A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. This came as no surprise, but receiving an official confirmation was a bit of a relief. I used to feel guilty for my lack of focus…thinking I just wasn’t trying hard enough. But the diagnosis helped me realize that my tendency to zone out or get sidetracked isn’t the result of a lazy mind that simply refuses to pay attention. It’s because I’ve got some funky wiring going on upstairs that makes it a real challenge to fire on all cylinders.
This disorder manifests itself in various ways. For example, more often than not, my brain would rather wander hither and yon than zero in on one particular subject or situation. I lose focus easily and sometimes find it very hard to concentrate during a conversation. It’s not because what the other person is saying isn’t compelling. It’s because my mind has a knack for chewing through its leash and galivanting about. Pulling my attention back to the present feels like a physical struggle inside my head. In an attempt to stay in the moment and retain what I’m hearing, I’ll often silently repeat what the person has just said. It generally works, but it’s exhausting. My mind will even float away on a stream of consciousness during my nighttime prayers, and I wind up apologizing to God for getting distracted. For whatever reason, it seems the only times I’m fully focused are when I’m engrossed in a book or lost in writing.
At the end of the day, if I try to inventory all I’ve done since rolling out of bed, my brain freezes up. The same thing often happens when I’m asked a question about something I did earlier in the week…or even that same day. It can take some serious concentration just to recall what I had for breakfast because basic information retrieval is, quite often, a downright struggle. I should probably be used to it because this isn’t something that started happening after I entered the golden years. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. (Of course, you can take that with a grain of salt since it’s been pretty well established that I can’t remember squat.)
I also have a habit of getting sidetracked while doing things around the house. I’ll be working on a task, go into another room for a moment, notice something there that needs attention and then start in on that. The fact that I’ve left a half-finished job in the other room completely slips my mind. What makes this even more bothersome – and not just for me – is when the initial task was something I was working on with another person. For all they know, I simply abandoned them.
Decision-making is another challenge because I tend to overthink things. Once I finally do make a decision, I almost immediately second-guess myself. This trait definitely gets in the way when I’m facing a particularly multifaceted project. It often causes me to become so overwhelmed that I simply throw in the towel. I’ll usually start up again somewhere down the road – and even bring the project to fruition – but it drags things out unnecessarily and, frankly, it’s mentally taxing. I keep thinking I’ll finally get into the habit of staying the course but, so far, my intellect is the only part of me that considers that the best way to accomplish something. My nature has yet to jump on the bandwagon.
I am, however, second to none in at least one area…I’m a master procrastinator. Take this essay, for instance. I like to post new blog content every other Sunday. As I type this, it’s already past 5:00 pm on the “every other” Saturday. And, as you may have ascertained since we’re only midway through the essay, it’s not even ready to proofread yet. This is pretty much how I roll, but it’s not the most effective way to handle deadlines. And, yes, I’m well aware that, since I’m no longer in the workforce, most of those deadlines are set by me. That means much of the stress in my life is self-imposed. But that’s a self-help project for another time.
When it comes to ADHD, I identify with most of its laundry list of symptoms. But when I was diagnosed, I did question whether I truly fit the “H” aspect of that acronym. I mean, compared to me, a sloth looks like the Tasmanian Devil. I learned, though, that the term “hyperactive” doesn’t necessarily mean you spazz out and spin around in circles. (Although considering my lack of grace, that might be fun for others to watch.) Hyperactivity sometimes presents itself in much less noticeable ways. For example, I move my hands and feet a lot. Not because they’re uncomfortable or I feel nervous…it just seems to happen. I’ll also find myself chewing my tongue, particularly when driving. Sort of like Bessie the Cow chomping her cud…but behind the wheel instead of out in the field. I make a conscious effort to stop these behaviors when I notice them, but they generally start up again in short order. You’d think all that movement would at least burn a few calories but, if it does, my waistline hasn’t gotten the memo.
I envy people who seem to absorb and retain things easily because I have to consciously work at it, and it rarely sticks the first time. My husband has trouble understanding why I repeatedly forget directions to various destinations. He’s one of those people who can mentally file away this type of information and immediately access it the next time he needs it. For me, it becomes automatic only after I’ve taken the route multiple times.
I know it’s frustrating for others when I ask them to repeat what they’ve already told me – sometimes more than once – or when I forget what I was doing because I get distracted by something on the sidelines. But what they may not realize is that it’s frustrating for me, too.
Over the years, I’ve tried self-help books, tapes, and videos but, as is typical, I’ve never followed through enough to reap any major benefits. I realize there are effective pharmaceutical treatments available, but I’ve opted not to take any of the medications because I’m not all that keen on the potential side effects.
I’m fortunate that, while my level of ADHD (and its sidekick, OCD) may be an inconvenience, it’s far from debilitating. It hasn’t kept me from enjoying the important things in my life, so I figure I’ll just continue to navigate my happy little world as best I can. It hasn’t failed me yet.
Now let’s just hope that, when I’m ready to publish this, I’ll remember which folder it’s in…and what I named it.