Friday, November 18, 2011

Forget the blind leading the blind. We have the distracted leading the . . . squirrel!

I've mentioned before that I have ADD.  Not ADHD - I've never been hyperactive, just easily distracted and overwhelmed.  Back in my lawyer days, I think most people who didn't know me well would have been surprised by my diagnosis.  I used to be good at pretending that I had it all together.  I generally seemed to know what I was talking about.  I produced good work.  I worked well with others.  But what most people didn't know, was that just getting through a day back then took a tremendous personal toll.  The energy that it took to hold my life together was ridiculous.  I was constantly checking and double-checking things.  Fixing (and, unfortunately, sometimes hiding) mistakes. Worrying that something would fall through the cracks.  Freaking out when things inevitably DID fall through the cracks.  I ended up taking more pharmaceuticals than a depressed Beverly Hills housewife.  And yet I still never felt right.

Back in those days, I worked while my then-husband stayed at home.  He took care of a lot of things at home that I simply couldn't handle.  We had, I thought, a pretty good division of labor.  But my ex was also an abusive son-of-a-b*, which I've spent too much ink on.  He constantly reminded me of my limitations, as if I needed any reminders.  I thought that once I left the high-pressure legal profession and my high-stress marriage, things would calm down in my life and I would be better able to handle the day to day crap better.

But, according to Buckaroo Bonzai and Jon Kabat-Zinn - "wherever you go, there you are."  It's easy to blame things outside of ourselves for our problems and think that if we just get rid of the bad situations, and away from the bad people, things will be all better.  But the reality is that if we don't deal with our own shit, it doesn't really matter how many external changes we make in our lives.  My ADD affected my life as a lawyer and wife.  It affects my life as a massage therapist and a divorcee.  It is part of who I am and isn't something that is caused by external events or the people in my life.  So, even though I love my job and I don't have to live with someone who makes me feel like crap on a regular basis, I still have ADD.

Adding further complication to the situation is the fact that my older daughter was diagnosed with ADD and is struggling in school.  Throw in the fact that my ex has recently decided that he doesn't want to be a parent anymore, making me a 24/7 single mom and my life has suddenly become very stressful again.  All the things my ex used to do for the kids - even after the divorce - are now my sole responsibility. Plus I'm starting my own practice and I've never, ever run a business before.  I think anyone in my situation would find it difficult to manage.  But for someone with ADD this situation is unmanageable.  And it feels like it's getting worse by the day.

Although I'm not responsible FOR my girls, I am responsible TO them. (And maybe the explanation of that needs another post . . .) I need to be the best mom that I can be in order to guide them through their teen years and get them out into the world as happy, healthy, productive adults.  And right now it really feels like the blind leading the blind (or the distracted leading the distractable).  How can I get my kids - especially the one with confirmed ADD - on a schedule and organized, if I can't do the same for myself?  We constantly lose things. It takes so much energy for me to remember all the things that have to be done for the kids that I rarely have energy to do things for myself.  I haven't had my "annual" check up in years.  My mother comes to my house to visit and spends the whole time cleaning up because the apartment is a disaster.  How can I teach my kids to keep a reasonably organized house if I can't even do it myself?

I'm a huge believer in natural remedies. I've gotten myself off of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds more than once.  In the past, I felt guilty for taking ADD medication because I know that if stopped eating all processed foods, ate only organic whole foods, did yoga every day and meditated regularly, I might actually be able to get the ADD under control without resorting to pharmaceutical management.  I'm sure there are people out there who are willing and able to make the sacrifices that lifestyle requires.  But in my world, those sacrifices seem too great to make right now.  I have two busy kids.  I'm starting a business.  The work, time and money it would require to eat only organic whole foods is too much for me.  And the protest that would erupt in my house if I tried to make the kids start eating only organic whole foods would rival the Occupy Wall Street protests.

So I made the (clearly not easy) decision to go back to medication to help me manage my ADD symptoms. If I can't model good management of my own symptoms, how can I expect my daughter to manage her own symptoms?  I don't want her to feel bad about relying on medication.  There's no shame in needing help.  I hope that medication is a short-term solution.  I hope that things will settle down, at least a little, so that I can feel like I'm in control again.  And once I feel in control, maybe using natural remedies won't seem like an insurmountable goal.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Change the picture, change your mood

Lately I've felt like my life has gotten a bit out of control.  Every day I was living life in such a way that I felt like there was no room for error. So when the inevitable bumps in the road happened I would fly off the handle. I'm a single mom to two busy, easily distracted girls and I'm starting my own massage therapy practice - bumps in the road happen every single day.  So I was flying off the handle - every single day. The anxiety was getting to me and to my girls.  I started imagining my life as a bobsled race.  I was the captain, my girls were my teammates and we were careening down an icy course.  One wrong move on my part and our very lives would be in danger.  It's no wonder I was a complete freaking mess.  Daily.  On top of that, we are still struggling with living in a much smaller apartment than we used to have.  It's been hard to pare down our belongings and hard for the girls to clean up after themselves when there's so little space to put things.  My mental, emotional and physical spaces were closing in on me.

At yoga the other day, my teacher talked about making space.  Metaphorically speaking.  Doing the poses helps make physical space in our joints and our spines.  Meditating and taking time for recovery hopefully helps us make space in our minds and our souls for the inevitable challenges of daily life.

By the end of class I realized that it was my own imagination that was making me anxious. I'm not a bobsled team captain.  My girls and I aren't in a bobsled race.  But keeping that in my mind made me feel physically as if that's exactly what we were.  I can choose to dismiss that picture from my mind and I can choose to replace it with something much more peaceful.  Something with space.

At first I thought of cross-country skiing.  (And what is it with me and winter sports? I hate to be cold and I don't even ski.)  But then my heart started pounding at that thought so I realized that wouldn't work. I changed the picture. I imagined that my girls and I were walking in a boundless meadow.  On a sunny - but not too hot - day.  I knew that if we needed to change direction at any time, that would be fine.  No obstacles.  No ice.  No scary, blind turns.  Just grass and flowers and sun and happy.  And calm.  Lots and lots of calm.

I'd love to say that since then I've been unflappable.  Calm and peaceful as Ghandi.  Not so.  But I've been better.  And improving every day.  Because I know that when that bobsled racing, no room for error thinking starts creeping into my mind, I can change it.  And the meadow is always there to calm me down.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Finding joy in the music of your own making

Say hello to Uncle Jimmy.  That's probably not his real name, but it seems to fit.  A friend sent me this picture yesterday and more or less dared me to find in it some inspiration to write.  I'm not one to wimp out on a dare.

Of course this picture is meant to be a joke.  We're supposed to laugh at Uncle Jimmy.  And I did laugh when I first saw it.  What's not funny about a half-naked fat guy playing the flute and dancing in the street?

But when I really thought about, I realized that the picture makes me uncomfortable.  Things we find humorous usually do, on some level.  Looking at it, I feel like I'm seeing something that should be private and I'm not really talking about his nearly naked body. (Which wouldn't even be an issue if he had a six-pack.  Consider what that says about our culture's body image issues.)

The thing that makes me most uncomfortable is his abandon in the moment.  His joy in the music of his own making.  When is the last time you allowed yourself to just be exactly who you are, doing exactly what you love to do and enjoying it - in public - without worrying what other people thought of you?  When is the last time you did that in private?

Go out today and play your version of Uncle Jimmy's flute.  Dance half naked.  Hell, dance naked (but I suggest you do that in private for legal reasons).  Do whatever makes you feel good in the moment. Push aside that voice in your head that tells you that you're doing it wrong. Let go.  Find your inner Uncle Jimmy.  Find your joy in the music of your own making.