Wednesday, August 06, 2014

8 Days to 40: Lesson #5

Lesson #5

In 2002, I re-entered Brigham Young University (BYU) to obtain a masters degree. I had been diagnosed with ADHD by a psychologist in Salt Lake City about 6 months earlier, but that was as far as I had gotten with it. As I began school, I wanted to make sure that I had a second solid opinion on the matter. Also, if I indeed did have it and I was back in school, then I had reason to worry about performing well in an academically rigorous program without help. I might actually have to read and study everything this time around.

So I wandered into the BYU counseling center and got an appointment to talk to someone about it. After the first appointment, they decided to have me go through a battery of different tests. At the end of that process, and another discussion, the verdict was in...I indeed did have ADHD. Well, this really is statistically very likely since I have Tourette's and something like 80%+ of those with Tourette's also have ADHD.

The counseling center suggested I enter counseling with one of their on-campus psychologists, so I did. Mine was Dr. James McArthur (Jim), and he was awesome. I spent an hour each week with him for nearly a year. During that time, I had my eyes opened about myself in important ways. It forced me to re-think my life story and deal with the hard things that came with being undiagnosed and untreated for 25 years. And that was a lot. Some days this was a lot harder than others. But overall, the experience with Jim was a really great one for me.

It takes a lot of effort and honesty to effectively deconstruct your life and make admissions that can be embarrassing and hard. I am still working on it now, 12 years after I started that process. But one experience I had in this process made an extraordinary impact upon my life - that is lesson #5...

In April of 2004, I met my amazing wife, Amy. We were married in September of the same year. By that time, I had been deconstructing and re-constructing myself for 2 years. I had made a lot of progress, but still had some of the toughest things left. These were certain stories I told and believed about my life. They were the foundation for how I acted in certain situations and were at times a disability all by themselves, as they caused me to sabotage my own life - and always with an excuse and a blame. I was a great victim.

I legitimately felt and thought I was in fact a victim. I felt real feelings and had real experiences.However, I hated being told I was a victim and I hated feeling like I was hostage to my past experiences and how my lingering issue tripped me up and kept me from the type of relationships I wanted.At some point I realized that those who had hurt me or the circumstances I had suffered were never going to change. Only I could change, and I had to let it go and start over.

One day I decided that I was finally going to "deal with" one of my issues and end it. Several times I had heard of people ritually writing down how they had been wronged or things they didn't like about themselves, etc. and then they would rip them up and throw them away or burn them symbolically letting those things be destroyed and let go. Why not give it a try.

The story I had told a lot and used was of how I had been picked on a lot growing up and made fun of, etc. You see, when I was 16, I was still 90 pounds and 5 foot 1 inches. Smallest guy in the high school. And I carried a personality that probably didn't lend itself to having friends and defenders. I didn't have many real friends and those I did have were all girls (I owe those few a lot!).

Even after growing (I'm now 6 foot 1 and well over 200 pounds), I carried with me this reactive personality that could be defensive and a bit like a little dog syndrome I guess. Not sure if that is the best way to describe it. It did also come with a true dislike of anyone who picked on or made fun of others. I'm not a fan of that at all.

Well, that day I sat down to deal with this issue, I decided to write down all the instances of times that I had been picked on and made fun of. I would put them all down on paper and then rip and burn them up - and be done with it. I would no longer use that as an excuse and give it place in me.

Can you imagine my list after an hour? It surprised me greatly. In fact, I was stunned. I had exactly 3 items on the page. That's it. And when I read back through them and thought about them, I realized that really only one of them was something worth putting on the page, that was a bit extraordinary. Wow. I was seriously shocked. How did I not have a whole list to put down?! Even more so, as I had been reflecting on my life, I remembered so many people who had been kind to me and realized that I got off good compared to many and compared to what could have been with my situation.

As I sat contemplating this realization, I saw exactly what I had to do. I had to stop remembering what I couldn't remember and shouldn't remember. The whole story I had told and expressed in generalities about how I had been picked on and made fun of wasn't really all that true. It had no basis to stand on. How could that be? I mean, I was remembering thing that were impossible to remember because they didn't even happen. No, not even things - I was remembering emotions about memories I didn't even have. Ugh. What a dumb thing to have lived with, and a bit shameful, honestly.

So I told myself I had to stop remembering what I couldn't remember and to stop remembering what I shouldn't remember. Right there and then. Since that moment, I haven't told/used that old and untrue story ever again, and I don't allow it to creep into my reality. What a great and immediate impact!

This experience helped me get through a number of very hard stories I had held onto for a long time and the result has been a lot more peace in my heart about my life and about the people in my life. I am very grateful for having learned this.

My advice is to figure out the stories you tell in your life that are the foundation for hard things in your life. Then, sit down and figure out what is real in it all. It might surprise you as you ponder things, how many items you can let go simply because you can't remember them. In fact, as I look back on my experience the truth is, there could have been more that really happened, but since I couldn't actually remember them, then I shouldn't carry the emotion assigned to them anymore either. You can do the same! You'll find it is quite liberating!

From a religious point of view, I have learned from this experience that Satan's best tool is not discouragement - it's first distraction. If he can control or skew or cloud your vision and perspective about things, he will do a lot of winning and you a lot of losing.

The process of finding truth about your life and self can also be applied to others. Satan desperately wants us to be lonely and disconnected. If he can prevent love from being felt and expressed, he will accomplish this. A lot of times, we write stories and hold them too long, even untrue ones, about others that impede us from loving them - from seeing them as God sees them. There is a reason Christ is called the Light of the World. His atonement allows us to be healed in many ways. My experience was as miraculous of a healing to me as healing the blind - and in many ways, that is what it was.

That is Lesson #5.


I've given it a lot of thought since that day, trying to figure out why I had believed that story in the first place. I was reading about different mental disabilities and such when I ran into something related to PTSD called Hypervigilance. I highly recommend you read about both PTSD and Hypervigilance.

Here is what Wikipedia says about it (nice synopsis):

Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a constant scanning of the environment for threats.[1][2]
In hypervigilance, there is a perpetual scanning of the environment to search for sights, sounds, people, behaviors, smells, or anything else that is reminiscent of threat or trauma. The individual is placed on high alert in order to be certain danger is not near. Hypervigilance can lead to a variety of obsessive behavior patterns, as well as producing difficulties with social interaction and relationships.
Hypervigilance can be a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder[3] (PTSD) and various types of anxiety disorder.

Anyway, I think that with Tourette's and how that functions, combined with ADHD, I probably had a few experiences that were emotionally traumatic at some point and developed a bit of hypervigilance to protect myself better. Being so small and always feeling like an outsider, that would make sense. There was a lot going on for me to naturally go into protective mode and feel threatened. It's pretty interesting to consider.

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