Mastery

Avoidance, ADHD Triggers and Letting Go of Shoulds

avoidance

The word “avoidance” vibrates with negative connotation. It refers to an absence of doing something that should be done. But avoidance can actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to “triggers” and “shoulds”.

People with ADHD have often associated avoidance with the first description – “not doing something that they know they should do”. We avoid things that seem too hard, frustratingly boring, or outside our skill set.

Avoidance can be a good thing

Managing ADD “better” is a worthy pursuit. It’s essential if you want to be happier, and if you want important people to be happier with you. While it is helpful to concentrate on things you need to start doing, you shouldn’t neglect the things you need to stop doing too. Let me explain.

On and Off

ADD is a lifelong state-of-being YET it doesn’t show up all of the time, in every situation.

I’m sure there you’ve had times when you haven’t felt very ADD at all. These may be a fleeting moments or for longer periods, but you probably didn’t notice them because “functioning well” doesn’t grab your attention.

The times that ADD wanes is different for everyone, as are the times when it is aggravated. In essence, everyone has their own triggers.

For example, I don’t notice ADD much when I am at the “day job”. It calls upon my ability to be hyper-focused in time-crunches and crises (which is most days).

Triggers (Everybody Get Down!)

My ADD is at its worst, though, when I am grocery shopping. The noise is intense, the lighting grotesque, aisles are too long and too many idiots, erm… I mean people, inhabit those aisles like they’re touring the louvre. Never mind the shelves with too many choices (but never the one you want). It’s like looking for Waldo after he’s been dead and buried for 10 years.

I fare much better in small stores with less than 15 (very short) aisles. Sometimes, though, the budget dictates a bigger store shop. The moment I step inside, my ADD flares like a Molotov cocktail in a pulp mill. I’m pretty sure smoke seeps from my ears like a Looney Tunes character.

So imagine my melt down every time I attempt that shop with two kids. Kids who wander up and down the aisles, sauntering in front of the cart, talking incessantly, asking all sorts of questions, most starting with: “Can I have…?” Hiroshima pales in comparison to the explosion inside me.

Recently I figured something out: I don’t have to do this anymore! Don’t laugh. This realization was an epiphany. I really thought I HAD to grocery shop with my kids.

Because that’s what normal moms do. “Normal” moms run errands with their children. They go to the bank, they wash the car, they grocery shop. They don’t avoid these things simply because their kids are with them.

But they aren’t like me. They haven’t “checked out” long before reaching the checkout counter. It doesn’t take every brain synapse firing simultaneously just for them to find the mushroom soup.

Just because I am a mom, doesn’t mean I have to do anything (the only exception: I do have to refrain from eating my offspring – I am not a goldfish, after all).

Errands with kids is a “should” not a must. Life is full of shoulds. But they are pointless and they can be ignored. Sometimes, they should be ignored. Even God Himself avoids them. If he didn’t, he would have dictated that 10 Recommendations or the 10 Guidelines, rather than the 10 Commandments.

I have other triggers of course, but grocery shopping (with kids) is the one that never fails to unleash my ADD like a can of whoopass. So now, I don’t do it if I don’t have to. I leave them with the hubby or he goes for me.  I go late at night, on my own. Hell, I’ve even gone at 7 am and done it before work. Yes, it IS THAT BAD that I would get out of bed to avoid the crowds!

And guess who’s a happier mommy? Guess whose kids are no longer subjected to mommy tantrums?

My life, my kids’ lives, are better because I have let go of a should. If my kids get to twenty-years-old with no idea how to behave in a grocery store, I will teach them then. By that time, dementia will have taken over. I will wander the aisles, pestering them for fruit loops and pop tarts. Revenge will be bliss.

Shoulds are the bane of the ADD life. We have fought so hard, all our lives, to feel normal. When we see other people doing things easily, we think we should do it their way too.

Not so. Sometimes the best way to get over a challenge is to go around it. Avoidance, at times, is more functional that giving in to something you think you should do. Learn to let go of shoulds so you can focus on getting things done in the way that works best for you.

Be a pal! Share your triggers and shoulds in the comments below – they might help the rest of us who suddenly realize these things are triggers for us too!

Focus

ADHD to Zen: Living Fully

Life is hard. The ADD life is harder than many for one reason: We are playing with the right equipment, but in the wrong game.

It’s like someone gave us a pair of soccer cleats and said:

“Now go out there and put the puck in the net”.

It’s understandable that we cry out and demand “Give me some skates!” But nobody listens. Our cries fall on air-horn-deafened ears. After a while, some of us change our tune. We abandon the hockey rink, decide that if life won’t give us skates, we’ll find a soccer pitch and learn a new game.

But not all of us find a soccer pitch or figure out how to play the beautiful game. That’s when we really suffer. They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But if you don’t have access to water or sugar, you’re hooped. The adage is intendedly positive and helpful, but it does suggest that there’s something wrong with sucking plain lemons. If you can’t make lemonade, then I guess you’re screwed?

Today’s post is the third in the series of life transformation, from ADHD to Zen. If you want, go ahead and check out the first and second post. Today we are talking about sucking lemons and living fully.

“… We don’t need to fight against the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We have a certain degree of faith that no matter where we find ourselves that’s where we really need to be. In fact, no matter how much trouble we may have seeing it, the place where we are could be said to be exactly where we most want to be. This is hard to accept. But when you accept it, your situation improves dramatically. That doesn’t mean we should be complacent and accept a bad situation without trying to improve it. In fact it’s one of our duties to improve whatever situation we find ourselves in. To do this effectively, though, first we have to understand that we ourselves are not something apart from our circumstances.” Brad Warner, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped In Chocolate

When you’re playing hockey in a pair of cleats, you’re you. When you’re playing hockey in a pair of skates, you’re you. What’s changed? Only your equipment and perhaps your game, but you’re still you.

I happen to think there is nothing wrong with playing hockey in a pair of soccer boots if that’s all you’ve got. You may be slower, you may slip and fall more. You may, in fact, look absolutely ridiculous. What’s wrong with that? Does that make your journey any less worthwhile? What if you set a record as the first professional to ever play hockey in something other than skates? What if you invented a new game? What if you did nothing but just played your game, with the equipment you had and appreciated the fact that amongst it all, you are still you and nothing changes that?

Just like Brad, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to better your situation. But I am saying that living life fully means also embracing the negative aspects of it.

When we look at our challenges as something we have to master or have dominion over, we see them as our adversaries. We decide that something else is better than what we have. When we do this, we miss what is inherently worthwhile in the path we have been given. We miss our lives. We miss ourselves.

Go ahead – change your game. Change your equipment. Change how you play. But you won’t do any of those things by lamenting and judging that what you have and what you are isn’t good enough, as it is. When you accept the importance of who, what and where you are in this moment in time, you make room for your path to evolve and give yourself the leverage you need to change the situation.

Skates, cleats and lemons will all fade away at some point. And what will be left? You. If you start remembering that – life will get better no matter what changes (or doesn’t).

Let me know what you think.

And have an awesome day.

Mindset

ADHD Restlessness – Sit & Stay Is Not Just For Dogs Anymore

If you’re restless and you know it clap your hands. If you’re restless and you know it stomp your feet. If you’re restless and you know it and you really want to show it, if your restlessness and you know it, do something else!

Doing something else has been the story of my life.

“What are you doing?” someone asks.

“I’m looking for something else to do, that’s what I’m doing”, I say.

I’m not talking about the distractible part of my ADHD brain. I can be completely focused and still have the urge to move on to the next thing. Even when I am interested in that thing I am doing, I still feel compelled to do something else. I can be having fun, a lot of fun for crying out loud, and still be thinking “When is this fun going to be over so I can move on to the next thing?”

This Restlessness has a Siamese twin following it everywhere. She is called Impatience and let me tell you: she is a b*tch. But I won’t get started on her right now. These two hijackers seemed to have permanent residency status in my psyche. Meaning, they are the part of my ADHD I have yet to achieve significant mastery over.

You too?

My ADHD Restlessness… is not what I thought

Recently I had an epiphany about those crazy sisters Restlessness and Impatience. Through talking with my own coach, I discovered a new awareness about myself. This was following a cognitive preference survey I took, and learned a few things about myself I had not known previously. Or paid much attention to anyway.

I am built on forward motion. It is a fibre that is weaved through every cell of my being. This is the H part of my ADHD. It doesn’t always look like it on the outside, but inside that engine is always revving. Always looking forward, always moving forward. I don’t dwell on the past because I can’t go back in time. But I can get to the future if I keep moving, so guess where I dwell?

It’s not necessarily helpful. You can’t stop and smell the proverbial roses in the future because it hasn’t happened yet. And who cares? By the time I reached the roses I would have already started looking for the lilacs anyway.

Mindfulness practice has helped, to a certain extent. But not as much a conversation with my coach did.

See, I thought I needed to master my restlessness. Find a way to manipulate and manage it, the way I have done with my organization skills and attention span. This is a perfect example of how a one-size-fits-all approach will never work, especially when you’re trying to fit the “size” on ADHD.

The logic behind my view of restlessness was that I needed a better “strategy”. Not so. See, it’s not so much that I need to be moving. It’s that I need (NEED!) to be going somewhere. I simply need to be going. And I’m seldom happy for long when I get there, and that’s why I am eternally searching for the next thing.

So in the end, I didn’t need a strategy, I needed a way to re-frame this restlessness. I wanted desperately to be able to sit and play with my kids, be in the moment with them, and not feel the constant urge to tidy up the toys or start a load of laundry. I wanted a way that I could enjoy laying on the beach, without continually thinking about moving on to another beach or wondering if we should have chosen some other outing for the day.

I wanted to be able to sit and stay.

Here was the clincher for me. In order to sit and stay, I needed to honour my need for forward movement, which can also be expressed as “growth” or “making gains”. By focusing on the personal growth I am achieving through sitting and staying, just a little bit longer than I normally would, I have learned to linger.

This lingering is helping me move forward in leaps and bounds on some major personal and relationship goals I have. I am turning my challenge in on itself, leveraging it is a strength.

I needed to see “staying” from a different perspective. With every moment I am able to linger, when old fibres compel me to move on, I am going forward personally – further than I have ever gone before. Because going is really about growing.

Tell me about your restlessness, where it shows up and how you manage it. Have you had any other challenges that you’ve turned in to strengths? Share your experiences in the comments below.