Of not sleeping and avoiding going absolutely nuts!

So, it’s been a while since my last entry as I’ve been running at 100 miles per hour for a while now. Moving is hard enough but being a pack rat definitely exasperates the str- er frustation.

I hesitate to say struggle even though it seems that way. I have received unparalelled support from family as well as the upstairs neighbors.  I always knew I was a packrat but I was not expecting to have packed so many emotions away as well.

In particular the last two days have been filled with emotions good, bad, sublime, regretful, fearful, strong, even guilty. I have found myself so high strung and stressed that sleep has evaded me now 3 nights in a row.  It comes in little 15-45 minute spurts and I wake up with night terrors or a severe panic attack.

So I change my sweaty pajamas and try again as I know it will get better soon.  I find myself stress cooking which I don’t think of as bad.  In fact not only is it a more positive way of dealing with stress than many other methods I’ve engaged in but, I’m eating healthy food which I suppose is keeping me going.  Maybe I’ll write a cookbook on that someday “Cooking yourself sane”??

All in all I’ve made great strides, I am still throwing/giving away a lot and have listed a lot to sell.  I’m also remembering a lot of past experiences and people in my life and realizing that I’ve been amazingly blessed and lucky.  

It’s almost as if I’m reading my past as someone else’s story sometimes and thinking “this guys a few fries short of a happy meal”.  It’s not that I’ve come to realize most of my struggles and problems are self inflicted, it’s more that I’m beginning to accept it. I have always known I self destruct but change is tough.

I’m still working on changing and I suppose it’s going to be a long task.  For tonight though I’m feeling pretty okay about tomorrow, I even managed an entire 2 hour nap without waking up badly!! 

I have to confess though being on my inversion table and absolutely exhausted from putting it back together might have contributed.  In any case I figured while I wait for my “ham and bean with stress reducing veggie” soup to cool enough to freeze / refrigerate I would stop digging in boxes long enough to post.

A good friend once told me “Don’t be afraid of life”

~Joe 

(Note the image is yesterday’s stress cook not my soup lol)

Coping With the Perpetually Unhappy

Why be happy to be unhappy?

Yesterday I did something rather normal even for me, I went grocery shopping. I had a printable gift certificate that I wanted to use and given that the grocery store I patron had just changed point of sale systems a few weeks ago I expected a little bit of trouble. I have been through this before and at this point I can tell the checkout clerk the exact steps to take to use the gift certificate so I was pretty confident things would go smoothly.

The checkout clerk was a little frazzled to begin with, it seems he wasn’t having too good of a day. This is fine I tried to be as cheery as possible making small talk about the weather and such, my ID already on the counter for him as I was also getting cigarettes. And then the gift card, he scanned it first. This of course was the wrong way to go and it resulted in a little bit of delay which he apologized for. My response, “I’ve got more time than money no worries man” I wasn’t worried as I expected it and really I had nothing pressing and was in a particularly good mood to begin with.

Unfortunately there was a woman directly behind me who had just gotten in line that did not share such an upbeat attitude. Immediately she began to make comments about having ice cream and frozen chicken and making some of the most intense and ugly faces I have seen in quite a long time at the cashier and myself. The cashier made several attempts to assure the woman that it would not be very long she gathered all her items and turned around to use the self-checkout, giving us the finger after she moved her groceries.

This woman did not have a whole lot of groceries, I’m not sure what the hang up was, nor do I really care. In the end I was rung up and checked out, and as I walked by the woman who was still checking out at her new post all I could do was smile and say “Have a nice day mam” Having been around a lot of people in a lot of situations I have learned to identify those that seem to only be truly happy if they are unhappy. This woman fit incredibly well into this category, as she continued to grumble and make more nasty comments she proved that not only did she fit in the category, she *wanted* to be there.

I just couldn’t jive with this at the time in fact I had to actually try to keep quiet. I wanted to comment regardless of knowing that it would do no good other than to validate her anger with the idea that the world is against her. I have had times in my life where I have been in a hurry and things would hold me up and slow me down; in fact if you’ve read yesterday’s article on ADHD and have experienced any of those such symptoms you might understand how incredibly frustrating this could be to me. Still, I don’t think I have ever been so passive aggressive to throw snide comments at the world around me simply to validate my own existence. This woman’s anger actually attached to me and made me angry.

Wait… I have spent the last several days trying to spread positive attitude in the same exact way! I have set out to purposely spatter happy positive thoughts on anything and anyone I could. The confusion I have is that this woman most likely had no conscious idea that she was spreading her negativity. The dynamic is something for me to consider in depth for sure, why is it that spreading positivity is so difficult to do yet spreading negativity happens so naturally and often with very little effort?

The question of why popped into my head as I was driving home with my stock of veggies and healthy stuff (and yes the cigarettes) why would this person exert so much energy just to be sure everyone was absolutely aware of her disdain for what was a common and unintentional mishap? What does anyone stand to gain through such efforts? I began to think about times in my own past when I had acted in such ways and realized that in fact I myself had spent many years with the same negativity demon. Anybody that has known me for any long period of time can most likely bring up several instances of me exhibiting this same action. Oh wow!

I eventually let the thoughts fade off and returned to my new positive and happy to be here attitude that I have found to be quite simply much more enjoyable and healthy overall. I actually began to feel sympathy for this poor woman as I thought about the experiences I missed myself by pushing anger and negativity outwards. It was actually quite depressing thinking about it, so I found myself in this anger -> depression cycle that kept going on and on, I was angry that I had missed out because of my anger… the only answer was to come back to my positivity.

Bringing life back to the present, I try (and after a while it is starting to come naturally) to be as positive as possible, small talk and good comments no matter how trivial they may seem have absolutely changed my life and hopefully at least the days of others. If avoiding that one comment, or making a simple gesture and putting the small effort of a smile in can make somebody else feel better I now have a hard time understanding why anyone would not do this.

In the days of instant everything, the microwave, the internet, online shopping we have all but destroyed the reality of patience and god forbid we be held up for an extra minute or two even if we have nothing planned. Let’s take a moment to relax, and understand that maybe things do not need to happen so lightning fast for our own good, let’s compliment those in front of us rather than pander to our online friends. Today I choose to be positive and happy, I will take my time and enjoy my actions on purpose simply because I can!

Don’t shoot the messenger,

~Joe

An Honest Discussion About ADHD and Self-Medication

A Little Story With a Big Boogeyman

Authors Note: This is the longest and probably most difficult article I have written thus far, it was originally intended to be posted as my second article with an entirely different title and subject.  As I wrote to illustrate my point the article changed drastically into what is essentially a part of my life story.  As raw as I have tried to be in writing this, I will not be adding any pictures or fancy quotes, just the article as I completed it.  As always, and in particular with this one please let me know your feedback, ideas, rants, anything.  And look forward to at least 3 off shoot articles from things that came to mind during the writing of this one. A PDF version of this article for sharing can be downloaded here.  ~Joe

I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD more times in my life than I’ve stubbed my toe or hit my funny bone combined. Quite often people will comment that I also have a bit of OCD (more on that later). I wanted to take some time to explore how I have turned my so called “disorder” into positive adaptations that have brought me success and an interesting life. I also wanted to examine how my failed attempts at self-medication has caused destruction of those successes and held me back. All told, when I am thinking clearly I can honestly say I would never trade this so called “disorder” for anything.

I’m going to start by framing the view of ADHD I have come to adopt, it was once explained to me that ADD, ADHD, and many other similar so called disorders are in fact nothing more than different evolutionary types of “brain wiring”. The tag “disorder” is merely a societal method of coping with a version of personality that may not fit the present view of “normal”. To be more detailed as it relates to ADHD vs. “The Norm” it was described as a hunter / farmer relationship. It is not so much that we have developed disorders as it is that society itself has changed.

The hunter (being ADHD) has to maintain a high level of alertness and be ready to snap into quick hyper focused action during a hunt, or dangerous situation. The farmer (current norm) has to maintain a great deal of routine planting, watering, sowing crops on a clockwork schedule. This made perfect sense to me and I have built on this theory since it was first presented to me as a young man. Centuries ago the hunter could have been considered the norm or, in the very least the respected ones in society as survival required the natural skills to respond and react to danger for protection as well as prey for sustenance. Whereas presently in most modern cultures systems are in place to provide our protection, food, materials, and services for us without the need to hunt them down. Society itself has changed to a more routine mindset and over a great number of decades this mindset has become the norm pushing other thought patterns out into the fringes that we label “disorders”.

So now that I have described my viewpoint on ADH (omit the D) let me go back to the OC (again omitting the D) has come to play in my life. I have always been incredibly disorganized (a common trait for ADD / ADHD of course) often late, forgetting commitments, masterful at procrastination, quick to panic (and often get flash angry) when things spiraled out of control. Over time I began to force myself to organize, keeping things “just so” and religiously using alarms, lists, and stacks of notebooks to “normalize” my life. I *Made* myself OCD! Did I need to go to such lengths? Probably not, but the structure put me in a position to be incredibly superior in what I did, efficient and effective.

Well, hooray? One of the dynamics of ADHD is that of extremes, extremely distracted, extremely focused, extreme emotions, and so on. As I began to achieve my personality changed immeasurably, often cocky and egotistical, opinionated, boisterous, argumentative, and overly driven, I became an ass. I developed a fear of failure and a need for achievement that was so intense that success itself became an end game that meant I would no longer have something to do. This end game had to be avoided at all costs, add to this a deep seated emotional view that I didn’t deserve success, and a self-destructive cycle that would inevitably devastate my life as I knew it began.

Something happened to me, I became human. I had injected myself into a lifestyle that was hyper paced with little to zero room for a recharge. I had stormed castles that were beyond my ability to protect after capture, pillaged items that I had no means of transporting, I had overextended myself without consideration for anything, completely reckless. I began to self-medicate, drinking at first to relax and calm down, or in many cases to wine and dine a potential client, to be social, nothing too heavy.

Moderation and judgement were short lived, as soon in the same ways that I had trained myself to be obsessive / compulsive about my organization I had trained myself to be a highly functioning alcoholic. I could perform the most complex and intricate tasks perfectly while under the influence. This combination of achievement mixed with self-medication worked for me, until it didn’t.

I very quickly began making mistakes, forgetting to do things, losing my edge. The emotional distress caused by failure, or sometimes just perceived failure brought me to my knees. I began drinking to black out and numb myself no longer did I care about the buzz or enjoyment. Socially having a few drinks gave way to hiding in my workshop drinking vodka straight by the gallon with passing out being the only thing that would stop consumption; coming to and restarting the process at the wee hours of the morning.

I had crossed a very thin line from a treacherous path directly into absolute obliteration of my life as I knew it. I spent the next several years in a repetitive cycle of clawing my way to recovery only to fall right back into the pit of relapse, soon I had torched all but my own mere existence. At the time of this writing I am sober, slowly and carefully working to reconstruct my life. I say reconstruct rather than rebuild as I have come to the realization that in order for me to continue I must work towards something that does not resemble what I was.

I originally started this article thinking that I might do a list of “tips” on ADHD self-management; I had a pretty good start until I began to truly examine my experiences over the long run. Lucky for me there is this wonderful invention called the backspace key! I decided instead to illustrate my view of ADHD and the plight I experience that is self-medication and perhaps finish off with some positive lessons that I have learned. I am a firm believer that mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence. This does not make mistakes bad, in fact it is probably more beneficial to start with the negative and end with the positive rather than the other way around (this thought may be a topic for another discussion).

So, in many self-improvement and recovery programs there are aspects of creating “lists” if you will of ideas, goals, accomplishments, dreams, mistakes, etc. 12 step groups often refer to this as an “inventory”, many of the RBT (rational behavioral therapy) or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) types use “lifestyle balance” tools. In any case I thought it important to look over some of my own past “lists” to continue this article. Below is a small cropping of notes I took while going over several journals and lists that I have created (the types of tools I used will be in the footnotes):

Positives Negatives
Serial Entrepreneur Flighty and aloof
Self-taught high level IT High strung
Flexible in task shifting Low frustration tolerance
Successfully built business Poor time management
High level of economic understanding Poor personal finance management
Ability to learn new things very quickly Bored with new things very quickly
High level of analytics Overly critical at times
Incredibly fast at accomplishing tasks Often cannot say no
Able to talk to anyone Sometimes present false masks to protect myself
Driven Low self esteem

This is in no way an exhaustive list, in fact creating this list was exhausting!! The good news here as I see it is that I’m examining my strengths and weaknesses. Again I must state that I am program agnostic however, the 12 step program has a very immaculate way of describing this in the terms of “taking inventory” and “defects of character”. My personal experience is that it is all too easy to get lost in the negatives when taking such an intensive look at myself and with my new goal of reconstruction I decided to focus on the positive aspects and try and narrow what has become a 2 page list of sometimes incoherent ramblings down to a simple sentence.

I am a flexible individual who is highly energetic, driven, curious, and capable of attacking new challenges while maintaining a high degree of integrity, honesty, and open communication.

That simple statement took me hours to come up with, and I am seriously considering writing it on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker much like I used to write my to do list when I first started my career in IT. My point for this whole long explanation of my history with ADHD and self-medication is that self-medication in itself is not always bad; it is the way in which we choose to self-medicate that defines the results.

To further explain my theory on this I would like to describe my new methods of working with my so called “disorder”. With my reconstruction I have really put a lot more effort on living a healthier lifestyle, my sleeping habits, my morning routines, the food I eat, beverages I consume, my activity as a whole. In the past I kept myself so busy with my drive that I often forgot to take care of myself, I have found that changing this dynamic has helped me to become a lot more rational and has opened a window of opportunity for me to learn a better way to control my shifting of focus.

While this method of self-management is new to me, I can attest that even in these early stages I feel much more centered, focused, at peace with my history, and overall I am happy with the direction I am going. It has been a long time since I could say that! And yes I am still driven, excitable, inquisitive, energetic, and scatterbrained at times but I am back to learning how to harness those traits rather than shutting them out with alcohol. Since beginning this journey of attempting to write a positive article for each day I have noticed an overall general calm about myself, I’ve experienced no cravings, no urges, not even a thought of my affliction as it relates to today or tomorrow.

My hope is that I can maintain this forward progress and become a better human being I owe it to myself as well as my family and friends; and I would like to think that maybe, just maybe my smattering of words into the internet might help someone else.

Take it out of park,

~Joe

When Life Gives You Lemons, Take Them!

Free Stuff is Always Cool!

Oh how I wish I could take credit for that saying, I first encountered it some 20 years ago while in an underground IRC chat room for “network security enthusiasts” (i.e. a mixture of hackers, wanna be hackers, and general misfits). At the time I was a high school dropout with no formal training and an incredibly strong will to succeed in a career in the IT field. A friend (whom I still talk to today) made that comment to me after I went on a rant about my employer hiring college graduates at a higher pay rate while I spent every waking hour performing said graduates jobs due to their incompetence.

Had I spent half the energy I wasted on this useless hate….

In full disclosure, I travelled life for a long time with a chip on my shoulder against formal education and while I still sometimes get frustrated with inexperienced graduates acting as “experts” in areas they have only scratched the surface of; I have come to learn that holding a grudge because I chose a different path is not only pointless, it’s plain stupid! Had I spent half the energy I wasted on this useless hate on my work, I probably would have cut a good 5 years off the time it took me to scramble to the success I achieved in my last career.

Presently, I am in a massive state of flux affecting all aspects of my life. It seems every time I turn around I notice something that needs to be addressed, a setback, a mistake, many times many things that could very easily discourage any human being; but this is a positive thinking blog, remember?!

When I first entered the IT field I used to wake up excited to go to work, I lived there pouring everything I had into what I did. I was excited and simply could not learn enough, it was one of the best moments of my life. As I think about how energetic and genuinely happy I was during those early years I realize that I’ve got something many people will never have, the chance to do it all over again! This time I have an upper hand as I have garnered a great deal of experience in dealing with people, business matters, communication, and a wide variety of other mechanical and thought based “stuff”. While I may not have direct experience in the field I am trying to enter I do have some sharp useful skills.

This whole thinking cycle has me coming to a few impacting realizations (whether I like them or not):

  • Wow, maybe I misjudged those graduates based on perception of direct experience
  • Oh my god, I’ve become rational as I grew up
  • Complaining about opportunity is stupid and paralytic
  • Time to once again be uncomfortable for my own sake

 

And, yes there are a ton of other thoughts swimming around this pot of soup I call a brain but at the time of this writing these are the most impacting and interesting. I have this great opportunity due to how life (and often my own actions) has handed me a barrel of lemons. I absolutely *HATE* lemonade but still I can absolutely state that nothing beats a squeeze of lemon on a good cut of blackened salmon!

Pucker up and stay zesty,

~Joe

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I didn’t have any pictures of lemons in my collection and I strongly oppose posting another’s art without permission so have a picture of me with a puppy from several years ago!  Improvisation!

Cleaning House

Realizing How Much Baggage I Carry

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Sometimes it’s good to take out the trash!

Like most people during a transitional period I have been recently going through my possessions, boxes and tubs of things I have pack ratted away over a period of time. Granted not all of my stuff is with me and is stored at another location and I must wait to go through that, I am still able to go through what I do have with me. I started this process on a whim as something to pass the days as I wait to hear back from potential employers and it’s becoming an incredible experience thus far.

I’ve always had two habits when it comes to “stuff”:

  1. I collect it
  2. I randomly jam it in tubs and boxes and forget about it

 

 

Sometimes I’ll need something and start going through tub after tub looking for what I needed (often never finding it) and pulling out other trinkets and baubles along the way to mess with “later”. This cycle results in things lying around in stacks until eventually I shift it to…. You guessed it another tub, hah!!! Going through every so often and actually discarding items that I do not, and will not ever need is one thing. Going through and realizing that the cost of keeping something around that I may need sometime in the distant future is a whole new ballgame altogether!

our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up

I suppose I should explain what I am intending to relay when I mention the word cost; from my experience in various warehouse and business settings I have come to learn that inventory has costs that are not directly tied to the purchase price of an item. These costs are the time to move items from one shelf to another, the time spent finding an item, and of course the cost of space where the item resides. Add to those an emotional cost that is often connected to the negative aspects of clutter and disorganization as it relates to personal possessions. Quite simply, our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up.

Initially I had no idea where to start, the first tub had me pulling things out willy-nilly thinking “wow I forgot about this!!” and slipping into my cycle of pulling things out only to create more clutter and disorganization. Eventually I started looking at the items I had spread out over the floor; I stood up and grabbed a trash bag. Quietly and thoughtfully taking each item and focusing my thoughts on the cost of each item and how important it really was to me. As I began judging each item carefully and deciding whether to keep it, throw it away, or give it away things slowly began to change for me emotionally.

I began to feel a strange freedom from a lot of possessions that ordinarily I would never part with. I began to feel more at peace in my surroundings and lighter overall. The idea that when I am done I will know what I have and where it is has overcome my annoyance with how time consuming and tedious this process has become in comparison to my original “tub stuffing” method.   I will wholeheartedly admit however, I had to force myself the first few hours to think slowly and carefully about each item and what to do with it and this was no easy task at first.

I’ve found an amazing goldmine of items (some still sealed in the box!) that I will be in need of in a couple of months when I make my move to a new home. I also managed to consolidate and empty two tubs within just half a day! Two tubs!! Overall I haven’t put much of a dent in all of the stuff I have collected throughout my adult life but I have made a good dent in the possessions that I have with me during this transition. I have also found a number of items I didn’t realize I had that I will need soon thus avoiding additional unnecessary cost, and of course a few items of great emotional value to put in my little treasure boxes (I use cigar boxes for my treasures).

I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered

Today’s start was a good one and I hope to keep the momentum, I didn’t think it would feel so good and expected it to be more of a tedious task that I would drop only an hour or so in. I’m actually excited to go and get a few more tubs and continue the process, it’s been rewarding knowing I can let go of a lot of things I no longer need to drag around. Almost like dumping emotional baggage at times! I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered by so much stuff.

Chang Tsu once told of a story about a deaf, mute man whom many went to see to learn. (I’m going to paraphrase this as I do not remember the actual text) The student was confused as to how such a man could be so sought a teacher to which Chang Tsu replied “heaven and earth could collapse and he will not be moved, to this man losing his speech and awareness of trivial external things is like throwing away so much dirt”. I used to try and wrap my head around this thought and now I think I might have a little bit more understanding.

It’s invigorating to realize that I can part with things I no longer need or want, and to know that if I need or want something I still have the ability to put in the efforts to achieve should I simply decide to. Today was a good day!

Happy housecleaning,

~Joe

Positivity in a negative time

The miracles of positive thinking combined with hard work

 

The last few months for me have been a time of serious and intense self-examination, a lot of reflection on the past and present, and probably not enough focus on the future. The last few weeks this all changed as I began to realize that my history is filled with just as many positive successes and improvements as it is with negative actions and self-destruction. I began to shift my focus from regret and shame about my past to an energetic hope and curiosity for today and the future.

Why is this shift relevant to my self-discovery in isolation? Quite simply I had an “Aha!” moment wherein I realized that despite possessing no more than a general education diploma, and having no formal education I was able to work my way to a top-level information technology position, start and eventually sell a successful IT services corporation, become a respected marine plankton researcher, establish a high level of expertise in accounting, finance, business development, and even teach myself macro photography. I did all this by keeping an attitude of “I can” and a willingness to work as hard as possible as often as possible on what “I can” do.

Of course, I also managed to self-destruct and lose all the wonderful benefits of these things in a short amount of time. Worse yet, each time I would try and rebuild I would dwell on my regrets and the negative actions and consequences from the past enabling myself to continue an inescapable loop of self-degrading negativity. I spent years in this loop laying a foundation to rebuild and then destroying it just as it was almost ready to support whatever structure I so chose. The idea of “almost” turned into something of a religious action, a self-destructive ceremony to celebrate the doctrine that I am not worth the success. This entire frame of thought is absolutely garbage in its entirety; an ironic thought given that my dream job as a child was to be a garbage man and “take out the trash”.

The thought that one can look at any positive action during a time that appeared to be primarily negative or simply stagnant and turn that positive action into a marketable experience becomes incredibly transformative when practiced.

Cue the aha moment, maybe if I stop living in regret and find the next thing that I want to accomplish I can break this loop. I have always enjoyed cooking, what some people consider tedious such as the act of chopping vegetables and other prep work has always been a form of working meditation for me. I have through practice established the skill of technical writing, I journal daily for myself to get my thoughts and ideas on paper though I rarely go back and read them.

Perhaps I should pursue the areas of culinary arts and amateur journalism; the absolute worst case is that I am unable to enter either field and so long as I remain positive I can remedy that situation by finding yet another new endeavor. The thought that one can look at any positive action during a time that appeared to be primarily negative or simply stagnant and turn that positive action into a marketable experience becomes incredibly transformative when practiced.

So given these positive thoughts, and a path forward the second part of my “little plan” begins; the part where I have to put in the work.  Closing the YouTube video of whatever political stream I was watching and coming here to build this site and begin my work.  Learning journalism the hard won way that I learned everything else with, that of trial and error.  I hope that this first musing (I hesitate to call it an article) not only invokes some sort of positive thoughts for you, but also invites constructive criticism to help me “find my way” in this new version of myself.

Thank you,

~Joe