Tuesday, June 10, 2014

ADHD & Fearing Failure

My dusty art dust. Abandoned and forgotten, but no more.

“It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There's almost no such thing as ready. There's only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I'm about to go bungee jumping or something - I'm not. I'm not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

~Hugh Laurie


That quote drifted across my Facebook stream sometime last weekend. Normally, I snort disdainfully at inspirational quotes overlaid on gauzy photos full of dappled sunlight, but this was not one of those occasions. Actors aren't normally my source for inspirational quotes. They are no different than any other person with a demanding job. They may seem more beautiful than your average person, but they aren't necessarily so in person. Many actors are convinced that their opinions on politics or global weather are the right opinions because they are famous, their peers share their opinions, and they have a microphone in their face more times than you or I, but their opinions are not necessarily more valid than your crazy uncle's or loud-mouthed neighbor's. It is a different matter when they share insight from their own experiences. Then I take notice. Hugh Laurie's commentary on waiting struck me like lightning on a clear day. Waiting has been one of the problems in my life.

Fortunately, I'm not waiting anymore. There were many times in the past where I held off doing something because I felt I wasn't ready. When you put something off long enough, we well know it can become a case of procrastination, but sometimes it can also be a case of fear.

A lifetime of ADHD failures taught me in my twenties that there was a ceiling that limited how high I could fly. Out of high school I believed that there was no ceiling, but hitting that ceiling with the velocity of rocket propelled naivety taught me pain. Instead of caution, I learned fear. Instead of learning to prepare, I learned to stop. It wasn't a conscientious decision that I made. I simply found myself sitting on the curb watching the parade of achievers march on by while I nursed a sore face. To be fair, becoming disabled at twenty-five certainly factored into my new world view, but ADHD failures are bright and colorful things, done boldly and with great fanfare for all to notice. I became ashamed and left the parade.

This certainly didn't apply to all areas of my life, but where my dreams were concerned, I practiced and waited. I was never quite ready, never quite finished. After my divorce, however, I came to a conclusion. Not only did I miss the speed of a rocket beneath my feet, but I was bored of waiting. Unfortunately, because of life's complications I have been pressing forward in hops and skips, but not with bounds that could scale tall buildings. Laurie's quote came at an opportune time for me.

Not only am I fired up to finish my book on overcoming suicide, but I see that in many ways I had begun waiting again. I had begun to believe that I wasn't quite ready, and maybe, perhaps, my voice on the subject wasn't a qualified one. This is likely because my project came to a stop when my editor took maternity leave. I had idle time to worry, but it is also true that adults with ADHD have notoriously low self-esteem.

I should have applied to my writing the lesson that I learned with my recent drawing project. In December I decided that I had waited to be ready to draw long enough. I had been sketching in fits and starts, but not with any purpose. However, there could be only so many remedial sketches I could do before I bored myself away from drawing forever. I decided to force myself to draw online—anonymously for the moment—but in public so that others could see. My first sketches were terrible things, especially in comparison to how I used to draw. Before I became disabled with a tic disorder I loved to draw daily. Then I became frustrated and afraid of that blank canvas. My ticking still interfered in small ways, but looking over the past six months of efforts surprised me. I had progressed so much. I had proven to myself that I could do it. So I made new goals for June to increase my drawing output and step up my efforts—one of which is to clear away the boxes around my art desk, dust it off, and actually use it for the first time in years.

ADHD does help us make some glorious mistakes. However, if I had stopped cooking years ago because I repeatedly forgot about pans on the burner and let them melt into slag, I wouldn't be feeding my children wonderful meals today. In the same way, if I don't publish this book of mine, I'll never grow and develop as a writer. It's time to put my work forward and stop waiting.