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…
OMG! A lifetime of being told I take on too much. I don’t think it works in the same way for me, its out of control. I often collapse under the strain, am rendered incapable for days, weeks, months. A lifetime preparing so many activities, and never getting my teeth into them, or the satisfaction of completion. My recent autism diagnosis led me to assume that it was lack of filter that was the problem. Yet I can see that there is that repeated hit of excitement, and once I’m taking stuff on, it accelerates of its own accord. Of course. Dopamine hits. Its wonderful to see it as serving a vital function, even if it does backfire. Now I’m diagnosed with ADHD (for 3 months) I can maybe learn how to utilise it better. For sure, since medication, overwhelm does seem to demand that I step up, rather than down. Thank you.
Yes, yes, yes! ?? My constant roller coaster of overwhelm is what finally led to my diagnosis as an adult. My cycle was … ooooh, shiny opportunity or exciting idea (there are a lot of those with ADHD), hyperfocus and go hard at achieving, have a measure of success, be unable to sustain my effort, crash, shame/confusion, pick myself up, repeat. After 40+ years of that circus, my diagnosis and treatment have led to greater self-awareness. I’m finally able to step back and realize that I can’t do everything. My heart really believes that’s okay now, whereas before saying no to things felt like failure. Balance means I need to be thoughtful about what I agree to take on and when. I’m just aiming for consistency these days. ??
This is me!! I always feel like this. I never really looked at overwhelm this way. This is a great insight.
This was so insightful Linda!
Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
I relate to this however I am worn out from it and have decided to meditate each morning on having a calm and easy day and to get comfortable with it and get to the bottom of why ami doing this -to undertstand why have I have been doing this to myself and keeping myself in this state of overwhelm. What am I trying to accomplish and is it really important and/or what am I avoiding by being so unconscious with my choices.
You AND me, my friend. You hit the nail on the head. And I like the idea of embracing this pattern vs slugging ourselves over the head. What the heck is so bad about being bored? I have no idea- I’ve never been bored. Just OVERWHELMED. 🙂
Ah, the overwhelming life which I, too, chose! As a retired older woman, this way of life has become exhausting. It’s time to make a new choice or three.
Love this!! Perhaps, like the person who cheats on their partner as an unconscious coping mechanism which helps them (or pretends to) by forcing their sluggish brain to stay alert — in the same way, we ADHDers overload ourselves with more than we can handle, in an effort to keep our brains alert and functioning! Not an optimal strategy, but it DOES keep life interesting!
You are so strong. You have realized this and done something about it. Acceptance of something is the first step to overcoming what it is. I understand my faults and issues but just can’t seem to kick in the “Neurotransmitter’s” so to speak. It must be different for Inattentive’s.
I am just beginning to be acquainted with my ADHD. At first I thought overwhelmed was my middle name. I just retired on September 29th and I have not slowed down much at all. I did get anxious the first Monday I woke up and did not have to go to work. I did say that I was going to take some time off, for at least a week. That didn’t happen. By Thursday I started my part time job, had to read a lot for the class I’m taking. I’m answering the questions text to me by the person who took my place, I had to finish up a sermon I was preparing for Sunday and I had to meet with the committee that would give the go ahead for my candidacy to be ordained a Deacon. And that was just my first week of retirement! There is so much to do and I’m loving it. JC
Love this!!! Thank you!
Linda, this a perfect description of my life too! I’ve long known that I work better when I’m put under pressure by myself and have only recently identified as ADHD or non-neurotypical! I get to a ‘Crash’ point, then gradually I can ramp myself back up to do it again! I have been very successful using these ‘gifts’, but now I know that I have to ‘pace’ my self or get ill (CFS/ME), the way my body ‘switches me off’.
I like the ‘squished into a corner’ description, I’ll use it in my ‘self-talk’ and ‘pacing’.