Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Trick of the Mind

(cc) Douglas CooteySupposedly, Adults with AD/HD have low self-esteem due to a life of dumb mistakes, social blunders, and a lack of focus. Not that my life has been like that (ahem), but how can one reverse the damages?

One of the many ways that AD/HD affects me is low self-esteem. I also deal with hypersensitivity, distractibility, and my personal favorite, depression after success. Of course, I'm chock full of other AD/HD goodness (scoring 25 out of the 20 on the Hallowell and Ratey's Diagnostic Criteria for ADD in Adults), but these few choice nuggets will be all I focus on today. After all, I have a limited attention span.

As an adult with AD/HD these attributes become most troublesome when I try to draw in public. For example, drawing in class was torture. I simply couldn't tune out all the hustle and bustle around me. Likewise, drawing en plein air was equally difficult. In the field I also had information overload to juggle along with all the other events plying for my attention. That is why for years landscape drawing was synonymous with failure to me.

We can spend a lot of years being defined by our limitations. I know I certainly have, but at some point we can also come to the realization that we're missing out. That's how I felt with landscape painting. I really wanted to do it, but fear of failure kept me back. Something inside me needed to change. Although drive by commenters will from time to time decide I am not disabled, I wanted to share with my regular readers a page from my journal as I struggled with these issues and applied my own advice to the problem.

The setting is outside Torrey, Utah in the Capitol Reef National Park. My daughter's gig is over and I have set aside some rare time to draw uninterrupted. It is midday. I am overwhelmed with the beauty of the landscape, the sun is singeing my flesh, the flies are trying to make homes in my ears, and I'm taking time to jot in my journal between sketches:

1 July 2007
Sunday - Entry 139: Finally, my time to draw is at hand. The vistas before me are red, grey, and vast. So much information to draw. I wonder how I will fare...

(cc) Douglas CooteyMy first rendering feels inadequate, yet I am pleased. I drew. I focused. I drew. This alone made the day worthwhile. Now, I am tackling the Twin Rocks and I hope to continue my success.

Success. But time is burning on my baked arms. It is nearly time to return home.

Home. With only two drawings I feel a bit disappointed. Yet, I drew for three hours my daughter claims. I did something I had never done - landscape drawings. I focused. I finished. Why be so negative? I was proud before of what I had accomplished. Why be so fickle? I have taken a step forward. Won't running forward soon follow? I am not yet dead. There is time still to study, improve, and master.

I will spend time helping myself fight off depression after success. This is but a trick of the mind.

Sometimes people with AD/HD are years behind the curve and by the time they are adults they figure "This is all that I am", but they could not be more wrong. We must not be afraid to tackle new skills or revisit old ones. Although understanding our limitations is vital for survival, pushing at our limitations is also vital for continued growth and improved self-esteem. Besides, only by pushing can we truly know if a limitation is real.

By keeping a journal I caught myself slipping into the old thought patterns. As soon as I understood what was happening I was able to chase the negative thinking away and replace them with positive ones. We are more capable than we realize. We are more skilled than we realize, and we are often more critical than we realize.

So, there you have it. An actual AD/HD with Depression episode recorded and vanquished. I also successfully took on a new skill that has eluded me in the past. We can overcome our disabilities with attitude and positive thinking. Not the most tightly focused article I've written, but I did it while ticking so there is another victory for me to feel good about. Do with this information what you will. I am satisfied, and that's a rare and wonderful thing.

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