Category Archives: Adversity

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.

 

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.

Makers Make

I was checking out Stanford University’s d. school page the other day. Very cool site focused on the integration of design and other areas of living. Stanford may be the academic leader in this conversion – I encourage you to check out their site.

As I was browsing there was a photo of a sign that hangs in their hall:

NOTHING IS A MISTAKE

THERE’S NO WIN

AND NO FAIL

THERE’S ONLY

MAKE

This is the  essence of creativity. All too often we get bogged down in self-doubt, self-editing, and self-destruction. We want things to be perfect when there is no perfect. There is just MAKE.

Like The Great One, Wayne Gretzky said, “The only guarantee is that you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Something like that…

The point is, do what you do. Don’t edit. Don’t erase. Don’t paint over. Just create.