Remembrance of Selves Past


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A not-so-new form of Self-advocacy

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the Walking A Mile in Another’s Shoes
and the ADD & Memory Series

Practically all of us here in ADD-land have what the neuropsychs call “short-term memory deficits.”

Not only does that make it tough to run our lives, day to day, it also has a negative effect on what we are able to remember about our pasts.

Since one’s memories become the fabric of one’s sense of self, self-esteem can only be battered by the trade winds of today if you have no reliable sense of past to keep you moored.

It also makes it difficult to explain ourselves, our decisions, and our conclusions – even to ourselves!

Many of you who battled with teachers who accused you of cheating because you had the answer but couldn’t “show your work” know just what I mean by that statement.

We KNOW they don’t get it – WE don’t even get it!

So-called “neurotypicals” have NO idea what it’s like to read a journal entry in your own handwriting with no access to the memory of having that train of thought ever in your life, much less working through the issue on paper to a conclusion you find as enlightening as you might find a brand new concept written by another. (YES, I do remember writing it as I get into the rereading – but I’m still quite often fascinated to see what I came up with by the end).

Here’s the Hard Part

  • We can set systems around to-dos and chores.
  • We can set alarms to remind us WHEN we were supposed to do something — with back-up notebooks to remind us why we set the darned things to begin with.
  • And we can amuse ourselves to no end when we state, without reservation, that we did not watch a certain video or read a certain book, only to come across it in our personal libraries, splattered with evidence of the exact opposite – yet we still can’t remember the endings on demand.

But how do we deal with a shifting sense of authenticity?  

Not that it matters much to US

Left to our own community of fellow travelers, we’d be content to simply “play it as it lays.”  Those of you with vanilla-flavored brains, however (currently in the majority on this small planet we share), seem to consider “being oneself” an important marker for leverage in the status game.

And that particular form of being seems to have something to do with being
the very same self every single day in every single environment.

That’s where you lose us - but we keep trying, bless our little hearts.

We do, after all, have to live in what you seem to consider “your” world.  And you do, after all, expect us to at least look like we’re struggling to fit into your world view (even though we’re not exactly sure why you’d chose to do it YOUR way — or exactly which lines we’re supposed to toe when).

We know we can count on YOU to let us know the nano-second our toes cross your lines, but it would be nice to close the loop here, and understand why sameness-and-consistency so appeals to you.
English: A "puzzle" ribbon to promot...

Passing for Normal

“Please, God, don’t let me be Normal!”
~ Luisa, from the musical The Fantasticks

There are currently quite a few posts in the Aspergers community explaining how much energy goes into “passing for neurotypical,” and how painful it is for unique, authentic expressions of self to be discounted while inauthentic “acting” is seen as who they really are.

My heart hurts for them. Sixties redux – when we were all beaten bloody by the “You are not ‘REAL'” stick.

Those of us with what I call “a high Aspergers piece” to our ADD presentation may relate more directly to that particular problem, but many ADDers rarely feel inauthentic in exactly that manner.

  • We are more likely to fear that we are possibly bipolar, because our “moods” seem to shift with the wind.
  • We tend to be like chameleons – authentically green, red, or plaid, depending on where our Fates decide we are to perch today.
  • And, truth to tell, a great many of us find all this emphasis on “being one’s self” incredibly redundant and more than a little bit boring.  Who else COULD we be?  And what makes anyone believe THEY can tell, from the outside, much of anything at all about the authenticity of the inside of anybody else?

Curiouser and curiouser

When WE look around, it seems to us that the mavericks and eccentrics are the uber cool.  They also seem to be the more successful ones; they are definitely the ones who get all the press coverage.  And money.  Have you ever noticed that money follows quirky more readily than straight-and-narrow?

AND we can’t help but wonder if the theory behind those (why-are-they-so-popular-with-so-called-neurotypicals?) “creativity seminars,” designed to get everybody OUT of those very same boxes you tell them they need to live in the rest of the time, makes any sense to you either.

How and when did “professional” become a synonym for “cookie-cutter?”

NORMAL is not the Goal — Extraordinary is the Goal
(and extraordinary people are NEVER “normal”)
~ mgh

Remembering the times of our lives

STILL, it would be nice to be able to reconstruct our histories, if only to count the many ways we came up with to be ourselves in our lives so far.  Who knows, we might feel like trotting one or the other out for a revival, if we only had a link to where we’ve been!

Pictures go a long way – but then, of course, we’d have to get it together to organize the darned things for them to be much more than a dream recalled for a moment, more distraction than tracking tool, with little to no help with orientation or timeline.

Keeping a journal is a great idea, and I absolutely adore mine.  All eleventy-seven of them. It seems I misplace them regularly (well, I have moved A LOT), so my entries aren’t exactly in chronological order.  I do leave breadcrumbs for myself like, “find red leather journal for beginning of 1999″ – for all the good THAT does.

I recently came across an eBook written by journaling specialist Aisling D’Art that tells you, step-by-step, HOW to recreate your history. It actually seems DO-able, the way she lays it out.

It’s not written specifically FOR the attentional community — there are a lot of other resources in the eBook which you may or may not find compelling.  But the part about creating a history may be as amazing to you as it was to me (another of those duhs! that seem so obvious once it’s pointed out that you might never have figured out otherwise.)

How much? Nada.  Her gift.  Go grab yourself a copy while she’s still feeling generous!  I think you’ll find that it’s really worth your time.

Great, free pdf eBook How-To to help you reconstruct your past

In a FUTURE part of this thread, I’ll outline a way of working with your past that my clients, students and many of their clients have learned to use to shift their own brain chemistry and increase self-esteem.  Reading the “history” part of the eBook above would be a GREAT jumpstart for that process!

I also plan to nitpick this “short-term memory deficit” idea a bit – because I don’t think many of the “experts” really get the nuances of what’s going on with most of us in that arena. LOTS more to come, so keep coming back. 

UPDATE: Take a gander at the comment thread on this post (below my “bio” – sorry, it’s “automatically” part of this theme).  The comments expand on the ideas above NOW – and if you click on the names of the commentors, I think you’ll find THEIR blogs of interest as well.

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As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Memory Series, or the Walking a Mile Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)
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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above)

Articles in the ADD and Memory Series

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

8 Responses to Remembrance of Selves Past

  1. Judi Pixley says:

    What a relief to get someone who actually knows what they’re discussing on the internet.More people should read this and understand the value of it.Very informative post,i love this site,keep it up!

    • Hey Judi –
      Quickie explanation for why your comment has been languishing: I just went through the posts marked by Akismet as spam and found yours and another with almost exactly the same wording, both of you dancers. Do you have a pseudonym, are you friends, or are you both using some kind of bot software for traffic generation?

      In any case, welcome to ADDandSoMuchMore.com – TONS of ADD in the dance world, so I hope you’ll be back, and that you will continue to like what you see here.

      xx,
      mgh

  2. jeg700 says:

    Is it any wonder why we have such memory “problems”? After all, to remember something one has to be in the moment, live the moment and PAY ATTENTION to the moment for it to register. Since paying attention is not an ADDers strong suit because they are constantly distracted by a million and one other things that are going on at the same time, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that I don’t remember what the heck my siblings are talking about when they reminisce about some event we lived through. I actually suspect they are just remembering the stories my Mom told us instead of the real events. Because I usually remember Mom’s stories, with a healthy dose of scepticism of course. When they laugh like lunatics every time I inevitably ask “Where was I when this was happening?” while they show me another picture of me, right there with them, I am amazed and wonder about what could have possible caught my attention that was more interesting than what was going on.

    It’s funny to be this way, yet it is a little disconcerting to not be able to put that sense of connection I feel to my siblings with actual facts. The feelings are strong, the events are hazy at best and that constant sense of “Huh?” what is going on? is almost always present.
    Actually, most things I do remember from the past are events that were traumatic. You know, the ones that scarred me for life. The bad moments. Of course, there are a lot of bad moments that are just as hazy, even nonexistent for me as well. Because I had the ability to remove myself from the situation in my head whenever the event was too much for me to handle emotionally. Still do. It’s a blessing.

    Who needs to remember all the bad stuff? What purpose does it serve?

    This makes me think of the time the therapist thought I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (before the ADD/ADHD testing happened)… she actually thought it strange when I asked her why I would want to try to bring back all the bad stuff that happened to me? What was in it for me? I firmly believe that if my mind “shut down” to protect my young self from that horrid time, why did anyone think I would benefit from remembering it?

    After my ADD/ADHD diagnosis, she always told me how brilliant she thought I was, how interesting and creative I was, and how funny I was. And different…she said I saw things in a unique way and accepted them easily. To me the past was just that…the past. Of little importance to the here and now. And didn’t really influence much of how I feel currently.

    I actually feel a great sense of gratitude for her…she is the one that recognized ADD/ADHD in me and she is the one that helped put the bridges in place between the gaps in my thinking.
    Still, I wonder if those compliments were just her way of saying I’m weird? LOL

    • Thanks for this post – it gives language to the truth of our experience in words other than my own.

      OF COURSE we *appear* to have “short term memory deficits” from the outside – and we DO, but not in the same fashion as those “unblessed” with ADD/EFD etc. Given almost any particular event outside our particular center in hyperfocus, our attention was distracted, our focus was elsewhere, so the event never “happened” for us consciously to BE remembered.

      Unless the brain makes the “decision to store” the consolidation phase doesn’t put the event in a place with links for easy retrieval (or retrieval at all, for some of us with some events) — thus my “old, slow file clerk” metaphor.

      BTW – the “decision to store” happens “automatically” in the presence of strong emotion – fear/love/rage/hate etc. – nature’s old programming to keep us away from life-threatening situations. In today’s world, it helps us hang on to every mean thing anyone said MUCH longer than might otherwise make sense (unless we learn how to “rewire”), even as we forget little details we’d LIKE to recall (unless we learn how to link for recall, and even THAT can be iffy sometimes – as with anybody else.)

      OF COURSE we can be taught (or figure out for ourselves, eventually) HOW to retrieve some form of hazy recollection *eventually* – as can a hypnotized “witness” to an event where details are important, but not recalled. HOWEVER, when our amygdalla is in overdrive, the PFC is MIA, and the PFC is what we need to access TO recall! (That’s what is SO frustratingly ineffective for “them” and US when our Beloved’s think pressuring or threatening us is just what the gurus ordered!)

      FYI – the theory behind “tromping back through the bad stuff” is right on target for anxiety types – i.e., remember in a “safe” environment and build new links to “rewire” the auto-firing response. BUT, IMHO, our “anxiety” and “depression” respond atypically because we are anxious (or depressed) about our struggles with our day-to-day LIVES, so until we can get the ADD pieces under control, we’re not going to be helped much by romping back through the feelings.

      But what do *I* know? I have only LIVED with it, researched it, coached it and taught it for half a century, it’s not like I’ve done placebo-controlled experiments with a hundred or so 12 year old boys or anything that might PROVE any of my ideas, right? [very wry grin!]

      RE: “compliments” — I’d choose to believe all the good stuff your therapist said (Robin Williams is weird too, right – if you want to frame it that way, but oh why would you?) Most therapists may have only the loosest of handles on ADD, but part of their training makes it highly unlikely they would tell a client something just to make them feel better in the moment. She was shining a light on what you have going for you as resources. And THAT will never change.

      Now, if you could only figure out how to remember where you left the overdue library books . . . and your bank card or your wallet . . . and your car keys . . . and what you were *supposed* to be doing with the time you are looking for them!!

      Thanks for stopping by.
      xx,
      mgh

  3. Hi Madelyn :-) {Off topic} I have a name for our friend who is an “Introvert with Social Skills” !! Her name is Eva Lind (a psuedonym she goes by) and as I thought, she is Delighted to have you quote her one-liner and as you wanted to give credit to her :-) I’m sorry I have posted it here but I wanted you to get the good news….

    You do Jornaling? Me too…I have done a couple of posts on the subject and I am doing one later today, I think you might find the post I’m doing of interest, so do pop by. Journaling is fantastic, free self-help/therapy. The amount of growth that comes with it is amazing and as a fellow Journaller, you will understand when I say that I couldn’t be without it ;-) See you soon, Immie x:)

    • Hey – I’m the ADD Poster Girl – off topic, on topic, It’s ALL “topic” to me, no apologies necessary. Actually, I’m thrilled you posted her “name” here on the “Remembrances” post — I’m more likely to “remember” where to find it when I want to quote it [VERY big grin, but absolutely serious!].

      As soon as I mainline a few more pots of coffee so I can reset all my clocks (grrrrrrrr!), I’ll check out your post, grab the link and back-link it to this one (not everyone reads the comments).

      FYI: I will also approve any posts in which you include links to “relateds” on your site – I trust fellow bloggers with legitimate blogs, and don’t always have time to “make the rounds” before I must post and move on.

      I really believe this “takes a village” stuff, so once I’ve let somebody know I’ve linked to them, they become part of my village and I welcome their links.

      (Akismet usually marks posts with links as spam and doesn’t alert me. If the link is time-sensitive, if I haven’t “unspammed” within a day or two, comment again with no link and I’ll know to go find it and approve it – some days the real spammers hit so hard I “get lost” sifting through them! I will find and approve eventually, however)

      Thanks, Immie.
      xx,
      mgh

  4. Dan Bolton says:

    Wow! I never knew ADD affected a lack of mooring to one’s past as well. It makes me think differently of my ex. She consistently acts inconsistent and constantly contradicts major things she’s said or arguments she’s made at me, with no reference to past ideas or relationships, or even ways that seemed loke her personality, and I never knew which way was up and which way was down. It’s better we’re apart as she does not see the impact this has on those around her, or even her own life, and the blame all ends up being pinned on everything around her. It does make me feel more sympathetic though, which is better than frustrated beyond belief!

    • I was hoping you’d see this post, Dan, because I look forward to your comments – but I had no idea of your history with your ex. I don’t know how it plays with her, but I know that, for me, it’s “in there” somewhere (my long-term memory is excellent), but linking back to it on demand seems beyond me at times.

      I try to hold that lightly or my ancient “librarian” takes even longer on her trip through the stacks of my brain’s library, but that’s hard to do when somebody else is pushing immediately for “their” version of the memory. (I tell my clients, “Don’t chase it, it’ll RUN!”)

      Step ONE, of course, is “owning” the situation — not just because that’s the “fair” thing to do, but because of the way the brain works. Every time we “rehearse” we strengthen neuro-linkage. So if we’re repeating “they always rewrite history” or “they always make it MY fault,” guess how likely our librarian is to continue to hunt for that memory we swear isn’t there?

      In any case, your comment suggests that an article on this particular presentation of “kludgy memory” needs to move further up on my list – so thanks.

      BY THE WAY – read my comment to Immie re: linking here. That applies to you as well.
      xx,
      mgh

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