I’m not certain who originally created this meme. That person is, however, entirely correct.
You may be yourself all the time. Except when your boss only needs one aspect of you. Except when your friend needs another side of you. Except when being yourself means breaking social norms, or worse, laws.
We dedicate thousands of hours and tens of thousands of words to advice on how to be better members of society.
And right now, I don’t know if I’m failing or succeeding. I’m also trying desperately not to care.
After all, I blog. I want to blog more. (Some would say I NEED to blog more.) Most of the time, I blog about opinions on stuff I see online. Why?
Because it’s easy. It’s safe.
I don’t have to slice of a piece of my soul and risk baring it to the entire world. After all, opinions change. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but they change.
/\ Actual footage of some of my opinions changing. /\
Basically if a random internet stranger cares to tear my opinion apart? The wounds only go skin deep.
Blog: What Is It?
Often? The blog is merely a series of what may be termed personal essays. I set my fingers to the keyboard, type up an opinion and send it off into the ether. Then I wait, and wonder if I’ve said something that mattered to anyone but spammers?
So what happens? I run out of steam. I don’t know what to write about. I don’t want to write about my principles, because I have learned to fear the reactions of total strangers on the interent, when I actively refuse to fear the physical strangers I encounter every day.
In the end, I don’t know. I just have to hope what I’m typing helps.
Why Opinion Is Safer Than Principle
We all have opinions. Some can be as simple as whether the blue shirt or the red shirt is better today. Frankly, the only one who truly cares what shirt you wear or what you eat for breakfast is you.
Then we have our principles. Those codes and convictions we hold so strongly they guide the ship of our lives. And I frequently only talk about principles when I have an ill-informed opinion on a principle I’m struggling to understand or implement in my life. I rarely speak of the genuine challenges and difficulties I face in learning a principle. I only share what may be “acceptable.”
I don’t like talking about myself in-dept to the internet.
ADHD makes it far easier to spout off to people one-on-one or in person.
I may or may not come off as a know-it-all. Blame what you will. It may have something to do with how I was taught to write, and the fact that I defend myself emotionally from being wrong. (Last I checked ALL humans do this.)
So yes, this is a personal essay. Yes, I may or may not have gotten very personal.
Just admitting I have difficulty writing this is a step towards genuine, I suppose.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve asked myself both questions in a thousand ways over the course of my life. Mostly because once you’re accused of failure enough, success starts feeling like this.
I agree, Tulio. I agree. So, I skated by high school with C’s and D’s and the burning desire shared by most teens to “change the world”! So far, I have not changed the world. But this post is about success anyway. I don’t have to be a superstar to get it. In fact, I’d wager some superstars still think themselves utter failures. 😉
So What Is Success, Anyway?
I’ve found only one definition I can stick by. Mostly because it doesn’t sound like those cheap, clichéed posters plastered all over my high school walls. You know, the ones shouting about how your Attitude Determines Your Altitude and all that?
Last I checked, if all you have is a positive attitude, Everest will STILL give you frostbite. Sorry, positive thinking people.
So the definition? Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. I encountered this definition in a sales presentation from 1956 by Earl Nightingale. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The Strangest Secret.
This 32 minutes can change your life. Highly worth the listen. The definition of success I gave above can be found at approximately 1:45 into the video.
By that definition, both my degree in theater, and my certificate for massage therapy, and my massage license were abysmal acts of FAILURE. Because my ultimate goal is to make a living AS A WRITER. I learned a lot. I wouldn’t give up that world experience for anything. But during those years, I was not progressively realizing the ideal of making a living through my writing.
And let’s look at that final phrase. Worthy ideal. Who decides what a worthy ideal is?
I mentioned this post to Shay last night, and after some attempts to understand each other, had this question posed to me:
How do you define your personal success to someone who has loftier goals in mind FOR you?
In my mind, the simple answer is, you don’t. They have already defined a particular brand for success in their mind. What you are doing does not fit this brand. Thus, you are not succeeding. Much of it goes back to this concept of the worthy ideal.
The Worthy Ideal
Most people get the Ideal half of this phrase. That’s setting a picture of the goal in your mind and going for it. The problem I observe is that so many of us get stuck trying to thrust OUR idea of Worthy onto other people.
Back to Mount Everest. Both climbing Everest, and living a positive life can be worthy ideals. However they are not instantly interchangeable. Living a positive life because you are a positive person in no way makes you fit or experienced enough to climb Mount Everest. And some of the folks who do climb Mount Everest? Well, they did it for personal reasons that had nothing to do with positivity.
So what you see as a worthy ideal will not necessarily be the same as what someone else sees as a worthy ideal. I love writing. I see being a writer as a worthy ideal. Shay loves art and sees being an artist as a worthy ideal.
Many thousands of people see both of these goals as impractical and ridiculous, even childish fantasies, rather than worthy ideals, because they just “aren’t practical”.
A Final Note On Practical
First, set aside half an hour, and go watch that video. I’ll wait. Nightingale NEVER specifies what KIND of worthy ideal he’s talking about. Or how practical it has to be. Here’s why.
Goals are not, by nature, a practical thing. There, I said it. Goals are concerned entirely with what you WANT to happen, in a way, the theory or idea of it happening, and not the actual doing or use of something. Goals DRIVE practical behavior. I want to be a writer, so I write. Shay wants to be an artist, so they agreed to illustrate Dragon Hoard Books. (Don’t forget, another one this Saturday.)
When someone tells you, “That goal you have isn’t practical,” what they’re saying is, It doesn’t fit in my concept of worthy ideal.
In fact, I TRIED going the practical route. I got fully licensed as a massage therapist in Idaho. Then, not only could I not find a job, but anyone keeping up with my blog saw the health crash that happened. I physically COULDN’T be a massage therapist. So the get training, get a day job that pays $20 or so an hour, and then build my writing career slowly if I remembered? Wasn’t practical.
So what do you think? Are your goals worthy of your ideals? Do you see your ideals as worthy? What kind of success do you crave, and what’s your plan to get it? Watch the video, and then let me know in the comments!
Know why? Most of them assume one thing. That the item that needs to go on the list will not evaporate in crimson glitter though sparkles as the next thought collides into it at warp 10. A great example is the tip in the article above to allow only one item on your to do list in a single day.
Want to see mine for EVERY DAY, then?
Get out of bed.
Yep. That’s it. Because ADHD is NOW. Time doesn’t exist. Wait, what? Of course time exists, right? The sun rises and sets every day. Dates tick by. The clock changes hours. Seriously people, it’s a giant circle to me. Thank the curvilinear nature of the ADHD brain. Really, check out the slide show. It explains a lot.
Anyway, in my brain, everything happens at once. So picture this.
Before you open your eyes, the radio starts. Except you haven’t turned on the radio. But this announcer is reminding you of that writing project you still need to do, the interview you haven’t written yet, the blog post you need to write because you’ve only been getting out two a week lately, the fact that you need to actually plan a rough schedule for blog posts. Maybe at least figure out which category/categories you’ll focus on what day of the week. Remember you need to do that other writing project.
And this is all in a radio announcer voice that sounds remarkably like you.
Now, two choices exist here. Stay in bed attempting to memorize this list (which you KNOW doesn’t all have to be done today) or get up. If you get up, the radio immediately shuts off or changes stations. Unfortunately, staying in bed only works until the announcer changes to the bladder elimination station. And then any attempt to remember is pointless anyway.
Linear Tips for a Curvilinear Mind
Most of the tips I’ve found for to do lists include two things that I can’t stand.
Choose a time once you’re ready for the day to sit down and write your list.
Include only those things that need doing for that day.
Now, number two could work for something like a dry erase wall calendar, but tracking goals on a wall calendar for me is insane. I get overwhelmed. Too much information overloads my circuits and my brain literally does not have the bandwidth. No, that’s not a euphemism for busy. It means my neuron circuits will overload.
Yet I can’t just leave off things that need to be finished that week. It’s how my novel has taken so long. Nearly a decade long. So what do I do?
No, Habitica does not contain a dancing Groot. If you look on their website, Habitica describes itself thus:
Habitica is a free habit building and productivity app that treats your real life like a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.
They aren’t kidding about punishments. I forgot about my dailies for a week and when I logged back in, I was down to less than half my normal health. Yes, health. Essentially, Habitica is an app that gives you an 8-bit avatar with health bar, experience bar, and you can even choose a class, earn gold, and buy cool items, as well as collecting pets and raising them into mounts.
You do all of this by checking items off of a check list.
I started off using it for dailies. You know, writing in my journal, reading Scriptures, prayer. Habits I’ve wanted to build for years and don’t have the mental space to remember. Figured that was all it could be good for.
This morning, it hit me.
Maybe I could actually use this app for more. It’s got reminder options. It’s got phone widgets.
So this morning, I wrote a to do list. And I didn’t hate it. Because I didn’t get up and change the radio station. When I opened my eyes with that announcer in my head, I opened the app, typed all those items in, and put due dates on them. We’ll see how this goes.
Open. Eyes are open. Ow. Ow. My head hurts. It’s quiet. Can’t see. Oh, right, don’t sleep in contacts. Getting back to sleep? No. ‘punches out of sleep tracking app on phone’ Hmm… New text. Best friend. Answer text. Must not open Facebook mobile on – aaaand it’s too late. Oooh, three notifications. Friend having a bad day. How can I make the day better?
Tell friend to punch a duck.
Who punches a duck?
Okay, get up. Ugh, my ankle hurts. Why? Okay, limping slightly. Bathroom. Contacts. I can see! What was I doing? ‘hears mew at bedroom door’ Right, feed the cat. And don’t forget to feed her lunch, which you totally forgot yesterday, because ‘checks phone again’
Okay, what was I writing?
No, seriously, what was I writing? I can’t remember where my train of thought went after that, and that was the first 15 minutes after waking up. Now take that, and stretch it through the whole DAY. Also, where is that buzzing noise coming from? Never mind. You can’t hear it. Oh. Laptop fan. Right.
Just took meds, ten minutes after alarm to take them, but I did take them.
Wait, did he just say MEDS? As in medication?
Yes I did. Remember the Ring of Sustenance? I still take that every night, and I also take ADHD medication as of…June? Yeah, June. I think.
And here’s the difference.
Waking up in the morning still looks pretty much like that. As does around noon, though not as dramatically. Now, it’s nearly an hour later than that last sentence, and I’m finally back on track. I’ve checked my phone at least ten times, twice to talk to my illustrator for the webcomic. Read a blog post by a friend. Finally closed Facebook.
And my brain is almost sound-proofed. Almost. You see, the first three paragraphs or so is the constant brain chatter I live with every day of my life. I lived with it without relief for nearly 28.5 years. It kept my eyes vacant in school, kept me off track when trying to do chores, and kept me unable to hold a job more than a year so far. Except my first few, but that’s because the novelty of having a paycheck and paying for my own stuff, combined with desperate family circumstances and walking to work every day led to a combination that may be difficult to again replicate without some aid.
The first week I was on my current medication, my brain went too quiet. Void quiet. No creative flow, no desire to write or make. It was bizarre. We adjusted to a lower dose, and now I can zero my focus in. I have an appetite. (I know, that sounds strange, as the side effects often include loss of appetite.)
I remember to eat. I remember to cook. I can do dishes – sometimes – without wandering off to something completely different. I can keep track of life.
It doesn’t fix everything. But it helps.
And because it helps, I’m finally working to get my fiction published. A world that’s been nearly ten years in the making, now coming to you just as the New Year comes in.
If my ADHD muse had its way, this post would be about glowing squirrels riding monkeys into battle. As it is, we’re gonna talk about identity, because sometimes this little bugger has a funny way of GETTING IN THE WAY. Take it away Price Ea.
Now, I got to reading the comments, and plenty of them express the idea that, Oh, he’s just trying to say you can get rid of depression by thinking about it. I didn’t get that at all, especially since at one point he specifically states, “Before enlightenment, I was depressed. After enlightenment, still depressed, but it’s totally different now.”
What I took from that video is this. I am not my disorders, and I’m not my diagnoses. Certainly, these factors inform the way I live my life, the way my synapses fire, the way I see the world, but they are not me, any more than I am them. It’s a reminder I sorely needed.
Why would someone so epic 😉 need a reminder that I’m not my diagnoses?
Because believe it or not, I’ve got at least four on my plate right now, including ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, Social Anxiety and Gender Dysphoria (i.e. the emotional baggage that came with growing up trans and closeted).
And I nearly gave up last week and filed for disability. No, I don’t believe everyone who’s on disability for mental illness has given up. Sometimes these issues have exactly that kind of debilitating effect on life. To those of you, I salute the courage it must’ve taken to swallow that much pride and say I need a way to survive and a conventional “accepted” income path can’t work for me. Mine aren’t quite there yet, but I started indulging what I consider a major thinking error.
I allowed the idea that maybe I AM my diagnosis.
I didn’t notice it until I watched this video, but it’s part of why I mistook my Grief for Depression. I’d begun allowing the belief, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I AM depressed, as if this Major Depression is who I am, is my being, is my existence.
Which is plain silly, and downright defeatist.
When I saw the video, I realized that’s what I was doing, and I changed course, as I’ve done more than a few times in my life. It was time to step up, and move on. Time to figure out what I could do, not what’s wrong with me.
I spent years trying to tell myself I was one of those four.
In fact, most of my childhood, I told myself I got lucky, because I wasn’t like my siblings, who inherited ADHD and dyslexia. The first from both my parents’ lines, and the second, as I understand it, from my father’s line. I could read at college level in middle school. I got average grades. True, I understood all the material after one explanation, couldn’t see the enormous pile of mess that was my locker, and had no idea what on time meant in relation to turning in assignments, but I was a “normal kid.” I was lucky.
Don’t worry. He’s laughing at me. I don’t blame him. I thought I’d somehow escaped the genetic dice roll of disorder. Turns out I didn’t, as the results of a psychological evaluation at nineteen clearly showed.
So, what’s the point of the intro waffle? (I love that word, thank you Englishmen.)
Self-diagnosis. I’ve seen a few posts on the great Book of Faces villainizing the concept entirely, and with nothing coming to mind about my formerly planned topics, I figured why not.
What IS Self-diagnosis?
To severely shorten the Wiki article, self-diagnosis is the process of diagnosing oneself with a disease, disorder, or condition (yes, this can be anything from migraines to depression) based purely on individual research of readily available sources, e.g. internet sites, medical text books, old wives tales, familial symptom similarities, etc.
This practice is strongly discouraged by the medical community, yet in my mind, the wholesale disqualification of such a practice isn’t the best option. However, nor is walking around saying you have [insert xyz condition] because you read the symptoms on the internetz. As with anything, we need to cut through the all/nothing thinking, and get down to the real meat of the issue.
What Good Is Self-Diagnosis?
Well, firstly, a bit of research may actually get you in to see a doctor, whether of medicine, psychology, psychiatry, or another profession.
I know. The dreaded MD. The one with the degree who went to school, learned the jargon, and despite popular belief, may actually know something. I know, we’ve all had negative experiences with doctors before. Some don’t listen. They’re overbooked, etc. Well, that’s no good reason to stop listening to ALL doctors, as I learned this year. In fact, I’m on two prescriptions, specifically because of what some would term self-diagnosis.
Actually, he specifically told me to speak to my therapist for an evaluation BEFORE he’d consider prescribing ANYTHING for it.
Thing is, without some sort of personal vetting process, I would’ve been the person walking in going, Doc, it hurts, and I don’t know what to do, help me. (I’ll give you a little secret. For a good doctor, that’s just as irritating as walking in saying, Doc I’ve never seen a psychologist in my life, but I know I’m trans, give me HRT. And yes, I’m using my own personal experiences and extrapolation as reference here.)
See, doctors do enough guess work in a day. When we don’t have any inkling at all what may be wrong, we’re making they’re job harder. A smart doctor, in my experience, no matter the profession, appreciates an informed client.
So Why Is It Discouraged?
Because while some of us genuinely have a condition that warrants medication, unfortunately miracle-pill seekers exist. I just spoke to an EMT (friend of a friend) who mentioned that during flu season, ambulances are called to pick up a number of people who would be better off at home imbibing large amounts of chicken soup and water, and sleeping it off.
We’ve grown up with the idea of the “miracle cure” for virtually everything, but it’s not out there. Additionally, going back to the mental health community, the DSM and the psychological and psychiatric professions exist for a reason. They’re not perfect, by any stretch, but they help.
The problems arise when some reads a list of symptoms on the internet, and instead of having their suspicions vetted and corroborated by a professional opinion, they simply stop at the nearest social media site with a sympathy plea post. Fact of the matter is, mental illness and long-running mental disorders really only stick with about 1 in 25 people.
Yeah. I said only. Granted, I’m one of them, but I’d rather be one of the other 24.
A Rash of “Awareness”
I realize that we live in an imperfect world and that that 1 in 25 still represents a large number when extrapolated into millions or billions. I also now know I’m one of those that makes up the statistic. In that frame of mind, numbers in a statistics sheet suddenly have a lot more meaning.
On the other hand, I see so many campaigns for “awareness” and I wonder if they’re helping, or if we’re now starting to see the other side of the pendulum. If “awareness” has turned mental illnesses from the outlier to the norm? Before anyone misreads the next statement, I’m not equating the two, however it’s similar to the surveys that find people believe up to fifteen or twenty percent of the population fits into the LGBTQ umbrella. Combine every identity under that acronym, whatever full alphabet soup it’s using now, and we’re still only about five percent of the population.
The percentage of adults who cope daily with significant impairment due to mental illness throughout life is, as far as the statistics can tell, about the same. Yet watch the news, or just a news feed on Facebook, and it feels like a lot more. Every day a new awareness campaign pops up. Maybe instead of feeding our money to “awareness” we can start feeding it to resources that actually help. Drive a struggling mom with a child in need to a therapy appointment. Pick up groceries for a family you know instead of donating to some massive organization that you’re not entirely sure of. That friend with anxiety that you keep inviting out? Ask them if you can come to a one on one at their place and learn more about what triggers an attack so you can help be an anchor at the next social event.
Before I sign off, I do encourage you to learn the skill of self-awareness. Become familiar with your own body and mind and how they work and why. Then, if something goes wrong, you can work together with the professionals to figure out how to get back on track. Just don’t trust the internet to be your doctor.
I hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s kitten video. The sad fact is, I’ve gotten up every morning, sat down in front of this machine, and stared at the unforgiving, back-lit screen, fingers resting on the keyboard, in hopes that, somehow, I may think of some string of words that might work as a published post. Which never happened, because the human brain never functions even close to capacity where chronic, severe dehydration is involved.
Meet my new best friend, the filtered water bottle!
See, I’ve realized a few quirks that, for many years, I wrote off as me being picky, may actually have something to do with the fact that I’ve got ADHD and am prone to migraines. Now hear me out, here. How many of you have ever put on a piece of clothing, and within five seconds had to remove it because you felt like you just put on something made of green kitchen scrubbers? I’ve done that. What about …and there goes my train of thought.
YouTube, what have you done?
Oh, well, back to writing. This was intended for yesterday, but I’m sure we all know the old cliche about intentions. Anyway, this past week has shown me the reality of daily life with ADHD in a way I never noticed before, and to understand, we’ve got to go back in time for a moment. I don’t know how many of you remember my post about the amazing Jenny Ulrich, but give that one a read real quick, because it’s the semester we roomed together that I’m talking about.
That semester, I was active. I’m not talking a 20 minute jog every day. I’m talking three university dance classes, gym half the day Saturday, and at least a one hour work out every night. I’d never felt so good in my life, and my energy levels weren’t going EVERYWHERE. I could sit in the one lecture class I did have without too much trouble (though it would’ve been easier if I’d actually cared for the subject.)
The point is, I did life differently that three-month span than any other time of life. I ate enough, took care of myself, had a strong team – because that’s what my roommates were – and had friends I could count on. After graduating, that changed. I moved into a less-than-ideal situation, and completely lost track of any of the positive habits I’d managed to build. After a move across country and two years of craziness (really, one major life event a month?) my health crashed at the beginning of this month, and I’ve been working to pull it together. The process has brought some interesting things to light.
1. I’m not as picky as I thought.
ADHD (and migraines) comes with its own set of nervous system quirks. One of them is sensory sensitivity. I’ve been sensitive to sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations for as long as I can remember. Never thought much about it until recently, when my I described some experiences to my sister (who’s been treated for ADHD since grade school) and she said my experience is consistent with sensory overload experienced by others with the diagnosis. And yes, I do have a diagnosis. It just came when I was 19, rather than as a child.
In part, it’s this sensory issue that’s caused some other troubles as well.
2. Nutrition’s not just a good thing, it’s everything.
One part of my routine that semester was a daily vitamin pack. Well, a while ago I stopped taking it. Three days ago, I started taking them again, and even in the last two days, I’ve noticed a major energy difference. My sleep is better, and I’m starting to actually wake up in the morning. I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m on top of my game again, but maybe these may shorten the road.
And you met the filtered water bottle. That’s the other part of the sensory issue I mentioned. When you live in a city where the water tastes like a pool for several years, you do something about it? Well, I got a filtered pitcher that when I moved back to my hometown, I gave to a roommate. Then I moved across the country, and never truly adapted to the taste of the water, since, for some reason, even in the small city I’m living in, no two water faucets taste the same. Solution? Filtered water bottle. Tastes the same no matter what tap it came out of, and I’m drinking water regularly now. Speaking of… Mmm.
Also, eat breakfast. Somehow. It does help. Seriously, it does.
3. I can’t accomplish anything when my body doesn’t work.
Part of my body working is my brain cooperating. Actually, it’s them working together, really. And when they’re not? Well, it just doesn’t go over well. For several months I’ve had to choose whether my energy powers my brain or my body, because I didn’t have enough for both. No more. Now it’s time to build the habits I need to power both, but time to start small, and start with what I know works.
TL;DR ADHD can be tough, but we can do things to keep ourselves going. Eat right, and include extra if needed (vitamins, protein, whatever. Talk to your doctor.) We’re not as picky as we sound. We just don’t want to walk around on higher alert than necessary all the time. We all have what works for us.
Those reading this with ADHD, you likely know what I’m talking about already. What’s the best way you’ve found to cope? Those who don’t have it and may know someone who does, what’s the most confusing part about it for you? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m curious!
A few days ago – or maybe it was closer to a week and a half – I didn’t know what to write about. A conversation ensued between my husband and myself.
Me: I don’t know what to write about today.
Husband: You could write about ‘pauses, thinking’ my ankle!
Me: How am I going to write about your ankle?!
Like I said, I don’t know when this happened, and though it’s true, ankles are a fascinating piece of anatomy, I don’t have any desire to write a breakdown of how the joint that is the human ankle works. Instead, I’m going to do what my brain does best, and delve into a subject I know well, from both study and personal experience. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Those reading this who know me, you’ve seen it in action. Those who’ve only heard the term, a lot comes to mind, I’m sure, when I throw those terms around. I’m sure, also, you’ve read a lot of articles like this 20 Things To Remember When You Love A Person With ADHD article I read the other day. Well, most similar articles have great points, I’m always left thinking, Yeah, those are all correct, but they’re all vague. So here’s the first 10 Windows Into the ADHD Mind
1. The phrase Active Mind is an understatement. The air conditioner is going, the refrigerator just kicked in, a cloud is moving across the sky, changing the levels of light in the living room, the carpet under my feet has a different texture than the bathrobe I’m wearing, which is different than the texture of my pants, which has nothing to do with the YouTube video playing in my headphones in order to keep me from pacing instead of writing this post. And now there’s some sort of clunky tapping coming from either upstairs or the duct work of the AC. Which just went off. Also, I’m composing this post, which means thinking about it, and have several script ideas for Confessions of a Drow Bard going through my head, as well as realizing I’ve got two other projects to catch up on. This is my mind, every day, all day. The only reason it stops at night for a bit is a migraine medication that actually does put me to sleep.
2. I know you’re talking to me, and I’m trying to listen and remember, I really am. But I’ve got to finish the rough draft of Chapter 17, and Chapter 12 needs a rewrite, plus I need to update the Master Timeline, and I need to check my email to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I also need to check my boss’s emails to make sure SHE didn’t miss anything. Oh, and I’ve got to finish that website draft I’m working on, and did you remember that we were going to do that one project this weekend? Also, did I mention your collar is crooked and the hem of my undershirt is ridding up? I’ll probably say something about at least half of this during our conversation, likely more than once. Asking me to stop and just pay attention is a good way to drop a nuke on the works and Getting a blank stare. I wouldn’t say our thoughts are in “outer space,” but we are trying to track fifty of them at once, like herding cats.
3. Staying “on task” does not exist. Not really. We start with great intentions, but we all know where those lead. The dishes need doing, but the floor also needs mopping, and the carpet hasn’t seen a vacuum in weeks. Oh, also the bathroom counter needs a good scrub. Thing is, I can’t speak for everyone, just myself, but this kind of activity is not on my executive function’s list of interesting things to do. Which leads to dishes started but not finished, the vacuum sitting in the middle of the living room, plugged in, and a few things put away off the bathroom counter.
4. Anxious is a way of life for us. We know you can tell we’re giving you our patent blank look when you’re talking (your chap stick smeared). We know we’re not living up to expectations of normal. And all of the above listed in one through three is going on, so our mind kinda looks like this.
It’s enough to induce anxiety on a normal day, but when we’re emotional? Which brings us to #5.
5. Emotions are hard. Really hard. Now, they’re hard for everyone. It’s true. Emotions are illogical, irrational, and tough to deal with. Biologically, they only last a matter of seconds to minutes, but add the tendency for anxiety, and an ability to latch onto things with the mental power of crocodile jaws on prey if we’re interested, and emotions can end up turning into whirlwind storms of fury, joy, sadness, or any other set of emotions. It gets crazy.
6. Hyperfocus is our superpower. This is the piece of ADHD that leads many to conclude that the term Attention Deficit is a misnomer. Give us something we’re interested in, and we can submerge ourselves in it for days at a time. Not just hours, but days. Be it a video game, an art project, a novel, or even a science fair project, if it’s fascinating, and a challenge, we will grab on, and we will. not. let. go.
7. Hyperfocus is also our Achilles heel. When we are in the zone, we are IN the zone. We know you’re there. We know we need to eat. We know all of this. We just don’t remember. It really feels like nothing exists outside what we’re doing, and when that track is interrupted, it can be like dragging three ton rock through drying cement to get it back.
8. Emotional regulation is tough for us. Really. Some days, we can’t just suck it up and move on. We break down at the tiniest inconvenience, not because we want to, but because we’re just so tired. We fight to keep our thoughts and emotions in some semblance of acceptable check constantly, and at times, it becomes too much.
9. We may have a filter, but it doesn’t always work. We’d like it to, but it’s sort of like that heavy metal radio station that only comes in during the loudest, dirtiest, most raucous songs ever. You can’t help it. Ever. Sometimes it makes us the life of the party. Others, it’s a great way to start disagreements, fights, and spectacular miscommunication.
10. Speaking of being the life of the party, we would probably like very much not to be, because we often have no idea if you’re laughing with us…or at us. We’ve spent our lives trying to fit in because it’s just too much of an emotional roller coaster not fitting in. On the other hand, for those of us who have extrovert tendencies, we love the party, so we may tough it out anyway, even if you end up talking about us later.
On that note, I just remembered my breakfast this morning consisted of B vitamins, Pepsi, and a few gulps of water with pain killer, so I really should come up for air and get something more substantial in me. Join me tomorrow for the launch of Confessions of a Drow Bard, and Saturday for the continuation of this post. See you then! And I am curious. Do you have any friends or close family with ADHD? What kind of things do you guys do to help work with it? If you live with ADHD, how do you use it to your advantage?
You know it’s a good morning when cold Olive Garden pasta tastes amazing for breakfast. First two mile walk I’ve taken in a while. I grant you, my body is attempting a protest, simply because I haven’t done anything that physically active in a while. Now, darling denizens of the internet, I owe you all an apology. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I know that’s been reflecting on my blog for a few reasons. I’ll do my best not to bore you with the details, but I’m sure you’ve noticed since my coming out post that I’ve been attempting to be a bit more…Honest? Raw? Genuine? I don’t know what word to put to it, but essentially, I’ve tried to be less, hey look, here’s a bunch of writer tips, and more, hey, this is me, to hell with the consequences. I heard somewhere the latter is a good idea, yet at the same time, it seems like a good way to really rock the boat, especially when a depression attack is in the driver’s seat. (Turns out my new prescription Ring of Sustenance is exceedingly effective in very small doses, and a terror for me in larger ones.)
In light of that, I owe you all an apology for being more of a downer than I typically like to be. That said, on to Jenny’s story, so you’ll have some background for the next few days of posts.
See, for years, I held this idea that motivation was a fantasy, and I had no staying power. None. Especially since, you know, people with ADHD don’t have staying power. People with mental illness, disability, or disorder don’t have staying power. Yada yada yada. It’s a message I’m fairly sure many of us internalize. We can’t. We aren’t good enough. We aren’t enough. And yet, my last semester at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, something happened. I agreed to spend an extra $300 that semester for a private room. Technically, I didn’t have the money. Technically, until I pay off my student loans from that school, I don’t own a dime I make.
So why pay extra?
Well, when a friend shows up at that table where all your friends muck about in the Union, absolutely panicking, nowhere else to go, because both of her current, random roommates bail on her halfway through the school year, and the Friday before finals? I did what any reasonable, level headed, stubborn, loyal, pit bull of a friend does. I made it happen. Along with one other awesome friend. Hey, we got private rooms out of the deal.
Warning: This post is going to get long, and likely will end up being two or three parts, but you need this back story to know why she’s so amazing.
I believe I already mentioned the two mile walk this morning? Part of it was doctor’s orders. Part of it was a conversation yesterday with the friend I just mentioned. Her name is Jennifer Ulrich, and I’ve never met a stronger woman. Thing is, the day we first met, she sat as though someone had melted her out of wax and poured her into the 600 lb hydraulic monstrosity of a wheelchair that I’ve had driven over my foot a few times. Her service dog, Wilson, sat by her side, and I meant to pass her, as I had so many times before, too busy (and too afraid, because aren’t we all now taught to fear what is different?) to approach her. A still, small voice in my head changed my mind. Go on, it said. Sit by her. You won’t regret it. I never have.
See, what I found out that day is no matter what body we’re in, or how we feel about that body, we are not the sum total of our parts. We, as human beings, are so much more than just meat bags wandering around a giant dirt ball with some water and air on it. I sat down, I said hello, and we talked for a few minutes before I finally worked up the courage to ask her what had happened to put her in that state, only to find out, guess what? Birth had. Spina bifida myelomeningocele…which I nearly remembered how to spell right the first time. Basically, her backbone and spinal column didn’t form right, leaving her incapable of normal motor function below the waist, and incapable of typical sensation in much of her legs as well.
We kept talking, and wound up discussing everything from pop psychology to politics while I scarfed down my pasta, and I told her if she was ever sitting alone in the upstairs Cloud Commons, she should just take the elevator downstairs and head to the table in the corner by the Grille window, because that was The Table, and there was usually somebody there to talk to during usual class hours, all the way up til the Union closed. This was about eight weeks before finals week. In those eight weeks, she became a regular at The Table, like the rest of us, and we laughed, and joked, and had jolly times.
There was one thing I never figured out. If the only major effect the spina bifida had on her upper body was in her left arm, why did she have no muscle anywhere in her neck or torso or anything but her right arm? Well, I found out after Christmas Break (Yes, I still think of it as Christmas Break.)
I also found out she’d dyed her hair turquoise. Lol.
Okay, okay, back to the story.
So, she came to The Table, and I got off work about 20 minutes after everyone else heard her roommates couldn’t stand her UNDERSTANDABLE difficulties cleaning up after Wilson, and then just dropped that on her the week of finals. So I made the necessary arrangements, and moved gratefully into my own room a week before classes started in January.
Okay, also, Jenny has the biggest smile ever. Seriously, light up the planet and rival the sun type smile. And that was the smile that greeted me when I arrived. She even helped carry as much as she could – mostly light stuff that she held in her lap and then wheeled inside, but I mean, here’s a woman who likes to work, right? We saw my parents off, and then she asked what I thought of the hair.
I suggested we call a friend who actually knew how to use Splat dye because, well…chlorine green, anyone? I drove us to Wal-Greens in her van. (Those of you who ever have the opportunity to use a vehicle with a suicide knob attached to the wheel and have not used one, stick with the wheel. They were banned, except in specialized cases, FOR A REASON.) Anyway, got a new box of dye, re-applied it, and when I helped her rinse it out, I saw her feet for the first time. I was going to attempt to find a picture, but I’ve decided against it. Human flesh has a variety of possible colors. Bloody, frostbitten purple is not generally accepted as a natural or healthy one. To make a rather long story quite short, this sparked a conversation where she confessed a desire to walk.
Well, I’m to stubborn to know what impossible means, so I told her I’d help how I could. Three and a half years after that conversation, June of last year, she walked her first full mile.
It took four hours and thirty three minutes. Also, she’s the only person I know of who worked up to doing 360 oblique crunches a day, before she ended up getting surgery to fix tendons in her left wrist.
I skipped over a lot of that semester, but here’s the thing, the first few weeks, we went to the gym every Saturday (where I learned she and our other roommate had been working to get her doing leg press), and she just kept sliding backwards in ability despite our best efforts. Well, most of the exercises could be done at home on a yoga mat on the floor. So that’s what we started doing. Every day. I remember some nights being so tired I couldn’t be bothered not wanting to, and somehow, it got done. Not only that, but we figured out how to get her in to a specialist to get proper braces for her feet, the right kind of walker. I was talking three dance classes at the same time.
The thing is, I had an end point in mind. And WE had a TEAM. I’ve got so much more to say, but it’ll have to wait til tomorrow, because the world doesn’t wait for anyone. However, tomorrow will be Motivation, Staying Power, and Why We Get It Wrong. Additionally, I’ll reveal Jenny’s and my new five year project. We figured it was time we were a team again.