In my teenage years, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during a stint in a psychiatric hospital. The medication I was put on caused me to almost immediately feel like I lost myself. It was harder to think. It was harder to be creative. Unlike a lot of the other kids, I wasn’t much for athletics, so my identity wasn’t tied to things like being a football player or whatever. But a big portion of my identity at the time was definitely centered on my ability to think quickly and laterally.

For years after this, I chased balance. I felt like I couldn’t be medicated without losing myself, so I spent years trying to balance my mood swings in other ways. This mostly resulted in simply rejecting the things that were likely to trigger my mood swings – romantic relationships in particular, certain friends from high school, and certain family members. This was helpful in college, as it allowed me to focus more on personal development.

I don’t remember when exactly, but I was in a small town book store and came across a copy of Tao Te Ching. It quickly became one of my most frequently read books. It really resonated with me, the way two things could seem to be opposites but how they are both important. It also helped me feel more comfortable letting go of things outside my locus of control. Wu Wei.

By letting go of the things I couldn’t control, I had a lot of time to focus on the things I could control. The work I was doing, mostly. I would frequently spend 8 hours at work, followed by 8 hours of additional work, such as software projects or competing in CTFs. I spent the vast majority of my 20s on my computer. Though I also had a 6 month period or so where anytime I wasn’t working, I was practicing Choy Li Fut at my local school.

In my late 20s, I quit drinking caffeine (and soda in general, which I frequently drank in place of water). I didn’t really make a big plan about quitting caffeine like I had in previous attempts, I just woke up one morning and thought “Hmm, maybe I won’t have this Coke today.” I kept making that choice every day, and it has now been almost 4 years since I quit drinking soda and quit drinking caffeine.

After giving up on caffeine, I quickly started to suffer with completing every day tasks. Or I could complete every day tasks but then couldn’t keep up with my work anymore. I just didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the executive function. Simply doing everyday tasks like making food, showering, brushing my teeth, exercising, meant that I didn’t have energy to do the things I wanted to do afterwards.

I spoke with several friends and came to realize that my earlier bipolar disorder diagnosis in my teenage years may have been a misdiagnosis for ADHD. Sure enough, after eventually getting in to see a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication to help. With a low dose of Vyvanse (and later a low dose of Adderall), I was suddenly able to function again.

The medication helps me find some balance, I can take care of multiple daily tasks without getting overwhelmed to the point of doing nothing. But sometimes it also helps me completely discard my balance in favor of whatever thing I get interested in right as the medication kicks in. Hyper-focus engage. After years of chasing that balance, I’ve come to find that attempting to balance things on a daily basis just doesn’t work for me. I can find balance in the span of a week or a month, but in the span of a day it’s just not viable.

Not because I think it can’t be done, but because when I try to balance in a day, I end up finishing the day feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything. I do all my best thinking, all my best work, when I am able to sit down for hours uninterrupted. Daily balance doesn’t work well with that. And I’m okay with that. I don’t really need balance in the micro scale, and it is much easier to find it on the scale of a week or a month.