The Mrs. Doubtfire stoop, August 12, 2014
How dare you, how dare you how dare you leave us.
When I was diagnosed ADD, your presence on the list of "famous people who also have crazy attention issues" always meant something to me. The success--even though I knew of your demons--I've got mine, too--always imbued me with hope and a sense of pride. Because you were allowed a venue for creativity, and you took it. You seized it. You let it go. Even the greats--Jack Benny, Pryor, and the rest--were studies in structure. You had no structure and it made it okay for me not to have one, either. Because you knew what the rest of us knew--sometimes you just can't. It is difficult to be in a world that wants you to fit in the structure, when you couldn't draw out a structure if you're life depended on it. Like Einstein's Fish, had you been required to teach college or labeled in such a way or talked into Making a Decent Living, oh what, what would have done for the knowledge of my disorder?
For ADD is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. It is difficult for those who do not have it to understand how emotionally eroding it can be to constantly struggle to remain on task. The sink that overflows, the college loan notifications that were ignored unintentionally, the keys locked in the car, the strain on your loved one's patience when yet again, they have to tell you again and again. The moments your mind goes completely blank. The jobs lost. The desire to numb the input of the world and just not deal. Many's the time I should have finished a piece of writing where dammit, I just played Sim City. It was easier. I theorize ADD is why I'm a writer: at least I can always see where I left off. There is no cubicle in the world that would have me long. Not because I'm lazy, but in reality, how would we keep the job it came with? Can anyone imagine you in a cubicle?
All those people, all our lives who told us, "What's wrong with you?" and we began to believe it. How much did that play into your life? I do not know. I hope in the ensuing years we hear your take on it all.
For this reason, to me you were always this star in the firmament that glowed like Venus. Venus is not a place you want to visit. Like most ADD folks, I'm sure you were exhausting to live with at times. I know I have been. I am in my third marriage and I know that in at least the last marriage my ADD was a burden to us both. I safeguard and change in subtle ways to make sure that my disorder doesn't disorder this life. You knew how it was. Funny myself (not YOU funny, NOBODY was YOU funny) I knew people didn't understand how I could ever get down. Very down.
On the morning you died, I woke having slept poorly and was usurped by anxiety. There it was, sitting on my chest, saying that as an artist and a person, I would not succeed. But I pulled it together that afternoon. It may be because I forced myself out of my funk into doing something creative and was working on a project for my new job (baking scones) when my man came into the kitchen with a really troubled look on his face. I have known him twenty-five years, I know when something is Wrong.
And he told me. And he told me. And there you were, my secret harbored success, extinguished. Having understood at least in part what the life of an ADD human existence is life, all I could say was, "It finally got him." I wept because you were a professional comfort to me. You were also adorable.
I suppose it stands to me and others like us to be grateful that you succeeded at all. You know as well as I do that the only thing the world will give you for having ADHD is a pink slip. There is so little understanding and acceptance, even within ourselves. Our patience becomes raw, and it is easy--it is dreadfully easy--to despair.
That cup of coffee you microwaved eight times. The swell of fury at someone who won't fucking stop unwrapping a peppermint in a movie theater. The friends who just lose it on you because you weren't on time or forgot again. The imagination that gets away and suddenly, you've spent time you couldn't afford on something that allowed you to escape the onslaught of data that sometimes is just too much.
I can say without a doubt you gave me a sharp poke in the eye with a stick. Devastated is what everyone would be if I decided to let the despair overcome me at any given time. The depression that plagues us ADHDers should not be neglected. I myself will die a natural death. I know other layers and events may have influenced whatever depression you battled and lost. But I know the crippling emotions that the inattentive mind is prone to and the childhood infused with disapproval for your unusually creative and spastic mind.
I know the place you went. I've been there--in 93 and 07, once with children, once without. I know your friends will blame themselves for not seeing it, but no one can see inside it. It is a deep underwater cave you feel you can navigate on your own, and cannot. Man's first instinct, Robin, is self-preservation. If a man's desire to die overcomes this instinct, then it is a place in which madness has had its full due.
My fiance's aunt had a neighbor who called her hysterical, yesterday afternoon. His brother had just moved in after a diagnosis of ALS. He committed suicide. She herself has survived the suicide of her mother, her son (only twenty) and her brother, my husband's father. And then you. She posted about your death yesterday. My future husband sat in the kitchen in our rocker and I placed my hand on his shoulder. Suicide is always hard for him to hear. Like his aunt, we live without understanding it. We see the grandchildren he missed, the marriage we form that would have delighted him. I know how your family would miss you. Only in madness would you have subjected them to such a loss.
I hope you are comfortable now where you are, and that everything is clear and bright. For me you will never be one of those geniuses who struggled but was beset by the demons who finally won. You will always be the ADHD person who succeeded, in spite of it all. I still have faith in you.