Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Into My Mind: Living with ADD

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ADD is a type of curse that I never wanted to admit I had. When I was in grade school, I was plucked out from my seat and taken to a special education learning center because I had trouble focusing in class, which affected my performance in school.  To be frank, I remember vividly what my experience was in grade school and I remember straining in pain to stay focused in class. It literally caused me pain in my stomach to focus on classwork. I very much preferred to address the content buzzing around in my head than to be focusing on a topic that I had zero interest in. As I grew up, I learned that that was only the tip of the ADD iceberg.

ADD is very complex and contradictory, meaning that having difficulty focusing isn’t the only thing that defines it. As I’ve learned, ADD is hard to define and hard to distinguish if you’ve had it your whole life. For me it means that I hardly ever finish what I start. My mind darts around to so many ideas and topics that I find myself in a bizarre fuzzy haze of confusion pretty much all the time. I have a terrible sense of time. Everything is either urgent or saved till the very last second with nothing in between. For example, shopping compels me to act in urgency. If I see a pair of shoes I like, I want them now. However, if I have to call my insurance provider to clarify an issue, I’ll save that till the last possible moment. I also cannot stand waiting or being bored. My threshold for boredom is incredibly low. I don’t need to be moving, but I need to be doing something. On the flip side, in those boring 1 hour meetings is when I do my best creative thinking, because how can you possibly expect to retain my attention for a whole hour! Do you know how long that is!?
I despise waiting in lines. It makes my stomach hurt and it gives me a headache. Here is a sample of my inner monologue while waiting in line. “There are three people in front of me. That’s okay, I’ll just scroll through Pinterest to take my mind off of it. Ugh, but why is it taking so long. Oh my gosh, the person in front of the person in front of me is trying to return an item, and use a gift card and get a price check on some item! Oh my goodness, I’m gonna die in this line. No, it’s going to be the Hunger Games.  Oh I so desperately want to sit down. I should probably stop watching him scan every item. I wish I could fast forward through this part. Oh finally, that person left. Now one more person to go, then it’s my turn. Ugh, why is she even buying that scarf. That is such a hideous scarf. She shouldn’t be allowed to be in line if you’re gonna buy shitty stuff like that. Why is my boyfriend standing over there instead of over here? I wonder what that girl over there is talking about? Oooo! That’s a cute top. I wonder what I would look like in that top. Yes, I would look good. Too bad I’m already in line! I would so get that top. Ugh! If my mom heard me, she would be so disappointed in my excessive shopping. Do I even need some of this stuff? Yes, I live in the cold and I need a coat. Ugh. I need help. Yes! My turn! FREEDOM.”

Yes, I do think all that in a very short period of time.  I’ve learned that ADD is short for you-can’t-stop-your-f*cking-brain-from-running-a-million-miles-a-minute disorder. While it is incredibly useful when applied to creative arts, it is a disaster in schools and in the work place. In college, it was so hard to stay focused for longer than 20 minutes. After that, the quality of my notes would start to deteriorate and my mind would drift off into space. I thought of short story ideas, weird scenarios, song lyrics, ideas for music videos (oddly) and paintings and imagined myself in a cottage enjoying snowfall from inside.  Then I was in trouble when it was time for a quiz. Everyone else seemed to have caught all the information they needed from the lecture, and I had to catch up. For some reason, I was still considered intellectually gifted.

ADD is a kind of rebellion from the status quo. It is a screw you to all the people that force us to sit at a cubicle for 7 hours a day and do things we don’t really care about. It’s a screw you to the education system for drilling into kids the nonsense that you have to think or act a certain way to be considered smart or successful. If you didn’t know if you had ADD before reading this article, I hope it has been educational for you. If you already have ADD, I hope this article gave you hope knowing that you aren’t alone. 

Do you have ADD? When did you find out? What is the hardest part of it? How have you learned to cope?

Beautiful Hand Sketched Animal Illustrations

Artist: Alfred Basha

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Don't Assume You Know What Others Are Thinking

Anxiety has no personal boundaries. It has no conscience regulating the frequency, duration or intensity of its impact. Anxiety often behaves as though its own organ. It can hit you at any time anywhere despite how much you object to it or fail to recognize it, which can leave you feeling so very helpless. I can’t tell you how many times I ducked out of social events because I just knew my anxiety was going to misbehave. I think we want to be social (it's human nature), but we don't want to deal with our anxiety. It’s just easier not to do stuff that scares us than to fight with our anxiety to get ourselves to get dressed, then to walk or drive there, then to deal with people. I believe that the aspect about anxiety that sucks the most is thinking we know what other people are thinking.

Anxiety naturally makes your mind race with totally irrational thoughts, but not only do these thoughts invade your mind, but it tries to invade other people’s minds through yours! When we over analyze body language, tone of voice, emotional expression, and the word choices of the people who we are interacting with, we are trying to read their minds for clues into whether or not these people like us. If we say something weird, we read heavily into their reactions us and deduce that they all think that we’re insane. I am the worst with this. I go from 0 to 100 real quick. Even when I’m on the train headed to work, if I catch someone glancing at, say my shoes, for a longer period of time than I'd like, I then come to the conclusion that that person hates my shoes or my fashion sense, and that hurts me personally. If someone I wrote an email to takes a long time to respond, I assume that they think my email was straight-up stupid and is avoiding having to respond. If I post something a bit bold to Facebook, I assume that everyone will scoff at my post and I will, in turn, receive cold treatment from them. This kind of thinking is a vicious cycle, and it is VERY hard to break. I still struggle with this, but I've learned a few tips to help me get through. Hopefully, they'll be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

You Are Not Telepathic

This may seem obvious, but to people with anxiety it isn't. Despite what you think the other person is thinking, you don't actually know what that other person is thinking. There is a disconnect between people's behavior and thoughts, and most of the time they act upon thoughts or impulses they can't control. Don't assume that people are thinking bad thoughts about you, because you have no idea what's actually going on in their heads! They could be thinking about a terrible burrito they had yesterday, or that unpleasant conversation they had earlier with their mom. You really do never know.

You Can't Control People's Thoughts

Even if you were somehow telepathic and could read people's thoughts, would that really help you? Think about it. What if someone thought something negative about you for a split second, and you heard it loud and clear, it would probably make your anxiety much worse. You'll be come self-conscious about whatever flaw they thought about and you'd kill yourself trying to fix that flaw. As a result, your anxiety would spiral out of control! Sure they may think good things about you sometimes, but you're not perfect (and neither is anyone else) and eventually they will notice the things they don't like about you, and we're back to square one. You need to accept that not everyone is gong to like you and that not everything you do is going to shine favorably in the eyes of others. Remember that people are entitled to their own thoughts, and it doesn't hurt you for those people to think those thoughts. 

Rationalize Your Thoughts

Now that you know that you shouldn't try to read people's thoughts (because it's physically impossible). Try to observe your thoughts as an objective viewer and isolate the thoughts that are keeping you from engaging with others. Then use logic and reasoning to tear them apart. Remind yourself that you can't possibly know what another person is thinking. Then tell yourself that even if you did know what they were thinking, there's nothing you can realistically do about it. Then remind yourself that some people are going to have negative feelings about you and that's okay! If, for instance, some one stares at you (or your shoes) for a while at that makes you anxious. Think, 'maybe they're probably spacing out.'  

Listen (No, really listen)

There's a way to help you get out of your mind and connect with some one else on a deeper level and that is to give someone else your undivided attention. Your brain cannot multi-task. It's backed up by science. If you give your attention to someone else and make an effort to really learn about them, you can't obsess in your mind about silly little things. You will probably experience a bit more empathy for the person you're speaking to, because connecting with another person means to put yourself in their shoes. 

Know The Way You Think 

So you can't be a telepath, but good news is that you know how you think. If someone does something weird do you dwell upon it for hours and let that keep you from interacting with them? Probably not. You'd probably think "ha, that's weird." Then move on. Or you may not think anything of it at all. You'd probably write it off instantly (depending on how weird the action or comment was). So you should assume that other people are going to do the same. Don't get me wrong. None of this means that you should throw caution to the wind and do weird stuff because f*ck it. It means that you should have fewer emotional constraints inhibiting you from truly living your life.

Keep in mind that being able to read people well is a wonderful skill to have when used correctly. However, my advice is specifically for people who have inadvertantly used it to fuel their anxieties and depression.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


No One Is Normal, So Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

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What qualifies itself as being objectively normal, and how do scientists or psychologists quantify normality? On what basis do they determine abnormality? Well, there isn’t a single answer to this. Apparently, there is a bit of disagreement about this among the scientific community. In the 19th century a Belgian mathematician named Adolphe Quetelet used a statistical tool to find a series of ‘types’ of people. These included heart rate, blood pressure, weight, height, etc. From these statistics he was able to create a model of the “normal” human being based on the frequency of occurrence of certain attributes. This neat little statistic, as a result isolated those who did not fit the statistical model of normality. For example, if they were overweight or had high blood pressure. While these statistics are nice, they are merely statistics. There are many subtleties to take into consideration when trying to define normality. For example, how can a person with several psychological illnesses function “normally” in social settings?

I argue that normality is a culturally specific term. The culture you live in dictates the way you define normality. If you live in a place where most people have blonde hair, blue eyes and super thin, then naturally normal means blonde hair, blue eyes, super thin. If you have brown eyes, dark black hair and are a bit curvy, you’d probably stand out as an abnormality. Unfortunately, because we have an ingrained sense of “us vs. them”, we have a natural tendency to alienate those who are different than the accepted norm. The opposite of normal is abnormal and abnormal implies defect, rarity, or wrongness. If among your peers or community, you exhibit a trait that makes you inherently different, rejoice because normality is simply a social construct to help us understand humanity. It is not a set of guidelines you should live by!

Back when I was in the hell-hole called high school, I was surrounded by girls who wanted desperately to fit in. Naturally, being the weirdo that I am, I gravitated towards the “outcasts” -the girls who weren’t obsessed with who Zack is dating, what trendy clothes they should buy from Abercrombie, or the drama between Lisa and Marissa.  We talked about stuff we cared about and even weird stuff that the other girls scoffed at (like video game theories). We didn’t care! We even felt bad for them! We were smart enough to understand that there was probably some kind of pain or longing that motivated their overwhelming drive for acceptance. We also recognized that maybe their priorities were in the wrong place or they admired the wrong kind of person. To us we were normal and they were the freaks who wanted to be popular.

In my case, the ‘popular’ girls used normality as a tool to encourage superiority and hierarchy. The more ‘normal’ someone was perceived to be by the community, the more popular they were fated to become. As long as they embodied the kind of values, ideas, and interests as the people considered normal, and ditched their own. That's horse-sh*t! No one can hold a claim on normality! There are too many people who think, live, dress and act differently from them for that kind of narrow minded thinking!

So moral of the story is to be whoever you are and make a point to be accepting of others for their differences. Find people who accept you for who and what you are, and help shape you into a better person. Of course there will always be people who will judge you for being weird, bizarre or hard to understand. That’s a good thing. Everyone wants to be unique, yet they don’t want to be seen as weird or too different. They still want to be accepted by others. F*ck it! Be yourself! Accept that not everyone is going to like you. Cultivate your unique interests, hobbies and passions to something you love, and then the attention will follow later. And be accepting of others for their differences! 

Credit: Aeon

Monday, January 30, 2017

To The Christians Supporting Hate: The Forgotten Messages the Bible Tells About Love

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This weekend, I scrolled down my social media. With a heavy heart, I learned of the Muslim ban and the heinous, ill-informed “Christians” who, despite being taught to love your neighbor as yourself, have given their hearts to a cause that is racist, discriminatory and unjust.

Yes, I am a Christian. When I was too small to reach the dinner table, I sang “Jesus loves me this I know” hand in hand with fellow Christians of varying races and backgrounds. As an angsty teen, I participated in bible studies that taught on the embodiment of  virtues such as love, forgiveness and non-discrimination towards people that are different than us. We all sat around the same circle studying and magnifying the works of Jesus, who hung out with tax-collectors, thieves, gentiles, prostitutes and the ill. Yet, those same people have come out to the forefront supporting the very same values Jesus condemned with all His being and DIED to reveal to us.

The election has brought out the ugly in all of us, but I would never imagine that my fellow Christian peers would allow themselves to fall victim to such hate, violence and bigotry. This is against the very doctrines of the Christian faith. However, this is not new. Christianity has been used as the basis for racist, violent, and abhorrent acts since before the founding of the New World, but it has to end. To those of you who are a little bit salty (okay, very salty)  towards Christians right now because the majority of vocal Christians have been in support of horrible things, I understand your sentiments, but please give me your attention for a moment to clarify some things for you.

Above everything else, if you know nothing else about the Christian faith, Christianity is about love. Unconditional love. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your beliefs are, what your faith is, what the color of your skin is, your sexuality, your gender, your political affiliation, or socioeconomic status- my most IMPORTANT job as a Christian is to love you. All of you. As a Christian, my responsibility is to treat you how I would treat myself, because we are one family and one body. My responsibility, as the bible tells, is to give food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless and help to the helpless. None of this is conditional. I cannot refuse to help you because you are Syrian, Muslim, a Republican, a Democrat, transgender, gay, an immigrant, or just disagree with my beliefs. Jesus didn’t say to only love other Christians. He didn’t say love those who agree with you. He said love YOUR NEIGHBOR as yourself. Your neighbor is everyone.  “For God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” God so loves THE WORLD!!!!! Jesus was an outcast. He was born into great poverty and conflict. His life is the reason Christians are supposed to help the less fortunate, He is the reason we are to love others and He is the reason we are to condemn hate against one another.

To everyone out there who is afraid, know this. There are Christians out there who support human rights for everyone. There are Christians out there who stand for justice for all (not just Americans) and loving kindness. There are Christians out there who are not discriminatory because of people’s differences. There are Christians out there who stand with immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, homosexuals, and the poor. I am one of them and I will always stand with you, fight with you, and support you.