Update! The summer, work, and school.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog. But it’s time to update you on the successes of my life so far!

I’m currently a fifth year senior – not because I’m slow, but because the dual degree program is 5 years minimum – and finally living on my own in an apartment not too far away from my school. Classes started two weeks ago, and so far, I’m doing pretty well in them, despite German being at an ungodly hour in the morning. I’m taking 23 credit hours (which is 3 less than I had planned, so I’m not complaining), and working part time as an Assistant Children’s Ministry Director (even though I’m a self-proclaimed agnostic atheist), and enjoying the perks of being a full-time student with a job. I’ve discovered that jobs don’t come as easily for normal fresh-college-graduates as they did for me.

This summer I worked as a full-time nanny (a job which I seem to excel at), and later as a conductor of a children’s choir! I had so much fun doing the latter, I briefly considered switching my life plans from graduate school in history to full time children’s choir conductor. I’m even pushing for them to let me teach the kids popular hymns at our Sunday morning gatherings. J

Vocally, I’m in a different place. While I’m still pursuing my major in performance at a top level conservatory of music, I have had a few set-backs, most in the last month. I decided many months ago – if not years – that I would not continue my path toward a professional music career. I have settled with earning a Bachelor’s of Music, and I am content with that decision. However, I haven’t earned the B.M. yet, and vocally, I’ve recently learned that I have the beginnings of vocal nodules. (For those who don’t know, that means there are bumps on my vocal cords which are preventing them from coming together all the way and making singing very difficult; imagine having a small blister on your foot, but in order to run away from the lion chasing you, you have to run on that foot, and the blister gets bigger and bigger, eventually, incapacitating you and you can no longer walk. The more you walk on it, the more damage you do to your foot. The same is with the voice – if you keep singing, the bump on your vocal folds [as they are called] will get bigger and bigger and –if you let it get bad enough – you will no longer be able to sing at all and therefore will require surgery. Adele has had this done to her because she uses a raspy tone which, while stylistic, is damaging to her voice.) I don’t require surgery (as Adele did), just 6 weeks of vocal rest, some speech therapy, and acid reflux medicine. But that means no singing for 6 weeks. Imagine not being able to do what you love to do for 6 weeks. I can’t listen to my music because I sing. I have to sit down in choir because if I stand with everyone else, I’ll start singing. It’s a rough life. Anyway, my voice teacher and I have been talking and with his help, I have a plan and will be programming recital repertoire for my senior recital in May.

I also auditioned for a musical and was frustrated that I did not get in, but that’s life, eh? It sucked for a while, but my track record for getting through bad days is 100% good, so I’m ok now. But everyone has sucky days. And I’m going to go talk to the director and ask for audition feedback, which seems like an appropriate way of finding out how my audition went, since I thought I did well. But there’s a good part to this, because the performance is in a month and I can’t sing for 6 weeks. So I’ll be healthier for my recital in the long run.

Finally, I’ve been living the fifth-year senior lyfe, and it’s weird, but I’m really enjoying it. While the college kids go out and get high and drunk off their asses, I get to sit in my apartment and watch the season premiere of Bones (which was amazing. If you haven’t seen it and you watch Bones, I dare you not to cry – if not for real, in your soul.) with my yogurt and a blanket and a cup of tea. And I have no shame about it. Living alone has made me realize how much of an introvert I actually am. While I do have enough energy to watch 3 children for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, I love sitting at home and doing nothing, more.

I’m having a good time. I’ve got a stable diet of rice, soy sauce, pasta, eggs, and salad, and I’m living on my own in my apartment which has air conditioning and a double bed with a comfy comforter. I’m doing well.

…Even though German class is too early in the morning for a night owl.

New Beginnings and a New Year

It’s finally 2014!! 2013 went by so quickly! I was just getting used to writing 2013 on papers and not 2012.

I love the beginning of a new year. The new year is like a clean slate on your life. Whatever qualms you had in the previous 12 months are erased and you set goals for the next 12 months. It gives you a fresh start. It gives me a fresh start. Though I don’t really write resolutions, I try to think in a broad sense of what I want this year to be; a fresh start. Don’t let the less-than-wonderful moments of last year affect how you live your life this year, Jenna. Use these next 12 months to prove to yourself that you can do better. Because you can.

It’s a requirement the life-manual for a kid with ADHD to feel guilty or ashamed of many things they do in the past, more-so than the average non-ADHD person. I am no exception to this rule. There are many times where impulsivity gets the better of me and I speak out of turn, interrupt a conversation, or just make bad, impulsive decisions. I’ve said many times that I do not believe ADHD to be an excuse for behavior, but merely an explanation. People with ADHD should not be pitied, but given chances. Because we can. There have been many times this year where I have pitied myself, felt bad for myself, and even hated myself for my behaviors/actions. For example, sleeping in and missing class (which is something I unfortunately have done more times than I can count), or not turned in a homework assignment, or lost something of great importance to me (such as a ring, which luckily has been retrieved from the bowels of my closet). Those moments especially related to academic achievement are most guilt-laden. I blame myself – why did you press snooze 13 times this morning??? – and blame my ADHD – if I didn’t have ADHD, this wouldn’t have happened. But in truth, there is no point in placing blame. The past is the past. I don’t have a TARDIS to travel back in time to fix those things which I messed up. The only thing I can do is move forward. Start fresh. Look at those moments and resolve to try harder and do better. Because I can.

So this year, I resolve to start new. I will not let those past blunders bring me down. I will make mistakes this year, as everyone does, but I will try not to place blame, because blame does nothing. I will make mistakes and I will put them in the past. I will live in the present moment and think about the future and I won’t look back. I will live my life how I want to live it, and I will love every step of the way.

Accommodations, Negativity, and the Power of Words

This last month, I forgot my medicine when my choir went on a retreat and had to go home (this was migraine medication with huge withdrawal consequences). This was a mandatory event, and the conductors were pissed. I’ve been through the ADHD conversation with many of my professors, but this one was different. Though he claimed to understand the nature of a learning disability, our conversation ended in him implying I am less than capable and that “real life doesn’t make accommodations.” 

You know, I don’t think he actually understands. Firstly, real life does indeed make accommodations. Ask anyone who’s ever published a book. Or ask any college student who’s asked for an extension on an assignment. Secondly, just because I’m allowed accommodations, doesn’t mean I need to use them. Just ask my history professors. And my aural skills exams. Lastly, I’m pretty sure (though not positive, so don’t take my word on this) that negative reinforcement doesn’t work on any kid with ADHD. With me, if I only receive negative feedback, (even if it’s meant to be constructive) I forget about what I can do. I begin to think that I can’t do anything, so why even bother putting effort into it. Life is a daily challenge for kids/adults with ADHD, and sometimes we screw up. More often than “normal” people. And when we do, people notice. We get called out on it. It’s frustrating because we know we could’ve done better. I’m used to people calling out my mistakes, because I make tons of them. People who only ever observe me in these stressful situations begin to wonder if i can do anything at all. And you know, I could go on and on about the cycle of negativity, but if you have a child with ADHD, or if you have ADHD, you know how wearing it can be on your psyche, your emotions, and your physical self.

Here’s a modified Negative Cognitive Triad (which I have made into a quad…) which is a good visual for what I’m trying to say.Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 7.53.10 PM

Like many others, I hate the word disability (though the concept is a different story). I think the word is horribly negative since in it’s literal sense it means the lack of ability. And when people see the phrase “learning disability” they automatically attribute a negative bias to anyone with the disorder. But ADHD is not just a list of everything we can’t do like everyone else. We just have different abilities. If somebody watches you and points out every mistake you make during the day, I’m sure you would feel pretty bad about yourself. I’m sure you’d say, “but look at what I did do!” Any person would feel discouraged if every mistake they made was critiqued. ADHD people just tend to make more of them. And that there is my point. We tend to make more mistakes and they tend to be bigger, which leads to increased shame and humility as people are more likely to notice our mistakes and point them out, as they tend to have much greater consequences. Then people begin to anticipate the mistakes. And the cycle is back in play.

It’s kind of like being bullied. Actually, it’s very much like being bullied.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not looking to be treated as special. I’m definitely not looking for people to treat me as if I am fragile. What do I want? Though I know this is not always possible, I want my smaller mistakes to be ignored and looked over, because I know I make them every single time I do something wrong. I just would like for people to not point out every single thing I do wrong. But mostly, I want people to realize what effect their words have on others.

[N.B. It’s been a long week. I’m sorry this isn’t more organized. I just needed to get it down on “paper.”]

No Day But Today – Jonathan Larson

The heart may freeze or it can burn.
The pain will ease if i can learn,
There is no future.
There is no past.
Thank god this moment’s not the last.

There’s only us.
There’s only this.
Forget regret
or life is yours to miss.
No other road.
No other way.
No day but today.

I can’t control my destiny.
I trust my soul.
My only hope is just to be.

There’s only now.
There’s only here.
Give into love or live in fear.
No other path.
No other way.

No day but today.

Week ONE: What worked, what didn’t.

So this first week has been a mixed bag of good and bad. On the bright side, I didn’t miss a single class and I had an excellent lesson. I also realized a dream and have invested in getting a small pet, which will happen in 2 weeks (a topic which I will discuss in further detail later, much to the chagrin of my mother, but hey, I’m an adult). On the downside, I forgot meds and had to miss a mandatory choir retreat. And I slept through my volunteer job at the Nursery, which is a shame, since I always look forward to it. Yeah, not such a good weekend for me.

But otherwise, senior year seems to be going well so far. I cleaned my room, and now I’m working on organizing it. I turned in all my required forms and paperwork for classes/having a car on campus, and I am taking an italian placement exam tomorrow. Ironically, the thing I was looking forward to the most for this year is turning out to be the thing I’m dreading most this year: Concert Choir. There’s only so much I can put up with a bunch of high-strung singers with gigantic egos. I love singing; I hate being a singer. Too many egos and cliques and way way too much energy.

So since all the bad things of the week happened this weekend, I’ve decided that it’s time to take my medicine and get working on things that absolutely need to be done. I have a list made out, but let me put it here too, just so you have some insight into how I organize myself in real life.

– Conducting homework
– ITALIAN REVIEW
– finish organizing my room
– maybe do some laundry, depending on the time I have left.

So, that’s what’s on my list for today. And a final thing that I do, which you might find helpful if you’re like and often get down on yourself when you mess up. I make a sign – maybe on a post-it-note or something – and put it in plain sight. It says, YOU CAN DO THIS. Because there is no day but today, and there is no point in dwelling on the past. What happened happened, and all I can do is move on and learn from it. Be BETTER. So I am going to strive this week to be better and pull my shit together. Because it’s too early in the year to fall apart.

Wibbly Wobbly Summer Days/To-Do-Lists!

Sometimes, when Italian school is over and you’re all caught up on sleep 2 weeks later, you come to a realization that summer is 1) coming to a close, and 2) not as great as it’s hopped up to be. Today I got four cavities filled (shut up… just shut up), a painful massage, even more painful hand therapy, and to cap it all off, I got myself abandoned at the grocery store because I’m stupid and forgot my cell in mom’s car. How was your day?

I’m sorry about the lack of posting. Which brings up the topic of this short post: the importance of keeping a to-do list. I have found that keeping a list is what keeps me in line and on time. I believe that all children need a consistent schedule in order to develop good habits and behaviors for later life, but with ADHD, this can be difficult. Though it’s harder to stick us to a schedule, it’s also much more important. As I got older, I realized that if I wanted to remember things, they needed to be either written down, or ingrained habits. Like brushing my teeth every night, or washing hands before meals. When they’re not habitual patterns, writing down what I needed to do over and over again was the best method of committing it to memory. With an executive functioning problem to go along with ADHD, To-Do lists were my coping mechanism. I made them all the time (and during the school year, I still do), so that I remember to go to appointments, remember classes, and schedule time in to practice and do homework. My to-do lists are also “time stamped” in that they have times. For example:

  1. 9.50-11.00: History
  2. 11.10-12.20 Free time: history homework
  3. 12.30-1.40 class
  4. 1.45-2.30 practice
  5. 2.35-3.10 history hwk
  6. 3.15-4.15 choir
  7. 4.30-5.30 geology homework

That’s just a quick example of a to-do list that I would make to get me through a day. I would often write it down a few times during the day just so that I can anticipate what kind of homework I need to do when. I have to say, the homework that is least likely to get done is the stuff at the bottom of the list. But the inbetween class times are prime slots for homework-doing. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point. I like lists because they keep me focused on the tasks I must complete during the day, and by what time. 

So parents, my advice to all of you starting this journey, especially to those of you who have Adult ADHD: TO-DO-LIST that sh*t. Because it’ll keep you from procrastinating in your typical fashion.

I promise I will be writing more frequently once the school year starts. Right now I’m just trying to soak up the last bit of sun, and fix all my electronics before school starts again. But it was really lovely to find out last week that I actually start a week later than I thought I did. So I get a week longer of sleeping until 2:30pm (yeah, you think I’m kidding) and a trip with the family to NYC! YAY! 

Buona notte, interwebs!

Letting Go of the Maroon Crayon

75-maroon-crayon“He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him.” – part of a 13th century proverb.

There’s this kid in my Italian class who is the DEFINITION of the above statement. I’ve put up with him for the last 6 weeks, I’m just ready to clock him.

Which leads me to the topic of this post: the difficulties I have letting go of some things. Usually those things/people/ideas that piss me off/upset me/are wrong. Like Michele I-brag-about-how-rich-I-am-to-compensate-for-my-small-penis Smart-Ass. And that maroon crayon I lost in the Arizona desert a few years ago… ok… more like 17 years ago… close enough.

You will find that this topic is related to the last one, about obsessions. When I was a kid, I would lose things (a red balloon, for instance), and would be inconsolable for days after. The best way I can describe it is that I felt as if I had lost a part of myself. It was really weird. I lost the maroon crayon walking through the Arizona cacti and I swear to god, my soul didn’t feel the same for years after. That’s really the best I can say about how it felt, because all these  years later, it is hard to remember what Little Jenna felt back then.

However, as I have grown, so have my methods of coping with distress. It should be said that I do deal with anxiety and depression (which some of you may know is common with people who live with ADHD), and my coping strategies for letting go of stressful thoughts had become increasingly morbid as I got older and the situations got bigger. In high school, I was bullied like no other, and by the time graduation rolled around, I was dreaming, nightly, about killing members of my class in horrible violent ways. And yes, I know this was an ongoing traumatic event for me (since I went to one school for 13 years and grew up with the same 20 people for 13 of them) but it has taken me years to stop brooding about how much I hated my school. People tell me that it’s really time for me to give up, but I just couldn’t. Just like with the maroon crayon, I could never fill that hole that school had left in my soul. For about 2 years, when I would have to drive there to pick up my sister from school, I’d end up with migraines and a killer temper. It took a long time to realize why I got migraines when going to school. But I just wanted to show you how much it affected me for years after I graduated. (You’ll be happy to know that this has since changed. I no longer hold [as much] animosity toward my primary/secondary school, I have visited teachers whom I liked, given a passive aggressive interview to the Development Office about my 13 years there, and my dreams are now filled with rainbow unicorns prancing in fields of flowers.)

Ok. I’m not really sure what I was showing there besides what NOT to do to get rid of anger (giving vindictive ,passive aggressive interviews to achieve a sense of “SUCK IT!”, for example, though that was probably the most satisfying way of getting closure) but I do want to point a few things out to you parents that did help me – those things which were much more behind the scenes, but definitely the most important.

1. Therapy.  This is a topic I will definitely cover more in depth later, but I just wanted to get something out there: To those of you who think shrinks are for crazy people, you’re so so wrong. I have 2 in my life. Therapy is great even for the person who is just going through a hard time. Because guess what? They sit there, and they listen and they can even give feedback that you WANT to hear. “Yeah, she sounds like a bitch.” I am a strong believer in therapy. I wish to dispel the common myth that therapy is for crazies, because therapy can teach people valuable life skills. So if you have ADHD, or your son or daughter has ADHD, therapy is a great place to let out those pent up feelings and get some good advice, or just to have someone listen to you and/or your child. Someone who understands. They will make your life so much easier.

2. Getting Out. The best thing for me was getting the hell out of that school. From there, though it took a while, I was able to slowly begin to let go.

3. Distractionssss! My personal favorite method. This is usually my go-to when I don’t have anything else available. I use this skill all the time. Thinking about something else keeps you from brooding.

4. Writing it down. As a kid and even now, I was always a huge writer. I kept journal upon journal in which I would write everything that happened in the day. As I got older, they got filled with more stuff about boys, but at least writing about something allowed me to talk about it in some way. And I found that I felt much better once it was on paper. I think I went through a journal every 6 months. But writing was a way for me to just rant at the world. I tended to write about the good stuff that happened in the day, but even that was comforting to me. It made me recount the good things that occurred, rather than focusing on the negatives.

I will go into more Distress Tolerance Skills later, but these are just a few things I have used to help me move on. Though the maroon crayon is still in my thoughts, I no longer ache for it’s return. Rest in Peace.

Obsessions

You know, there’s only so much Harry Potter you can tolerate hearing about in one day. But Timmy can seemingly talk about the boy wizard for days and days without any sign of boredom. Why can’t he apply this energy to studying for his spelling test?

This is the main reason why I don’t think “Attention Deficit” is a good name for our condition. As previously stated, I would prefer a name closer to “incorrectly applied attention” or “selective attention with some Asperger’s-ish traits*,” because honestly, those are much more accurate. Yes parents, I know that the last thing you want to think of is your child having any condition somewhat related to the Autism Spectrum, but I really see it as useful insight into our world. Just like children with Autism, we also display some obsessional qualities. For me, personally, the word “obsessional” does not quite sound right, maybe because I associate the word to a more sinister meaning, but for other people, it may be accurate and that is totally fine! The word I like to use is “hyperattention.” See, unlike children on the autism spectrum, we are not completely locked into these obsessions, and when need be, display a flexibility to change that children on the Spectrum simply cannot. Though we may be over passionate about certain things and may have trouble switching topics, it’s not (always/as much so as) for the same reasons as the Autistic child. While I may not want to change the subject because I’m on a roll, I am able to switch topics with functional displacement in everyday life: basically, I may be a bit disgruntled that you don’t want to talk about Doctor Who with me, but I can move on. An Autistic child may be unable to switch topics, and often will be unable to communicate at all once the topic has changed, since he literally does not know how.

But back to my point. I believe that we display what is more accurately called “hyper-attention.” Basically, when we’re interested in a topic, it’s hard to forget it. All the energy that could have been put into doing homework, is put into doing something else, such as memorizing all lines of the first Harry Potter movie (ok, maybe that was just me…). You’ll probably find that while your daughter has trouble remembering where she put her shoes, she can recite, word for word, the exact lines from her favorite book.

So here’s what I recommend:

  1. Time Management Skills: Allot a certain amount of time for one activity that she has to do (such as homework), then give her, say 30 minutes, of time to do what she wishes to do. Make sure that she comes back from that activity to get back to doing her work. This is the MAIN piece of advice I’d give to any parent of a child with ADHD.
  2. Also, buy a timer. I always had one that went around my neck so I didn’t lose it. Make sure she uses the timer. Cause otherwise, it defeats the purpose of a timer.
  3. Lastly, be patient yet unrelenting. Your daughter won’t learn as well from her mistakes, so you must make it a habit to sticking to a plan. If there’s no set plan (or structure) she won’t do anything. Trust me. Story of my life. Though I had all of these things, it still is difficult for me to do something like homework or cleaning my room (without medication) because I’d just rather do other things. Be patient with your child, yet don’t slip up.

On that note, I have to start my homework. Italian time! (I’m learning Italian this summer!) good luck!

*I would like to make it known that I am quite knowledgeable about Autism and the other disorders on the Autistic Spectrum. I have taken numerous classes on abnormal psychology, live with a child psychiatrist, and for many years wished to become a specialist in the field. I have done my own research on the topic, have worked with children with the disorder, and understand the Disorder perhaps a bit more than the average person, solely through my exposure to the field.

New Stuff! (Theme and Pages!) Just an update

Firstly, I’m sick. And it sucks. And I have to sing Verdi on friday (Verdi was not nice to vocalists: he makes them work really hard. aka, it’s a heavier style of singing). Anyway, when I called my mom yesterday to complain about how miserable I was feeling, apparently I was sounding really loopy and “you were talking way more than your normal chatty-self”. Yay! But I did want to update you all that I haven’t abandoned you. And that I’d love for people to request topics to write about. I had a dream last night that someone requested a “misery” page (probably related to my current state of misery with illness), where I wrote about all the bad things about the disorder and my life, but I’ve decided not to do that one. Partly because I’m too out-of-it with this cough medicine, but mostly because it would just be boring!

Anyway, I’m rambling. Here’s what I’ve been meaning to say:

A few days ago I added a contact page and a page which explains the subtypes of ADHD. The latter is pretty self explanatory, but never the less, quite interesting! The second page is what I really want to talk about. Basically, I would LOVE to hear from you, whether it be a story about ADHD and your life, or a question about my life, or even a topic you would like me to cover. I have a tentative list of things I want to cover, but if you have anything that you would specifically want me to write about, tell me so in the contact page! I will definitely try to write about it! So click HERE to write to me!

Ok. I’m going back to bed now.