Quizzes and Self-Assessments

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannGuys, I am… pooped.  Just, worn out.  It’s been a pleasant break, and I’ve done a lot of enjoyable stuff — a museum trip, a night out at Dave and Buster’s, a Worst Bestsellers live show at Trident Books, several meals out, and a number of visits to my mom’s to hang out with her, my sister, and my niece and nephew.

But guys, this blogging and writing a poem everyday thing is just bananas.  I’m perpetually one day behind (which actually isn’t too bad for me, but still), and I’m starting to really stress about both entries and poetry inspiration as we near the end of the month, and it’s leading me to procrastinate.

Luckily, one of the ways I have historically procrastinated was by taking BS personality tests online.  You know, stuff like “Which of the Friends are You?” or “What Ice Cream Flavor Best Describes Your Personality?”  None of those are especially enlightening, but it did make me think about tests, and quizzes, and how they helped me realize ADHD was something I needed to look into more.

Here’s a disclaimer I shouldn’t need, but will provide anyway: no online test is a diagnosis.  No online test is a definitive answer for anything.  But it can make you aware of things you perhaps hadn’t thought of (for instance, one of the ADHD tests includes the question, “How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project,
once the challenging parts have been done?” and I had been lamenting that issue for 20+ years and never, ever realized it was a defining characteristic of ADHD), and can be cause for self-reflection, which is always the first step towards any kind of self-improvement.  But do not assume these to be a substitute for a professional diagnosis.

So, here are five ADHD quizzes from fairly reliable/knowledgeable/valid sources that are worth a look if you have ever wondered if maybe you had ADHD.

  1. From ADDitude Magazine
  2. Another from ADDitude, this one geared specifically toward female-aligned people
  3. From Totally ADD 
  4. From PsychCentral
  5. From ADDA, The Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Has any online quiz, or anything similar been your “eye-opening moment” into something about yourself?

Poetry and Imposing Restrictions

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannSay it with me:  I work best under an externally imposed structure.  I need some sort of scaffolding and some sort of blueprint or guide to follow in order to best function.  That’s why schedules and checklists work well for me, and why I always performed exceptionally well in class, but often had panic-ridden, down-to-the-wire meltdowns when doing assignments outside of school.

And it probably sounds antithetical to the whole idea of being creative, but I produce my best work (or at least the best rough drafts) when I impose restrictions on my writing, particularly my poetry.

Now, I have to say up front:  I’m not bound to these restrictions.  I’m not incapable of writing without them, and if, in the course of my writing, I stray from these restrictions, that’s fine — they are intended, generally, as a means to help generate ideas and structure me thinking.  If I move beyond the need for them while I’m writing, that’s fine.  It means they’re served their purpose.  (By the way, while not speaking in the exact terms I am here, Jeffery Cranor and Joseph Fink address the idea of limitations as being beneficial to creativity in the second episode of their new podcast, Start With This.  It’s worth a listen).

Mostly, these tips have been helpful to me when I’m trying to write to a deadline, or attempting to complete a significant amount of writing done in a short span of time (i.e., during NaPoWriMo).  These are, on my end, specific to the writing of poetry, and the resources I provide speak, primarily, from the point of view of poetry writers.

Tips for ADHD Poets

Commit to write in a particular form.  I can’t explain why, but committing to a form feels like solving a puzzle; it’s challenging, fun, and allows me to play with language in a way I hadn’t thought of before, but it also imposes a structure (syllable count, rhyme, repetition, length, etc.) and gives me a means through which to filter and focus my thoughts.  This post on Writer’s Digest has a list of 100 forms with explaination and examples.  If nothing else, it’s interesting reading, but over the last few years, I have written in dozens of the these forms (not always saving the results, sadly), and while not everything I’ve written has been gold — I’ve written.  You know?

Challenge yourself to include a particular word, phrase, or set of words.  Back in my old LiveJournal days (how many other old-school LJers are there out there?), there was a community called same_oh (which still technically exists, even if it’s dead) where users posted lists of words with the challenge to include all the words in a piece of writing.  I used these lists primarily to give form to a series of sestinas that I wrote, using lists of six words as the limiting end words of my lines.  It was hugely, hugely helpful to me, and those remain some of the poems I am most proud of to this day.   On Twitter, there are several places where you can find various prompts; MicroPrompts, Sense Words, Verse Angel and The Quill Diaries are just a few.  Also, this poetry prompt generator does something similar, along with an additional prompt that’s pretty cool.

Use curated imagery to inspire a piece of writing (and read what other people have been writing to see how differently you can approach a prompt).  Rattle Magazine posts an ekphrastic challenge every week, and allows you to read previous weeks’ winners.  It’s a lot of fun, and the images run from abstract collages and composites, to photography, to paintings.

Those are the things that have worked best for me.  Does anyone else have any tips on how imposing limitations has improved their own writing, creativity, or productivity?

Organization and Keeping Things in Order

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannMy big thing this year has been follow through, but a smaller goal — and one that has kind of been on the back-burner, honestly — has been organization.  Earlier this year, I established a morning routine that worked amazingly well, but which I’ve sort of fallen away from because I’ve been ultra-exhausted with this assignment (as in, the pull to stay asleep later has been winning out over having the extra time in the morning), but that I found to be pretty effective, and I’ve put together Chore Charts, packing charts (for travel), grocery lists, and about a half-dozen other in the works.

I have a separate page on this blog that I have set aside for the organizers I’ve made, and it occurs to me that, while it’s available via my navigation menu, I’ve never (or at the very least, exceptions rarely) referenced it in any posts (so unless you are regularly visiting my homepage — and honestly, who is? — you haven’t seen any of them).

What’s up there right now is pretty bare bones, and a few of them are going to be taken down and revamped — the grocery list/meal planner in particular was a very rough prototype that I am currently working on making better, and I haven’t put up any of my Travel/Packing checklists, or To Do Lists for Kids — but this is where you can find the resources I have available.  I will make it a point and a priority to post when I add newer and updated organizers — no matter how helpful my organizers might be, they really aren’t any good if people aren’t aware that they exist, huh?

Besides those organizers I’ve made, I also keep a Pinterest board with organizational ideas (mostly space savers, Dollar Tree solutions, etc.) that is worth checking out if you are interested in utilizing your space to the best of your ability, or interested in finding option for organization on a tight budget.

Do you have any favorite organization resources, tips or tricks?  I am always on the lookout for new ideas, and ones that are budget conscious and appropriate for small spaces are especially appreciated.

Nerves

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannMy son, once again, has a low-grade fever.  He had one a little earlier this week, but we’ve all been coming off and going one various mild ailments, so I tried not to think too much about it.  But now we’re all better, I thought.  So what’s with this fever?

Oh, I don’t know.  Meningitis?  Cancer?  Internal bleeding (from when his cousin jumped on him earlier today)?  Wait, let me Google “low grade fever” and see what other horrific ailments he might have.

I don’t know how to calmly deal with my reality a lot of the time.  I don’t know how to separate or distinguish between what the most likely scenario is versus what the worst case scenario is — to me, they usually feel like one and the same, even if all logic tells me that’s not possible.

I have a headache?  It’s probably a brain tumor (this has not been helped by the fact that, six years ago, I lost a good friend to a fast moving brain tumor).

Stomach’s bothering me?  I probably have ulcers, or stomach cancer, or an intestinal blockage.

And I can’t go to the doctor.  Oh no no no no.  What if they just confirm my suspicions?  What of they tell me that something is actually wrong?  Never mind that they could help me fix the problem (if there is one).  I can’t face the possibility that they’ll confirm my fears.  I’ll just… live in a perpetual state of anxiety until the ailment goes away, or… whatever.

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And lest you think it’s just health concerns that plague me, ah ha, not so, my friends.  I have been known to waste a whole weekend persevering on something a student or coworker said to me on a Friday afternoon that — from working in the setting for fifteen years and talking with other coworkers — should have been of no consequence, and yet completely dominated my thoughts for 72 hours.  I’ve lost sleep obsessing over particular student assignments, I put off calling in sick even when I’m legitimately unwell (what if the administration thinks I’m faking or taking advantage?  What if my coworkers are talking about me behind me back?), hell, I still get nervous when the store alarm beeps when I walk out (what if something fell into my pocket??  (Seriously???))

I rehearse meal orders, over and over at restaurant until it’s my turn to place mine, and I still feel my heart beat a little faster when I do.  I get sweaty palms in checkout lines.  I have to write out what I’m going to say before I make a phonecall, wear a hole in the carpet pacing when I finally place the call, and am wired for an hour afterward.  There’s a note in my PCP’s file that they should take my blood pressure twice — once at the beginning and once at the end of a visit — because I have such a bad case of White Coat Syndrome.  I stopped watching and reading the news after the last presidential election because literally everything I heard sent me into such anxiety spirals I would have full on hyperventilating, crying jags at bedtime.

There are connections between ADHD and anxiety — about 50% of people with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder — so I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, though feeling this way (especially when I can, intellectually, recognize the lack of logic/hypocrisy inherent in them) is hugely isolating and objectively makes my life worse.  My anxiety is on the books, but I haven’t sought out medication partially because my nervousness/anxiety extends to taking medication (this is not a slam regarding medicating a mental illness — I am very pro-medication, and very much believe medication is a valid option and a lifesaver for many people.  As I said, this is yet another in a long line of self-recognized irrational fears).

So, on the day-to-day, I muddle along.  Most of my nervousness is so much a part of my personality at this point that I almost don’t notice it, as weird as that sounds; it’s like white noise, always just sort of on the peripheary of my awareness.

What about you?  What are your irrational fears, concerns, worries?  How do you cope on the day-to-day?  How has your anxiety impacted your life overall?

 

Marriage (Another Tangent)

e1d57-atoz2019tenthann“Mental.”

“Mental… what?”

“Mental gymnastics.”

“That’s been every post so far.  I want something a little different.”

“Mmm… monkeyshines.”

“I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.”

“Mmmm…. Modeling.  Making.  Maramaduke Isn’t Funny So Why Do Newspapers Still Run It?”

My husband was doing his best (???) to try to help me figure out something for my “M” entry yesterday, and — as you can perhaps tell from both this transcript and the lack of an entry for yesterday — was no doing a great job.  I’m not holding it against him, mind, since I’ve had, honestly, over a month to come up with something, so how could I expect him to stumble upon gold in ten minutes?  But then it occurred to me, I’ve been astonishingly on-topic this month, so I think I’ve earned the right to a slight tangent.

Let’s talk about my marriage.

I never thought I’d get married; similar to my line of thinking about kids, I really deeply resented the expectation of marriage (and still do, which people seem surprised by.  Did you know you can make a particular life choice for yourself and still resent the idea that it’s considered a de facto  obligation for other women?  You can!)  I never dreamed about a wedding, or really made any moves towards having a relationship until I was in my early mid-twenties, and even then, marriage was certainly not the end goal.

I met my husband online, on OKCupid; his was a profile I’d visited a few times and always considered messaging, but I was, and am, loathe to initiate any kind of social contact, so he wound up messaging me.  He was 21, four years younger than I was, didn’t drive (which was actually refreshing, because neither did I!  And I was often made to feel inadequate for that!), and lived walking distance from me — score, right?  We started hanging out in November of 2007, and officially started dating in May of 2008.  Our official anniversary, we decided, was May 15th – 5/15.  Because palindromes, right?

During this period of my life, I had several friends who were actively seeking out relationships with the intent to marry, and several of them wound up in pretty negative (as in, not outright abusive, but still unpleasant) relationships because a relationship (and ultimately marriage) was seen as an end goal, as something that was aspirational in itself.  I had some friends telling me how uncomfortable it made them that their partner did X, Y, and Z, and in the next breath talked to me about how they were looking forward to ring shopping.  I mean, what??

As I’ve said, even as a married person, I hate the idea of marriage as being aspirational without the context of a relationship.  I feel like a particular good, positive relationship should make you want to get married (or be committed, if you either can’t or don’t want to officially marry, for whatever reason); you shouldn’t settle for sub-par relationships simply because you’ve been conditioned to anticipate marriage as something you have to do.  For me, it wasn’t until my husband moved in with me — after both losing his job and contracting pertussis in fairly rapid succession — in the fall of 2009 that I started doing serious thinking about getting married, after I was confident that his presence in my life was an overall force for good.

He proposed in November of 2009, on our eighteen month anniversary, at the same restaurant where we had our first date.  With one of us unemployed and actively seeking work and one of us in academia, we knew we couldn’t afford an elaborate wedding — and frankly, there were so many more things we’d rather spend money on than a wedding — we challenged ourselves to pull it together and get things planned as cheaply and quickly as possible.  That wound up being July of 2010 (7/17 — palindromes, man), at the common house at his parent’s housing community.  A friend officiated, music was a curated iPod playlist, food was potluck, my sister (a baker) did the cake, I did my own makeup, decor, and centerpieces, and a friend (a professional photographer) took pictures.

Nearly nine years later, in spite of occasional squabbles and some disparity between household priorities (he is a lot less stressed out by clutter/mess than I am), I continue to feel like my husband is a net good in my life.  He’s practical, good at managing a lot of the household tasks that push my anxiety over the edge, and supportive of my creative efforts, however little interest he has in the actual medium (as in, he really doesn’t care about art, but he’ll surprise me by bringing home armfuls of canvases and paints out of the blue), and he was the first person in my life to verbally acknowledge that I had Something Going On, and wasn’t, in fact, just crappy at being a human being.

And given that I can’t seem to fully catch up with these challenges — still a day behind! — he might have to be the one giving me a topic for tomorrow, too.  Sigh.

Letting Go and Getting Things Done

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannI’m starting to feel creative burnout, not even for lack of ideas, but for time in the day, energy to expend, and other obligations pulling me every which way.  You may have noticed that this posting is a day late?  I knew that attempting more than one challenge this month was going to be tough, but I guess I thought, “huh, well, I’ll have that vacation week, right?  That’ll be a good chance to catch up/get ahead on my challenges.”  Ah.  Ahahaha.  Except that’s when I need to catch up on literally everything else — housework that’s piled up over the week or so we were all sick, nearly a month’s worth of laundry, washing all the bedding (post-stomach bug), rehanging pictures, reorganizing Bear’s clothes, etc., etc.

Eventually, something would have to slip.  Probably better a day or two in an online challenge than more obligations in my personal life.

Still, it means I have to be able to sit back and let something go.  And that’s hard.  That’s really, really hard.

Part of it might be compensating for the fact that I’ve been told I’m kind of a failure for so long, and some of it is just my own perfectionism/all-or-nothing thinking, but no matter who many things I’m successfully juggling, when I’m forced to let a ball drop, it hurts me — it feels like a very personal failing, and it’s very easy, from there, to drop into a shame spiral where I eventually drops all the damn balls and then feel like trash about it.

And yet.  And yet, and yet, and yet — sigh — sometimes dropping a ball (or two) is necessary.

But which one?  Do I drop the one that’s more frivolous but personally fulfilling, or do I drop the one that’s more necessary, but so much more soul-sucking and draining?  Do I have to totally drop any of them?  Can I pick them back up again?

I’ve written about the mental and emotional toll of living in a messy house, and the steps — the bare bones, smallest steps — you can take to feel better even when you are running on nearly empty.  I’ve found that there are other things I can do when I am feeling overwhelmed by things (including, but not solely, cleaning) that help alleviate the stress to some extent without overextending myself.

Write down everything you have to get done.  Everything, big and small.  Include personal projects, however frivolous they seems, if you consider them a priority.

Circle those things that can be done immediately.  As in, immediately immediately.  Log online and pay your bills (you can probably do it from your phone).  Answer that email.  Take out the trash and recycling.  You can probably knock out three or four of those things in fifteen minutes.  It will lighten your mental load considerably.

Find the time sensitive items.  Things with a deadline.  Since you’ve likely handled bills in the previous steps, this would be things like responding to emails (assuming you have more than one pressing correspondence to get back to, which could have been dealt with in the “right away” step), finishing up a project for work, grading papers, returning items on warranty, etc.  Tackle these.  I know there’s probably other stuff that feels pressing — laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc. — but unless you’re literally living in filth with an empty fridge, it is better in the long run to get these done first, because they closer you get to the window when they have to be done, the more stressed you’ll feel about them.

Find the multi-tasking or passive items.  By this, I mean those things that you can bang out while sort of decompressing or hanging out — “TV tasks,” in other words.  You know, those things you can get done while you’re sitting and watching TV.  That could be exercising (turn on a favorite show and do some callesthenics or some yoga), folding laundry, ironing, sewing, crafting, etc.  Put those at the bottom of the list; you can work on these items at the end of the day, when you are getting ready to decompress.  They are tasks that you can do almost on autopilot — you just need to set aside the time to do them.

Now pick your top three priorities; the things you want to make sure you get done.  But be specific.  Instead of, “I want to clean the house,” maybe it’s, “I want to scrub out the tub and clean the toilets,” or “I want to tackle all the dishes and wash the floor.”  But pick three specific things that you want to get done — “I want to finish that painting,” “I want to get me oil changed,” “I want to schedule that cat’s vet appointment.”  But limit it to three.  Three things you want to get to today.

Let the rest go.  This is the hardest thing to do, I think.  Accept that you cannot get everything on your list done — and yes, tomorrow your list will probably have new items on it.  That’s okay.  You don’t need to clear your list.  Do you know anyone with an empty to-do list?  Even if it’s just personal projects and things they enjoy doing, everyone has an ongoing, constantly evolving list of Things To Do.  the challenge isn’t a race to get things done, the challenge is keeping the items on your list from becoming a source of stress and dread.  It’s not about clearing the list, it’s about making steady progress and clearing a few items off the list everyday.

Let yourself do enjoyable things as you accomplish tasks; don’t punish yourself an wait until everything is done to have fun.  You will waste your whole life in pursuit of completion of this damn list if you don’t take breaks and allow yourself to do things that are enjoyable and relaxing for you, and the worst part is, not allowing yourself to have fun and recharge is actually detrimental to completing your tasks because you are going to be so overwhelmed and burnt out that you will be utterly useless to do anything worthwhile.

I still struggle with all of this.  I still go through phases where I get on this bender of “clean clean clean go go go now now now,” and it’s hard to talk me down from them, but I am getting marginally better at prioritizing and understanding that I can’t always get everything done.

And hey, sometimes you won’t even get through your three essential tasks.  Sometime life happens, the tasks wind up taking longer and being more involved than you thought, something comes up.  That’s fine.  Incomplete tasks move to the top of the priority list the next day.  It will get done if you work at it.  Just because it didn’t get done the first day doesn’t mean you failed.  Hey, it’s further toward completion now than it was when you started.  Just because you didn’t finish doesn’t mean you got nothing done.

Just because you dropped a ball doesn’t mean you can’t pick it up again.

ADHD, with a Kid

e1d57-atoz2019tenthannI never planned on having kids.  I liked kids, loved cooing over babies, was over the moon when friends and family would tell me they were pregnant.  But I deeply, deeply resented — and still do — the idea that children were a woman’s “obligation” (whoa, effing screw that), or that they were necessary to complete one’s self (what a terrible burden to place on a child.  I’ve said it before — no other person should be expected to “complete” you).

I was also sort of terrified that I’d be a horrible parent.

Part of it was that I was essentially told, from a very young age, that I would be terrible at it.  First, it would be amazing if I could attract a man “looking and acting the way [I did],” and then, if somehow I managed that astounding feat, no man would want to stick around because I was selfish, lazy, overly-emotional, and a slob.  God, with a ringing endorsement like that — from my own family, no less — is it much of a surprise that I was scared to death of having to take care of a child?

The worst part was, I knew there was some truth to what they said.  I know now it’s less about laziness or being overly-emotional as it was about ADHD, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, and the fact that, frankly, my parents were utter crap at a number of parenting scenarios themselves (i.e., dealing with a kid with an obvious mental illness (chronic anxiety) and neurodivergence) — but still.  I lived (and continue to live, a lot of the time) very much inside my own head; I had serious issues with time management, memory, etc.  How in God’s name was I going to take care of a kid?

The early months were tough; I spent a lot of time in tears, not sleeping, barely eating.  But I kept Bear fed (I nursed; I am incredibly luckily this was a possibility for me, because it took away a lot of steps when it came to getting Bear fed),  cuddled him, read to him, kept him dry, and — ok — maybe bathed him a little less frequently than I strictly should have, but hey, he was getting more baths than I was at the time, so I’m not going to feel too guilty about it.

But now he’s four.  He walks and talks and uses the potty.  He can dress himself, brush his own teeth, get himself simple snacks, pick up toys, help sort laundry and put away silverware, and feed the cat.  He says please and thank you, apologizes when he does something wrong (…sometimes with prompting), and wants to be everybody’s friend.  He’s learning to read, can count to forty, and can telll you more about the zones of the ocean or the planets (and dwarf planets!) or the solar system than you could hope to know.  I think we’re doing just fine.

Here’s a few thoughts:

First of all, screw the pressure put on moms to be hyper-competent.  No one was telling my husband every five minutes that he wouldn’t be a good dad because of X, Y, and Z (note: my husband has a Dx., and is also neurodivergent).  No one told that to my dad, or my brother-in-law, or any of my male friends.  Does it get said?  Do men sometimes hear that?  Oh, hell, yes, I’m sure it does, and I’m sure they do.  But I seriously, seriously doubt it’s with nearly the same frequency.  Every time parenting was the topic of conversation, it was always clear from the way people framed it that the assumption was the onus of responsibility was going to be on me — even though my husband was right there.  Like — right there.

If you have a partner?  Treat them like a partner.  Give yourself room to breathe and space to recharge.  If you have ADHD, all the mental an emotional weight that all new moms face are going to be ten times worse for you, at least initially.

If you have family, use them for support.  If friends ask how they can help, give them concrete, performative tasks to do — you will need emotional support, yes, but you know what else you’ll need?  Someone to bring over dinner.  Someone to do the laundry.  Someone to watch the baby for five minutes while you finally wash your goddamn hair.

Do not read parenting boards.  Seriously. Effing stop.  If you’re a mom in the throws of the post-partum hormone hellstorm, and you already have ADHD-related RSD on top of that, stay the hell away.  I thought, in the weeks after having my son, it would be nice to download some parenting social networking apps on my phone — ugh, yeah.  Lo and behold, they were full of some of the nastiest, most judgmental, petty, and catty people, and they made me rage.  Like, fully body, physical reaction rage.  Don’t do it.

See, the hardest part of early parenting was the emotional stuff — I was hormonal, I was stressed, I was emotionally over-extended, and I already felt judged — and the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was to realize that I wasn’t alone in this journey and that there were things I could do to ease my burden.  I could have people bring over food and buy heat and eat meals.  I could use disposable plates.  I could take shifts with my husband so we could each get some sleep.  I could pump so my husband could take feeding shifts.  My family used to tell me all the time I’d make a crappy parent because I was “selfish,” but Jesus — what happened to “it takes a village?”  I was lucky — and I know not everyone is as lucky, I understand that — to have a network.  But I had a network.  Why did people act like I would have to do it alone?

The rest was exactly what I’ve been saying in so, so many entries over the last year — scaffolding.  Putting systems in place.  We baby proofed the house months in advance.  I set timers, round the clock, for feedings, and kept a notebook to track which side he latched on at each feeding.  I bought a bassinet on wheels so he traveled with me, and I baby-wore as much as I could.  Eventually, I eased into it.  Eventually — and this is going to sound weird, but seriously — eventually parenting became a habit.  And it got easier.  And I needed less support, and less scaffolding.

And now, I might actually be a decent mom. I hope.

Time will tell, I guess.  But I feel pretty good about it.