My Life in Red

S-Epinephrine or S-adrenaline Deutsch: S-Epine...
S-Epinephrine or S-adrenaline Deutsch: S-Epinephrin; S-Adrenalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I considered titling this post CONFESSIONS OF AN ADRENALINE JUNKIE.  You’ll see why.

I never considered myself an addictive personality, especially not when it came to my productivity and social life, but that was just ignorance blindsiding me.  It was very sneaky about it.

Some of you read my fog and purpose post two weeks ago about a depression that was troubling me enough to post as documentation of my mental and emotional malaise.

About a week later, I had the live-saving experience of attending a communications workshop with Shandel Slaten of True Life Coaching who revealed to me the reason for:

1) my crazy schedule

2) my guilt that drives me into all sorts of things I don’t want to do

3) my depression

Shandel first had us all take a test that ranked our abilities and our talents against each other so that we knew what we were individually most gifted at, then we took another test that measured four quadrants of personality that gathered where our greatest fears were and how those influence us, especially if we don’t know they’re there.  Finally, she explained a term called “living in the red” which made my skin tingle.

First, I wasn’t surprised at my talents and abilities results.  They synthesized very well into a creative and expressive lifestyle, i.e. writing.  The next test showed me that I have a fear of disappointing people (and also trouble with saying “no.”) But the concept of “living in the red” was so transformational for me, I need to share it here.

When any of us wakes up in the morning after a good night’s sleep, we’re a clear glass of water.  On the way to work, someone cuts us off in traffic and we punch the air. 

Add a little drop of red food coloring to our clear water. 

At work, someone changes the assignment we’ve almost finished and now all our work from the day before is void.

Add another drop of red food coloring.

We receive an email from our boss letting us know that our job is possibly in jeopardy.

Add another drop of food coloring.

As these things continue to pile up, the water grows very difficult to see through, our body is fried by the burn of stress and other chemicals, and our ability to make sensible, logical decisions is compromised (I never knew this!)

Bad things aren’t the only contributors of this red food coloring, however.  A hectic schedule that keeps me super busy will also add red to my life, and this life in red is always pumped full adrenaline, my body’s attempt to give me that little extra something to make it through this stressful situation.  And that adrenaline is a drug, baby, a drug that sings very sweetly to me.

I’d heard the term “adrenaline junkie,” but I seriously thought that only applied to extreme sport athletes.  I knew as soon as Shandel said explained an addiction to life in red that it meant me.  I was ready to raise my hand and make a public confession then and there.

My hectic schedule comes from an addiction to the gorgeous high I get when I blitz from thing to thing: writing a great chapter, scrubbing my bathroom, paying my bills, jetting off to happy hour with girl friends…This go-go-go lifestyle that’s been frustrating my husband for our entire marriage as well as contributing to a meltdown for me every two weeks to a month…is the result of an adrenaline addiction.

Are there other contributing factors?  Definitely.  My fear of disappointing people means I’m saying “yes” to too much and overpacking my schedule to please others.  But how does this factor into the depression and purposelessness?

The emotional slump happens when a person lives in the red for an extended period of time, and then life slows down.  That’s exactly what happened to me.  I’d been very involved with the Bible study that my husband and I lead as we dealt with difficult decisions and planning, I’d come back from an intense writer’s retreat (much more about writing than rest), not to mention my first novel came out late last year…something finally snapped. 

The adrenaline drained out of my system and I felt like a crusty old shell, not a person with anything creative to offer the world. 

Until I heard Shandel describing the severe low that comes after living too long in the red, I would have never realized that was what I did.

Where does this realization leave me?  I am slowly rebuilding my life into one that does not welcome, embrace, or chace the unhealthy red, no matter how much I think I love that buzz. 

I’m assessing my commitments and weighing the ones that I do not actually need to maintain.  I’m giving myself permission to disappoint people.

I’ve been scheduling way less things to do, and noticing that in those times where I have space to breath, little dreams come peeping out, their eyes big with the wonder that I’ve slowed down enough to listen.  I have plans to start an herb garden from seed.  Something I just never had time for.

I’ve shared this story and already three people have told me that this is what they struggle with, too.  I know I’m not alone.

I’m still working through this, and it’s going to be a slow unfolding, rather than a “everything changed in one day” kind of revelation.  But the slow reveal is usually far more enduring. At least, I can hope and pray that it is, because I’m ready to live outside of the red, and find a way to keep clear, or at least, to bit by bit to grow clearer.


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Two books have really helped me begin to examine this phenomenon in my own life:
    -Organized Simplicity by T Oxenreider
    -Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend
    Totally different books with totally different ideas, but they both hit me the same way.

    Cheers to simplifying!

    1. Thank you, Amy! It’s amazing to see how pervasive it is, and great to know more resources. Thanks!

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