Monday, May 13, 2019

We All Have A Diagnosis

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 15, 2019] ©2019

Reading a story in the paper the other day about various psychiatric diagnoses being lobbed at our President, I couldn’t help but concede that the DSM-V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, hasn’t spared any of us.  We are all diagnoses at this point. In some ways I long for the days when it was okay to be just plain wacko. 

Let me be clear that I am not making fun of mental illness, plenty of which runs in my own family.  I myself come from a long line of chronically overwrought people; there’s definitely an anxiety gene there.  There’s a worrisome smattering of hoarders too, a few of whom would be shoo-ins for that A&E show.  We all seem to be on various spectrums (spectra?) 

Several years ago, I wrote about my concern that every TV program I watch was sponsored by anti-depressants.  Did they know something I don’t?  Is preference for these shows diagnostic?  Is there, for example, a DSM-V classification for people who watch TLC?  Obsessive Fixation on the Excessively Short, Obese, or Progenitive Personality Disorder?

As a parent, I would never suggest that people not have their child evaluated if they are concerned about the child’s behavior.  But be prepared for a diagnosis.  Both Olof and I became concerned some years ago (our kids were already adults) that every male child on our block seemed to have been diagnosed with ADHD – and most were taking medication for it.  Interacting with these kids on a regular basis, Olof had his own diagnosis: boy.  Most of them reminded him a lot of himself.

Even our lawn mowing guy’s 18-year-old assistant introduced himself with, “I’m ADHD and bipolar.” But that’s one case that I would absolutely not argue.  This kid’s style was to turn up his iPod and kind of get into the Zen of gardening.  Unfortunately, whatever garden he was servicing didn’t appear to be in our galaxy.

There was no DSM category system when we were children but Olof didn’t escape a diagnosis even then.  Hardly an academic ball of fire in his early years, he was deemed an “accelerated non-achiever.”  It was a label that puzzled his parents for years. Did this mean he was gifted but not achieving? Or gifted AT non-achieving?  Regardless, he was not achieving. But somewhere along the way, he managed to up his game and ultimately achieved a degree in nuclear physics from Cal Tech. Sighed his mother (age 93), “If only we could have known.”

A friend was telling me recently that her daughter had been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  I’m thinking, yeah, my kids had that too – never listened! But when it was described to me, I realized my life-long difficulty processing material that I hear is what this means. I need to see material visually to learn it.

In an Abnormal Psychology class many years ago, a classmate queried the professor as to what constitutes a “normal” person.  She replied, “Normal people are those we don’t know well enough to know which ways they aren’t.”  We are all in our own ways functionally compromised.

While the DSM-V seems to have no lack of diagnoses, I’d like to suggest some new ones that apply to me that maybe they should add.  I am hoping that this might qualify me for state aid. 

When I think of my total lack of arts and crafts talent (to the dismay of my children when they were in grade school), I definitely suffer from Diorama Deficit Disorder. 

Post-auto accident several years ago, I’m sure I qualify for Freeway Avoidant Syndrome with Mixed High-Speed Surface Street Elements. 

While some people get right back on a horse after falling off, I could definitely be characterized as suffering from Life Aversion Disorder with Equine Metaphoric Phobias. 

My utter inability to embrace technology and my ill-disguised frustration with it would more than justifiably label me as suffering from Severe Techno Disability with Tantrumy Features and Pathological Resistance to Software Upgrades of Any Variety.

At times I wonder if the whole diagnosis thing has gotten out of hand.  If Jesus were to show up for the Second Coming, they’d have him on a 72-hour psych hold before you could say “yeah, and I’m Napoleon.”  There may be a time (is it already here?) when all of our medical and psychiatric diagnosis codes pop up when you input your social security number.

And that I think is a real problem:  if a diagnosis is wrong, or, if you’ve been miraculously cured of say, your Equine Avoidant Personality Disorder, how do you ever get rid of it?  Nope, it will live on in some computer forever.

Sometimes I think we should just simply the system to the three basic categories that seemed to exist in my childhood:
(1) Rarely Attracts Police Attention
(2) Just Doing the Best They Can (Even If Not Very Good)
(3) Batshit Crazy

For a long time, it worked.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Calendar Shaming

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 8, 2019] ©2019

Techno shaming is nothing new to me.  Fortunately, I am impervious to it.

Every few months, I meet former co-workers for happy hour, usually to celebrate one of our birthdays. At the end of each, we generally try to schedule the next one.  This is when everyone but me takes out their phones and calls up their calendar app. 

Although I have my phone with me, it remains buried in my purse. Instead I pull out a teeny spiral notebook on which I will note the date and location of the next event which I will write in my paper month-at-a-glance calendar at home.

But, they counter, how do you know your schedule?  Easy: I have no life. Olof and I are strict adherents to this way of living. We both lived over-scheduled lives for decades. But no more. Our kids refer to us as “terminally inertial.”  And we couldn’t be prouder.
 I like looking at my month-at-a-glance calendar and seeing everything right there.  Apparently you can do that with your phone calendar app too. But I’d have to turn on my phone and find it. And need a microscope to read it. 

I confess that I did in fact try using the calendar app in a moment of deranged techno bravery.  But then Apple tricked me into upgrading my phone to the next version and it ate all my appointments. Maliciously.  I have never forgiven it. 

I know some people who can’t wait to upgrade their cell phones when a new version comes out. Personally, I’d rather eat my own organs.  Unsolicited updates and undesired upgrades are the curse of the modern world. They guarantee that whatever worked before will never work again.

When the phone ate my calendar, the kids said, well, you should have backed up your phone.  Why?  I don’t need to back up my paper month-at-a-glance calendar.  The only way that data gets lost is if the house burns down. 

My month-at-a-glance calendar sits right next to my land line which all by itself gets a lot of flak. I admit our land line is being used increasingly less.  People try to tell me that I could change that number to be my cell phone number.  Nope.  I don’t want to change my cell phone number either.  In fact, I don’t want to change ANYTHING. No good comes from it.   My landline number is my CVS number and my number of record for pretty much everything, including our financial accounts, credit cards and utilities. When I call, a disembodied voice says, “I see you are calling from a number in your profile.”  Yup, I sure am!  I am NOT messing with it.

We like our land line. There is a lot to be said for a phone that can be used without a manual. You can’t drop it in the toilet.  It automatically recharges. It doesn’t try to trick me into upgrades.  Besides, it's been my number for decades (even if the area code has changed about six times.)  I'm hoping it will be able to be transferred to the Alzheimer's facility with me because it will probably be the only thing I'll still remember.

Our land line phone is attached to an answering machine that blinks.  I know how to listen to messages and to erase them when I’m done and you will have to pry that machine out of my cold dead hands.  This is in contrast to the terror I feel when I’ve missed a call on my cell phone and it has gone to the dreaded Voice Mail which I am then forced to try to access.  Usually I end up inadvertently deleting the message instead. It’s probably for the best.

I recently cut out a cartoon strip where a daughter is trying to teach her elderly father how to use a phone app which he refuses to try.  She concludes, “I guess it’s never too late to stop learning.”  As far as techno stuff goes, I couldn’t agree more.  It just causes me stress.
As for not mastering the calendar app on my cell phone, it probably helps that I have a phenomenal memory for dates.  I still remember all my childhood friends’ birthdays.  It’s like a little pop-up thing in my brain.  From time to time people have said to me, “You must keep phenomenal records to know that date” and I say, “nope, I just remember dates.”  Sure wish I could have figured out a way to monetize it. 

So even though I’m writing down the date of the next happy hour, I don’t really need to.  I’ll remember it.  But what I don’t have a phenomenal memory for is locations.  Hence the little spiral notebook. 

I’m happy to let my co-workers scroll their calendar apps to their little hearts’ content. I’ll just wait patiently.