Too Many Balloons in the Air

by Bill Brenner on September 17, 2012

A friend on Twitter asked what a person is to do when OCD, ADHD and other mental maladies produce the effect illustrated in this comic strip on xkcd.com:

ADD

The illustration really hits home for me, having suffered from OCD and ADHD and having a son with ADHD (the alphabet soup alone is enough to short-circuit a person’s mind). All these conditions have one thing in common: the sufferer tries to keep track of everything going on around them, but that stray balloon always takes them off track.

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Since the sky is always full of too many balloons, we have to learn to let the strays float away so that we can focus on everything else that demands our attention. How to get there is a tough one. But I’m going to try answering my friend’s question based on what’s worked for me in the past.

Getting to the therapist’s office on a regular basis certainly helps, because you can spill out all your cares and a good therapist will help you re-sort the pieces into a picture that makes sense.

But that’s not enough. Since the root cause of these conditions is a brain with misfiring traffic transmitters, I need medication to help the transmitters fire correctly. Prozac helps do that for my OCD, and Wellbutrin helps for the ADHD.

All these things together have made life much better for me and those who have to live with me. But these mental disorders are powerful and no combination of drugs and therapy will drive it from you completely. There are still plenty of those balloon distractions.

I still have a bitch of a time keeping my head in the present moment. If you talk to me for too long, my thoughts will away. I’ll get lost in some memory from the past or get distracted with something coming up in the future. It can be some thing important, like a bill that needs paying, or it can be something trivial, like a family gathering that’s not happening for another month.

Next week I’m starting a weekly mindfulness class where the whole point is to learn to stay in the moment. I’ll be writing about the experience on a regular basis, so stay tuned.

It won’t be a cure-all. But if it helps me let go of a few more stray balloons, it’ll be worth the cost in time and money.

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