In Faith and Out of Control with ADHD

ADHD was whole days in bed; my mind racing with hope, filled with new ideas and concepts for the future but constantly too distracted to implement anything. 

ADHD was whole days in bed; my heart pounding with fear, tourmented by the threats of untied lose ends, forgotten details, and missed deadlines but constantly too distracted to fix anything.

ADHD was whole days in bed; my stomach filled with dispair, knowing that the past and the present will continually look the same if I don’t get out of this place, but constantly too distracted to move.

ADHD wasn’t always like this. 

I mean, I was always distracted, anxious, and slightly depressed. I knew those things existed in me without having a diagnosis. I had all the classic associated symptoms too. Like adolescent smoking, alcohol, and drug use. Skipping classes. Not doing homework. I was a silent rebel, always doing troublesome things but never getting in trouble for them. 

ADHD and I were good. I knew that the distraction made me creative. The anxiety made me productive. The depression made me compassionate and deep. I knew that those were good things. The authority issues and risk-taking of rebellion made me independent and confident. 

ADHD was like my secret weapon. It made me the amazing, multi-talented, multi-passionate, multi-potentialite that I was. 

But after I got married, had Natalie, and finished law school (all in the same year), something changed. 

Suddenly, what used to be my source of strength turned into a source of weakness. 

The creativity, productivity, compassion; it became embarassment, failure, negative self-talk, guilt, shame, fear, and brokenness. It all told me I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t deserve to be great. 

The independence and confidence became traits that told me I was different, I didn’t fit in, I would never make it to great because I would always be the scared, sad, distracted adolescent who couldn’t meet deadlines, follow rules, or show up on time to anything. A wife, mom, and lawyer?! As if. 

ADHD became whole days in bed. It became distraction, depression, anxiety. 

ADHD became an excuse to move away from great. It became a dark shadow and I was losing the battle over control with it.  

ADHD became a struggle. And I had to find the bold courage to admit it was hurting me and I had to ask for help.

ADHD became a diagnosis. And I had to find the fearless love to accept it and I had to let it become a part of me.

ADHD became a conquest. And I had to find the endless joy to live with it in faith and out of control, and I had to share that with others. 

ADHD still waits in the shadows for me, sneaking in as depression when it sees progress, triggering anxiety when it notices hustle, flaring up with distraction when it feels growth. 

But when ADHD sees faith it becomes all the good things. Creative, productive, compassionate, independent, and confident. As long as I stay in faith and out of control, ADHD and I are good. 

The truth about why I went rogue in my law firm.

The law practice. Old men, suits, cigars, burbon. Fancy watches. Black robes, manilla folders, mahogany desks. Wooden gavels, gold name plates. Leather bound books all in a row. Fat bank accounts and fatter bellies. We all have an image of what a day in the life of a lawyer looks like. At it’s core though, it is prestige, power, and productivity. 

A year ago, I was a real estate attorney with my own law firm. I was also a real estate agent in a company that employed the highest ranked salespeople of multi-family and investment property agents in Michigan. I was on the board of directors for the local rental property owners association. I was also on the board of directors for one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the area. I was privy to conversations about some of the most coveted neighborhood development plans going on at the time. I was starting to feed my interest in legislation and I was close to meeting some of Michigan’s most successful lobbyists and representatives in the real estate sector.

I had authority, expertise, connections and support. I looked like I was going to be pretty successful. I was in all the right places and there were people who wanted to help me succeed. I was so close to being the picture of “lawyer.” 

But there was this one thing. The burbon drinking, suit wearing, cigar smoking, leatherbound book owning life of a lawyer is just not cut out for me. 

The truth is, I showed up to meetings late and was unprepared. I couldn’t keep my daycare schedule straight and frequently dragged a toddler to board meetings. I had a growing to-do list of un-met obligations and dis-honored promises, and failed daily at the simple tasks normal people can easily be successful with. 

I had trouble remembering where my car keys were and I couldn’t find my phone when it was plugged into the charger on my nightstand. One time I drove halfway to court wearing my husband’s flip flops with my suit and had to turn around and go back home to change. 

Double bookings were a constant problem, small details were repeatedly overlooked, phone calls went unreturned, deadlines slipped by, and it cost me a fortune in terms of money, time, and credibility. 

Simple life skills like showering and putting socks on were hard some days, let alone getting a suit to the dry cleaners. 

I was a frazzled, rumpled, wrinkled mess of chaos, anxiety, depression, and overhwelm. 

The truth about why I went rogue is ADHD. It always shows up where my progress exists and completely destroys my potential. It mimics depression and anxiety, then actually tags them into the race along side itself.  

It starts with small things. A sink full of dirty dishes, a morning of over sleeping, a car with an empty gas tank. It just chips away at me and before I know it there are big things on the table that are mixed in, like forgetting to pay my bar dues. (So I can actually be a lawyer. It’s kind of central to my whole thing I have going on. But, whatevs.) Suddenly, I am laying in bed, all day, frozen, failing, and totally unable to move forward. Spending whole days in bed. Embarassed. Exhausted. Hopeless. For a time I was even highly medicated.  

My brain just doesn’t fit into the box of traditional law. It doesn’t fit into the box of traditional anything, really. I tried. 

The truth is, no matter what I do, I will always have trouble being on time because my brain doesn’t process clocks like other people. I will always struggle meeting deadlines because I don’t see consequences until it’s too late. I will always lose interest in things before I finish them because my attention will change. I will always speak out of turn in court because I have no filters. Traditional law and I just don’t mix.

The truth is, I will spend the rest of my life embarassed, exhausted, and hopeless if I keep trying to change these things about myself. 

I will never fit into a world that was literally not cut out for me. 

So I went rogue. I gave up the fight against ADHD and decided to give into it instead. I am making a life for myself and my family that encompasses joy instead of stress. Going rogue is the only way to do it. 

I will never be a gray haired old man in a suit with a fancy watch, so I threw away the career path that led there, and I went rogue. 

No more deadlines, no more meetings, no more suits. No more shoes if I don’t feel like it. 

Will being a rogue lawyer work? Maybe not. But it has a lot more potential than the alternative. 

I am learning who I am, and what I value, and leaning into that rather than fighting it. I am going rogue. I am embracing the adhd, multi-passionate, chaotic, frazzled mess that I am as a person and turning my priority into joy rather than conformity. 

The truth is, the practice of law will be fine without another fake, desperate conformist in the ranks to becoming an old guy in a suit anyways. 

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.”

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: