Category Archives: life

I’m back (again….)

…maybe my return will “stick” this time? 😛

First, I want to thank those of you who have stuck with me despite such a long absence. I really appreciated the comments and messages you’ve sent during the last year while I’ve been “away.” These helped me feel more like myself during the very hard first year with baby Adelle in our household.

Oh boy, has it been a year.

With my return to the blogosphere, I should warn you that the focus  of my blog is probably going to shift a bit because my life has shifted so much since Adelle’s arrival. I love my baby to pieces, but being a parent is hard work. ADHD or not, this is the hardest job I’ve ever done. My dissertation comes close, but this is still way harder and rewarding in ways academia (or any job) could never be. This shift might annoy some of you who are not parents. Sorry 😦  The polish will also probably be off the writing because this is a task that will have to be reserved for after bedtime, when I’m already tired and still have work to do before heading to bed. My goal is one post per week. I might get to more than one per week during the summer, and I might struggle to get to one per week once the school year starts back up again. We’ll see how things go.

Moreso than before, I’m finding that it’s incredibly important to have reasonable goals in mind for each day, both at work and at home. I’m still keeping my task list going, and I’ve instituted a new electronic system for tracking paper-writing progress (more about this in a future entry). I don’t write down the home goals, usually because they stare me in the face and can’t be forgotten as easily as relatively nebulous work goals. I’ve also found that I need to be nice to myself when I fall short at home or at work, and to keep things in perspective.

Off of my blog, my first home goal for tonight is to take out the trash. This will involve sneaking into Adelle’s room to empty her diaper pail (YUCK). This doesn’t sound like a big challenge, but it’s tricky to do this without making lots of noise. Plus, once I have the trash ready to go, I have to open the garage door to take it outside… and of course, Adelle’s room is directly over the garage and she’s not the heaviest of sleepers. If we make it through the trash without waking her up, then we run the risk again when we unload & reload the dishwasher (i.e., a task that must be done daily with 3 people living in a house, especially when one of them goes through about 10 sippy cups in a day and loves to watch her spoon fall on the floor after she drops it from the highchair). Usually she sleeps until the point when I *just* sit down with my cup of herbal tea…. To non-parent readers, this evening’s plan of action probably sounds incredibly lame. Readers who are parents will likely understand how difficult it is to get these two little tasks done after chasing after a toddler for the last few hours after putting in a day at work.

Of course, since Adelle’s arrival the house has suffered. The home goals are much smaller now than they used to be, and we have lower standards for what is acceptable. The same has happened at work. I really didn’t write at all for most of Adelle’s first year. I spent most of the year trying to do a full-time job on 60% time. It didn’t work so well: I was exhausted all the time from interrupted sleep and couldn’t focus very well because I was so anxious about not making progress. It’s just now that things are starting to get back on track: I just submitted an article last month, the first one I’ve written in about 18 months, and I’m incredibly proud to have done so. The next step will be easier, because the first is always the hardest…

…and with that, I will now take that first step toward taking out the trash 🙂

 

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an ADD-friendly adaption of the 10-10-10 plan decision making

This morning I was watching the Today show as I prepared for work. I usually have it on while I get ready, as it’s a great way to keep on schedule in the morning. The segments are short, and they regularly announce the time, so it’s a lot harder to procrastinate with constant, cheery reminders. Today Suzy Welch was on the show promoting her new book 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea.

Granted, this is an oversimplification, but the gist of the 10-10-10 plan is that whenever somebody needs to make a decision, they should stop and ask themselves about the consequences of that decision/action in the next 10 minutes, the next 10 months, and the next 10 years. The best/right decision is the one that leads people to  where they want to be 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years later.

I was intrigued by this simple plan both as an ADDer and an academic who professionally studies issues related to this, but also because I’d intuitively come up with a way to do this on my own, and have been using a modified version of this strategy for at least the last two years.  I can see how this would be particularly challenging for ADDers, who might end up feeling overwhelmed by the 10-10-10 plan.  I know that this strategy could be difficult to employ in the heat of the moment, but I think it’s worth it to give it a try, with or without an ADD-friendly modification.

Part 1: Set aside a few free moments and figure out where you want to be in 10 months and in 10 years. If this seems too distant, think in the increments that work best for you. I tend to think about where I want to be 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years from now. I write these down in one of my notebooks, and keep notes on the steps to reach these goals (i.e., what I’ve accomplished, what I still need to do, back-up plans in case things go wrong along the way). Revisit this plan on a regular basis as suits you, and make changes as your life and goals change. Knowing what you want out of life makes it easier to do the second part, which is the ADD-friendly modification.

Part 2: A short-term modification of this strategy is key for staying on track in day-to-day life, particularly for getting through those “off-track” moments. I suggest a 1-1-1 approach. Whenever I catch myself doing something counterproductive (e.g., procrastinating on Facebook, not doing whatever is on my daily list, etc.), I take about 30 seconds and ask myself “How is this getting me where I need to be in in one minute? In one hour? In one day?” If I’m having a really bad procrastination day, I ask myself “What am I doing in this one moment that is going to keep me from meeting the day’s goals? How else will I go off track for the rest of the week and month if I don’t keep on track right now?” (Disclaimer: As beating yourself up can be counterproductive for ADDers, I don’t recommend bringing out this second set of cognitions unless your motivation is at major lows).

As all the ADD books say, it’s all about small steps and keeping yourself motivated. Knowing where you want to go is a big part of this, and structuring your life so you can get there is another important piece.

contemplating a change of direction

A couple of realizations and events have started me thinking about a possible change of life direction. It’s not a huge shift… really just a subtle shift that I’ve wanted to try for a while.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved to read and write. In junior and senior high school, I was always the student winning the writing prizes at my school and in my local area. I had short stories published in student literary newspapers, and even read one of them on our local NPR station. In college I was drawn to a career in academia because of writing (specifically the challenge of academic writing), and I currently spend most of my time at work writing or reviewing others’ written work. I blog when I have the free time (obviously!). In sum, I’ve always loved to write, and I’ve been reasonably good at it for quite some time.

I still love to write, but my enthusiasm for academic writing has slowly waned over the years, starting in grad school. As a grad student, it depressed and bothered me that I could feel a little bit of creativity disappear for every professional writing skill I mastered. But, one of the major points of graduate training is to learn the formula for one’s chosen discipline, and once a student masters that particular recipe for writing, they are able to produce bland academic texts. Academic writing is formulaic (i.e., every article follows the same general format, and I even use the same phrases over and over again in all of my publications). I mastered my two grad advisors’ shared recipe so well that when the three of us write together, we can no longer tell who produced any particular passages of text.  There’s very little room for true creativity; peer reviewers will justifiably reject articles that deviate from the accepted writing formula. I’ve done this myself as a reviewer on multiple occasions.  Overall, as I’ve become more competent with accumulated experience, academic writing has become less challenging. I enjoy it less because I’m able to do it better, but doing academic writing well means having zero imagination. This kills me.

For years I’ve wanted to write a novel. I jotted down lots of ideas for storylines during my grad school days, and have kept notes on others that have come to mind since then. I just have never had the time to follow through on any of my ideas. All of my time has always been dedicated to getting ahead at work, which has meant grinding out publications as quickly as possible, but I’ve never really felt like I was truly on the right path. It’s almost like I’ve been living in a room painted beige, and even pretending to like it, when I knew I wanted the walls to be bright red.

I’m thrilled that I now feel situated to paint at least half of the room red. In fact, I think the best, healthiest thing for me it to start doing this as soon as possible.

Here’s why: A couple of months ago I turned in my first semester binder for evaluation. This binder included a written report of my progress in teaching, research and scholarship, as well as my teaching evaluations, published articles, documentation of service, and so forth. This is how the department chair and various committees and “higher ups” make determinations about tenure, promotions, raises, and firings. I’ve now received my feedback on my first semester’s progress at my new institution, and it was unanimously excellent. I am exactly where I should be for teaching and service at this point, and I’m performing far above where I  need to be for research productivity (in fact, I produced about 50% more in one semester than most of my colleagues produced during a full academic year). After 10+ years running full-speed like a hamster in a wheel, I can finally relax a little bit. Quite simply, I don’t have to keep working as hard as I’ve been working in order to do well enough at my institution. I can scale back my research, do more of my teaching & service during the normal school day (time I usually spend on research), and thus have my evenings and weekends free for doing things I really want to do.

What I really want to do is write something fun. I’m good at it and enjoy it. I deserve it. Even if it doesn’t ‘go anywhere,’ it will be worth it to me to feel like my creative self again.

These last few months I’ve been drained, and it’s been making me miserable. I’ve been on spring break this past week and have been too tired to even put away the clean laundry that’s been piling up for over 2 months. I’m just too dead. The highlight of my week was reading the entire Twilight series from start to finish (my new favorite; Melissa, thanks for recommending it to me!). But, reading Stephenie Meyer’s emotionally-charged writing and feeling so excited about it has motivated me to start thinking toward my other goals, which really *are* compatible with my professional direction. I hope that this will have a carry-over effect: If I’m happier in my free time, then maybe the beige walls of academia will be even more tolerable.

A part of me is terrified… so many worries.  What if this is just an “ADD moment” of impulsive decision-making? Can I really balance it all without going crazy? Am I just trying to escape a slightly imperfect career fit?  What if I’m truly unable to be creative now that my I’m such a practiced academic writer? What if I end up being the cliched academic who tries to turn novelist and fails enormously? What if I start working on this story idea and then it all falls apart? What if I only have the one story in me?

Perhaps worst of all, what if I never try and always regret it?

I think it’s finally time to take the plunge. As I stand at the end of the springboard and stare down into the pool below, I couldn’t be happier that I’m about to jump…

new rules for my blog

Part of the reason for my long absence was that I was contemplating ending this blog. On one hand, it started to feel like a personal liability, and on the other, I didn’t feel like I was meeting my goals for starting the blog. For the time being, I’ve decided to keep it going, but there are going to be some new rules.

Regarding it feeling like a liability… Non-academics might think academics are paranoid about protecting their “private selves” from the public at large (e.g., students and their parents), but let me assure you that there’s good cause for our paranoia. For example, my students regularly try to “Friend” me on facebook so they can see my profile and photos. Also, when candidates are on the job market, it’s not unusual for search chairs to “google” them to see what else is on the web in their name. Consequently, I have to be vigilant about the information that is publicly available. In sum, I blog anonymously for a reason. I ask that you please respect me on this matter, even if you know me in the real world.  I’ve opted to change my policy on comments so I may have better oversight. From this point forward, all comments will be moderated and will not appear on posts until I’ve approved them.  Don’t let this hold you back from commenting… just respect my privacy and your comments will show up as promptly as possible.

The reason I blog anonymously is because much of what I’ve written here details my personal journey with the mental health system in addition to my experiences as an ADDer in the academy. I do this both for my own benefit and for others out there like me.  I started this blog was to find other academics stuggling with the same types of issues, but unfortunately, there aren’t very many out there or my little blog hasn’t reached them.  I hope that this situation continues to improve, and that we can build a network of addled professionals together.

how to schedule exercise

After a prolonged hiatus, I am back! The grant(s) are in, and I finally feel like I’m reasonably on top of things again.

The only goal I’m not meeting so well right now is exercise. I’m not getting enough, particularly since moving to New City, where I am forced to drive everywhere because there is no infrastructure for walking. This is troubling because exercise is good for health, good for helping to minimize ADD symptoms, and can help with sleep (see helpful posts by Tara and Jennifer Koretsky on this very topic).

The problem with exercise is fitting it in my schedule/life. When I wake up in the morning (7 am), I’m groggy and need my morning caffeine and a bite to eat. Then I shower, get ready, and go to work for the day (arrive around 9-9.30). Three days/week I teach until after 6 pm, and on those days, I am ravenous for dinner once I arrive at home. I eat dinner. Then I’m too full to exercise, and it’s too late, as it will end up “revving me up” too much for me to sleep at a normal hour. Go to bed. Sleep. Repeat.

I fear having to set my alarm and start the day any earlier because I’m already pretty worn out by the time I’m done teaching class. I don’t function well at 6 am, particularly not on an empty stomach.

I’m curious… how do other academics (with or without ADD) make this work in their schedules without driving themselves crazy?

I know more about ADD/ADHD than my psychiatrist

It’s annoyingly official… I know more about treating ADD/ADHD than my new psychiatrist (1st year psychiatry resident). I asked her today about medications & pregnancy and she said that she’d have to get back to me about it… and amazingly, this is a specialty ADD/ADHD clinic in my local university hospital.

In the same conversation, she also tried to order me to take my SSRI for PMDD continuously instead of in two week cycles. Actually, she’d never heard about people taking SSRIs in two-week cycles for the treatment of PMDD.

I’ll call her in a week to talk about ADD meds & pregnancy. I had to promise to not get pregnant in the  next week until she’s had a chance to do her research.

I respect that there’s a learning curve and that new doctors need to be given allowances to learn how to practice medicine… but I don’t have time for this, and think I need to find a new doctor.

how to move

At long last, hubby and I are *finally* mostly-settled in the new house. What I mean by “mostly-settled” is settled enough to function. We still can’t find various crucial items, and there are still quite a few boxes in each room, but we can get through our daily tasks without too much difficulty. It only took a month, but this highlights my first point about moving: It takes more time than you’d think.

Case in point: While we were packing, Hubby kept making comments along the lines of “This isn’t going to take us very long at all! We can finish the packing in a weekend, load the truck in three hours, and unload it the same afternoon!” Although Hubby helped with the packing on our last move from Grad School City to Postdoc City, he was out of the country for the last week in Grad School City (i.e., he missed the garage sale, multiple trips to Goodwill, filling trash can after trash can with stuff I couldn’t take with me or Goodwill, packing the final boxes, loading the truck, etc. etc.). I’d told him how long it took to accomplish all these tasks, but it didn’t really sink in until he did it all himself.

Adders already have a tendency to underestimate how much time will be required to complete a task, even smaller ones much simpler than moving. Moving is really a marathon of many tasks. Expect every task to take more time than you’d think, because there are always glitches (e.g., running out of boxes or packaging tape) and distractions (e.g., the European soccer championships were on tv while we were packing and unpacking the truck). Start sooner rather than later, and build in extra time!

Prioritize. Start with low-priority items as soon as possible, and do at least a few boxes each day. We started with books, dvds, wedding presents, and non-essential kitchen items. On the day we loaded the truck, I packed the last of the essential kitchen items as the movers loaded our furniture.

Take the time to sort and label. Don’t just toss things into boxes by size (yes, hubby did this, and it’s now driving me crazy because I have kitchen items mixed in with electronics!). Make your boxes make sense. Keep your kitchen tools together, and keep those separate from your books and magazines. Take the time to label boxes carefully (e.g., “remote controls and power strips” versus “electronics”), because it will save you a great deal of hassle when unpacking.

Have a “Do not lose under penalty of death” box. I kid you not… that’s how I labeled this particular box. This was the last box to be loaded in the car, and the first to be unloaded at our new house. You should know where this box is located at all times, so don’t ever put it in the moving truck unless it’s on the seat next to you in the cab. It contained everything we knew we’d need until the last minute in our old apartment, at closing, and from the first moment in our new house. For example, ours included:

  • All the paperwork we could possibly need at the closing (e.g., proof of hazard insurance)
  • The “change of address” confirmations we’d received from the post office
  • First aid kid
  • Lightbulbs
  • Paper plates, cups, & plastic eating utensils
  • Tea & water
  • Our phone chargers
  • Phone book for new destination
  • Cat food & toys
  • Towels
  • Toilet paper & paper towel
  • Shower curtain liner and rings
  • Other items we knew we shouldn’t lose (e.g., gift cards we’d received for our wedding)

Pack enough clothing. About a week before loading the truck, pack a suitcase for the days you’ll be on the road and the days that you’ll be packing & unpacking the truck. Then add at least 2-3 more sets of clothing, including socks, underwear, and a comfy pair of shoes. If anything goes wrong, you’ll be glad you have the extra clothes. Don’t count on being able to access your clothing while it’s in the truck or even right away once the truck is unpacked, or even being able to do laundry right away. Expect to get dirty and to want to change your clothes more frequently than normal. Put essential toiletries in here, too (I can’t tell you how much I wished I’d put our toenail clipper in this bag instead of packing it with the rest of the bathroom items!). This should also be one of the last items tossed into the car before driving away.

Have the right tools on-hand. Buy or rent a dolly. We bought one the last time we moved ($50 from Home Depot), and it’s been worth its weight in gold.  A friend recommended that we buy a cordless drill/screwdriver. It’s one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. Although our toolbox didn’t go in the car, it was one of the last items loaded into the truck and one of the first to be unloaded. Things go a lot easier when you’ve got the right tools!

This system has reduced the stress of my last two moves, but it’s not perfect by any means. It’s also not the “only” way to move successfully. If you have any tips, please add them in the comments below!