Um, hi, I’ll just offer myself up as the guinea pig, having found myself in these scenarios and more, wishing I had a more effective filter. Like the time some guy was harassing a lady on the subway and I couldn’t stop myself from telling him to leave her alone AND where to stick it. That ended with a near brawl, an arrest, and me almost getting punched in the face. Or the time that a guy at Denny’s was making fun of an overweight girl in front of him and I told him where to go and almost got my boyfriend beat up. Or when I sent that email I shouldn’t have…to a person I shall not mention…ouch.
Well I realized today that I have actually found a couple of ways to filter myself in the last couple of years and I will share these with you. They are not foolproof but they ARE very effective for me.
First of all, we have the “NOTEBOOKS”. I have two little spiral bound paper notebooks that I carry in my bag at all times. No idea why two, if anything it seems to make me feel more secure…in case I lose one? Don’t ask, it’s not the logical part of my brain that makes me do that. (For this to be maximally effective you must pair it with a weekly cleaning out of your handbag, but we can talk about that another time.) I have these two little notebooks and I lovingly refer to them as my external RAM (temporary memory in non-tech geek terms) or as my external filtering mechanism, depending on what I’m using them for. He’s how it works…it’s not complicated. Anytime something explodes into my head, demanding attention, I will write it down. I will write it on the first page I open the notebook too, doesn’t matter where, I just write it down. Having an annoying conversation with someone-excuse yourself to make a note. They don’t have to know what you’re writing. Think of something you need to tell your therapist? Write it in the notebook. Get pissed on the city bus because someone bumped into you? Write in in the notebook. WRITE IT ALL IN THE NOTEBOOK. Then, when my bag gets full of shit, at the end of the week, I take everything out, including the notebooks. I thumb through them quickly. Idea for a new business or creative project? Pin it to my corkboard for further thought. A to-do item that’s already done? Rip it up and throw it away! Annoyed response to a loved one? OH look, you don’t care anymore now…throw it away! Then, stick the notebooks back in the bag and keep taking notes until next week.
For email, I have a different approach. When I seem to be compelled to write a response to something I shouldn’t respond to, I will open up a Word document and just start typing. Type, type, type…type, type. Sometimes it takes a while. When I’m done, I save it on my desktop. I come back to it later when the icon on the desktop reminds me. I re-read it…if I still like it later, I copy and paste it into an email and hit send. If not…I consider it good therapy. Because sometimes even when someone deserves to hear how lame they are, it doesn’t really serve you OR the situation to write and send it to them. An alternate solution is to save the message as a draft before sending…but I’ve gotten myself in trouble with that one before by accidentally hitting send instead. Using Word as a buffer is WAY more ADHDer proof.
Taking care to do these things has another beneficial function. I trust the notebooks…they are always there, and I take good care of them. By extension they help me to trust myself. They are the perfect outlet. They’re so small and portable…they add an extra step to my decision-making and reaction process and in many situations that makes all the difference between be seeming “reactive” and seeming thoughtful, measured and sensible. Because I AM all of those things, I just need that extra step to get there more of the time!