Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trying to Understand my Fluctuating Brain Chemistry

All of us who live with ADD or ADHD have a pretty good understanding of the fact that ""distraction" is the bane of our existence.

I've been trying to learn-- mostly through reading lots of web sites and blogs-- about the brain chemistry issue. I don't know if I have gotten any smarter... but I've certainly "taken on" a lot of new information.

The thing that baffles me a bit is the way my tendency to "space out" varies so much in intensity, from day to day. For example, this morning I woke up and got started on my day with a great sense of "focus." And I was able to just "get into it" and get a whole bunch of stuff accomplished... by 10:00am... without feeling any significant compulsion to "go to sleep."

Now, the tasks were no different from any other day. I went to bed at my usual time; I slept about the same number of hours as usual. I had my morning coffee, as usual. So why does it seem "easy" to focus today, but on another day it will feel like pulling teeth.

I recognize that we all have our body cycles to contend with. Society focuses heavily on "women's cycles" but I'm pretty sure men go through monthly cycles, as well. Is that what I experience, when I can focus one day, and not the next... "natural" fluctuations in my body rhythms? Or is there something else? "Environmentally" speaking, it was gray and rainy this morning... does that have an influence?

Beats me. It seems that the more I learn about this "condition" the less I really understand it. The upside is that I have much better awareness of my "self" and what my body and mind is "doing" at any given time.

I guess I'll just keep learning...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ADD and the Struggle with eBay Listings

I derive a large part of my living from selling things on eBay.

Of course, in order to sell things on eBay, you have to list things on eBay... and that has always been one of my greatest struggles.

Yesterday, I was faced with needing to add a bunch of new listings for items that had actually been sitting around my office-- all photographed and ready to go-- for a long time. 66 items, to be precise. But I had been putting it off, for several weeks... even though there were "bills banging on my door."

I sell sea glass on eBay, to jewelers, artists and collectors
Just the mere thought of needing to focus and concentrate long enough to write and upload 66 eBay descriptions is enough to make my head explode. I can give myself 47,000 "motivational pep talks" but it still doesn't do me any good.

The process is interesting. Getting started is not terribly hard, especially when I set aside the contiguous block of time needed... in this case, "most of a day."

I get my energizing techno playing, and get started. I choose not to update my eBay helping application because I know from experience that the software is archaic and will ask for a system restart, which means shutting the 47 windows and applications I have running, which means having to bookmark and save them all, which means a minefield of distractions... and normally about 90 minutes wasted to install changes so inconsequential I can't even tell what's different.

Saying "no" to the update actually represents "progress" in my life with ADD. I'm willing to shove my perfectionistic tendencies into the background. Yay!

I get about ten lots into the process and am doing OK when "the tingling" first starts. It feels like I am wearing invisible headphones-- the big kind that fits over your ears-- except they are a bit like a vise clamping on my temples. I can feel my forehead tightening, as well. My focus is starting to go. I force myself to work to the end of the hour, before "giving myself permission" to check my email. Again, the value of clocks and timers is huge... somehow, having a visible finite horizon in front of me helps my ability to concentrate.

On the hour, I manage to only sidetrack for ten minutes to scan my inbox and delete messages of no great value.

On the whole, I manage to plod through pretty well, "promising myself" that I can have a break every time I get another ten lots listed.

And then I almost hit what I call "the 95% wall." That has been one of the banes of my existence-- both in childhood and as an adult. What is it? Well... I get to a point-- when doing a "large task"-- where I realize that I am "almost finished." And some part of me "sees the end in sight" and I relax slightly... and suddenly any forward movement feels like I am trying to swim through honey. All I want to do is GET UP and go do something else. From a psychological standpoint, motivating myself to do those last few things to truly finish the job can feel more daunting than the preceding 95%.

Somebody once suggested that I have a "fear of success." Meh... not so much. People who "fear success" usually still have anxiety once they are done with something. I'm just releived (and happy!) when I am done. And therein lies a paradox... certain personality types simply prefer "open ended" over "finished" tasks. I am not one of them, although I often behave like I am one of them.

The thing that's interesting to me... and where I realize "it's all about ADD"... is the literal physical sensations that go with hitting that "95% wall." I reach this point... and it really only seems to come when "the end is in sight"... where it literally feels like "my head will explode" if I have to concentrate for one more minute.

And the eBay listings? I did get them done. It took me ten hours instead of eight... given various sidetracks. But on the whole... a pretty successful day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm NOT a Kid!

Many moons ago, I spent quite a lot of time researching "giftedness."

At the time, I was trying to get a better grip on my sensitivity, and someone had told me that there was actual research showing that the more "gifted" an individual is, the more both introverted and sensitive they tend to be. I put quite a lot of effort into learning about giftedness-- and the studies done by Polish psychologist and physician Kazimierz Dabrowski-- as part of trying to get a grip on my "issues."

Needless to say, I also got involved with the global "G/T Community" (G/T = "Gifted and Talented") as part of my learning process.

One of the things that was interesting to me... a strange "G/T Community Bias," if you will... is that there was aaaallll this talk, and information, and support, and research, and conversation, and programs for gifted and talented kids. It was just one endless parade of stuff relating to kids, kids, kids, kids, kids.

Any time I started taking about trying to understand the ins and out of adult giftedness-- and the attendant challenges and life complications-- it felt a bit like speaking into a void. Once in a while, someone would make a very peripheral reference to "gifted adults" but it was pretty uncommon.

What I found ironic about this was that a majority of these parents totally absorbed in understanding gifted kids were actually gifted, themselves. And were having all sorts of issues trying to deal with their own lives... but were categorically either in denial about their giftedness, or steadfastly refused to look at it... saying things like "Oh no, that's not really important..."

Whereas I totally honor their dedication to supporting gifted kids, there was an unfortunate (and rarely discussed) dynamic there... in the sense that these "gifted kids" would receive all sorts of support, encouragement, programs and special treatment... and then they would turn 18, and suddenly "be on their own" because they were no longer kids. AS IF, you turn 18, and suddenly all the issues inherent in being "gifted" are magically switched off and you are suddenly a "normal" human being?

Sooo.... what does this have to do with this ADD blog?

Well, the more I peruse information about ADD/ADHD around the web, the more I seem to run into a similar "kid bias" in the ADD/ADHD "community," albeit not as pronounced as it was in the G/T community, some 15-20 years ago.

I can hear people say "Yeah, but it's important that we HELP kids with ADD/ADHD!"

I agree! Absolutely, 100%! And I'm not trying to be a grumpy old man, here...

But it's also important that we keep in perspective that ADD/ADHD does not magically "go away" just because you become an adult. What's more, if you keep in mind that kids are 0-18 years of age, and adults are 19-100 years of age... there are going to be a lot more adults with ADD/ADHD than there are kids!

So why am I ranting about this?

Well, I'm an adult, and I am an adult with the "inattentive" variant of ADD. Not ADHD. There's no "H" in my universe. And I'm telling you what... it is tough to get many Google search hits that aren't (a) about kids and (b) about inattentive ADD. Of course, it's tough search, because the first forty million results have to do with "adding" something... not the case with ADHD.

So if you read this-- and know more than me-- please leave a comment and suggest places on the web that have good information about Adult Inattentive ADD. Thank you!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

ADD and Thinking Things Through Before you Act

Sometimes I sit here and simply contemplate the deeper nature of "scatteredness."

How do I become so scattered? What is the mechanism that leads to hundreds of "started by unfinished" projects, by the end of the day? What is the "trigger" that causes me to abandon something I really need to get done, so I can "mess around" with some idea that has no current bearing on what is important?

From time to time, I talk about "Too Many Interests Syndrome." Of course, that's basically an excuse; a rationalization. Sure, I have more interests than most people... and lots of random things I see seem "interesting," but that's not the core issue. LOTS of people experience that. This is a "management" issue.

I used to think that my scatteredness was a result of "feeling resentful" of "having to DO things." I did years of psychoanalysis, chasing my own tail... thinking about being "resentful" of having been raised in a family od "doers" who (in essence) saw my value as tied directly to what I could DO, rather than who I could BE. I was only "seen" (and loved, I felt) for what I could DO for my parents, and so I ended up connecting "feeling loved" with my own ability to do things... even though I actually prefer not to be engaged in constant activity.

By extension, it placed me close to a frame of mind of resentment. A sort of digging in my heels when I reached the "freedom of adulthood" and could make my own choices... every time life gave me something I "had to" do I would space out as a passive aggressive "rebellion" against always having been told what to DO in my life. Of course, usually to my detriment.

But all that psychobabble was really a dead end. Back when I was in therapy, "ADD/ADHD" was exclusively focused on "that hyperactive kid bouncing off the walls, unable to focus and making trouble." And that was never me.

My "issue" was always getting me to move, at all. I'm only half kidding when I say "I have almost never met an idea that could inspire me to actually want to put forth any concentrated effort." Which is not to say that I lack enthusiasm about ideas... just that I invariably end up "dabbling a bit" and then zoning out or "falling asleep to myself."

But let's get back to the "mechanism of scatteredness."

The word I keep coming back to is "obligation." I have a nasty "allergy" to the idea of feeling obligated. The instant something I'm engaged in starts to feel like "an obligation" (like my self-imposed timetable that my eBay auction lots MUST be ready by 7:00pm on Sunday evening) I feel my ability to concentrate go right out the window. It literally feels like the cells in my brain responsible for "focus" commit suicide by jumping out of my ears.

When I am engaged in doing "Thing X" as nothing more than an "exploration" with "no purpose" and "no deadline" and "no expected outcome" I am actually very productive and focused. I can get an amazing amount of stuff done in a short time, as long as I steer far clear of any "you must" thoughts.

So that's a big part of it, right there.

Another aspect of this mechanism is perhaps an intolerance of drudgery. I was going to say "boredom," but that's not really accurate. I'm perfectly content watching grass grow for hours and hours... It's a zoning out "activity" that has no stated purpose and no obligation attached; so no concentration is required.

It's not easy digging around in this stuff, and trying to truly get to the bottom of it.

Getting back to the title of this post-- this "drifting away" often happens because I am not "Present" enough in my own situation (of that moment) to stop and think through what I am about to do, when I want to skip away. It "just happens." When I DO manage to stay present in my own process of the moment, I have far fewer issues with losing my place and zoning out. I "think before I act," rather than "act before thinking." And usually-- even though it requires a kind of "concentration"-- I manage to talk myself into just staying with what I am doing.

I feel that an active "mindfulness practice" is definitely (or CAN be) an important part of managing ADD.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Challenges of Being a Writer with ADD

Some observations on being a writer, and living with ADD... few of these will probably come as much of a surprise to anyone.

I have never (touching wood here!) had an issue with so-called "Writer's Block." My ideas flow pretty liberally at all times, and many of them are pretty creative and insightful ideas.

My problem is that my "execution rate" utterly sucks.

I am primarily an "article writer." Although I have ambitions to write books as well, I feel rather daunted by the prospect of "holding a train of thought" long enough to complete a book... even though I can intellectually convince myself that a book is nothing more than "a collection of chapters," each of which I can call a "short" piece of writing.

That's easier said than done.

So I'll just stick to my troubles with writing articles.

My desk is currently littered with several hundred small notes of paper, on which I have "rough sketched" (by hand-- I actually like writing by hand) basic outlines and ideas for articles I'd like to write.

In addition to this, I have the folder on my hard drive called "Ideas Repository," into which I have placed hundreds of articles in various stages of completion. The vast majority of them range from "basic outline" to "about 50% done." That said, there are also dozens that are nearly complete, and just require proofreading or "researching a couple of facts" in order to be finished.

And yet? There they SIT, most of the time. And rather than work on some of these "old" ideas, I am eternally adding "new notes" to the top of my article hopper.

Sometimes I laugh at myself-- and then get sad-- because I realize that if I'd actually finished and published them all, I'd probably be making about $1500.00 in monthly royalties from them.

That said, I have actually gotten better at managing my "circus." Good management of something like I am facing here revolves around picking my "battles" carefully. I have learned to "sort" my ideas into "hot" (things I really must work on... NOW), "next" (things I need to keep fresh in mind for the next open slot in the "hot" category) and "later," (which are basically the ideas I'm not that attached to).

I've previously written about using a system of "notes" in lieu of an actual to-do list-- and I do that with writing, as well. I "map out" the different steps I need to complete with each of my "hot" article ideas, and then write a "to do note" for each stage. Watching the "visual progress" of the to-do notes getting thrown away seems to actually inspire me to get focused and work. It has allowed me to more than triple my output of finished work that actually gets published somewhere. And that's a good thing, because I have ambitions to eventually "fund" my scattered self largely through passive income in the form of ongoing royalties from web writing.

Of course, "those days" are still a ways off... but I am seeing enough actual progress now that I no longer "reject" focusing, with as much force as I used to.