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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.

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.