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Can You Hear Me Now?

It’s interesting the things that you don’t realize have become such ingrained parts of your life. For me, I’ve realized that I’m constantly surrounded by noise, or I’ve set my life up to be constantly surrounded by noise. It’s funny really, I’ve always called out my ability to listen to things and process what is being said while simultaneously doing something else entirely as one of my greatest strengths. I attribute it to my ADHD, a superpower that I always have turned on. And yet, like many superheroes, I’d be willing to give up my power if able. Or at least, I’d love to not have to depend on it.

What has started as just a habit has become an addiction. The Webster definition of addiction is, “ a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.” I have realized recently that I’ve become addicted to the noise around me. Without the noise that drowns out the negative self-talk and the spiraling thoughts that my brain loves to run with when it’s allowed, I feel irritable and anxious, unable to concentrate. Quite honestly, I don’t leave much time to allow myself to withdraw from this addiction. The noise has become a barrier to the negative talk in my brain, a distraction of sorts; my brain can’t spiral if it’s focusing on the conversation around me, the song on the radio, or the TikTok video playing as I brush my teeth and I have grown to need it more and more over time. And yet, while I’m aware of the “positive” effects of this “superpower” I can’t help but feel tired of it now.

I’ve come to this point where I’ve had to force myself into situations where I force myself to withdraw from this addiction. Two situations, in particular, come to mind that I want to speak on. The first was a trip I took to Guatemala. I was on a family vacation and signed up for an overnight trip to a Glamping resort. I would get my own tent, hot tub, champagne, and a gorgeous view over Antigua. The caveat was that there was no Wi-Fi on my patch of land. This was not told to me prior and for the first half of my stay, I welcomed the silence, choosing to watch the sunset in the hot tub and drink champagne under the stars by myself.

And yet when night came I found myself missing the distraction that came from noise. Out of curiosity, I tried to connect to the Wi-Fi on my computer - not expecting it to work. Not when it didn’t on my phone the many, many, times I tried. And yet it worked. It connected. One small little bar but a connection. A lifeline in a sense.

Step one done. Step two - load something. I know all too well - living with constantly fickle internet - that a connection doesn’t actually mean anything. And so I pulled up Netflix and cued up What’s Your Number?

A fitting movie given that it’s one of my favorites and that I was wrapping up the Chris Evans-inspired Funny You Should Ask. And then I sat there, staring at the preloaded What’s Your Number movie. And I wouldn’t start it. It was sitting there, the 20th-century logo staring at me. Calling me. Telling me to push play and escape again. To hear a voice in my head that wasn’t my own.

And still, I hesitated. Still, I sat there with Funny You Should Ask in my lap thinking, “Maybe I’ll watch it once I’m done with this book, who am I kidding? Of course, I’ll watch it when I’m done with this book.” But even as I stared at my computer’s start-up screensaver I couldn’t help but feel happy with the disconnect that I was experiencing. With the silence.

And yet despite all that it would take me 8 whole months before I would force myself to disconnect again.

In December of last year, I sat down and wrote my goals for the year, “reconnect with my body again,” “post on my blog twice a month,” and “go one whole day a week without screens.” Like most goals I’ve set, I haven’t done any of those. And as I was reflecting on who I was as a person I realized I hated that about myself. And so in March, I challenged myself to do one thing every day that I was bad at, and all of that was born because I wanted to force myself to go one day without a screen. I knew that if I set that goal just by itself I would never do it and so March’s challenge was my way of forcing myself to do it.

Like most other challenges from that month, I enjoyed it. Until I didn’t. While I found my time in silence in Guatemala to be freeing and affirming, I found my time in silence at home to be anxiety-inducing and sad.

I cried twice that night, unable to find a way to silence the harsh critiques in my mind. Counting down the hours until midnight, until I could use my phone again. I had spent most of the day out with my best friend, not missing my phone, satisfied with the comfort of having someone else with me. And then she dropped me off at home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I spent exactly fifteen minutes at home before I got in my car to walk around Ulta. Needing another distraction from my thoughts, but there was only so long I could wander for, and back to my house I went. I cried thirty minutes after I got home, feeling lost and sad and all of the negative emotions that I work so hard to silence.

I’ve said before that depression feels like coming home, there’s a comfort in allowing myself to sink into it and accept the negative thoughts about myself. To give into the part of myself that doesn’t want to try and just wants to lay in bed for hours on end. The noise fights that, the noise pushes me to keep going, keep running, keep working towards being the person I want to be. But what do I do when the noise becomes too much?

I started to ask myself some questions and realized that I actually have the answers to them. Please see my answers in blue.

How do I navigate the freedom I feel from disconnecting and my need to stay distracted from my thoughts? As corny as it sounds, journaling. I’ve become such a huge proponent of tracking everything in my life. What I eat, what I buy, when I work out, what I do in a day, what makes me happy. And I’ve been able to use all that to craft a more streamlined life for myself. I haven’t perfected the process but I’ve taken a step in the right direction and that’s what I can do here. I can track when I feel myself using noise as a crutch and when I’m using it as a tool. When I’m trying to escape and when I’m trying to empower. In doing so I can make pivots in my life to rid myself of the toxic parts of the addiction and can start to find the freedom I felt from disconnecting.

How do I fight an addiction I know is also saving me? I think it’s more than just fighting it. The thing about me is that I have a naturally addictive personality, it’s the reason I spent a year being sober because I was able to recognize that I was gearing towards using alcohol in a negative way. I can do something similar with noise, I can recognize when I’m abusing it, when I’m using it as a crutch when I’m using it because I’m so used to it.

How do I find power in silence? I want to force myself to sit in silence. To try and journal, to just be. An hour, every morning and every night. In silence. To trust myself and know that deep down I’m safe within my own head.

My racing thoughts, my negative thoughts, my spiraling thoughts - none of that is me. I’m more than that. I’m more than what is inside of my head and it’s time that I recognize that. It’s time I start using my superpower for good. Most of all, it’s time that I disconnect from the noise and reconnect with myself.


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