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Self-medicating since preschool.

Blog author, Melinda M. Schmuck, says, “Looking back, I was a textbook case of undiagnosed ADHD in a girl. I had been self-medicating, treating my symptoms with distractions, since pre-school.”

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My earliest memory of “hyperfocus” was in grade school. I had grown bored of whatever the lesson was, had completed the worksheets, and was sneaking a book under my desk.

Suddenly I looked up and the whole room was empty. Not a single person was there.

An entire classroom. All the kids. The teacher. The aide. Everyone. They had all gone to lunch. I sat there, alone.

I remember the panic feeling rushing over me. My cheeks burned with embarrassment. How many of the kids must have looked at me as they walked past? Did anyone even try to get my attention? How long had I been sitting there? What should I do now?

Hot, sharp tears of anger welled up in my eyes. I was SO angry at myself.

Why couldn’t I just pay attention? Why couldn’t I just sit like the rest of them? What was wrong with me? How did an entire classroom of people suddenly become invisible to me? I sure wasn’t invisible to them as they all walked past me; the only one who didn’t get up! The girl with the book in her lap. They probably nudged each other and pointed at me. One tear escaped the corner of my eye and ran down my cheek. NO! No no no no! Now I would be the girl who missed lunch then cried??!

I shoved my book into my desk and rushed to the bathroom. I hid there for awhile, until I could hear that the lunch room had emptied and everyone was going outside for recess. I quietly joined them outside. I acted as if nothing had happened. I was so hungry. And I was terrified that I would have to explain myself for missing lunch. I would be in so much trouble. The fear was unbearable all day.

But nobody ever said a word to me. As we lined up and filed back into the classroom I waited for a snicker or a look, but nothing. When we sat down at our desks I expected a trip to the hall with the teacher. I thought maybe my book would be gone. Not a single person said a word, not even the teacher.

I was angry, scared, hungry, and invisible.

The rest of the day dragged on. My stomach rumbled from missing lunch. Every few minutes the thought of the book would pop into my head, causing a knot in my chest, and the burning in my cheeks to return. The thoughts that I was different raced through my head. Not only was I different, I also didn’t fit in or matter. I was alone. It seemed like everyone else had a friend. Where was mine? Where was the person who would have kicked me to get up? Or asked me what I was doing? Or where I was at lunch? Nobody even cared that I was gone. How long could I have gotten away with that? Would anyone notice if I disappeared forever?

As an adult I get it. I was quiet. It was easy for the teacher to pass over me as I sat with my head down, obviously not paying attention, but not interrupting her either. And I was doing well. My grades were great. I wasn’t a problem. I was just doing my own thing, teaching myself. I didn’t need her, and she didn’t need to stop the entire class to screw up her own flow over a quiet kid who was getting better grades than most the class.

It was easy for my friends to walk past me, because they were used to seeing me doing things differently than the other kids. All the kids were used to seeing me sit at my desk, trying to finish one last paragraph, in a totally different book than the class was reading. I always put the book down when I was ready, and made it into the line of people heading to lunch. To them I probably seemed kind of cool. Like a rebel. A silent rebel.

I was a silent rebel. I wasn’t disrespectful, but I did what I wanted. I was impulsive but in a weirdly appropriate and polite way. I wasn’t missed because I wasn’t a person who ever went missing. I was always doing different things. It wasn’t unusual to not see me at lunch. I could have been at a different table, or down in the band room practicing, or in some kind of spelling bee meeting. I was always doing my own things.

To an outsider it looked like I was a high achiever. Independent. Smart. Strong. A kid who pushed past comfort zones and wanted to grow.

On the inside, I was a mess. I needed those constantly changing activities to keep me from going crazy. I wasn’t trying to grow and learn. I wasn’t trying to step outside of any comfort zones. I was trying to distract myself. I was in a hundred different places because I couldn’t tolerate being in just one. I pushed comfort zones because I didn’t know what it felt like to be comfortable. I never felt out of place because I never had an inner place.

In a way, at an early age I was already self-medicating and finding tools and strategies to deal with the insatiable discomfort I felt inside.

I wasn’t drawing attention to myself. I was desperately trying to keep the attention off myself because I couldn’t fathom managing my own attention and that of someone else. I wasn’t talking out of turn, I wasn’t throwing fits and flipping over desks. I wasn’t making fun of my classmates or causing trouble. I was a silent rebel. I did assignments out of order, I read ahead in books, I found little ways to make things novel. I’d start from the end of a spelling test and work it backwards. I joined band, and spelling bees, and reading clubs, and jumped at any other activity that would allow me to physically leave the classroom for a while.

I didn’t so much want to be in the spelling bee or band as much as I just wanted to catch my mind. I was a talented musician because I sat in hyperfocus for hours at a time practicing paradiddles and slow rolls. The rhythm felt good in my brain. I was great at spelling because of all the reading I did. The reading kept my thoughts from racing. The words inside my head that I think or hear, they just kind of float around and I can’t keep them straight. Written words are locked down to a piece of paper. They’re caught. They don’t move. They make sense that way. They’re calm. They’re calming. Words on paper feel so good in my brain.

Looking back, I was a textbook case of undiagnosed ADHD in a girl.

I had been self-medicating by treating my symptoms with distractions, since pre-school.

As my story progressed it took becoming an adult with a baby to finally pull the symptoms to the front where someone noticed them. My jack of all trades, master of none lifestyle wasn’t working anymore.

So what does one do in this situation?

Stop letting your preschool-self medicate you.

ASK FOR HELP!

Then, start a blog, of course.

Do not, under any circumstances do what I did!!

Don’t graduate law school, get married, have a baby, take the bar exam, start a law firm, and become a realtor, and move your 94 year old grandma in with you, all in a span of about two years because you think if you fill up your life it will stop shaking around.

Why shouldn’t you do that?

That is the solution your pre-school self would come up with.

You will find yourself on the verge of a nervous breakdown and finally go to a therapist who will tell you to quit your law firm, and bury the real estate license for awhile.

So what should you do?

First, ask for help!

Then, keep reading books, play some music, huff some essential oils, find a great workout program, eat healthy foods, and do whatever it takes to stay out of the common working population. Read. Write. Write a lot. Read a lot. Just maybe not in a classroom full of people.

Pray a whole lot and understand that yes, you are different. You are wonderfully different. You are a person who was designed to be free and your soul will not stop hurting until you find that freedom. Packing it in tight will not make it feel better.

It kind of sucks. It’s painful. But the methods you have used since preschool to get relief from the pain you feel inside are not going to serve you into adulthood. Trust me. I tried it.

A walk in the park.

I found a wheelchair for Grandma at a yardsale for 20 bucks!! It’s nice to be able to get her out of the house once in awhile. Her walker is fine but she can’t go that far.

An actual walk in the park is a good release for the not-so-much-a-walk-in-the-park that our lives can sometimes be. This walk was especially needed and pretty awesome!

We went to Blanford Nature Center. We saw Grandma’s favorite animal, Owls, and Natalie’s favorite, Bobcats.

But, I am not going to lie. The struggle is real for me on these outings.

We can’t just go out the front door like normal people do.

We have to go through the garage because we have a weird sidewalk. Almost always there is a pile of crap in my way that I have to move. Because. HOARDERS. So I throw on Nick’s flip flops to quick clear a path through the garage and open the door.

Then, I forget to shut the house door before I open the garage door. Because. Adhd.

Then the dog gets out. She has learned ALL my tricks. Now I have to actually get in the car and start driving away before she thinks I am serious enough that she will get in the car so I can catch her.

In the mean time, Natalie has gotten outside as well, saw me “driving away” and is now SCREAMING through the neighborhood that I forgot her.

Her tears subside as I drag my 110 lb jerk of a dog through the yard to the house, where Grandma is standing in the hall, with her socks in her hand, looking for her purse.

I run back outside to get Natalie, she is now crying because she wants to go and thinks we are not going because she has to go back in the house. There is no reasoning with her. Because. Toddler.

After a long battle she finally comes in. (Reality check: I carry her in while she tries to scratch my face) Grandma is still not wearing socks but she did find her purse. I remember that I should put Natalie on the toilet.

Natalie is screaming, “I don’t WANT to go potty, Mom!!” sitting on the toilet, and now Grandma is yelling that I need to put her socks on for her. I leave Natalie on the toilet to go help Grandma.

Natalie doesn’t use the toilet like I asked her to. She pulls her pants up by herself though, which is a bonus.

I roll up Grandma’s socks to avoid touching her feet. Because. Old people feet. I discreetly hold my breath, because when I put the socks on her feet her dry skin clouds through the air like dust. Its so gross. I am a rogue lawyer. Not a podiatrist. I am allowed to feel that way.

I am polite and helpful though. And I wash my hands quietly afterwards.
Now Grandma can’t find her shoes. Natalie has taken her shoes off. And I realize I am still rocking Nick’s giant flippy floppies.

Now Grandma insists that Natalie needs a coat. Its 90 degrees out. Dementia will do that to you. There is no use arguing. I find Natalie a thin hoodie.

Grandma finally stands up and starts the trudge to the car. This is not easy for her. Its painful. Its really, rrrreeeeeaaallly, slow. It sucks. It’s painful for me to watch. As she walks of course, she starts in, nagging about the coat again. She’s frustrated. It’s frustrating for me, even though I know it’s not her fault.

The slow walking allows plenty of time for Natalie to get distracted and gather up about 40 different toys that all have to go with us. Another fight. More tears. She can bring one. “Okay, two. Fine three. Just get in the effing car!!!”

I have to get out a bath side step with a tall handle so Grandma can get in the car. During this time, Natalie is collecting rocks that will be coming with us as well. I am on watch to make sure none of those rocks magically fly towards the car or Grandma. Grandma finally gets in the car. I buckle her in. Natalie throws the rocks (to the ground, thankfully) and cries because she wanted to do the buckle.

I unbuckle Grandma so Natalie can do it and I push the walker back up to the house. I open the house door without closing the garage door, because, adhd, and, again, the effing dog gets out.

As the dog is running full force towards an unsuspecting jogger Natalie yells, “Mom, I peed my pants!” And Grandma is yelling, “You left my purse in my walker!” The jogger is startled by the 110 pound friend she just made, but is thankfully not upset AND grabs her collar. That is a huge win for me!!

I thank and apologize to the jogger and drag the dog back in the house. Then I take Natalie in the house. Her pants are changed. We get back out to the car and I finally get her and buckled into her car seat.

I put the car in reverse and start driving when I see that the garage door is still open. I get out. Shut it. Get back in. Realize I am still wearing Nick’s flip flops. Get out. Go inside. Get my own shoes. Tell the dog I hate her. Go back out to the car. And we can finally go. When we get there we realize that I never got the purse out of Grandma’s walker.

It’s all worth it for moments like these, though:

Cat Ladies

A few months ago this cat showed up at our door. For three days she just hung around the yard. We already owned one cat. I felt one cat is enough for a lifetime and we were a perfectly happy little family. I was a totally content, cold-hearted, cat hater.

On the fourth day the cat was still hanging out in our yard and it was really cold. Since I was under a vow to never own another cat I knew there would be no way her kitten eyes could get the best of me. So I placed a bowl of food and some clean water in the warm, safe, enclosed front porch.

By the time dinner was over that night Grandma had named the cat “Meisje” (pronounced My-Sha, dutch for girl) and decided it wouldn’t hurt to just let the cat in for one night. The cat immediately curled up on Grandma’s lap to sleep. A few days after that, Grandma, Natalie, and I were leaving the vet’s office with a newly vaccinated and flea treated pet.

Turns out, trips to the vet are a caretaker/toddler mom nightmare.

Since Meisje came in as a stray I had to take both her and my old cat Ryhkhey in together. There was no chance that Ryhkhey would share her carrier. But we had a ridiculous amount of empty diaper boxes. Perfect. Grandma suggested that we put Meijse in a diaper box and tie it closed with yarn.

Something you should know about Grandmas: what we do with duct tape, grandmas do with yarn.

So here we were, standing in the kitchen trying to shove this poor cat into a box, keep her there, and wrap it shut with yarn. The result was me being tied to the box and the cat escaping. Grandma finally agreed that we could try the tape.

Fast forward- cat back in the box, Grandma with her handy yarn, two year-old standing on the kitchen table, and me holding the box shut, trying to secure it with tape. I got about half-way when the tape ran out and the cat ran out too. Again.

Now we were about 15 minutes late for the appointment. That’s standard Melinda Time (I’m late for everything!) so we are still good, but it was definitely time to leave fast. The box was still not quite secure, and I was telling Natalie to get her shoes on as Grandma stood in the doorway with her coat and purse. Without a beat we were now at least 20 minutes late.

Getting grandma, two cats, and a child into the car is not a quick process so I skipped a few steps. Natalie’s shoes still fit in my pocket then (they grow so fast!!) so I scooped her up and threw her in the car seat, shoeless. Ryhkhey, who had been patiently waiting in her carrier this entire time fit perfectly in the back of the Jeep and I hastily folded up Grandma’s walker and tossed it in on top. Usually I empty the caddy in her walker but there was no time for that. I placed the diaper box of cat, half duct taped and tangled with yarn on Grandma’s lap in the front seat and we were off.

Of course, as we started driving the inevitable happened. Ryhkhey, who had been waiting so patiently, could wait no more, and did a job in the carrier. The smell made our nostrils burn and filled the jeep like the thick dense fog in cartoons.

We arrived to the office, almost 25 minutes late, but the amazing staff actually came out to the car to help unload, which was awesome. The vet tech waited as I opened up the back of the car to get Ryhkhey. At that perfect moment, the contents of Grandma’s walker caddy spilled out onto the street. Apparently it was laundry day, because inside the caddy were about 15 pair of underwear!

There I stood, almost a half hour late, with one poop covered long-haired cat, a shoe-less, toddler, a Grandma holding a box of cat (fastened with yarn and duct tape), and a giant pile of granny panties at my feet.

A day in the life.

An Illusion of Fear has a Remedy of Faith

Most of us have never paid attention to our minds. We hear our minds tell us things all the time. Mostly things we can’t, shouldn’t, or aren’t good enough to do. Then the thoughts our minds generate manifest physical sensations. Usually those sensations are related to the feeling of fear. Our human ability to think gives us a unique talent to not only anticipate risk and threat, but to also imagine it and plan for it, which is what puts us at the top of the food chain. That is why you see this image of a spider and the hair on the back of your neck stands up.

That kind of fear makes sense.

But somewhere along the way our minds got a little hyper vigilant and started making us afraid of things that don’t exist. Have you ever felt that pit in your stomach when you want to ask your boss for a day off? Or what about the burning, tingling sensation in your face when you look at your bank account and it’s almost empty? Nothing is going to jump out of a bush and eat your face off or anything, but still, you are terrified.

That kind of fear does not make sense.

It makes no sense, yet your heart is racing, your palms are sweating, your armpits are sweating, your ears are on fire. You are in fight or flight mode. Only, there is nothing to flee from. 

Your mind is sending signals to your body, telling it to produce a reaction of fear. Your body responds with those signals which loop back to your mind, validating the fear. You stand, frozen, in a mode of panic, as a victim to nothing actually, but a really messed up corporate structure going on inside of you.

This is different than a typical corporate structure though, because it turns out, YOU are the owner of this business, and YOU have all the say in what the chain of command will look like.

Eckhart Tolle brings this to perspective in his book, The Power of Now, with a strategy he outlines. This is how it goes: 

Stop thinking.

How?! Thoughts are like rapid fire.

Just close your eyes and try to catch what your next thought will be. Just try to think, “What will my next thought be?” Focus on waiting for your next thought to come so you can catch it. It’s like sitting in a tree stand during deer season. 

It’s HARD!! You have to really get past all of the noise in your head and intentionally create a thought or you will never catch the next thought you have. They just dash around like lightening bugs.

This is a profound type of realization and a seriously powerful way to pray.

The book explains that two things happen when you reach this realization. First, you discover that if you can watch your mind then naturally you must be something separate from it. Second, if you are something separate from your mind, then it, your thoughts, can’t possibly control you. 

The point is, unless a real physical threat exists, all that other junk you are afraid of isn’t real. Your mind is creating a very real reaction to something that doesn’t exist.

You have three options when you are faced with a fear like this:

  • You can listen to your mind, which we just discovered has no idea what it’s doing and is totally living in an imaginary world,
  • You can listen to your body, which is essentially a blob of meat telling your mind things that it already told your body;
  • Or you can listen to your faith and trust that you have been given exactly what you need and are perfectly, comfortably, safe.

 

 

 

Friday? Sunday? Same.

It’s FRRRRIDAAAAAAY! What are your plans for the weekend? I am going to try and sneak away for a bit and design the month of May. I use a lot of different tools, but one of the most profound are tools from Charley Gilkey’s arsenal. I cannot wait to get started! This month is what I was made for! I love my life and my job!

Now forget it’s Friday. Just for a minute. Imagine it’s Sunday night. You just had a great weekend and you’re brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed. If you are like most people you’re looking into the eyes of another five day workweek. The thought of another Monday probably generates a sick feeling of dreadful sadness in you. A chemical reaction to an unhappy thought. If it doesn’t, if you are genuinely happy and can’t wait to get started, then congratulations! You’ve made it. If you know the feeling I’m talking about, then you are not in alignment.

For me, it’s really bad. When I am out of alignment, my body tells me.

The feeling creeps up my back as a heavy, warm, tar-like darkness that I imagine spreading over my shoulders, pressing on my collar bone, putting pressure on the veins in my neck, making it harder and harder to breathe. It’s worse than sadness. It’s more like a grieving process. The grief turns into anger as it spreads up my cheeks getting hotter and hotter, and as it enters my nose and mouth I can’t breathe. I feel like I am being smothered, suffocating under this thick, black, sticky monster called a job. I honestly don’t know how people do it. I tried and I ended up heavily medicated with a diagnosis of adult ADHD in my early thirties. It wasn’t good.

So I quit.                                                                                                                                                   I knew there was more out there for me.

The illusion of fear told me that I would go broke, that I would be judged, that I couldn’t take care of myself. It told me I had to stay miserable if I was going to be happy. How much sense does THAT make?! But I remembered a verse, Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” I have nothing to fear. My only duty is to spread love and the word of love. I have a talent for writing. I have an amazing grandma and a precious daughter. I also have a pretty unique dog and a great story. You have something too. I promise. God doesn’t want me having anxiety attacks because I am trying to pay the light bill. And he doesn’t want that for you either.

So whatever it is, the love inside you, let it out without fear. God has this.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I don’t ever want to feel like that again, so I started writing. That is where bold courage comes into the picture. It’s scary to take control and put yourself out there. But I wanted to share this stuff, because it could help you like it has helped me. And that comes from fearless love.

I want you to know you have power, you have control, and you were designed for freedom. It’s time to find it.

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