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It’s been…7 weeks(?!) since my last post? Wtf
I haven't written in a long while, which is intentional and good. The name of the game for my short term disability has been to rest, and I've done so in spades. I have a bunch of ideas I want to put out there, so this post will be a bit disorganized.
After a couple years of madness, I am feeling the limits of my physical body. I'm not that old, but after a couple years of the hustle, I’ve had to accept that I am somewhat a product of my circumstances -- in other words, my potential is not as high as I once thought it was. My youthful rebellion refused to accept that the limitations imposed upon me by very, very large forces would actually apply. However, as I sought therapy and slowly uncovered the big hits that I've taken, like my fun collection of adverse childhood experiences, it dawned on me that the future sold to Young Jon was not realistic.
After years of protest, I've been able to achieve the higher range of my possible life outcomes, but now reality is truly setting in. I have to monitor my energy levels more closely instead of sprinting off with reckless abandon. Do I regret it? Not exactly. I did it for my little family, which is better off for it. Do I wish I did it differently? 100%, but playing the "alternate reality" game can get dangerous easily. Alas, this is the timeline I'm stuck in, so I gotta play the cards I'm dealt. I'm a tired person, and I need more time to recharge than I used to. I can't push myself nearly as hard as I used to without throwing the whole system out of balance. Swallowing my pride with a side of humble pie will give me strength for the rest of this...dinner party? For the rest of my life, I suppose, starting with my 30’s.
As such, it's that time of year where I take a step back from alcohol, but this time around, I'm also cutting out the stimulants like coffee and the occasional Adderall in the name of sleep quality and quantity. I usually tend to do this in the autumn season as all of the fun activities close off with the end of the warm weather. I'd been struggling to sleep all summer, and it took me until late July to realize that since I stopped doing any work during the day (besides rest), the coffee was keeping me up at night, whereas during a normal workday, the coffee level was exactly matched for the mad dash of trying to cram as much productivity into one day as possible. I'm very driven by mental work, such as through my day job, 3D printing and modelling, reading, and ADHD hyperfixation on random research and half-finished projects. Since I'd dropped all of those things so that I could rest and recover, it was a rather bizarre experience around bedtime for several months. Nature is healing itself.
I'm already seeing positive results, falling asleep naturally for the first time since the weather got hot. Mind you, my coffee routine is a bit different from most, where I make lattés with 20 g of the fancy third-wave coffee roaster's single-origin espresso beans, so I'm getting quite a large kick compared to the average cup of drip coffee. It's my favourite part of my morning routine, and it is a minor tragedy to say farewell for a short time. There are other options like using a more Italian 7 g of beans for each cup or going for a decaffeinated coffee, but I'm also enjoying not having to make any coffee in the morning at all. Buy myself the occasional coffee when I have a busy day ahead of me? Okay there, rich boy. Actually, that's a brilliant idea. Alas, let’s start a trend of solid sleep for a couple weeks, then re-evaluate.
Managing ADHD Behaviourally
For the foreseeable future, my blog will be about managing my ADHD behaviourally and composing my thoughts around readings and integrating the learnings into actionable items. I haven't been stoked with the pharmaceutical options, so I'm primarily going to pursue change via the behavioural route. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, so at a very high level, I simply need to develop those areas which are not as developed as is appropriate for my age, which is a fuzzy measure.
I'm going to talk to my doctor this week about being assessment in pursuit of an official diagnosis, so let's see where that goes. I looked up ADHD in the DSM-5, the psychologist’s bible, and though I can read the symptoms well-enough, I don’t know enough about scoring myself or doing a proper evaluation. A diagnosis can be stigmatizing for many, but I feel like it'll be clarifying and a huge relief. Even in these short months as I've explored how ADHD affects me now and has affected me and those close to me, it's brought a lot of peace in knowing it wasn't all because of some character flaw or personality trait. I may have a real affliction that hinders my participation in an already unjust and ableist capitalistic society. Alas, I'll have to defer judgement until a more official label is in place, but for now, I'll continue speaking about it in terms of a half- or self-diagnosis.
Attachment and Esteem
I've only read through most of "Scattered Minds" by Gabor Maté so far. Though it's an older book, there are some useful lessons, especially since I've already done some reading into Attachment Theory. Thus I'll have to update my understanding with more recent works. And if Maté is to be believed, one of the ingredients of ADHD comes from a strained or broken attachment between child and parent, so the familiar theme of self-esteem comes into play. I wrote about this sorta recently, and keeping at it has made a huge difference. I still have to repeat to myself loudly that my worth as a person doesn't change because of another person's opinion. Old habits die hard, but it's happening. This is a small but important behavioural change with my ADHD.
The Motivation Apparatus
The motivation apparatus is not fully developed with ADHD, which isn't exactly news to the general population. What was news to me was how motivation affects the formation of habits. Common knowledge says that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but recent research says that 60 days is more accurate for most people. I just finished a 60-day journey of incorporating meditation into my day. It's helped a lot more than I expected, and because of my ADHD, I'm just going to keep going with this habit-forming process until it actually sticks.
At some level, I'll have to just force myself to do some things that I don't want to do. This is where the "reduced life outcomes" realization ties in. It's harder for people with ADHD to perform basic, everyday tasks. I hate doing dishes in any form, but it's the more economical and climate-friendly way of plating my food. There are disposable alternatives, which would essentially solve the problem of motivation to wash dishes, but not sure if that's the best solution. Throwing clothes into the laundry basket and machine is easy. Drying them on the rack or in the dryer is easy too, but putting them away seems to take days. Not exactly a problem, but not ideal. Cooking is something I actually enjoy, but the dishwashing part of the equation takes longer. I could order in more, but that's again less economical, while shifting the problem of cleaning towards throwing out far more garbage and recycling.
All solvable problems, but we loop back to the "reduced life outcomes" part of the discussion. I found that noise-cancelling headphones help with dishes. Cooking is easier if I do it all at once as with meal-prepping instead of every day. If I'm diagnosed with a disability, it would make sense that everyday life is a little bit harder for me compared to others, even with many meaningful accommodations.
Optimal Stimulation Level
One of my big accomplishments lately has been to re-train myself to sit still in complete silence. Part of ADHD is finding the optimal level of stimulation for the task at hand. Sometimes this means playing music while the TV is blaring while scrolling your phone, sometimes this means earplugs and closing the curtains to block out the sunshine, depending on the person and what they’re trying to do.
Silence felt dangerous to me. In so many words, it felt like if I sat still for a long time, I would get in trouble or be yelled at. The source of this fear definitely stems from my childhood home. If you had time to lean, you can time to clean. The word "lazy" was constantly thrown around in at least two languages.
Well, the old world is behind me, and it’s about time I made some fresh traditions for the new world. In this new land, nobody will get in trouble for taking the time they need to rest and recover. We aren’t going to chase the opinions of others through constant people-pleasing activities. Bedtime can be used to power down to go to sleep instead of starting work on a project because of a momentary dip in extrinsic self-worth.
I distinctly remember this one day in university where I couldn’t relax even with a clear schedule. I think I was in my fourth or fifth year, and somehow, I magically had two days clear of any assignments, lab reports, and deliverables, even in my extra-curriculars. The weather was nice, and I could do whatever I wanted. What to do with myself with a once-in-a-degree kind of opportunity? It was like I physically couldn’t relax enough to peel my hands away from my computer and notebooks. To cut to the chase, I’m sad to say that I didn’t do anything restorative whatsoever during that time, but at least now I understand why. Horrible anxiety coupled with undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD in an environment unsuitable for rest. Did I even stand a chance? Alas, the Jon of 2022 is now able to finally embrace the quiet. Do people get to enjoy their downtime like this all the time? For free?
Through trial and error, I'm better managing the stimulation level required for each activity, and sometimes that does mean simultaneously blasting the TV and music, and playing video games while scrolling my phone. It now means that that's not always the default option. I've unlocked this new superpower called "chilling the fuck out" or what some might refer to as "sitting in silence." What a concept. What a wonderful world we live in.
There's plenty more to say, but there are still plenty more weeks in the year. I will probably write often as a natural result of rejoining society and learning more information that I need to process. Alas, it has been quite a nice summer getting to rest, and I'm kicking it into high gear by detoxing from alcohol and stimulants and getting my sleep back in order. I decided I'll be managing my ADHD behaviourally, pursuing an official diagnosis, and making sense of it all by writing on my blog. So far, this has included such fun topics as true self-esteem, motivation, and stimulation level aka enjoying silence for the first time in my existence.
Tune in next time, which will be who-knows-when, where I will write about who-knows-what!