For the last 3 years now, I’ve been spending a few weeks in December reviewing my goals for the last year and setting goals for the next. It’s a long and sometimes frustrating process as I see all the things I wanted to get to but didn’t. But it’s also exciting and encouraging when I see how much I actually did get done.

The process keeps evolving and, I hope, getting better.

Two years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to assign levels of importance to my goals: 1/2/3 (High, Medium, Low). That turned out to be a great idea. For the last 2 years, I’ve managed to finish nearly all of my #1 goals, even if many of the 2s and 3s suffered.  A tally of “20 out of 50 finished” looks a lot different from “9 out of 10 #1 priority goals finished, 11 out of 40 2s and 3s”.

2014 turned out pretty much the same: 9 of 10 #1s finished. Yay!

One more thing I realized this year is that something very big is missing: new projects that came up during the year! Just off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of successful things I’ve done (the Improv class at the Orlando ADDA conference, the benefit concert for Clawson UMC, road trip with Lisa, playing music for EMU’s Performance Hour, the meetings with Joanne, selling t-shirts in Orlando, being included in the ADHD “tips” book, getting back into poetry) that don’t show up on the list.

The point of all of this is to share a few thoughts with ADHD readers:

we all underestimate our accomplishments, it seems built into us to focus on what we didn’t finish, not what we did finish

let your goal-setting and time-management tools evolve, use them while they work, then switch them up when you need to – always keeping the parts that did work (I’ve heard this mentioned in several podcasts this year. We will almost inevitably get tired of the current system and move on to the next. That isn’t a fail! It’s just how we work.)

don’t be afraid to let go of goals. The one #1 item I didn’t finish last year was consciously dropped because I realized I wasn’t willing to do the work. That isn’t a fail – that’s a success.

I’m looking forward to posting part 2 of this series, which will be about setting goals for next year. Unless I change my mind between now and then.

Last Tuesday, December 2, the Ann Arbor Adult ADHD group had its first Talent Showcase/Get together/Open Stage. (I’m always nervous about what to all it because every term is loaded with positive and negative connotations for people!)

We’ve been talking about it for over a year (how unusual for ADHD folks!) and finally decided to just pick a date and go.

We were well attended for a first-time event. Granted, most of the audience were performers, but I’ve learned over a lot of years that this isn’t unusual. And, you have to start somewhere!

The program went like this:

  • Five Miles More jazz band
  • Improv group
  • Monty Python “Argument Clinic” skit
  • Stand up comedy
  • “Who’s On First?” script from the Credibility Gap
  • more jazz
  • more improv

Everyone who attended had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Another interruption!

I was in the middle of writing some HTML/Javascript code for Lisa’s Christmas website when the phone rang. I answered and did my best to be polite and pay attention but I was aware the whole time that my mind was in a fog. I’m not going to say who it was or what they wanted because that is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that this is the first time I’ve really paid attention to what was going on with me physically.

Some background: for a long time, I’ve been explosively angry when I was interrupted in the middle of something. I’ve done a pretty good job of  not just yelling into the phone, but I’ve done all sorts of other things:

  • after hanging up, I would sit and stare at the phone, waiting for the next interruption
  • I would not go back to what I was doing, I would just sit back and cross my arms and stare. What was the point of starting up when I was just going to get interrupted again?
  • at least once, I’ve thrown the phone (gently – I’m too aware of price to lose control completely) across the room and talked to it in very harsh terms

I’m aware that this is not uncommon among us ADD folks – at various intensities, of course. But today was the first time I really noticed the physical sensation.

It isn’t anger at all. It’s more like disorientation.

I was in a state of flow and I was yanked out of it. And I’m keenly aware that when I get started back up again, it won’t be “where I left off”, it’s going to be “part 2″. And that is never the same.

It was an actual physical sensation. A slight bit of dizziness, like walking out into the sun after being in the dark for a while. Or sitting up after laying down too long. I felt it in my head and I felt it in my stomach. It was unpleasant. I can see why I don’t want to experience that feeling often. I can also see why it makes me angry. But anger is a secondary response not a primary response.

Downstream, there are other considerations:

  • the ramp up time to get started again
  • things that might have been percolating in the back of my mind that are now lost
  • the pressure to handle whatever the call was about

And, on top of those, the guilt about feeling angry at the poor innocent person who had the nerve to interrupt me while I was working on something

There are a lot of levels to this, but I’m hoping that the realization that it isn’t really anger will help me handle it next time around.

I wonder how soon that will be…?

(the following has been sitting in a file on my iPad since July, sometimes they get posted out of order…)

I’m sitting in the Brick House Tavern and Tap House in Orlando, decompressing. I have a 22 oz Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, imported from Tampa. I recommend it if you like a nice, solid IPA. It’s just after 7p.m.

As expected, the week was intense. I feel great though. It was a victory for my experiment in time management. I was involved in 3 “things” (to use the technical word): 2 sessions and the Talent Show. I paced myself over the last three or four weeks, working with the amaaaaaazing Kirsten Milliken on our Improv course, tweaking and modifying over 6 different version of “I’m With My Tribe” and making little changes here and there to my “Who am I Living With!?!?” session.

What are my take-aways?

One is that I now have 2 more models to use when talking about relationships. Linda and Victor Roggli’s life story has components of the other resources I’m using, but it’s more accessible, more “feet on the ground”. The simple, practical take-away for me there was “would you be willing…?” as a way of starting a request. It fits nicely with my understanding of the power of narrative over information. Showing us that they start a request with “would you be willing…” is very different from saying “make request, not demands”.

The other new model had some of the same attraction. The session by Drs. Ferman and Wilford actually started with a real life example (his copying the wrong slides and not bringing the thumb drive). Again, realtime modeling of how things like “kindness not criticism” works. The Roggli’s had a nice scripted introduction that had them arguing about the placement of a frosty, drippy cup of ice water. I am making the assumption that Ferman’s and Wilford’s introduction was not scripted, but they might consider using it again and again. It set a tone of compassion and understanding for the entire session.

I had some great conversations with Patte (the ‘e’ is silent and so is the invisible ‘i’) the Monty Python loving, character vocalizing, burlesque performing, always positive, sequin-dressed Canadian powerhouse; kicked around some ideas about how next year’s Ambassador Program can be better with Doug and Melissa; had a wonderful conversation with a 40-year married woman whose husband is undiagnosed but she’s been able to live and work (really, he’s self employed and she works for him); and even got some insight into my own problems by asking Ferman and Wilford the questions I wanted to instead of sitting on them.

Ned Hallowell was a beacon of positivity and creativity as usual. I’ve modeled a lot of my understanding of ADHD-in-the-world on my study of comparative religion and Foucault’s work on “who gets to define ‘normal’ and how do they enforce it?” I understand what Rick Green said in his talk about “Friendly Fire”, what Sari said about “diversity is the norm” and what Ned said in his closing talk about ADHD being a trait with its positives and negatives. In my world, it’s like this: do drummers get to think of guitar players as “abnormal” or “deficit”? Do adherents of religion A get to look down on adherents of religion B because they have a different framework? Inside religions, do the Pentecostals or Sufis – all movement and sound – get to be critical of the Shakers and Theravadans – all silence and observation and listening? or the Unitarians or Vendantists – all theory and analysis (and yes, I understand I am painting with a broad brush).

No. They are different, not better and worse.

And while each of these things can have a dark side (neglecting your job and family to get in “just one more gig”, holy wars, people who take risks that endanger others as well as themselves, etc.), it is not the fact of their difference that makes it a dark side, it is an excess of one thing or another (reference Aristotle and the Golden Mean or the Buddha’s Middle Path).

Phew! Enough heavy thinking. What else happened?

I sold some T-shirts! Yay! Linda Roggli and Janine F were generous enough to let me display some of my ADD/ADHD t-shirts at their booth. AND I am very excited and proud that Frankie Williams (the amazing woman who sang the Our Father at the Talent Show) was the first person to buy one! How cool is that?

I have to admit, though, that the high point for me was everyone singing “I’m With My Tribe”. When I asked everyone to sing along, it was a real Moment of Truth. I could have been left standing up there being the one guy in the crowd singing Kum-ba-ya with everyone else standing staring at me. But my Tribe didn’t let me down.

And that’s kind of what ADDA’s all about. We won’t let each other down.

See you next year.

ADHD and belonging

Posted: September 17, 2014 in ADHD - mine
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PREFACE: This is being written at about 11 in the morning on EMU campus. I haven’t taken my meds yet. I left my wallet at home, I’ve had two phone calls interrupt me, and I’ve started this entry 3 times already. So, don’t take the negative tone too seriously – life is very good right now and I’m thankful for that.


This is (or at least should be) my last semester in graduate school at EMU. Between now and the end of the year, I am committed to putting together a performance piece, the last requirement for graduation. It will be about ADHD, probably about ADHD and relationships. Since that’s where I’m doing most of my work right now, it seems like a sensible choice.

As part of getting myself mentally and emotionally engaged, I’m trying to spend more time on campus. Today was the first day for that. Classes started 2 weeks ago, so the students are already in the swing of things. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the campus, it feels good to be here. At least in a general sense.

In a specific sense – the sense of “how do ‘I‘ feel being here?” – I feel like a tourist.

There are a lot of reasons for it, I expect.

For one thing, most of the people I’ve taken classes with have either moved on or are probably in class themselves right now – some of them teaching.

For another thing, I’ve always been a commuter student, so most of my time on campus has either been for a class, an event or prep for an event. So, there’s a limit to the how involved I was at any time over the last 4 years.

But, I think there are some important ADD components to it too.

For one thing, the very fact that I am involved in so many different things feels very ADD to me. Am I a musician or a writer or a performer or a visual artist or a code developer or X or Y or Z? The answer is “yes”. So, how deeply can I get involved in any of those worlds? With the people with whom I interact? How do I get a feeling of “yes, this is where I belong?” Answer: it’s hard.

The other ADD component is something many of us are familiar with – the feeling of being a perpetual outsider. I’ve heard this from a lot of ADD people and it’s all over the literature. (One of my favorite books is “What Does Everyone Else Know That I Don’t?” by Michele Novotni.)

It’s very important to recognize this because it can help minimize the effect. To the extent that it’s true, it is not an atypical side-effect of ADHD to not fit in, to not pick up social cues and know how to engage. Over and above that, it’s very easy to read other people’s actions as having a negative undertone. But it’s usually not a correct reading.

This is a blog entry, not a long analysis of the situation, so I’m going to stop now and go walk around the building again.

Who knows, I might run into somebody I know.

Today, I discovered something fascinating: Busses have schedules!

 

theBus

In general, my experience with busses goes something like this: I decide I am going to use the bus today to get somewhere, so I go walk down to the bus stop. I look up and down the road and, if the bus is not coming, I start walking toward my destination. In California, this was usually the nearest BART station, about a mile away. In Ann Arbor, it’s usually the coffee shop downtown, also about a mile. So, I figure that worst-case scenario is that I will get a good walk in.

However, that approach is not intentional. It’s the result of a kind of magical thinking about busses. While some people would look at the schedule to see when the bus will arrive, for me, it’s more a matter of “are the stars aligned correctly and does the Universe love me today?”

This is not a very good way to catch a bus. But it’s a good way to demonstrate the way “now/not-now” thinking works for us ADDers. When I am standing at the bus stop, the bus is either there or not there.  Which mean my luck was either good or bad.

At least, that’s the way it was in the past.

Now, we have better tools to help find the bus. I have an app on my phone that actually shows me the location of the #12 bus on the AATA route. So I can tell whether it’s worth waiting or if I should just start walking.

It still isn’t the same as looking at the schedule and getting to the bus stop on time, but it’s better. Someday, I’ll take that final step and become a person who checks the bus schedule before leaving the house.

But not yet.

Medication Change

Posted: August 20, 2014 in ADHD - mine

About four months ago, I switched from my first med – Adderall 10Mg – to extended release. Right from the beginning, I didn’t think it was being as effective. It did seem to last longer, but there were little cracks here and there.

Mostly, it would be when something happened unexpectedly – I would drop a cup or miss an appointment. My immediate “go to” when I’m not medicated is “what is wrong with me?” When I’m taking meds, it’s a lot easier to just take it as “something I need to work on” rather than an indictment of my personality and abilities.

About 4 weeks ago, I switched to a higher dose of the extended release. That worked a lot better. My doctor and I had agreed on a 3 week trial. I called this morning to refill the prescription and was a little bit surprised. I thought I was taking 15Mg XR, but their notes said 25Mg XR. So, I refilled it for 25.

This whole thing is only being logged in the interest of sharing information with other folks who are reading the blog. One thing I’ve heard a lot is that you often have to try different medications, doses and schedules before you get it right. So, I just want to encourage anyone who’s on the fence about changing to not be afraid of it.

But, I realize that my decision was easy: I was only changing doses, not medications. I got very lucky that Adderall (our first attempt) worked for me and that I am just adjusting doses. Make sure you look into side effects, transitions, and learn as much as you can before you make any changes like this. You should trust your doctor, but you need to be educated as well. They can’t think of everything and they can’t know every last thing about you, so make sure you keep up your side of the bargain too.