Guest Blogs

“ADD Burnout Was Depleting Me — Until the Pandemic Took Everything”

“Piling on too much seems to be an ADD trait. We crash and burn because we take on more than we can handle, thinking we can defy time and space to please those around us.”

When you’re traveling down the metaphorical speedway of life, with all its oncoming traffic, twists, turns, potholes, detours, and exit ramps, navigation skill is important.

But what happens when ADD is behind the wheel, and all the road signs pop up seemingly at once? You can drive through and hope not to crack your windshield. Or you can brake — stopping before you burnout — and hope no one slams into you. Or you can take the next exit to a better road, if you can actually see it.

For much of my life, I struggled to feel like I was in control as I blazed along said highway. It didn’t help that I had a habit of packing too much into my traveling caravan and was perpetually overwhelmed. Piling on too much, in fact, seems to be an ADD trait. We crash and burn because we take on more than we can handle, thinking we can defy time and space to please those around us.

Over time, I had learned to navigate this metaphorical speedway of life with some skill – until the pandemic hit like an earthquake, destroying the road ahead as far as the eye could see.

I Thought I Was Superhuman

I was running on almost no fuel, heading beyond the point of no return, in the time leading up to the great pause.

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As I finalized my divorce, I was also running myself into the ground as I ran my business. I’d do piles of administrative work in the day and teach at my dance studio in the evenings. Did I mention I was also raising my two sons alone, maintaining my household, and trying to fit in as much time as possible to see my extended family? That included seeing my brother, who was in a nursing home suffering from respiratory issues and mental illness.

I was on this speedway for so long that it felt like I would never get off. And I worried that if I tried, all the baggage I was hauling around would get loose, causing me and everyone else around to crash. I had no idea how to find an exit, nor how to stop driving.

The Universe Sends 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 at my studio. After 12 years, I could no longer afford a studio manager, so I was responsible for all aspects of the event.

In a moment of brain freeze as I was preparing for the event, 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 over to my cell phone – I was never more thankful for the strength I had developed from all my years of dance, not to mention my recent boot camp classes (Oh, did I mention I was also training for my first mud run at 55 years old? I mean, why not? I clearly had ADD superpowers!).

I called my best friend, my eldest son, and my doctor (I was too stubborn to call an ambulance), who tried to keep me calm on the line as my body continued to cramp in and convulse on itself. It continued to do so on my journey to the doctor’s office in a chaotic scene, and though I was scared and confused, I was still thinking of my big event at the studio.

The doctor suspected I was having a severe panic attack. He handed me a cup of water and told me to sip. As I did, my body slowly uncramped.

All I know was that my body had had enough that day. It let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it was done with always doing doing doing.

I wish I could say that my life completely changed after this incident. While I did slow down a bit after the wake-up call, I soon returned to juggling everything like a freak in a circus act.

The Pandemic – and the Road Ahead

The pandemic finally brought my frenzied drive to an abrupt halt. It forced me to close my studio and switch to teaching classes online, cutting my income by more than half. Still, the pandemic continued on its destructive path, taking my brother from us before we got the chance to say goodbye.

Heartbroken, exhausted, and shaken into the realization that I had no control over anything, I eventually ended my 14-year career as a business owner and dance teacher that same year. I sold my house and moved to a rental. Without a business, a house, and one of my brothers, I came to a complete stop.

What now?

I’m Not Superhuman – and That’s OK

As the chaos of 2020 settled, I fell into a slow rhythm that, while unfamiliar, felt kind of good. (My renewed sense of calm reminded me of my time as a stay-at-home mom, which was my favorite ‘career’ by far). I spent many months looking for jobs, only to conclude that, after 20 years out of corporate America, I didn’t want to walk backwards. I needed to reinvent myself. The ADHD brain, of course, can’t stay idle for too long.

So, I threw myself into ADD — writing about it and learning as much as I could about my very own condition. My interest eventually turned into a website, The ADD Social. All of this kept my busy brain very happy, and the best part was that I wasn’t running around like a headless chicken anymore!

I think the ADD urge to do too much will always be there. But in many ways, I have learned a new way of being. I listen to myself and go with my moods. Even if that means multi-tasking and hyperfocusing, it’s on my terms and I feel good about it.

As I carefully make my way forward, I also decided to return to school after 28 years and finish my bachelor’s degree — one or two classes at a time for now. With 42 credits to go, I am making sure not to overcommit this time.

Accepting that I’m not superhuman doesn’t mean I’m less than. In my past way of being, I was all but drowning, trying to be and do everything, afraid of failure and disappointment. I have a better understanding of my limits and strengths now, and I’m also practicing self-care and self-love. I’m still working on eradicating some of my unrealistic expectations, but I know it’s not a race. I know the only way forward in this life is at the pace that’s right for me.

Burnout: Next Steps

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