Weaponizing Your Anxiety
Miles Mendoza is an author and freelance writer living in New York City. His writing often draws upon experiences as a veteran and various other emergency service roles he’s occupied. His poetic essay, “Escape From Harlem,” was published in The Void magazine’s December 2020 edition. Another, “Exotic Fruit,” was featured in the AT THE PITH art exhibit at the Nook Gallery in Oakland, California. Most recently, the author collaborated with artist and Professor Tiffany Lin to develop a satirical news story highlighting workers’ rights issues (www.tlinart.com/fight-santorg). In September of 2021, Miles published his first book. “Speaking in Midnight Tongues and Other Symptoms of Neon Fever” is a collection of poetry, essays, and short stories that address themes of addiction, trauma, and creativity. When not freelancing, the author maintains a poetry and fiction website: www.MilesWrites.Blog. His work can also be found on his Instagram account: @mileswrites. Today he’s sharing about hyper-vigilance, a different- maybe more observant side/speed of the ADHD brain, and advice on how your anxiety can kind of direct you towards being more efficient, if not productive. Enjoy!
In this episode Peter and Miles discuss:
1:17 – Intro and welcome Miles Mendoza! Ref: “Escape From Harlem”
3:20 – What’s it like to be a freelance writer and be working on everything all the time & have ADHD?
6:09 – When were you diagnosed?
8:00 – upon joining the military
9:20 – What did you learn in the Marine Corps that you still apply to your daily routines?
11:00 – Ref: FTN episode with Jack Walston
12:25 – on processing everything at the same time
12:33 – on processing speeds
14:05 – on hyper vigilance
15:10 – about the effectiveness of flash cards
16:24 – Tell us more about how you processed the Will Smith slap?
18:21 – Thank you Miles! Guys, as always, we are here for you and we love the responses and the notes that we get from you; so please continue to do that! Tell us who you want to hear on the podcast, anything at all; we’d love to know. Leave us a review on any of the places you get your podcasts, and if you ever need our help I’m www.petershankman.com and you can reach out anytime via [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse!
18:55 – Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
Oh, hellooooo-Ladies and gentlemen my name is Peter Shankman and this is Faster Than Normal. Welcome to another episode! I am your host. I said that already. I am exhausted. I flew in last night from Montana. Boy are my arms tired. It was a three-hour delay on the flight. Um, I got home around 2:00 AM. I had to be up at six to get my kid to school. Um, oh. And by the way, I’m in the middle of an 120 hour water fast. So I am about 60 hours in and I am just exhausted. So don’t come near me. I will kill you. But that being said, we have a phenomenal guest.
Y’know.. there are some sites out there on the internet that are just amazing in terms of knowledge and things you can learn. And then there are sites that are just cesspools of filth and depravity. And I was on the cesspool side of the coin a few a month ago or so, and I was on Reddit and I was reading about it. It was right around the time of the Chris Rock Will Smith slap. And I was reading an article about it or a story about it, and I read it and I saw this quote that came from a guy and ran into his quote, said, dude, I have ADHD. So maybe this is just a me thing, but do you know how many of my day-to-day interactions slash reactions are autopiloted while my brain is working on a delay to process what was actually said. So.. what that told me, first of all, the brothers from another mother type thing, but what was amazing about that is that there really are two types of ADHD. There’s the ADHD that says, oh my God, someone’s not even halfway through their sentence, but I know I have to respond. I know what they’re gonna say. And let me just respond right now and lemme interrupt. And then there’s the other half. That says I’m just going to watch this because I, my brain has to catch. Everything is moving so fast and my brain moves so fast. But in this situation, I’m going to catch up and make sure I know all the facts. That is what our guest was talking about on Reddit. His name is Miles Mendoza and Miles is an author and a freelance writer. He’s living in New York city. We met on Reddit. He lives like 20 blocks for me and his writing draws upon experiences and various other emergency service roles he’s occupied. His poetic essay Escape from Harlem was published in The Void magazines’ December 2020 edition. And another exotic fruit was featured at the, At the Pith Art exhibit at The Nook gallery in Oakland, California. He’s from the Bay area. He lives in New York city and in September of 2021, he published his first book Speaking in Midnight Tongues and Other Symptoms of Neon Fever: Poetry & Essays, which is a collection of poetry, essays, and short stories that address themes. Trauma and creativity; pretty much sounds ADHD to me. Every single theme in that, in that, uh, book of short stories is something that we’ve all dealt with as ADHD and that whole brain thing- we’re in talk about it. Miles. Welcome. Glad to finally have you on the podcast, buddy.
Nice to meet you.Thank you for having me.
So talk let’s let’s go back. So you live in New York city. You’re married. Um, you’re a journalist slash a freelance writer slash author. Let’s talk for starters about what it’s like to be freelance and to be working on any given thing at any given time when you have ADHD.
Well in many ways, it’s great. You, um, you’re working on a bunch of different things. Your brain is stimulated on a bunch of different subjects all the time. I wouldn’t be able to do this 10 years ago though, because I had to develop a bunch of different skills that I.. like to overcompensate for what would have been a very messy approach to business. So I, I, I work off of, I think I have multiple to do lists every single day and in a lot of those to do lists, uh, have to do with like, Take my dog out for the second time today, you need to go up three times. So I need to put that on the list. You need to go up three times. So every single, I didn’t hear everything from like haircut to have lunch is on this to-do list. And if there’s not enough yellow check marks on that list at the end of the day, I know I did a bad job. Uh, so, but then there’s the great thing of like, I get to research different subjects which is. Essentially, I’ve tried to commodify what I did with my days anyways. So I I’m the kind of person who falls into, um, an obsession on a new subject every other day, I’ll fall down rabbit holes. So I try to like, to really kind of take that momentum and just try to commodify it. And, uh, for my own business, it has worked to a certain degree. Um, I do get myself into a lot of situations where I am, uh, I over-packed myself at work because I feel best when I don’t have any idle hands, idle parents for at least myself, as some of the ADHD tends to lead to trouble. And, uh, and that’s what I was kind of writing about. Um, I wrote a, uh, an essay about, um, what it’s like to live with a wife who does not have ADHD in any way, in fact, a very, she’s a great student. She’s about to finish her, um, nurse anesthesiology master’s program. And when she picks up a book, that’s what she’s going to read until it’s time to put it down. Whereas I have hundreds of books I’ve read most of them, but I have not finished..most of them, you know, that’s, that’s just kind of how my brain works.
It’s funny. You mentioned that I wrote, uh, one of them when I was going through my divorce success at 16, one of the most read articles I published on medium was, um, Ten Ways to be Happier When You Live/Love Someone Diagnosed With ADHD. You know, it was, it was the whole premise that, you know, there’ll be times when I have this great experience and all I want to do is share it with the person I love and I’ll call and they’ll be in a meeting, but they’re not answering their phones so obviously it’s because they know that I’m calling they don’t want to talk to me and they hate me and in my mind I’ve already broken up gotten divorced moved on with my life um, you know, and then they call me back and they’re like, you know, th’f*ck’s wrong with you? So yeah, I totally, I totally get that. But. When were you diagnosed?
You know, interesting story on that. I, uh, I came, I come from that generation where like, it seemed like every other kid in the class was diagnosed, uh, right about right about when I was in middle school. So what was that; in the late nineties, early two thousands. And I was already. I clearly had it, but I don’t think it was just coming into the national conversation um, so, you know, I, I did well on tests. I was a nice enough kid with my family. I just didn’t do my homework. I’d either forget about it or just could not get up to the point of performing it. And as I got older, that became more and more of an issue. And so I think that somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, I went to a doctor. And that was a pediatrician, but the problem was that I was? able to keep up with conversation with him. He put me down in like the lower range. He was like, if he has ADHD that he’s like, I, I can give you the prescription, um, on the diagnosis, but he’s on the lower range. And so I remember getting Ritalin when I was a child and it, it, I, it didn’t react well with me. I, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the episode of the King of The Hill where Bobby gets a Ritalin.
Oh my God favorite show!
Yeah, exactly. So like, it was pretty much that I was like, I was just sitting, staring at a wall. My parents freaked out. They were like, no, get him off of this. Uh, so I never really thought about it too much.I kind of knew that I had, it was in the back of my head. Um, but it really didn’t become an issue for me because, uh, my approach to school was all over the place, but, uh, it didn’t become an issue until I impulsively joined the Marine Corps. And then suddenly having your ducks in order is very, very important. And yeah. And there were a lot of moments where to this day, I think back to bootcamp, I, I’m not a religious guy per se, but, uh, I almost turned to Jesus in that sense, because there were these moments where. I did not know, like you have to have your things, like, they will tell you, you need, you know, here’s the 10 things on the gear list and you have to have them when you had asked for. And I was like, cool, I’ve got my 10 things. And then there would just be nine things and like, okay, now w where is it? And like, I need this right now. And then something would just appear. So I, I, I remember at one point I was like, there is a supernatural force looking out for me. I now realize it was probably some dude next to me going, I got to help this idiot. But, yeah, so I thought
I want to stop. I let’s stop and talk about that for a minute.
So you joined the military, [[microphone rustles across entire frequency spectrum]] and I have said multiple times on this podcast that if I was smarter about what was actually going on in my brain when I was younger, because ADHD didn’t exist when I was a kid. Right. You’re disturbing the class did.. and I have a feeling that if I had been smarter about this and been more knowledgeable, I might’ve done the same thing because today my life is entirely based on rituals calendars alarms, set ups, do this, then do this. Then, you know, when COVID hit and I had, I would give a speech on zoom and then have the three days of travel that I’d normally be traveling busy to do nothing it was, it was hard, right? The calendar had to be full. So it seems me like Tell me what you learned. I’m fascinated by this. Tell me what you learned in the military that you were able to then apply, especially in the Marines, they were able to apply to life everyday. I mean, is that where you got the concept of the to-do list and the calendars and all that?
Yeah, exactly. So what the military does is it creates like a huge amount of consequences for when you screw up. So suddenly you’re kind of always in a fight or flight reflex, and I’m not just talking, I’m not talking about combat or anything. I’m just talking about day-to-day life about living in the fleet is you need to, you need to be places 15, sometimes 30, 45m early. And so you start building buffers into your life and you start realizing like, okay, I don’t want to spend my weekend on duty, or I don’t want to get my ass chewed out by a staff Sergeant or something like that. So you start to like build in all these things, so you can live a decent life and not everything comes out of the military with you. You do relax a bit. I certainly relaxed quite a bit, but, um, And you do keep these certain things. Like I have like internal timers that tell me like, Hey, you’re getting close to that meeting per se for like for today, I knew I had to be at a certain place to do a certain thing. And I started having like internal alarm clocks go off before and it’s like, you should be ready 15 minutes beforehand, because what if, you know, you get mugged on the way back to your apartment and you’re, you know, now you’re late for the worst thing possible is to be late. And you start to worry about how you appear to the world around you because that perception and military.. is often “perception is reality”.
Right? Wow. Okay. Interesting. We do a lot of the same things and, and it, it, it, it.
Back in 2001, a former Navy seal who’s since passed away a man named Jack Walston, I’ve had him on the podcast. Very, very, influential man in my life, he started a course, uh, for civilians, uh, where he’d come to.. he was based in Houston and he’d bring it to New York for two weeks or two weeks, four times a year where you’d basically just go and play in central park from 4:00 AM to 7:00 AM and get your ass kicked. Right. It was basically bootcamp. And, you know, for someone who you know, up until the early two thousands, you know, only ran by pressing X on a joystick, um, you know, and to the store for cigarettes, like wanting to do this and actually enjoying it and needing it in my life and doing it like 15 times was massive for me. And, you know, they’re totally unexpected, but I get it now. And then the more I talked to the people like you, the more, I totally understand it. You, these rituals, these things that, you know, I’m a free spirited, are actually what ground you and what allow you to be creative because you’re not worried about, okay, I’m going to miss this meeting or that miss this appointment or go down this rabbit hole.
Uh, absolutely. It’s uh, to me, I, I think we live in a pretty anxious society and I I’m sure part of that internally. Uh, but I it’s like weaponizing your anxiety. Like let that anxiety kind of direct you towards being productive, or at least being efficient.
Very cool. So let’s talk for a second about sort of that slower brain. Do you think that the concept of ADHD is faster than normal? It’s faster brain? The, the, the, the premise that we are always thinking 20 steps ahead and, and that’s what we need to control because otherwise, you know, we’re going to crash into a tree, um. In your, from what I’m hearing from you, you’re actually sitting and processing the reason you might have a, you mentioned something that, where you said, uh, you know, there’ll be times when when you know, you’ve been called out or you’re about to get into a fight and you don’t, you don’t even flinch and everyone thinks that oh wow, he’s so, he’s so brave, but no, you just haven’t really processed what’s been going on yet.
Yeah. So for me, it is still an issue of like doing too many things too fast. A lot of times when I’m having a conversation, I, I have like, uh, I’ve been diagnosed with hyper vigilance, so I’m paying attention to everything in the room. I’m listening to conversations next to me. I’m watching people walk into the room. Uh, and, and I know that that sometimes comes with ADHD. You don’t necessarily have to have like, Uh, trauma necessarily to spark this, but it is, it’s an over-processing, it’s like more Ram than, than hard drive. It’s operating with one and not the other. So it’s, I am, I am paying attention, but it is possible that I may have rehearsed inter-reaction already. So like, I mean, you know, I’m going to go meet with a friend for lunch. Uh, I know how long it’s been since I met that friend. I know the questions that I should ask. I am then applying like I am, I’m now deploying that social plan or that social plan while interacting with them. And then as I’m doing that, I am also getting dragged, congratulating myself for deploying that correctly and not listening to the answers. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s not that I don’t value what they have to say; it’s just that my brain is sometimes applying more focus on some background things that are going on as well.
Well, I think that happens in, in terms of, you know, we’re constantly, when you’re able to see a lot of what you’re doing also is figuring out what the next question you ask is what the next, where the conversation is going. Um, and I’ve noticed that happens to me when I meet someone for the first time and I ask them to name right as they’re about, tell me the name I’ve already moved on to think about what I’m gonna say next and I will never remember the name. Ever.
Absolutely. Uh, the names, uh, spouses names. If I, I I’m sorry. A lot of my friends is, uh, third spouses.. I probably will never truly know their names. I will always be asking other friends or my wife, what is that person’s, uh, girlfriend or boyfriend’s name, you know, or before we even get there.
That’s funny. You’re very fortunate to have a wife who’s a, who’s got your back like that.
Oh, she’s incredibly tolerant for someone who just learns.. that’s what I’ve noticed is that, um, a lot of ADH deers are, I don’t know how we describe ourselves. Um, we, we absorb information. We can interact with it very intensely and then five years later, have no idea how to do that again, like our brain dumping abilities are quite impressive almost. Uh, and, and.
No. It’s funny, many times I remember in school, one of the things that was was, you know, I hated tests and things like that, but when I had one, I would sit down.. once I discovered flashcards, right my life changed. I’d sit down. I’ve learned it. I get tested on it, I’d pass and then puke it up. It’s gone, right?
Right? It’s like, it’s like your brain does a deep fragmenting and it just like just tosses it and there might be shreds of it there, and you can fall back on it. But for me, I, it, it meant that I needed for a career to rely on internal skills that were actual, like baseline talents that I would always kno. For me, that was always writing so I that’s what I, what I ended up going to ultimately, I also have, had I had a very adventurous personality. So for a long time emergency services for EMS, all of that, I loved it because I was just excited to be out there on the street and see what was going on right now that I’m, I’m calming down a little bit and I want a little bit of a safer career choice it’s I had to go back again to the thing that never left me. It was my ability to write, edit and whatnot, but, uh, learning actual new skills and then just holding onto them for years at a time. Never really been my forte.
Interesting. Tell us about more about the slowing brain. You, you can use Will Smith as an example. You’re watching it happen in real time and yet you weren’t processing. I, I think in all fairness, millions of us watching in real time didn’t process it.
Uh yeah.. It’s one of those things where it’s like, I, I identified mostly because like in real life, when, when events like that happen, they don’t, they don’t make sense. And they don’t make narrative sense. If you’re making a movie, the first thing you’re going to do is show Will Smith, like getting angry at the joke. Right. But in real life, yeah. He’s going to laugh with you. Uh, people react to things illogically sometimes. And I just identified with that for me. When I, when my wife’s telling me a story, I sometimes I I’m trying to process and keep in mind everything that’s going on. And it makes what her words coming out of her mouth it’s a little like watching a washout VHS tape. And it’s you kind of, you know it because you’ve seen the, you’ve seen that video so many times, but you’re not getting grasping all the details in the weight of everything that’s going on. So you kind of have to say either stop or say that to me again, or in my case, I often am able to replay back events. So I’m just operating on like a 15 to 22nd delay before I fully understand what’s going on.
Very, very interesting. Tell us, uh, I know you have a website that I mentioned earlier. Tell us again, tell us where people can find you things like that.
In September of 2021, Miles published his first book. “Speaking in Midnight Tongues and Other Symptoms of Neon Fever” is a collection of poetry, essays, and short stories that address themes of addiction, trauma, and creativity. When not freelancing, the author maintains a poetry and fiction website: www.MilesWrites.Blog.]
Oh, uh, Myles writes DOB blog is where I post, uh, I try to curate the best of my material at the mind, poetic essays, um, poetry, uh, some fiction I write in a broad spectrum. And then, uh, you can also find me at miles writes on. Instagram, uh, which is where I usually, that’s more of my, my rough draft contents are, you’ll hear me scream about some political opinions here or there, but for the most part, you can find all my best material on mileswrites dot blog right.
Awesome. Very cool. Well Miles, thank you so much for taking the time!
Guys. You’ve listened to Miles, man. I really appreciate you coming in and being so honest and you know, that’s, I guess that’s the one, my one, you get one shot a year where you find something worthwhile on Reddit. So I guess that was it, um, for this year. So I appreciate you taking the time, man. Thank you so much.
Of course, thank you.
Guys, listening to Faster Than Normal as always you know the drill. If you like what you hear then leave us a review. If you want more info or advanced a dog just jumped in my lap oh hello Waffle. And we would love to know more, feel free to share uh what you’re thinking. We will see you next week with a brand new interview. Thank you for listening. Stay safe, stay well.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week!