ADHD / Adult ADHD / Anxiety / Coping Strategies

ADHD: Artmageddon.

Don’t we all have those days? I hope we all do, otherwise I’m going to feel even lamer than I already do. (Not that I would wish lame days on others…aaaaand now I’m in a good old-fashioned neurotic tailspin).

I’m going to try to sum this all up neatly instead of following my every verbal impulse into a thicket of “where the fuck are you going with this”.

Self-employment and non-traditional career choices mean that I don’t have a “normal” work week. Technically, I try to reserve Mondays as a “day off” because my Monday is actually Thursday and my on-site work week runs from Thursday through Sunday, and on Tuesday and Wednesday I have a ton of administrative work and sewing to do. What that usually means is that Mondays I let myself sleep in for a whole extra hour and then when I get up I have to work at an even more frantic pace than usual.

See what I mean? Verbal thicket.

Anyway, let me just recap the past, say, ten days of my work life.

That ten days started with insufferable, and humid high temperatures that blessed the first day of an outdoor three-day event that I was running. That night, we were hit with a thunderstorm and flash-freaking-flooding up to my ankles, sideways driving rain/wind and yes, obviously, very heavy rain. We packed up a bit early because frankly, we were soaked. The next day, the nasty, unforgiving temperatures kicked back in, but then in the early evening things cooled just enough for the public to come out of hiding and attend our event, spend some money, and transform our less-than-optimistic spirits to relief.

After that night’s event, I went up to my sewing studio, to get some work done for my second business.

As I sat there, listening, as I do, to a public radio broadcast, the grating surge of the Emergency Broadcast System alerted me to an immediate severe storm warning about to hit my city. It was about 12:05am.

Four minutes and 82 MPH winds later, our entire event, the length of seven city blocks, had been leveled. Buildings and people were okay…nearly every participant tent, their displays, and any inventory that had been left in the tents overnight, was completely destroyed.

I’d called my husband to pick me up because my car was parked on the roof of a parking garage and with lightning in the air it didn’t seem safe to retrieve it right away. As I exited my office building I stumbled upon a handful of drunks who’d just weathered the storm in the bar downstairs. Their utterances of “holy shit” and “aw shit man” and “you got a light” punctuated my view: The stage area and outdoor bar area for the event, set up outside of my office, were not hanging at quite the right angles anymore. My husband pulled up, I jumped in the car, and I asked him to take me to Main St. so I could check on my vendors’ tents.

We didn’t even have to get all the way there for me to see the destruction. He stopped the car before we even reached the street and I jumped out, running to our set-up area. Shelving strewn across the intersection, 10 x 10 metal tents tied in knots, giant events tents thrust topside against buildings. Debris, everywhere. Chunks and daggers of pottery beckoned to oncoming traffic. We had to start grabbing and hauling items out of the intersection as quickly as possible, for obvious public safety reasons.

I never went entirely to bed that night. After spending hours contacting my participants, asking them to retrieve and identify their surroundings, and recovering from the immediate shock of seeing the entire event mangled, I went back up to my office and slept for an hour and a half in my big papasan chair. With a phone in my hand. By 6am, reporters and vendors were calling me with questions.

Amazingly, thanks to staff and volunteers (our event was part of a larger event, so there were additional helpers available), we opened again at 10am, though our area, particularly hard hit, was operating with a tenacious skeleton team.

The next day, I had another event (that I nearly slept through, but for a well-timed participant phone call).

And…to add to all of that excitement, I accidentally ate some gluten. Which, now that I re-read the sentence is a pretty hilarious anti-climax after that dramatic story, but I assure you, gluten and I don’t get along at all, this is a significant factor.

I suppose it’s entirely predictable then, that my body has been giving me a middle finger all week. I think that the heat, excessive sun exposure, ridiculous stress, lack of sleep, and the friggin’ gluten, sent my auto-immune system over the edge. I stopped digesting food for a couple days, I took epic naps mandated by extreme fatigue all week, a soupy brain fog took over my cognitive processes…and then by the end of the week I had to prepare for two more events.

Oh. MY GOD.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the conditions of my week were not conducive to successful ADHD living. I really sucked managing my event yesterday and then there was today.

I took our youngest child with me, because it was “his turn” (the kids have worked out a schedule because they like to accompany me to this event but I can only fit one of them in the car with me at a time, with my equipment). That involved a little extra effort on my part (not a complaint) because he’s just 7 and needs a little assistance in readying himself for a road trip. Then I got my equipment packed up, only to realize that critical parts of my set up had ended up over at my parents’ house. So I tore everything (except the kid!) back out of my car and by that time I was running late.

I’d also been awake half the night because the event time had been changed and I was terrified of missing my wake up time, or getting it wrong.

I arrived 4 minutes late for set up and because it had just started raining, my participants freaked out and starting setting up without me because I wasn’t there yet. Short story version: That’s BAD.

And my brain just plain wasn’t working. Didn’t help that I’d forgotten to take my stimulants until I was five minutes from arrival (I’d taken them out and set them on my lap and then forgotten about them).

I exploded like a nuclear bomb upon arrival. It went something like this:

New vendor: “Oh, I hope it’s okay that I started setting up, they told me I should just set up –”

Me: “IT IS NOT OKAY.”

Long time vendor and friend: “You weren’t here yet and it started raining and –”

Me: “THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO SEND ME OVER THE EDGE OF SANITY. YOU KNOW THIS.”

Embarrassed and completely unable to function in a conversation with civilised humans, I dismissed myself to my car (Read: I HID, to mitigate my own obnoxiousness). But then another participant arrived. I had to get out of the car. (I should add that my co-pilots, the child and the chihuahua, handled this REALLY WELL and I did manage not to freak out on them, though I did let the child know why I was upset so that he wouldn’t think I was mad at him). I got out and Long Time Vendor And Friend approached me again, admirably holding herself up as a lightning rod for the group. She said “I just want you to know that we only did it because we were worried about the rain and I am REALLY SORRY because I know this drives you NUTS”. Me: “I don’t hate you right now, but I can’t even have this conversation right now.” I placed the other vendor, I apologized for acting crazy, I went back to my car and hid for 25 minutes.

But you can’t hide in the car all day. And I’d already overruled my urge to drive the fuck home.

And…my NUMBER ONE RULE of living with ADHD, is: If you act like a DOUCHE, you have to go apologize to people, face to face. And as a leader in this group, I HAD to step up.

I finally chilled out, had some water, got my co-pilots ready to roll, and we re-joined the group.

1) I went to each person I’d snapped at individually to apologize for my behavior and approach, to let them know how I was willing to do better next time, and to thank them for being there. I also let the ones that didn’t know how shitty my week in on the fact that my week had been rather shit-pile-y. Not as an excuse, just to give them context for the fact that I was acting insane. I mean hello: I had all control of my event and the safety of my vendors’ property ripped out of my hands by force last week by a storm. I don’t think it’s illogical that I would freak out about feeling like I didn’t have control over the event this morning when I arrived. I felt so horribly responsible for the damage to everyone’s tents and property and it was awful for me that I could not fix it. My entire week felt completely out of control. This was a therapy moment without the bill.

2) I specifically thanked Long Time Vendor and Friend for offering herself up as a literal lightning rod for my freak out. She could had stood back, but she stepped up and buffered the group, knowing full well that I might be pissed at her for it. I wasn’t. In fact, I admired her for it. I just needed 25 minutes in the car to figure it out.

3) One positive here, is that I actually did identify my limit, realize I was past it, and saw that every word that came out of my mouth was only feeding my adrenaline surge. It had to stop. So I stopped it. Time in the car was very helpful. I was able to emerge with the energy and ability to do what I felt was the right thing, as well as to carry my copilots forward into the group for a really fun day.

But sweet Jesus. From the minute I woke up I felt I was fighting my body and mind for just a shred of sanity. I know some days are just like that, ADHD or not. I’m still exhausted and grouchy and I definitely need to let myself sleep in tomorrow.

I think I see one more positive here. The situation this morning allowed me to see just how deeply the storm had impacted my sense of control, and how deeply I care about my events and participants. I’ll need to pay attention to that feeling for a little while longer, I think, as that fear moves its way out of my system.

What a god-damn emotional hangover…

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