Monday, May 7, 2012

One must try everyday to expand one's limits

"One must try everyday to expand one's limits."

 -Mas Oyama

These words of Kyokushinkai Karate's founder Mas Oyama have been a mantra or constant thought about what it takes to thrive and be happy in least they've served that function for me.  Albeit the way I practice it is far more measured and gentle than in times past.

I have found that for much of my life, I bought the stereotype of disability that society would place on me, and I did so hook, line and sinker.  In doing this and treating myself as somehow damaged goods, I can end up viewing myself in a very "fixed" fashion...i.e., I can never change, so why bother trying.  This is akin to treating oneself as a "fixed quantity."  I've also come to realize how dangerous and self defeating this thinking is for me.  Another thing I have always told myself is "if you're not learning, your dead."    This, I still believe and think very deeply.  

The nature of an organism is adaptation, growth, change.  Just because my physical adaptation/genetic mutation assures that my understanding of and communication of the world doesn't work like "normal" people's...Does not mean that I cannot continue to grow, adapt, increase in both understanding of and functioning within the parameters of my personal experience.  I've learned that I must grow, must change, must challenge those areas of myself that appear fixed to me...allow a certain level of discomfort, knowing that it can lead to change. 

Now, I have no doubts that there are limits in my life that I will never traverse, am unable to, etc...and I'm fine with this too.  The only way there can be growth for me (or anyone else imo) is if we test our limits our boundaries.  I'm also imperfect in my implementation,  as I know there are areas of my life that, if not unwilling, I am no ready to quite deal with.

I've recently had the pleasure of communicating with ACC adults and an adult about their ACC child. What amazes me about this disorder is the large spectrum we all fall on.  Dependent upon other factors, including other genetic brain abnormalities and the like, most ACC folk fall somewhere in the general range of intelligence. Some have profound developmental delays, some are super intelligent.  It seems that this disability manifests many different forms, prior to even taking into account "intelligence."

Many of the parents of ACC kids watch them coming along just fine in development, and then the children hit the age, around 12, where the normal CC begans to "rev up" speed up and become more efficient.  This normally shows as an increase in executive functions, particularly in the realm of social skills...communications, etc.  This is where I really began to show the issues I was born with.

From a very young age I was called "hyperactive" (many years before ADHD was even a diagnoses.)  While this was a major issue in school and life, and really held me back from my potential, I think (personally) the real disaster for me was around puberty.  I knew for certain that I spoke well, I was a great charmer (or so I thought), people's initial impression of me, always thought of me highly...but then in my interactions with people, especially my peers, it was obvious that I wasn't "catching on."

Many of my doctors have said, (and I quote) that mine is the "most profound case of ADHD they've ever seen."  Even as an adult I have the "H" component bigtime.  When I was placed on my current drug protocol, Stattera,  it was pretty miraculous.  I'd been placed on stimulants all of my life, on and off.  The most they ever helped with was some focus of my "immediate" attention (what was in front of me.)  Even so, out of countrol impulse control, runaway confabulating thoughts, was my "way of life."  This does not seem to be the case anymore.  Within 2 weeks of beginning Strattera, many, many, areas of functioning showed profound and stable improvement.  I no longer have static anxiety....My impulse control dysfunction, on a one to ten scale was probably an 8 in severity, I would now call a 3 or 4.  Many times now, prior to my "going with" the confabulations in my brain, I'm able to recognize that "my head went somewhere with that," and have been able to take another path, make another choice.

I never in my entire life thought I would see improvements of this kind.  The funny thing is, now, that I of course still have many areas of dysfunction, some tied to my ACC, some I'm sure learned behavior...and I recognize some is likely not to ever change...and I'm ok with that.  Firstly, I never thought possible the changes that are in my life now, so I am a lot more open to possiblity.  Secondly, I have a better grasp through my ACC diagnoses, and the spot on therapy I'm getting, to recognize what may or may not be a learned response, rather than a "wired" one, and when I do recognize this, I very slowly and very carefully  push the boundaries back a bit.

I'm also an adult who went though both psychological and sexual abuse, both as a child and adult.  I thank God for good parenting, the abuse while coming through a family member did not come through my mom and dad...I don't think I could've ever gotten over it, were that the case.  Regardless, in therapy I've come to realize that many of my reactions to things are severe PTSD type responses.  I'll be sitting there, and for no reason (that I can see) something will trigger fear, danger, abandonment feelings that are utterly overwhelming.  In the past, my even looking at such things would be enough to unhinge me mentally.

While I don't "dig" for such things, when they come up now, I can, for the most part, open my arms to them.  The experiences and feelings of PTSD manifest in the body, often without mental content, (or that content has been so suppressed in the mind that only what is in the body remains.  I've had great difficulty in my life with emotional regulation, and so facing my emotions has always been an "all or nothing" kind of experience.  Now, through proper medication, through skills taught to me by therapy, and even by Life itself, I am able to more closely examine these painful areas with no (more) fear that I'm going to emotionally go "off the deep end."

In short, what I have to say to ACC adults, children, and adults who are parents of them...Your child is unique, you are unique.  You are not broken.  Being born with a different set of equipment your experience of the world is different, it is not broken, but it is different.  You have a unique skill set, unknown by anyone but yourself.  I know you also have challenges that you find daunting, things that you try over and over again, that never seem to work.  Guess what?  This is true for every person ever born...and while not playing it down, I know our differences can be in the center of huge issues...You and I, We, have all the skills and abilities necessary to not only succeed but to thrive in life, regardless of where you show up or fit in with it.  If we accept the idea we are broken, than nothing will become of our lives...If you accept the idea that we are different, we fit in the world perfectly.

I think the biggest area for me that I would like to continue seeing growth is in the whole "social skills" arena.  I know there are things that will always daunt me, and yet I don't know what my limitations are...nobody wrote a book and said: "Joseph, you can do these things, and you can't do those!" This is probably the area of my life that ACC shows up most painfully in.  But I will never know unless I push back at the boundaries...the newly formed butterfly pushing against the sides of his cocoon prison...I'll never know, lest I pierce the walls of my prison with effort, desire, intent to grow, to change and to develop.

I've always said that if we stop learning than we are dead... and I really do believe this.  It is not our jobs to put ourselves up against others in comparison and judge ourselves...rather excitedly and inquisitively pushing our limitations with our awareness.  The one single most thing that I have gained in recent years in regards to my ACC is the ability to speak about it, to have a common internal language that can be related to others so they can understand too.  May it be so for you to.

~Just Joe

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