Sunday, February 24, 2008

Being our own best friend

I started realizing in the past couple of weeks that people are reading what I have to say on this blog. Sweet! I'm delighted to have an audience for my words and experiences, and am glad y'all are along for the ride.

I've found one downside that unfortunately comes with knowing that an audience exists. It's not you, dear reader; it's me. Over the past week, I've had an idea or two each day that I wanted to blog about. But each time that I fired up my computer and started writing about my fabulous idea, it babbled on with no end or I couldn't remember my original point. Showing my true colors as a person with ADD, I saved the post as a draft with the intent on returning to it later and posting it on the blog. Of course, it didn't happen. Because I was looking to create some sort of masterpiece, I continued to procrastinate.

Also characteristic of ADD-me, I got irritated with myself about not finishing my writings. Now, I know that doing that is counter-productive. Would I tell a blogger friend who hadn't published all week for the same reasons that s/he needs to get in gear? I wouldn't, because I know that writing is a personal thing for everyone and harping on someone to blog won't help matters.

When I sat down to write this, the only things I had in mind we contained in the first two paragraph. My goal with writing this post was just to update the blog and procrastinate no longer. Indeed, I've achieved that goal :-)

But interestingly, after I wrote the paragraph beginning with "also characteristic," which seemed to roll off from my fingers onto the keyboard, I realized how much of a dark cloud I'd put above my head concerning my writing. I actually felt better after writing that paragraph, because it made me think of the unnecessary pressure I'd put upon myself. I shouldn't do that, and neither should you. By having ADD, we have enough to handle. Why mentally pummel ourselves when we haven't achieved some goal with an adjustable bar?

This reminds me of a little story. A few years ago, I did my friend E.'s makeup on her wedding day. Because of a delay at the hair salon where she was getting her updo, she arrived at the chapel only half an hour before the ceremony. She still had to get dressed and I still had to apply her maquillage. While I was applying her makeup, she wanted me to do it quickly and even suggested skipping some of the products. I mentioned to my dear friend that doing everything properly and without rushing would only take maybe an additional 5 minutes. I also mentioned that I'd never been to a wedding that started exactly on the time of the invitation. But more importantly, the wedding doesn't start without the bride.

E. relaxed after I said that. She and I then enjoyed our precious minutes of girl bonding before the I-do's. The wedding was perfectly lovely, and I know for sure that nobody knew or cared that the wedding began a few minutes late.

So, the next time you or I think about how we have that pile of papers to go through or how we left the left the house a few minutes later than we were supposed to, or how we have to resort to take-out yet again because we forgot to grocery shop because we have no idea what we need to buy, let's think about where that pressure's coming from. The only person who we know for sure will be with us every moment of our lives is ourself. We may as well be a friend to that great person.

Friday, February 15, 2008


(Note: Welcome to all readers who linked from the ADHD Blog Carnival!)

I spent the last several days on a much needed break from my everyday life. Usually at this time of year, I've jetted off to somewhere warm for respite from the winter weather. But this time, I headed to a holisitc-ish retreat center that's a few hours away from home.

It wasn't so much the meditation and yoga that attracted me to the place. Rather, I relished the thought of being in simple surroundings with no TV, newspapers, or Internet. Part of me -- the ADD part, of course -- did worry about being bored, and so I brought three books, three magazines, and two journals. I guess I had big plans to write the great American novel or ADD-Libbing posts for the next six months! One duffel bag contained everything I needed for the week. Before I left home on Sunday, I kept thinking I would run out of clothes, and so I stuffed in some extra things at the last minute.

The retreat was perfect for clearing my mind. My room faced east, and I enjoyed waking gently to the sunrise each morning. I ate plenty of healthy food, and they nicely offer two kinds of hot sauce for people like me to add some much needed spice. I didn't find myself thinking about the mindless media minutiae, such as Britney's latest antics. I learned a bit about aromatherapy, which I always wanted to know more about. I met a couple of some fun new people I plan to stay in touch with, and I fit in some exercise, too.

Of course, after a few days, I began to miss some parts of my regular life. A couple of days into the retreat, I holed up to make a few cell phone calls home to get connected to people I missed. The following day, I decided that I needed to reconnect a bit with the rest of civilization, and ducked out in the afternoon to visit a little local museum and buy a pair of shoes. Oh yeah, and I happily treated myself to a real cup of coffee - they definitely watered down the organic, shade-grown, fair trade stuff that they served only between certain hours. I definitely felt even more recharged after my afternoon excursion.

Being disconnected from TV, news, and Internet was definitely a great thing for my ADD mind. I wondered a bit about what emails I might be missing, but otherwise, the urge to get myself online dissipated. As for all of the reading and writing material that I brought, I finished two of the three magazines, got a third of the way through one book, and definitely did not fill up wither journal. Seeing how much I didn't read made me think about how much we try to pack into our stimulated ADD brains (i.e., a lot!). I always worry that I'm going to be bored, and so I cart along way too much stuff to prevent boredom.

I've two takeaways from my time away. One, I'm definitely going to try to have time that's free of TV, news, and Internet. I know that this will be difficult for me. It's one thing to be somewhere that lacks these things, another to be at home with my computer and TV staring me in the face. I definitely felt energized by not getting sucked into these things while I was away, and so I'd like to maintain this energy.

Two, being in my simple surroundings gave me a renewed desire to work on clearing my clutter. I found it easy to get by for several days with just one bag of clothes and toiletries. And oftentimes when I'm at home, I feel psychologically weighted down by all of the stuff in my home that I don't use or really care about. This weekend, I'm going to list a bunch of things on Freecycle and also bag some stuff for charity.

If I can do both of these things, I can have the best of both worlds: a clutter-free environment AND TV and Internet available at my disposal for (hopefully!) healthy periods of time.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ritalin and the Two Sides of Me

On Super Bowl Sunday, I celebrated my second aniversary of being Powered by Ritalin. When I reflect on the past couple of years, a recent compliment pops into my mind. A manager in one of my employer's main offices phoned me with accolades regarding how I handled a recent meeting. She also said she's noticed that my ability to take command in such meetings had catapulted in the past couple of years. Coincidence?

That manager's compliment sums up one side of me. I occasionally lead or participate in high-level meetings in which I must be clear, articulate, on my game, and thinking fast. Pre-Ritalin, I used to dread these situations because after a few minutes I would feel like I fell face first into a mud puddle because everything said in the meeting would just form a traffic jam in my brain.

Post-Ritalin, I relish these opportunities. I'm able to address what's being said, and even go off on tangents because I can easily return to my main points. Even better, I can do all of this with little effort. I've thus discovered my new ability to think on my feet. While other colleagues require detailed notes before they speak in public, I can expound for a while with just a few bullets.

But then there's the other side of me. This other side of me forgot to do laundry the night before one of these meetings last week. I realized well after midnight while I was still surfing the Internet that I had no clean hosiery to wear to the meeting in the morning. I quickly handwashed a pair and rolled it in a bath towel to speed up the drying process. However, I forgot to unroll the towel and hang up the hosiery before I went to bed. As a result, I had to blast my hair dryer on them so as not to don moist legwear. And though I knew what I planned to wear, I chose not to iron until the morning. I could have used the hosiery-drying and ironing time to eat breakfast. Instead, I arrived at the meeting with an empty belly and ample gratitude for the person who brought donuts.

Another one of the meetings involved overnight travel. Though I'd only be gone for a couple of days, I still could not decide what I wanted to wear. I partially attribute my indecision to a temporary post-Thanksgiving weight gain in all of the wrong places and not liking the way my clothes fit. I ended up going to bed at 3:30 in the morning without having my attire selected, and had to get up 2 hours later to catch my flight. I ended up packing my stuff right before I left for the airport, and the 10 minutes of crunch-time decision making worked out just fine. Had I curtailed the procrastination, I wouldn't have needed to frequently squirt drops in my red eyes, prop myself up with caffeine, or scarf down every carb that came within an arm's reach.

On the job, I'm able to keep the harried and frantic side of me hidden away. I show up for these professional confabs by presenting my poised, confident, and smartly attired. But on the inside, I feel as exhausted as someone who just finished a marathon because of all the hoops I make myself jump through to get myself out the door.

Shortly after becoming Powered by Ritalin, a former friend (I alluded to her in a previous post) expressed her skepticism about ADD in general. She mentioned that one of the characters on "Desperate Housewives" took her kid's Ritalin and then cleaned the house in one fell swoop. Then she asked if that was how the drug would affect me. If only! ADD drugs provide us with an ability to do things, not the discipline. I'll continue to muddle through the latter, because discipline doesn't come in pill form.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We can be "Heroes"...

(note: if you've not yet seen season one of "Heroes" and want to avoid any potential minor spoilers, please skip this post!)

I recently started watching season one of "Heroes" and immediately became hooked. Thus far, I've watched about half a dozen episodes, so I'm still at the point where the heroes are realizing that they possess special powers. Discovering their powers bewilders the heroes. Furthermore, the heroes who share their knowledge with others fail to find understanding among the "normal" folk. So, even though the heroes can do cool stuff such as fly or regenerate parts of their own bodies or travel into the future, they feel abnormal. They only begin to appreciate their amazing abilities when they meet the other heroes.

Therein lies the reason why I love this show. This show has made me think a lot lately of my ADD "assets" as superpowers. Because my ADD wasn't diagnosed until adulthood, I can relate to feeling different than other people and not knowing why I can't be just like them and be able to pay attention, not blurt out what's on my mind, or space out at inappropriate times. True, ADD doesn't give me the ability to see tomorrow's newspaper for the lottery numbers and allow me to retire before I'm 40. However, ADD's given me the ability to think on my feet, which is a huge asset in my career. ADD helps me realize my true talents and abilities by letting me hyperfocus on them. And ADD plants creative ideas in my head like dandelions in a roadside field.

It's not been an easy road for me to view the positives with ADD. In some cases, it's been a lonely one, just as it's been for the heroes. I've felt misunderstood for a good portion of my life for not being a neatnik like the rest of the family. It's delayed promotions at work, caused sleep deficits, and even ended a friendship (though in retrospect, that may have been for the best). It wasn't until I finally started getting support - from close friends, my old therapist, my coach, and my drug doc - did I realize that I could view ADD as a positive.

New research actually proves the importance of support. Last week, the New York Times' health blog discussed a journal article on the perspectives of children with ADD. Not surprisingly, the article's titled "I Have Always Felt Different," and is based on interviews with college students who were diagnosed with ADD as children. One line in the conclusion certainly rang true for me: "A strong theme throughout these interviews was the value of being understood and supported."

I still have a lot more episodes of "Heroes" to enjoy, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the show unfolds. In the meantime, we folks with ADD should try to embrace the positives that the disorder provides. I certainly have a hard time doing this myself. But with the right support, our gifts can benefit the world, just like the heroes' gifts.