Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Self Medicating in a Positive Way

I was talking to the friend the other day who had a terrible day. One of those when life comes out of no where and sucker punches you leaving you a little breathless and reeling trying to find your footing. We talked for awhile but truth being what it was talking wouldn't change much. It was one of those, "it is what it is," situations that doesn't bend no matter how much we want it too. A struggle that takes long term coping mechanisms. In parting she said she was off to, "self-medicate." Normally this would have freaked me out a bit because when I hear or see or use the term self-medicate it has always had the negative connotation of using drugs or alcohol to escape or cope. But that's not what she said, not what she meant, because she didn't stop there. What she said basically was, "I'm going to go self-medicate by diving into to some creative writing."

roller blading
Self-medicating as a positive way to cope, I had never thought about it that way.

But it tickled my brain and as it settled I started to shift my own paradigm. Suddenly, I saw self-medicating in a whole new light. My own son came to mind. We have always made a point of making sure our kids knew they had ADHD and whatever co-occurring conditions that each of them have individually, no secrets here. In addition we have made a point of making sure they understood their conditions and how their brain works. So it wasn't a surprise one night when I overheard my son talking to his dad, "I am having a panic attack," he was vibrating with neurotic energy, "can I go roller blade? I need some dopamine right now!" A personal awareness victory for sure. A triumph for self-advocacy, he knew what he needed to pull his world back into balance and asked for it. Exercise would be the no-brainer on the list of things you can do to lift your mood, re-balance your life, release some dopamine, and feel better. Exercise is a quick way to get those happy chemicals coursing through the brain and body but certainly not the only way.

Engaging in a creative activity results in the same flood of chemicals. For my friend it's writing, we have some writers in our house. Writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, actors the rush that they get from engaging in these activities is a powerful way to self-medicate. In addition to the chemical release in the brain that reenforces that these activities are good and bring happiness, these more creative outlets allow the individual to express what they're feeling. They're a form of release.

I remember a meeting with one of my daughters and our family psychiatrist. He was explaining to her the importance of having a pressure release. He compared it to air in a balloon. Life is crazy, demanding, hard and as we move through it we collect air in our balloons. If we don't let some of that air out on a regular basis eventually there is just too much air and our balloon pops.

Nai Da Zip
When we use creative releases we have a way of expressing our joys, fears, frustrations, pains, hurt, love, happiness, rage. It can be a beautiful and profound way of expressing, releasing, self-medicating. Sitting in the middle of my creative house I can see it manifest in many different mediums. My one non-ADHDer most recently created 2 new cartoon characters, Nai and Zip. A little creature, Zip, is full of energy and mischief. Zip's hair changes color with his mood. Zip is here and there and pretty much everywhere. When I asked her about it she told me flat out Zip was the manifestation of all her ADHD siblings in one little character. She is Nai. Nai Da Zip gives her an outlet. As I came to realize, by my friends comment in passing, it gives her a healthy way to self-medicate through the chaos of our lives.

With this new perspective I see

running lines for The Mighty Kubar
more clearly their thoughts, emotions, feelings woven into their pieces of art, echoed in the lyrics of their music, poured out in the emotion of their acting, recorded in the scenes of film, typed out in the words and thoughts of characters on the page. This new revelation didn't bring any earth shaking changes to our house, we were doing these things before and we will continue to do them. But I feel like I have a new tool in my tool box to help my family through the rocky, bumpy roads of life. A new positive release to encourage them to use when everything is overwhelming and troublesome, when they feel off kilter.

And one that works for me too, I can disappear for while into another world, work out my feelings, express myself, get some positive brain chemicals flowing, and emerge feeling better about the world.

What I came to realize, after I gave it some thought, was creative endeavors are a great way to self-medicate, maybe one of the best because they fulfill so many wonderful purposes at once.  As I am writing, right now, there are several kids singing, guitar being practiced, drawing, a set being dressed to start filming on The Mighty Kubar tomorrow, and acting all at this very moment. And I think of my friend and her writing and the great coping mechanism it is to her. I'll never think of self-medicating in the same one-sided negative way again. In fact, now I think I can only think of all the great and positive ways we can find balance and happiness by self-medicating through positive ways.

** The Mighty Kubar and all the artwork, music, lyrics posted here are the property of Hannah Aro, Rachel Aro, Mark Aro, Lisa Aro respectively