April 20, 2017 | Arts and Culture
Charting Emotions in the Stars
reading my sister’s horoscopes
Horoscopes are not a hobby for my older sister. Lindsay does not fill empty hours of the day flipping through the horoscopes on the back of the newest Cosmo. For her, reading her “scopes” means assembling a tool belt for dealing with the day’s problems. If the alignment of the moon means that there will be tension in her interactions, she puts more compassion in her tool belt. If her charts show she might be frustrated with work this week, she puts in patience. In her life, horoscopes mean routine, pre-planning, and order. Understanding the stars is like planning out meals for a diabetic. Everything must be charted beforehand. Weeks, days, and hours all must be accounted for.
If the day, week or month has not been charted correctly, the effect is immediate. My sister is more reactive, frantic, and more off-balanced. Surprises can be handled only when she understands the current position of the planets and moons. However, this is not necessarily because she knows exactly what will happen and when. Often times the answers do not matter as much as the process of preparation. The tool belt must not be unbalanced. All weights must balance on her hips comfortably, all the tools within easy reach.
My sister has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to my mom, the signs have been recognizable since middle school. Lying about school assignments, frequent screaming matches with both my mother and father, and weird mood swings on random days were apparently not just growing pains. Lindsay did not want to believe my mom when she said that she had a behavioral disorder. According to my sister, she couldn’t have ADHD because she was smart and normal. People with mental disorders are supposed to be stupid and unable to function normally in society. They were those people under the overpass on the Major Deegan Expressway who walked along the highway with a cat attached to their shoulders. They were the people our father hospitalized. The girls who killed their parents or burned the dog. That was not my sister.
Left unaddressed, ADHD does not simply go away with puberty. Transitioning from middle school to high school was rough for my sister, to say the least. In middle school, she was used to being the smartest person in her class without much effort. I remember lots of arguments going well into the night about grades and studying, particularly about geometry. My sister was originally placed in the honors geometry class. Because of her difficulties in class, halfway through the year the teacher placed her in the regular geometry class half way through the year. Her decrease in confidence and motivation directly correlated with her drop in grades. Unfortunately, my sister did not understand that she was brilliant but just needed help managing her behavior. This issue of her disorder came back with a vengeance in college. Because she decided to take five classes and never learned to manage her behavior disorder under stress, she began to have problems passing classes again. Only this time the issue was a lot more serious. My sister was at risk for expulsion in the middle of her junior year. It was at this point that I can remember my sister taking psychostimulants.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) divides criteria for ADHD into two categories: inattention, and hyperactivity or impulsivity. Within the inattention category doctors look for signs that a child has trouble paying attention to, following through with, or remembering tasks, activities, or work. In the hyperactivity category, doctors look for the inability to sit still, excessive talking, and impatience both with other people and with themselves. However, research often forgets the ways that these signs also affect emotional behavior or self-esteem. Children especially may become easily frustrated, worried, excited, angry, hurt, or impatient. While all these emotions are normal for children, those with ADHD find it harder to process emotions if they do not understand why they cannot do things like other children, or if others do not understand or respond to their feelings immediately.
Even though they can be about different topics or problems, most arguments between my mother and my sister are the same. Either my mother or my sister has failed to meet the expectations of the other. When she was younger, sometimes these arguments happened because my sister didn’t turn in a paper or failed an important exam. More recently, it means that my sister and mother cannot compromise or adapt to understand the other. When she was younger the shouting matches would be loud. More often than not my sister was struggling with the same issues for which my mom was yelling at her. Failure, disappointment, and conflict are hard for someone that, through no fault of her own, cannot focus. I remember fights ending with, “I am trying my best. I didn’t mean to…” Today the fight usually ends in, “Why can’t you understand that you have a daughter with ADHD?”
In January 2014, my sister was admitted into the philosophy masters program at the New School for Social Research. Something had to immediately change so that she would not make the same mistakes again. It was at this point I first heard my sister mention astrology. Astrology did something for her that Adderall could not. Drugs could help her brain to focus for the time it was in her bloodstream. Astrology helped my sister cope when the drugs wore off. What started out as a hobby quickly became necessity.
Today my sister has 12 astrology websites she checks daily, weekly, and monthly: astrology.com, Prokeraia, Susan Blair Hunt, Astrology Zone by Susan Miller, Astrodienist, Venus group, Jonathan Cainer, Chani Nicholas, Free Will Astrology, horoscope.com, Daily Horoscopes, and Café Astro. She typically spends the most time Monday reading horoscopes, because she reads the daily, weekly, and then, when appropriate, monthly ’scopes precisely at midnight so that she is also accounting for time differences with the authors of these different sites.
According to Everyday Health, 10 tips for managing adult ADHD are to
- Downsize Distractions
- Get Organized
- Take 10 and Think It Through
- Get Moving
- Get Sleep
- Eat a Power Breakfast
- Boost Your Odds of Success by Working with your Strengths and Weaknesses
- Reward Yourself
- Try Guided Imagery
- Ask for Help
With the help of these websites, my sister is in the process of changing her habits so that she is able to function without relying on Adderall. She practices with these horoscopes to learn how to react when unexpected things happen in life. When she is stuck in a portion of a paper for a graduate school class, she does not let herself lose focus because her chart told her that she would have a mental block for a while that would lead to inspiration later in the week. When my mother does not understand what having ADHD is like, Lindsay does not blow up, because her chart said that she would need more patience dealing with loved ones today.
My sister is not irrational for following 12 different horoscope websites. Stars are not something of fantasy or a way for my sister to claim an identity. My sister uses the stars to guide her. Not like the North Star with the Underground Railroad, because that’s not even the brightest star in the sky. Sirius A is. Stars are neutral space. They don’t cause my sister mood swings or make her feel inadequate. They are just stars.
There is a difference in understanding who you are. This is the difference in understanding your rising sign from your sun sign from your moon sign. For those with behavioral disorders, who they are and how they are can easily be misunderstood. My sister isn’t lazy. She just needs more time than most to sort through her thoughts and sift out relevant ones from random ones. The difference being that my sister’s work ethic does not define who she is essentially. Her work ethic instead is managed through a bunch of means. Behavioral drugs are one way. Looking at her rising sign is another.