adulting with ADHD, part four: notes on anxiety

i experienced my first panic attack exactly one year ago. it came at night, overwhelming my awareness first with a thunderous noise that originated in my chest but played, echoed in my head, ka boom ka boom ka boom, the music amplified by the dome-like structure of the skull. i felt my heartbeat so strongly, i crumbled every time the muscle pushed against the walls of the lungs. it did so confidently and proudly, much like a child resists the compression of the uterine wall, the visual of the mother’s stomach changing shape simultaneously endearing and frightening. thinking back, it makes sense to me why the saying associates this feeling with a “leap” or a “jump.” in that moment, overwhelmed by sensation and drowning in feeling, i actually believed my heart was about to leave the confines of my body and was confident that it was going to do so by force. my heart in that instance felt alien to me. it had not just a mind but a body of its own. and if ever it wanted me by its side, it absolutely failed to communicate that to me. i was frightened, i was stuck and, what felt like for the first time in my life, i could not move.

what followed was a sleepless night filled with dread and discomfort i can barely remember, how uncomfortable it was.

2021 © pavleheidler

2021 04 27

hi, this is not me. this is how i feel.

i’m annoyed at myself today. i find it irritating that the most consistent feedback over the past couple of months (me to my environment) was (and continues to be): duck, this is intense. whoa, it’s too much. shit, how do i do this?

i’m annoyed at the fact that i’m making progress EXTREMELY SLOWLY. i’m annoyed at the fact that i get why things are taking the time they are taking. and (!) i’m annoyed at the fact that getting why things take time, doesn’t make time go any faster.

my therapist reminded me the other day, “the one thing you cannot do,” she said, “is skip steps.” if you’re in a process, that is. being in a process, in other words, necessarily entails taking one step at a time and being there, every step of the way.

my first reaction was, whoa. this is beautiful. and, of course, of course. how could i have forgotten?!?! my second thought was, duck. HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN?!?! “i should be the one telling you that there is no skipping steps in a process,” i yelled in my head whilst resting after the session. “i am the highly specialised process-based artist in this dynamic. i know EVERYTHING about process.”

which is when the lesson struck. i too have learned in the context of my art practice lessons i haven’t yet learned as a person.

this morning i’m thinking that something in the experiencing becoming adult i could never have been prepared for. were i told ten, fifteen years ago that in becoming adult i was going to experience relativity, actually experience the positive and the frightening aspect of relativity, i wouldn’t have believed… i wouldn’t have understood what i was being told. i couldn’t have.

i couldn’t have expected adulthood to be as relative, as malleable, as fragile as i am discovering it to be in my own adulthood for a fairly simple reason. from my point of view as a child, adults performed stability. they performed trustworthiness. they performed accountability. and in the true sense of the term “performed,” their word was the point of authority. not their action. they could yield power from language when they failed to act, and so hide the contradiction, the inconsistency, and the failure.

i remember my father coming home from work one day, irritated before he even got the chance to take his shoes off by the CD cover he found left out on the coffee table. he started screaming after he discovered, having opened the CD cover, that i’d left the CD inside of the CD player. this is how he got my attention. the long lecture he proceeded to deliver i’ve heard many times before. it explained how you’re never supposed to leave the CD in the CD player because of how damaging that could be for both the CD and the CD player. i stood before my screaming father, as i usually did during one of these episodes, staring at the floor with my shoulders hiked up and forward, feeling sorry for myself. why did i forget to take the CD out of the player and put the CD back into its cover? i felt so proud, after all, when i first took the CD out of the storage unit, thinking, “this time i’ll remember to put it back. yes, i will. oh, i can’t wait to remember to put it back.”

not once did my father take the CD out of the CD player during, or following his delivery. not once did he put the CD cover back into the CD storage unit. after he was done screaming, he’d leave me where i was standing, he’d leave the CD cover on the coffee table, the CD inside of the CD player and be gone. and i?

having failed my father, having failed my self, having failed the CD and the CD player, i was left standing, alone, in the middle of the living-room, nursing the sense of dread nested in my cells–the pleasure i experienced listening to the cantata now an echo of a memory long forgotten.

2021 © pavleheidler

this feels like the beginning of an emotional awakening to the realisation of the fact.

2020 04 10

childhood traces the traces of childhood in chalk
or scar tissue or broken heirloom
how many mothers
🦷 stored teeth in their drawers or bound them in necklaces of gold
but not rings because that would be weird
rings are for stones after all
pressed by eons of time
and cut shaped by humans
not dna 🧬 luck good diet and enough sleep
hands are for intention and class rocks are for wealth
and necks are for pendants
and nostalgia and tying the noose
hands are for status and tying the knot

and drawers, what are drawers for?
what do they tie? the past
in bundles between underwear and socks
protective at least from dust
dust’s what shelves are for

included in this text are poems written originally published on my instagram account. find me on instagram: @pavleheidler.

movement and word artist, educator & a queer critical thinker • (they/them) (adhd)