Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Obstinance or Brilliance

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowlI am still paying the price for pushing myself in June, and I thought it was time to share with you what I’ve been up to, how it went, what worked, and what I could have done better. The TL;DR version is that I did too much, loved almost every moment of it, and then I ended up feeling like a haggard and disheveled octogenarian who had dragged a couch up a mountain trail.

To give you an idea of what I’ve been up to, here’s a concise whirlwind from April to present. I have left out my daily duties and medical care for my daughter:

I signed up for the conference in April, had to write 6000 words in two days, took six weeks to design a story from scratch and write 8000 words instead, finished in time to design & complete my daughter’s very late wedding invitation—as well as her web site, prepared for the conference, attended the conference from June 11–15, attended my daughter’s wedding on June 16th, stayed up late tearing down decorations, moving tables, and stacking chairs, attended church and performed my duties, spent two days ticking, spent 11 hours purchasing gear and packing my youngest daughter for her all girls church camping trip, recuperated for one day (ticking), packed myself and sped across Utah to stay on site at the campground just in case my daughter had a seizure, read thirteen volumes of My Hero Academia, wrote three articles, wrote one blog, finished a bound journal, went for a hike, practiced my tin whistle on a mountain top, got lost (briefly), came home at the end of the week, then ticked for three days before coming down with a virus for a week and a half.

Two things stand out to me while reading that list. First of all, I cannot believe how much I was able to accomplish. This is phenomenal progress for me. I was focused and productive, so ADHD was managed, and I kept myself upbeat & positive, so depression was managed. In fact, they weren’t even a factor. I noticed, however, that I began to run out of steam, tic more, and eventually got sick as the whirlwind moved deeper into June. Tourettes is still my Achilles heel. I can keep the ticking at bay for hours at a time, but it always overpowers me with a vengeance at the end of the day. If I push too much, it will take me down for days.

Here are shockingly simple things I did right and plan on doing again:

  1. I woke up at the same time every day.
  2. I ate a healthy breakfast, lunch & dinner every day.
  3. I used protein shakes and protein bars as snacks, making sure to eat every two hours.
  4. I kept myself hydrated.
  5. I took breaks as needed by the end of each day, and allowed myself to leave early during the breakout sessions. I had to drive home while I was able before TS prevented me.
  6. To manage the TS, I used fidget spinners ߷ discretely during the workshop, usually under the table and hidden within my hands, to manage mild ticking. I also used industrial strength exercise putty to manage the moderate ticking. I would take a break when the ticking became severe.

Most of these coping strategies sound simplistic, don’t they? Yet these strategies are the first things I toss out the window when under deadline and rushed. I forget to eat and hydrate. I work without breaks. I sleep irregular hours. Then I start ticking, crash hard, and become useless. Keeping ADHD & Depression in check involves steady maintenance. As evidenced over the past few months, I am much better at this now (and it’s about time…).

There’s still room for improvement, however. I missed an awful lot of breakout sessions at the conference because I petered out by the end of each day. I also struggled with ticking as the conference week wore on. Afterwards, I ran on pure adrenaline to be there for my daughter’s wedding, then the following week getting my youngest daughter prepped and sent off on a camping trip. I was forced out of the game for a day, then hyped myself up on adrenaline again to get myself prepped and sent off to the same camping trip! Once all events were over, I crashed for days—shambling about on forearm crutches because I couldn’t even walk properly. Also, after weeks and weeks of pushing myself to my limits, is it any wonder I also became sick?

I’m glad I was there for my girls, but adrenaline shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice. The price we pay for using that fuel is too high. Stress, depression, insomnia, heart failure… I owe it to my daughters to live healthier and smarter.

Here’s where I went wrong: 1. Since I was under deadline for my daughter’s wedding projects, I didn’t spend time before the writer’s conference to read and review everybody else’s stories. I saved that for the week of the conference. That means I had to read several 6000 word stories multiple times and then review them before I could go to bed. What terrible and stressful planning! 2. I stayed up late every night getting that work done, surviving on less than three hours of sleep a day on some days, but mostly less than four daily. It seriously impacted my stamina. That may seem self-evident, but if you’re an insomniac like I am, you’re used to functioning on too little sleep. It can seem normal over time, but it’s detrimental to productivity. 3. I didn’t exercise during the conference week. That resulted in higher stress and less stamina when I needed it most. No wonder I ticked so much!

Some of these faults may have been unavoidable this time around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t analyze where I have room for improvement for my next conference. You may have noticed that the things I did wrong had a cascading effect, like massive cement dominos crashing through my life. If I set up my work flow differently, I could have avoided being crushed by my own short-sightedness. Better organization would have led to better planning and pacing. Better sleep would have led to better productivity and stamina.

Lastly, many people with TS don’t believe in suppressing tics. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, they say. Embrace the tics because we pay a price for suppressing them, they advise. It can be like holding back a flood. You can stop it up for a short time, then be washed out with the deluge, or you can just let the waters flow . Those folks aren’t necessarily wrong. One shouldn’t be ashamed of their involuntary tics, but unfortunately for me, my tics aren’t benign. They pick up steam and intensity, then interfere with my cognition—meaning I can’t learn or think well while ticking. I have memory lapses. So I suppress them whenever I can. I’d much rather push hard all day and get things done, and then tic at the end of the day after meeting my goals.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe this is just me justifying bad habits. As I refine my coping strategies, I’ll know better when I’m being smart and when I’m being obstinate. However you choose to manage whatever ails you, keep pushing! Carve out a life for yourself. It’s hard work, but worth the effort.

**Coping Strategies:** The ToDo list is your friend. I’ve written many blogs about using them, yet keep meeting [adults with ADHD][adhd] who won't use them. Baffling. Read more about the advantages of task lists here, here, and here for starters.