Run For Your Life: Coming Out From Under the Covers

“You initially become funny as a kid because you’re looking for attention and love. Psychologists think that’s all to do with mother abandonment. I think John Cleese has his depressions, and Terry Gilliam’s the same. All of us together make one completely insane person.”

                                                                         –Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame)

Last weekend, I ran the second 5k race in a matter of two months benefitting mental health treatment and suicide prevention.

The first one was in Gardiner, Montana, within view of the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Last week’s race was right here in Bozeman and raised more than $15,000 for our local crisis help center.

Roosevelt Arch -- entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Roosevelt Arch — entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Yes, of course that’s a great thing.

But I can’t help thinking how sad it is that we haven’t found suitable treatment for depression to prevent suicides. The Rocky Mountain West, and Montana in particular, historically has had the highest suicide rate in the nation for many — too many — years.

In 2013, once again, Montana topped the list with nearly 24 deaths per 100,000 people. Not exactly a proud moment for us.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • An estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide.
  • Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds.
  • Depression affects women more often than men.

Last week’s race was held on Halloween and aptly called “Run For Your Life.” Complete with “real” trailside zombies it was good fun. Costumes were strongly encouraged. So I rehabilitated an old wizard costume from 2008. It was just easy.

Photo: Paul Bussi-www.idealphotography.com

What I didn’t recall until I was off and running in my moon-star-sequined-adorned graduation gown, was that this was the same costume I wore the day a friend decided to end her life. I have a picture of that day on my desk — a good friend and I in costume mugging for the camera, arms around each others’ shoulders. A fun day as our friend’s struggle and final decision wasn’t revealed until the following day.

It is impossible to describe what it feels like to learn someone you know and care about took their own life. Unfortunately, too many of us DO know that feeling.

Equally saddening is the fact that way too many of us know what it feels like to have no hope.

At the Big Bear Stampede race in Gardiner, my friend, physical therapist and world-renowned ultra-marathoner Nikki Kimball brought tears to my eyes as she spoke of her own struggle with depression. She says suicide doesn’t kill people, depression kills people.

She’s right, you know.

And in addition to successfully treating my achilles tendonitis (YAY!), she’s taught me that we all need to be brave, come out from under our down comforters and talk openly about depression!

So I’m here to tell you right now that, yes, I have struggled with depression on and off since puberty, I think.

It’s a complicated thing and just because I sometimes have this gnawing feeling that I’m not good enough … deep down inside, I know that not only am I good enough, but I’m actually better than good.

That’s one thing that keeps me going.

But it is fairly common for people with ADDled brains to have co-occurring depression. We are so often misunderstood and it is frustrating to live in a world that doesn’t support our creative talents or accept and accommodate our oft-distracted ways.

Lucky me, I have the trifecta of ADD, depression and perimenopause (that time in a woman’s life when her hormones are dissipating, if you will — another condition also often associated with depression. I wrote more about perimenopause and what it does to some women’s brains (me included) in an earlier post.

All that being said, there’s hope. Yes, there really is.

I’m happy to say that there are throngs of people who are coming out from under the covers and sharing their experiences with mental illness on blogs, in books and support groups. Here are some good examples on the web:

  • Kat Kinsman — an editor at CNN wrote and was interviewed about her experience with depression. I highly recommend checking out her piece as she also has a list of other resources at the bottom of her article.
  • Author William Styron, author of “Sophie’s Choice” and a brilliant man well ahead of his time, wrote “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.”
  • Pick the Brain is a website “dedicated to self-improvement with a focus on personal productivity, motivation, and self-education” and includes articles on psychological topics.
  • Daisies and Bruises: The Art of Living with Depression.
  • Bring Change 2 Mind is a nonprofit started by actress Glenn Close with her sister, Jessie Close, and nephew, Calen Pick, (mother and son, both of whom have mental illness). Its aim is to remove the misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental illness. I had the privilege of interviewing and writing about Jessie and her son before their speaking engagement here in Bozeman a few years ago.  BC2M’s website has an excellent blog featuring a variety of writers with equally varied diagnoses.
  • Jessie Close also wrote a book about her experience with bipolar disorder called, “Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness.”
  • Smart Girls with ADHD
  • ADDitude Magazine
  • Dr. Ned Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey (co-authors of many books on ADHD).
  • I found some of these blogs on Healthline that posted a slide show of the best depression health blogs of 2015.

This is a short list, for sure. There’s many others. If you have a great one that you’d like to recommend, I’d love to see it in the comments.

Here’s to throwing off the blankets, feeling the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair …

Phoney foibles

Yup, so I did it again.

It was back on Oct. 4 — I had another of those dyslexic, forgetful, foolish days.

In the car on the way to the airport I decided it was time to set a security code on my cell phone. And, no, I wasn’t driving — I have a hard enough time multitasking when I’m sitting safely in one place.

Anyway, in the past I’ve had luck with the pattern feature where you slide your finger over a pattern of dots you set in order to gain access to the wonders of the cell phone universe. I’m somewhat of a visual thinker so the pattern thing is usually pretty good for me. Some sort of color-coded do-dad would be even better.

But before I continue, a caveat: It was dark (before 6:30 a.m.) and I was functioning (or not) on cold- and stress-induced sleep deprivation. Both SO and I had colds so if it wasn’t his coughing keeping us up, it was my headache or worry … but, enough about that.

Anywho, I set a pattern and promptly forgot it. Not kidding. However, I was pretty sure I hadn’t turned the security lock on. I was able to get my boarding pass up on the phone, after all. But as soon as I got on the plane, I discovered I was wrong. I spent at least half the flight trying to crack the code to no avail. Crap those damn things are good!

It’s the bike lock all over again (see The stupid things I do thanks to my ADDled brain).

Got to Salt Lake City for a layover where the wi-fi is free. I spent about a half hour live chatting on my laptop with a Verizon representative about how I might get my phone unlocked.

It’s complicated and I won’t bore you with the technical details. Suffice to say, I wrote much of this on the plane to New York and didn’t know how I was going to call my parents when I got there. I hoped there was a pay phone somewhere. Remember those? In the meantime, I wrote emails to my parents and brother explaining my dilemma and suggested they call me at a certain time since I was still able to receive calls, I just couldn’t make them.

So that worked out.

But I guess I should have gone with my intuition and gotten a new phone BEFORE I left for New York. It would have at least saved me a bit of stress and definitely sales tax. But well, I guess I’m happy with my new phone and my new plan, but Jeez — why does so much of my life seem to revolve around losing and searching for things?

Perhaps I can take comfort in knowing I’m not alone.

According to a recent poll by The Trending Machine of 800 American adults, approximately 39% of them had forgotten or misplaced a common everyday item in the previous week. Surprisingly millennial (defined as people aged 18 to 34) were two to three times more likely to forget or misplace something than “seniors” (defined as 55 or older — I’m not quite there yet, but close — am I really almost a senior?). Millennials were more twice as likely to forget even what day of the week it is — really?

ForgetfulnessChart

Even with my current no-set-schedule lifestyle (yes, freelancing has its perks), I don’t typically forget what day it is or to bathe, for goodness sakes!

The Trending Machine consulted Patricia Gutentag, a leading family and occupational therapist, about this phenomenon.  Her response?

“Stress!  Stress often leads to forgetfulness, depression and poor judgment,” she told them.

And even more interesting (at least to me), “We find higher rates of ADHD diagnoses in young adults,” Gutentag reported.

Millennials grew up in the fast-paced multitasking world of mobile technology. They are expected to and seem to enjoy being omnipresently connected. Combine those demands with the stresses of everyday life and a probably lack of sleep and you get brains that just don’t function optimally.

I’m curious about you, dear readers. How often do you forget, misplace or lose things?

 

My question for any psychiatrists, neurologists or clinical therapists out there who research this sort of stuff: I know from personal experience that ADHD is caused by a particular brain chemistry. I also understand that brain chemistry can change through behavioral patterning and experiences. So if that’s the case, are we cultivating a culture of ADHD so that at some point the “disorder” will become the norm?

I sure hope not.

Not because I like having this distinction (if you will), but because I don’t enjoy the struggles I endure because of it. I think the world would be a better place if we slowed down and learned to enjoy each other for who we really are, rather than looking to our cyber-friends for instant gratification. Just saying.

Stay peaceful all.

 

 

What us wheel-running gerbils can learn from chefs

“It’s like a very … Zen-like thing. All my knives are clean. Clean cutting board. Clear space to work. Clear mind.”

– Greg Barr, sous-chef at New York City’s Esca

One of the tenets of living successfully with ADHD is staying organized.

I use various tools and practices which I previously wrote about (see “Where is … uh, what was I looking for again?“). But this morning as I was on my way to join some friends for an open-water swim (in an effort to exe(o)cise the distraction devil), I heard a story on National Public Radio that was quite interesting.

Though the story didn’t mention a thing about attention deficit, apparently, we all, not just us distractible types, could learn something from highly trained chefs who use a system known as mise-en-place (French for put-in-place). It’s a technique taught and practiced in just about every culinary arts school and high-end kitchen. It is a way to marshal the culinary troops, so to speak.

The practice, as described by several chefs for the NPR story, involves gathering all the tools and ingredients necessary (and ONLY those things) for a certain job and place them at your work station in such a fashion to enable a chef to conserve movement, energy and time.

Culinary Institute of America instructor Dwayne Lipuma told NPR that a chef’s every minute and every motion is accounted for:

“Every component of one single dish is in one single corner so [a student’s] hand literally moves inches,” he explains. “Once [students] set up their station I should be able to blindfold them and tell them … and they should know that their tongs are always here, their oil is always right here, their salt and pepper is always right here. “

Same should apply for wily writers who should be working on other things rather than writing a blog post (ahem). When I prepare to sit down to work, whether I choose my couch, the kitchen counter or my deck as office of the day, I usually spend about 10 to 20 minutes setting it up — pen, paper, documents and phone on my right, computer on my lap, coffee and/or a glass of water nearby … you get the idea.

One could surely argue that I’d be more productive if my workspace wasn’t so mobile. But I have a good excuse besides the lack of a desk or comfy chair in my home office.

Writing is hard and the right environment is critical to my getting anything accomplished. Some days outside with the birds chirping and a view of the mountains is what my creative soul needs. Others it’s the austerity and coolness (it is summer after all) of the living room. But wherever I end up, my office rarely moves until I pack it in for the day.

Getting back to the chefs, they also say it is important to clean as you go. It keeps your workspace organized and makes clean up at the end of the day, so much easier.

Same goes for us average ADD folk who have a tendency to lose and/or forget things. Clean-as-you-go is a parallel notion to OHIO (which I also previously wrote about). OHIO is an acronym for “only handle it once.” If you take something out, use it, clean it and put it away. Mail: toss all the junk into the recycling bin on the way into the house, pay bills immediately or place them in the same spot every time so they aren’t lost when it is time to pay them.

You can, of course, reduce your paper inflow by receiving and paying most, if not all, your bills online. But that takes a certain amount of disciplined order on your computer (which is another discussion).

But in essence, the OHIO principle simply suggests you take that extra step or two to put things away immediately rather than placing them at the top of the stairs so you’ll take them next time you go down — that typically leads to a pile of stuff at the top of the stairs which gets forgotten, ignored and grows! Not terribly efficient or attractive.

According to the NPR story, other principles of mise-en-place include becoming “one with your list,” being punctual and time-aware and, somewhat ironically, slowing down enough to get things right the first time.

Now if I could only figure out how to stop procrastinating …

 

 

Productive Procrastinator

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– Chinese Proverb

I’ve always wondered how people got stuff done. I mean, really.

If you have a full-time job, how is one supposed to get to the bank, pick up groceries, pay bills, go to the dentist, tend the garden, clean the house, cook meals and return that overdue library book — not to mention having time left over to get some exercise and have a social life?

This is NOT my office ... just sayin'.

This is NOT my office … just sayin’.

And for me, that’s WITHOUT kids. Single parents who work AND attend school simultaneously, well, I just can’t fathom it.

Since learning I have this “disorder” called ADD, I realize that most people are more efficient than me, don’t lose track of time and have the ability to stay organized and focused. These are all things I’ve lacked my entire life.

Now I’m in sort of brain-training mode and consider myself a productive procrastinator.

There are myriad ways to overcome ADD without drugs. Tools like alarms, reminders, calendars, task lists are all available apps that can be synced between computer and mobile devices (see more about learning to live with Adult ADD in a previous post: Where is … uh, what was I looking for again?).

It’s true, I’m becoming more productive, less distracted, more organized and overall I’m happier.

I’m even watching football as I write this. I must admit, however, if someone asked me what just happened in the game — unless it was something spectacular — I wouldn’t be able to tell them. I guess I’m just half-watching.

Anyway, here’s a list of some of what I’ve accomplished in the last few days:

  • Finished a 700-word magazine story.
  • Applied for a job.
  • Paid some bills.
  • Researched wetsuits (have I mentioned that I’m addicted to triathlons?).
  • Went grocery shopping (several times — I know, not exactly efficient).
  • Cooked several dinners.
  • Tended the gardens — multiple, yes.
  • Went on a 25+ mile bike ride (woo hoo).
  • Went to the farmers market and ordered iris rhizomes.
  • Cycled into town from the farmers market, attended a local arts festival, drank beer with friends (way fun day).
  • Picked about a pound of sour cherries.
  • Wrote a couple of blog posts.
  • Invoiced a consulting client.
  • Sent a birthday gift to my sister-in-law.
  • Baked a cheesecake.
  • Cleaned the bathroom.
  • Made a mess of the kitchen several times and cleaned it up again.

All of this in just three days. Maybe this isn’t a lot, I don’t know.

So I’m curious what you think?

The stupid things I do thanks to my ADDled brain

Victor-Borge

Good Saturday morning, oh crap, I guess I mean afternoon. See? I really can’t seem to keep track of time.

Anyway, today I thought I’d write about one of the many slightly embarrassing things I’ve done over the years thanks to my somewhat muddled mind. I’ll save the truly shameful ones for a later post when I’m feeling more open-hearted.

As you read this post, please keep in mind, I’m not using ADD as an excuse for my foolishness, but it does at least explain why these things happen. For me, there’s at least some comfort in knowing why.

Well so, a few weeks ago, I was doing a mellow trail ride with some friends who are new to Bozeman, Montana, where I’ve been living for the last six years. We met at a trailhead north of the city so I could show them around the in-town trail system which is many miles long and a truly inspired amenity to this small Rocky Mountain city (Thank you, Chris Boyd and Gallatin Valley Land Trust).

After nearly 20 miles riding mountain bikes on non-technical but very pleasant trails, we decided to stop for coffee before heading back to our cars.

I was the only one who had a lock. So when we stopped, I managed to stretch my Kryptonite cable and lock all three bikes to the rack outside the cafe. We enjoyed our coffee and snacks as I told my new friends about my journey into learning about my ADD.

It was probably too much information for my new biking buddies, but I’m glad I revealed all because of what happened next.

As we headed for our bikes, a dreaded thought leapt into my brain.

“Where’s the key? Where’s the key,” I thought, nervously.

Out loud, I simply uttered, “Uh oh.”

Yeah, you guessed it.

I’d left the key either about four miles away in my car or someplace farther away at home. Fortunately for me (or so I thought) my housemate (also known henceforth as my significant other or SO) was on his way home from work. So I asked him to look for it.

My two now-stranded friends waited patiently with me for nearly an hour as SO tried to find the key at home (no go) and then rode his bike to my car in which the key was also not located.

In the end, we borrowed a hack saw from Mason at Alter Cycles (conveniently located across the street from the cafe) and I sacrificed my lock.

What price security? The cost of a story we’ll probably always laugh about.

Less than hour later (of course), when SO magnanimously brought me my car and computer at work, we realized where the key was — in the computer pack.

Now relieved of my lock, I find it will cost about $20 to replace.

But that’s not so bad. After all, the incident has become a joke between the three of us. And really what’s $20 when you can share a laugh with some buds once in a while?

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” — Victor Borge

If you don’t know who Victor Borge is, click on his name above to see him in action.