Making friends with Overwhelm?

I admit it: I take on too many projects, commitments, appointments and I end up feeling squished into a corner when they collapse on me at one time.

In other words, I create overwhelm. ADHD overwhelm to be exact.

In the past, I have beaten myself to a bloody emotional pulp about it. “I have no one to blame but me. I said ‘yes’ to all this. I invited it in and now I am frantic. I can’t ask for help because everyone told me NOT to do this and I did it anyway. And now I am suffering alone. Poor me! But no, it’s not ‘poor me’ because I did this to myself…”  Blah blah blah blah.

It keeps going like this until I am tired of the self flagellation, finally kick into gear and paste on whatever BandAid® is required to keep most of the plates spinning. Then I deal with the ones that fall and shatter, swearing never to invite ‘too many things’ into my life again. Ever. Never. Won’t do it.

And then. I do it again. Grrrrrr! What is WRONG with me? Oh yeah, ADHD.

In the last few weeks, though, I’ve had a revelation about overwhelm. I think I keep inviting it into my life because I like it.

Huh? Why in the world would I deliberately put myself in the position of feeling crazy and out of control and overworked, far too busy and, let’s be honest, often far too crabby?

It’s an ADHD coping strategy!

Yep – all that overwhelm and excitement generated by “too much to do” forces my otherwise lazy neurotransmitters into full out racing mode. Then I can pay attention to all those details. Get things done. Feel alive.

Can it really be true? That my lifelong dance with overwhelm has been a deliberate and successful method of treating my ADHD?

“I always take on one more project than I can comfortably handle.”  That’s my response to comments about my overwhelm and stress. They keep me slightly off balance. I am forced to constantly rearrange, reassess and reconfigure my life to accommodate these interesting-but-frustrating events and projects. Which keeps my brain busy, busy, busy.

My brain likes to be busy. It’s the natural state of ADHD, right? So it is entirely possible that I have, indeed, been self-medicating my ADHD with perennial overwhelm.

Duh! I should have realized this a long time ago. Then I could have stopped fighting all this overwhelm and given it a hug. It’s actually doing me and my brain a favor.

From now on, when I feel squished into that corner of my own creation, I will try to remember that it’s not a bad thing. It’s my own coping mechanism for avoiding boredom, and thus avoiding ADHD brain slowdown (neurotransmitter-wise, at least).

Yes, I am gonna give that overwhelm its due. Thank you Overwhelm. You have been a loyal and trustworthy presence throughout my entire life. I now understand that you have been trying to support me, not tear me apart. I pledge to take a breath and merely smile knowingly the next time you show up.

Which, of course, is today.

Keep smiling, Linda.

Keep on smiling…

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