Monday, July 24, 2017

He Wanted to Change the World : Abridged

In November 2016, I felt the frustrating draw to write out the overflow of my mind and heart. I saved the draft and closed the browser because it read as jumbled and overwhelming as I felt. In February, I did the same thing. And again in April. On July 1st, I finally relinquished the expectation of myself to write something that was perfect, irrefutable, compelling and beautiful and I just spoke. I decided first to write a Facebook status and after beginning it, I realized it was not an acceptable Facebook status (it was hella long) so I moved it over to a Google doc.

8 pages and 5 hours passed and I felt I could breathe.
I feel I owe a lot of my friends an honest and heartfelt update on what the hell we're doing. I realize it appears we have probably lost our minds, or are always asking for money for a new project, or are speaking of grandeur and seeking support for a new thing. I'm sure we come across as confusing and maybe even annoying to people.

I understand that. I see that. My anxious, overthinking mind thought through all those scenarios.

We have had a dozen people stick by us through this entire, unexpected and strange journey and I can't thank them enough. I truly can't.

So, this is intended to be an abridged version of another abridged version of our last 6-8 months. 

I have no idea where to start other than at the very beginning, on February 19th when Palmer came to me telling me about the incredible experience he had the night before. He felt enlightened, invigorated, excited and ready to change the world. February 19th, in case you don't have a photographic memory, was an unnaturally gorgeous Sunday. I took one child out to ride her bike while the other two stayed home with Palmer while he energetically graphed and logged everything he had in his head. He did this for a majority of the day.

What he wrote about was fascinating, revolutionary ideas to steer humanity towards betterment. I know it's vague, I told you it was abridged. I was astonished and intrigued. Where did this come from? 

The following weeks and months were full of supernatural wonderment that I can't fully describe here and yet it was also full of equally paralyzing fear. The days were precarious and uncertain. There was a stretch of time where he was so full of energy he appeared to be on drugs. He didn't sleep or eat and I panicked about when to step in and help. There were a couple of weeks where I didn't recognize him.

During this time, he was so connected to something that everyone around him caught it. The spark of life and true free will and the gift of stepping out of our mundane survival to evaluate our existence.
I KNOW HOW THAT SOUNDS. I just ask you please bare with me. 
Christians would call it the Holy Spirit, I call it the Universe, others might call it something else and atheists might not believe me at all and that is totally okay. I'm not writing this to evangelize or proselytize or convince anyone of anything. I am writing this completely honestly and free of any worry that anyone will think less of us.  

In the midst of that, his partnership in a business start up he poured weeks into dissolved and he was left with the pieces of something awesome and exciting; something we had hung our future on. I grieved for him then too, helpless and paralyzed yet again. I was not the wife I wanted to be, the supporter, the helper, the one to pick up the reigns when he couldn't hold them any longer. I wanted to be more than I was for him then but that's my own process to work through, I think.

He quietly picked up those pieces and moved them into a new endeavor which a lot of you may have heard of: the Lawrence Collective.

On March 25th, he invited the whole city to join his efforts to something bigger. He couldn't paint the whole picture but he knew with every fiber of his being he believed in it and it's potential so he threw everything he had into it. He was able to share a part of his vision with a number of other people who knew how to make it work. Again, I can't thank those people enough. I can't adequately thank those who listened to him intently, stuck by his side and not only that but worked along side him as I tried to keep our lives together and he pursued great dreams. I need to clarify that I do not mean to say he was negligent of our lives or family or anything like that.

His peripheral broadened to the point where I had to let him take off and see what happens. 

The 25th came and went, things were quiet. The adrenaline of planning and anticipation for that day came and went. He spiraled. There was one particularly heart wrenching day when my neighbor texted me alerting me that she thought Palmer to be suicidal and it was time to step in. A dear friend came to his side and he sobbed and processed for hours while I sat helpless and paralyzed again. There were days I emotionally prepared to separate the family so he could get well. Days spent grieving. I spent an entire 3 months in a constant state of nervous panic that my life, my husband, my future and the people around me were falling apart but instead of telling anyone, I kept it to myself so I could just. keep. going. Make it to the next day, hold it together, keep life normal for the kids, worry about whether our business and sole income would make it out of this.
Image result for kimmy schmidt you can do anything for 10 seconds

We decided to get the hell out of town for a spontaneous trip to the mountains - nature's most cleansing medicine. The trip was perfect in that it was exactly what we needed. It was the grounding Palmer needed. It was the escape I needed. It was the adventure the kids loved. But it was cut short when Palmer was able to ground enough to look at himself and say he needed help. He posted a video to Facebook describing his mental breakdown and he began the process of getting outside help.

Everything from that point on has been an incredible, steady incline of improvement but not only that - our lives have been filling with great, beautiful hope. That connection to something more remains untouched. And what's more, others feel it too. People around us are talking about the same things. It starts as unexplainable restlessness, or intense anxiety, or glimpses at weird consistent coincidences. And this is not new, it's not something I'm making up or trying to get a new church going around or something. It's the betterment.

The Lawrence Collective, the idea Palmer put together and ran with, is still there - we're just starting smaller. It's focused on connecting people, hearing each other's stories and going from there (it won't stop there, and really would you expect anything less from these crazies?) It's planned to be a lovely little mix of Humans of New York, NPR's Tiny Desk and a dash of local news thrown in. This is Lawrence, KS - we have an endless supply of beautiful, interesting people to hear from. It's Palmer's passion project and I'm happy to be able to help any way I can.

Being present and open to this magic around me has not let me down so I dare not stop now.

This journey began with a mental breakdown 5 months ago and ended with an intangible connection to something so much greater than what my life has known. We're open to the magic of possibility, to the deep potential of humanity and the incredible change that can happen. We are not the same people we were at the beginning of the year and I'm grateful for it. Palmer woke up and I'm grateful for it. We are both healing and growing in ways we couldn't have done before; living caught up in hopeless expectations.

There are a list of ideas I can logically work through concluding why what happened came to pass. Why he changed, what is driving him and where it's coming from. I won't do that today. (And probably never will.)

Today I'm letting you know we're okay. And more than that - we're alive.


I feel like I have been going through a complete and total transformation and the best way to process all of it is through writing. I say that like it's news. I've been processing through writing since I was a young teen; I think there are times I think it's either not necessary, not important or that it's a habit better left with my young journals of angst. No. I'm learning to pick it up again and to stop overthinking how well it's written, what words I choose, whether they're the perfect words and whether anyone will care. It doesn't matter.

Lately, over the past month, my anxiety feels like it has peaked. I don't know why. I can't pinpoint a trigger or a reason other than a very broad and probably obvious indicator which I can only call, "growth".
Coincidentally, it's been one year since I went to India where I found myself stripped of all comforts, bandaids and familiar escapes. I was faced with just myself and this foreign world and it was awful and, as I'm discovering, necessary.
The anxiety I feel now is similar to that time. It's hard to eat, my chest is always tight, I become completely consumed with my thoughts, some of which are poison. I have to actively, consciously choose to step away from them. In doing so, I am moving forward in beautiful ways. Yet still, I type this with the nervous, upset stomach and bated breath. Why?

Here's one thing I'm processing through:

Through most of my school career, beginning mostly in 5th grade, I was very much below average. Truly a solid C student. I never felt smart, never retained information like I wished I could and never could live up to expectations of the school, teachers and overall academics. I was incredibly quiet, well behaved and not easily noticed so I could get away with the underachievement for a long time.

English class, though, is where I soared. It was the one time I would score high because of something I was actually good at (as opposed to Home Ec where I just had to show up and try). I remember two different occasions where I stood up to read something I wrote to the class and it was that movie moment where the class is looking at me in awe, like "Where the hell did she come from?" Once a teacher begrudgingly gave me a good grade on a story I wrote because she was sure I plagiarized it.
I wish I could go back and thank the English teachers (except that one) I had who helped me find that piece of magic that writing is to me.

However, I learned to hate school. It showed me everything I wasn't good at. 

I remember using different ways of trying to absorb information. I would write every word my teacher said down or repeat every word said in my head to keep me focused. I'm sure my internal dialogue was ridiculous and hilarious. I didn't mean to space out, I didn't mean to be distracted or disinterested. I didn't want to ignore homework or miss a deadline or fail. But I did consistently. I barely graduated high school.

Adult life has not been any easier. I struggle with relationships, I struggle with keeping a clean house. I struggle to plan and organize. I struggle to remember anything. I will be having a conversation with someone I love and, like a freaking computer, I'll be interrupted with a pop up window or spinning wheel indicating something is loading, only to be thrown back into the real world where I'm frantically catching up and fumbling through a recovery. It's the same problems I struggled with in school but grown up life was copy and pasted where class and homework was.

My husband began treating his ADHD a few months ago and as he was describing the symptoms and life with and without treatment, I began to recognize many things. Things books and websites were describing that I thought these last 18 years were just normal things everyone deals with except me were actually, in fact, not a healthy normal.

I scheduled a visit with my doctor and she confirmed my suspicions with a diagnosis of ADHD. I broke down into tears. My childhood finally made sense. My severe childhood anxiety and my adult depression even made more sense. I have been doing more research and almost every time I finish an article I have streams of tears down my face.

"I finally know I'm not stupid," I said to my doctor with breaking composure. 

I'm not lazy. I'm not immaturely disorganized. I'm not stupid and it's definitely NOT because I'm a female. I'm just misunderstood. I've misunderstood myself.

The irony here is I was one of those people for a while who rolled my eyes at ADHD. I criticized medicating kids for being kids and using a diagnosis as a cop out for doing anything. I mean, look at me, I had all those things too and I was a miserably depressed failing student - it's fine!

Here's what I'm learning that I wanted to share. ADHD is commonly associated with little boys and hyperactivity. First of all, the symptoms of ADHD are not isolated to just hyper activity, like I had thought for so long. There are "shades" to it, like most things, and a more subtle version of it is inattentiveness, anxiety, daydreaming, disorganization and under performing. Reading those "symptoms" was one of the things that brought me to tears. I had a teacher embarrass me once for my disorganization. She stopped class, took my folder to the trash can and began throwing away everything in it making a big deal out of how much stuff was in it. I learned to see that flaw in me and really hate it.

I can't really articulate the weird, conflicting emotions you have when as an adult you are processing through something seemingly small and unimportant, like a memory of a teacher being mean in first grade, and learning to forgive and have grace for your child self. Years ago I would have deleted all of that thinking, "WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT WHEN YOU WERE EMBARRASSED IN FIRST GRADE. WHO CARES THAT YOU WERE MESSY EVER." But I do. And I really wonder how many women are still, as 30 year old adults, hating these little things about themselves that they just can't get a handle on.

Here's the other thing: Women are much less likely to be diagnosed because first of all, ADHD has not been widely researched in women. I just want to sit on that for a minute. Not to wag my finger at gender bias but to acknowledge it exists in many forms.


Ok. So there's been research revealing the differences in ADHD in girls and boys at a young age, determining it can manifest very differently between the two. Even with that knowledge, I'm reading more and more articles pointing out the imbalance between diagnosing and helping girls with their ADHD.

Further, women are more likely than men to grow into ADHD, developing it later in life and the traits are expected to be handled in a timely and efficient manner to keep up with the rest of the world. On top of that, the demands women are expected to meet are insurmountable when coupled with ADHD. The expectations our society has of women is a whole other conversation in general but more often than not, women are the primary parent at home, the caretaker of the home, the planner and the organizer.
Quick refresher on those ADHD traits which include the inability to be organized, difficulty recalling details and trouble staying on task conclude that that is, uh, yeah, not going to pan out well. And let me tell you, as a stay at home mother for 7 years and trying to work and parent from home for 2 months - IT DOESN'T WORK WELL.

My depression meds haven't changed my life, only evened out chemicals that are also flawed in me. But this discovery of myself has changed, and will change, a lot. I'm not taking medicine for it. Not yet. I would like to have it for times when I need to really work and stay focused (working at home with 3 kids is a nightmare for someone who is chronically disorganized and distracted) but because it's a medicine so abused they make it difficult to get. Right now what I'm doing is more self discovery, giving myself more grace, giving my child self forgiveness and talking about it. The idea that so many people, and women specifically, are struggling and learning to dislike these traits in themselves as flaws a lot of times at a very young age, breaks my heart.  I also think this will help me be a better, more patient parent. I will know what to look for. I will know when my easily distracted daughter is again NOT doing what I asked her to, it's not that she is disrespectful but that she likely spaced out like I do. Or when she leaves a total mess beyond just the "being a kid" mess that it's not because I need to teach her to clean better (not always at least) but that, like me, her mind just can't keep the clutter in check.

I am sharing this as part of the processing stage, like I mentioned. I'm also sharing this so that others  can hopefully understand me like I'm learning to understand myself. More than that, what I really hope for in sharing this is that someone else might come upon this same discovery. That they might see a reflection of themselves in either what I wrote or from the conversations coming from this topic. That someone else will glean insight into themselves and embrace that reflection as evidence that nothing is worth despising in them self. That those traits that create more obstacles than ease can be honed into tools resembling superpowers. That we'll be better equipping people to fully reach their potential despite those obstacles that disorders create. It is there that happiness resides and happiness is what equals success.

If you're interested, here are a few sources I've been learning from: