282. doldrums

Standard

The period in the weeks and months after school lets out have been some of the most listless recently. I am doing a practicum internship this summer, but that’s not the same as class.

As one who depends on adrenaline energy to get through the day, lacking the power of structure and urgency to propel me takes the proverbial wind out of my sails. One day is much like another.

I have one more semester and then this is real life, albeit with a master’s degree.

Thankfully I have the nonsense with the American government to distract me.


Recently I’ve been doing some more formal reading on AD/HD to get a better handle on this condition and how I can prevent it from wreaking any further havoc on my life.

  • Barkley, Russell A., and Christine M. Benton. Taking charge of adult ADHD. New York: Guilford Press, 2010.
  • Sarkis, Stephanie Moulton. Adult ADD: a guide for the newly diagnosed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2011.

As Vivian observes in Wit, “My only defense is the acquisition of vocabulary.

As I observed in a previous post, one theory about the cause of AD/HD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is that it is due in part to a dopamine disorder, the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate emotional responses and take action to achieve specific goals, along with feelings of reward and pleasure.

It’s thought that AD/HD may be a deficiency of dopamine receptors, meaning that although dopamine is produced at normal levels in the brain, there aren’t enough receptors to process that neurotransmitter.

There may also be higher concentrations of proteins called dopamine transporters in the brains of AD/HD people, meaning that for these individuals dopamine is prevented by that protein from moving from one cell to the next.

This helps outline three of the most prominent hallmarks of this condition in my life: namely, an inability to regulate my emotions, an inability to follow through on my goals (despite all my best intentions), and experiencing a hollowness when it comes to rewards and pleasure.

Even when I do manage to achieve a goal, or manage to do something impressive, I can’t enjoy it.

At the conclusion of my senior composition recital in college, I recall standing in front of my applauding peers and teachers just after the final notes of the last piece, and feeling as if all of it were an afterthought. I’d already moved on to the next thing, but I had to act as if I was enjoying the moment. It was awful.

I always thought this was because my parents consistently downplayed my successes lest pride go to my heart, instead attributing my efforts to Jesus’ work.

Maybe it’s simply a lack of dopamine in my brain.

Dr. Russell Barkley calls AD/HD a “blindness to the future” or “intention deficit disorder” rather than an “attention disorder.”

It’s a “nearsightedness to time.”


As I alluded to several posts ago, like most AD/HD folks, I have an easy time starting projects, but a much harder time finishing them. I have eight promising bars of different pieces of music, but quickly lost interest once I’d begun.

My computer is full of writing projects that I started but forgot about or got bored with.

Even this blog has several dozen drafts of posts I began but never finished.

Any kind of long-term planning or habit formation is dependent on the successful function dopamine in the brain.¹ For those of us with AD/HD, that dopamine dysfunction makes it incredibly difficult to follow through with long-term projects because we don’t experience any of those chemical rewards that NT² brains do as soon as we’ve begun or meet benchmarks.

For me, AD/HD is characterized by the tyranny of the “now” and the “new.” Things are interesting or important so long as they are right in front of my face, or immediately looming on the temporal horizon. Otherwise, they are a problem for the me of the future.

And the frustrating thing is that I recognize that this is a problem. I have so much field data about how I’ve fucked up by waiting until the last minute to start projects, missed deadlines, and lost out on opportunities because they just weren’t urgent enough.

Even worse, my behavior is mystifying and frustrating to those close to me. You’re very intelligent, they say, so why can you just work hard to apply yourself?

Great question. Let me get back to you on that.³


The personal ramification of AD/HD for me is that it makes long-term relationships very difficult to manage.

Like with projects, unless I see people every day, I’m going to forget about them, no matter how good of friends we are. My brain has trouble processing anything outside of the “now.”

Plus, I often test friends’ patience with my impulsiveness and short temper. A deficiency of dopamine, along with a practically inactive anterior cingulate cortex, means that before I’ve had a chance to think about the consequences of my blowing up, I’ve already done it and am horrified and perplexed by my behavior.

What this means for my dating life is that… well, nothing good.

To begin, all of the above can prove deterrents for potential boyfriends. Most gay men are actually pretty averse to crazy, and mine has a way of manifesting itself on its own.

A lack of emotional regulation means that, although I rarely feel attracted to a guy, when I do, holy shit.

My crushes are very intense.

If I’d been out in high school, I probably would’ve learned coping techniques to avoid verbally vomiting on guys I like as often, or to avoid my anxiety turning me into a veritable tweak-fest of awkwardness around someone.

It’s also very difficult for me to retain romantic or sexual feelings for most guys beyond an initial encounter. Without the dopamine rush of reward in a sexual experience, romantic feelings are tough to sustain.

I worry that AD/HD has ruined my chances at finding a decent guy.


References/Footnotes:

¹ Georgia Health Sciences University. “Habit formation is enabled by gateway to brain cells.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221140448.htm (accessed July 4, 2017).
² NT = Neurotypical.
³ Though I have every intention of actually getting back to you about this in the moment, in actuality I’ll have forgotten that we even had this conversation within two minutes, meaning that I won’t get back to you and you’ll think I’m a complete flake.

281. maffick

Standard

Friday evening I had a pretty positive experience in my summer practicum class, and I have been trying to hold on to the feeling that went along with it.

We recently had an assignment to put together a mock resume and cover letter for our target jobs. I had an anxiety attack reading job requirements for entry-level cataloging jobs, realizing how much I still don’t know and how much is expected of candidates.

What I ended up taking away from Friday though was feedback that my resume and cover letter was actually pretty strong, that I know more than I think I do, and most everyone is worried that they’re unqualified for the job they really want.

It’s one of the downsides of ADD and anxiety that my brain tells me that I’m not good enough, that I’m far too behind and will never find a salaried job or able to support myself, and that no one will ever love me—or be willing to accept my crazy.

One comforting thing about the ADD community is that these kinds of feelings are almost universal, so it’s not just me.


Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how to manage my dating life as a demisexual, because dating doesn’t work the same for us as it does for everyone else.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about attraction.

There are several different kinds of attraction¹:

  • Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).
  • Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.
  • Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.
  • Sensual attraction: desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.
  • Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

What I have observed is that (at least in most people) most of these attractions overlap. They might overlap in different ways, and some attractions might be more dominant than others, but they seem to work in consort towards bringing people together.

For me, it’s rare for any of these to overlap. I might experience aesthetic attraction for a guy, but not have sexual or romantic desire for him. Similarly, I might be emotionally attracted to someone, but not aesthetically or romantically.

In short, sexual attraction is basically the last stop for my brain, which takes the long way around through every other type.

It’s rare to meet a guy who either understands this or is on the same wavelength. I’ve never met anyone like that, at least. Most gay men seem to run on aesthetic and sexual attraction, with little thought to romantic or emotional.

This is ironic for me, with my ADD brain, since impulsivity is a hallmark of the condition. Maybe it’s that sexuality is based in a different area of the brain, or that my sexual desire is bogged down by anxiety.


This is relevant because my previous sexual history back when I was much more active needs to be explained.

What I think was going on in those days was that I was applying a “fake it ’til you make it” mindset, working under the assumption that I needed to overcome internalized homophobia by having as much sex as possible.

What I learned was that I just wasn’t into the sex. A handful of the guys I found attractive, some I was sexually attracted to, but at no point did I encounter anyone I wanted to date.

A friend of mine pointed out later that some of that was probably where I was finding these guys—hookup apps, mostly.

Even outside that though, in social circles, work, and volunteer settings, I still never met anyone. Statistically, that should have happened, right?

Or were all my chances in my early twenties, when I was closeted?

Where does one meet a guy who’s fine with dating a guy who takes longer than others to connect? I don’t belong in the queer community, am unlikely to find a guy amongst the heterosexuals, and I’m too principled to change myself just to snag someone.

It seems a problem without a solution.


I skipped Minneapolis Pride again this year, mainly because I don’t need additional reasons to feel bad about myself.

It’s not a place where I fit in. I’ve never been much of a reveler, and my body image issues prevent me from wearing anything short of long pants and a short sleeve shirt.

Also, I don’t belong to any kink/fetish communities and my identity isn’t sexuality or gender nonconformity-based, which seems to be a big thing at Pride. Cataloging and role-playing games are more compelling, and I haven’t found any guys in those realms.

Maybe it’s just the community I find myself in now, but it seems like almost everyone I know is into leather, bondage, drag, pop culture, etc. A relationship founded on shared core values and a deep emotional bond feels almost outdated for my age group.

The curse of being an introverted gay man on the asexual spectrum.


So what am I doing about this?

To start, I’m trying to be aware of when I’m attracted to someone, and what type, trying to think of them all like indicator levels. With this hypothetical guy, the overall rating is 43%:

Whereas with this guy, it’d be 78%:

Second, I’m trying to do better at boundary setting. This can be difficult for ADD brains, thanks to under-performing anterior cingulate cortexes, which regulate things like impulse control.

So I’m trying to be aware when my anxiety activates and resist the impulse to fall back on mirroring the other person’s behavior, which is how I find myself in unhealthy situations.

Having to write a manual for this from scratch is SO MUCH FUN.

278. esoterica

Standard

There hasn’t been much time to write recently, nor is there much time to write today, so this is going to be a bit scattered. We’ll see where this goes.

Eighteen days ago was the four-year anniversary of my breakup with Jay, the narcissist ex-boyfriend who nevertheless turned out to be—as I rightly feared—my likely last chance at a relationship before I turned 30.

I was hoping for some spark of insight about lessons learned about life choices, but instead I found little more than regret at having stayed with him for nine whole months.

Besides, there isn’t that much of my mind free to reflect on things like that these days.



One of the insights that I did have after things ended with my last therapist is that one of the reasons I feel so ambivalent about my parents is that there was a time when I was very young when I was happy with them.

This was before I was self-aware and able to internalize the bullshit theology that they were feeding me.

The world was simpler, brighter, happier, and there’s a part of my mind that still remembers what it felt like. A gulf of time and trauma now stands between me and that previous proto-self, and there is no way to get back.

You can’t go home.

I suppose that’s one of the things I most hate my parents for—robbing me of my childhood (and my future adult happiness) by teaching me to hate myself.

They also robbed me of the ability to truly enjoy things since I constantly view things that I like with suspicion or skepticism. There was always a fear growing up that one or both of my parents would disapprove of something I enjoyed or liked, for whatever reason, and would take that thing away.


I’ve also been thinking about my emerging asexual/demisexual identity as of late, where it came from, and whether I’ve always just been this way.

The present hypothesis is that, yes, I have always been this way. My hypothesis acknowledges that the relevant events happened between twelve and fifteen years ago, and that memory is an imperfect reconstruction of past events.

There’s also the reality that my sexuality formed under hostile, repressive circumstances, so it’s possible that my resultant sexual identity is a product of emotional trauma and abuse, isolation, and cult-like psychological programming.

That being said, while I definitely experienced the Saturn V rocket-like explosion of male sex drive during my teenage years, I do not recall ever being sexually attracted to specific guys. I had crushes, yes, to varying levels of intensity, but I don’t remember wanting to do anything sexual with any male peers.

Was that because I was unconsciously suppressing those desires on account of the then-impossibility of realizing them? Perhaps. I was intelligent enough then to have done that. Yet while my peers (even the Christian ones) seemed preoccupied by their sexual impulses (and, naturally, the struggle to resist and remain “pure”), I was more aware of the absence of such impulses in myself.

Piano, writing, research, or literally anything else held more interest for me than sex.

For my male friends especially, the struggle to tame their sexual needs and desires seemed ever-present, something that created a mountain of anxiety for them. I, on the other hand, struggled with just the reality of being same-sex attracted rather than any specific desires.

Being gay was largely an abstract concept for me.

What I experienced in terms of desire for other men wasn’t even necessarily sexual. Even today, I don’t have sexual fantasies about guys. What I do have are emotional fantasies—imagining going on vacations with a partner, buying our first house together, brushing our teeth, curling up on the couch together under a blanket while rain patters on the window.

It’s more the desire for intimacy than it is for sex.

That’s the homoromantic aspect of my orientation.


However, I’ve also been thinking back over my experiences as a sexually active gay man, because over the course of just a few years, I did have a lot of sex. I’ve been thinking about what that meant, especially considering how emotionally unfulfilling and empty it was.

To use a metaphor, I felt a lot like Dharma and Jane when they pretended to be German tourists and were confronted by an actual German speaker.

When I was sexually active, I largely went through the motions, doing what I grew up doing in most social situations—mirroring behavior, and generally faking emotions without understanding what was going on.

Fahrvergnügen?

At the time, I thought I was “discovering” my sexuality after years of repression. The discomfort I felt was internalized homophobia, I thought. Yet no matter how many guys I fucked, I didn’t feel any less confused or empty.

If anything, I actually felt resentful.


No automatic alt text available.

Wolf, Tikva. “Kimchi Cuddles.” Comic strip. 2014. http://kimchicuddles.com.

Reactions to my demi or asexuality have been interesting. There’s been a lot of Oh, I’ve felt that way before. I must be demisexual too.

Or: Are you sure I can’t convince you to give me a try?

Or: Your view of sex is just too traditional.

The notion of the absence of sexual attraction is apparently stymieing to many people. It’s the air they breathe, familiar and comfortable. Gay men especially seem to have a difficult time imagining life without being aroused by any hot or cute guy.

That’s one of my worries about dating again—finding a guy who:

  1. I manage to establish an emotional connection with that’s strong enough to move into sexual attraction;
  2. I find physically attractive;
  3. Is fine with not rushing into sex, and even waiting for me to determine if I’m attracted or not;
  4. Isn’t scared off by my crazy.

So yeah… I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Ultimately, my goal is to build a family of my own to make up for the one I didn’t have, but that doesn’t seem likely.

188. formidable

Standard

BeardsAuthor’s note: personal disclosures ahead that might make you feel slightly uncomfortable. You’ve been warned.

Boys are an odd bunch, especially once adolescence arrives and puberty starts wreaking havoc on their bodies. Comedian Eddie Izzard remarks in one of his shows, “… you think, God, I want to get off with some of these people, I’d better look my best. And then Mother Nature says, No, you will look the worst you’ve ever looked in your life!

This is especially true for boys, many of whom are rather gangly to begin with. But then the violent chaotic upheaval starts to resolve itself. There’s a lot of idealization of the male body that goes on amongst young men (of any sexual orientation) as they attempt to wrap their minds around what’s going on physically, particularly around muscular development. This has been true throughout human history for the guys with more muscular physiques. Women (and gay men) want them; other men want to be them.

There’s also a bizarre kind of fetishization that’s been present with men concerning facial and body hair since, well, forever. Allan Peterkin’s book One Thousand Beards: a cultural history of facial hair explores the historical record of attitudes and trends in facial hair throughout history, all the way back to depictions in cave paintings of men shaving.

My own relationship to facial and body hair growing up was rocky. I didn’t like my body very much as a teenager, which I suppose isn’t uncommon, though it seems most guys come to own their physiques at some point. They seem to exhibit a lack of shame when it comes to showing off what nature has bequeathed them, shucking shirts and pants without a second thought, either not caring who looks or basking in the attention they receive.

I was not crazy about getting hairier once puberty hit. For years I was painfully, neurotically self-conscious about this, always wearing jeans and long pants, and certainly never appearing without a shirt. Some of it had to do with not wanting to look like my dad, who is fairly hirsute himself. (Thanks, dad.) Some of it likely had to do with the anxiety from not reconciling to the fact that I was madly attracted to the developing (and increasingly sexy) teenage bodies of my male peers. For some reason I found (and still find) guys’ leg hair incredibly sexy.

Throughout high school and college I kept both my face and chest clean-shaven, which meant that I spent a lot of time doing what I later learned was called manscaping. That probably had to do with the kind of porn I was watching at the time and finding smooth guys most attractive.

It wasn’t until later in college that I began to accept my body hair, and that it might actually be an attractive feature. (Of course, I still wasn’t thinking in terms of other guys finding it sexy yet.) My first semester in college I learned about “no-shave November,” which provided an avenue of competition for the guys and a reason to complain for their girlfriends.

Several trumpet player friends of mine in college were obsessed with beards, facial hair, and in general all things manly. As far as I know, all of them were straight, but this helped move me more in favor of my own body hair. I even had a beard for most of college. There were frequent exclamations of: “Check out that guy’s beard!” or “Look at that his chops [sideburns]!”

Once I started having sex and discovered that guys found my being an otter both sexy and desirable, the more I liked how I looked that way. My first boyfriend enjoyed it when I didn’t shave my chest and encouraged me to let it grow. He was the one who introduced the term “otter” (gay slang for a skinnier, hairier guy) to me. My last boyfriend also liked that look on me, but frankly, longer that hair gets the itchier it becomes so I usually keep it neatly trimmed.

Again, boys are weird.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concert in Minneapolis. They were playing Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4, Mozart’s Serenade No. 7, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. All in all, it wasn’t a remarkable performance, which one reviewer described as “lacking in passion” and urgency. I’d agree with that assessment.

It’s sad to say that probably the most satisfying part of the concert for me was watching one particularly handsome violist who I noticed almost immediately, partly because he was sitting next to the harpsichord during the Bach piece. (I’ll always be a keyboard nerd, no matter where the rest of my musical life goes.) I’m not sure what his name is since he was an auxiliary player, and the program didn’t specify which auxiliary violists were playing that afternoon. But he was very pretty to look at.

I’m not exactly sure what qualities made him so attractive. (My friend who was attending the concert with me also pointed him out.) It was hard to tell, but he looked to be on the shorter side, of slim build, slightly swarthy, and square-jawed. It certainly looked like he had some stubble on his face, which on the right guy is very irresistibly, devil-may-care sexy.

It’s hard to say what is attractive in another person. Some people have a “type” that they go for, or a list of qualities that they either want or can’t stand. While there are characteristics that tend to make a guy stand out more (it’s an evolutionary strategy for sorting out potential mates), for me it has more to do with their overall physical and mental attractiveness. A guy could be smoking hot but isn’t intellectually curious or interested in the arts. Conversely, he could have a great personality but I’m just not physically attracted to him…

I guess all I’m saying is that this whole business of finding a boyfriend/partner is a mess.