I am going to let you in on a little secret….my solo episode titles are actually song titles….crazy right…It is my playlist if you will for how I am feeling about the episode. This one is the name of a song from my ALL time favorite band U2. I like all kinds of music, everything from Nessun Dorma (Pavoratti is the best version) from the Opera Turandot to Tupac and most everything in between. Well maybe not everything I am not really a big fan of country music sorry hope you won’t hold that against me. The reason I pick the songs that I do is because the lyrics resonate with what I am trying to say. So in this song for example
I want to run, I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside
I wanna reach out and touch the flame
Where the streets have no name
I want to feel sunlight on my face
I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I wanna take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name, oh oh
We’re beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled into dust
This pretty much sums it up the first line that is how overwhelm makes me feel at first like running away and hiding with the screaming 2 year old inside my head. At the same time I do want to tear down all the walls and touch the flame, this is ripping through the emotions and feelings holding me hostage and doing what I need to be doing. I want to feel sunshine on my face to feel the warmth and see the dust cloud disappear. This is when I finally feel like I am getting back to myself to where I can function and start again.
OVERWHELM, anxiety, and depression are what hold me hostage inside my own head, I can see myself there bound and gagged in a chair, the part of me that can do the things. How do I get out of my restraints and how do I free myself from the 2 year old? That is what I have been asking myself for months. The thing I really need to do is figure out how this happened. How did I get to this point?
I was riding high for several months all in the build up to the launch of this podcast. I spent my days working at my real job, evenings doing house and family stuff until everyone was in bed then spent my nights on the podcast, what I like to refer to as my passion project. I was doing research, writing, e-mailing, and creating. All things that I love doing. I think what happened was I did too much for too long and I finally burned myself out at both ends. The culmination was my trip to Philadelphia for the conference. The last burst of energy and excitement I have had for a while. The conference was amazing and I have so much to tell everyone and hundreds of slides to go back through and notes to re-read. I really had a whole plan of doing videos and talking about the things I learned after each session and doing mini episodes all through November. Yeah, that didn’t happen. What happened was the Conference was as wonderful and amazing as it was emotionally and physically draining. I left feeling amazing with all of the wonderful people I met and feeling at home like I belonged. What I didn’t count on was the crash I would have when I got home and had to go back to work. I was too tired to write episodes, to work on my website, or to even post on social media, my brain was shutting down. Luckily I had interviews done and a few more lined up to buy me some time. The list of things I want and need to do is mounting and my time is limited in which to do it. My day job wasn’t making things easier because now I am into the busiest time of year and I don’t want to do it, well I do but I am frozen waiting for the deadline to get closer so my hyper focus will do a manual override on my 2 year old and break me free. For me when I am feeling overwhelmed like this the first thing that happens is I freak out after the freak out which kind of resembles the Not Responding message you get in excel when you are working in too many documents at the same time and it can’t keep up. Next my internal CPU has given me the blue screen of death that no reboot will fix and I can’t do anything but watch as my lists get longer and time shorter. With all of this comes the guilt, shame, and feelings of failure. I have failed all of you and myself because I couldn’t get it together to get the conference information out. Then there is the failure to work and my friends and family for not being able to be well me.
With ADHD you will hear a lot that for us there is only now, we don’t learn well from past experiences and can’t really see the future to know how what we do will affect us. We also have problems with what an article from Additude magazine calls ordination or planning and doing parts of a task in order. I can totally relate to this. It all makes organization hard to sustain because instead of doing things in order or from beginning to end we pick some random task and start in the middle even if it’s not the most important. If that isn’t enough the mounting “to do’s” have all of my attention..all of them at the same time. Not only the to-do’s but everything else from the kids playing upstairs to the food I am cooking in the kitchen to the tv on in the living room. The misnomer that what we have is an attention deficit should be more of a focus deficit because I can pay attention to everything just not well not enough to remember details about any one thing. For example my sons basketball games I go and watch him play and try to focus on just him but so much is going on that I am everywhere. I see the kid with the untied shoes and the detail on another player’s shoes, I see the faces of the parents from the other team when we score again. I hear the game going on in the court behind me and the volleyball in the opposite end of the court. My girls ask me questions all at once and by the end of the game I can’t tell you with any kind of accuracy what happened. I watched. I was excited to see it but my brain couldn’t process it. The score could be 12-46 and without the score board I would have no clue. This was especially the case when I was coaching soccer that was some serious overwhelm for me too. I was trying to learn a sport, teach a sport, and keep up with scoring. There were no scoreboards and so at the end of the game I would think we only lost by a couple of goals. When I would say this everyone looked at me like I was crazy because it should have been obvious that no it was a lot. Again I couldn’t process everything going on around me. See as a coach I was paying attention to what was going on too just like when my son plays basketball but I just couldn’t focus on certain things or retain the information because my brain was overwhelmed.
Back to the now so not only am I in freeze mode but all of my symptoms are multiplied due to the stress which all just keeps compounding on top of each other in an endless cycle. In the midst of all of this I keep finding myself getting lost in things that take little mental energy to try and escape it all. Facebook scrolling, news stories, random other internet rabbit holes and before I know it things just keep getting worse.
How the hell do I get out of this cycle that has now led to my depression flaring up as I call it and my binge eating take over? Well there are several things. The problem is it took me months to get here so it is taking me weeks to get myself back.
At Work: First I declutter. I like the mess on my desk because I know where everything is. Ask me for something and I can visualize exactly where it is. Where is the fringe benefit table for FY20? It is in the pile of papers under the student stipend schedule under my keyboard. Where is the paper I took notes on that told me about the new department’s accounts? It is in the manilla folder under the plastic folder 2 stacks to the left of my computer. In the manilla folder it is either the very 1st or last page depending on which way you open it….. but you will just have to take my word for it. When I am overwhelmed, the piles make me feel worse so I take about an hour and I go through everything on my desk and get rid of things I no longer need. I consolidate my many post-it notes by first do I still need anything on this note? Can I write this down somewhere else that makes more sense? or is this something I can take care of and be done? If not it should be added to the to-do list. Speaking of to- do lists the next thing I will do is start a new list on a fresh piece of paper. I have a template with boxes in Word that I use. A regular piece of paper would work to I just like what I like. Starting the list over does a couple things it lets me see how much I have already done (marked off), brings attention to things I may have done but forgotten to mark off thus eliminating tasks from the list, and lastly the act of writing the tasks down helps me remember them and the freshly written list is neat without the chaos of some things marked off but not others, random follow up notes that creep up the margin etc. and it helps me to get back on track. Once I have organized and re-written my to-do list I clean my desk, phone, key board, my mouse and mouse pad everything. The smell of the clorox wipes and the new clean desk are like the cherry on top. Just this temporary organization ritual helps me feel like 1 have done something which when you are overwhelmed getting something small done is big, and 2 it is a kind of reboot. I think I need something physical to do where I don’t have to think too much to give my brain a chance to get going again.
At home: to help get the exacerbated symptoms in check and deal with the depression I work out whether it’s doing yoga, jogging, going to the gym, or just getting up and taking a walk, just get active. On the weekends it’s usually running around the house getting dishes and laundry done going up and down the stairs. I don’t love it at all but it has to get done and it is something I don’t have to think much about. This movement helps clear my head because I can’t think about all of the other things if I am doing yoga and trying to focus on breathing and my posture. I can’t be overwhelmed if I am running and getting lost in a song. If I am trying to scrub a stubborn pan clean or getting a wrinkle out of a dress shirt I am not thinking about my failures in the other things I am trying to get that stupid wrinkle out without making more wrinkles somewhere else.
Along with movement is music, music while cleaning, impromptu dance party with the kids, while running just listening to music. I don’t know if this is a thing for everyone with ADHD but music can help me tremendously to change my emotional state. A song can give you goosebumps like Nessun Dorma sung by Luciano Pavarotti is just wow goose bumps everytime and it is so emotional especially after you know what the words are. Other songs can just make you ready to do damage like Eminem’s or some metal. Then there are some love songs that can just tear your heart in two. Then you have songs like right now my favorite get up and move song is ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd. It has a really great 80’s vibe to it and I can’t help but want to move, dance, run to it. I can’t listen to it and be down either. I would suggest putting together a playlist of songs that get you motivated and use that playlist to help you get out of your funk. Crank it whether it’s at home or in the office through your headphones it will help you get started.
Something else that is really helpful if you can swing it that applies to work and home play hooky take a day or a weekend just for you. Self care is so important, soooo important and I need to practice it more. I don’t care if your thing is going shopping (not my thing), taking a spa day (totally my thing), going fishing/hunting, getting in touch with nature through whatever outdoorsy thing you do, or even hitting up a golf course for a round of 9 or 18 whatever it is that is just for you do it if you can even if it is just for a few hours at a time. Self-care isn’t selfish, it is what you need to do so you can be the best person you can be for those that depend on you. Self-care is so important to everyone’s well being, not just us neurodiverse. If you can’t get away allowing yourself time to re-charge on the weekends by taking a lazy day or lazy few hours of doing NOTHING is self-care too. You are allowing yourself some much needed downtime.
The last tip I will leave you with is probably going to be the hardest for some, it is for me too. Delegate, ask for help, these two things when possible will help you to alleviate some of the pressure. Lately I have been able to delegate better at work but that doesn’t mean it is easy for me to let go. I always feel guilty asking for help like it somehow makes me inadequate or automatically a failure if I can’t do it all myself which is why it is so hard to do. The thing is though it will help you get your to-do’s under control which will help alleviate some of the overwhelm. You just have to get over yourself long enough to ask.
With all of this it may only take 1 thing to help you get going or if you are like me and wait until you have exhausted all of your energy reserves it will take all of the above and some time. I am definitely getting there slowly but I am getting there. The thing to try and remember even if you have to put it on a post-it on your monitor at work and refrigerator at home: It is ok, you will get back out of this funk. This too shall pass and you will see the dust cloud disappear without a trace.