Learning How to Fish


In his song I’m a Hustla Fiddy famously said,

I’m the type to swallow my blood ‘fore I swallow my pride.

Three things initially came to mind when I first heard this particular song and the lyrics it contained:

  1. Damn this new Fiddy track is bangin’ son, FO REALS!
  2. Holy fuck why in the hell would 50 Cent drink his own blood? I mean I know he came from the streets where things are tough, but I’m pretty sure after he earned the means he bought stock in Vitamin Water and became quite wealthy, so why doesn’t he just drink that instead? Frankly, I think that’s just fucking weird. But if that’s not the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is. I’m sure there’s a joke somewhere in that last sentence on Fiddy’s blackness and my raised level of whiteness, but I’m choosing the high road….which is a road out in Westminster, near my house where black folks like to get high.
  3. Hmmmmm….this angry rapper just described me in a nutshell. Totally summed me up in one sentence…he put me together so to speak. I had no clue 50 Cent had a PhD in Psychology.

Dr. Cent’s diagnosis led me to start pondering the reasons I’ve felt this way during the majority of my life. Now if any of you reading this are familiar with my writing here on the Octopus Hamstring, first, thank you for making yourself familiar with it. I’m humbled that you would read my babbling at all. In a rare, non-cynical moment on this website, thank you. Seriously. For a time, this little nest that Tyler and I built was the only sanctuary I had where I felt that I could truly be myself  (whether that was actually the case, is up for debate I suppose)*.

*Please disregard posts where I have clearly been rubbing bullshit all over my articles like Texas BBQ sauce to pacify my anxiety, using this space to stroke my already massive ego. In the words of Cursive’s Tim Kasher on their song The Recluse, “My ego’s like my stomach/I keep shitting what I feed it.” Please also disregard the fact that I continue to write under the pen name, Mike Apathy. Other than that, what you read is what you get…..I think…..upon further self-exploration I may just scrap this whole fucking thing because it’s entirely possible that during my next bout of self-doubt/analysis I’ll discover I’m actually a middle-aged Mexican gentleman named Choncho or something. Fuck it.

Being obsessed with things like pride and exacting swift retaliation against anyone who is  perceived to have slighted you sucks worse than 50 Cent’s shitty sing-rapping. This brings me to my next question (how’s that for a transition, WOOT!) Did you guys know I have ADD? Betcha couldn’t have guessed.  The thing is, or at least my impression, is that for the most part folks see this disease a few different ways. Many seem to believe it’s a fake affliction that the Big Pharma Cartels came up with in a pitch meeting to sell pills and increase profits. I’m sure you’ve also heard this one, “Well we didn’t have it back in my day, so blah blah blah I’m old and I might have just pissed myself goddamnit! DORIS I PISSED MYSELF AGAIN!!!” I also recognize that there is a very large section of the population that DOES view it as a legit condition. It is flat-out bitchin that this kind of validation exists for people like myself, but the fucked up thing about it is that the believers see it as something practically everyone has, or knows someone who has it, and that it’s super treatable…which in most of the cases I’m going to assume is true. But what happens to the kids who get born into family situations where the attitudes mirror my first two examples? What about any of the many others I’ve heard over the years that people use to dismiss its legitimacy, and by doing so completely invalidate the struggle that we go through?

The general consensus is that kids/adults with ADD and ADHD can’t sit still, run around a lot, fuck shit up and have a hard time focusing on school and work respectively, etc. In many cases, that’s pretty spot on. What people don’t recognize is that ADD has many symptoms for different types of people, and that the medications available can affect people in different, and sometimes unpredictable ways. The bottom line is this: If you got a mild case, you’re prolly gonna take a pill in the AM, maybe another in the early afternoon and things become manageable. If you got a more moderate-to-severe case it can get kinda weird on you if not caught early.

My ADD makes me think in different personalities. I’m not talking auditory and visual hallucinations like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind though, to be clear. It’s more like my head is a really crowded room with more people in it than is comfortable. They’re all very opinionated and they like to share said opinions all at the same time when something needs calculating. It’s not enough to make you lose your shit, but bad enough to keep you anxious at pretty much all times. It’s feels claustrophobic. Think of it like Chinese Water Torture; it’s not enough to fuck you up right then and there, but over a long period it builds and it builds and it complicates all the basic daily shit that you fuckers take for granted. Okay, that still doesn’t sound THAT bad right? Sure, if validated early on by supportive parents who don’t live under a denial umbrella to keep them safe from the world, absolutely. That being said, and lucky for me, my mom was a school teacher. She was familiar with ADD and she had a pretty good understanding of it. According to her I didn’t fit the mold that she saw out on the playground. I wasn’t overly hyperactive. I had the ability to pay attention in school (most of the time back then anyway). She figured I was sad and acting out because my dad ditched us when I was 5*. Yeah, well check this out: Obviously the dad thing bummed me out. Of course it did. I was five years old and wanting to just go across the street to the park with my dad like I always used to, but wasn’t there anymore and I couldn’t. Todler Mike didn’t understand why then of course, but what made everything harder is that I had a small dose of constant crazy to manage while I strived to make sense of that situation. Then life decided it would be funny to sprinkle a few other symptoms into my condition like memory loss and forgetfulness on top for kicks.

*So why was that trauma by itself, not a good enough reason to take a kid to go talk to someone just to play it safe? You know…to make sure he’s well-equipped to handle that sorta thing. If you’re reading this and your kid is acting out and you can’t figure out why, but it doesn’t look like your preconceived notion of ADD take him anyway instead of reinforcing to him that he’s  normal and not different and perfect in every conceivable way. I know it sounds crazy, but believe it or not, this complete lack of validation during the most important developmental stage in your kid’s young life can cause lasting psychological issues that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Trust me on this one.

This mixture, along with some other traumas that can be read about essentially robbed me of my ability to have any confidence whatsoever. Imagine being a pretty smart little kid who can’t seem to figure out why all the menial life-task stuff seems way harder than it should be, all the while clearly noticing that almost all the other kids are getting their shit done just fine. I imagine this kind of thing happens all the time, in every city across the country, and it almost brings me to tears thinking about it. If a mother or a father, or even a family member who may or may not live only an hour away isn’t going to protect their 5-year-old from the dangers of the world, or give him the opportunity to learn life skills that one needs to properly function in the adult world, than who the fuck will?

There’s a saying that goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.” I, and others like me, were essentially deprived of our fish. We didn’t get even one fish, and they sure as shit didn’t teach us how to catch any either. But hey, at least we’re perfectly fine and we’ll probably just grow out of it, so that’s cool. I have learned the hard way in life that when nobody thinks there’s anything wrong with you, and you act like an asshole, people actually go out of their way NOT to give you any of their fish. As a matter of fact, if your brain engineers a self-defence mechanism that essentially protects you from anyone getting too close to you out of fear that they might hurt you**, and when later on that mechanism starts to alienate you from people who may have had genuine and loving intentions and you start hurting people before they hurt you just about everyone will tell you that you don’t deserve fish. Did I mention that I was actually a pretty intelligent kid, above average? The irony is Shakespearean.

**Please remember that those assholes up in your head are still blabbering all the goddamn time over bullshit like trying rationalize sexual abuse and the loss of a parent. Having people who are close to you continually tell you that you’re fine and everything’s okay when really nothing is okay does nothing but alienate the child, deflate his confidence, give him a less-than complex and ultimately set him up for major societal failures as an adult such as drug addiction (self-medication), over-compensation (to fix perceived weaknesses), risky sexual behavior (yearning for lost human connection) and plenty more.

I want to be crystal clear on two things about this blog post:

  1. I am writing this post because I never want to think that this cycle can happen again to anyone when treatment is reasonably affordable and abundant at our local doctors’ offices. My thinking is that the more people I can get to read this, the more kids may end up getting the chance in life they deserve.
  2. I am writing this post because frankly, what happened sucked. Many have the ability to find this kind of shit on their own and to go ahead accordingly. Unfortunately I did not. That’s on me, though. I’m not pointing fingers. The only thing I resent was not being heard when I was a kid. Everything else, it is what it is. I did the best that I could with what I had and I still managed to do some pretty cool shit along the way. It’s not the perspective I’ve always had by a long shot, but better late than never, right?

The dashboard on this website offers me the dandy little ability to see exactly how many people will be reading this article during its lifespan, so that’s validation enough for me at this point. I mean for fuck sake, I’m a 34-year-old husband, dad, employee…you gotta make peace sooner or later. I have it pretty good, I admit. But keep in mind the following:

I’m a sharp-tongued, emotionally detached, persuasive sociopath genius motherfucker. I can overcome anything. I can beat Magic on one-on-one because he’s old with diminished skills and I’m much younger, in better shape and have a top-tier NBA 3-point jump shot. I can probably beat anybody up that wrongs me because that kind of thing matters goddamnit. If those old fuckers can talk me into believing that bullshit you might as well just start referring to me as Dennis Reynolds.

The point of the above paragraph is to outline to you how most people who have survived this have done so by creating different personas to do the fishing for them depending on the scenario.  This is actually pretty hard to type, but I do realize that there’s a slight chance  I am not, in fact, an invincible golden god, but only a mere mortal. But hey, if you actually believe that you’re a lady-pleasing, cool guy genius for most of your adult life because it’s how you learned to cope, you’re probably going to end up with tons of interesting, funny and downright outrageous stories. You’re probably going to want to get started on a blog of your own, so you can reinforce how cool you are to people who you don’t know personally, on the other end of a computer screen in who-the-fuck-knows what city. Here’s a silver lining: It won’t be boring. On the other hand, it will absolutely be lonely, so go ahead with care. Godspeed.

I’d like to end on a high note. In relation to the story above, I’d like to stress that although it can seem absolutely hopeless for the person whose mental health problems are denied (whether by one’s own self, or by parents or guardians), it’s possible that life will show to you in a very precise and direct way exactly what has happened, what is happening and how to make things manageable. Without going into too much detail (see, proof is in the pudding) I just identified most of this shit a few days ago and because of actions I’ve taken since, those bastards up in my head have almost completely shut the fuck up. Finally some peace and quiet. NICE.

Teach your kids how to fish. Do it.

By the way, sorry to turn an article that may have appeared to have started out as a comedy post into this PSA on fucking ADD, because apparently the enormous amount that are already available to you are outdated. Fuck. Totally just realized that’s what somebody with ADD would do. Awl right.

-Octopus Mike

P.S. – Marylin, this post is dedicated to you. I wouldn’t have been able to write this a week ago, and for that I am thankful and I am humbled. FnA