Picture it. You have to clean the house, get the kids ready for school, plan a trip to the store, write a blog post, finish the paperwork piled on your desk, send a few emails, finish some things that will allow you to volunteer… This is the list you are working with today, but the list is just sort of all up in your brain somewhere, floating about. Imagine it like a slideshow, pictures fade in (oh, you think, yes. I need to do that!) You immediately head upstairs to grab the swimsuit from your kids room (he has swimming today and you need his suit in his backpack — that was the first picture in the slideshow). With the swimsuit in your hands you look around you, the room is a mess, the next slide fades in and it’s a shot of the laundry room. Swimsuit in hand you grab the hamper and fill it with the dirty clothes scattered at your feet. You take the basket and suit downstairs and start a load of laundry, the dog starts barking and the slideshow continues and you know the dog needs to go out. As you stand in the kitchen you stare out at the garden and realize you need to water it so while the dog is out doing his thing you go out and start to water the plants you have managed (miraculously) to keep alive all summer. The kids come out, they have their bags and scooters and with a quick (bye Mum) they are off and the day is spread before you. Something is niggling at you, the jumble of stuff in your brain is yelling at you but you can’t understand what it’s saying, you keep watering the space and then your phone rings. It’s your friend and you start to chat for a few minutes making coffee plans for later in the week. (you realize that at some point you put your coffee down and yet you can’t remember where so you go inside and pour another one) as you talk you move into the house and find yourself staring at the kitchen, it looks like a bomb has gone off and there were no survivors. As you chat you start to tidy up; the slideshow starts up again and you see the image of the dinner you have to make, and the items that you need to pop over the store for. You hang up with your friend and grab your keys and purse. You get to the store and you buy a few items (plus a couple of things you didn’t plan on) and then head back home feeling very accomplished. You arrive home and put the food away when the phone pings an email alert and you remember the emails you needed to respond too. You deal with it, you get a text in the process and read it, you think of the response but you don’t actually respond yet, that’s for later. Next slide on the list in the paperwork, you look at the pile but it’s tall, you decide that should be saved for later and instead you head back out to get the volunteer stuff sorted instead. You actually do it this time (it’s amazing how long it has taken you to complete this stupid easy task but it was so overwhelming – or it seemed to be… embarrassing really). You come back home and walk into the living room, gathering toys swords and cars and dirty underwear as you walk which makes you remember that the laundry needs to be switched; you decide that if you are switching the load you should make sure all the laundry gets done; so you go room by room gathering dirty clothes and putting them in the basket, but then you get to your room and you see the bed isn’t made, and the bathroom is messy so you put the basket down and start to tidy the bathroom. There are two dirty glasses in the bathroom so you pick them up and go downstairs to put them in the sink. The phone rings, it’s your kid, he doesn’t have his swimsuit (he blames you even though it’s clearly HIS freaking responsibility) and still another picture forms in your brain of the swimsuit being placed on top of the washing machine this morning while you were loading it with dirty clothes, *the kids dirty clothes. You go downstairs, grab the suit and make sure to make a mental note to switch loads when you get home from the bathing suit drop off (after getting the laundry from upstairs). It goes on like this, room to room, place to place, email to email… then it is bedtime and you are so totally worn out. You walk into your room ready to flop on the bed and pass-out, the bed, it is still a mess and the dirty laundry is all piled in a basket beside your bed, you sit down and know that it means you didn’t actually ever switch that load and the clothes are sitting wet in the machine, growing mold and stink with every breath you take but being simply too tired to walk down the four flights of stairs to it, so you take a mental picture of the laundry for your slideshow tomorrow. Then you get a text, it’s a question, from the person that texted earlier, the same question, the one that you responded too (or, responded in your brain at least). You put your head on the pillow and go through the slideshow from the day and realize that the only things that actually got accomplished was the dinner, and the bathing suit getting to its location in kids bag. You want to laugh but you know that if you do it will turn into that hysterical laughter that makes people wonder if you are losing your mind, and the truth is you wonder this yourself. (Also, I still didn’t respond to that text)
I have ADHD and this is my brain. I do a lot of things, they just don’t get finished and if they are large, or time-consuming, or even mildly overwhelming and unknown they go on the ‘later’ list. I have to admit that the later list is sometimes the never list. ( I once found my taxes — which were admittedly a little difficult one year had become so overwhelming that it went on the later list.) When I married Tim I had to make the embarrassing admission that I hadn’t done taxes in about 6 years because what started as ‘a little difficult’ quickly became so HUGE and overwhelming that it somehow landed on the never list. – I should say here that this ‘never list’ is never far from the reaches of our brains, the large black cloud of anxiety and stress knowing that it only ever grows more and more complicated with each day that it remains on that list). I didn’t know I had ADHD, I thought it was normal and that everyone had the slideshow that was bent on distracting them and keeping them from accomplishing anything… but yeah, Tim proved to me that not everyone is like that. I then put it down to my artistic side, my creative brain ( I wish I could add the laughing emoticon here).
One day I was talking to a few Moms about their kids and we ended up on the topic of ADHD and we started to discuss some of the symptoms and as I listened I found myself saying ‘that is so me, I totally do that’… on and on through the entire list. I talked to the doctor, she ran tests and bam! I have ADHD! I am over 40 and just in the last year finding out that I have this. I mourned at first (not joking, I actually found myself in mourning because I realized that, had I known sooner things may have been very different for me). After I grieved for an inappropriate amount of time I quit the pity party and started to source out ways to help myself. When that happened, (lists on paper rather than images in my brain for example). I started to get things finished. I started to chunk up overwhelming things, anything unknown I would set aside 10 minutes to do, and I found that after 10 minutes it was either done or very close. Texts and emails remain ‘unread’ until have time to sit and actually physically respond… (Im still not fantastic at this but Im trying). I started taking meds to help and I have finished a book, it’s being published. I have a new direction for the photography business which is working and producing, and more, I have time at the end of the day to sit and feel better about how the day went. Instead of just always feeling like I never accomplish anything I am able to scratch things off my list and know that things got finished today. That is big, feeling like you have finished something. I didn’t realize how important accomplishment was, how vital to emotional health it is to feel like you did something today, even if it was only a small thing.
This is a work in progress, I am learning new tricks and I have many unsuccessful days but in the name of being naked and unashamed, in an aim to feel known I share this with you because it’s not something I need to hide anymore. I have ADHD and I am totally okay with it. There are a LOT of us out there, you know us, you live with us, you get annoyed by us and yet you love us and our quirky (if not seriously annoying) ways. We are here, in your life and we are not weird, we just can’t order our thoughts as well as you, we need different strategies. We are smart, we are creative, we are fun and spontaneous and sometimes it might mean you need to remind us a thousand times that we need to go get our license renewed or switch the loads. You might need to move the lost coffee in the morning back to the kitchen (I will probably never find it in the closet where I was trying to find the kids bathing-suit for school), while you are at it, maybe pop it in the microwave for me, but make sure to tell me or I won’t find it there either). If you see us struggling with something that seems too big, or if we look overwhelmed by something, come sit beside us and encourage us, don’t do it for us but maybe point out a good starting point and let us take it from there.
If you are like me, enjoy it. We are gifted in other ways and we can help each other find strategies that work for us, if you are not like me but love someone like me, then maybe this will help you understand things a little differently. Either way, have a happy day. (I am running out to finish a few things but first I really do need to find that coffee and switch that load of laundry)