AD/HDers are attracted to stimulation. It would make sense that an AD/HDer would be attracted to the company of others with this *condition.* I've been amazed at the number of my childhood and…Continue
Started this discussion. Last reply by jason m collard May 13, 2011.
AD/HDers are known for having intense feelings towards their teachers - either intensely liking them or intensely disliking them! In those grades where the teacher is liked, the grades of the AD/HD…Continue
Started this discussion. Last reply by Connie Jul 29, 2010.
And What Did You Do Today, Dear?
I considered naming this chapter “In Honor of the Unsung Heroes” because in the AD/HD world, mothers and fathers who are full-time homemakers are exactly that. But AD/HD adults are more likely to identify with the current title, since this is a question that many of us have grappled with at the end of a long day at home. And although we may have worked feverishly on 101 projects throughout the daylight hours, as we stare at the chaos spilling out of each and every room of our homes, we are suddenly bewildered in terms of how indeed our time was spent. Why are time management and task completion such a struggle for AD/HDers, particularly in the home setting?
Sari Solden’s description of the expected duties of a homemaker offers insight into the unique struggles of AD/HDers within the home. In her book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, Solden writes a fictional ad that lists the expectations placed on homemakers:
Woman wanted to coordinate multiple schedules in an unstructured, distracting atmosphere. Must be able to process great numbers of details quickly and maintain a neat, well-organized environment. Must keep track of all important occasions, including social obligations, birthday cards, and thank you notes, as well as be responsible for all subtleties and niceties of life. Must be able to choose quickly and easily from a great number of options. Applicants will be responsible for all recordkeeping and for maintenance of all systems in the organization, as well as the upkeep on all equipment.
For those interested, please call 911-N-O-T-A-D-H-D.[i]
My guess is that if such a job existed outside of the home, no AD/HDer in his or her right mind would apply for it, for it requires skills that are precisely most difficult for those with attentional impairments: organization, sustained focus, multitasking, and the ability to tune out distractions.
Let’s take multitasking as an example. Multitasking is the current catchphrase to describe the process of dividing one’s attention and working on more than one project at a time. By definition then, multitasking necessitates the ability to actually remember what tasks you are in the midst of completing, a requirement that excludes most AD/HDers from the get-go. AD/HD adults are more likely to become wholly absorbed in one task, until we are distracted by the reminder of another responsibility that really should have been taken care of the day before, and this new task will dominate our attention until the phone rings and we become immersed in conversation, no longer conscious of the multiple tasks that are in partial stages of completion (including the cookies in the oven and the sink that is rapidly filling up with water). In this manner many AD/HD adults spend their days moving from one unfinished task to the next, always in motion, but with little sense of accomplishment by day’s end. As one frustrated homemaker stated, “Sometimes I feel just like an AD/HD commercial: one frame or phase after the other, but NO SONG.”
Being at home also has a strange way of warping time. Without a work schedule, time seems to melt away. You have only just seen your children off to school when they are suddenly tromping back through the door again. This is most likely due to the AD/HDer’s ability to become lost in thought or absorbed in projects. For a while, I set an hourly alarm on my watch, hoping that this little reminder would help me to be cognizant of passing time and allow me to remain present for the fifty-nine minutes between alerts. This intervention didn’t work out as planned, but it did allow me the hourly thrill of recognizing how easily AD/HDers can be transposed to another dimension.
Although it would be just dandy as a homemaker to be able to establish a schedule to accommodate all of the tasks that need to be completed in a given day, there are always unexpected interruptions in the life of a stay-at-home parent. Though you may plan to organize the bills on a given morning, you don’t anticipate that your child’s kindergarten teacher will call to announce that little Katie has vomited all over the classroom sand table and ask if you would please come pick her up as soon as possible? You also don’t foresee that your sewer system will suddenly back up, with foul-smelling toilet water rising ominously close to the rim. And while fielding calls from telemarketers intermixed with reminders from helpful PTA members about upcoming events, you have to wonder if there are any paid positions that have these kinds of job requirements.
Suddenly it is 3:45 pm, and your older children arrive home from school with special needs (“I need to get some papier-mâché to make a model of the solar system that is due tomorrow.”) and expectations (“My teacher wants you to call her—I’m not exactly sure why.”); and before you know it, it’s dinnertime, minus the prepared dinner, and your spouse is asking you, like clockwork, what you did that day.
But full-time homemakers are not alone in these struggles! After reviewing hundreds of stories from AD/HD adults, I want to go on record as stating that although many AD/HDers report being more organized and productive while at work, not a single adult stated, “Well, my workday is a complete disaster, but let me tell you about the wonderful organizational system that I maintain at home.” AD/HDers who function well within the structure of their workplace describe the chaos that ensues on their days off. AD/HD adults who enjoy a sense of accomplishment during office hours speak in hushed tones about the many unfinished projects that await them at home, how they feel pulled in multiple directions, and how they can’t seem to accomplish anything outside of work. As one client aptly put it, “At work I am able to shut all the doors and focus on one thing. At home, too many doors are open.”
In the next chapter, I will offer recommendations that may assist you in providing greater organization and structure to your home life. All I really want to say in this chapter is this: Those of you who stay at home have a really tough job, and you should be recognized for the daunting tasks that you take on day after day. Furthermore, you definitely should not be hard on yourself. Ask any career-oriented AD/HDer to switch places with you, and he or she will be begging for mercy by week’s end. Most important, make sure to take some time for yourself each day to rejuvenate—guilt-free. You deserve it.
Once You Accept Your Limitations, the Solutions are Limitless
Perhaps as a reader you are part of the large group of adults who have lived with symptoms of inattention, disorganization, and for many, restlessness throughout their lifetimes, but are only just beginning to question whether or not these “idiosyncrasies” are actually part of a larger disorder of attention. You are embarking on an exciting journey of self-discovery. But first you need to confirm your diagnosis. Talk to your parents or siblings and gather more information about your behavior and attention span as a child, as well as about other family members who may have had similar issues. Do you have access to your childhood report cards? These can provide a wealth of information, particularly the sections where teacher comments are located. “Exercises self-control,” “listens courteously,” “works independently and is not easily distracted,” “completes work on time”—these are often areas where AD/HDers receive checkmarks indicating a need for improvement. Next, find a psychologist, psychiatrist, family practitioner, or internist who is well-versed in AD/HD and who can determine whether or not you indeed meet the criteria for this disorder. Talk to your physician about treatment options.
Perhaps you are part of the minority of AD/HD adults who have recently been diagnosed. Receiving the diagnosis alone is often a huge step for adults who have been struggling with these symptoms for as far back as they can remember. So you are not immature, self-focused, self-destructive, and all the other negative labels that have been ascribed to you over the years, whether by yourself or by others. Re-labeling your behaviors as symptoms of a disorder is an emotional undertaking. Often AD/HD adults have internalized a lot of negative messages, and they replay them every time one of their symptoms is displayed. “Interrupting again, huh? Are you ever going to grow up?” “Feel like you can’t keep up with the conversation? Maybe you should have paid more attention in school.” The first step in recovery is to tell these internal bullies to shut up. Yep, and that feels really good. “Shut up! That was impulsivity, not immaturity, and rather than beating myself up over this, I am going to figure out how to best handle these symptoms.”
Usually there are a lot of old tapes that need to be identified and then altered. Listen carefully. These tapes have often been playing in the background for so long that you have automatically come to accept their damning judgments. Confront these messages when you become aware of them, and make a decision that you are no longer going to be at the mercy of their negativity.
The next step is to take inventory of how AD/HD symptoms are impacting your life. Are you chronically late for appointments and get-togethers? Do you have trouble relaxing after a hard day at work (or at home)? Do you feel overwhelmed when faced with a large project, and do you consequently procrastinate on getting started? Are you always looking for items that you have misplaced? Be honest with yourself. The purpose here is not to place blame but to look at areas of your life where you need to intervene and find solutions to aggravating behavior patterns.
Now pick a behavior that you would like to focus on first. What solutions have you tried in the past to deal with this? What worked and what did not? For an intervention that did not work, think about why not. Let’s take forgetfulness as an example. Perhaps you have tried making lists but didn’t find this to be helpful. Why not? Did you misplace the lists? Did you feel discouraged by all the items on your lists? Did you forget to use your list after the first day of this intervention? Don’t worry. I’m not going to accuse you of making excuses. These are all legitimate reasons why many people stop making lists. Once you determine why list-making was not successful for you, then you can fine-tune your approach so that it can work.
In this chapter I would like to review some of the most common roadblocks that are created by AD/HD symptoms and what interventions have been helpful to other AD/HD adults. Some recommendations will hit the mark for you, while others may not. We are all very different, despite our similar symptoms of inattention. Even the recommendations that sound promising to you will need to be tailored to meet your specific lifestyle and circumstances.
Then, of course, there are the personal digital assistants (PDAs) that offer a large number of organizational benefits, if you have the patience required to punch in the letters and numbers. Many AD/HD adults do not—and it’s an expensive lesson to learn. However, as these handheld computers become more and more sophisticated, they will likely become more AD/HD friendly as well. They also fit in your pocket, a big plus in terms of having your agenda readily available.
Short-Term Memory Problems
First and foremost, don’t assume that there is anything you cannot possibly forget! If distracted, what was centrally important to you may be pushed off the radar screen. Interventions that have made my life a whole lot easier include: