archery + adhd: on target.

The sign outside my friend Diane’s archery range (AKA Heights Outdoors and Archery if you’re a local), at one point read “ARCHERY IS FUN. TRY IT.” 

The sign is not lying. Even though Diane has had to teach me how to do everything properly like three times (so far), ARCHERY IS FUN. I think I maybe mastered orienting the bow tonight finally (trickster ambidexterity-allowing recurves), and yes, when they say to draw your hand back to your face, they mean it and it actually does help significantly, thank-you-very-much.

It may just be me, but as I posted some photos of our archery Special Olympics wind-up on Facebook, I became aware of many parallels between archery and ADHD (and undoubtedly, the archery experience with ADHD). 

To preface this, I must say: Diane is awesome. She and I have a great rapport, and she puts up with my pestering (and returns it!), sarcasm, and repeated need for instruction well. She likes fun and I like fun and that is what matters, people. And although she says archery is like riding a bike and you don’t forget, I can say with some confidence I don’t think I’ve ever gotten on my bike backward like I’ve tried to hold the bow backward or upside down ;). Other than that, everything else she tells me I believe to be accurate. (If you’re in the Peg, you should do archery with Diane.)

I’ve done archery with Diane a good number of times now. The thing is, thanks ADHD, I remember safety instructions because not-death is a motivator, but it takes me quite awhile to get other stuff down. I am just about there, maybe.

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One of the first rounds of the night where I hit a decent number of arrows on the target. And two in that pretty gold area, though not quite centre.

I’ve been told before that I need more consistency to keep my ADHD brain in check. Like, to schedule my life a bit more. Here’s the thing: what is consistency? Also, not exactly interested. I should be, obviously. Had I external motivators, well, I likely would be. 

As well, consistency takes practice. Guess what? I’m not expecting to have consistent archery performance when the last time I shot was six weeks ago. Although, each round today got a bit better (inconsistently, mind you), as I repeated my way through the things that work, and on occasion, totally forgetting. Which is both an ADHD thing and a thing in learning how to coexist with ADHD—being consistently inconsistent or inconsistently consistent about just about everything. (Don’t tell me that doesn’t make sense. ADHDers, you get me.)

Note: I realized later I was like half the distance from the target this time compared to last time. That helps. 

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Hey, I did get two in the gold… Just not where I was aiming on one, mind you…

Especially when I realized when they tell you to put your draw hand against your face basically for a reason. And especially when I actually remembered this part of the instructions. Archery has a lot of damn steps to remember—kind of like life. And attention problems? Yeah, here’s an unexpected area for where executive functioning issues randomly interfere!

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Sometimes, you are all over that shit, without exactly realizing how, even though you are trying pretty hard.

…And sometimes, trying equally hard, less on the mark but still close.
Or… Way off. (…That top arrow ;).)

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And sometimes? You’re THERE and all over it, literally, but you still don’t quite hit the damn balloon. Even though you’ve done it before.

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Who knew a two hour progression through a few dozen arrows could summarize the inconsistency of ADHD life so well? 😉

I’m joining the Manitoba Blind Sport archery program next Fall, because hey, why not? Given I’m already paying a membership fee, the add-on athlete fee is a great deal for archery. Plus, while I’m not visually impaired, I don’t see all that well. Look, I could not exactly see my arrows from halfway down the range, never mind the full distance. And people will know how to deal with my questionable vision. And given I roll around on the floor and announce every ridiculous thing I do at goalball, the same will happen at archery, except not the rolling on the floor part. Except maybe if Guide Dog Murray is there.

My attention issues? Well, I roll with that pretty well, too, since it’s just who I am. And yeah, practice sort-of makes perfect there, too. At least in terms of semi-patience and laughing at myself. And I know this particular archery group, is good at that, too ;).

even stumbling is moving forward

I spent a good quarter of my time in university learning about how you shouldn’t make too many life changes at once. (I spent another quarter in anatomy or stressing out about anatomy, another quarter dropping classes possibly due to the unknown learning disability and ADHD, and the last quarter probably actually “focused”. This is not an accurate, nor mathematical, representation of university for me.) Yet, here I am, doing just that, because FULL SPEED AHEAD is the only way I know how to go.

So here I am. 13 days into logging with MyFitnessPal. That is nearly TWO WEEKS people, that’s an accomplishment.
I’ve opened up the Coach.Me app again last night and set up some goal in there—go for a walk twice a week, exercise three days a week, meditate daily, pray daily, and write a blog post [here] weekly (hi!). 

And today, I went for a walk. Just to the mailbox, to send a letter to my Member of Parliament. Have I mentioned I’ve gotten all politically engaged since we last spoke in depth? This is not actually a byproduct of that but still, could be why I was more interested in the Asthma Society’s Hill Day stuff in the end. Honestly, it’s a wonder to me that given the state of this world and our neighbours to the south, how the eff people can ignore this! I digress (but likely not forever, and would be happy to grab a [decaf] [not-]coffee with you and discuss. And also I am thinking about going back to school to do political science and no I don’t actually know what’s currently wrong with me.)

This is not significant. The walk, I mean. It was hot (27-feels-like-29 and heat and I are not friends—my lungs and my whole body) and slow and except whatever I GOT OUT THERE.

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Because here’s the thing. I have to start all over again. And so I am. I downloaded some bodyweight exercise app to my phone even. I’m LOOKING AT my Fitbit. Quantified self is one of those things that’s sort of engrained in my being one way or another so I need to USE that data. 

If a slow, 17 minute walk is all I get, guess what? It’s better than nothing.
If a three minute meditation before I go to sleep is all I do, guess what? I’ve started.
If prayer is a jumbled mess of words or a poem or “hey Jesus”? Yeah, my God knows where I’m at, even before I do.
If I don’t eat with any semblance of decency (or even if I’m closer than I usually am but still totally imperfect) but I am at least mindful of that, guess what? I’m one step closer.
If I start to write a blog post and I write “Listening to my body. Means. Going to sleep. Instead of writing.” and close my laptop, yes, I have figured something out. At least this time.
And if I admit all of this to you in a blog post? I’ve written the blog post. And hopefully, you’ll join me in stumbling towards those goals you think are too big, too hard, the things you think you’ll be imperfect at. Feel free to join me in the imperfection, learning the things they can’t teach in school.

Or at least watch along—because even stumbling is moving forward. 

hello, there. again.

It’s been months, literally months since I’ve written here. Probably because I’m writing other places on the internet. So here I am, wrapping up May after I haven’t written since January 30th. I have half written posts around on adventures since then, and words that have been published elsewhere (aka asthma.net). And some things that’ll never see the internet, shitty circumstances where I was somewhat stabbed in the back where I’d trusted someone and then had to clean up a mess they made–which was even more mentally time consuming than physically time consuming (if that’s even a way to explain time, in a physical sense). 

March, April, May even have involved airplanes and time invested and spent and wasted and given. 

I’ve gotten really sucked into podcasts which take more time than I realize–and I am smarter if not necessarily better for it. I’m thinking of going back to school and taking, no word of a lie, political science, even though prior to six or so months ago I had no interest in politics although I’ve been strong on voting since I could vote. At the start of May I was in Ottawa for World Asthma Day, in April, I was in Palo Alto to present at Stanford Medicine X | ED, and in March, I was in St Louis, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Toronto on a whirlwind adventure that happened t settle around two conferences.  

Here are some (a lot, but only a sample) pictures.

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[Also I can’t figure out what I’m doing so to see the flickr album if it doesn’t load, click here.]

Not to say there wasn’t more.

There surely was.

But without writing everything down–whether here or in a journal–I’m living through Facebook and instagram and Twitter and a camera, and being in the moment, but maybe not translating that into reconstructable memories as readily. And maybe that’s okay but I think maybe I want that to change too. 

So here I am again.
Back.
Hopefully more intentionally. (Therapy.)

Because I’m getting closer–checking my Fitbit, logging nutrition with myfitnesspal (for five days now), and I actually rode the stationary bike the other day.
Now I’m writing.
Next is meditation.

Getting back to who I really am. And some (small bit of) routine.

ADHD and me: on mental health.

It’s #BellLetsTalk Day, which here in Canada is the one day of the year that people—for better or worse, and sometimes to just bash Bell—stop to talk about mental health. I’m not getting into the Bell thing—it’s a thing.

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What I am getting into is this country has taken the time to pause and reflect. This is awesome. I have seen so many of my friends on Facebook share their struggles and triumphs and stories of living with anxiety and depression; of going to therapy and of choosing to try medication. People who have dealt with these things since childhood, or who are navigating mental health concerns for the first time as adults. To all of you who have shared your stories—today or any other day—I am so proud of all of you. Thank you for being bold, embracing who YOU are, and sharing your journey: I hope that it makes people in your world see “mental illness” differently, and see you just the same, because you are. You are important and your story is important. Every damn day, not just today—the highs, the lows, your story is important. Every. Freaking. Day. 

I am right here with you.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, but one that is also considered by some—including the Canadian Mental Health Association—a mental illness. Like depression and anxiety, ADHD is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, specifically neurotransmitters.

And I’ll be honest, there are days that I can’t believe that. There are days that I see attention deficit disorder as a blessing or a gift or whatever cheesy, cliche thing people say and how could that be a mental illness? How could it be something that isn’t awesome? Days that I am on my A-game, that I have witty remarks that come out the right way, and that words just fly out onto the page in front of me, and days that my energy is exploding out of me in a way that actually feels good.

Except, more often, there’s the flip side to ADHD. The self-doubt, the feeling that I can’t do things right because I have failed to meet expectations so many times, the times I cannot focus enough to figure out the simplest of things—or even when I can focus, there is information my brain simply can’t process. There are the times that not only can I not understand why I am reacting to things the way I am, but also that it is a tidal wave: my feelings just crash over me and I can’t figure out how to just stop this and react how I know is “normal”. It helps—a bit—knowing that this is common for kids and adults with ADHD alike, that we legitimately feel things more intensely and for longer than other people do [1]. But it only helps after the fact. There are the times I hyperfocus and fail to get anything done that I actually need done and only let myself down; others that I again feel like I’ve failed someone else. The words “I forgot,” or “I’m sorry,” are not less true when they come out of my mouth: I mean it. But I get it: it’s hard to accept, again, when you’ve heard it before, because it looks like carelessness. I don’t blame my ADHD—I blame myself, because ADHD and I coexist. I am not my diagnosis, but I cannot separate from it, either. ADHD isn’t just about academics: it’s about life. And it sucks when your failures or shortcomings are not for lack of trying, they are just because my brain is not wired that way.

But here’s the thing. It’s so much better than it was. It’s better knowing that there is a reason why some things are like they are. ADHD is not an excuse, but it is an explanation, if even just for myself sometimes. It’s better knowing how to figure out strategies that work rather than just feeling like I’m stupid. It’s better knowing that this is how I am wired, and that is okay

My first appointment with my psychiatrist back in 2013, she did not say it but she clearly made a note that I appeared anxious. I started medication for ADHD the next day. When I met her again a month later, early in the appointment she commented that I seemed less anxious even just on a very low dose of Concerta, and asked if I had felt anxious before. I told her that I hadn’t, but that things just “felt better” inside me. It was hard to describe—she understood. Every appointment I have seen my psychiatrist she actually asks about side effects. She asks how things are going. She asks how my mood is. Every time. Because she knows the statistics.

Research states people with ADHD are at increased risk for mental health issues: nearly half of people will experience an anxiety disorder, well over a third will deal with a mood disorder like depression, and 15% will develop a substance-use disorder. [2] However, if ADHD is managed correctly, be it through whichever combination of exercise and therapy and medication and eating well-ish, these things can either be caught early and treated early—maybe even be prevented. Maybe.
I am fortunate, I do not currently have any co-existing mental health concerns. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t, won’t or can’t happen.

ADHD medication doesn’t give a person with ADHD any special ability to concentrate. I probably still focus less well than most non-ADHDers on 72 mg of Concerta a day. I don’t know because I’ve never had a non-ADHD brain. But do I feel better? Yes. Even though all of the above that I still struggle with. Part of it is because of medicine, but part of it is simply knowing what I am working with, knowing that other people experience this, knowing other people get me.

So, Canada.
You spoke.
I spoke.
We “talked”.
Now, don’t shut up just because Bell does.

Because we need this conversation. And we need the conversation to go further: to ensure mental health care is easily accessible—and affordable—for all Canadians. To make therapy with high-quality therapists affordable and accessible*. To ensure that services are available on demand, when people need them—weeks, or months, or years later. As a Canadian, healthcare for your body comes with the package—its a right. But care for your brain? It’s still on the table. (Which is closer than it’s been for a long time.) Stories are important, but so is access to care.

We need this conversation because we need every Canadian to feel confident they can be supported when they choose to share what they are facing.

Because my diagnosis is NOT about whether or not you believe it exists or not. It exists.

And we are living, breathing, singing, dancing proof that WE EXIST.

*Affordable and accessible therapy, to me, means to make therapy that is not income dependent or not something that is dependent on (awesome) charitable organizations like Aulneau, or educational institutions like the University of Manitoba Psych Services Centre. I’m uninsured, and if I can’t afford insurance, I can’t afford a $150 an hour therapist: which doesn’t mean that I should (or in some cases can) just wait longer.

150 Play List: Getting Started with Canada’s Favourite Activities

I coach two teams, I am semi-active(-ish)—per Fitbit, I’ve averaged 178 total active minutes a week for the last 4 weeks (and this is a period of time I feel rather inactive, but it still puts me over the 150 recommended minutes a week… although that is really moderate activity and mine is, um, mostly not?). But sometimes keeping it interesting is hard, and sometimes I just want to stick with the typical things because they are familiar, and familiar is easy (except then I don’t do the things).

Late last year, ParticipACTION (Canada’s leading physical activity promotion non-profit) took a vote of which physical activities were the country’s favourites—selected activities (and those voted on) range from the predictable (duh, hockey) to the “WHAT IS THAT?” (snow snake, stick pull) to the “BUT HOW?” (white water rafting, axe throwing, highland games).
These final picks are known as the 150 Play List. So now, I am setting off on doing them all. Sadly I have many from last year that I could have checked off that I have little clue how I will get in again this year (sailing?!).

Finishing week two of the year, I’ve checked three activities off the list so far (note: ParticipACTION apparently counts each time you do an activity as 1, so the site says I’ve done 7. Okay?):

1) Goalball. Well it probably is not any surprise that my favourite activity on the list got completed really early. I play goalball with the guys I coach almost every week, and last week (our first week back after the holidays) threw some pretty hard shots at me. I was surprisingly unbruised (except one tiny bruise on my hip, which I thought would be larger.)

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Doug came to goalball for our first practice back. We spend a lot of time laying around on the floor in this sport, I will be honest. Unfortuantely due to my shortness this is not actually a great defensive strategy for me most of the time.

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2) Walking. That was easy. Well, actually not terribly so, considering the dump of snow on December 26th and the lack of sidewalk clearing crews out (until Steve got on the news about it, anyways.)

3) Soccer. We only had a couple of athletes at Special Olympics practice this week, which meant that the athletes got to choose what we did. After playing floor hockey for awhile, we played soccer. My passes are as inaccurate as ever, FYI.

For the next 5 weeks at Special O, we are trying to get as many of these activities in as we can with our athletes. I already have goalball checked off, but I hope to be adding another 24 activities as we explore them with our athletes!

Now, we’re supposed to be getting some warm weather (after our wicked cold snap) so I hope it doesn’t kill off all the skating rinks or that’s going to pose a bit of a problem in regard to checking of “skating” and “hockey”…