How the Pandemic Saved Me
When driving down the metaphorical speedway of life, with all its oncoming traffic, bends, bends, potholes, detours and exit ramps, navigational skills are important.
But what happens when ADD is behind the wheel and all traffic signs appear to appear at the same time? You can drive through and hope your windshield won’t break. Or you can brake – stop before you burn out – and hope nobody rams you. Or you can take the next exit onto a better road when you can actually see it.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled to feel in control as I sped the freeway. It didn’t help that I had a habit of packing too much into my travel vehicle and was constantly overwhelmed. Accumulating too much actually appears to be an ADD trait. We crash and burn because we take on more than we can handle and think we can defy time and space to please others.
In the course of time I had learned to master this metaphorical speedway of life with some skill – until the pandemic struck like an earthquake and the road as far as the eye could see destroyed.
I thought I was superhuman
In the time before the big break, I drove almost without fuel and went past the point of no going back.
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When I was finalizing my divorce, I also ran into the ground running my business. During the day I did loads of administrative work and in the evenings I taught in my dance studio. Did I mention that I also raised my two sons alone, ran my household and tried to allow as much time as possible to see my extended family? That included seeing my brother, who was in a nursing home with respiratory problems and mental illness.
I’ve been on this speedway for so long that it felt like I was never going to get off again. And I was worried that if I tried, all of the baggage I was lugging around would come loose, causing me and everyone else to collapse. I had no idea how to find an exit or how to stop driving.
The universe is sending a warning
The universe sounded the alarm for the first time in 2019. My body literally shut down as I was preparing for a major event in my studio. After 12 years I couldn’t afford a studio manager anymore, so I was responsible for all aspects of the event.
At a moment when I was preparing for the event where my brain froze, I suddenly felt my hands tingle and cramp. Then my legs buckled.
[Read: “I Hit a Wall During the Pandemic — and I Climbed Over It.”]
I crawled to my cell phone – never been more grateful for the strength I’d developed from all of my dancing years, let alone my recent bootcamp classes (Oh, did I mention I trained for my first muddy run too? 55 years old old? I mean, why not? I clearly had ADD superpowers!).
I called my best friend, oldest son, and doctor (I was too stubborn to call an ambulance) who tried to calm me down on the line as my body continued to cramp and twitch. So it went on on my way to the doctor’s office in a chaotic scene, and even though I was scared and confused, I was still thinking about my big event in the studio.
The doctor suspected that I was having a severe panic attack. He handed me a cup of water and told me to take a sip. Meanwhile, my body slowly relaxed.
All I know is that my body has had enough that day. It let me know in no uncertain terms that it was done by always doing, doing.
I wish I could say my life changed completely after this incident. While slowing down a little after the wake-up call, I was soon juggling everything again like a freak in a circus act.
The pandemic – and the road ahead
The pandemic finally brought my frenzied drive to a standstill. It forced me to close my studio and switch to online classes, which cut my income by more than half. Still, the pandemic continued its destructive path and took my brother from us before we had a chance to say goodbye.
Heartbroken, exhausted and shattered realizing that I had no control over everything, I finally ended my 14-year career as a business owner and dance instructor that same year. I sold my house and moved into a rental apartment. With no business, home or one of my brothers, I came to a complete standstill.
I’m not a superman – and that’s fine
As the chaos of 2020 subsided, I fell into a slow rhythm that felt strange but somehow good. (My renewed sense of calm reminded me of my time as a housewife, which was by far my favorite career). I spent many months looking for jobs only to come to the conclusion that after 20 years outside of American companies, I didn’t want to go backwards. I had to reinvent myself. Of course, the ADHD brain cannot be idle for too long.
So I threw myself into ADD – wrote about it and learned as much as I could about my own condition. My interest eventually turned into a website, The ADD Social. All of this made my busy brain very happy and the best part was that I was no longer walking around like a headless chicken!
I think the ADD urge to do too much will always be there. But in many ways I’ve learned a new way of being. I listen to myself and go with my whims. Even if that means multitasking and hyperfocusing, it’s on my terms and I feel good about it.
On my further path I also decided to go back to school after 28 years and do my bachelor’s degree – initially one or two classes at a time. Since I have 42 credits left, I make sure not to over-invest this time.
Accepting that I am not superhuman doesn’t mean that I am less. In my previous way of life, I was almost drowning, trying to be and do anything for fear of failure and disappointment. I now understand my limits and strengths better and also practice self-care and self-love. I’m still working on rooting out some of my unrealistic expectations, but I know it’s not a race. I know the only way in this life is at the right pace for me.
Burnout: The Next Steps
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