In general, I am good at helping people when they are having a (non-medical) crisis. If I can’t help you fix it, I can usually talk you down to a reasonable place and help you figure out who can. I become very focused and attentive during a crisis; which is pretty much the opposite of how I am in the rest of my life. In the rest of my life, I can barely slow down my thoughts long enough to complete a single one.
Picture me standing in the backyard with a basket full of clean, wet laundry. Now, here’s what’s in my head:
There’s only enough room on the line for half of the laundry. Should I hang the sheets and put the towels in the dryer or put the sheets in the dryer and hang the towels and all the white socks because they could use a good sun bleaching? Do I have enough clothes pins? I just bought more; where are the rest of the clothes pins? Wait. What was I doing before I brought the laundry out here? Did I start the dishes? Did I turn off the hot water?? I hate it when I waste water and over fill the sink. Water. I really need to water the trees in the backyard. I keep forgetting to water the trees. I hope the trees don’t die. I hope I get my shit together soon and start watering the trees so they don’t die. Why can’t I just water the trees? I wish it would rain. I wish these trees didn’t need water everyday. I wish someone else would water the stupid trees. I wish someone loved me enough to water my trees everyday for me. Nobody loves me! Waaaaaaa! And on, and on, and on…
When I’m in crisis mode, non of that crap is in my head, which is a massive relief…. to say the least. The usual chatter disappears and irrelevant external stimuli no longer have the power to hijack my attention and overload my thoughts. (Again, as long as it’s someone else’s crisis; I’m mostly a mess during my own.) Getting a break from all the noisy chatter in my head feels like air after swimming to the surface in deep water.
But the feeling goes away when the crisis is over– sometimes it lingers, but it always leaves. And lately I’ve noticed that when the feeling leaves, the piles of laundry and life left behind (or avoided) while I played hero, rise up and seem even bigger than I’d left them. As my brain kicks back into business-as-usual mode, the piles overwhelm me and I freeze up– deer in headlights– as I try to decide which pile to tackle first. The choices overwhelm me, self-doubt creeps in, and I often fail to pick a pile. My failure to choose leads to fatigue and self-loathing. Fatigue and self-loathing often lead to hiding under blankets. Hiding under blankets leads to bigger piles which leads to more brain chatter and self-loathing. It’s a wild ride.
So I’m working on that. I’m working on letting people I care about solve their own problems. I’m working on saying no to some so that I can say yes to the ones that matter most to me. I’m working on finding other, healthier ways to quiet and calm my brain.
I’ve tried running. I still run. Sometimes. Running definitely gives the chatter a more positive tone, but it’s still noisy in there. What I need is quiet; a quiet break from my own brain. Art and writing help. Immersing myself into something creative– getting lost in a project (hyper focus in ADHD speak) can work just as well as crisis.
My struggle with this is that it’s so much easier and more socially acceptable to drop everything and help someone than it is to drop everything and write jokes or make collages. Finding time for art in the midst of single-parenting two young boys is very challenging. Crisis, on the other hand, doesn’t care if you find time; it finds you.
Does anyone else have this problem? (Of course someone else has this problem: this is the internet, not a Judy Blume novel.) Does anyone else who is reading my whiny drivel have this problem? If so… what do you do to get quiet? I’ll try anything– short of heavy drinking, drug use, or sex addiction.