Yesterday I couldn’t think of a thing to write and had to ask for help with a topic. Today, it seems I have so many things I can’t keep them all straight enough to pick one and go with it.
But I’m going to try. Please understand if it meanders a bit, this million topics filling my brain is hard to deal with.
I have ADD
Always have, though it wasn’t a term when I was a kid. It is such an overused term now that it is hard to understand what it really is.
Here it is in my estimation:
The inability to stick to a thought long enough for it to develop and simultaneously getting stuck on many individual thoughts that also won’t develop. It’s an inability to make decisions well because all the options are running through the decision making brain spaces and the chaos that ensues is debilitating. Meanwhile, everything, EVERYTHING is interesting, which makes it difficult to discern with thoughtful decision making skills. Usually the bright shiny things get the main focus, and sadly the bright shiny things aren’t always the best things to choose.
By bright and shiny, I mean the things that cause the most commotion, or are the loudest, or the eccentric, or fun over necessary, or involve more rather than the meaningful few, or have more end options, or sometimes it just means bright and shiny.
This has caused some difficulty in my life to be sure.
I HATE malls. I hate shopping. I hate crowds. I can’t deal with all the brain clutter that happens. I can’t make the decisions necessary to complete the task because there are just too many options available.
I have a really difficult time with paperwork. I can organize like crazy if that is the task AND if it isn’t my stuff. If it isn’t my stuff I’m organizing, it’s almost therapeutic. If it’s my stuff, there are so many decisions, albeit what would seem like simple decisions to others, for me to do the job. I get so overwhelmed it’s crazy.
I don’t always make the best choices because my brain says, “OK think about this for a second, squirrel!, oh yeah, we were going to do that, right.” The thinking part got lost during the squirrel attack.
I can become lethargic and or immobilized if there are too many things I have to try and focus on at once. Nothing gets done.
I do lots of things with little to no forethought or planning. I can be so fly by the seat of my pants. I am a yes girl….. and that isn’t always the best way to be.
I have developed some coping mechanisms.
I don’t know how other people do it, but…….
The First Mechanism
I have a “visual” tool that works for me. I have developed characters that play out roles in my brain to help me stick to a thought, a subject, a plan, and also give me a little insight into the future.
The first character is a tiny little Napoleon guy, dressed in full regalia with a sword. He’s one of my insight guys. Basically, he runs from one side of my brain to the other side of my brain screaming, “SABATEUR!!!”, whenever I do something stupid that will endanger my future. When I first started using him it was always in hindsight. Where most people palm their foreheads and say, “DOH”, I have a little guy running through my brain, theoretically speaking.
Now, I’ve gotten to where he just kind of peeks his head around the insight corner and I have learned to take that cue, usually. So, a lot of stupid, future endangering decisions are stopped with that simple act. Thank goodness.
The second character, that plays a huge role, is my inner therapist. No distinct form here, it is shaped from the many therapists I’ve had over the years and is just kind of a soft, nice blob that bounces back a lot of my thoughts so I have to think them again in a different way. That’s the game with this one, I can’t think something through the same way if the blob bounces it back. For example, “If I eat this package of chocolate Zingers I can’t eat dinner tonight, so just nibble the Zingers slowly.” BAM, the blob bounces that load-of-shit-thought faster than a tennis ball on a trampoline. “If I eat one chocolate Zinger I can give one to two other people and still eat dinner tonight.”
You think this would be easy to decide first. However, the package of three is a bright shiny thing. Bright shiny things happen without thought processes remember. If I ate all three I’d have gotten a sugar headache. I’d have made myself starve of real nutrition because of caloric considerations (note*those considerations were deeply implanted years before I realized I could like me). And, I’d have guilted myself for the next week. Basically, if the therapist blob hadn’t bounced it back, the Napoleon guy would have been screaming on the battlefield.
With the therapist blob the bright shiny things have to get a second run through and I can usually apply sane and learned (through therapy) principles to the thought process. Whew!
The third character, and I’m not sure if she’s underused or merely not needed as often, is a no-nonsense black woman. I do NOT mean this as a disrespect, in fact, it is a high respect. Black women are known for their ferocious passion. I spent a very large part of my life feeling small, weak, and powerless. This character is everything that is opposite of that. She is everything powerful and she takes no prisoners. I call her Big Mamma.
She has gotten me through some of the toughest situations. Every time I felt that I just couldn’t make it through another day of the incredible migraines and pain associated with my injuries from The Fall, she would stand there looking at me, hand on her hip, hair blowing from the fierceness exuding from her, and tell me, “I know you aren’t gonna keep talking like that. Who do you think you are laying there? Get your ass up and move or you’re gonna get stuck like that. Please!” And that wasn’t a nice please, that was a sarcastic, give me a break, please.
And I would get up and do something. And now look at me! Dancing, exercising, living life. Thank goodness she’s around. I do wish I saw more of her in the paperwork parts of my life, but I haven’t figured out how to get her over there yet.
OK this might sound like crazy talk
But it’s not. I know they are just visual aids. They are merely a way that I make myself stop and think. Something I can do to get my thoughts away from my ego, away from my past way of doing things, a way to rewire my initial responses. I’m a visual learner and it’s a coping mechanism that works really well for me.
The Second Mechanism
I plan. If I have a plan, a goal, something that I can focus my thoughts and decisions onto, everything works so much better. There is a helper filter to run all the decisions through. It’s not all just running around willy nilly in my brain like confetti in a tornado. The better the plan, the closer the thoughts look like confetti getting corralled by a low power blower. Manageable.
When I have a goal with a plan, it’s like a whole new me emerges. Case in point, since I’ve been here in Taiwan I hadn’t set myself a specific goal for accomplishing the bigger goal of learning about how to teach ESL here and comparing it with the previous and future places. The goal was to get here so I could do it. The specifics of how to accomplish the bigger goal hadn’t been set past getting here. Once I got here, I didn’t set a new goal. I’ve been floundering around trying to just experience.
So the therapist blob and I have had a couple bouncing sessions with this and I’ve realized that this is the first stop of many. It was the first time to become a part of a new life in another country. Prague was extremely temporary and I never got past the tourist phase. During the tourist phase here, I was fine. It was after that phase, with no plan, that things started to go back to the tornado place.
Now, I have a MUCH better idea of how this whole expat business works and I have already begun the planning for Turkey. I have also begun planning these last few weeks and the work towards the big goal that needs to get finished while here. And BAM, I feel like a whole new me. I have a purpose I can filter the decisions through.
The Third Mechanism
I don’t really know if it’s a mechanism exactly. It’s really just a part of the ADD, but it’s the way I use it as an advantage rather than a disadvantage that makes it fit in this category for me.
If it isn’t traumatic past a couple hours, I forget about it. Unless it, whatever it is, affects me or my situation for extended periods of time, once it’s over, I move on.
Coupled with that is the fact that the way I do things or think about things is 80% the way I have chosen to do or think them. I rightfully leave 20% as still affected by my past in instinctual ways. But I have dedicated a lot of work to rewiring so I can live in the present as it presents itself.
Example: Last weekend I ate a pancake. I ate a bite, all was good. I ate about a third of it and decided to put a little butter on the next part. Usually I can eat a little bit of butter without having a reaction. This was not the case this time. My throat began swelling, noticeably enough that the other people could see, the mucous came, the breathing was labored…. I rode it out and after about 30 min, I was doing ok. I hadn’t eaten enough to need the hospital thank goodness. – So, after about 4 or 5 hours, one of my friends, who had been there that morning said, “I’m so glad you’re feeling better!” To which I looked at her dumbfounded and asked if I had been sick earlier. I really had completely forgotten about it because I was fine. No big deal, done and over, move on. In the grand scheme of things, I learned and remembered, no butter at that place. In the here and now, I was fine.
I think it can be detrimental at times, but mostly recognizing that “if it isn’t a big deal, don’t dwell on it”, has been a life changer for the better.
I don’t consider people’s past because it doesn’t affect our here and now. I get to know people for how they are with and to me. If you want to talk about your past with me, I will help you to the best of my ability to learn from it. But even then, it doesn’t change anything about who I see you as. You are who you are as I met you, not as you were. And I (often mistakenly) believe others see me that way as well. I live my life believing that people see me for who I am, not who I used to be. So I try to be the best me I can be right now.
I don’t dwell on past hurts. Unless it was a BIG hurt or a repeat offense hurt, I let it go. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. If it was a big hurt or a repeat hurt, well Big Mamma has given me a few pointers. I will usually let it slide until it comes to the front of a situation and then I don’t hold back. But, after that, I let it go again. Amends can always be made, some take more time than others, but they can be made. Again, nobody is perfect. And all of us can change if we choose to.
And that folks, is part of who I am and why I am that way….