My Hyperactive Brain - Two Year Aftermath
This is a follow-up article on a piece I wrote almost two years ago on my hyperactivity disorder. As you can guess things have changed quite a lot since then.
After I got diagnosed with hyperactivity, I learned how to meditate. I still call it that way, because it makes it easier for people to understand what I’m doing, when I hide in the closet for 15 minutes. What I really do is known as PMR, progressive muscle relaxation. It is a way to relax one’s body through flexion and relaxation of muslce groups. Science shows it’s quite effective on people with hyperactivity. I can tell from my own experience that this is true. I still “meditate” about once daily. Though, surprisingly, not on weekends. I don’t know why, but for some reason I prefer not to meditate on weekends. I call it meditation, because all the benefits commonly known from “regular” meditation, I get from PMR as well. The quieting of thoughts, the transcendency, the ability to isolate thoughts and feelings, etc.
Since I started my journey into becoming a calmer self, I also learned a lot about spirituality, Buddhism, forgiving, our nervous system, muscles, and many other things going along those lines. My (back then not) ex-girlfriend started a career as yoga teacher. That was one of the things that got me into spirituality in the first place. I’m still very glad I came across Fully Present. This was one of the best reads I ever had on this topic, mainly because it is written from the scientists eye, analyzing the science behind meditation and spiritualism. Recently I met a new friend. We were eating out and she told me she thought that I seemed to radiate a certain kind of calmness. “Calm” wasn’t a term anybody would have used to refer to me some time ago. It shows how long a way I have come. I was always, and luckily still am, a very energetic person. That’s just something you get for free by being hyperactive. You are very upbeat, your mind goes quick, and your body wants to move all the time. I found that balance is absolute key to calmness and being quiet.
It is because I allow my body to perform (sort of) intensive workout, it is because I allow myself to freak out, it is because I allow my heart to beat, it is because I allow myself to have emotions, that I am able to be slow, calm, and relaxed, when I need to. See, I wasn’t like this when I started out, I decided for it. I still need to decide for it, every single day.
What I learned from PMR is relaxing groups of muscles at will. The way PMR is performed: you flex, say, your forearm, you concentrate on that flexion, then you let go, and feel into the relaxation. If you do this a certain time, you suddenly feel where muscles are tight. Again, when some time passes after that, your can turn off tight muscles from your head. When I feel a cramp or something like that now, I go “let go” in my head and the muscle relaxes. It is mere exercise that allows me to do that. There’s no magic formula, just pure doing and doing. When I sit in front of a beautiful woman, I go: “stay calm, relax”, in my head, and my body does what it has been trained to do. It is just execution, execution, execution, but my head needs to set the trigger. I need to be aware of the situation, I need to be there when I want to be that way. The way hyperactivity works is, is it pulls you away, constantly, into the rabbit hole. I need to realize: “Am I still relaxed or is my body starting to go too quick? If yes, what can I do about it right now?” This kind of thinking has helped me in many ways, not just for my own safekeeping. I feel situations that I’m not aware of. I feel where I am distracted and think of other things. The barrier where I am able to make a conscious decision, to be aware, has lowered. The problem is I suddenly also feel all the situations that I am not aware. Things that are automated. Sad sometimes. Think of the last time you said “love you” to your favorite person, and just said it because that’s what you did for the last couple of years. What if that person suddenly dies. Wouldn’t you want that last moment you saw them to be special? That’s what awareness does to you. Cruel, in a way.
What also helped was having strict rules about what can be and what can’t. Planning, planning, planning. I was a planner ever since I got out of uni, almost 8 years ago, but planning has become a tool that I can use to prepare my body for moments where it can do its things, and when I need to have control over it. It also helps me to structure things. I am sometimes worried about the amount of stuff I plan and the rigidity of planning. But it is that rigidity that helps me to go into automation mode. I need to have this structure, it needs to be strict, otherwise I couldn’t perform so well. I don’t do this all the time, because as I wrote earlier, balance is absolute key. Where structure is, there is chaos. I have days that I don’t plan at all and I preasure these days just as much as those that are planned. I set priorities and areas of focus, that’s what gets me started. Planning is key to keep balance. I learned after my break-up how much of our relationship was part of my balance. I needed some time to figure out how to keep balance again on my own.
A word on drugs. I am still against taking drugs. When I met my coach back then, he said: “Take the drugs, that’s the easy way out, but you’d probably have to take the drugs for the rest of your life. The second option would be to work on the root causes. This takes more time and effort, but you wouldn’t have to (buy and) take drugs.” My answer is obvious at this point. What he didn’t say was that I would have to take a different “drug” for the rest of my life, every day (apparently not on weekends though). I prefer to take this drug, because this journey has given me so much. There’s an entirely different way of thinking about things that I haven’t considered before, but are now part of my reality. Spirituality has given me the opportunity to be my own therapist, it has given me the ability to be here when I want to, it allows me to forgive myself, and others. But, again, I also gained the ability to realize all the moments I wasn’t there, I didn’t forgive, I hurt myself. If I’d take the drugs, I wouldn’t have had this journey. I would, possibly, still be angry about myself, how stupid I am to do certain things, probably still be that person I was back then, in a more evolved form. But I didn’t go that way. Luck? Awareness? Stupidity? Who knows. It’s just not part of what I am today.
What I also learned from all of this is why certain things in my life are just the way they are. I always enjoyed fast, mostly aggressive, electronic music. I also enjoyed an unhealthy amount of skate punk in my early 20’s. The bestest band of all time still is Millencolin1. I think my body reacts to this music, and therefore I, in my brain, enjoy this music too. Fast rhythms, that sort of thing turns me on. This also goes in line with the opinion that our nervous system is part of our intelligence. Most humans think of intelligence as something that is in our head2. But we are human. Our body is part of us. Our body is intelligent on its own, we just don’t “think” of things it does actively. There’s an entire “thing” attached to our head that does amazing things, and we don’t think it’s contributing to our whole-self being. Mind and body are the same thing.
I enjoy working fast, too. I couldn’t do it all the time though, if I wouldn’t take regular breaks. I’d burn out too quickly. My body is human after all. Though my body has a special ability to have a higher energy level, that doesn’t mean I can use my body “more”. I’d use up my body, I’d hurt myself.
Sport. I started working out about 10 years ago when I moved out of my parent’s house and into my own room, to study in Munich. First at home, to keep balance from sitting so much. It quickly evolved into riding my bike and going to the gym, where I learned running. When I started, I realized soon that I want this to become part of my life. It felt good. Now 10 years after, it has become part of my life. I read many books and articles on fitness, muscles, the nervous system, etc.. A trainer once told me at a gym I was back in 2006 (already in Stuttgart) that many people who go to the gym, get a certain workout plan, and then just stick with it until they cancel their membership. He said that a new workout plan should be made about every 3 months. So I began working with my various trainers every 3 months to alternate the route I was taking. In my current gym, member since 2011, my trainer and I recently had a discussion where he said: “Why do you even come to me anymore? You know all this stuff pretty darn well. Even if you don’t, then you can just ask any random trainer in this studio. We shouldn’t meet to discuss what exercises you do, maybe, really maybe, the route you take. The rest you can do by yourself.” I thought about it and he was right. I can do this by myself. I got into calisthenics/functional training in 2010, back then it didn’t have a fancy name (or even an entire industry behind it). I remembered that time and thought, let’s cancel my gym membership for a month and see how well I do on my own, with no equipment at all. It was a great month, but I missed going somewhere to do my exercises. I am now back in the gym, mixing calisthenics with weight training. I will continue going by bike or by foot anywhere I can, I will continue running once weekly.
Ten years ago I was a different person. Who would have known I’d become this? I never thought I would, but here I am.
If you have any questions on hyperactivity, exercising, relaxation, meditation, anything mentioned here, feel free to ask in the comments or catch me on Twitter.