Here’s a pretty typical scenario, that basically makes me shake my head in wonder at my own brain and how it functions.
I am actually a very detailed person, although my fatal flaw is that I overload myself…I work my ASS off to be detailed, and then cannot attend to all the details I need to take care of sometimes (and truthfully there are certain kinds of details I have ZERO interest in attending to…but I digress). The ADHDer as perfectionist scenario (and I hear that’s not uncommon). So I have a friend that is helping me with some critical bookkeeping catch up right now.
She started working on the task at hand and had a list of clients that she needed to ask me about because of discrepancies in my records. I was able to look at the list and remember almost everything I needed to remember in order to answer her questions. My mind latches on and categorizes certain kinds of details very quickly if they can be easily filed into the “big picture” in my brain in a meaningful way. I know each of these people personally and it’s like I have a little file in my brain about them…because I know certain things about them, I can recall certain other things…if that makes any sense.
Fantastic. The totally non-sensical “other personality” of my mind is that half the time I can’t remember what I was doing five minutes ago. Boss comes in from court and asks me if “so and so” called…ummmm. Maybe. Not sure. Let me check. Which means I run to my notepad where I write everything down and run back to answer the question, noticing that I talked to the person five minutes earlier and OH YES, that’s what we talked about.
This begs the question, is this because the work stuff is not my “personal” stuff. I don’t think it’s that simple…maybe it’s more an issue of recall. Because in the present, even when I’m dealing with my own clients, I have the same problem. It’s like the information embeds itself in my mind somewhere, I just can’t get access until a certain amount of time has passed. Someone could pay me, literally put money in my hand and ten minutes later say “hey I paid you right?” and I would go “what, you did?”. There’s just too much happening in my mind in the present for me to process the question, nevermind recall the answer. This is why, when I have to operate in the present, I am totally reliant on post-its, and my little notebooks that I carry around and FILL with notes, kind of like that guy in “Memento” having to tattoo notes all over himself. So that later in the day when I can’t figure out why I have a wad of cash in my pocket, I can look at the list…because even though a week later I may spontaneously recall “oh, that’s right, so and so paid me last week”…I won’t have any idea how much…in the file in my brain I made a note of “paid” but the minute detail is gone…oh wait, there it is in my notebook!
Yes, everyone should keep good records, that is not unique to people with ADHD and admittedly, there are people without ADHD who suck at running businesses…therefore maybe business details are a bad example…but think about this…when you have limited short term memory and you choose business as the priority you will focus it on…your personal life can really become a list of untended obligations, pissed off friends and mostly by accident. This is something that in my current life I have become very conscientious about, but when I was younger, I struggled with. I’ve had some people that I’ve basiccally gone back to “make amends” to, ala AA terminology, because I felt I had really been irreponsible with our friendship, because at the time I was not working so consciously at being a good friend, and balancing my life more effectively.
Again with the big-picture vs. little picture thing…I think this big picture thinking is part of what really makes me successful and functional in some aspects of my life. But one of the biggest lessons I am learning right now is that whenever possible, I probably need to delegate these little-picture detail tasks to someone else, since they overload my brain. I also need to let my inner perfectionist off the hook and convince her she can take some time off…instead of putting so much energy into the overcompensation of proving that I can do it all MYSELF. Life balance…what’s that?
Easier said than done but at least in the meantime, I can crack myself up with my paradoxical memory issues 🙂