Managing Mental Health
As I sat to begin to collect some thoughts for this week, my mind was empty and blank. I had no idea what to even write. However, the worst part was I didn’t know what to do at all. Sometimes I just write when something comes to my mind. Sometimes I will move from task to task. If my mind isn’t focusing, I’ll just move to something easier, let my mind get going, let it see what it feels like to work properly, and then I will return to writing having had some spark of genius.
However, this time there was no such luck. Not only could I not process what to write, but I also couldn’t focus on any work. I didn’t have any pressing emails (at least ones I had the mental capacity to work on at the time), my sermon looked like gibberish and I wanted to erase the whole thing and start over (I didn’t, but that was the state of my brain), and I ended up just staring at the home screen on my iPad (literally) for about 20 minutes. I think the person sitting next to me at the coffee shop thought I was crazy (I mean I kind of am, but that’s a story for a different day).
Eventually, I came to realize I had not taken my ADHD medicine for the day. Now I don’t know if this is solely to blame for my lack of focus, though I will fully blame my ADHD for it, I know that I definitely feel better and more attuned to my work when I do take it. In fact, I sit here in the afternoon of the same day, having gone home and taken some of my medicine, with no problems typing away on my ADHD struggles.
My Life with ADHD
It is interesting to consider how long this disorder has affected my brain processing, and the manners I have adapted over my life to live with it. To be clear, I do not seek to use my ADHD as a crutch or an excuse for why my life sometimes sucks. However, I have learned a lot as I have struggled through managing my ADHD. For quite a while in my youth, I cycled through just about every medication I could for ADHD and saw a couple of different psychologists and psychiatrists in my diagnosis. When I was initially diagnosed, it was actually with ADD. Many who know me might be surprised that I am not hyperactive. My problems most lie in attentiveness, focus, and even memory.
I had always noticed a stigma in medicating myself for ADHD as a youth, and it fully discolored my ability to see medication as a viable pathway to managing it as an adult. From being one of those kids having to go to the nurse’s office to get their medicine at lunch, to always having to get medical waivers for playing sports in high school, ADHD medicine always felt like while it improved aspects of my life, it also made life harder.
I eventually stopped taking it in high school to try and manage it via athletics and proper serotonin boosts throughout the school day. Even when it was an elective, I always took physical education and played at least one sport every season of my high school career. I thought if I could stay active it would provide the right balance for my brain to be able to function in a more neurotypical fashion. However, looking back now, it was merely management; I was simply getting by. I think of the knowledge I have now and can see that my grades never were reflective of my true potential. I never had an interest in learning or reading. I often defaulted to athletics because it was a place where I felt most typical. I didn’t need to focus— I just needed to be the best version of myself…higher, faster, stronger as the Olympic motto says.
I look back and can’t blame a single person for this decision; many were just responding to my desire to be “normal,” and normal meant no medicine. However, I was able to manage and, for the most part, mask my ADHD until it wasn’t working anymore. That is until my general anxiety disorder was fully fleshed out as an adult. Then it became overcoming the stigma and admitting that I needed help. The stigma of help and even medication was a difficult one to move past. My struggles weighed on many of my relationships and made life and ministry almost unbearable.
The difficulty came in admitting to myself that I needed help and eventually medication. However, it went even further than that I as struggled to even bring it up. I felt weak, demoralized, and inadequate if I couldn’t function in society in a typical way. I was willing to allow my work, life, family, and other relationships to suffer at the expense of being what I deemed a “normal human being.”
I share this experience because I know for many across the world the stigma around mental health and mental disorders is one that has long been discussed. Even adding my story to the long list of ones that have been told probably won’t change much, but it is worth saying that the more stories that get told, the more it becomes the norm to not only discuss, but to seek help for whatever is happening in our mind or body.
Now back to the coffee shop:
As I racked myself with anger over forgetting to take my ADHD medicine, I ended up thinking about how far I have come in my journey of life. 5 years ago I would not have thought of being medicated for it (or my anxiety for that matter). However, I was kicking myself more than anything because I know how much easier it is to work, to do my job, and to get things done when I have had my medicine. I do not take it every day, but I take it when I know I need it.
I now sit here in the afternoon when I had tried to write something like this in the morning, and I am medicated, and I have not only typed up this blog post, but I have also answered/responded to some tough emails I had been putting off. I have also finished planning the funeral I had coming up and I looked at my sermon again. Funny enough, this time it did not suck as bad as it did before.
I know I am neurodivergent and sometimes that sucks, but I have learned to properly care for myself. For each one of us that looks different. There are so many different ways that we need to take care of ourselves mentally, and whether that is in light of a mental disorder or not, we still need to be aware of what helps us do what we are called to do. I struggle to imagine what I would be like without medicine, but also without running, without a family and support system that lifts me up, and without the rituals, I have put in place to care for myself.
Is it perfect?
Far from it, but every day I am learning something new. I am growing every day and as a result, I am living into the image of God that I was created in and growing ever closer in the kin-doom to that manner of perfection in love we are all called towards.
Would love to hear your thoughts:
Do you have times when you struggle with your mental health? What are some ways you have found to manage your reactions?
Friday on the Pod
Well, it is now been two weeks without a podcast, and I am trying to not let the shame of failing to overcome me. However, podcasting feels like too much right now and in this season. I can’t explain it, but there has been a certain peace of not recording and producing a podcast. Dont’ get me wrong, I really miss podcasting, but I think for now I will do it when it hits me and I have guests. I also do have some ideas moving forward of how I can use the podcasting platform to help folks learn, grow, and mature in their self-care rituals (as well as runners).
Also, I would love your support for the podcast and this network, as I continue to have conversations that help to build a theology of self-care. Your support helps beyond just podcasting and gives me online spaces to publish content in both audio and written forms. To support me head on over to Patreon and give a monthly gift of any amount.
Last Week on the Run
Last week I ran my longest run distance since I completed the Richmond Half Marathon last November (Check out my reflections on that here). I was not nervous about seeing it on the schedule, but I was looking forward to and longing for this kind of distance. I had been pestering my coach to give me more distance so that I could get in the mental mindset of being on the run for longer amounts of time. This workout did not disappoint. I had to rearrange my run schedule because I had to preside at a funeral service on Saturday (my normal long run day). So on Friday I headed out to the Dismal Swamp Canal trail and started running. I had some pickups in there to test my legs on the distance at my half-marathon race pace. Running long has always been a joy of mine, and especially on this run I was reminded of where I have come since my injury last August. Still getting psyched for this next race.
Stats for Last Week:
Week Total – 46.25
Longest run – 11.18 Miles (My longest run since my half marathon I’m Nov.)
For the Year – 181.5 miles
Follow along my journey via my Strava Profile
Intention for this week:
Yesterday in the Pulpit
Yesterday was week four in the series I am preaching, Glimpses of the Kin-dom. I returned back to the Gospel of Matthew (where the series started) and made my way to explore the Sermon on the Mount. Starting with the Beatitudes, we explored blessing as an extension of our relationship with God. Recognizing this blessing we then look towards how those blessings call us into the work of the Kin-dom.