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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mormon Musings: Adult ADHD Anger

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” — Matthew 5:44

I don't live this law literally enough. I live it in spirit, and I live it for the most part, but the hard parts are where I fail. My struggles with the law of forgiveness get in the way with fully obeying this teaching of Christ's. I'm having a laugh at myself this morning because I follow this principle on a case-by-case basis, which completely misses the point! The arrogant physician, the rude clerk, the homicidal driver all take a piece out of me without me once praying for them or blessing them.

For years, I didn't manage my anger. For some reason, I believed it to be an uncontrollable symptom of adult ADHD. I couldn't help it. That's just how ADHD was, right? Well, it is a defining criteria, but I was completely wrong that it couldn't be managed. When my anger was damaging my relationship with my wife at the time, and my daughters, I had to make a decision. I could keep the excuse and lose my family, or I could change. Although I ended up losing my marriage regardless, over the past ten years I have been mastering my temper. The improvement in my relationship with my daughters has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. The benefits outside of my family life have also been positive. I no longer run around hot under the collar. I learned to compartmentalize the triggers of anger from my emotional responses. I taught myself to control those hot impulses. Still, there is more work to be done.

The other night, the pizza delivery guy picked a fight with me. The circumstances aren't important. It must have been at the end of a long day for him, and he was in a surly mood. I have to admit, though, that I let him get under my skin. I had heated words with him. I even called his employer and complained. However, I didn't once pray for the guy. Afterwards, I wondered why I let him have so much power over my mood. My first instinct was to push back, not be Christ-like. How could I take the next step to become truly unflappable in the face of hostility? Just because somebody's in a bad mood doesn't mean I have to join them.

I rely on my Christian faith to guide me in most circumstances. Christ taught a message of self-mastery. I fully believe now that all impulses, even ADHD ones, can be controlled, or at the very least, minimized. This scripture on loving our enemies, the most basic of Christ's teachings, may have just provided an answer for me. It's funny how we can come across old information and see it in an entirely new way. If I start seeing altercations as opportunities to be more Christ-like, I may find myself stepping up to that next, unflappable level. At the very least, I'll have less quarrels with pizza delivery guys.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Has Depression Taken the Joy out of Life for You?

The four goofballs of the apocalypse

I used to change my profile pic monthly—even weekly! It's not that I thought I had a face that people needed to see more of. By taking frequent profile pics, I displayed my creativity. In fact, it was important to me that people knew I was creative.

Now I don't care in the slightest.

I've been asking myself if this is because I have grown up, if it is because I've become bored, or if it is for another, more insidious reason: depression.

I can trace a lot of my listlessness to my divorce. After all, I stopped playing my instruments at that time. The shrill sound of pennywhistles, recorders, and other flageolets echoing around my empty apartment just made me more depressed, so I put them away for a while. I eventually started playing them again, but not until three years had passed. It reminds me of when I first began ticking back in 1992. I was a freelance illustrator at the time, but I couldn't draw with my arms flailing about. I was so depressed, I treated my art studio as a storage closet and didn't enter it for nine months. Perhaps the same thing was happening with photography.

One of the hallmarks of clinical depression is losing interest in things that we used to enjoy. I suppose anybody could experience that for any number of reasons. What makes this a symptom of depression is that the decision to abandon a favorite hobby or pastime was accompanied by waves of crushing sadness. There's a sense of futility that is pervasive. More than burning out on a hobby, with depression, the pastime is abandoned and not replaced with anything new. I didn't set the pennywhistle down and pick up another instrument. I stopped playing altogether. No, this wasn't the divorce's fault (not that it was helping). This was depression at work.

Now that I've noticed my profile pics are collecting dust in between changes, I've also noticed that I've stopped taking photos in general. There's no reason why I stopped. I just let the urge dwindle away. What a shame! I had fun exploring the world with my iPhone. I wasn't a great photographer, but it brought me joy.

This is why I've decided to let photography bring me joy again. How dare depression rob me of the joy of taking a silly profile pic? How dare depression steal my urge to record the world with my iPhone in my own quirky way? How dare I let depression get away with it?

The only advice I have for you is to take stock of your life and notice what you've stopped doing that you used to enjoy. Did you stop for valid reasons, or did you fade away with a twinge of melancholy and ennui? If it was the later, decide today to pick back up one of your old activities. Don't let depression win. Only by watching for the signs and implementing coping strategies can we keep depression from diminishing our quality of life.

I'm dying on my current book, but my first book is full of life.


Friday, October 07, 2016

Rick Walton – Mentor, Friend & Inspiration

Rick Walton

I'm sitting here in Salt Lake City Cemetery, discretely off to the side, while the Brownie is on a field trip to learn Pioneer history, self-reliance, and some ghost stories to boot. Her class takes the public transit to go on their field trips in order to prepare them for life. They learn how to catch a bus, pay their fare, then walk to their destination. This means that Daddy can't interfere so that she learns to rely on herself, but I am secretly here just in case she has a seizure. It's easy chaperone work. I kept myself busy in my car writing, reading news, and practicing my pennywhislte. Then I got the news my friend, Rick Walton, had passed away this morning.

Tears are blurring my screen as I type this. I am so glad I had a chance to know Rick. You may not have heard of him. He was a prolific children's book author, specializing in picture books. What a bright, creative mind he had! It pains me to speak of him in the past tense now. I was just holding his hand at his bedside last Saturday. I've known him for eight years this month.

Author Rick Walton

My favorite memory with him was getting together to play pennywhistles at a Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. He was skilled at improvising, whereas I memorized set pieces. This was about five years ago. We found a quiet place to play, and together, we worked something out. It was pretty rough! I was shaky and uncertain since I had horrible stage fright. I've mostly cured myself of that particular anxiety, but at that time, agreeing to play in public with somebody was a major step forward. Then, because it was Rick, people started to linger to see what was going on. My playing took a definite dive downward, but at that point there was more talking than playing. People were pulled towards his gentle gravity and loved his clever wit.

My life became complicated soon after. That was the last writers conference I ever attended, but I held out hope that we would jam again one day. I was even practicing today something I could play for him tomorrow. It was my hope to go down to visit him again, though I wasn't sure how I'd manage with the Brownie tagging along. My greatest regret is that I never interviewed him for this blog as we talked about doing a few years back. Rick had Parkinson's Disease, yet still wrote and created constantly. It was a brain tumor that put a stop to his prolific brilliance, not his Parkinson's. He was inspirational to me, and I wanted him to be inspirational to you as well. Now I'll play my pennywhislte today in his memory. In my heart, though, I won't be alone. Thank you, Rick, for your friendship, advice, counsel, and inspiration over the years. You've left your legacy on our bookshelves and in our hearts. Be at peace.


Monday, September 26, 2016

ADHD: Living Your Life Backwards

Kitchen Timer - Sometimes Old School Is Best

I live my life backwards.

I don’t wake up refreshed; I wake up exhausted. There could be many reasons to explain this, from sleep apnea to mischievous imps poking me throughout the night. It might also be stress from my hectic family life at the moment. Alright, it’s probably stress, but I prefer to believe in mischievous imps. That’s a far more exciting explanation than the horrid mundanity that is my life.

The big problem with poor sleep is that I spend my day slowly ramping up until I am working at all cylinders by the end of the day, rushing around getting things done before it’s bedtime. I would love to pop out of bed in the morning like freshly toasted bread. I remember when waking up used to be like that. Now, instead, I read news in the morning. I check social media. I see what’s happening in the world. I get caught up with the latest political furor. I suppose it’s easy. It wakes up my mind.

But it’s a trap.

Starting my morning with something rife with distractions is incredibly foolish considering what a news junkie I am. Why news? Adults with ADHD have an intolerance for boredom. Reading news is one way to medicate that boredom. It provides new experiences in tiny shots. Think of all the bursts of endorphins as each news article stimulates my mind. “Trump said what?!” “Clinton can’t possible think we’ll believe that!” The American presidential election this year has been crack cocaine for my addled mind.

The problem is that my solution to kickstarting my brain each day has become a poor habit that eats up time because I don’t begin with the end in mind. I just read until I’ve had my fill. The solution to that isn’t just cutting back on news, or removing it altogether. Other activities can replace it as my morning addiction of choice. Even reading scriptures can be a problem, albeit a more edifying one, when I get distracted cross-referencing spiritual concepts through the four gospels, then discovering a talk by a general authority I haven’t encountered before. Learning new things isn’t a detriment. Adults with ADHD have a penchant for amassing information. We take it all in like hungry encyclopedias desperate for content. But what does it profit us to learn information at the cost of producing content? There needs to be balance.

We Need to Regulate How We Spend Our Time

I should get up, get busy, get done, then relax with all that delightful reading at the end of my day.

I know this. I’ve been here before. That’s why I know that the best way to regulate time is to use a timer. This morning I gave myself forty-five minutes to read news. I chose to read gaming and entertainment news only. There will be plenty of time for politics after tonight’s debate. I shared some posts on social media. I had a few laughs. I got my brain going. Then I got ready for the day, ate breakfast, and began blogging. I’m even aware of how little time I have before my daughter gets home off the bus. If you think a news addiction is disruptive to productivity, you should let a learning disabled kid with epilepsy and behavior issues plop into the middle of your day. No wonder I’m not getting anything done!

Why Do We Slip Back into Bad Behavior?

The reasons why we relapse are complicated and personal. I can’t speak well for others, but I’m going through an incredible period of unrest and turmoil in my life. I just moved everything I own into two storage units, I’m in between apartments, I have several financial fires that need stomping out, I’ve got various medical issues that take up time, and my daughter is a handful. I’m not in a happy place; there’s so much chaos. My solution, without realizing it, was to lose myself in distraction. It can be a comforting place to be. Online conversations can be intense and filled with the illusion of purpose. We can feel like VERY IMPORTANT THINGS ARE HAPPENING when all we’re doing is pushing hot air at each other. It’s not necessarily an ADHD problem, but adults with ADHD are prone to excessive levels. The only thing we can do in those situations is to self-analyze our behavior, then commit to new behaviors.

Fortunately for me, I’ve only lost a few weeks to this news binge. This is easily corrected. I do this periodically as my nature is to slip into this rut. So take a moment to pause. How have you spent your downtime? Are you letting distractions regulate your life? It doesn’t have to be this way. Use a timer on your phone, tablet, computer, or watch. Use a old school kitchen timer if you have to. Rein yourself in and reclaim your day. Live your life in the right order for a change.


My life might be a mess, but you won't believe how organized my book is.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Maelstrom of Sleepy Chaos

Claw Conquest: $2.50

The chaos that is the Brownie is at her mother's, finally asleep. All that remains of her is the debris left behind in her tornado's wake. Not even my latest claw acquisition remains as a cute accent on the dump I call my apartment. With her angelic absence, I was finally able to work on the business cards I intended to use later today. What a handful she has been this summer! You have no idea. After all, how could you? I have kept the drama tight to my vest. And here I am, changing the subject. Now I can at last prevent entropy from destroying my kitchen, finish the laundry before the cycle of chaos begins again Sunday night, and wind down with ethereal shoe-gazer music in the background. Morpheus calls, but he's a dull old boy and easily ignored.

In the morning, I will rush off to Fedex Office and print the business cards that I didn't have ready for the last conference I attended, then I will race along the Wasatch Front to arrive at the Community & Family Education Day on Tourette & Tic Disorders conference. I don't know what I am expecting to find there, but I have promised myself to attend more mental health themed conventions. Perhaps I will find new friends & enlightenment. Perhaps I will wake up in the morning and discover I am unable to drive. So much uncertainty makes for an exciting weekend.

Then the evening will be spent at the Miss Sandy beauty pageant where my 2nd oldest daughter, Cathryn, is competing. I'm probably planning too much for one day, but if I prop myself up with plenty of protein & potassium, I should be able to make it through the evening without incident. What a shame I forgot to cancel my Saturday get-together with my friends. Hopefully, I'll remember to call them before they call me when I don't answer the door.

I am listening to "Eskimo Swin" by The Autumns this very second. ♫ ★★★★

I regret that I didn't finish the Family Guy articles this week that I promised to send to my editor, but you won't regret reading my book on overcoming suicidism.

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