Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pattern Planning

I hate planning.  It’s just not something that comes naturally.  I’d much rather jump into the middle of something and work in all directions.  The problem with that approach is I get a little bit done here and a little bit done there, but nothing gets accomplished.  Another problem I have is that I have so many things that need to get done that I get overwhelmed and freeze.  Again, nothing gets done.  It’s not that I’m lazy, I just can’t decide.  The more stressed I am, the harder it is to decide.

Enter Pattern Planning.  The concept is simple.  Identify what needs to be done and set up a schedule to do it.  After reading about it in Delivered From Distraction, I decided to give it a try.  I resisted the urge to jump in with both feet and schedule every minute of every day.  Instead, I started simple.  At 5:30 every evening, I would spend 1/2 hour cleaning the kitchen (Shine the Sink – stolen from the Fly Lady).  That’s it.

Well, it’s amazing how much I can get done in a half hour if I really put my mind to it and if I have a deadline!  That first evening, I set my Time Timer for 30 minutes and was very pleased and surprised that I got the task done with time to spare.  The next evening was even better.  Next, I decided to add sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor.  Now those tasks get done almost every evening (yes, sometimes I still slack!)

I have since added a different room each night of the week as well as laundry and a few other tasks.  They are all set up on my Outlook calendar which sends reminders to all of my electronic devices so they’re hard to ignore.  Here’s what my Tuesday evening schedule looks like. 


Yes there are overlaps because depending on how messy the room is, it will take more or less time and you can to all kinds of things while the washer and dryer are running.  Did you notice that nice big chunk of time for crafting?  I used to retreat to my craft room as soon as I got home from work but I couldn’t accomplish anything because I felt guilty about all the things I SHOULD be doing.  On the other hand I didn’t want do what I should do because I knew I’d never get around to crafting.  Now that I have things on a schedule I no longer have that dilemma.

Do I follow my schedule perfectly?  NO.  It’s especially difficult when my job gets in the way.  I work in IT and when things break I work long hours.  I’m just now emerging from three very difficult weeks.  One of my databases got corrupted and I was working 12 to 14 hour days trying to recover what was lost.  Add to that difficulty with team members not wanting to do what they’re told and it’s a recipe for disaster.  By the time I got home each evening I was so drained that I could barely care for myself let alone keep the house clean.  All of my beautiful planning went out the window and I spiraled into a state of depression.  Even after things started settling down at work, I just couldn’t get back on task.  That’s when I really started beating up on myself:  “Other women have careers and keep clean houses, what’s wrong with you?  You’re so lazy!  Why are so SO disorganized???” And on, and on.

So, I scheduled an appointment with my therapist and she helped me put things into perspective.  Now I can see that it was totally unreasonable for me to expect myself to keep up at home when I was working such crazy long hours. I have stopped beating up on myself and I’m giving myself permission to ease back into my schedule gradually.  It’s working, too.  This evening, I skipped some of my daily chores but was able to tackle a heap of miscellaneous kruft that’s been accumulating in the corner of my bedroom for…well, I’d rather not say how long!  Suffice it to say, I saw parts of the floor that I’m pretty sure have not seen the light of day since we moved in 15 years ago.  As a result, I’m feeling pretty good about myself and I’m confident that I’ll eventually get back on track. 

I know there will be more bumps in the road but having a plan to fall back on helps so much.

Oh my!  I’m 20 minutes overdue for craft time.  Gotta go! Smile

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Arguments With My Inner Child

There’s a six year old living inside of me.  On good days, she gives me extra doses of curiosity, creativity and wonder, but just like any six year old, when she’s tired she can be extremely cranky and obstinate. 

For the past three weeks, my job has been extremely stressful with long hours away from home and my inner six year old is feeling very neglected and is getting very cranky.  I’ve managed to keep her under control at work, but at home?  Well, quite frankly it looks like a cyclone hit it.  My routines have been abandoned and I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed with the thought of getting caught up. 

Today, I decided that enough is enough.  I left work ON TIME with the intention of getting back on track with my cleaning routines.  That started the argument.

Child:  I’m tired of doing what I’m told, I want to go play in the craft room!

Me: No, we are going to finish our task list this evening.

Child: It’s too hard!  There’s too much to do!

Me:  I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes.  I bet we can get the dishwasher unloaded and loaded in 15 minutes.

Child: Hmph!  Ok.  15 minutes then I’m going to go play!

15 minutes later, the dishes have been put away and the dirty dishes that were on the counter are now in the dishwasher.

Me:  I need to start laundry or I won’t have anything to wear tomorrow and there’s a pile of clean laundry that needs to be folded.

Child:  (whining) That pile is HUGE it will take all night to get that done!

Me:  Let’s see how much we can get done in 30 minutes.

20 minutes later the clothes are all folded.

Child:  Yay!  Now I can go play!

Me: Not yet!  The clothes have to be put away.

Child: (stamps her foot) I HATE putting laundry away!

Me: c’mon, lets see how fast we can get it done.  Just think how good you will feel when it’s all put away…

And so the evening goes.  I cooked dinner, did the laundry, vacuumed the living room and my office and cleaned the kitchen, all the while arguing and encouraging that inner six year old.  The final task was sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor.  When I got done…

Child: Yay!  Now I can go play!

Me: Wait!  Let’s check the calendar to see what’s on the schedule…  Oh look, there’s one more thing: it’s blog night.  Time to go write a post for that blog you insisted we needed to write.

Child: Noooooo!!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dear ADHD...

I wrote this about six months after my diagnosis. 


Dear ADHD,


We've been at odds for most of my adult life and I'm tired, so VERY tired of fighting with you.  I have a proposition.  How about we team up?  I know, I've been trying to ignore you for years, but now I'm starting to realize you're not bad.  You are after all a large part of what made me feel special as a child and you also gave me extra doses creativity, curiosity and wonder, not to mention my awesome power of hyper-focus.  I apologize for allowing outside influences to convince me that being special made me different and that being different meant I was an outcast.  I apologize for pushing you aside and embracing insecurity, fear and frustration instead.  They have been poor companions.


So, let's get back together.  If you will allow me to channel your boundless energy toward constructive activities and direct your fearlessness toward appropriate goals, I promise I will allow you time to wander the forests and meadows in search of butterflies, flowers and hummingbirds. 

Honey bee on a rose

I will be patient and let you stop and examine with wonder the beauty, symmetry and mathematical perfection of a simple pinecone.  If you will lend me your time blindness to help me through day to day chores, I will allow you to obsess over silly things like repairing a 25 year old laundry basket that should have been thrown out 15 years ago.


I will even let you express your emotions when you need to, but I do request that you allow me to exercise a reasonable level of self-control when you do.  I realize this will be painful and it may take time to find the keys that unlock those doors, but I'm exhausted from holding them in.  In the absence of emotion, my spirit has grown weak and weary and I long to feel whole again.


So, what do you say?  I know the road ahead will not be easy and that I will need help along the way.  It may take time to discover the right combination of medication, counseling and strategies to enable us to work together, but I also know that if we can make this alliance work we will be able to conquer any obstacle that stands in our way.




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cognitive Resistance

Imagine that you are holding two strong magnets, one in each hand.  The positive ends are facing each other.  Now, imagine the resistance you feel when you try to touch the positive ends to each other.  As you bring them closer, the force of the like poles pushes them apart.  With persistence and great effort you may succeed in holding them together but it takes constant  vigilance to keep them that way. 

That is what it's like when I'm trying to start a task.  It's not that I lack the skills to accomplish the task, it's that my mind is repelled from the starting point as if an invisible force is pushing it away.  The starting steps are almost within my grasp, just beyond my fingertips but the closer I get, the stronger the resistance is.

My goal is to reverse the polarity of one of those magnets so I can spend all my energy completing the tasks instead of exhausting myself trying to push the magnets together.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


The other day, I was trying to explain to someone what it's like to live inside my head when I'm faced with too many obligations.  I think I came up with a pretty good description.

Imagine that you are standing still in the center of a tilt-a-whirl.  Each one of your obligations with all of it's corresponding steps are spinning around you and you have to grab all the steps for a given obligation in the correct order.  The more obligations there are, the faster it spins until everything is just a blur. 

That is what it is like to live inside my head.  Faced with that situation, I become paralyzed. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where to Begin?

That is the question most of us with ADHD find particularly hard to answer.  Beginnings are tough. Where did my journey begin?  I'll spare you the formative years and jump in with a journal entry I wrote shortly before my diagnosis.  To be fair, I was also dealing with un-diagnosed hyperparathyroidism which made my ADHD symptoms even worse.

A Typical Monday Afternoon:

11:30 - I forgot to pack my lunch again so I'm standing in the cafeteria looking at all of the options and can't decide what to get...

12:00 - I resume working on an approval routing project.  Where did I leave off?
I am so tired!  I need coffee so I go downstairs and get some.  That didn't work.  Perhaps I should take a walk.  No... that backfired this morning because I saw an American Kestrel catch a small bird and that's all I could think of when I came back to my desk... I think about the Kestrel for a while,  It was such an awesome sight!
Push paper around, check email, do anything BUT work on the approval routing project.

FOCUS!!! Where should I start?
I begin making a list of things I still need to do.
An email arrives, so I check email and respond to it.  As usual it takes me 10 minutes to compose my response.

Back to the making the list.  This is soooo boring!
Another email arrives so I  take care of it.
Back to my list

Check the front lawn for bunnies (yes, real bunnies, they are so cute and soooo distracting!)
Finish the list and start working on the first item, which is to research a routing bug.

This is really boring...
Thoughts from out of the blue: "I was rude to one of my co-workers this morning.  Did he notice the impatient tone in my voice? Should I apologize? Would it be weird to apologize this long after the fact?"
Fret about what I should do for a while.

Time for eye drops.
Back to work.  I'm making good progress, then the phone rings.  It's a user with a question that requires some research.  I find the answer and call the user back.
Where was I???

I'm done with the code changes for this section and need to do some testing.
I resist the urge to get up and move around and make a list of the test steps.
I start the test, but forgot the password for my test user account.
Look for password.
Email arrives so I check email and respond.

I finally find the password ... where was I?
Start testing again.  Which account was I using for the Approval step?
Resume testing and have issues with the browser.
Back to testing... wait... which account is the Approver?  Good grief, why didn't I write that down!
Find a post-it and write the account name on it.

I'm making good progress on testing when I have an issue with one of the test email accounts.  Argh!  I finally got my focus and now this happens!
Fixed issue with email.
Speaking of email... read and respond to email.
Resume testing.

Time to go home!

Sound familiar, anyone?