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Today’s story is written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness, and serves as a gentle reminder for ALL of us to continually press forward towards mental health and wholeness. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on this site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a number of issues with focusing and staying on task. They often call that Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I have that label placed on me and I don’t mind. I’m classified as having the inattentive type. I’ve had people, including my kids, tell me to slow down. I’m always looking at what’s next. That inhibits me from enjoying any given moment. I need to just breathe and enjoy the happy, peaceful times.
My mental illness conditions don’t always allow me to stay focused and on task. In the past, I quit many jobs because I was not focusing or staying on task. When I’m moving from one thought to the next, my anxiety gets extremely high. When I’m communicating with the voices in my head, I have to keep the loud, ever-changing conversations going. The voices confuse me, so I often retreat and isolate myself.
It’s important for me to keep up with my mental health so I can focus and stay on task.
I hope these stories illustrate how self-care is needed when dealing with focus and staying on task in the past, present, and looking forward to the future?!
Relationships have helped me deal with my isolating issues. I have a strong support system that I can be open and honest with. Sometimes we laugh at psycho me and that is alright.
I walked into my psychiatrist’s office the other day with so much to catch him up on. Guess what? I forgot what I was going to talk about with him! He recommended, as he always does, to make a list before my appointments for both my kids and myself. Sometimes I do that, but often I just don’t think of it. My psychiatrist offered me another way to focus on what’s going on. He suggested using mnemonics. That is making a sentence from the first letter of what I want to remember. He explained to me that repetition is the mother of learning. He wrote these strategies down for me, along with the reminder to RELAX to REMEMBER. There are often times that I’m having a conversation, and I completely forget what was being said. I have noticed that everyone does that from time to time, so I’m not alone. I just get confused because my emotions don’t match the conversations that are going on. I guess it’s alright to just say, “I forgot what we were talking about!” Focusing and staying on task is tough sometimes, but there are ways to deal with it!
I rarely get to hang out with my brother since he lives out of town, but I recently got to spend the day with him. My brother works in the mental health field and is pretty good at keeping me on task! He is the kind of guy who likes to enjoy each and every moment. That is the reason I look up to him so much. My mom dropped me and my son off at his place. We chilled for a bit while he was smoking some food for our lunch. After lunch, we went to Legoland at the Mall of America, and we let my son, Xander, go on a ride. My focus and staying on task issues were pretty good most of the time. He had to tell me a couple times, “Just chill, Tiff. You’re always moving so fast.” The next day we celebrated the one-year anniversary of my dad’s lung transplant. Pretty much right when my brother arrived at my sister’s place, I wanted to take pictures. My brother got kind of irritated and said, “Just let the moment to take pictures happen. Don’t force it!” I was focused on getting the pictures taken, and I got my way. I tend to rush life, so being with him forces me to slow down. When I am focused and staying on task, I actually enjoy moments with my brother and my family.
As you may be able to tell by my writing, it is difficult for me to stay on task. My first diagnosis when I was just out of college was ADD/ADHD. The doctor prescribed me Adderall. I was told my personality changed drastically, and I feel that drug was the start of my drug addiction. I’ve heard Adderall has been the start of many peoples’ addictions?! I had a couple huge bottles of the drug because I was not taking it as prescribed. They were stolen from an apartment I had in Minneapolis because I was hanging out with the wrong kind of people. Over the years, I have been put on numerous stimulant and non-stimulant ADD/ADHD medications. My doctors now know NOT to put me on ANY of them. I know how I abused those drugs in the past, and I don’t trust myself with any of the stimulant medications. If I could go back in time, I would have never started taking Adderall or any of the medications for focusing. Staying on task and focusing takes a lot of work, but I’m glad there are other ways to deal with those concerns.
Everyone seems to want to keep their mind sharp and active. I’ve had a few conversations with my friends about that subject. I have been told by doctors that I have brain damage from the numerous times I attempted suicide in the past. There are many times I was near death and in the Intensive Care Unit. To keep my mind active is very important. I keep a calendar for my appointments and what I need to do each day. I also enjoy writing and reading, which is important for my brain. Lately, I have found that I can’t remember much. Ask me what I did yesterday, and I can’t remember all of the time. I have found that I am enjoying each day more and am appreciating the small moments. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have attempted suicide, but I can’t always control what my mind is doing to me. Someday, I’d like to be an advocate for suicide awareness. I have personal experience with the issue and I feel like I could help others. No problem is big enough to end your life. There are ways to cope.
I am always looking for suggestions on how to improve my memory. My friends, family and doctors help me slow down because yes, sometimes I’m moving too fast. I may get lost in conversations, not be able remember, or move too fast, but I am at a happy place in my life. Working on focusing and staying on task helps me to enjoy the small moments more!