One of the special features of ADHD that I find the most perplexing, and at times frustrating, is the steep learning curve that I sometimes require, for seemingly simple things.
Case in point: Dog care.
Until the 33rd year of my life, I was a cat person. I had cat from birth to the present, and I have two now that I’ve had for 13 years. Had a dog growing up, and while we loved and enjoyed him, I wouldn’t describe our family as dog people, more like cat people who happened to have a dog around.
Well one day I got the bright idea that I should have a dog. I had wanted one earlier, but because of my often mobile, frequently-moving lifestyle, decided that it wasn’t a good idea. Then I was 33, decided I was staying where I was, and thought a dog would be a pretty sweet companion. I did my research. I read about all kinds of dogs, so that I would at least have a rough idea of what to expect, and what types of dogs have what types of activity levels.
The way I’m describing this, it makes me sound really measured and unspontaneous, which is pretty funny. It’s not that I’m a loose cannon, it’s more that when I set my mind to something, I become a bit obsessed, to a degree that has ADHD written all over it. Hyperfocus central. When I say I read about dogs, I mean I was online reading every resource there was to read, learning about the history of breeds, reading about the history of dogs, reading about how to train dogs, reading about what to do with puppies at various stages of development, reading about trainers, training styles, watching dog videos.
My boyfriend at the time told me “no dogs” because he was a cat person. Well, as it turns out, our relationship went down the toilet soon after my dog obsession began (not be`cause of the dog obsession, I swear…no really). At that point I was pretty sure children and getting married weren’t going to be happening, so I factored that information into my dog search. I decided I would keep an eye out for a rat terrier (apartment-sized, less aggressive than Jack Russell’s, minimal formal exercise needed, no grooming required, trainable if terrier-like) through a rescue group.
Well a friend found me a chihuahua-rat terrier mix and that was four years ago.
A month later I got married and acquired three children.
The acquisition also included a shepherd-lab mix.
I now had two dogs.
And I am STILL struggling to set a dog care routine.
Our dogs are well-loved, eat regularly, are in good health (the vet concurs), but this whole routine thing is just really stressful. I’ve gotten as far as (obviously) taking them out to pee first thing in the morning, and then for a walk at a specified time. Rest of the day is a free for all. It is often the case that I can’t concentrate on anything else if I know I have to go do a walk or a something at a specific time. I’ll obsess about the fact that I have to go do the “thing” later – I think this is part of the joy of a dual diagnosis of ADHD and an anxiety disorder. I have learned to use my anxiety as a tool, which is great when I ABSOLUTELY MUST REMEMBER a particular thing, but the flip side is that if I feel something is important, I cannot stop thinking about it until it’s done because I’m afraid that I will forget it.
I also can’t always predict when I will be focused…so if I am finally able to focus on something, the last thing I want to do is get up, walk the dogs, and flush my focus down the toilet. If I’m in a groove, I have to stay there.
Not everything in life can be made more perfect through seamless calendaring and use of timers. Sometimes I really need to be able to turn the friggin’ timer OFF, not on, in my overly vigilant brain.
As I was walking the dogs today, at a random, non-routine time, the thought occurred to me that there are people who do this every day, on a schedule, and you know…they just do it on the schedule. You know, like that’s totally normal and not a constant struggle.
They walk dogs at an appointed time! They feed dogs at an appointed time! Who knows what else they might do with dogs at an appointed time, the possibilities are ENDLESS.
My small dog sometimes tucks himself into bed at 10pm on his own. My big dog reminds me that it’s time to go for a walk (for our one routine walk event of the day). This involves a lot of staring, and sometimes even this doesn’t give me the hint, which is when the paw comes out and she starts clawing at me. OK FINE, WALK TIME.
I guess it’s nothing to beat myself up over, but I sure feel silly that these kinds of simple things in life are elusive to aggravatingly challenging.
I’m going to stop at my success with the half routine, and not bother with getting elaborate about what we do with the rest of the day. These are really the two most important items anyway, the morning pee and the first walk of the day. The feeding is never a problem to remember because an empty bowl in an obvious place is a visible reminder. I like to be proactive and try new strategies, but I also like to pick my ADHD battles and not excessively torture myself with the impulse to “fix” everything that I could perceive to be “wrong” with me (I have a perfectionist streak that isn’t always helpful).
And that’s that.