Category Archives: ADD

Chasing Disasters – An ADHD Symptom

My friend Tom is a disaster chaser.

You’ve probably seen these guys on the Weather Channel – storm chasers. They sit in Midwestern cornfields watching  Doppler radar on their laptops like therapists observing an embattled couple practice relational Aikido in a closed room.

They are in absolute rapture when they see purple blobs suddenly emerge  on a screen of deep green.

Tom is kind of like that.

Tom is a pastor. More to the point, a replacement pastor for a major denomination. When a regular pastor leaves his or her position in a church, Tom is assigned to fill-in until a new, permanent pastor is placed. This suits him fine.

He’s okay with this arrangement because he is also a spiritual team leader for an elite group of professionals who are first responders when an a cataclysmic disaster occurs somewhere in the world.

He was part of a team that was first-in when Hurricane Katrina had hit. He also stood amid the rubble in Haiti after that horrible earthquake destroyed Port Au Prince and took the lives of thousands.

The way Tom tells it, he absolutely lives for these disasters. Admitting that it’s a somewhat odd position for a pastor to take, he also says he feels most alive when he’s suddenly thrust into these devastating circumstances. It’s a rush.

Tom has ADHD. He takes his adderall faithfully. When he walks into the theater of pain, suffering and destruction, he takes charge and makes a difference.

He also can’t balance his checkbook to save his life. He won’t become a permanent pastor because either he’ll get horribly bored by the routine, or he’ll screw up the administrative duties (or both).

He is living proof that we with ADHD are disaster chasers. All too often we create our own disasters (to our ultimate detriment) in order to feel alive. The adrenaline begins to rush when we say something unedited to our spouse or boss. We manufacture chaos when we can’t get the report right or we forget to pick-up a child from school. We drive significant others to madness when we suddenly begin dialing up Google to look up movie times while in the middle of an intense conversation. We’re really good at creating disaster.

And we can take a lesson from Tom.

He learned early on that his lack of focus and attention would be a detriment in serving the routine needs of congregants. He tried it, and it felt like a slow and torturous death.  However, while he may have lacked the ability to sustain focus, he didn’t lack the deep, compassionate heart a pastor must possess.

So, he applied his innate skills, love of God, sense of purpose and mission to taking on some of the most devastating natural disasters mankind could face. Tom’s skills are at their best in the midst of mass suffering. He feels most alive when rubble and rabble surround him. He is stimulated and challenged while serving a greater cause. It is admirable how he positioned his life to be of service.

He doesn’t beat himself up for his inability to keep track of expenses or appointments. He laughs about it. Of course, it took his wife a while longer to appreciate the humor, but she did catch on, and now happily provides the support he needs to be successful.

Yes, we are disaster chasers – and we can all take a lesson from Tom in how to be successful in chasing down our storms.

The ADD Death Spiral (Interrupted), Part Two

The ADD Death Spiral is a dark place for a blazing mind.

It’s a place that creeps up like a prowling jaguar, ready to pounce and devour. If you have ADD you understand what I’m saying here. No doubt you’ve experienced it. You understand that when you are there it can be really difficult to escape it’s cold embrace.

There is a way out, though. There is a way to avoid it altogether. It’s not easy (but, nothing is really easy with ADD – that’s why we have an extra gear), but you can free yourself from the Death Spiral.

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What follows is part of a blueprint. It’s not a magic prescription for wealth, fame and happiness. There’s no guarantee that you won’t feel frustration, even depression.  That’s normal. After all, chances are you will still make your share of mistakes, experience social flubs, and have difficulties doing certain things.  It will happen.

And that’s okay.

If you follow the blueprint you’ll be able to manage the tough stuff. Difficult situations will become easier. Not perfect, just easier.  It’s not a system or a program. It’s an attitude. A way of being.

And it works. How do I know? I use it. Imperfectly at times, but I have used every principle presented here (plus some). I know of others who have used these or similar tactics. They work. And, if you even implement just a few, your life will feel more comfortable. Promise.

Accept ADD. It’s kind of funny. There are many with the blessing who simply won’t accept it. At least not all of it. They think floating down a river in Egypt is okay. But, denial won’t make life better. It just prolongs the problems.

Accept All of it. Yes, that means accepting you simply can’t keep up with normies when it comes to managing stuff, organizing things, and making excuses when your internal editor decides to take a break.  Recognize those behaviors that are caused by ADD. Take responsibility. Own your stuff. This is the beginning of sanity.

Take your meds. Granted, not every person with ADD uses prescription medication. But, if you have ADD there is something you ingest that makes thinking a little better. For example, I need protein in the morning, so it’s not uncommon for me to eat meat before 10am. Whatever it is that works for you, don’t forget.

Meditate. I cannot underscore enough how powerful meditation can be in managing ADD. The act of relaxation and quieting the mind is transformative.  For me, the combination of guided meditation and simple mind relaxation work wonders. The guided meditation helps me focus my subconscious on specific things which creates stronger neuropathways. Quieting my mind during difficult times helps to relieve stress – which is a must in avoiding the Death Spiral.

Have concrete goals. Use the SMART goalsetting system. Have concrete, attainable goals. Having specific objectives you want to achieve will help you set your internal compass. When you begin to get lost, rabbit-trail, or otherwise become distracted, return to your goals and hit the re-set button. Thois will help get you back on track and avoid the spiral.

Make lists. Keep a list of all the stuff you need to get done. Your lists need to include everything from next-steps in attaining your goals, to picking up the dry cleaning, to remembering to take your vitamins. Take nothing for granted. Write it down. And, as you accomplish things, cross them off your list! In fact, do a couple of easy things first every day so you can cross something off as early in the day as possible. This way you will see that you have accomplished something and will motivate you to do more.

Keep the list in a place that you can easily see. So important. Most people with ADD are visual. We need to see things. Use color coding if need be, but make sure you can see your list at all times. With someone with ADD, out of sight is absolutely out of mind – so keep the list in clear sight.

Exercise. You need to do something – take a walk or run 10 miles – everyday. If you have a somewhat sedentary life, take time a couple of times per day to leave your seat and just walk. You need to get blood moving through your brain. You’ll feel better, and your mind will have more sharpness.

Trust your support person. First of all, you need to have a support person. Could be your spouse, business partner, friend, or an assistant. Whoever that person is, make sure you have clear and consistent communication with them everyday. That person can help keep you on track, stay accountable, and take on those tasks that you aren’t suited to take on.

Laugh. Let’s face it, you’re going to do some boneheaded stuff. We all do. Learn to laugh about it. Share your experience with others. Now, it may take them a while to join your laughter, but if you demonstrate a good attitude, own your stuff, and take honest responsibility, they will learn to laugh with you.

Demonstrate gratitude.  Make sure you communicate how grateful you are to your support person. Never, ever take them for granted. They are performing an absolutely necessary role in your life. Also speak gratitude for those things that are in your life. Basics like food and clothing; having people who you love and love you back; for the skills, knowledge and talents you possess; for having opportunities to display and use these talents. If you haven’t yet been able to use your talents fully, give thanks that you are working toward that goal. Simply give thanks for being alive. If you are breathing, then there is a plan for your life. Your life is meaningful, and you have the opportunity to be of benefit to others.

So, these are the basics for avoiding the Death Spiral. Obviously there is a lot more we could add to this list in managing the nuances of  how ADD shows up in our lives. We’ll get to those at some point. But, for now, practice these things and you’ll avoid the devastating effects of the Spiral.

The ADD Death Spiral, Part One

My belief is that having ADD is a blessing.

For whatever reason, the configuration of my brain has unique wiring. My neurotransmitters fire differently. Certain executive functions are challenging. Focus. Organization. Follow through. Sustained attention. You know, the stuff that teachers, employers and other authority figures value.  These things are tough for me – and for most with the blessing.

Blazing Mind will be filled with all the positive things that ADD contributes – creativity, agile thinking, humor, passion.

This article isn’t about those things. Like so many things in life, there is a dark side to this blessing. Well, this dark side has many, many shades of gray. This one I call The ADD Death Spiral.

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Like soil erosion, it happens gradually. We begin with clarity, feeling positive. Maybe we’ve started a new job or a new project, a new romance. Life feels good. We feel validated. Endorphines are pumping, our mind blazes bright and fast.

Then one day we forget a deadline…forget to take our meds…don’t study…blurt an unedited thought that doesn’t land properly. Discord occurs. The brightness dims.

Maybe we were forgiven, even given a pass. After all, our natural talents or winning personality are still attractive. Then it happens again. This time we don’t show up for a meeting, say something really thoughtless, leave a mundane task half done.

Trust is lost. Resentment starts to build. The shine others once saw in us begins to dull. And we know it.

That’s when the death spiral can really kick-in. We came into whatever situation we’re in with a nod toward low self-esteem…and yet we are optimistic and positive that we will overcome this time. We’ll get it right! This time, breakthrough!

Our attention begins to wander. More tasks are begun and never completed. We forget simple things, like feeding the dog or returning a call. The mundane stuff builds up. Boredom sets in. Our optimism is replaced by a low-grade depression. “Here we go again,” you might say. Or, my favorite, “Damn, I thought I was doing better.”

One of the basic truths of ADD sets up solid as we attempt to summon more energy: The harder we try, the worse it gets. You hear Yoda’s wizened voice, “With ADD there is no try.”

We spiral.

The depression gets a little thicker, clouds mounting, pregnant with cold rain. We want to be anywhere than here, because staying here is just a reminder of how much we truly do suck. “I can’t do anything right…why bother? Move on…I didn’t want this jobrelationshipsituation anyways!”

The bottom hits. It comes differently for each of us, but it does come. Maybe it’s just more disconnection from someone we love. Maybe we get reprimanded at work, maybe even let go. A pile of incomplete projects get higher, like twisted rusted metal in a junk yard.  It feels hopeless. The spiral has brought death to yet another dream, job, relationship.

The spiral tightens and maybe we shake our fist at God, “Why did you do this to me?”

The answer is always the same. And we don’t want to hear it.

We can’t bear hearing it again because…heavy sigh, maybe two…being responsible isn’t our strong suit.

No one did this to us. God didn’t curse our existence. He gave us challenges because it was pre-determined that we had the wherewithal and gumption to overcome them. What we must face would cause week-knee’d normies to quiver and faint.

There is a formula to fending off the death spiral. I’ll present that in Part Two.

 

Fables of the Reconstruction

Ever been in an argument with someone in which you both become so entrenched that there doesn’t seem to be a way out? It’s like a wordy treadmill, rolling over the same old points of view, beliefs, accusations, and any other point of contention – endlessly churning, like rear wheels spinning in red mud.

Maybe you come to a sort of conclusion, or at least a mutual agreement to stop arguing. No winner no loser. Afterward, there’s an incompleteness in the gut that even pralines and cream ice cream can’t comfort. You carry it with you for days, maybe. There’s inner discord, an out-of-sync vibration.

When you re-visit the scene of the crime, there’s something missing. A hollowness that won’t be filled. Forgiveness mouthed from a clenched heart is insufficient.

You realize the relationship can never be the same. It’s a fable of reconstruction.

Often we’ll try to re-create what was. But, what was has passed. What’s needed is something new.

That’s the soul of the creative process. A thing cannot be re-made. The attempt can only be like Frankenstein’s monster. The semblance of a stitched together man. Instead, we must accept that what once was is forever broken and un-fixable.

As Creatives, we take broken things and make something new. Maybe this is why creativity can be so messy. There is no reconstruction. There is only deconstruction and then starting from scratch. Sure, you build upon the knowledge, but the hands-on dirty work reaps something new.

That’s hard in relationships, We carry the broken bits with us wherever we go, with whomever we connect.

Maybe we need to re-gesso the canvas. Clean the brushes. Imagine a new painting. Create something new versus reconstructing something tired and trite.

 

Re-connect, Re-construct, Reconcile.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Creative Types, people with ADD, and other oddballs can be a bit idiosyncratic.

We tend to have a different outlook on life, maybe have difficulty connecting with our internal editors, maybe we can also be somewhat difficult.

All true. We definitely have a perspective. And we’re not always the best team members. Someone has to blaze trails, right? This personality trait often works well in art, but doesn’t always work in relationships. God knows I’ve had my trials – and have been a trial to countless others. Funny, I’m a very social person – I like people. But I also have mastered the practice of isolation.  Frankly, it’s getting to me.

So, this year I have decided to re-connect, re-construct and reconcile with people. The monastic life just isn’t working anymore.

Let’s see what happens. Can I maintain my abnormality and also have meaningful connections with normies and abbies alike? Sounds like an interesting experiment.

Blazing Mind vs. Efficiently Organized Normal Mind

I have a difficult time with mundane office tasks. Most who would look at my desk would say that I’m insanely disorganized, with stacks of papers on my desk, a mish-mash of office supplies and post-its slathered amid the stacks.

To the untrained eye this would appear incongruous with an organized mind. Well, this blog is called Blazing Mind not Efficiently Organized Mind. That’s right…I hate filing. When I have used a filing system in the past I’d eventually pull files from the chest and stack them on my desk. I’d trade papers for files filled with papers.

A Blazing Mind isn’t necessarily a conventionally organized mind. My thoughts could be all over the place for a while (like the papers on my desk), but within a few keystrokes I could find the zone and write for hours on end, copy that would need little re-writing, stuff I’d be proud enough of to hand over to my wife for editing.

Organized thought comes in a flash, like ball lightning, an electric explosion that comes from the wild blue yonder. When I finish, my desk is still a mess – my kind of mess. I know where stuff is, just like I know that ball lightning will come again at some point.

Most people with ADD can relate. The neatly prim and proper desk with everything in its place just feels so unnatural. Typically we’re expected to keep our desks like this, with the boss getting aggravated when our true nature takes its rightful place and the desktop is buried. How inefficient is that? After all, it’s going to take a while to clutter up the desk again, right? Wouldn’t it be better to keep the clutter and maximize the Blazing Mind?

And that’s the point. Think abnormally. Don’t conform. Let your mind blaze. That’s where the sweet spot will be, right there inside the Blazing Mind zone. Don’t try jamming the square pin inside the round hole. Just find your own groove and find the flow of the positive river.

Dare to be Abnormal

From the time we were small the powers that be have attempted to squelch individual voice and crush the uniqueness of soul to achieve a grand scale social proof.

They wanted us to be “normal”. Square hole square peg. Things gotta fit.

It’s easier to manage normality. To keep the streets safe and taxes paid normality must rule the day. I mean, what would happen if we each chose to be abnormal? Mayhem, chaos and anarchy! A world run amok with artists, shit-disturbers and radicals!

It would be a world ruled by ADHD!!

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

To tell the truth I’ve got no beef with normality. We need quiet quaint tree lined streets with well manicured lawns, houses occupied with mom dad two point three kids a cat and a dog and a mortgage paid on time every month. We need law and order and the American Dream. We need social systems that work. That world can be run by the 90-95% of the population that qualify as normal.

Where does that leave the 5-10% that aren’t normal, that are round pegs in a square hole world?

Right where we need to be. Inventing. Creating, Rebelling, Shouting. Laughing out loud. Manufacturing chaos and mayhem. Questioning. Pushing against social proofing. Living on the edge. Leaping off cliffs into the clouds below. We are the dazzlers and jesters and minstrels and adventurers discovering new lands.

We put dreams into action.

You don’t have to have ADHD to be a part of the Abnormal Crowd, but it helps. Those of us blessed with ADHD are accustomed to being the oddballs and misfits and dreamers of dreams. It requires a large dose of uncommon sense to live in this world, a world in which normalcy feels awfully uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, because of all that early conditioning and soul crushing, the unique ones must battle through depression, esteem issues and being ostracized to simply become who they were meant to be.

Abnormal.

Therefore, I say to my brothers and sisters who dare to break free from normalcy, do so. Do so with uncommon gusto. It takes courage to be abnormal. You can do it.

Dare to be abnormal. Dare to be what God made you to be.

Let Freedom Ring

Rules, structure and ADHD go together about as well as champagne and castor oil. So it seems.

When rules and structure are imposed it can feel suffocating and frustrating, like we’re caught in a vice and the freedom is slowly being crushed from us, our essential life force dripping slowly into a pool on a cold concrete workshop floor.  Having ADHD, we often fight against rules and structure like we were engaged in a death-match. It can feel like our very existence is at stake.

A remedy is to turn to our art, whatever that may be. Whether it is words on paper, paint on canvas, or the soft click of knitting needles gliding smoothly through good Irish wool – we can seek refuge and hope to find our state of flow.

The irony, of course, is that a primary purpose of art is to dive into the swirl of chaos and bring it form. The difference is that there isn’t some external critic or authority imposing their brand of structure. It’s just you and your art, and the structure you choose to apply.

It’s your unique, authentic brand that’s important; as is your attempt to ride the timeless flow of the Positive River. You and your art. Your world, your rules. Enjoy your art.

It’s freedom. Let freedom ring.

The Debate: Blessing or Curse?

Over the years I’ve browsed many blogs and other stuff on the web that focused on ADHD. I’ve heard a lot of folk bitch and moan about having ADHD. Yeah, it can really suck sometimes. No doubt. But, I prefer to think that having ADD is a blessing. After all, if just 5% of the adult population shares this unique condition, there must be something special about it…and me.

I like this post by ADHD coach Lynne Edris. She’s responding to a dude who is bemoaning his fate. I understand his feelings. At first, after being diagnosed, I did a lot of whiny “why me” schtick, too. However, I like Lynne’s take because, throughout my book I extoll the blessings (followed by tools) of possessing the condition.

She is right. How well we do with the condition comes down to our state of mind. Everything in life is a state of mind!

Will there be struggles? Of course there will be struggle! Being human means we will face difficulties every single day! No one, whether they have ADD or not, is immune! Life is hard enough…why make it worse by bitching about the hand we were dealt?

Instead, why not turn the tables? Why not choose to believe that ADD is a blessing? Believe it or not, having ADD blesses us with abilities that “normies” don’t have! I once heard an advertising executive say that creativity was the ability to make diverse connections. Those of us with ADD are experts at making connections that others cannot yet see. That’s an advantage!

I could go on and on about why I’m glad I was born with this condition. Suffice it to say, I think it is a blessing. And, I think the quicker we embrace and learn to use our wiring to our advantage, the better our lives will be.

Is ADD the new, hip affectation?

This is kind of weird.

During the course of my day, week, month I run into a lot of people. More often than not conversations turn to, “What have you been up to, Jim?”

When I tell them I just published a book on creativity and ADHD, I’m shocked at how many people say, “You know, I have ADD, too!”

We’ll engage in the conversation – “So, how does it manifest for you?”

More often than not people describe their busy, frentic lives. Overwhelmed and over-committed, they often describe the multiple projects, tasks, obligations, yadda yadda yadda they have going on.

I have no doubt that these good people are portraying their lives accurately. Speed, after all, defines the age we live in. Everything is going fast and faster and too damn fast.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that 11% of children age 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2011, and it is estimated that 4% of adults actually deal with the condition on a daily basis. As we’ve come to learn, ADHD is typically hereditary, and if a child has the condition, a parent or grandparent likely has it, too.

So, I ask my colleagues, “So, how has it manifested in your kids?”

“My kids? They don’t have it!”

I nod and smile. “Well, it sounds like you have a hyperactive lifestyle. If you’re not enjoying it, maybe you could slow it down a bit.”

I’m not sensitive about folk claiming to have something that they do not possess. It’s interesting how “ADD/ADHD” has become a descriptor and not just a diagnosis. Maybe that means more people have become more accepting that it actually exists. There are many out there that don’t believe ADHD is real, after all.

Of course, it is real. To be effective in life, those with ADHD need to manage the condition and channel their strengths in accordance to how they are wired. And for those who live an ADHD lifestyle? They could probably use some of the tools we use to manage our ADHD. Can’t hurt.

In the meantime, if people around you claim to have ADD, and you know they don’t, let it be okay. Take them out for coffee and invite them to slow it down. It’ll be good for all involved.