Friday, November 10, 2023

F ³: Brain-Changing Can Be Hard


I’ve realized that my brain operates on a simple assumption:

Each new experience is an opportunity to screw up.

Over the last several years I’ve realized that spending most of my life with undiagnosed ADHD has a lot to do with that. Having an extremely judgemental mother didn’t help, either. I envy folks who feel exhilarated by new adventures. I immediately start making mental lists of how something new could be awful or how I could fail.

I decided I wanted to rewrite that script which has been dominating my thoughts for far too long. At first, I tried this:

Each new experience is an opportunity for something wonderful to happen.

At this suggestion, my brain just laughed. This was just too big a leap. As much as I believe in positive self-talk, this was more like trying to convince myself that there were fairies living at the bottom of the garden. I tried again.

Each new experience is an opportunity.

How about that, Brain? Open-ended enough for you?

Brain was not entirely convinced. “Better, moving in the right direction, but not quite right.” 

If I were going to reframe how I deal with something I’ve struggled with all my life, I would have to be one hundred per cent honest. Masking it or painting it in pretty colors wouldn’t do. 

I just about gave up. Maybe this was just insurmountable. Why did it matter to me enough to change it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just accept it? And yet…

My psychiatrist, who grew up in Italy, told me the story of his favorite childhood television show. It had actually been created to teach adults how to read, but for some reason he just loved it. The name of the show was “non è mai troppo tardi”, which translates as “It’s never too late.”

He shared this with me to remind me that my story isn’t over yet. I still have time to make sense of things, make choices, pursue my dreams. Those five words in Italian have become something of a talisman for me. I’m not a tattoo sort of person, but, should I ever decide to get one, that’s what it would say. - - Non è mai troppo tardi, Village Green/Town², April, 2022

So, at long last, I arrived at a baseline. A starting point. A place that my brain was willing to accept.

Each new experience is.

I don’t have to like them. I don’t have to be good at handling them.  But each new experience does not come in my life to test or to thwart me.  All lives contain new experiences. They show up whether or not you are wanting them or expecting them. 

This may sound quite simple to you. But I have learned that many adults with ADHD withdraw from the world because they have lost confidence in their ability to cope with what life throws at them. Often, everything feels like a test. An opportunity to screw up. Again.

So, here I am. With my four simple words. 

Each new experience is.

Do you have words inside your brain that shape your outlook? Have you ever tried to change them?

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