Anxiety: keeping me safe by holding me back

I’m still in the process of reducing my anxiety meds (Effexor) so that I can have another go at ADHD meds, hopefully without the surprise seratonin syndrome this time. My first reduction (a month on 187.5mg) went really well – after the first week, I felt basically normal.

I’ve been on my second reduction (to 150mg) for a little over two weeks and it’s definitely not going as smoothly. I’m struggling more to find energy, to find motivation. Some days I feel almost normal, and then the next day I’ll struggle to get anything done at all. And although I’m nothing like the nervous wreck I was at the point that I sought medical help, the old voice of anxiety is definitely getting more audible again.

So let’s talk a bit about anxiety: my old friend, my protector, my nemesis.

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Writing update: I’m not, and that’s OK

“I ought to get back to blogging about writing,” I complained to my accountability buddy this morning, “But… I’m not writing. And I don’t want to write just another apology piece about that, because I don’t want not writing to be a stick I’m beating myself up with.”

And, huh, I thought. Actually, that’s worth talking about.

So here I am, on my author website, writing about choosing not to write.

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Remembering what’s important to me

After such a solid run of ADHD/mental health posts, this week I fully intended to switch topics – but apparently my brain had other ideas.

This past Sunday I crashed hard. Without warning, I suddenly couldn’t find it in me to even get out of bed. Everything in my life felt meaningless. My emotions retreated, leaving me with flat, grey nothing.

It’s hardly the first time I’ve felt like that. I would call it depression, except that the clinical description of depression requires those feelings to go on for at least two weeks. In me they rarely last more than a day or two – as suddenly as they arrived, I’ll wake up the next morning ready to get up and face the world again.

So what’s going on when I get like that? Now that I have the added perspective of my ADHD diagnosis, I think I might finally have the answer – and maybe even a solution.

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Surviving self-isolation part 6 – making sense of big goals with Trello

Here we are: the final post in my series on looking after my ADHD brain and still getting things done during self-isolation.

While I have no illusions about being my best or most productive self while living through a literal pandemic, the wonderful thing about these techniques I’ve been putting into practice is that none of them have to stop there. If I can make them my new normal, even as we all collectively figure out the world’s new normal, then I hope they can keep on helping me to be healthier, happier, and better able to get things done.

If you’re reading this, I hope some of them can help you too.

Anyway! Last week I wrote about using daily lists to keep myself focused on my the tasks I want to accomplish today, without becoming overwhelmed by options. But how do I know what tasks those are?

Tasks that are simple, or at least familiar – whoops, I need to get to the supermarket again before we run out of milk! – are easy enough to add to a daily list, get it done, and tick it off. The same can’t be said of the tasks required to achieve longer-term goals, or goals that take me out of my familiar routine. Those big goals, like move house or learn to make my own clothes contain far greater complexity than my daily lists can encompass.

For big goals, I need something more – that’s where Trello comes in.

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Surviving self-isolation part 5 – daily task lists

We’ve nearly reached the end of my series on how I’m keeping my ADHD brain (relatively) healthy and productive through self-isolation.

That’s not to say that the isolation itself is, or should be, ending – even here in New Zealand we’re far from out of the coronavirus woods, and we’re doing a whole lot better than certain other nations. We still need to do everything we can to slow the virus’s spread, to reduce pressure on our medical systems, and to keep each other, and especially our most vulnerable, safe. And that means staying home as much as humanly possible.

But as far as this series is concerned, this is my second-last post. I’ve already talked about how I get myself going in the morning; how I keep the stress of a messy home at bay; the importance first and foremost of being kind to ourselves right now; and how I use scheduled check-ins to combat loneliness while keeping myself on-task and on time.

To finish off, this week and next week I will be looking at two techniques I use, in combination, to combat the biggest challenges of trying to be productive while self-isolating with an ADHD brain: overwhelm, difficulty getting started, difficulty finishing, overwhelm, lack of deadlines/priorities, and did I mention overwhelm?

This week, a strategy I’m really excited to talk about: daily task lists.

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Surviving self-isolation part 4 – setting up scheduled, external check-ins

In a weird twist of fortune, I actually spent the last few months before everyone got serious about coronavirus getting extensive practice at being cut off from people.

My most recent job – the one I had right up until everything went into lockdown – involved involved living and working by myself in a national park for ten days each fortnight. I wasn’t alone – it was literally part of my job to chat with the park visitors and overnight campers (nature nerd heaven!) – but my bosses were based in town, and it wasn’t unusual for me to not see another staff member the entire time I was there.

I absolutely loved being in the park, but that doesn’t change the fact that I struggles with working alone. My ADHD brain is not well set-up to stay on-task, let alone on time, when left to its own devices.

Fortunately, my job also came with something that turned out to be vital to managing those challenges: scheduled, external check-ins.

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Surviving self-isolation part 3 – be kind to yourself

This week, struggling to decide what to focus on for my next blog post, I reached out on Twitter to ask my fellow ADHD brains what they’re struggling with the most now that they’re stuck at home.

In response, I got people talking about the lack of external motivators, about time-blindness, about difficulty getting started in the absence of deadlines. I have a few good tricks I use to help with those, so buckle up next week as I get into my favourites.

But there was an unspoken theme to many of the responses, one that strikes right at the heart of what we’re all living through – and it’s one that can’t be addressed by clever productivity tricks.

The world is scary as hell right now, and our brains can’t deal with it.

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Surviving self-isolation part 2 – targeted tidying

As I said last week, I’m focusing my next few blog posts on strategies that help me cope with being an ADHD brain stuck at home, trying to minimise my stress while also maximising my ability to actually get things done.

This week: self-care through targeted tidying.

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Surviving self-isolation part 1 – building a morning routine with Brili

We are living through some very strange and scary times right now. Like many people, I am staying home – compulsorily, since New Zealand has entered total lockdown as of today. The good news is that I do still have a job; but since it’s a non-essential, outdoor job, for now I have no actual work.

Like many ADHDers, I find the complete freedom to do what I like with my time a bit of an executive dysfunction nightmare. It’s all too easy in this situation to end up doing nothing, while thinking about everything.

Luckily, I have some experience with managing long periods of unstructured time. I’ve developed a few tools and tricks for such situations, to help me stay sane and even get things done. So I’m going to devote my next few blog posts to sharing these, and hope that they help other people too.

First up: using Brili to get going in the morning.

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Executive dysfunction – when laziness isn’t laziness

Let’s talk about laziness, and what it isn’t.

Recently a friend was telling me about how someone in his family – someone he by necessity has to live with – calls him lazy because he takes on too much and then doesn’t have the headspace to get it done. I told him, that sounds pretty toxic of them, and he responded, it’s understandable. It’s just me being a trash human.

“Lazy” is one of the biggest sticks that gets used to beat people who can’t achieve as much, or as regularly, as what’s considered “normal”. Other people use the “lazy” stick on us – and worse, we use it on ourselves.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as lazy, or useless, or trash humans, when we don’t live up to our own or others’ expectations of what we “should” be able to get done. Goodness knows I did, for many years.

I called myself lazy because my house is always a mess. Because there’s always another load of dishes waiting to be done. Because of the pile of clothes in limbo by the sewing machine, waiting eternally to be mended. Because even when I was doing a job I loved, many days I still had to drag myself, unwilling, out of bed and off to work.

It’s taken me many years to shed that way of thinking. But now I know: that’s not laziness.

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