I think I have found the foolproof measure of if someone is, in fact, and adult ADHDer. And this marks my first foray into the type of blogpost I find most annoying in the ADHD blog genre: the “this is true of me as an ADHDer so it must be true of everyone” post.
Back to the task at hand and enough of the meta-analysis…this it goes beyond distraction, irritability, impulsiveness, forgetfulness. Technically it falls under the category of “impairment” as a symptom, but it’s so much more aggravating than that.
Sustaining of routines…the proof is in the difficulty sustaining routines. I swear to God…see, if you have a normal brain, and you have a problem with being bored, you can easily address that with a few weeks of therapy and signing up for a new cooking class. If your problem is boredom at work, and you have a normal brain, again, a few weeks of therapy and a new perspective or a new JOB should fix the problem and show you the way for what you may need to do if you run into this problem again.
If you have ADHD and you are always bored…and you seek new activities…you will seek MORE new activities and more and more…you are heading down the road to compulsively seeking new activities. I’m not talking about people who just like to try new things, ohhhh noooo. I’m talking about people like me who cannot simply do one thing at a time, but also cannot say no, and end up overcommitted before they have even realized they are busy in the first place. It’s a bit of a drug. It’s exhausting. It leaves you in a state of constant frazzle that no normal brain would ever allow a person to achieve, but which the ADHD brain requires! Alright, alright, which MY ADHD brain requires.
If you have ADHD and you are bored at work, a new job will never fix the problem, because you will eventually (and probably quickly) become bored at the next one. You leave and find a new one before you even learn how to work through the problem, over and over and over (or get fired over and over and over)…you never learn to break the cycle because you can’t. Even if you go to a therapist and they don’t figure out your problem is ADHD for years (um, hi, that would be me again) you might learn how to have terrific insight, how to manage your anxiety and frustration somewhat but you have NO idea how to actually address the actual problem. You remain anxious, frustrated and bored!
This lack of routine exists despite our actual symptoms it seems…if we had a terrific ability to cultivate routines, we would not be impaired and hence would not need a diagnosis.
Now then, let’s discuss some of my common ADHDer challenges, their solutions, and then the REAL reason that I can prove I’m an ADHDer: the imperfection of those solutions, and why they are imperfect.
ADHDer issue #1: remembering to take medication, or as Hallowell/Ratey say “how to remember to take the pills that help you remember to take the pills”. I have this great donut shaped thing with the days of the week on it that helps me to remember to take the pills. When I remember to look at the donut shaped thing. I was on a roll for a while, but in classic ADHDer fashion, once I fall off the wagon, I fall hard and have to shoot myself in the ass a few times before I am able to get back on track. I’m in the middle of getting on track with this after a rousing round or two of “wait, did I take it? did I not take it? I don’t think I took it…but can’t take it now because if I already took it I’ll freaking OD…”. I don’t know when I fell off the wagon but it probably had something to do with me having a moment of anxiety about having one more thing to remember to do and ended up here. It seems like there should be an easy way to fix this…but there’s not. I am just going to have to fall on my ass a couple more times, then it will move to the top of the list in my brain again and I’ll be okay for a while. The ADHDer brain only has an extremely limited amount of RAM you see, therefore, once anything is added to the queue everything else shuffles and it ain’t pretty. Something will have to fall off the list…the pill donut, for the moment, is the thing that fell off the list. The therapist asked me where I put it…I didn’t know…I don’t even know the moment that I stopped using it. Kind of like when you throw a ball for a dog and it doesn’t quite see where it went so it just keeps running…or sort of runs in the direction of the ball and runs back to you without the ball and you’re like “dude, dog, I can’t throw it again if you don’t bring it” and the dog stares at you because he has no freaking clue where the ball went. The trick is to find a really clever way to get the dog to go back and get the ball. Wait maybe the trick is to just go and pick up the ball. Uh….
ADHDer issue #2: I had a system for doing homework. My system got thrown off. I am totally floundering. Might sound like OCD but it’s not really like that. It’s not that I have to complete a certain ritual, like with OCD, it’s that once my routine is thrown off, re-establishing it is a monstrously huge undertaking. ADHD is the crack in the record that makes the needle keep skipping, and MAN, is that every annoying in the middle of the song. Changes in routine fuck me up, big time, every time and honestly I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this finals week. I keep resetting the needle but the flow just isn’t happening.
ADHDer issue #3: turning in my time sheet at work. Something about filling in those little boxes just makes my head scream. This task makes me almost descend into an actual temper tantrum. A while back I started doing it two days early because that helped me to get it done. It was either early, or not at all…well there was a holiday on a Monday one week. ARGGGGGH! I have not been able to reset the routine since then. NORMAL PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE THESE PROBLEMS. Yes yes, I know, put it on a calendar, blah blah fucking blah, I don’t want to hear it, I’ve set timers, I’ve put in on the calendar…I’m just going to have to figure out how to sort it out on my own. Somehow. Somehow that doesn’t involve my mind literally growing instant wings and taking flight at each separate box. Wonder why ADHDers are irritable, that’s why, imagine spending all that energy literally trying to pull your mind towards you, several times a minute to complete a simple task, a task that your logical mind actually understands is not difficult, which makes it that much more frustrating that you can’t anchor your mind to do it…
There’s so many more…but the dividing line for ME between the capabilities of my ADHD mind and those of normal brains, always lies right there along the frontiers of routine. And after several months of relative improvement I’m not going to lie, it’s annoying as heck to find myself stuck again trying to re-figure out how to get the same things done. Overall I think this is THE most annoying symptom for me. I mean crap, I’m sitting here and I can SEE the problem. I can SEE it. My self-awareness is the damn reason I went in for evaluation…but the other reason I went in for evaluation was that there was indeed nothing logical I could do to “fix” myself. Medication has closed some of the gaps between logic and ADHD for me, but not all of them. And the realization is crystal clear at the moment that life is always going to be like that…and man, that’s a fantastic (insert sarcasm here) notion to re-visit…over and over…and over…and over…and over and over…
I’m going to go grab that pill donut RIGHT now and put it in a really visible place. OH…I just realized why I’ve been hiding it. From the dog. Got a new dog. Right. Now I remember. Yes, I seriously just remembered that, just this very minute.
Out of sight, out of mind could not be a more literal issue for me.