From the decidedly direct desk of Paul:
I’m well and truly aware that May is Mental Health Awareness month, so while I feel no small amount of anxiety while writing this, I also need to actually engage this feeling; look squarely at the things that are very much a part of me, that are both banes and boons.
See, as a kid my folks and teachers noticed behaviours of mine, and after a battery of tests, the determination relayed was that I was “hyper and gifted,” and to wit they advised that I be put in advanced classes, especially those involving computers and any types of math. It seemed to make sense at the time, and I enjoyed making the most of it.
We now have more distinct names that fit the symptoms and behaviours I presented, one of those being ADHD. As it turns out, it shares with ASD a common set of symptoms like depression, anxiety, executive functioning difficulties, social differences, etc.; and then they each have a unique set of symptoms which might seem at odds with each other, but can still present together such as “craves novelty and new experiences” and “craves familiarity and routine.” As an example, this makes for interesting times in that sometimes the extrovert in me is in full effect, especially on stage, and in others where the introverted side wants nothing more than just some quiet time reading, playing a game, or watching a movie.
Another effect is that while I’m the one in the band handling bookings, logistics, and numbers, executive functioning issues sometimes hinder, where I’ll need to prioritize something else that required immediate attention, but then returning to the other task at hand I was working on before the distraction is a huge challenge, because where exactly do you pick back up on things you’ve set aside while triaging?
And then of course, because I’ve dropped the ball on things, thus enters anxiety/depression. Fun.
Yeah, this is rambling a bit, but bear with me just a bit longer. There’s a lot to distill here.
With all this history, in the fall of last year I started a journey by sharing with a therapist, and as much as this post is hard, starting therapy was harder. Mind you, it still is, but it’s getting easier because I realized something: It’s okay to not be perfect; that this up here isn’t broken, just wicked different.
An expected product of therapy is also discovering new things I did not not realize were even there. I’ve uncovered quite a bit, not least of all that one of my challenges is that I have that feeling that what I’m doing isn’t good enough, even if everyone else tells me it’s freaking awesome. The term for it is Imposter Syndrome, and it’s paralyzing. It keeps me from taking risks, makes me the guy who wants to just stay under the radar, do just enough to get the job done. Problem is, it only gets the job done, and it shuts down the emotional drive to do more. Hell even as I type this, there’s the urge to trim it, scrap it, and write something else, anything else; why should I even be writing about a topic as important as this?
This feeling came to light very recently in rehearsal with regards to writing and other ventures. Frustrations were voiced, and done so out of friendship and love. I got to discuss this recently uncovered facet of me, and it was one the hardest things I’ve had to discuss with them so far.
So there’s just a couple things brought to light. Now, how am I working on it?
The Change Model has five stages: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation/Determination, Action/Willpower, and Maintenance. I’m mainly on the Action/Willpower stage, the one where I’m actually putting plans into motion, with a sidecar of at times going back to review what is working and what doesn’t.
Writing things down helps quite a bit, even though there’s still the step of remembering to write things down. It means taking the moment when an idea strikes or I find out about something that needs doing, to stop and jot it down, or tell my digital assistant to make a note for later. It’s a ton of setting up routines, seeing which ones stick, and then finding ways to catch the ones that fall through the cracks.
Communication is also key, in that there is the need to be present for conversations, but also proactively share information more often, and not just when asked about it. Oh, and not necessarily attaching personal worth to the message. Just because I may have to deliver bad news, doesn’t mean it’s on me, or anybody for that matter, even though it’s easy to feel vulnerable or bad because I’m the messenger.
The last tool I’ll touch on here for now is self-care, and that’s not strictly about physical needs. There’s also the need to be kind to oneself. It’s super easy for me to fall back into imposter syndrome mode, to forget that self-worth is not transactional, to not allow myself the grace in that it’s supposed to be about progress, not perfection; to take out the binder of stuff I’ve been writing for the better part of two decades only to peruse it for a few minutes and put it away, because what if it’s not good enough?
Why do I bring this all up now, regardless of whether it’s Mental Health Awareness Month or not? Because as scary as it is to put out there, it’s harder and way more draining to ignore it. Masking is taxing, and frankly if y’all are going to get to know me, to know why I make the music the way I do, it’s only fair that you get to know the guy under the mask. Otherwise it’s all bait-and-switch, smoke and mirrors and facades.
Also, I know I’m not the only one out there who might be making a similar discovery, or may do so in the future. I’ve had several friends who came to their realizations, and found inspiration in them taking the steps to get the help and tools they need. So this is also paying it forward. Helping someone else find the impetus they need to move from Precontemplation to Contemplation and further just makes sense.
And with that, I’ve come to a close for this month’s post. No self-deprecating signoff or distractive commentary. Before I go, however, I need to say thanks to my family that isn’t the band, my family that is the band, my family of friends, and to all of you who are being present here and now reading this. I have no illusions that there is nothing forcing anyone to read this, and that makes me exceptionally grateful to have had your ear for this moment. Also, if you have respectful questions or commentary, I welcome it. We get better together.