Luckily, I am on the verge of paying off some big credit card debt. It's piled up over the years, between the car accident, poor paying jobs, losing my decent-paying job, car repairs, adulting bills, and a joyful, semi-indulgent lifestyle, but I'm excited to get my tax return and be almost-debt-free for the first time since I was rear-ended in 2009.
Another problem ADHDers have is trouble with memory circuits and interruptions. In the book I read by Dr. Hallowell, I sympathized with Sarah, who said, "It's been so many years living like this, thinking I'm stupid, but knowing I'm not." Sarah shared a list of things of her irritating symptoms with Dr. Hallowell, including this story:
"Someone left (a cough drop) on the dashboard of our car. The other day I saw the cough drop and thought, I'll have to throw that away. When I arrived at my first stop, I forgot to take the cough drop to a trash can. When I got back into the car, I saw it and thought, I'll throw it away at the gas station. The gas station came and went and I hadn't thrown it away. Well, the whole day went like that, the cough drop sitting on the dashboard. When I got home, I thought, I'll take it inside with me and throw it out. IN the time it took me to open the car door, I forgot about the cough drop. It was there to greet me when I got in the car the next morning. (My husband) was with me. I looked at the cough drop and burst into tears. (He) asked me why I was crying and I told him it was because of the cough drop. He thought I was losing my mind. 'But you don't understand,' I said, 'My whole life is like that. I see something that I mean to do and then I don't do it. It's not only trivial things like the cough drop; it's big things too' that's why I cried."
--Driven to Distraction (2011)
I'm the same way. I forget to close cabinets, do my laundry, dry my laundry when I remember to wash it, fold my laundry when I remember to dry it, and so forth. It's embarrassing, but I can get so hyper-focused on a task that I forget about eating.
I tried medication for a while, and that really helped me slow down life so that I could function. During that time, I managed to get in the habit of some good routines, but I did eventually stop the medication after I was bullied out of my job. I was an emotional wreck and I needed sleep. I was depressed and miserable after a year of torment and abuse. I also needed to detach from life.
My ADHD diagnosis was something I struggled with emotionally. I'd only come to recognize the symptoms in myself after I'd begun teaching. This is true for many ADHDers--when life's demands increase, the deficit begins to show--and I was lucky to have been working with diagnosed children at the time, because that allowed me to recognize the symptoms in myself.
I had to fight to get a diagnosis--my old PCP refused to treat me and told me it was depression--but I wasn't depressed. I absolutely LOVED my job. I LOVED working with kids. I just had a hard time prioritizing, and I couldn't stay organized to save my life. I'd put a piece of paper down, and I wouldn't be able to find it for hours. I'd catch myself walking circles in my classroom late into the evening. My brain would say: "Go make these photo copies. Oh wait, you need those things photocopied too! Go get those to save time. Oh wait! Why are there crayons all over the floor? You have to pick up these crayons. Oh, why is my stapler here? Go put it on the desk. Oh wait, you forgot to clean your desk. Clean your desk. Oh wait, you didn't make your copies!! Where did I put them. Go look for your copies!! Okay.... wait, what was I looking for??"
That isn't depression, that is ADHD, and I was so lucky to have a young boy in my class that year whose mother was a doctor. She advocated for him, and even though I didn't see it at the time--she was patient with me, and that patience ultimately led to a self-realization that I never imagined. I, without a doubt, had ADHD.
After changing doctors, I was eventually referred to a specialist who confirmed what I had suspected. With my newly confirmed diagnosis, I became so mad and frustrated with myself. "No, you are just lazy. Stop being Lazy. Just do what you need to do."
That didn't help, and I eventually caved and began taking medication. Medication helped, but so did counseling and the support I received from my doctors. But I know medication isn't a cure-all. Medication helps slow my brain down so that I can make better choices in the moment. So that I can listen to the voice inside my head that says: you need to do this. Medication helped me develop a level of autonomy I didn't know existed.
With all that said, I'm not on it as of right now--though I do think about going back to it. However, I've realized that some of the expectations of my former work environment were not humanly possible and that the toxic climate of my old school was one that really exacerbated my disability. Now that I am in a functional work environment, I am better-able to use my passion and love of teaching to drive my organizational deficits. Granted, I'm still not perfect, but no one is. Maybe when I get back to teaching, I'll give the medication a second go--but for now, I'm content with being me.
At home, however, I'm struggling a bit. I keep forgetting to do my laundry, and my room hasn't been "clean" a day in my entire life (though it is marginally better than it has been at any other point in my life). I forget to bring my clothes upstairs to my room, and they sit on the stairs. I lose paperwork, and I'm really not where I should be for this point of my life. So, I've decided to give myself an allowance (and hopefully curb my impulsive spending habits; two birds, one stone, right?)
So far, it is kind of working. Because I'm still on a small income, I'm treating myself like a child. $1 per task, with an occasional bonus for bigger tasks. (If I fix my resume, I'll get a whole $10, by golly!) It's stuff I need to do anyway, but I'm just too overwhelmed internally to do it. I'm also punishing myself by taking money away--especially if I eat too much junk food in a day. (Damn Captain Crunch cost me 25 cents!) I've been really honest with myself about things, and I'm so far enjoying that--it's really helping my slow down and focus on my priorities.
$1 for cleaning up my room
$1 for unpacking my suitcase
$1 for helping around the hosue
$1 adulting with the insurance companies and getting my refund from groupon (phone calls stress me otu)
I've also lost $7 for an impulsive purchase I made for water shoes. I deliberated this punishment for a while, and decided it really wasn't something I needed.
Which I earned back, mostly.
$1 for walking the dog when I felt too tired to
$1 for spending more time organizing my room
$.25 for picking up dog poop I was tempted to leave to pick up tomorrow
$1 for cleaning up after the cats.
$.25 for starting to pack for next weekend
Right now, I've got a whopping 50 cents to spend!
It sounds silly, but I have to start somewhere, right?