the tasks rapid fire, but I can’t hold more than a handful in memory.  I try to work fast to keep up with my brain, but I end up making a lot of mistakes unless I am slow and deliberate.  What happens, then, is a lot of mistakes or a lot of procrastination because the task seems overwhelming.

I’ve learned to keep a legal pad next to the computer so I can write down the list of tasks that comes zooming out of my brain as I’m thinking of them and before I forget them.  It’s like I’m writing down my working memory.  The list helps keep me from getting overwhelmed.  When I am in a bad way, the tasks keep circling noisily in my head like a flock of birds, and I resist even getting started, because choosing a task makes some of the others fly away.  So I read the news or watch funny videos on the computer instead.

The final diagnosis: ADHD with dysthymia (or “mild” depression, but with “severe symptoms”).  She suspected based on my case history that both have been there for a long time.  So long that I’ve treated them just as part of my personality rather than a problem.  The biggest problem is the drain of energy that the combination makes.  The ADHD makes a lot of tasks mentally taxing, frustrating, and discouraging.  Depression saps even more energy, and will make it difficult to sustain any effort that depends mostly on my own motivation (such as grading papers alone vs. at a conference with a student).  It makes it difficult to sustain the effort to make any long-term project work, or any time management or money management system.  I totally agreed.  I don’t know if when I fail at something like that if it’s a bad system for me, a bad system in general, or just my motivation working against me.  I didn’t finish my Ph.D., for example, because I could never make good progress on the dissertation.  I had a great topic, I found lots of research and read most of it, but spent hours and hours trying to decide on a note-taking system and stalling out and deciding on another system and stalling out again until I just gave up.

The best thing she said was that it is difficult to retain any optimism in this state: “It’s like you have to crank yourself up just to get to Eeyore level.”

*  *  *

The doctor made a bunch of recommendations, but its up to me to carry them out.  I just hired her, essentially, to do the evaluation.  The recommendations include seeing my doctor ASAP to get started on some meds, and a referral to a counselor and a computer-based training system called “Cogmed.”  All things I have trouble getting started on: making phone calls, seeing the doctor, checking with the insurance company to see what’s paid for.

Since the diagnosis, I’ve been through the gamut of emotions.  I felt greatly relieved and understood during the session.  In fact, I didn’t want it to end.  I wanted to stay and talk to the psychologist for hours.  On the way home I got tired and started to feel overwhelmed by the number of things I had to do that week and at the prospect of having to make phone calls to begin my treatment.  My wife had to go to a rehearsal out of town, so as I got the kids ready for bed, I had a good rumination session.  I would feel positive about the possibilities one minute (maybe I will be a novelist after all) and the next I was grieving for all the lost years spent doing half-assed and directionless work, or no work at all.

At one point I realized I shared something with my autistic son.  The school psychologist used the term “splinter skills” to describe his enigmatic abilities: advanced on some things, way behind on others.  The term has always stuck with me; the poet in me likes the alliterative esses and the two hard stops of the t and the k.  I’ve used the title for a collection of poems about about my son.  Turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the Eeyore.

Used white paper behind apple and above apple ...

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Eeyore being sad.

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Testing day. Holy PHQ.

Quoth the Ozzy:

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.

Seems like a too-obvious reference for a day spent having my brain tested at a psychological services center.  But the universe sent it to me.  First, in the form of the Honda Pilot commercial where the car full of people spontaneously erupts into an a cappella version  of  “Crazy Train.”  Second, as I pull into the parking lot, the Oz-man’s original song from the classic rock station on the radio.  Third, as I surf the internet in the parking lot (because I am forty minutes early and I can pick up free wifi) I get a Facebook message from a friend.  “You gotta see this” with a link to a YouTube video of the aforementioned Pilot people.

But I am not crazy.

(Neither is Mr. Osborne’s persona in this song.  Well, he’s driven “crazy” by all the insanity of people who have forgotten to love, but it’s “crazy” in the sense of “fed up,” not in the sense of “I’m going to eat bats now.”)

So I arrived back at the BRAINS place, and the receptionist says, “Oh, you’re here for testing” with wide eyes and a grin. Sheesh.

Crazy Train

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They’ve told me to plan on two or more hours of testing.  I don’t know much beyond that, for example if any of the tests involve electrodes on my scalp or ink blots.

I get downstairs early and they’re ready for me even though I’m early and it seems a little hectic.    It seems the original tester went home ill earlier in the day and I’ve got the backup.

My tester introduces herself (I immediately forget her name, as I always do) and leads me to a conference room with a polished wooden table and leather swivel chairs.  It looks like boardroom with a frosted glass wall.  She’s got papers and props at one end of the table and motions for me to sit to her right.  She is very formally dressed in mostly black, adding to the business aura in the room, but seems a little scattered, perhaps having just arrived or something, maybe from a benefit luncheon or a funeral.

She looks down at the paperwork and says, “Let’s see, so are you in school now?  Is that right?”

“Well, I’m a college professor, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh,” she says, with a confused look, going back to her papers.  She looks flummoxed by my answer.

“Okay, we’ll start with this.”  She gives me a pencil and a worksheet.  It’s connect the dots.  She acts embarrassed to ask me to do a basic task, as if I’m going to scoff, pull out my pipe and say Poppycock!  I’ll not do such trifling tasks.  Her awkwardness makes me even more nervous.

“It’s a timed test, so just draw a line between the numbered circles in order as fast as you can.”

She says go, and I do it quickly.

“That was . . . fast,” she says.

She gives me a harder one, and I actually mess it up.  I’m trying to do it as fast as possible and I connect the last two in the wrong order.  The test gets harder as I have to connect 1, a, 2, b, etc.

We get through that, and next she holds up a purple plastic sheet about the size of a file folder with a dozen holes in it.  She uses her pencil to poke through the holes in a pattern and I have to repeat the pattern with my finger.  I know that I’m doing fine through a pattern of four, but five starts to trip me up.  I peek through the holes to the sheet where she is writing down my errors.

We move on to repeating back patterns of numbers and letters, and then to an “executive function” test.  I have first a pattern of red, green, and blue squares and I have to say aloud the words to match the colors in the pattern as fast as possible.  The next sheet has the words “red,” “green,” and “blue,” with different ink (sometimes the word “red” is written red, blue, or green ink).  First I have to just say the word and ignore the color.  Then I have to say the color, not the word—much harder.  Finally, on the last sheet, some of the words have boxes around them.  I have to say the color, not the word for the boxed ones, and the rest of them say the word, not the color.  It is taxing, having someone there with a stopwatch, writing down all my business.

I’m getting mixed signals from her, though.  She’s praising my results but looking confused at the same time.

After a putting-pegs-in-holes test, we go to a computer in another room.  The first test is attention.

I sit and watch the monitor with headphones on.  The computer explains to me the test:  a “1” or a “2” flashes on the screen in random patterns and the computer voice says either “one” or “two,” also in random patterns, mixed in with the first.  I have to click the mouse when the computer says or flashes 1, but not on 2.  The computer keeps reminding me in a kindergarten teacher’s voice: “Go as fast as you can, but be careful.”

It’s a fifteen minute test, and I do feel my mind wandering.  I look at the brand of the monitor, it’s a name I’ve never seen before, and then I remember I’m supposed to be looking at the screen.  It was actually pretty tiring to concentrate for 15 minutes for the main test.

My tester comes back in and explains the next test.  I’m just answering a bunch of true or false questions.  Over two hundred, it turns out.  “Some of the questions are . . . outrageous,” she tells me, “but just follow along and answer them honestly.”  A lot of the questions are typical assessment questions “I find it easy to make friends at a party.”  Some of them were pretty odd, like “It would be easier if everyone in my family just listened to me all the time.”  Some of them were delusional, “I haven’t seen a car in ten years.”

But the questions keep coming back to substance abuse, like “There’s nothing wrong with using ‘so-called’ illegal drugs to get through a day.”  And “My family keeps bothering me about my alcohol use.”

I am neither an alcoholic nor a drug addict.  I go out once a week with a poetry group and have two drinks.  I have such terrible side effects from Benadryl, that I’m scared to try anything harder.  My couple of experiences with pot left me feeling paranoid and nauseous.  My drug addiction is coffee, with an occasional Excedrin popper to get me through an afternoon of work.  Which can also make me feel paranoid and nauseous.

But this test won’t stop nagging me.   Every third or fourth question comes back to alcohol and drugs.  I half expect a question like “I have ended my drug addiction.”

Anyway, we end computer time, and my tester comes back for me again.  She says, “I’ve been talking to the doctor, and because you’re so high functioning, we’re having trouble finding a test sensitive enough to show your problems. We’re going to keep trying, though.”  That explains a lot.  I feel like apologizing.

We go back to the table, with more tests.  I do a tower of Hanoi puzzle, which begins with a starting pattern and a card that shows me a goal pattern, and I have to do it as quick as I can with the fewest moves.  The first two are easy, but I get hung up on the third for a minute.  Then it clicks, and I breeze through the rest of them.  She says “well, you did that one in under ninety seconds, so you get three bonus points.”  The next one she says, “that’s the fewest number of moves possible, so you get four bonus points.”  I get excited.  But then I remember I have no idea what the points mean.  I got to the end of the test, though, which apparently was an accomplishment.

An animated solution of the Tower of Hanoi puz...

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At this point, I don’t know if it is good or bad to do well.  I start to have a nagging thought: what if I do so well on the tests that they say, “You don’t have ADHD like you thought.  You’re just a lazy bastard.”

We move on to a test I that I know I will have trouble with.  Finally, I think.  She tells me three letters and a number, like “A X G 78,” and I have to count backwards by threes from the number until she tells me to stop and then I have to repeat back the letters.  She called it a “divided memory” test.  It’s hard.

I do okay at first because the starting numbers are low and the counting time is short.  I do find my mind struggling.  I try to repeat the letters back to myself, but then I lose my spot on the numbers.

The  numbers get higher and the counting time gets longer. Once I trip over the numbers and concentrate on counting, the letters are gone, somewhere in outer space with my tester’s name and the combination to my high school locker.  After a while, I am saying random letters because I have no actual letters in memory.

Then I get a flash of insight.  The next prompt is “L R P 189.”  I make the letters into a word and say it mentally after each number.  I say “189” lerp “186” lerp “183” lerp, and so on, and then say confidently “L, R, P,” at the end.  I do it again, and then finally get to the last one: P H Q 147.  I try not to giggle as I say “147” phuq, “144” phuq, “141” phuq . . .

I finish the test, and am hardly listening to the instructions as I make jokes to myself.  I’m glad that PHuQing test is over.  Holy PHuQ that was hard.  Harder than a mother PHuQer, you PHuQing lerp.

I start paying attention again as she’s explaining the next test: say every word that starts with the letter she gives me.  No proper nouns, numbers, repeats, or different forms of the same word.

My face drains.  She didn’t say anything about obscenities.  Are they all right?  Is she going to write down the words I say, or just count the number of words?  Are they going to analyze the words I say to find the pattern?  If I start using sex words, will they think I’m a pervert?  Because, quite honestly, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Should I ask?  Or would that be part of the test?

I get nervous as she pulls out the stopwatch.  “Okay, two minutes with as many words as you can think of that start with–”

please not F, please not F, anything but F

“–the letter F.”

Are you effing kidding me?

“Um . . . floor . . . uh . . . fence”


“frog . . . um . . . fester . . .”

It is seriously hard not to say fuck.  And because I’m trying not to say that word, the other words arrive slowly. I mutter maybe a dozen F words, shaking my head and squinting the whole time.  Maybe she thought I was tired.

“We’re going to try another one,”

What, S this time?

“Ready?  All words starting with the letter S.”


I think that had to be planned.  There are two words we use in English to express displeasure, the S-word and the F-bomb.  Why not give me W or G or something like that?  There’s no W-word!  When’s the last time someone said “Oh, WASHBASIN!” after smashing his thumb with a hammer?  There’s a reason it’s called the F word, because it’s the only one that matters when you’re trying to get serious about cursing.

I did a drawing test, and a recognizing patterns test, and then the last test: vocabulary.  I breeze through that.  I have to give a concise definition to a word that she read to me from a sheet in front of me.  The words start with “apple” and get harder from there. C’mon, I teach English.  The next-to-last word was “plagiarize.”

I expected to have some discussion about test results at the end, but had only some chit-chat with the tester.  It turns out her husband is also an English professor, and she is an avid reader herself.  I did manage to steer the conversation back to my problems, particularly grading papers and memory and focus and such.  She said, “I believe if you’re having problems, that we can find you some techniques and accommodations and such, regardless of what the test shows.”  That didn’t give me much faith in the testing.

I hoped for some definitive answer, something like “yes, your pathways for executive function are inefficient.  You’re not just lazy.”  But I have to wait for the next appointment to discuss the results.

Three. More. Weeks.

Session One

I had my first meeting with the diagnostic team this week. The kids were in school so my wife and I drove the hour down to the BRAINS Foundation in Grand Rapids together. The office was in the building at the back of a professional park. The building had a craftsman style exterior, but a sort of wood-panel art deco interior. It felt expensive inside, confirmed by the rate sheet the receptionist handed me. Glad I have good insurance.

The thing about going to mental health facilities is you never know what kind of crazy is inside. In the few I’ve been to, I can’t help look around and say I wonder what’s wrong with these people? (Though I should probably look in the mirror first.) Indeed, my wife went to find the bathroom and a woman talked her ear off while they were waiting in line. We were directed to a narrow staircase and I kept flashing on the hospital scene from Jacob’s Ladder: going down, down, down. In a Kafkaesque moment, an institutional metal fire door opened to what felt like a hotel lobby with another waiting area. After a few minutes, my doctor found me in the waiting area and led me to her spacious office.

The doctor turned out to be the smart/warm/receptive type. She began to take a history. She asked me “What seems to be getting you caught up?” and I let fly. I’ve had lots of practice in the therapy game, so I did the stream-of-consciousness download for her. I was eager to talk, probably too eager, and at times started to give too-complicated answers.

She asked me if I had migranes or headaches, for example, and I said something like,

Well, yes and no. I used to. Sometimes I would get, I would call it the “perfect storm” headache, you know, a combination of neck strain and sinus pressure and yeah, I would have that can’t-stand-light kind of headache, but I haven’t been getting them since I started doing yoga, even though I don’t do that too regularly I do try to do yoga at least once a week (I take a class) and since then, yes I do get headaches, but not bad ones because yoga has fixed my neck strain, which was due to my bad posture because of the way my back is put together.

Probably something like “I used to, but not since I started yoga” would have sufficed. The doctor was kind, however, and let me talk. She asked good questions too, for example, about the difficulty I have managing finances and the pressure being, for the most part, the sole income earner for the family. She also asked about what sort of consequences I had experienced from having trouble with work in the past.

She asked me about medication, and I said, “Load me up!” I had taken antidepressants for several years to good effect. The problems that continue pale in comparison to the bad old days of a decade ago.

So what we set up was the possibility that I have ADD (she used the old term) and that in two weeks I would return for two and a half hours of testing, as she said, “to figure out what’s going on in the way your brain processes things that will help us decide if you do have ADD.” Two more weeks of waiting for my tests, and then another follow-up appointment to figure out where to go next.

Back in the car, my wife was happy to hear that the doctor thought the B-12 and krill oil supplements were a good idea (because they were her idea). I felt relieved that the appointment was over and that it went well and we went for a great lunch at a Chinese restaurant we used to go to when we lived down in GR. Awesome rangoons!

Later that night, after dinner, we were talking about the day again and my attention started to drift and some worry surfaced. My wife, used to the drill, asked, “what’s the matter?”

“I’m worried that I was supposed to pay the co-pay on the way out. I mean, no one said anything about it.” The doctor said I could set my final follow-up appointment on the way out, but I got a bad vibe from the upstairs desk and there was a line of people and I just wanted some air so we left.

“No, they always have to work out the insurance,” she said. I didn’t look relieved. “What are you worried about?”

I smiled at my foolishness. “I want to make a good impression. You know, be a good patient?”

She laughed. “You went to the looney bin today, and you’re worried about your manners?”

Top 10 Reasons I think I have ADHD

I’m preparing for my first contact with someone who will evaluate me for ADHD on Wednesday, so to focus my thoughts (squirrel!) . . .  I’ll post the reasons I think I have ADHD:

1. Consistently Inconsistent.  When it comes to email, paying bills, putting away dishes, teaching classes, exercising, playing the guitar, anything, I will be fabulously productive and competent one day and a total mess the next.  I’ll set up a brilliant class activity on Monday and then not do the photocopying on Tuesday and decide it’s a dumb idea anyway and ditch it.  I’ll answer all my email within an hour one week, and not answer any at all the next week.  On Friday, I’ll be sure I’m a Deep Image poet and by Monday I’ve decided to write a novel about Thomas Jefferson.  I can’t remember why I came to the grocery store, but I vividly remember why I missed the bus in 5th grade.  I’ll probably think this whole blog idea is stupid and will want to delete it in a month or so.

2. Failure to Follow Through.  I have a wonderfully remodeled kitchen that is 90% done.  It took me a year to get to 90%, and it’s been at 90% for three years.  I have a beautiful handmade wooden kayak that is 90% done, also not touched for three years.  I have an abandoned Ph.D. that is 75% done.  I have dozens of quality poems ready to submit to journals that sit here in a pile in my study.

3. Frustration, Frustration, Frustration.  Number 1 and 2 above create a constant feeling of not living up to my potential.  My symptoms sabotage my good work by not getting it done and out there.  My high school guidance counselor haunts me.  I’ve tried every organizational/self motivational system from GTD to Covey.  Doesn’t work.  Same old habits resurface after a month or a week or a day.

4. Where’s the Beef?  Send me to the grocery store for a beef roast and I’ll come home with 10 other things I thought of that we needed, but no roast.

The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Ten...

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5. A Rose By Any Name.  Names fly out of my head soon after they enter.  I’ve learned to tell students in my class that I care about them and they are important to me, but I cannot remember their names.  I’ll see a student 5 years after a class and remember what that student wrote about in class, but the name will escape me.

6.  Start Me Up.  The hardest part is getting started.  If I have email to answer, and there is the slightest bit of uncertainty or anxiety, getting started on it is like the reaching-into-the-insect-cave-to-pull-the-secret-lever scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  Gnaaaah!

7. Diablo II.  I wasted a good part of last year on this game.  Had to delete it and my account at Blizzard to get some semblance of mindfulness back. It was great fun for the first month, but I kept playing obsessively for weeks after it stopped being fun. Hyperfocus, anyone?

8. I Can See my Piles and Piles. ADHDer’s organize things by setting them in piles.  Next to my laptop on my desk are piles of bills to pay, a manuscript to edit, catalogs to read,  ideas for blog posts, and three coffee mugs.  The oldest thing is the manuscript which hasn’t been touched in a month.  In my garage are piles of wood, garage sale items from a year ago, and things I meant to throw out.  I leave a wake of cast off clothes, dishes, and papers wherever I travel.  (I’ve yet to find dirty socks in my office at the University, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.)

9.  I’m not Jonathan Taylor, but I play one on TV.  Big ol’ imposter complex.  Someone thinks I’m a good teacher, and I think “Well I sure fooled him!”

10. New car, caviar, four-star daydream.  I’m bad at managing money.  Can’t follow through, can’t or won’t pay bills on time.  Huge student loan balances at 40 years old.  The only thing that disappears faster than names is my pocket money.

11. What was I saying? I have terrible working memory.  I’ll have an idea, or something I need to remember, and if anything else gets in the way of immediately acting on it, the idea will be buried or gone.  I’ve found research (about PowerPoints) that says that people can remember three to seven things in the short term.  I can remember three things at the grocery store without a list,  but not four.  And the three items stay in mind with intense mental effort.  I feel like I am an intelligent and insightful person, and yet certain things require much more mental energy of me than the average person, like facing an inbox full of email to process.

The Appointment

It took me awhile to get my forthcoming appointment for an evaluation.  I decided last spring to seek evaluation.  It took me a month to work up courage to call someone.   I called a mental health agency in town, the only one that mentioned ADHD on its web site, and a nice secretary took my information and said the good doctor was on vacation and would get back to me on Monday.  Four weeks later, still no call.

That’s something I would do, not return a phone call, but I was too miffed to give the guy another chance.  Three more weeks went by (and, hey, I was doing well anyway, so what’s hurry?) and I finally called a new place in Grand Rapids, where there were more choices.  The name of the place is the BRAINS Foundation, which is some sort of acronym.

I screwed up my courage to call again, and a lovely recorded voice said “Thank you for calling BRAINS.” I couldn’t help but think about zombies.

Another nice secretary took my information and told me it would be six weeks to get an appointment. The appointment fell when I would be on vacation. We were going just a few miles from home, though, so I took it.

Five and three quarters weeks later, life intruded again.  We started laundry for vacation, and the sewer line clogged.  Not a big deal; it often does, and I fixed it with a blow bag, which attaches to a garden hose, and which I run from the laundry sink.  I cleared the line and took my son out for a haircut.  I got a frantic call from my wife: “Where’s the water shut off valve!?”  Running the blow bag had stressed a kinked faucet lead in the half bath, and water was spraying out of it everywhere.  The main water shut off was broken too.

I wrapped up the haircut and raced home.  By the time the water was off, about twenty minutes had passed.  A surprising amount of water can flow into one’s basement in twenty minutes.  So I cleaned water and packed contractor bags full of stuff that I had meant to throw out or sell at garage sales anyway, arranged for a plumber, and cleaned the basement the rest of the day.  The next day, a Sunday, we packed for vacation, when my wife said she felt she was getting a bladder infection and headed to the walk-in clinic.  The doctor asked if she had experienced any stress lately.

Laura got her prescriptions and started the antibiotics and we continued to pack.  Three hours later, we were in the ER.  She had gotten dizzy and experienced severe neck pain, so, concerned about allergic reaction and/or meningitis, we spent most of the night in the ER getting her some IV antibiotics and fluids.

We went on vacation anyway because we were already packed, but I rescheduled my appointment.  Guess what? Another six week wait.

I am eager to get this evaluation started, but apprehensive as the date draws nearer.  I remember my first meeting with a psychologist back in 2001, just over ten years ago, my first step on this journey to wherever.  I called the APA to get a referral and ended up with an appointment with a local psychologist.  I sat in that waiting room, hyperaware.  Why are they playing this music? I thought, listening to what I was sure was a musak version of “Killing Me Softly.”  Why are these magazines here; what’s the message behind Outside next to Family Circle?  Why did they install fluorescent lights if they’re not going to turn them on?  What’s with this low-rent couch? What’s wrong with that guy sitting in the corner?  My doctor came and introduced herself, and led me down a hallway of doors to her couch under a print of “Christina’s World.”  I sat and took in her office. Books everywhere, muted colors, not messy but not overly organized, a pile of toys next to the couch, well-placed boxes of tissues throughout.  She started the process, and the next appointment took a history, writing furiously on a legal pad as I free associated about my background.  She would stop writing and listen to me more intently and then write even faster every time I mentioned my mother.

We started talk therapy the next week.  The sessions were not highly structured, just free-form conversation that would start with “How are things?”  Our five-year conversation led me out of the depths, but ultimately stalled out.  If I do have ADHD (I don’t think there’s much doubt at this point, but I’m not officially diagnosed yet) then the experience with the psychologist treated the symptoms, not the cause.  I tapered myself off the anti-depressants a couple of years back, and now take vitamins instead.  And changed my diet.  And started yoga. And learned how to work my job.

But root problems still exist (procrastination, clutter, couch potato personality) and I don’t think they are neuroses.   The Appointment? Seventeen days and counting.