Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hyperfocus

I've been thinking about writing a post about focus for about a month now and finally decided today is the day (thanks Jeanne!). A common misconception about people with ADHD is that they are completely unable to maintain focus. That's simply not true. If you can capture our attention we can focus longer and more intently than a neuro-typical person. We can focus to the point where nothing else in the world exists. Not food, not sleep, not time, nothing but the thing that has our attention. It's often referred to as hyperfocus and it is glorious (unless you starve to death, then it kind of sucks).  When I'm in a state of hyperfocus, it's like all the doors in my mind have unlocked and I am free to learn and explore.  Hyperfocus is a very fragile state, however, and if I'm interrupted it is practically impossible to dive back in where I left off.

This excerpt from my journal explains it best:

My thoughts are a spun glass palace.  The connections fragile, but beautiful, each corridor flowing naturally into the next.  The towers rise in in harmony to the heavens, music emanates from each one as wind gently blows through open windows.  Each room within the palace has its purpose, one simple, the next magnificent.  All are interconnected with elegant crystal pathways.  I lose myself in its creation.
Suddenly a boulder crashes through.  My beautiful palace begins to shatter.  I desperately try to make repairs, but a second boulder crashes in.  The boulders continue to wreak destruction.  Shards of glass rain down around my head and shoulders and lie broken, unrecognizable, and irreparable beneath my feet. 
I sweep up the shards and return them to the furnace to begin again, desperately trying to recreate the beauty that once was, but the vision, once so clear, refuses to be resurrected. It has been supplanted by cold lifeless boulders.

That is what it's like and it's also why those of us with ADHD are often so easily irritated when we are interrupted.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

With ADHD It's All or Nothing

My life is a series of:
  • Wanting to do it all.
  • Succeeding at one or two things.
  • Convincing myself that since I succeeded , I CAN do it all.
  • Attempting to do it all.
  • Being overwhelmed by it all.
  • Giving up on it all.
  • Getting bored from not doing it all.
  • Looking for something interesting.
  • Finding everything interesting.
  • Wanting to do it all...
Right now, I'm in the "Succeeding at one or two things," phase and working on staying there as long as I can, but there are so many things I want to do!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Scatter Cleaning

That's what I call my method of cleaning house.  It refers to my tendency to start cleaning in one room then get distracted by something in another room so that I wander around the house cleaning all day without finishing a single room. I usually end days like that exhausted and feeling defeated because I didn't finish anything. Well, last Saturday I decided that I'd be happy with what I DID accomplish rather than frustrated by my inability to focus on one single task. Sure, my room still has some clutter and it didn't get vacuumed, but I DID change the sheets and make the bed. The laundry isn't all done, but I DID wash, fold and put away 4 loads. The bathroom isn't spotless, but I DID clean off the counters and change out the towels. I could go on. I was busy all day and didn't complete any one room but I did get a lot done. Given that boost of confidence, I accomplished even more on Sunday - I still didn't finish any room but the house looks better. Sure, it's not
the way most people clean house, but I'm not MOST people! I think I may be on to something if I can keep this up.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What Was I Thinking?

Start a blog about ADHD?  What was I thinking anyway?  It's just another opportunity to fail.  And so I did.  Like so many things, I started out with great intentions along with goals to post every week, if not more. I was going to show my ADHD who is boss! I had it all figured out.
Then, I missed a post.  I'll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow became next week and then next month and I felt guilty and defeated.  It became just another confirmation that I'm a failure.  So I gave up.  Then things got dark.  Really, really dark.  I went into therapy.  I took anti-depressants, which just made me worse because I needed to FEEL my feelings, not deaden them. I got off of the anti-depressants, continued therapy and learned how to face my feelings. 
Now that I've finally climbed out of that pit, I'm learning what my new "normal" is. Sometimes it's a little scary because, while depression was awful, it was what I was familiar with and change is hard, even when it's change for the better.
So, here I go again, starting something I might not be able to finish, but at least I'm starting and that's something.

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. 

image

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.

 

Sincerely,

Me