Gaussian zen

If you’ve spoken to anyone with ADHD, you’ll probably notice the lack of concentration, little to almost no eye contact and the ability to always cut you mid-sentence.

These are some of the problems faced by us and trust me, it does it’s best to really piss other people off. I’m no exception and it happens. A lot.

Can it be cured? Nope. Can it be reduced? Now that’s an interesting question and for over 6 months now, I’ve made self-observations that might be interesting to some.

Find that one thing you hyperfocus on

I believe that I lost 10 years of my life between 2002 to 2012 because I gave up the one thing which kept me in check…. tennis.

Looking back now, playing tennis held the same equivalence and relevance for me as triathlons today. For most, sports or keeping active is an outlet, a breakaway from work and the stresses of daily life but for me and maybe for the ADHD population who are intrinsically focused on sports, it is an obsession. An emotional property that keeps us together, binds us to our roots and importantly, helps us to deal with certain shortcomings.

When I made the horrendous decision to stop competing, my belief backed by absolutely no science, is that a part of me died. The best way I can put it would be to deny an aspiring footballer the opportunity to ever kick a ball. And I believe that with the removal of this obsession that my ADHD took a turn for the worse over the better part of a decade.

For 10 years I indulged in food, drink and an extremely healthy lifestyle in order to find that new hyperfocus that I had willingly given up. Over a decade, I hit rock bottom repeatedly with my career, health and mental state. Depression set in and everything was a source of negativity.

The rest of my story has been told many times so I won’t go there and this really isn’t the point of my post either.

Why the hyperfocus is so important

First of all, it can be anything. It need not necessarily be keeping fit and that’s what I share with everyone.

I believe that because we are so unable to focus on normal tasks daily that being able to focus and hyperfocus on a passion will always contain a feeling novelty that never wanes with time. That feeling of being able to concentrate and to do something above and beyond what we think we can achieve is liberating and that liberation has helped me over the past 5 years, unknowingly to overcome obstacles that might have been insurmountable at my previous state of mind.

Revelations

For some reason I became slightly more self-aware and stopped thinking that I had something else better to do. I paid attention to conversations and became a better listener. I could do daily tasks without losing interest all the time (although it still happens but a lot lesser). Importantly, I could socialise better than before although I still prefer being in a smaller setting.

To many of us, these sound like really mundane issues but to us with ADHD and for me especially, these were breakthroughs.

I’ll be sharing more about this in my survival guide and feel free to share your thoughts about hyperfocus and your experience either as an individual with ADHD or if you know someone who does.

Till my next post.

Onward.

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Review : Timex comes really close to simplicity and function. Really close.

Part of my blogging adventure goes beyond just being as open and frank about my conditions but as fitness enthusiast and in using fitness to cope and deal better with my disabilities, I thought that reviewing the gear I’ve found helpful during long training sessions and races would alsp greatly benefit those in the fitness crowd who have invisible disabilities.

Disclaimer : I buy all of my gadgets and devices and these posts are not sponsored. This allows me to be brutally honest. In a case where the post is sponsored, I will indicate it clearly.

Previously when I started my training as a triathlete, my indulgence in gadgets was truly an obsession. Top of the line bike comp, triathlon GPS watch, sensors of all sorts would load my training kit and this inadvertently caused a lot of issues now when I think about it. Too much data and too much to track would often distract me and sometimes cause meltdowns. I’m not sure how many ADHD athletes are affected by this but it just gets overwhelming for me.

Quest to find simplicity

In a world where data is everything, it was truly hard to find a watch that had what I needed, nothing more and nothing less. Less was easy to find actually but it was either too much or too little. Then I chanced upon the brand new or relatively new Timex Ironman GPS watch and their website touted it as the simplest GPS watch ever. Could it be? After all these years that I would finally re-purchase a Timex?

Priced at 100USD, I figured the risk was worth taking and placed my order on Amazon because the local dealer here didn’t carry stock. It arrived within the week and the packaging was as simple as the watch itself. No frills.

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Just how simple is it really?

Standard micro USB charge cable? Check.

Intuitive and easy to learn functionality without having to read the user manual? Check.

Easy to setup and plug and play to my computer? Check.

So far so good.

But the important thing now was to take it for a spin and to test the most important part, GPS connectivity and accuracy. I had just the route figured out and decided that the ultimate test of whether I would put my training fate in the hands of this Timex watch would lie in my next run.

First test run

GPS connected within a minute. Impressive. I did get a bit of a shock when I was looking at my running pace. Then I realised that it was average pace setting and not pace at that point in time, my bad for not checking the settings. Distance was spot on for my usual 8km route and that was great. Battery life was at a whopping 97% after the run and I attribute this to the monochrome screen. Yup, you heard me right, no color screens and everything was made simple and to last. I recently did a much longer run for over 2.5 hours and the battery life was still at 75% with GPS on all the way. Very impressive.

Connecting my watch to the Timex Go App was as simple as plugging it into my PC via the USB charge cable and it synced everything up without a hitch.

Easy.

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My first run with the Timex Ironman GPS. Fiercely accurate.
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After plugging it into your computer, it gives a host of options to upload your SBR stats to your favourite activity tracking platform

So its a great little watch and does what it touts itself for. I believe that the Timex Ironman GPS watch is truly the simplest GPS watch out there and with swim, bike, run and triathlon modes, it should be ample for most aspiring triathletes who are not bothered by numerous data screens. That’s really up to you.

Good :

  1. Light weight and easy to look at
  2. Monochrome screen means the battery lasts forever
  3. Quick GPS and accurate running, bike and swim stats
  4. For a USD100 watch, it actually feels robust and having dropped it a few times, still works extremely well
  5. Simple button layout and easy to navigate
  6. Syncing to PC was easy and setting up was a breeze
  7. Color combinations are quite extensive with different color straps available

Bad :

  1. Can’t seem to attach a HRM to this but I heard there are newer versions with HRM capabilities
  2. Doesn’t sync wirelessly and requires to be plugged in to the computer
  3. For some, it will feel overly simplistic

I wear the watch daily to tell time as well and I must say that the Timex Ironman GPS is a pretty heavy hitter for its price point. Impressive Timex and a job well done and with some further improvements and features, we could see Timex provide some of the brands a real run for their money after re-entering the smart watch market.

Onward.

Surviving.

First of all, let me start by thanking all of you for the comments and suggestions for my upcoming survival guide. This guide can only be made better by the contributions, suggestions and ideas from everyone in the community. I believe we are onto something that will change the way invisible disabilities are seen and included into our society.

Secondly, I get a lot of positive vibes from fellow invisibly disabled friends, peers and those who know others with invisible disabilities. I cannot thank you enough but this has actually inspired this latest post.

How did it all come to this? Was I always so positive about my conditions?

No.

In order to survive, outfight, outwit and go in guns blazing, we first need to know what’s wrong.

I remember what led to all of this in what would henceforth be defined as the turning point in my life. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I were sitting in the car in silence, complete and absolute silence.

My latest meltdown (I didn’t know then) had led me to become aggressive and my temper was flaring at will. I was edgy, agitated, irate and hated everything in the world. Needless to say, it was putting a strain on our relationship and like how I found myself in so many familiar situations before, sat there in complete silence, writhing with anger, hating everything and everyone. We had in the past 30 minutes exchanged heated words (mostly because I was the culprit) and were at an impasse. She knew little of my conditions although I mentioned before that maybe I might be ADHD and we didn’t put much thought into it.

My whole life I’ve always put on a front as strong as I can to block out my deficiencies. But this was one instance in my life that I somehow knew that facing my demons would be the only way to salvage a relationship that was hinging solely on one person always getting out of line and pushing boundaries in negative ways that would eventually lead to it’s demise.

She didn’t say it. She didn’t need to because I could see the tremendous strain all of this was causing our relationship

And so I broke. Every wall I had built over so many years, every defensive structure in place, every reason to deny my right came crashing down in that one instant we sat quietly in the car. I remember turning to her and telling her that I needed help.

It would prove to be a huge turning point in my life, from hopelessness to hopeful, to rediscovering my passion for everything around me that mattered and to finally being able to fully embrace the one I love without excess baggage. And to know that she would return the same, completely accepting me, is and always will be the greatest blessing one can ever find in life.

At the age of 35, I saw a psychiatrist and got myself tested and was diagnosed with ADHD, Tourettes and Autism. The rest as they say, is history.

So, was I always this optimistic and cheerful about myself? No. For 35 years before my diagnosis and for as long as I can remember, I’ve loathed, despised and always hated myself for being so different from the others and sometimes even wishing that everything I held inside could manifest itself into something more visible so that people could see that something was wrong.

But I guess we are all unique in our own ways, some of us more unique than others. I also realised that in life, we seek to avoid our vulnerabilities so much sometimes that we form barriers and it is these barriers that truly make them weaknesses.

My conditions are not weaknesses, in fact with them I have also come to possess a great many other gifts. But in trying to hide them and shield them, I took what potentially could have been my greatest strength and turned it against me, plunging myself in a deep and dark abyss when I should have spread my wings and soared.

Maybe it’s not just about surviving anymore. Maybe it’s about embracing, living and progressing with time, if we allow it to.

Dedicated to all of my friends with invisible disabilities and to those who work so hard to build a more inclusive society.

Onward.

Tourettes…. a true story

Often times we see people with Tourettes and sometimes we hold them at a distance because of their pecularities.

As an individual with Tourettes, I can understand the apprehension when people look at us. Our twitching, uncontrollable movements and in some cases, random outbursts that seem offensive will definitely do it’s best to turn people away. It’s not difficult to look at us strange and to keep your distance. Hell, I would probably choose that path too.

So maybe here’s a way to look at it. With Tourettes, we perform these little repetitive motions and actions because it resets us into a normal state. So first up, don’t take it personally. In fact, be happy that we have a way, though sometimes not the most desirable, to reset ourselves. Second, these tics are beyond our control and to be unable to do them damages us quite badly. Imagine having a itch that you’re not allowed to scratch? That’s exactly how it feels.

In my world of Tourettes, so many activities have become a limited luxury. Cycling on a road, driving a car and even going for long hikes and walks have become increasingly challenging because the tics sometime cause difficulty breathing.

As violent as some of our tics are, we have found a way to co-exist with ourselves and with the world. That’s the true story of Tourettes and me.

Only with basic understanding can we become more inclusive. And inclusion is not one of sympathy but one of genuine understanding and acceptance.

Onward.

Starting on a survival guide

Having spoken with more people in the disability space, I have come to see with my own eyes how dilapidating a simple meltdown can be when individuals are unable to deal with the actual meltdown and it’s repercussions.

So I’m sitting here at a cafe and within my little world that gets so easily distracted, I’ve been thinking of how to put a survival guide together for parents of kids with ADHD and/or Autism spectrum together that is perhaps not just dictated by science but also based on their own experiences and importantly, what else they would like to know.

I don’t know everything and to claim that would be folly. But I can share my experiences as a child, teenager and adult dealing with being “different” till I was officially diagnosed at the age of 35.

My brain wonders and my mind tinkers on. My goal to include and to develop this survival guide has never been clearer.

Leave a comment if you :

  1. Have ADHD, Tourettes and Autism and have an experience to share
  2. Wish to find out more on how to cope with certain conditions that I have personally had to deal with
  3. Wish to contribute survival suggestions that I can include in my journal
  4. A child or loved one who has ADHD, Tourettes and Autism and you wish to share your experience and difficulties
  5. Think there is anything else I can include in the survival guide

Hope to hear from you soon and till then…..

Onward.

Life as an ADHD athlete

What it’s like and how we feel

We’ve heard it all before and in my many exchanges with parents and their child or teenage athletes, the common misnomer is that sports is the cure all for ADHD as well as its associated symptoms that include OCD and Tourette’s among many others. In my post today, i’ll be speaking liberally about why some of these articles online while helpful may be misleading as well. From my own experience and coming up with inventive methods to deal with my own ADHD and Tourette’s, I can tell you that there is no one solution fits all.

PRELUDE

Growing up as an athlete, I’ve always been known for a fragile mind when it came to pressure and to perform during my tennis matches. The story on the block was that if my opponent would play one more shot, any shot during the match, I would either hit the ball out or make a silly mistake. The truth is, they weren’t wrong at all.

This pattern would repeat itself consistently. I would get through matches where players were obviously not up to the same standard but the struggles would begin once that gap began to close. Assuming tennis players were graded from a scale of 0-5, with 5 being the best, if I were a grade 3, grade 2, 4 and 5 players were the ones I would struggle with. Most other athletes would struggle with grade 4 and 5 while players on the same level as them would simply be a game of good competition. Make sense?

AN INSIGHT

You see, our minds race in 50,000 different directions all the time and in a game like tennis where focus is the most important thing of all, we get distracted by every single thing that comes our way. From the guy outside who might be talking a little too loudly, the cracks on the court, how the ball seems to feel different today to how the grip in our hand seems a little off for our liking. Every single thing distracts us and this is just the beginning. When the match begins, it becomes full of unknowns. Where the opponent will hit the ball, how the ball spins, so many factors render us even more distracted and the meltdown has already gone into its usual process. All it takes then is one silly mistake from us for a full eruption to occur and the throwing of rackets, expletives on court as well as outbursts start. Once they start, they never stop and we never find our focus again. A match that should have been won becomes a damaging defeat and because our minds cannot deal with it, we spend the next 2 – 3 weeks thinking if we are good enough and during this period, play even worse tennis than before and the hole becomes deeper and deeper and deeper. There is no cycle to this because it just goes deeper and darker. As strange as it sounds, most ADHD people are also extremely reflective and introspective. This plays against us as we dwell on something that has already past for a long time and the effects can truly be damaging.

TAMING THE BEAST

Aptly called because that’s what it feels like at times. Within us and especially for me, I always share with my family that it feels as though a beast is waiting to emerge and at the most unpredictable times, will rear its ugly head and royally mess things up. This beast can’t be killed or removed because it’s part of us and it waits for the most opportune times to head out of its cave.

Over the years, I’ve fought and struggled with this till a breaking point. The more I resisted, the worse it became and the more I struggled, the more it enjoyed the attention. One day, I sat down, looked at my life and realised that maybe the best way to deal with this was to accept it before fighting it and that’s exactly what I tried. Instead of trying to be something I wasn’t, I simply allowed the beast to become part of me, to let it see the light and importantly, to stop thinking that I was so much different from everyone else. By willingly let it come out of its cave, it seemed to have a much needed reverse effect. Remember how you would always want to eat that ice-cream that your mum told you not to eat? But when she finally told you that you could have as much as you wanted, that ice-cream didn’t seem as delectable anymore. The exact same thing happened here.

In acceptance, we struck a truce and decided that working together would be the best way forward. Painful thoughts became spurring motivation to achieve more, distractions served as a reminder to rest, anxiety became the weapon to remind us to keep calm and anger became an inner tool to remind us to smile wider when the cards were against us which led to this anger becoming the source of power and energy to keep moving forward.

Of course this wasn’t a universal cure and nothing works out the way its supposed to all the time. I still have my moments but much lesser than before. In the most recent tennis tournament I played in Singapore between races, I chucked my racket twice during a tight match and immediately felt guilty after. So yes, these things still happen. But of all the matches I played, I ended each one smiling, some of them I played with a smile on my face even what I made mistakes and importantly, was able to manage the defeat in stride without overthinking it.

I told my wife after what was probably my heaviest loss in years to a much better player that I’ve never felt happier losing a match. No resentment, no anger, just optimism and happiness that I’ve not felt in years. Not happiness because of the loss but because it meant that I was coming to terms with all of these issues that have plagued me for the past 20 years at least.

That’s really what we go through as ADHD athletes and hopefully this article reaches out to those blessed with this condition and needing some sort of direction to move forward. There will always be challenges but everyone else faces them as well. For us, it may take a little bit more effort but we will get there.

To all of my friends reading this, please feel free to share it so that the message can be widely received and to better educate others on what it means to have ADHD.

Till my next post…

Onward

Tic tic tic

Tourettes and Me

You remember the painful days when the tics come and strike you from behind. For me, it teaches the importance of treasuring what I have and each moment I am tic free even if it’s for that fleeting moment.

It happened today during my run. As it always does, it started from my right shoulder and I could feel it’s presence creep up my face. The constant blinking and twitching of my eye brows and facial area came almost simultaneously and something that is more concerning in recent times, my tongue retreating to the back of my throat, often leaving me gagging for breath.

I made the painful decision to stop and slowly walk home with my sunglasses bobbing up and down on my face because the twitching just would not stop. Days like these really make you question what the intent in all of this was and why these conditions exist. And importantly, why me?

I do my crying in the shower, I always do but today there was no time for that because I started an Inclusive Run initiative which meant that every kilometer covered during my run would be dedicated to someone else with an invisible disability to raise awareness. Tagging three people was better than none and that’s exactly what I did.

Does it hurt? Do the tics frustrate me? Yes and more than anyone will ever know. Imagine having the best race of your life only to have these symptoms sweep over you, leaving you struggling for breath and inadvertently requiring to slow down. Imagine having a perfectly good day get cut short because your facial twitches begin to frighten little children around you. Imagine all of this out of control.

And now imagine this, I am one of the lucky ones. There are so many others who struggle with even worst tics than me and they get ostracized, looked at funny or made fun of simply because of something they cannot control.

They are who I run and fight for. Because together, we will become stronger.

Onward.

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