How Do You Keep Your Eye on the Ball - Maintaining Attention with ADHD

First step: Get started.

That was the topic of my last blogpost, dealing with the activation aspect of ADHD.

Following my own advice, just now I did two quick little internet tasks and crossed them off my list. Got a dopamine hit off that, like taking one bite of a piece of pie. So now I have a long task in front of me, writing my next blogpost on attention.

Oops, damn. Just took a break to eat a banana. And then I started a timer on one of my games. And now I'm remembering it's a friend's birthday and I haven't sent a card yet.

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NO! I will get back to the blogpost. Ugh. Even with a med on board, this is hard.

So. How do I keep working when my friend really deserves a birthday card and I really want to send it?

Here are my tricks:

  • Keep it short. Don't even try to work three hours at a time on any one project. I have a number of projects going right now. Each could benefit from an eight-hour-day effort. I never put in an eight hour day on any of them. My day is divided into blocks and I assign a different task to each block. No task gets more than two hours. And I take mini breaks in the middle of two hours. So yeah, I will check my email - waiting to hear back from my publisher. And I won't beat my ADD brain up for doing it.

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That reminds me: decades before I knew anything about my brain, one of the reasons I loved working in a parish was the variety of tasks within a day/week/year. Hurray for CHANGE!

  • Break it down. This one is related to the former. I have a whole book to edit. Nope. Gonna edit one chapter today. That's it. Next chapter tomorrow. Move on to a different task. Laundry: I pile the clean clothes on top of the dryer and fold one item each time I pass by. Who made some dumbass rule that says you have to wash, dry, fold, and even put away a load of laundry all in one day? You're an adult. Change that rule.

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  • Build in movement. I write at a standing desk and shift my position frequently, wiggle my hips, stretch my arms over my head. Go fold one more piece of laundry.

  • Build in a mindless task to run in the background. In grade school, I used a coloring book. My grad school notebooks are filled with doodles. Back when I went to in-person conferences (remember those days?) I would bring my knitting for those two hour meetings. Now that all my meetings are on Zoom, I can play a game while listening (yes, I really am listening) and no one is the wiser.

  • Make yourself accountable. Give yourself a deadline. Your boss or your professor may handle this for you. But those deadlines are probably for the whole task. Once you have broken it into the bit you can accomplish before lunch, tell somebody else what you're doing, a coworker, a spouse, Twitter, whatever works for you.

And look -- there's a whole blogpost!

But I gotta tell ya. Sure, my little kid ADHD prefrontal cortex developed, and sure, I developed some of these coping mechanisms on my own. But there is a difference between [agonizing over a blogpost for four days, eventually abandoning it in the draft pile] and [hanging in there with a few little breaks but getting it done in one morning.] And that difference seems to be medication.

Next up: well, I'm not sure. But I think I will continue on the ADHD thread and review a resource or two.

How Do You Get Going? Working with ADHD

Screens for ADHD measure five clusters of symptoms: 

  • organizing and activation for work
  • sustaining attention and concentration
  • sustaining energy and effort
  • managing affective interference (emotions that get in the way)
  • utilizing working memory and accessing recall.
The DSM checklist assumes that ADHD is a diagnosis for children. If you didn't have it as a child, you don't have it now.

Well, okay. I am not qualified to quibble with the American Psychiatric Association about how many angels dance on the head of a pin and when they showed up for the dance. But the problem of diagnosis is this: I can't remember which of their criteria I demonstrated in my childhood. And my mother certainly never noticed any struggles that her brilliant and perfect daughter may have experienced in the early 1960s. I mean, she didn't even notice suicidal depression...

So what do I make of that DSM assumption?

CHADD - Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has this to say about diagnosing adults:

There's That Squirrel Again! How Do I Know if I Have ADHD?

There is a reason why I haven't posted in months. My latest diagnosis -- ADHD -- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome -- the adult version.

I have a fistful of posts in my draft file that were never finished before they seemed beside the point. That is not an unusual state for me. Many years ago my brilliant brain was unable to write the doctoral thesis for which I had already conducted extensive field research and had a thorough outline. Periodically I would write whole chapters in my head. But when the laptop was in front of me...

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I was stuck.

We'll see how this post goes.

Diagnosis

Wait a minute. Don't I have bipolar disorder? Where did this new diagnosis come from? What are the chances a person could have both?

My Holiday Wish for Us All - Trip the Light

In my darkest bleak midwinter, I find the following. And I believe again. I do believe we can get back to this. And if the video were made again, with everybody in masks, it would not detract from the joy. It really wouldn't.

PS - While you are watching, dance!


If all the days that come to pass
Are behind these walls
I'll be left at the end of things
In a world kept small

 

Travel far from what I know
I'll be swept away
I need to know
I can be lost and not afraid

 

We're gonna trip the light
We're gonna break the night
And we'll see with new eyes
When we trip the light

Remember we're lost together
Remember we're the same
We hold the burning rhythm in our hearts
We hold the flame

We're gonna trip the light
We're gonna break the night
And we'll see with new eyes
When we trip the light

I'll find my way home
On the Western wind
To a place that was once my world
Back from where I've been

And in the morning light I'll remember
As the sun will rise
We are all the glowing embers
Of a distant fire

Come on and trip the light
We're gonna break the night
And we'll see with new eyes
When we trip the light

Music: Garry Schyman©
Lyrics: Alicia Lemke and Matt Harding©

Source LYBIO.net

Surviving Suicide - Can Our Stories Help Others?

The worst part of being suicidal isn't that it can kill you. The worst part is that you likely suffer alone.

You don't talk about it with friends and loved ones because it hurts them. And they respond by saying hurtful things.

You don't talk about it with a professional because you fear being subjected to the trauma of forced treatment.

No, that's not right, not always right anyway. Sometimes loved ones know how to listen. Sometimes professionals know how to help.

But still. These skills seem to be rare. And it's all so scary.

Even after you're better, it's scary. Scary for you, scary for them. Especially scary if it got to the point of self-harm, a suicidal act. Upon release from the hospital, you are treated to silence. People want to "protect your privacy." They also want to protect their own peace of mind. NOBODY wants you to mention it again.

Live Through This

So an archive of 157 stories of people who tried to die at their own hand, and yet they survived, a place where you can find people who are willing to tell their stories, how they got to that scary place and how they moved beyond it, or how they didn't (the scary lingers), that place is -- transgressive.

Beyond the DSM: Three Ways to Manage Other Issues of Bipolar Disorder

Medication is approved for a mental illness if it reduces symptoms, the symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Did you know that there is more to bipolar disorder than: 

an episode of depression 

elevated or irritated mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, pressure to keep talking, flight of ideas, distractibility, increase in goal-directed activity, psychomotor agitation, and excessive involvement in pleasurable or risky activities?

These are merely the outward and visible signs of what is happening inside the brain. These are how the doctor can tell that you have bipolar disorder.

But even after you suppress these symptoms, you still have a variety of neurological dysfunctions that affect your thinking, your energy metabolism, and your health.

Psych meds do not address all these other issues. They are a piece of treatment, an important piece. But suppressing symptoms, while it relieves the anxieties of those around you, does not fix your life.

"I Don't Believe in God Anymore. Just Don't Trust the Guy"

Job 42 - A sermon

Fourteen years ago, I wrote an essay titled, I don't believe in God anymore. It was a response to my grief about my mental illness, the loss of my self-image, my sense of confidence as a person who could rely on the state of my own mind.

I wasn't suicidal at the time. But I was acutely aware that chances are I would be again in the future, because I have a remitting, recurring condition. It appears, it gets better, it flairs again. And suicidal ideation is one of its symptoms, a particularly cruel symptom.

I felt betrayed. Betrayed by God.

I mean, I had given my life, my energy, my health to serving God. And all of those things had been taken away from me. Me!

Okay, I know that bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen even to saints. But, damn!

It wasn't about mental illness so much as it was about grief, grief for the loss of what I thought I knew about myself, what I thought I could count on, my brain, most of all.

And I thought I could count on God, too. So, I wrote, I don't believe in God anymore. Just don't trust the guy like I used to.

Job had a different response to his grief. He never said, I don't believe in God anymore. He continued to challenge God to be the God he thought he knew. But there are ways that the book resounds powerfully for me.

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