No, this blog post is not about the Irish Republican Army (though I support their right to armed resistance!)...this post is actually about the other I.R.A., I Require Attention, also know as Attention Deficit Childhood Disorder (ADCD)...it could also be called HANS--HIV Attention Need Syndrome.
Once the AMA (American Medical Association) or APA (American Psychiatric Association) makes a decision and it is listed in the DSM IV, I will let you know. (I kinda just wanted to see how many acronyms I could fit into the first few sentences in this blog).
But back to the topic at hand. In college, my good friend Kjersten dubbed me an IRA. Anyone that has ever met me knows that I am a bit of a clown, and while I have my quiet moments, I am generally the one trying to get folks talking, laughing, or somehow engaged. I try to be cognizant (at least at this point in my life) of how much space I am taking up (unless I've had a couple of G&Ts then all bets are off)...but the fact remains that I thrive on the attention of others. I am an extroverts extrovert and I start to go a little crazy if I am isolated from folks for too long.
In fact, one of my personal character defects is that I equate a lack of attention with a lack of love, which is super selfish. I have a ton of amazing love from so many people, and folks have their own damn lives. It doesn't mean that they love me less if they haven't had the time to see me lately, but in my own head/mind/spirit, if someone I care about hasn't checked in for a while or hasn't made an effort to get together, there is an arbitrary alarm clock inside of me that starts to sound an alarm...it wakes up my abandoment issues and next thing you know I am sending passive aggressive notes on Facebook.
But I have noticed that there is a new twist to the game lately. In the past, part of my showmanship was to keep people laughing and keep them from looking too closely. I didn't want them to notice that I was hurting, using, unhappy or whatever it was that I wanted to keep people from seeing. Trust me on this my friends....isolation tips people off...if you want to hide whatever crazy you are going through....do it by making folks laugh and being a clown...they will never ask questions, think you are fun, and never really get to know you. Ahhhhh safety in public anonymity.
(Or to use one of my favorite metaphors of my own devising: the pitchers mound is the loneliest place in a softball game. You are right there for all to see but absolutely alone when it comes to letting that ball go. Once you let it go, other folks can help you get to your goals, but YOU have to first get that ball to a place where it can be of use....you got to get it across home plate....and then your teammates can step in.)
Lately I have noticed that my need for attention has multipled exponentially. Part of it, I think is simply loving the looks that this new fangled body of mine engenders. That part of it is fine. I appreciate the appreciation. But, I have noticed that now I spend half my workout trying to see if other people are looking. That, right there, is an issue.
Part of this is that living with HIV and having some some rejection(s) and hiding inside myself, staying away from the gym for long periods, and using all of my clowning and performance skills to keep people at a distance kept my inner child attention starved. It's sort of like dying of thirst while in the middle of the ocean...there was plenty of water but it wasn't the kind that could sustain life.
As I have worked very hard lately to keep my addiction in check, as I have begun writing and living much more openly about HIV, and as I have been working on my physical goals as well as my professional goals, I am becoming more comfortable with myself and who I am. As I am becoming more comfortable my attention starved inner child that has been hiding for so so so many years wants to be seen.
And I mean really seen. But instead of just wanting to be present and loved for all of who he is, my inner child is starting to throw temperantrums and demanding that everyone and all eyes look towards him.
I am about to give him an ass whooping.
Growing up poor, overweight, brown, queer, and then testing positive have left redonkulous scars...but just like the easy scars I get on my skin, they start to fade over time...and the new skin that emerges is pink and vulnerable for a time...it needs care and nurturing...and it doesn't want to be hurt again. That is exactly what Billy (that's my childhood name and what my family calls me)....wants to be protected, loved, and seen.
Now the work is to give him and myself the attention we all merit as human beings without it becoming pathological, overbearing, egotistical, or harmful.
Sometimes I just hate introspection...it usually means I got a whole bunch more work to do.
Guess what. I do.