I’ve probably come to this conclusion before, so my apologies if this is tiresome.
I make the same mistake over and over again (what was that definition of madness, again?)—deciding either:
- …that I will somehow throw the neurochemical round-house punch to end all neurochemical round-house punches and knock my depression right TF out.
- …that I’m feeling much better and that, as a result, my depression is just about over and I’ll be fine any old minute now.
Then I find myself flummoxed when I don’t magically turn into … well, not a normal person (as D always says, “Average was never the goal!”), but a not-depressed person … overnight, or when I overextend myself and just can’t even for the next five days.
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a motto that some might call “strategetic” and others might call “cowardly.” In short:
When all else fails, run away
And live to fight another day.
(Coincidentally, this exact phrasing is the motto of Daniel D’Aeve, a semi-cowardly knight [he doesn’t like loud noises, for one thing] and accidental pirate [he doesn’t like boats, either] and the semi-hero of a musical I’ll probably never finish, but who knows. Miracles do happen.)
I’m not going to wrestle my depression into submission. That’s not how this works.
If I keep engaging it head-on, this gorilla will always, always wrestle me into the ground. Depression is like … I don’t know, wrestling some kind of mutant alligator that has gained the ability to steal your strength and make it its own as long as you keep fighting. (I feel like there’s almost certainly a Japanese monster movie about this already, but if there isn’t, there should be.)
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a more conservative tack. I know that I’m too impulsive to entirely avoid wrestling the alligator—sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing so until the alligator is already doing death-rolls at the bottom of the pond—but I’m going to try not to, like, walk up and pick fights with the alligator … even if that means letting it live in my house for a while.
In other words, for a little while, I’m going to try not to do as much.
I’m not going to stop doing everything, of course, but I’m not going to push quite as hard for a bit.
Instead, I’m going to revert to the best strategy I’ve ever found for keeping myself afloat in the midst of one of my moderate-but-grinding depressions: Do Two Things.
Oddly, I thought I’d written a post about this strategy before, but I can’t* find it, so I’m writing it now.
*Which is to say, I ran a search, devoted exactly 30 seconds to looking
for it, and then I gave up because I realized that if I kept it up I’d
start reading old posts and never finish this one.
So, in case you’re wondering, here’s how it works.
First, you get depressed. This makes living seem like a tedious uphill grind, and causes you to write poems empathizing with Sisyphus, and generally makes every single little thing that you have to do in order to continue to remain semi-afloat seem like a hideous impossibility.
Second, you own up to the fact that you don’t want to do anything. You don’t feel up to doing anything. You drag yourself to class because some part of you dimly recognizes that things will only be worse in the long run if, on top of recovering from a depression, you also have to get yourself back in performing shape or auditioning shape or what have you in the span of 3.4 days somewhere down the line. But other than that you feel like you just can’t even.
Eventually, you begin to feel slightly better, and then you look around your house and you realize, Holy Hell, it looks like a tornado crashed through a paper mill, a diner, and a thrift store before chugging right through your door. And also the cat has somehow contrived to get maple syrup on his head (which he doesn’t mind in the least, but you do). And you are out of Kleenex.
Some part of you thinks, “I should do something about all this,” while the rest of you just gazes around at the chaos with the proverbial thousand-yard stare and no idea where to begin.
That’s where Do Two Things comes in. You tell yourself, “Okay. There is no way I can do all of this right now, so I’m just going to do two things today.”
Then you turn to the thing nearest thing—or the nearest thing that feels like you have some hope of accomplishing it—and you do that thing.
The whole strategy hinges on this one truth: that sometimes “Do The Dishes” counts as one thing, and sometimes, “I’m going to wash this one dish” does. Sometimes, getting out of bed counts as one thing, and sometimes completely unmaking the bed, rotating the mattress, and remaking the bed counts as one thing.
It doesn’t matter. You judge yourself by the standard of where you are now. You give yourself permission to wash this one dish and that one fork.
The funny thing is that usually once you get started—once you wash the One Dish—you’ll usually find yourself thinking, “Ah, well. I might as well wash this entire stack; it’s not going to take any longer, really, and I already have my gloves on.”
So often Doing Two Things turns into Cleaning the Kitchen—but you have to remember not to look at that fact too directly, or your motivation might catch your scent on the wind and bolt. Wild motivations are flighty like that.
In my worst depressions, sometimes my Two Things are as simple as getting out of bed to get a drink, then eating a bagel while I’m already up.
When I’m well into recovery, they may be as complex as making the dining room ready for company and re-organizing the closets.
Either way, I give myself permission to feel like if I’ve done my Two Things, then I have done enough for the day.
It is, of course, totally okay to do more than the Two Things. It is pretty much impossible to do less: even in the pit of the kind of depression that keeps you confined to your bed or the sofa, it’s fairly likely that you’ll have to use the bathroom at least twice on any given day. If you’ve been in that place, you’ll understand why that counts. You just start with whatever Two Things are in reach.
Do Two Things acts both as an accessible goal and as a limiter.
If I’m having the kind of day that starts with “I am going to wash this One Dish,” then I know that, no matter how significant an uptick I might feel, I probably shouldn’t tackle rearranging the closets (which always sounds like a good idea, but turns into a nightmare because D has lived in this house for 20 years and almost never gets rid of anything).
Even if Washing the One Dish turns into Washing the Dishes, the knowledge that the first of my two things began as “Wash the One Dish” keeps me mindful of the fact that I’m not yet fully recovered, and that I shouldn’t start burning tomorrow’s matches today.
So there we have it. For the time being, I’m going to Do Two Things. This will help me get through the current slog without overwhelming myself (at least, without overwhelming myself as often).
Anyway, I don’t know if this strategy will work as well for anyone else as it does for me, but feel free to try it if you want to. It’s also good for getting started when you just plain feel overwhelmed, whether you’re depressed or not (this is a key feature of Adulting with ADHD).
(File under: Every Aphorism I Know I Learned In Bike Racing)
I’ve been having a tough time with re-entry following this summer’s intensives.
Not that I’m, like, pining for the fjords. Just…
Hmm. How do I explain it?
Going to a dance intensive is, in a way, very much like going to summer camp. You’re essentially excused from most of the responsibilities of adulting. Your daily activities are heavily programmed for you. You don’t have to juggle variables, interruptions, or random transportation disasters.
If you forget your ADHD meds, you make it through the day pretty well because all you’re doing, really, is dancing, and your brain works best when you’re in motion. You don’t have to remember a bunch of discrete, unrelated tasks and somehow accomplish them.
If you stay up really late bonding with your new dance family, it’s no big deal. You get up the next day, pour some strong coffee into your face, hit the studio, dance your butt off, and sleep like the dead when you get back to the dorms or your AirBnB.
And then you come home, and your body is adapted to an 8-hours-per-day-plus physical workload that you’re unlikely to match except during the most intense periods of rehearsal or performance, and you have to get back to Adulting (with or without ADHD).
For me, this illuminates one of the central challenges in living with ADHD: it never goes away.
To borrow a quote from Kiwi bike racer Greg Henderson :
- or a quote about success from Robert Strauss, who presumably doesn’t race bikes but could feasibly be a Kiwi; can’t be arsed to look him up right now.
You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.
ADHD is, in some ways, a gorilla that never gets tired. Instead, you have to learn to manage your gorilla—and managing is largely a question of automation.
When I’m doing it right, I manage my ADHD by making it as hard as possible for myself to screw up the basics.
I lay out each day’s clothes the night before, so I never have to fumble around looking for clothes before my brain is working.
My morning and afternoon doses of Adderall are right there in my 7-day pillbox, so I don’t find myself thinking, “Feck, did I take my meds?”
My keys, wallet, sunglasses, and other important small things live on a shelf by the door, so I will always put them there when I walk in and never have to wonder where they are.
My phone lives next to the bed, where it acts as an alarm clock. Once I get out of bed, I either leave it tethered to one of its chargers or keep it nearby. That way, I never have to look for it.
My class and rehearsal schedules get written out on the whiteboard on the refrigerator door. Writing them down helps me remember what’s coming up; it also gives me a hard-copy reference when I’m not sure and lets D know where I am, when.
While I cook, I clean as I go and streamline general dishwashing into those moments when there’s nothing that requires attention.
I run errands before, after, or between classes so I won’t have to take extra trips out of the house. I maintain shopping lists on Google Keep so I don’t have to remember anything, including the shopping list.
I burn a ton of energy, knowing that it’s the only way I’m going to be able to sleep on anything resembling a normal, diurnal schedule. I run Twilight on my phone and f.lux on my PCs to cut out blue rays (this really does make a huge difference, for me). I don’t play video games or peruse social media in bed, because those get my brain ticking over too fast.
I pay really close attention to things like caffeine intake: and if I’m having a rough time sleeping, I avoid any caffeine at all after about 2 PM.
These are all fairly small things, but they add right the heck up.
The problem is, they’re all routine-driven, and once I get out of a routine, it can be really hard getting back in.
This week, I’m struggling really hard with insomnia. After being sick for most of last week (during which all I actually did was sleep), I’m left with a surplus of energy, but not enough on the schedule to burn it off.
Since it only takes one sleepless night to torpedo weeks of careful sleep programming, I’m currently in the midst of a really unpleasant cycle of sleeping two hours one night, then nine the next.
Last night was one of those two hour nights. I missed class today because of it: I finally got to sleep around 8 AM. Turned off the alarm at 9 AM, when I realized it would be foolish to try to do modern on one hour of sleep. Woke up at 10, when I should’ve been starting class, anyway.
I’ve realized I need to get back to negotiating with my gorilla. I’m home for one more week, then off to That Thing In The Desert after all, then back for a week, then off for a medical thing, then possibly starting rehearsals for a thing, depending.
- In addition to the usual Open Barre sessions with mimosas, I’ll be leading some contact improv playshops at our camp this year.
- I’m going to apply my “to know, to will, to dare, to keep silent” clause here. This is a minor medical procedure but a huge freaking deal for me, so I’m trying not to feck it up.
- Here, too. I’m actually okay with waiting and auditioning for the next thing this company does, but it’s sort of up in the air right now whether we can work around my temporary restrictions after The Secret Medical Thing.
None of this makes it easier to figure out where to start rebuilding my Life Management Protocols, so I’m just going to do what I normally do: fumble forward and hope for the best.
In other words, just pick something and start where you are.
In that vein, I’m hoping to get a class in tomorrow to make up for missing today’s (though tomorrow’s class will be ballet, not modern).
I’ve got a doctor’s appointment at 8-o-freaking-clock in the morning for which I have to check in at 7-goshdarn-30, which means getting up at 6-what-even-is-sixthirty-30 because I kind of need D with me for this one and he needs more than 20 minutes to get out the door 😛
As such, I need to actually get my tuchas in bed at a reasonable hour tonight and, if necessary, hit myself with a whacking great dose of doxylamine succinate to make sure I don’t stay awake all night.
Those are some easy start-where-I-am steps that I can actually do (along with getting audition video links to the AD for the Secret Dance Thing and signing some documents for The Secret Medical Thing and emailing them back to the practice in question).
So, there you have it. I think I really wanted this post to be more of a thought-piece about managing ADHD than me scrabbling on about how I’ve managed to hose everything up for myself (though I did plan to mention that), so I suppose I’ll add that to my queueueueueueue of posts to actually write sooner or later as well.
Until then, I’ll be here, negotiating with my gorilla.
Oh: in other news, I successfully gave a bit of advice to a new guy in class last night, which felt really good.
At the moment, my car smells like the inside of someone’s dance bag.
In fact, it smells like the inside of a dance bag belonging to someone who shoves his sopping-wet warm-ups into said bag after class and then forgets about them and goes home and the next day is like wtf did I do with my warmp-ups and then finds them when he goes to get his shoes out in ballet class the next day and shoves them back in his bag and forgets about them again until he finally remembers to bring the freaking bag in so he can wash them, which might take like an entire week[1, 3]. Ewww.
- I can neither confirm nor deny that this has actually happened to me.
- Possibly more than once.
- For the record, this problem is pretty specific to commuting by automobile, since taking public transit or riding a bike rather prevents leaving your dance bag in the car all week, doesn’t it? Though I did once leave legwarmers in my bike’s trunk bag ._. Good times, good times.
So I’m planning on going after my car with some carpet foam tonight. Possibly also mowing the lawn (completely unrelated, but still something I should probably do), but we’ll see.
Anyway, fairly good day in Modern today.
I am still madly in love with floorwork.
Perhaps I always will be? The lights (which are on sensors) clicked off about a quarter of the way through our floorwork combination, and we were just like, “Ahhhh.”
Modern dance naptime, you guys. For real. It’s as refreshing as a nap without all that annoying napping.
Meanwhile, I’m back to being able to withstand light pressure on the outside of my right foot, so it’s now possible to safety-release into various rolls from an upright position. It’s still iffy about turns, but TB (who has been in class with us a few times now—yay!) suggested a different way of taping it that might help, so I’m going to try that tomorrow and Thursday.
I’m also continuing to work on knowing where UP is, which is remarkably hard (TB finds this unsurprising about me; I suspect it’s part of the “ridiculously hypermobile dancer” package).
I’m also also continuing to work on not being so freaking terrible at scheduling myself. As such, I created a dance-specific calendar, and because I figured, “Why not?” I’ve posted it as a page. That way D can find it easily and figure out where in hell I’ve gone, which can be a problem when you’re married to a dancer who won’t stand still for 5 minutes.
Turns out that it loads desperately slowly (read: about the same level of urgency as an unhurried sloth), but whatevs. It’s a start. I thought about making a separate calendar page for intensives, but that seems excessive. Instead, I made two separate calendars with joint output. The intensives show up in a red font; everything else shows up in blue.
crazy awesome. Or something like that.
That said, it turns out that I’ve YET AGAIN double-booked myself on so many levels it isn’t even funny, so now I’m trying to finagle my way out of the Cultural Dance workshop I can’t take because I’m in Lexington during half of it. That sort of forces me to take our AD’s masterclass, though, which I’ve been semi-dreading because, like, he’s our AD and therefore inherently terrifying.
In other news, I guess it’s time to Order All The Dance Belts before I jet off to Lexington and then Connecticut. I have three that I like well enough; I would really like to have five so I never, ever have to worry about whether or not they’ll dry on time.
I need to make up my mind whether to order another pair of Yumikos or to order some M. Stevens tights, also, mainly because there’s some lead time involved in acquiring another pair of Yumikos.
Though, come to think of it, my Very Own Personal Yumiko Rep is about to jet off to a tropical paradise for an intensive because he is, in fact, awesome (no, really; last year he got invited to dance at Jacob’s Pillow), so that might sort that for me. I’ll have to find out when he comes back from Ballet Paradise.
The Time of the Allergies(1) is upon us again, and D had a coughing fit at 6 AM that woke me up.
- Or, if you’re me, the time of EVEN MOAR ALLERGIES, because all times are the Time of Allergies.
Since then, I’ve actually managed to put dishes away, wash last night’s remaining dishes, put those away, make waffles (because either someone in the neighborhood was making them or I was totally hallucinating the scent of waffles, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore), eat a waffle, feed D a waffle, clean up after the waffles, and run a couple of loads of laundry.
I also failed at making tea, however: boiled the water, then forgot to actually make the tea for two hours, so had to start over. Anyway, I have tea now.
Fortunately, D picked up some allergy meds for me, so I’m breathing through my nose pretty decently at the moment. #smallvictories
Anyway, ballet-wise, I feel pretty on top of my choreography, including the Partner All The Girls! bits (actually, those are the easy bits; I really basically just stand there, look pretty, and put my hands where they need to be). However, we still have the last 23 seconds to learn, so I’m going to rehearsal tomorrow instead of going to see Wendy Whelan’s “Some of a Thousand Words.”
Funny thing is that it really wasn’t a question (because apparently my #priorities are properly aligned, or something). If we’d finished the dance last night, I might have gone to the performance instead, but I really actually want to go to rehearsal.
Fortunately, D isn’t offended that I’m opting out on my birthday present, and in fact agrees with me that going to rehearsal is the right choice. He is going to give our tickets to someone who wants to go and doesn’t have tix, which is a nice thing as well. So instead of seeing Whelan’s show for my birthday, I get the pleasure of giving someone else the chance and still getting to go to rehearsal 😀
In other news, I still have no idea what I’m wearing in the show, besides white socks and white shoes. I keep forgetting to ask, and people keep asking me, and I keep having to say, “Um, actually, I have no idea.”
BG described the tights I’ll be wearing as “awesome,” so of course I’m picturing something like this:
…But I suspect that reality will be somewhat less ornate, since all the girls are wearing pastel leos and white romantic tutus, and not so much with the bling.
In other news, today is perfect soup weather, but I forgot to buy soup, so #firstworldproblems etc. I could make soup, though, if I get desperate.
Here’s what I wore last night, anyway:
I was use-testing the socks, which are new. BG and I agreed that we kind of liked the blue tights (which are brighter in real life) with the socks, but also that they would clash with the rest of the performance.
The shirt, OTOH, is just the same shirt I wear every damn day.