Creatures of Habit: A New Fear

Having ADHD we are prone to be creatures of habit, by necessity. We develop routines and standard practices to ensure success in our lives, both socially and professionally. It can take a while to develop a habit, and it can take a while to break a habit.

But Andrew, why would you want to break a habit?

Glad you ask.

I have developed a few habits to ensure social normalcy, such as conversation starters. I, for one, hate awkward silence. I will often start a conversation by asking about a friend or loved one. “How’s the Mrs.?” for example. But what if ‘The Mrs.’ is now ‘the Ex’? Then you just feel like an asshole. Sometimes I’m just so used to asking the question, that it comes out without thinking.

Its always been difficult for me to uphold social normalcy and out of strict fear of rejection I have developed these strong habits. However I have found that with recent changes, both good and bad, in my own life as well as the lives of several of my friends, my existing habits could get me into a bit of a pickle! I might ask about someone who has passed away, or refer to a friend’s current spouse by the name of an old spouse! These types of critical social mistakes happen to me ALL THE TIME. So you can imagine my apprehension when, in the last few months, so much has changed in my own life and that of others.

Relying so hard on our habits can make it difficult to be cognizant of change and to adapt to it. Maybe a healthy fear of change might just be enough to help me pay closer attention.

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Creatures of habit

I am a creature of habit. This is not news, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I am trying to instill a sense of organization and cleanliness in my kids; some structure or routine which includes picking up after ourselves and keeping clean, along with the normal steps of things like bedtime (pajamas, teeth, hugs, and into bed?). I myself need this as much as they do and it’s clear to me now that structure and routine are long overdue. Things like taking dishes to the kitchen after eating, which should have always been done, is something they have a hard time with.

Let’s start there. Dishes and garbage. These used to be largely overlooked because we don’t usually eat together at the table as a family. Therefore, I was not immediately aware when they were done eating. More on that later. Lately I’ve noticed there are always food wrappers, dishes, banana peels, and all manner of things which should not have been left out. So I’ve been trying for a while to catch it right away, saying to them after every meal to take care of their dishes and garbage. They always need a reminder. Now I simply ask “Are you forgetting something?” and they know right away. So I think we are making progress. But it’s been slow. Why is that? Why is it so hard to remember something you’re told to do after every meal? Because we are creatures of habit.

Another habit that’s been hard to break is leaving clutter. We tend to utilize every flat surface of the house to hold various items, so much that the top of so many things are treated like a junk drawer. Why? For me, my mind is always on something other than completing the task at hand. When I get home I’m already thinking about making dinner when I pull into the driveway, not where I’m putting my keys or if I’ve even taken everything out of my car. Its so quick to just drop keys on the table walking by than to stop and empty my pockets in an orderly fashion. Until I got that under control, I used to search the house for wallet and keys every morning. Still happens sometimes. I had us all picking up and organizing the house last weekend because I was grtting tired of the kids always losing things. Tired of losing things myself. It was when I pulled out the couch to clean behind it that I came to the full realization of how much work we all need. Food wrappers everywhere. Toys. Spills. All of this mess was theirs yet I knew I couldn’t be mad. I had no right. I created this.

Let’s rewind about 32 years. My parents were just a bit younger than I am now. I was 5, and a handful. More than the average 5 year old. I had a hard time communicating what I was thinking. They’d ask why I did something and my honest answer was that I didn’t know. I was very in-the-moment, unable to consider time and what comes next. I had little understanding of consequences. I had ADHD. It was at this time I was officially diagnosed and everything wwas explained to my parents.

Your son needs structure and discipline in ways most kids don’t. He doesn’t see the world the same way.

They learned to create routine in every aspect of my life. To the point that when I’m done eating, I take my dishes to the sink; not as a conscious effort but routine. I don’t feel right if I’ve left something. I kind of absentmindedly do all the things. But they’re done right, as long as they’re part of a longstanding routine.

Back to the kids. They do not have this structure. They don’t have an ADHD diagnosis, but what child doesn’t exhibit the mind jumping straight to the next thing without making sure they’ve finished the task at hand?

I know there’s a lot of jumping around in this but the bottom line is that when we leave behind the routine and structure we need in our lives, it can affect the people around us. Neurotypical and ADHD alike have a tough battle when the ADHD’er in the house flips his lid because things are lost or out of order. It’s past time for me to get back to basics and get my house back in order.

Friends Give You Gas

Seriously. I asked my 11 year old.

“Kaetlyn, I am writing a new blog about making friends. Tell me: as an 11 year old, how do you know when someone is your friend?”

“Well, they’re nice, and they give you this feeling in your gut. And they make you smile.”

So, gas.

This is the extent of my knowledge of making friends. Otherwise, someone has to literally tell me they are my friend before I will be confident of it. It’s not as easy as it was 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, the kids you regularly went out on bike rides with, played baseball or soccer with, went to movies with… those were you friends. It’s different as an adult. I live about 35 miles from where I work, in a small town. I moved here as an adult, so no childhood friends here. I commute to work, so I’m really not up for the bar scene or other in-town events when I am home. I’ve been gone at least 12 hours, up since 4:30, and drained. My friends from my home town are in much the same boat, and we don’t get together much. It’s mostly social media updates and messaging. These are people I’ve been friends with for 20+ years, so yes I do have friends; but no, I don’t remember how I got them. Pretty sure they lost a bet. So coworkers are my only frequent social interactions.

This makes friendship weird. I am typically a goofy, largely inappropriate individual, and obviously this is not very conducive to a professional work environment. So I really can’t just assume who my friend are, who I can be myself with. Being myself usually ends up a little disrespectful (all in good humor, of course).

Unfortunately, this will not be a post with a how-to or a “lesson learned” because I am really bad at making friends. Or at least, thats how it feels.

Grieving

8 years ago, my uncle died. His death itself was not hard on me. It’s more his memory that gets me emotional. Or should I say the lack thereof. This is typically a day of grieving for my family. He was relatively young when he passed so it hurt all the more as an untimely passing. Except for me. Sure, I cried when I heard. That day, though, I realized that ADHD was at the same time a blessing and a curse.

The blessing

I retain very few memories of growing up. My memory, both short term and long term, is terrible. Because of this I feel distant and disconnected from the people whom I am literally distant from. So, when there is a death, there is no overwhelming grief associated. I didn’t have a strong emotional connection anymore, because I rarely talked with him. He wasn’t on social media and we lived in different states. I literally went years at a time without talking to him. So the grief associated with his passing was bearable, compared to what the rest of my family went through. In that, I feel blessed.

The Curse

I literally have a handful of memories of my uncle. I know when I lived closer we did do things together, but I don’t remember much. The memories I do have were great. Driving around San Diego listening to NOFX, going to the beach, and riding up and down the alley by my grandparents’ house on his 3-wheeler… I have one memory of each of these things. But I know that there were more. I had a childhood full of experiences with all my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and childhood friends, but I’ve mostly forgotten. I feel guilty and sad because of it. I join my family in sadness, and yet it’s not the same. I feel like mine is under-qualified, and I am undeserving of empathy.

While the rest of my family mourns the passing of a family member, and celebrate his memory, I mourn the passing of his memory; almost jealous because I can’t properly grieve.

Still friends, right?

Friendship. That evasive aspect of life over which I have less control than anything else. This is a big source of frustration for me right now. I have a hard time gauging the depth of my friendships. Its hard to put into words and I’m realizing with every re-write of this post just how little I understand. Let’s start with existing friendship.

I have anxiety. I won’t say I suffer from it, as there are people out there who can’t even leave their house from it, but there are times where I simply can’t win for losing due to anxiety. Socializing most of all. My friends, how ever many there actually are, don’t really get me at all. At least, that’s how I see it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends. I have that sociotypically core group of 4 or 5, except we are not a group of friends. They, as a group of largely unrelated individuals, are my friends. We don’t spend much time together, and that bothers me. It’s no one’s fault any more than anyone’s. We simply don’t make the effort. Myself included. But it bothers me.

A few month’s ago I talked to my doctor about this. I mentioned one friend in particular, whom I hadn’t spent time with for a few months. The better part of a year, actually. This friend lives about 80 minutes away and so generally when we get together, it’s one of us crashing at the other’s house on a Saturday then returning home the next day. We typically make a weekend of it. My doctor basically said that, by spending all this energy on planning a full day or weekend, we are losing sight of just hanging out, and missing opportunities to stay connected.. I should just call up my friend, head down for lunch or coffee, then come home. We can chat, catch up, then get back to life without having to displace our usual weekend routine. So I talked to my friend and we agreed this makes perfect sense. So I joined him for Church one Sunday morning, he bought us lunch, then I drove home. I caught up, we talked about big plans coming up, then got back to our weekend. It was very refreshing. So I’ve come away with new understanding of friendship maintenance.

More to come on the subject of friendship as I chip away at the ADHD wall.

Turning point?

This grill hasnt’t been used in a few years. Makes me feel kinda nostalgic.

I’m just chilling here, having a drink and grilling, thinking about where I was in life when I got this grill as a gift fom my parents. I was smoking, though no one really knew. I wasn’t in the best health. This grill, though. There was nothing more relaxing than sitting next to it with a beer in hand cooking dinner. Using the grill gave me a sense that I was properly adulting.

Fast forward 8 years or so….

The grill has been in storage, in favor of a larger box shaped smoker/grill that was great the first couple years but it could not stand up to the rigors of constant grilling. The metal shelf that held the briquettes and wood literally cooked away. I tried replacing it but it was no use. I probably grilled 3 times last year.

So I’m sitting here, contemplating life and whatnot, and I realize that another thing that happened last year was I really started to hate my life. I had not stood up to the rigors of constant adulting. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for my family, llike I was nowhere my potential. So I quit smoking, did my best to pay more attention to my health, and it’s been an honest to goodness battle ever since.

I started a blog series called the Wellness Wagon. It was meant to be a means of holding myself accountable for getting better. It worked for a bit, until it didn’t. Eventually I found myself writing less about successfully treating my ADHD through diet and exercise and more about failing. It was depressing.

I’m trying it all again, though. Less writing, more doing, this time. The failing grill is kicked to the curb and the old reliable Weber is back out. Similarly, I’m going back to what I know. Way back. Yes I will be drinking every now and then. Yes I will skip runs. But I will run. I WILL BIKE AND SWIM. I WILL CARDIO. Not on a strict regiment were I’m beating myself up, but regular exercise will happen, and regular healthy eating will happen. I will make it fun or at least keep it interesting. This slump I’m in where I feel like crap about myself and don’t want to be around anyone; well, that’s the new battle I’m fighting. Honestly, this isn’t about me feeling motivated, energetic, and empowered. I’ve simply realized that things aren’t as they should be, and I already know how I need to live to get my life right. I just need to do it.

I’ll start with more grilling, more enjoyment, more relaxation. I need to learn to appreciate my life and my opportunities, and to make the most of them. If I don’t feel like I’ve earned a night of drinks and/or relaxation, then I’ll go out and run or bike or swim and get my blood pumping. I will reward positive efforts and I will simply abstain from those vices I have not earned. This is my new strategy. Wish me luck.

Wellness Wagon: finale

I’ve come to realize that with only having regular disappointment in my efforts I’ve come to resent my wellness wagon experience and trying to write about it. I’ve lost track of the real purpose of this blog and it’s time to reboot. But first, let’s recap.
I have gone 1 year without a cigarette.  I have been running, off and on, and I’m not in terrible shape.  Another great thing that came out of this past year is the return of the Alumni Run. When I ran cross country in high school, we began the season each year by inviting the alumni to race against the current team. That ent away after I graduated.  I reached out to the current coach and we are beinging it back!  The first race is in August!

So that gives me something to work toward.  I still feel unhealthy and I’ve had a lot of days where my ADHD gets the best of me. 

So the lesson learned here is treating ADHD with exercise and diet requires strict structure and discipline, which of course I lack.  What isn’t shown in my wellness wagon posts is that once you do successfully develop a schedule and stick to it for a few weeks, it starts to get easier and it does work.

So what comes next?  

Well first I wrote about growing up with ADHD, sprinkling ing random stories and rants (season1).  Then I turned my focus to treatment with diet and exercise (Season2).  I am going to go back and share my favorite posts so far, and then start writing new posts, sticking more to a diary format , only writing when I have something to say instead of trying to stick to a weekly post.  I shall call it…  season3?  Meh, sounds lame but we’ll see.  So hats off to the wellness wagon.  I am still unmedicated and still looking for brain hacks etc, for my ADHD, but no more will I be writing about exercise etc., just for the sake of writing something.