chaos

Simply Love, and Love Well

A couple of years ago, my life was in chaos. I felt broken. I felt wounded by the church. I couldn’t enter a church without wanting to run screaming, so I stopped going. I could barely stand it when someone spoke “Christianese” at me.

My relationships were broken. I had hurt one of my best friends, and she refused to forgive me after multiple attempts to reconcile. A family member had deeply wounded me. To create safe boundaries, I had cut off communication for a time in order to build healthy boundaries and not be revictimized.

But God had a plan for this chaos. Broken, my heart was humbled as I saw the devastating consequences of my actions as well as others. I started counseling again for the first time in many years, and started healing anew. As this emotional healing progressed, my spirit was also beginning the healing process. I determined that the story I was living could not continue. I wanted to live a better story.

Eventually, relationships were restored, although the wounds remain. Not as an open source of pain, but a scar that serves as a reminder to love gently and purposefully. While I had turned my back on the “church”, I never felt far from God. Slowly, the contempt I had for organized religion was replaced by a longing for community, to once again find my place in the body of Christ. That is an ongoing process, but I don’t want to run screaming any more (at least, most of the time I don’t).

This week I had the luxury of solitude. I decided not to travel with my husband on business, so I had a blissful week alone. This became a mini-retreat that allowed me hours upon hours to process what I learned at the Storyline conference, and to spend time reading, praying, and journaling. I was able to organize all of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart. I developed goals for the coming year – specific and purposeful goals. I created a theme for the year that will help guide me and help me focus on those important things that will help me lead a better story.

Simply love, and love well.

Love God. Love others. Love yourself.

Love God –

I will spend more time learning, reading, studying, praying, and journaling. And yes, I am going on a silent retreat next month so that I can learn to be still and listen. And I think I have found a church here in Louisville that doesn’t make me want to run screaming.

I considered the five major roles in my life (wife, family, friend, neighbor, writer) from Storyline’s Creating Your Life Plan, and set goals for each one. I also took into account the concept of the relational atom

Love others:

  • as a wife, be a partner in creating memories and building a home of restorative community

  • as a family member (daughter, sister), love purposefully and practically

  • as a friend (this includes just my inner circle of friends), also love purposefully and practically, and work to maintain relationships though we are at a distance; be ‘present’ even though I am not present

  • as a neighbor (this includes the people in my neighborhood, extended family, my outer circle of friends, co-workers, and church friends) , show God’s love with purpose and presence

Love yourself:

as a writer and creative soul; care for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually

In light of this new focus, there will be some changes for my blog. I will just be posting a couple of times each week about this journey. In setting some boundaries so that I can be more purposeful in my relationships, I want to spend less time on social media and more time being actually present. My ‘new year’ will start at the beginning of the church calendar, on the first Sunday of Advent  (November 30 this year). I hope you will continue with me as I learn to Simply Love

What have you done to live a better story this past year? Share your answer on my Facebook page.

Comments can be emailed to me by using the form below

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ADULT ADHD: 3 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW

Day 4: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

In the search for balance, an important starting point is to look at how you are made, who you are at your core. If you search through my blogs or look at my house (especially my bedroom), if you are my close friend or co-worker, or if you travel with me or come play with me at Disneyland, you will get a pretty good feel for how I live my life – a combination of scattered chaos and intense hyper-focus.

This is the life of an adult with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

I have two blogs (because apparently one isn’t enough). One blog is on hospice care. It was well received and well read. It is the area in which I am an expert. I haven’t posted since July. My personal blog is all over the place. I started writing about an amazing road trip that I took with my husband this summer. (I promise, that report is still coming!) but I got sidelined with some personal crises and my writing took a different turn – my search for balance. My house is messy but not dirty, cluttered but not hoarder-like (not yet), and there are piles to be sorted and unfinished projects in every corner. Some have been there for years. If you are my friend, you know that I love intensely and try to be purposeful in my relationships. But you also know that my brain is going a million miles and hour, and it may feel like you don’t have my full attention. If you are my co-worker, you may wonder what in the heck I’m talking about, since at work I can appear organized and very detail oriented. And I usually am – you just don’t always see the chaos underneath. If you travel with me you know that I am a maniac road tripper or Disneyland addict. When not on vacation, I would rather sleep in or watch tv in my pajamas all day. But when I’m on vacation, I have a schedule, a detailed plan. I get to the hotel and put each item in my suitcase away in a drawer or on the counter.  I’m up at the crack of dawn and I have a plan for the day – I don’t want to miss any fun! This intense energy can also lead to an overload, especially if I am at my second home, Disneyland, where there is so much to see and do, so many friends to laugh with – that I can end up overloaded and then need to withdraw. I could go on and on with examples. Until something shiny distracts me.

Let me say from the beginning that I hate that label. Rather than respecting that we are just wired differently, the use of the term disorder implies that we are wired INCORRECTLY. It says, “There is something wrong with you.”

If you are in the ‘club’ – the adults with ADHD club – you have heard this all of your life.

Stop that – why care you doing that? – sit still – stop talking – think about what you are doing – how could you forget that? – you lost your (homework, lunch money, sunglasses, car keys) again? – pick up you stuff – close the cupboard – quit fidgeting – why are you so messy – can’t you get it together?

We hear from every direction that what we are doing is wrong, that we don’t fit into the norm, that we are broken.

I prefer the perspective of Dr. William Dodson in his article Secrets of the ADHD Brain. He proposes that rather than a disorder, the ADHD nervous system is simply “a unique and special creation that regulates attention and emotions in different ways than the nervous system in those without the condition.” It’s a good read, and I’m sure I will write more about that perspective later.

Many people have misconceptions about people, especially adults, with ADHD. If you come real close, I will tell you three important things that you may not know about us. 

1. It’s not that we can’t pay attention. It’s that we pay too much attention to everything, including things that don’t matter. There is no consistency in our attention. We usually have four or five things going on in our mind at once, and it there is no structure to prioritize, we go with whatever is in our face the most, or whatever is the most interesting, or whatever is the most convenient. And from there we rabbit-trail into four or five different things, forgetting what we were doing in the first place. It’s like if your mind had a gate, and a swinging gate that opens and shuts, with a latch to keep it locked at times. It can let things in or keep things out. You can choose to open it or shut it. You can let one thing in at a time if you wish. Most people have a gate – I have a revolving door that just keeps spinning.

2. We have a super power. It’s called hyper-focus. Usually a couple of  times a day, on a good day, we get in the zone, and have the ability to intensely focus on a task or project or idea. Our creativity flies, our attention to detail is impeccable, our efficiency in magnified and we can get more done in an hour than we have in the past month. However, I find that this is rarely under my control. I can’t summon up my super power on a whim. When my meds are working or if I have some extra caffeine, it might help. MIGHT. It’s like a surfer waiting for a good wave – you can’t make it happen, you may or may not be able to see it coming, and you just have to be ready to make the best of it and paddle hard into it or you’ll miss it entirely. The key is learning to use my powers for good rather than evil. It’s the difference between organizing a project and meeting a deadline and spending from midnight to 3am searching for my second grade boyfriend on the internet.

3. We are not broken. Contrary to what I have heard all my life, I am not broken. Did you hear me? YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. Yes, we can be scattered, and yes, we can be a little intense at times. But we were knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) just as we were intended. We are wired differently. Different does not equal wrong. We love intensely, we are never boring, and we often use our difficulties and frustrations as a catalyst for growth and change. We have to, or we would drive everyone, including ourselves, crazy! It can sometimes be difficult to be in a relationship with someone with ADHD. (God bless my sainted husband). We rarely prioritize things internally as to importance, and we are often are not motivated by rewards. Our brains just don’t work that way. To me, most tasks seem to have the same amount of non-importance, the same amount of BORING. Even consequences  or punishments don’t motivate us that much. What motivates us is if something is interesting, exciting, or urgent. And that can be challenging. Especially for the parents of ADHD children. We are creative and often come up with very unique tools for dealing with the internal chaos. To-do lists, journaling, physical activity, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga can be helpful. Difficult, unique, intense, chaotic – yes, but

YOU ARE NOT BROKEN.  Work on the rough edges, and embrace the rest. You are a fractal – a composite of beautiful chaotic order. You are unique. You are enough.

 

The Day I Forgot To Breathe

photo credit: WikiMedia Commons by Toni Frissell

photo credit: WikiMedia Commons by Toni Frissel

This morning I forgot to breathe. I slept through my alarm, and rushed to a meeting. I spent the afternoon working on numerous projects, and when a colleague called to give me a report to follow-up on tomorrow, I noticed a tension headache beginning. That’s when I realized I had forgotten to breathe. Bear with me while I explain.

While looking for balance in life, it can be helpful to identify the biggest obstacle – or what’s in your face the most?  As I identified my longing for a quiet, peaceful place to sort this all out, I jumped right ahead to list all the distractions that I’m chasing. However, I skipped over one of the most important parts of this journey so far –

Finding a place of peace amidst the chaos.

In my intense, passionate, and distractable psyche and spirit, how do I learn to be still? How do I learn to sit with feelings that are uncomfortable? How does the person who keeps the television 0n for background noise at all times learn to quiet my racing thoughts? How do I stop that physical reaction to conflict, or shame, or disappointment?

When I returned to counseling a few months ago, my counselor suggested a book called the The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions. I wasn’t opposed to the practice of deep breathing, but to be honest, sitting still for any length of time has never been my strong point. I get bored, my mind wanders. I start making a grocery list. But I have found that as I get older, and particularly as I am attempting to sift through some of the chaos in my heart and mind, I am developing a love and even a longing for times of quiet. Still, empty quiet. 

This may sound wonderful and lovely and normal to you, but for me – this is nowhere near my normal. But things are changing. I know that part of it is my decreased ability to multi-task as I age. I also believe that the chaos has sometimes served as a coping mechanism – if I am too busy, too distracted, too chaotic, if there is always noise, I don’t have to deal with whatever may be sitting there in the dark shadows of the quiet. In my search for balance, I am realizing the value of sitting in the quiet, and bringing to light what is in the dark shadows.

One tool I’m finding helpful to fight the distractions is mindful, or coherent breathing. I’m just learning, and I’m not consistent, but I have to admit, when I start my day with deep breathing, there seems to be a difference. I haven’t read much of the book – I mean, it’s a book about breathing – but the book came with a CD which I keep in my car and practice on the way to work. It’s not ideal, because you’re supposed to be seated comfortably with your eyes closed. I have tried the deep breathing exercises in the mornings (when I remember) and it may be a placebo effect, but I am beginning to notice a difference. Or should I say, I noticed a difference today when I did NOT start my day with deep breathing. I find myself using it while I drive and when I am beginning to feel stress or anxiety. When I practice deep breathing, it is easier to not react to stressful situations, and it seems easier to remain calm and not have such  an intense emotional reaction. It can also be really helpful to relax and clear your mind when you’re trying to go to sleep.

A few years ago NPR did a story on the biological changes that occur when we practice deep breathing, the body’s ‘built-in stress reliever’:

“Research has shown that breathing exercises like these can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. But more importantly, they can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones. . . Rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response — the part activated by stress. In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down.” (Just Breathe: Body Has A Built-In Stress Reliever by Gretchen Cuda)

I’m just starting with 3-5 minutes, in the morning, and sometimes at night. I try to set my phone alarm, and pratice coherent breathing before i ever get out of bed. I even found an app to keep track of the time for me.

Why don’t you try it with me for a few weeks, and then report back?

 

deep-breath

This begins at your natural breath rate and very gradually slows your breathing down.

Beginning Steps for Coherent Breathing

• Breathe through your nose with your eyes closed.

• Taking your time, count slowly and silently in your mind: As you breathe in, . . . two . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . repeat this for two breaths.

• Taking your time, count slowly: As you breathe in . . . two . . .three . . . as you breathe out, . . . two . . . three . . . repeat this for three breaths.

• Taking your time, count slowly: As you breathe in . . . two . . .three . . . four . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . repeat this for four breaths.

• Taking your time, count a little more slowly: As you breathe in . . .two . . . three . . . four . . . as you breathe out . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . repeat this for four breaths.

Once you learn to breathe at five breaths per minute, you will not need to use these learning steps. You will be able to just start and within a few breaths you will be in the correct rhythm.