Today, I will reveal a secret. This secret may come as a surprise to some, a thing known to many many others, and a shrug to yet more. In recent years, I have grown far more open about my mental health than when I was first diagnosed in college around 2009-2010ish. I have superpowers. No, wait, I have mental disorders. Sometimes those are the same thing, sometimes they are debilitating disabilities. I have both OCD and ADHD, likely for my entire life or at least as far back as my memories go. My superpowers are thusly: hyperfocus, empathy, pattern recognition, and creative thinking. In the quest to publish my novel, I have learned I am neurodivergent. After a life thinking that everyone was like me. You know, everyone had trouble focusing on one task, expecting rejection, anticipating, ruminating, obsessing, performing mental compulsions to appease uncaring anxiety demons, and both terrified and hopeful for the future. I was told I lacked drive, that no one wanted to read about characters with OCD, that I was always late, or couldn’t do homework, that I was sensitive, lazy, afraid of everything, and paralyzed by that fear. I am impulsive, risk-averse, and prone to taking risks at the same time, and mercurial as the twisting wind. With treatment and medication, with diligence and constant hard work, I will be better. But first, last, and always, I am me.
As a kid growing up in suburban Maryland, I had normal fears, but some other things kept me up at night. I was worried about a nuclear attack upon our nation’s capitol at 6, furiously calculating as far as such a young mind can, the necessary distance for survival. Here, though, I first began to build one of my superpowers, a fictional world in my head that I’ve only just started to give voice. My attachment to history grew deep and profound in ways that have shaped my entire life. I wandered Civil War battlefields, had nightmares of Robert E. Lee and his ragged Confederate hosts, I memorized facts and dates and beyond that people. It took me decades to dive beneath the grainy sepia-toned still photographs of posturing, preening, frozen and stern people, to see the personalities beneath. Reading the Memoirs of U.S. Grant, a joy I heartily recommend to all and sundry and met the man himself, ready with a wry comment, his own despair, and a frank desire to be understood that I knew all too well. I’ve learned that the TV volume does not have to be set to intervals of five to avert certain doom, that my very thoughts do not indicate blasphemy, constant counting does not alleviate distress, or repetitive words dispel impending sickness.
Enough about the negatives, I hear the invisible crowd that lives within my blog. I promised superpowers, not merely navel-gazing. Here then, shall I elaborate: upon the outside, I look normal, or mostly normal as a goofy bespectacled bearded bald guy can. My eyes though, betray more within. They dart and move and refuse to settle upon just any one thing. My mind is constantly on fire with thoughts, analyses, and snippets for writing. Lately, with the additional ADHD diagnosis, I can finally direct that focus where I will it, towards this blog, or to novels, to short stories. While things are still not perfect, I treasure these superpowers that set me apart. I am still working to enhance them, to understand how and why I can pick apart a pattern at a glance, but fail to remember names and faces beyond vague familiarity. In a state of hyperfocus, or flow, the words flow unbidden from my fingertips, eyes unfocused on the middle distance, music pounding in my ears, and no separation between myself and my authorial voice. In this way, I can write 1,000 words in 20 minutes, 3,000 within two hours as the real world attempts to reassert itself and my attention frays.
So there it is, I have superpowers. They come at a price, but what doesn’t?