I have been missing quite a bit lately, and figured it was about time I gave a reason for my disappearance. It isn't that I don't love writing about my experience with ADHD -- I do. It's therapeautic and I love talking to all of you and hearing your stories and suggestions. I have been MIA and have not written, quite frankly, because of all of the wonderful things added to my schedule and my ADHD. I embarked on a journey of my dreams in working to create a better world for all, including those with mental health issues, and simply have not found the ability to focus to sit down and reach out. My apologies! I thought first I would fill you in on my progress as it relates so very well to all of us in many ways. I started the nonprofit iFred seven years ago, by default, but it has grown to be a strong passion of mine as I continue to learn the truths about depression and the lack of resources available. I launched a national cause marketing campaign through my for-profit company, the Mood-factory, in Lowe's stores nationwide, where iFred earns $0.25 of each light bulb sold for iFred, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression. I started a company eight years ago to develop a product line of light bulbs based on how colors affect moods and named them Mood-lites. Researchers have shown that colors have an affect on moods, so I took the theory and applied it to lighting. These lights are NOT meant to treat any depression, but function as an additional way to create a certain mood in a room as you would with colored pillows, art and wall colors.
It is so amazing how organizations are popping up all over the world helping us join forces to tackle mental health diseases. I was privileged enough to speak in Athens, Greece a few years ago about iFred's rebranding depression work, and learned from countries around the world just how important it is we work together to solve our greatest challenges. I've just recently been asked to join their advisory board, and continue to be amazed and impressed by the work of all throughout the world. It was celebrated across the U.S. when we were able to get mental health parity law passed. I don't by any means intend to minimize this work - but do we realize that what we accomplished was to treat the brain in a similar fashion to the heart, liver, and intestines? Should we really have to fight that hard for that? Those that were involved in the legislation understand the intense work, dedication, and challenge this simple piece of legislation involved - and unfortunately the rest of the world is so far behind us in many different ways.
Recently I told someone I thought they could benefit from therapy, because they were having a series of issues in their life. I was surprised when I heard the response 'But I don't have a mental illness.' It shouldn't surprise me, as a big part of my life's work is rebranding depression and the associated stigma, but still for some reason the comment left me with my jaw to the floor and raised the question: Do people really think you have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to benefit from therapy? I was pondering what to say back when I read an excerpt from "A Practical Guide to Meditation and Prayer" by J. Douglas Bottorff. It is literally the most brilliant advice I have read in quite some time that helps articulate why anyone can benefit from therapy. Do me a favor; read it a few times, and just sit with it for a bit and let me know how it resonates. It reads:
Readers respond quite frequently to my blogs: 'if only I could convince my 10 year old to do meditate.' It may be majorly challenging to get children to practice, but if we can get them to sit for hours in front of video games, brush their teeth regularly, or study for exams, I do believe it's possible. There are three things a parent must first be willing to give in order to start on this journey:
I've been working through Jack Kornfield's series; "The Inner Art of Meditation', and I have to say I am incredibly impressed with his instruction and ability to ground us in our practice. I never thought of myself as particularly 'H' of ADHD, but more of an I for impulsivity. In working through meditation, I am finding I am much, much more H than I never realized, and that in sitting through this H using meditation I can dramatically impact how it influences my life. I had a horrible meditation yesterday, and every inch of my being was kicking and screaming saying MOVE. I was just SO uncomfortable in my sitting position and it was painful to sit still, not because of any medical condition but just because I wanted to explode physically like I was about to fall over in a chair and had all that building energy. I did it anyway. After the sitting, Jack Kornfield talks about what to do if you have that total and complete restless feeling in you. That feeling of "I can't sit here for another second" using whatever excuse you need to get you out of the feeling. He said if it gets THAT hard, and your mind simply WON'T sit still... (drum roll)... too bad, sit through it, you aren't going to die, nobody has ever died from restlessness. So much for my pass to escape.
I used to think that Yoga and Meditation were the same thing. In my twenties, I rolled my eyes at both, preferring the adrenaline pumping action of movement – any movement – to the quiet stillness of what I thought was wasted time. My thirties forced me to reconsider, when I came down with Lyme’s disease that went undiagnosed for many years, and unfortunately became chronic. My aching muscles and bones, and troubled chest gasped at the runs and protested on my long swims. It was then that I learned just how critical meditation and yoga was to my mental health, and what a difference there was between the two in bringing peace, tranquility, and stillness to my life. I once thought it would be impossible for me to do meditation or yoga with an active body, but even as I have gained a lot of my strength back, I still need them both for different reasons. It may seem odd to you I am even making the comparison, but if you have always been running like me you probably understand the disconnect. The online dictionary gives the following definitions for yoga and meditation:
It seems so basic, yet it has taken me a lifetime and then some to learn that to be in the here and now I have to get off 'autopilot' and engage my senses. I actually created a company to encourage it, yet still I forget to do it. My ADHD seems to have a mind of its own so I find it helps to create some tools that keep me present. When I find I am getting more and more distracted with my ADHD, I practice the art of engagement by engaging my senses. The five senses that I was born with, but often forget are there because my mind is on the fast track. The sense of smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight.
As you may know, I've been trying and trying to meditate for months. I'm doing a pretty good job - 15 minutes a day in the morning and at night, with deep breathing exercises. However, these last few weeks have been particularly trying and I don't mean to be flippant, but have felt like torture. Literally I sit down and the cells in my body cry out "You have too much to do - get up and start doing it"! It feels like there are things pushing me from the inside to get up and get moving.
Saying Yes When You Mean No: A Challenge for Those with ADHD and Tips for Giving the Right Answer the First Time
I can't tell you how many times I do this - say yes when I mean no. And it has caused so many problems in my life, and while I am getting better I need a constant reminder of how and why it is important to give the right answer the first time. That right answer never fails to be "let me think about it and get back to you." If you have ADHD you know that your mind often is way ahead of your reality. You want to say yes to those you care about, please others, do it all, see a smile on someone's face; often at the expense of yourself or your actual abilities. It is so difficult to think things through before you react in your 'aiming to please' way.
I haven't read studies, but I have to believe that women with ADHD have a much harder time coping with PMS than those without it. I have always had depression, but my life was mixed with alcohol which makes things a lot less clear, as it is always changing your brain chemistry. When I quit drinking completely at 33, and started living a more aware life sitting through any type of feeling, I started recognizing patterns. I was probably 36 by the time I realized just how much PMS had affected me earlier on, and have come to realize ADHD only added fuel to an already explosive situation. It was like a breath of fresh air once I started realizing what was happening. Every month, I feel completely 'awful terrible the world is ending.' Every month. In the past I didn't understand it so ran every which way but into and out of the feelings. Yet I never understood the connection.