ADHD / Adult ADHD / Anxiety / Coping Strategies

ADHD: The anxious, the irate, and the just plain obnoxious

There’s a stereotype out there that girls and women with ADHD are out there being all spacey-McSpacerson in inattentive-land all over the place. It may be a stereotype that is based in truth – I suppose it’s possible that most females with ADHD fit that description. I, for one, certainly don’t. When I was a little girl, I certainly was quiet, but I was not inattentive. I was actually so mentally active that I normally just wasn’t paying attention to whatever I was supposed to be paying attention to. I was usually noticing everything at once and frequently was baffled by the things that other people didn’t notice (and frustrated by all of the information coming in). Or completely gone down a tunnel of my own creation, in my head, for hours. OH…or completely wrapped up in anxiety/emotional reaction that I couldn’t quite function in the same reality everyone else was in.

Emotional reactivity and anxiety pretty much ruled my life as a child – even when people outside of me didn’t realize it. I had a hard time understanding other people, but at the same time, really cared a lot about their opinions. That’s a bad combo. I often misinterpreted run-of-the-mill human interactions and took them so much to heart that it made me feel sick. The fact that I was often called “weird” didn’t help. And it generally wasn’t even kids making fun of me, it was often my friends saying “oh my gosh, you’re like so weird”. They liked me. They just didn’t understand what I was talking about. But by the time I was an older child, the combination of feeling different and taking things to heart spiralled me into a depression that I don’t think I could even experience as an adult – because I have so much more life experience now. Life experience can teach you to deflect that kind of crap. Adults live in a much larger context of experience than children do. Once it’s all mapped out, perspective is possible.

The opposite of that type of anxiety-depression spiral that I would get caught in, was my reactivity. When I get pissed off…I get really pissed off. HUGE pissed off. GIGANTIC pissed off. It’s hard to explain the size and intensity of that kind of anger to someone that just never feels that way, and I have learned that there are lots of people out there that never feel that way. And I hate that. I hate feeling that my reactions to things are disproportionate, and I know that for better and for worse, they often are.

Though adult experience has helped me to temper it, and though I have actively learned skills for putting space between my reaction and my actions, the sensation is still there. I realize now that shame of even having these feelings sometimes keeps me from writing about them — but that’s probably all the more reason that I should. This morning, for example…

There’s a restricted parking area in front of my house. JUST in front of my house. Because there is a business across the street. You can only park there for two hours. That parking area is never full, and because I don’t have a parking space in my yard and I often carry lots of bags/boxes/children/dogs around, it’s not convenient to unload creatures and things into the house from a block away. If it’s evening, when parking is unrestricted, I’ll park in front of the house and move the car in the morning. The only hitch in this plan is duh, I have ADHD and…often forget to move the car in time.

Yes – I know that the obvious solution to all of this is don’t park there anymore. I get it. I go back in time and I see myself creating my own problem. Well one day a while ago, I accumulated a handful of parking tickets in one day because the parking peeps kept coming around and I’d forgotten to move the car. Let’s just say that paying parking tickets wasn’t at the top of the household agenda (things have been pretty tight for a while and probably will be for another while). When you don’t pay your tickets, they basically lock down your vehicle on the street and as I now know, you pay a month’s worth of groceries to get your shitbox car back (which, incidentally, is more than the dollar value of my car).

I was really pissed. At myself, but also at the situation – bullshit rules and I don’t get along well. I knew better than to even leave the house to go resolve the issue until I’d had a chance to go through a whole cycle of losing and recovering my sanity and ability to self-regulate. I took my next stimulant dosage. I ate breakfast (I get very low blood sugar). Finally, when I was feeling pretty even-keeled, if drained, I went and took that month’s worth of grocery money (we’ll just have to figure out that problem when we run out of food…I’m only partially joking…maybe we’ll just let them repossess the car instead…)  – and went to the police station. I was polite. I paid the tickets, plus the fines. I was polite, even though the lady behind the counter is our town’s most notoriously nasty parking agent. I didn’t even lose it when the lady behind me in line exclaimed “HOW MUCH did they just make you pay? Well that’s just crazy, I can’t believe that, how awful…” blahblahblah…I started to respond and then just left.

Went to the store because it’s a superstition in my family that when your money situation is really shitty you should buy something. Long story for another time. So I did buy my husband a $6 bottle of wine to celebrate a very cool honor he’d received yesterday, and that he deserved a gift for. When you’re broke, that $6 isn’t going to make or break whether or not you make the car payment anyway. And people with no money still deserve a pat on the back. Then I went home.

Then I got up this morning, and remembered that I needed to move my car (yes, I parked there again, I don’t want to hear about it). I put on my snow boots. My coat. Grabbed keys. Went to and opened the car. Took out the long-handled brush to brush the snow off of the car…and the business owner across the street, whose 2 hr parking zone I was in, pulled up and smiled and waved at me.

And I lost it. I beat the shit out of my own car with the long handled brush AND likely made her think I was completely insane, all at once.

Fucking brilliant.

And it’s the second brush I’ve broken, though the first one had nothing to do with a fit of rage.

I wasn’t pissed at her, though I think he 2-hr parking zone is complete shit. I wasn’t pissed at the city…their rules are stupid, but they’re not the idiot that got all the tickets by being forgetful. I’m not even sure if I was pissed at myself, though I really feel like I did something stupid. I think it was just that the whole situation was really stressful.

Next time I rustle up a spare $6 I’ll grab myself a new long-handled brush. Until then I guess I’ll be using a broom and a credit card to clean off the car.

In all of this, though I’m sitting here feeling ridiculous about it, there were some good things that happened. I acknowledged my responsibility. I respected my own limits and waited until I was in a better headspace to address the situation. I made sure I took my meds and ate something. I remedied the situation with regard for respecting others. I made damn sure I moved my car this morning when I needed to (not sure what my plan with that will be, long-term, but I’ll come up with something). The next time I see that neighbor, I’ll make sure to be polite and engage her in a way that’s not over the top, and maybe even apologize. Would you believe she’s also: A therapist. (I know, as if this whole thing wasn’t embarrassing enough.)

Overall I’m giving myself a B – grade this time. The really important basics of coping through the situation, I handled well. I need to not create the situation again in the first place. And I need to follow through all the way to the end on the tempering of my ridiculous reaction (couldn’t I have just turned and gone into the house and punched a couch pillow, for Heaven’s sake).

Sigh.

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6 thoughts on “ADHD: The anxious, the irate, and the just plain obnoxious

  1. Noo… this could never happen to me. Ahum. But, still, pretty annoying to have a restricted parking spot right in front of your house.

    And, I think the concept that ADHD girls are spacy comes from most girls having ADD rather than ADHD for some reason. I was erratic. I could space out, daydreaming. If the convo wasn’t interesting, I’d find it hard to focus on it… even more so in busy school halls. Distraction. As a teen I was a loner, not by choice though. I had a snowball’s hope in hell of fitting in, being a foreigner with glasses and ADHD and parents who wouldn’t allow me anything my peers did.
    My father had a burglar-proof gate. Not sure if it was burglar-proof, but it definitely wasn’t 11-year-old ADHD proof.

    • Lol re: the gate! You sound like my cousin…

      My hyperactivity is more a mental once but it expresses itself physically through constant fidgeting and anxiety. It’s hard to reign in the brain, and that’s both exhausting and stressful.

      I also think that because the body of research involving females with ADHD is much smaller, it doesn’t yet reflect much diversity. Maybe now that we are more real and interesting to researchers, more stories will be told. Let’s hope 🙂

  2. I vacillate between spacey and hyper-focused. If I’m working on something I find interesting, I don’t even take bathroom breaks until I’m just about peeing my pants. But if I find an activity to be dull, it’s like pulling teeth to get my mind to stay on task. I daydream. A lot. Probably too much. I always have. Oddly enough, my ADHD went undiagnosed until I was 31. My report cards pretty much read something like “academically gifted, but problems with organization and socializing.” I don’t know why the desk you could never find anything in didn’t set up a red flag, but I flew under the radar for a long time. I was able to make it through college with a 3.8 GPA because I could usually hyper-focus on the work. I need to learn how to focusd on the mundane, however, because my life is spinning out of control. Too much procrastination; too much disorganization; too much waiting until the last possible moment. Too make thing even better, I’m chronically depressed and probably perimenopausal. I need to find support, and quickly. I’m going to follow your blog and see if I can’t find some there.

    • Sounds like we have a lot in common. I too, vacillate depending on the topic at hand. I can hyperfocus on some things for, no joke, 12 hours (I know what you mean about forgetting to pee)…others, not even minutes. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 33 – floundered as an undergraduate but because I was more interested in the material as a grad student I graduated with a 3.73 (it was higher but tinkering with meds in the middle impacted my grades, lol, oh well). When I first went in to explore diagnosis, I brought a grade school report card that confirmed my inability to complete assignments in class.

      Definitely reach out to a therapist if you can (if you haven’t already…one that is familiar with ADHD and how it manifests in the lives of adults). I think the thing that has helped me the most to get better at dealing with the mundane is practice – but a therapist can help point you to some good sources, or give you some ideas about what to practice. Sometimes it’s challenging to figure out where to start! And sometimes, even though I work really hard to try to stay on top of things, I give myself a break for a few days (in the middle of one of those right now and the house is a total disaster, lol, but the kids will be back tomorrow so I have a deadline…deadlines sometimes help me to prioritize things that I don’t feel like doing).

      • Oh, I have a weekly visit with a psychologist, and a monthly appointment with a psychiatrist, but I’m looking for a wider support network tham that. I wish there were more resources for adults with ADHD. You can find lots of information on children with ADHD, but not much on adults. I’m glad you found me on Twitter; I can use all the additional information I can get!

  3. I know what you mean. In the last few years I feel like there are more resources, but there are definitely more relating to children and ADHD.

    Some of this might be repetitive for you but you can take it or leave it: Sari Solden’s Women With ADHD by Sari Solden can be a good book to have around. Driven To Distraction (and its sequel, Delivered From Distraction) are classics. Gina Pera’s “Is it you, me or Adult ADHD” is a good resource about relationships. In the past year it seems to me that Additude magazine has added more information relevant to adults to its contents. Some areas have support groups for adults with ADHD. I haven’t ventured in that direction yet. And…if you click through the list of people I follow on Twitter, lots of them are either people with ADHD or ADHD coaches who tweet some useful tips for living.

    Good luck!

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