Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, March 05

My mental wellness challenge from last week had three parts… I’d like to check in with how I did with my challenge.

  1. Read through the above piece about my model and then think about other tools and supports that you use if you ever get lost in the darkness.

    I read through my piece on my model a few times actually.  I saw some things that I would like to clarify more in the future, but all in all… it works for me.

  2. Do my mirror talk exercise.  When you get up in the morning and you are brushing your teeth, look at the person in the mirror, right into their (your) eyes and tell that person that you love them.  When you come home at the end of your day and you are washing up, look that person in the eye and tell them that you are proud of them.  And lastly, when you are getting ready for bed in the evening, getting ready for bed – scrubbing your teeth, look that person in the eye and tell them (yourself) “You are enough!”

    I have to admit that this is a tough piece for me.  I can do the first two steps, I can see myself in the mirror as a lovable individual and can actually feel love for myself.  The pride piece is one that I have to spend more time with – growing up I was taught that it was wrong to have pride for myself – and while I know that teaching was wrong – years of learning are not simply erased in one fell swoop.  The last piece of this exercise is really really hard for me.  I just don’t feel it.  I don’t feel that I am truly enough…. and when I say it to myself – I feel like I am lying to myself.  I have a pretty good idea where this comes from, and I work on it… but I struggle with being enough.

  3. Make someone’s day a little lighter.  Tell them you care, leave them a little sticky note, share a coffee with them, simply do something to make a person’s day a little brighter.

    I did OK with this piece.  I spent some time with a couple of different folks.  I even pushed myself into an uncomfortable place by calling an acquaintance that struggles with boundaries, and spending some quality time trying to make their path a little easier.

This week I’d like to share a little about the differences that I have seen/discovered between the way I deal with my thoughts and the busyness of my brain compared to my understanding of how, say, my spouse is able to manage her thoughts.

We were having coffee the other morning, just chatting, and the conversation turned to the way my brain pings from issue to issue – all at once – in a way, like juggling a whole bunch of ideas or concerns at one time.  This is an ADHD thing.  My “brain” is a busy place… cluttered at times with lots of distractions I have very little control over… throw into that mix some external stimuli and well… I’m done.

My spouse, on the other hand, has the really cool ability to compartmentalize her thought, concerns, ideas and the such… she can “turn her brain off”.  I’ve never been truly able to understand that concept as I have never been able to NOT have my mind/brain busy with something.

Let me put this into a couple of images for you.

My wife’s brain and her ability to organize and compartmentalize:

My wife has this incredible ability to take a thought or a concern, package it up with all the relevant information, time, temperature, temperment, frustration quotient, etc, etc and wrap all that up and put it into her sorting slots and then leave it/them there.  Those thought might sit there for days, weeks, month or longer and she can go about her “goings on” without a bother of the things in that “sorter”.  

I don’t know if this is the same for all “neuro-typicals” or not – I can only share what I understand from what I have discussed with her.

This – to my way of thinking and understanding has some big bonuses and some drawbacks.  

She can leave “HOT” issues alone and carry on with her day.  I’m not certain if those “HOT” issues ever cool down – but she can then deal with them when she wants to… This is a double sided tool… I think that the heat of the issues certainly does have an impact… but I don’t know for sure – because I don’t live this way.

The other awesome thing she can do is take out tasks, concerns, “things” – that are more mundane.  She can turn her focus on those tasks and “make” her brain deal with it.  Then, once its done – its done.

My brain and the way it works for me:

My brain works a whole lot differently.  I don’t have a shutter that I can slide across my thoughts to turn them off.  Sincerely – my brain is ALWAYS ON – or at least it feels that way to me.

If I need down time – I need to distract myself with something that will hold my attention.

I have loads and loads of things on my mind all the time.  My brain/mind jumps from item to item – sometimes in what seems to be a totally random order.  Other times, its the brightest or hottest item that gets my attention.

Maybe even a new light will show up and I will focus my attention on it for a while – and then – some other new light will show up or a deadline will cause some other light to get brighter and I will change my focus to that for a while.

There are even some “items” that have been there for so long that they have dust on them and appear dimmer… This doesn’t mean that they aren’t important in the bigger picture, but that I haven’t paid attention to them.  When I finally get round to dusting them off… I then recognize their urgency and am forced to deal with them… This is what happens to the more mundane things I have to deal with… paperwork – that’s one of the bits and pieces that I really struggle with..

If there are any really bright issues – I deal with them first.  I CAN NOT let emotionally charged stuff burn.  Those lights or items for me take my attention and I can’t get my focus off them until I deal with what is making them so bright.  

My wife has expressed – often – her frustration that “All of the sudden, this “thing” is the most important issue in the world to me, and I need to deal with it straight away.”  This sometimes happens when I come across something that has been idle for a long time and is “caked in dust”.  When I knock the dust off – the issue is so intense that I have to deal with it.

I get that this must sound totally WEIRD to anyone who has never experienced it or has had to deal with someone with an ADHD brain.  This may not be a truth for everyone with ADHD, but its a sincere reflection of how things work for me.

This isn’t all bad – there are upsides too.  Hyper-focus for instance.  If there is something that I am really “into”, I can focus on it for hours, days even until it is finished.  (An honesty point here – if there’s a boring piece that needs to be done at the end of hyper-focus, I’m either going to have force myself to finish up – or its not going to get done.)

Well then, how do our two brains work together????

Sometimes really well, sometimes not so well.

I don’t understand my wife’s ability to take conflict, package it up, put it in a cubby and leave it… sometimes for months.  Then, take it out of cubby and deal with it later.  Often times, when it is removed from the cubby, there’s notes (just an analogy here) about intensity, mood, etc that refresh the urgency of the conflict.  This is 100% contrary to the way I have to deal with stuff like that.  So then – she is at one place with the issue or conflict and I am at a totally different place with it.  I might not even have a recollection of the “energy”.  I can’t let stuff simmer or burn brightly for long periods of time – and I would likely have done something to get rid of the “heat”.  My light might still be on, but it’s likely dim and I won’t feel the same urgency.

So – how do we deal with stuff like this…  It’s hard.  I have to realize that I have a totally different way of dealing with issues and provide the space (time) for her to process or not.  She has to realize that I have a totally different need to deal with the stimulus in a more immediate fashion.  We both “know” (we can mentally identify the others means of processing things) that we are both very different, but sometimes, especially if something is emotionally charged, its very difficult to come to some middle ground.   I think this is one of the places where things get left in a cubby indefinitely and I might even unscrew a bulb or cover it with mud. 

Its not all bad – there are times where our two “ways” compliment each other.  My urgency can be tempered with her organization.

I truly believe that my diagnosis has been a tool that is helping us come to more of an understanding of each other.  I don’t think my wife is weird because she can shut her thoughts off and I think she has come to understand that my brain just doesn’t turn off. 

I love my wife so much and I have so very much respect for her.  She has lived with me “pre-diagnosis” for decades and has always worked hard to understand my quirks, ticks and “isms”.   We continue to learn about the “way my brain is different” and that helps with understanding some of the places in our lives where we haven’t had the smoothest of paths.

My challenge for the week:

  1. Go for a walk with a friend.  You don’t have to talk or solve the worlds problems, just be there for each other.
  2. Reach out to someone in your life that is a little more distant than your heart tells you they should be.  Call them.  TALK TO THEM.  If you need to break the ice – shoot them an email or a text – but then follow up with a call and speak with them.  Connect with them.
  3. Spend 10 minutes each day just being.  Just being.  Let your mind go where it wants to go, let your body feel what it wants to feel, let your heart glow.  Just be.

That’s it, I challenge you!

Here’s a link to a good piece on the top 10 myths around ADHD…