A lot of my female friends have been diagnosed with ADHD in their 30s (as I was). So there is a fair bit of discussion and sharing now of articles on social media and it has me thinking. I have found it interesting the difference in how we all display it.
First I need to iterate that ADHD is only a problem because society as a whole has decided that people should interact in a certain way, in a certain order, and that we need to follow a set of rules to do so in an optimal way – and a lot of them are directly in opposition to the way the ADHD brain works.
Nothing is wrong with the ADHD brain, the issue is the interaction and application between it and a society that expects certain behaviors. The same of course can be said of most disorders, illnesses, and health problems. Anyway this is less about general philosophy and more about ADHD behavior as manifests in Me.
So this post is about the annoying crap I deal with all the time that you might not have considered when you think ADHD. Which is far far more than not being able to pay attention or get easily distracted.
I will do a follow up post on the awesome excellent things about having an ADHD brain, believe me it can be freaking glorious.
My most ADHD moment ever I’ve already posted here.
Here are my seven things I just thought of. I probably left things off and that is a very ADHD thing as you will discover:
I have a random shut-off switch that clicks in and gives me a total inability to give directions or follow directions.
I found myself organising to meet a friend only today (this event prompted this post actually). I gave long, torturous explanations and directions of the coffee shop we would meet in, and the time we would meet. I didn’t do this for her benefit, I did it for MINE.
I have often just not gone to the right place. Like, literally said ‘lets meet at the place x’ (thinking place y) and gone to the place y. Before mobile phones, this was not ideal.
If i have a written instruction in a retrievable format (on paper, email, etc) and I’m able to check it about 8 times, I will get there. I will get there EARLY.
I once sent people to a party by giving the address of a fire station instead. I will charge happily down a street the wrong way. Others follow me as they think i’m knowing where I am going. FOOLS! This is why I have learned to have a massive conversation about any new place to meet, and I now refuse to take the lead if walking anywhere as apparently I look very confident as I’m striding off in the wrong direction.
I give too many instructions to get them into my own head. I have discovered that if I explain to the confused (and sometimes offended) person I’m meeting and giving far too much information, it’s not them I don’t trust, it’s me. Usually they laugh uneasily.
I don’t often forget to meet up with people though I used to do this before I wrote everything in my diary. I have missed some things this way. Actually social media reminding of things coming up…and where? AWESOME.
I can follow a map like a champ – but NOT if I’m driving. I can navigate someone else brilliantly. I cannot remember more than one thing I have to do if navigating myself. I have to stop the car repeatedly and stare askance at the map. Why don’t I have a GPS map thingy? Have not gotten around to it, and I would lose it. I need to see the map. I still use a physical map.
I forget which is right and left. As boyfriend often says, “Go left…no, the OTHER left”.
I can find a place I’ve only been to once before fairly easily but I cannot remember a street address to save myself. Heck, I don’t even know my own phone number, I’ve written it and stuck it to my wallet.
I don’t understand time, neither the ability to predict how long something will take and apply that to an actual point in time, and i am not able to read it either.
Time is to me an arbitrary formula and an insane, not even METRIC set of rules and I just don’t keep those rules in my head. Reading a clock is so instinctive for people by the time they have learned it that they don’t even think about what a fucking odd concept it is to be able to translate a flat mechanical counter into something that has meaning that you can made informed decisions about. I have not managed to find a place in my head where I am happy with time. It seems so …other.
I go through a series of permutations to translate circular time (ie a clock face with hands) into something that I can come up with a plan about. I don’t ever do this subconsciously. It’s hard every time. Digital time I have to translate to circular time. Don’t get me started on 24 hour clock. Can’t do. Daylight savings, putting time forward and back… *cries*. Going overseas and trying to figure out differences, same.
I can’t change my routine around timetables or I get it wrong. I have a rigid structure if I am doing a thing and I don’t and can’t deviate from it.
I am always early because I overcompensate every time. I can’t tell how long something will take. I still can’t tell you, after 18 years in this house, how long it takes to get to the city on the train from my local station. I just don’t know!
Right up there with time (in fact time is just a formula, albeit a specific one).
I am actually good with things like pattern recognition which is why I was really good at testing financial software – but I cannot remember a formula to save myself. Put a number in something and I’m like, nope. Dunno what THAT is.
If i can rember something, (say PV=NRT, which has been in my head since 1990 but god knows what it is) I forget how to solve it. I can’t work out how to translate a line fraction into a decimal point fraction. I did quite well in some maths in school – because you do maths every day and homework every night and so the exposure was massive and you had constant coaching. When I was allowed to look at a formula and had literally constant practice (home and daily classes) I was fine, but as soon as it got really conceptual and I was having gaps of days (matrices, complicated integration, physics – “oh Hai first-year calculus!”) I fell apart. First-year maths was the only subject I have ever failed and I failed it gloriously. I still have maths test dreams.
It is why I can’t code – and I’ve tried. I get what code should do, I am a champ at deconstructing and breaking an algorithm, but I can’t create one. I literally can’t remember how to do anything even if I’ve done it a million times. I have to relearn everything all the time. It’s exhausting.
Just getting started or keeping momentum going is a chore. ADHD people are accused of procrastinating but it’s something more than that. It’s literally not having the boot up start, or having your brain go blue screen on you constantly throughout every thought. You don’t even know you’re not working right, you don’t realise other people don’t have this. That few years that I regularly took Ritalin was amazing for me. I could just keep a single thought in my head and do things without constant, CONSTANT forgetting mid-thought and having to backtrack. I could hold multiple lines of thought in my head and CHOOSE which thread to pick out and FOLLOW. Like a string picture – rather than a bundle of wool the cat got into and messed up.
Sometimes I’m literally in the middle of a conversation and I blue screen of death. Everything just wipes. I crash. I’ve forgotten, mid sentence, what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. It happens a LOT. I wing it a lot and get away with it. Maybe no one listens to me? Lol. I once got it in the middle of giving a presentation at work. I had to walk off and have someone else take over. Like a fast erase whiteboard, I had nothing.
Again, this is exhausting. Most thoughts are two forward one back. Imagine just being able to progress without having to wonder where you are trying to progress to! Miracle.
These days I skip around all over the place but I have shortcuts and learned behaviors. I’m better at the step back; still have to do it though. I also have no shame or embarrassment about apologising if it happens and it’s really obvious.
I have a sleep disorder which means if i don’t do regular exercise, I don’t get to sleep or stay asleep. I wake usually around 5 times a night (full consciousness) even on a good night. A bad night it will be more like 10-15 times a night. I thought this was normal. Now. Since doing a lot of gym, I’m able to deal a lot better with energy – I have more just being fitter, and sleeping more gives me a bigger buffer of energy, and that is awesome. I was told by my psyche that ADHD and sleeping disorders go hand-in-hand. Does one cause the other? Which is the chicken and which is the egg? Don’t know.
I crash, anyway. Like, just bluescreen phyically.
Much of my time I spend predicting when my energy levels will dip, and planning and compensating around that. I’m also an introvert and need a lot of down time and so this does not help, but I’m talking physical and mental energy rather than social (managing my social interaction is another fun thing I do).
I have to plot and plan and think ahead so that I will have the option to not do what I’d planned to do in case it goes sour… and I have to accept that I will flomp sometimes and just not be able to do anything. I didn’t realise this was an ADHD thing until I read a book on adults with ADHD and it was right there, spelled out. A light switch went on in my head at that point. OMG THATS A REAL THING! Crashing energy is a thing, not just in my head! OMG! It’s not related to food, though being hungry isn’t good for me in regards to this.
It’s a thing and I have learned how to structure my life so that I get around it.
I have learned to compensate for a lack of short term memory by assigning things to places and getting into the habit of leaving things there. I always put my keys in my bag and i always put my bag in my room on the floor. If I don’t I’m screwed, keys lost. Might as well be on the moon. I lose my phone a lot as I only recently got a smartphone and I’m not in a habit about it much yet.
I always, if I’m going out, think before-hand what I will wear and lay out the clothes and accessories in the order I will put them on. If I don’t I do things like going out without brushing my hair or putting on my watch. I have learned habits.
I spend a lot of time cleaning up and tidying up after myself and putting things back in order. My order. My bookshelves are in order that I like them in. Not alphabetical or anything that anyone else could find, but rather I’ve clumped books in associations that make sense to me. I always can find a book. Same with the tools in my shed, I have made associations and things go into boxes based on how I think about them. Drives BF fucking mental – but he moved here after I’d had the shed for ages. I can’t change it!
If I ever put something ‘in a safe place’ and I don’t write that down in my diary or I don’t manage to get an associated long term memory in my head, I can kiss that thing goodbye. It’s gone forever. I will only ever find it by accident.
I have lost and found a lot of things in my time. Finding things is sometimes a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s “gosh I wish I’d found that before I went and got a whole nother one.”
I have to see my things in front of me to remember I own them. I will never own an e-reader as every book in it would just vanish forever and I’d forget what a book even is. I use an ipod and shuffle is the way I remember I have music; I still use CDS and flip through them and the pictures trigger what is on each one. I forget what clothes, jewellery, shoes, hats, I have. I can find a pair of shoes that have been hidden under a fallen shirt that I forgot I owned two years later. I have to have everything I want to use at easy visual range or I will never think about it. Unless I’m randomly obsessed with something.
What shall I do is an addendum to this – I make lists and leave them where I will walk past. I cross off completed items. Today, I had
And I crossed them all off. You know those posts where I talk about what I have done? That thing will be on a list somewhere, usually split into subtasks to do in order. I even have to write fun things on the list or I forget to to those.
My brain doesn’t turn off easily and it’s tiresome and tiring. It runs and runs forward, and it runs backwards a lot. It skips and jumps and leaps and is interesting but also ADHD can be an invisible extra exhausting burden as you have to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing at any given point in time. Just because one has learned tricks to smooth this over doesn’t mean it’s easy, even if one becomes used to the burden (yes this sounds like a chronic health condition, I know! It sort of is.)
I have had to accept and work around what I cannot do and work to my strengths – ADHD gives as well as takes. I have mostly got it all under control, however as it was said best by Mad-Eye Moody ADHD is about “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” – and that’s bloody tiring.
Look what happened to Moody!