Overcoming Shame

Learning to share and embrace your awesome self

When I first diagnosed, the biggest clue was my man bag. I’d started our conversation telling my therapist that I was never quite registering for any official diagnosis of depression or anxiety, and yet always felt some level of depression or anxiety. And part of that came from an almost constant shaming over my tendency to be late, to be spaced out, to be unfocused.

Then she asked me about my bag

I explained all my systems for tracking everything from my business cards, my smart phone, note taking, cash, ID, down to the small toothpaste tube I carried with me and refilled.

Everything had a specific pocket, and everything I needed to walk out the door on any given day was right there, ready to go.

I’d never really thought about that technique as a coping mechanism for ADD because until that moment, I’d never thought of myself as having ADD.

Has anyone seen my keys?

shaming a young womanBefore the bag, I was constantly misplacing keys, wallet, money, cards, phone. Just getting out the door in the morning stressed me out.

Worst of all, I would just be either slightly enraged or catatonic trying to figure out where those things were.

When I was younger, I would frequently fly into rages, accusing everyone in my house of stealing my hat or mittens or wallet or glasses, only to find that the item was exactly where I had left it.

The experience throughout my life was like having a personal poltergeist, hiding things from my view. I still experience that daily—looking at something I’m desperately looking for right in front of me and not seeing it.

The practiced calmness of reminding myself that I will find what I’m looking for, overriding the constant worry over loss, helps me overcome that moment of dread and clear the metaphysical fog hiding whatever I’m seeking.

So the idea of Bagging and Tagging just comes down to providing just the right amount of organization for those day to day items that you need to tend to.

Bag it

My manbag (which I always asserted was a purse whenever people joshed me about it) has been replaced by a much simpler smartphone folio, that holds cash and three cards. But I still keep my laptop bag organized with everything I need for up to an overnight trip, including display adapters for projectors, a power cord that just stays in the bag, charging accessories, and toothpaste and toothbrush. When I have to go to DC or New York for work, I can just go. If it’s an overnight, I’ll just roll up some clean boxers, underwear and socks and I’m ready to go.

My three other essential bags are my workout bag, my karate bag and my hiking bag.

  • My workout bag is ready to go at all times. If I’m late taking the kids to school and don’t have time to change into workout clothes beforehand, I can just go. If I have a window at work that allows me to slip in a workout, I’m not wondering if I have what I need to work up a sweat and shower up afterwards.
  • My karate bag includes sparring gear, padded practice clubs, and an extra gi and protective cup for Kenpo, and bag gloves (for heavy bag punching), elastic workout tubing and a small towel for MMA workouts. If I don’t have time to change before hand, or I’m at a workshop where my gi gets grossly sweaty, I have everything I need right there.
  • The hiking bag is a hydration lumbar pack that already has sunscreen and chapstick and a notepad and pen. If my kids or spouse are along, they can throw snacks or insect repellent in.

Tag it

In my kitchen, I labeled all the shelves with what went where. Basement storage was also labeled. Office drawers. Even my bookshelves. All designed to remove that second of thought that would often suck me into a vortex of overanalysis when I was trying to remember or decide where something should go, and at least give me a general idea of where to look when I needed some item.

Pulling it all together

The whole goal of the tag it and bag it system is to avoid the frenetic searches that are part and parcel of ADD. Rather than trying to gather together many smaller items for regular activities, you search for one big item.

Rather than thinking about where something goes or where to find something, you let the consistency of putting everything in the same place every time guide you.

A geeky way to think of this is in the context of macros, which are small, specific sets of computer commands for commonly required functions. Some of what used to require a little programming knowledge is now doable using IFTT tools such as IFTT for iPhones and the Android, and Automator for the Mac. And even more common usage is combining key strokes or button sequences for video games.

In my daily life, I adopt some similar practices – such as always using my turn signal, even when I’m in an empty parking lot. That becomes one less decision to make. It’s automatic. Always putting the bee hive cover in the same place.

And less decisions means less distractions. Less stress. More time spent doing, less time agonizing over what is undone.

Less time feeling ashamed.

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