ADHD Pleads Guilty

Vintage illustration of a head, with the brain diagrammed in colored and labelled sectionsAs I continue to learn about ADHD, previously unsuspected associations between ADHD and lifelong quirks and struggles arise every day. Sometimes depression and/or personality are also factors, but identifying ADHD as an additional suspect finally illuminates why it has been so effing hard to get a handle on some of these things, no matter how long or how hard I tried. I’m simply outnumbered!

Here are a few of them:

  • Impossibility of maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Frequent errors (mostly letters or words dropped or out of order) in writing and typing
  • Low frustration threshold
  • Extreme bouts of productivity at everything BUT the priority task
  • Lifelong tardiness
  • Never feeling quite confident of remembered facts
  • Saying more (in quantity AND self-revelation) than I intended
  • Limited tolerance for abstraction despite being highly analytical
  • Spending inordinate time and effort on ordering and reordering tasks
  • The mysterious reappearance of lost objects exactly where they should have been, that I looked for in that place multiple times and did not see (previous working theory: boggarts are real!)
  • Shower aversion (a dirty little secret) – SO boring, and I never STAY clean!
  • Taking lecture notes that I never read later. I thought this was because I remember better by hearing than seeing, but it turns out it’s also because the note-taking helps me get things into my long-term memory
  • And, of course, the biggy that sent me down this path in the first place: Procrastination

Strike That from the Record

The biggest revelation to date about ADHD has been that it impacts short term memory, in particular by inhibiting the transition of memories from short-term to long-term. This explains the nagging feeling I so often have that there’s something important I should be thinking of right now, but no matter how hard I dig, there’s nothing there to find. I did not know this was a factor in ADHD.

Order in the Court!

I also never realized how much ADHD is about sequencing. Complex projects become overwhelming at least in part because of the lengthy sequence of tasks they require, even more so if some steps are a little unclear because I’m doing something new, or they depend on what happens in previous steps. It takes SO much remembering and decision-making to get – and keep – all those steps in line.

Testimony

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, can I borrow your brain for an hour to experience what that’s like? Here’s a sample internal dialogue to give you a probably less yummy taste of my daily reality:

Let’s see, I need to shower, wash dishes, water the yard, and I should probably shower last since those other things might get me dirty all over again, but will there be enough hot water left? And I need to shower while the sun is shining in the bathroom window – what time does that happen? But I also need to take care of my internet tasks early, while my focus is strongest, and I should do light therapy as soon after I get up as possible. And I was going to start taking walks in the morning. Oh and I have to pay that thing. Maybe I should look at my To Do Today list and make sure everything is on it. But I don’t want to remove the things I checked off yesterday yet, because I want to list them when I make my journal recording, so I’m not always listing everything I didn’t get done without counting what I did accomplish. Did I remember to check my calendar in case there’s anything I’m supposed to do today that I completely forgot? And I should do a couple of hours of work on my “little” job today, though I have been saying that every day for the past week, and as there is nothing too time sensitive (that I remember) and payday isn’t until next week, and I already feel overwhelmingly busy trying to do all the things I need to do today before noon when my energy level plummets, I can do that later. And I’m really hungry too, but if I take time to cook breakfast now it’s going to throw everything else off. But if I wait, I won’t be able to take my noon pills on time because my stomach won’t be empty. Oh, wait, I finally got to the grocery store yesterday, so I have cottage cheese. But I should do my audio journal while I do light therapy first, because I can’t do anything else with a bright light shining in my eyes for 45 minutes, and I can’t talk and eat breakfast at the same time. Well, I can have my coffee and that will stave off hunger for awhile. It should be ready by now. But why is it transparent? Sh*t, I forgot to put the coffee in the filter again.

Involuntary Adjournment

In the middle of that my internet goes down and I suddenly can’t add anything to my calendar or to do list. The outage only lasts about three minutes, but that is long enough for all of my balls in the air to fall on my head, pelting me into a bruised mush. I conclude people with ADHD need very fast and extremely reliable internet (which I cannot afford), and only with brute mental strength do I restrain myself from re-entering a lengthy and intensive internal debate about the available local providers, which I have researched and reconsidered many times, and which have not changed since the last time I did so. And I still haven’t decided whether to shower or do light therapy first. I’m already exhausted just trying to plan my day, and I haven’t even done anything yet.

The Defense Really Needs A Rest

On my most vigorous days, I’m lucky to have enough energy to see me through five hours of work, whether it be for pay, or routine household maintenance tasks. I thought I was just a person of lite vitality, but I’m beginning to see that it may be less a matter of low resources than of an extremely high level of background consumption. No Energy Star appliance, I.

Justice for All

Man in business attire worries over a checklist as he drinks his coffeeThe problem with calling the capacity to manage a normal day “executive function” is the image it evokes of someone wearing a thousand dollar suit in a penthouse office, making decisions that will affect hundreds of employees and thousands of shareholders. For every one of those, there are thousands in low end rentals wearing yard sale sweats, locked into a marathon wrestling match with their own brains, just trying to get the damn coffee made.

Chatty Isn’t Lonely 

I had a light bulb moment recently, when a friend made a passing reference to a mutual acquaintance who “seemed lonely.” I was puzzled for a moment, since I had never thought so. Then I realized she was interpreting the acquaintance’s chattiness as social neediness.

This little pebble of insight dropped into my own history and rippled out into waves of new understanding. People have been making the same assumption about me, for the same reason, all my life.

An old photograph shows actress Sarah Bernhardt, in the role of Hamlet, speaking to a skull that she holds in her hand

My soliloquies aren’t usually as dire as this one.

BUT IT ISN’T TRUE. Continue reading

The Unconvinceables

COVID Year Two was more of a challenge than COVID Year One.

It wasn’t that I expected the pandemic to end, as many apparently did. I did not, having some awareness of real world logistics, the speed of science, and the tendency of those who have made bad decisions to double down rather than repent.

And I’m not chafing at restrictions upon my usual activities. My life hasn’t changed much, except for wondering whether I am carrying home a fatal illness with my groceries.

No, the biggest, buzziest COVIDfly in the ointment of my life is Continue reading

Frames

As previously discussed in several posts, I’ve been trying to understand – and resolve – my constant struggle to get stuff done. I’m happy to report that I think I’ve figured out what’s going on.

Spring, 2021

Black lightbulb with a white geometric pattern inside. Two small sections of the pattern are yellow. After I adjusted the nutraceuticals I use to manage my depression without success (see Isms), I decided to try a more direct approach, and researched non-prescription options for “low motivation.” I didn’t find anything that sounded promising, but I couldn’t help noticing that many of the results that came up were in articles about managing ADHD.

Hmm.


Summer, 2021

Black lightbulb with white geometric pattern inside. About half of the lines in the pattern are yellow. I’ve thought I might have some degree of ADHD for many years, but never really followed up on that thought. It didn’t seem to be affecting me much. But I decided to read a book about it. Many quotes from adults with ADHD resonated unexpectedly.

Hmm.


Fall, 2021

Yellow lightbulb with black geometric pattern inside. I found some podcasts by people living with ADHD. Issues with energy and initiative cycles, motivation, and timeliness are everywhere. Methinks I have found the answer to the mystery of my procrastination – not a lingering depression symptom at all.

The discovery is liberally sprinkled with karma, as I’ve told more than one lover/colleague/friend with ADHD that it appeared to be affecting them a lot more than they believed (but nobody ever said the same to me, I swear).

This new insight hasn’t resulted in overnight solutions, but it explains a LOT, including why I keep overlooking things in plain sight. It’s shown me a community grappling with similar issues. And I’m reassessing my capacities, my expectations, and my notion of what is “normal for me.”


That’s Odd

The more I read/heard about ADHD, the more some very familiar terms cropped up. “Highly sensitive,” for example. Also “overwhelm.” This from people who never mentioned Sensory Processing Sensitivity, and as far as I could tell, had never even heard of it. Continue reading

Mortality

I learned last night that a singer who was important to me once has died. She died several months ago, as it turns out, but it was news to me. Or perhaps not. I had been thinking of her off and on over the past few weeks, or rather of her music, as first one of her songs, and then another drifted into and out of my mind for a few days. Somehow, I knew, so seeing the past tense in the search results did not shock or surprise me, as it so often has in recent years. Maybe I caught a fleeting glimpse of a headline awhile back, and put it away out of consciousness until I was ready for it to surface.

For a moment, when I saw the singer’s age, I thought, oh well, she was getting up there. Then I remembered my own age, which I often forget, and which is not much less than hers.

Savage Breast

Fiery surface of sun with solar flares erupting, against a black backgroundMusic meant a lot to me during my depressed years Continue reading

The Tedium is the Passage

Browsing through old drafts, I came across this unfinished post from 2016. I present it here as a prequel to my May post, Isms. More at the end…

Cover of the book "Work as a Spiritual Practice," by Lewis Richmond

I found this book in my neighbor’s little lawn library, but did not notice the subtitle until I got it home. Buddhists again. What is up with that? Everywhere I look there seem to be Buddhists, or Buddhist practices. Am I resisting some inner calling or something?

I ponder that question. I am not a huge fan of organized (or even disorganized) religions. With the best of intentions, religions try to institutionalize direct experience, at which point it is no longer direct. Thus, self-contradiction is built into their foundations from day one.

I see spirituality as primarily a private, internal experience. Certainly spiritual inspiration can come from many sources, but overall, looking outside to better know yourself seems to me like a step in the opposite direction from where you are trying to get. (Of course, that perspective may be colored by the fact that I’m an introvert).

I think it’s just that Buddhists and I are often interested in the same things. Continue reading

The Tyrannical Touchstone of Normalness

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been endeavoring “to learn to accept humans as we are.” After a brush with Buddhism reassured me that I am not the first person to grapple with pain, I turned to psychology, which has been more specifically helpful.

First, I discovered the overwhelming prevalence of “optimism bias” – predicting positive outcomes to an unrealistic degree. This helped me comprehend the unfathomable insistence by a large percentage of Americans that an epidemic which has killed more than 600,000 people was either fictional or insignificant.

To Err is Human

Since my last post, I have learned about a few other common psychological phenomena Continue reading

Isms

Just a quick post (am I really capable of such a thing? We shall see) to update followers on the issues I was wrastling with in February. I quit the Yale “Science of Well-Being” course after a few weeks, as it was targeted primarily towards those who had bought into competitive materialism all of their lives, which has never been me. Also it was a little too mechanistic in its attitude toward brain science. Research is good, but not everything can be measured. Identity, for example. But hey, go Elis. Really, go. You will probably be much happier away from Yale and its ilk.

Building on the theory that procrastination was a manifestation of crippling yet unconscious anxiety Continue reading

HappyStance

As I promised I would in my previous post, after I published it, I went and read what Elaine Aron had to say about the distinction between anxiety disorders and HSP overwhelm. The subject is actually an FAQ item on her website.

Fear Itself

The article is quite long, and its messages are rather mixed. I was appalled to find that Aron comes right out and says at one point that anxiety is “normal” for HSPs, therefore it is not a mental disorder in us. This seems like an extraordinarily bizarre and irresponsible statement for a mental health expert to make about 15-20% of the population. However, when you read the whole article, her message is more nuanced Continue reading

Is Overwhelm the Same as Anxiety?

The deck of playing cards attacks Alice in WonderlandI’ve been grappling with a challenge I variously refer to as procrastination, low motivation, or a need for an astronomical amount of down/processing time, for awhile now. Years, actually. As you can see by my list of labels, the crux of the problem is not solving it (problem-solving is one of my natural strengths), but defining its nature (possibly less of a strength). Longtime readers may recognize this state of bemused non-functionality from the inception of Sensitive Type.

Just to be clear, the tasks I’m having trouble with are self-initiated. Some are associated with work, and I will eventually have to be accountable for them, but there is no one looking over my shoulder from day to day. Others impact only me. Ironically, the space to “be where I am” that I built in to my life in response to my previous crisis reduced the stress of pressure from others, but by also reducing the motivating imperative of deadlines, new stress was born.

Finding the Right Frame

I have framed the issue in many different ways, trying to find one that fits. Continue reading