Adventures in ADHD – Impulsivity

One characteristic people suffering with ADHD have is impulsivity. We are impulsive! We do things first, then think about it. We don’t consider the consequences of our actions beforehand. In other words, we leap before we look.

We don’t need no stinking beer. We have ADHD!

Long before the phrase, “Dude, hold my beer” came into the vernacular, those of us with ADHD said, “Watch this.” We don’t need alcohol to deaden our self-preservation center. We were born this way.

My childhood was rife with examples of impulsivity, of “Watch this.”

Friend: Bet you can’t jump off the garage roof.

Me: Watch this. *screams*

Friend: Dude! I’ve never seen anyone do a lawn belly flop before.

Friend: Bet you can’t climb to the top of that tree.

Me: Watch this. *screams*

Friend: Dude! Good thing that big branch stopped you.

Friend: Look at this minibike I made. Wanna try it?

Me: Watch this. *screams*

Friend: Dude! I forgot to mention it has a high center of gravity and you can’t turn at high speeds.

Friend: Go kick that cat off of our baseball field.

Me: Watch this. *screams*

Friend: Dude! I’ve never seen a cat that mad, clinging to a person’s leg before. That’s a lot of blood.

Friend: Our dogs are fighting! We’ve got to stop them. Go grab yours.

Me: Watch this. *screams*

Friend: Dude! That’s a pretty deep hole in your wrist.

Anyway, I could go on.

And on.

And on.

But you get the point, impulsivity sucks.

It is also expensive. I become suddenly interested in something, a hobby, or what have you. I read everything there is about it. Join tons of forums so I can talk about my interest with others. And I spend money.

Then I lose interest. And again, impulsivity kicks in and I purge my life of that interest because, of course, “I’ll never be interested in this again.”

My most famous and regretable “I’ll never” was when I threw out all my Silver and Bronze Age comic books when we were moving. I had Captain America #100 through 150. I had Conan the Barbarian #1 through 35. And others. All in the trash. “I’m in my 40s. I don’t need these. I’m not interested in comics any more.”

Me: *screams*

Yeah. You guessed it. Over the last decade or so I’ve been buying them back on eBay.

A more recent example, but not nearly as costly, was an interest in drawing. I went out and bought some drawing books and several types of drawing pencils. I worked for several months learning how to draw. I could draw a realistic human eye like nobody’s business. I’d like to show some samples, but I purged all my drawings from that period. (Somewhere I have a blog post featuring drawings from high school, if you care to look. Found it.)

Then I lost interest (or found a shiney new interest). After a few years of not drawing, I finally got rid of the books several months ago. I mean, it had been years, right? “I’ll never want to learn how to draw again.”

Me: *screams*

Yeah… Who’d have guessed? I mean, really? I went searching my bookshelves for the drawing books, then realized, oh, yeah. I got rid of them.

Today, I wisely went to the library to check out a couple beginner books on drawing. At least I’m not spending money.

Yes, impulsivity is the reason I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can, about an interest, but I lose in it before I can master it.

By the way, if you play guitar, I’m thinking of selling my 2008 Gretsch Duo Jet in silver flake. I mean, I haven’t touched it in two years, right? “I’ll never play guitar again.”

Future Me: *screams*

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Adventures in ADHD – the lost phone

First thing: I seldom misplace things (my wife might disagree) despite my ADHD, like my car keys. Generally, I remember where I put things, but that’s a function of deliberately putting things in the same place so I don’t forget where they are. That’s a tactic I’ve learned because of my ADHD.

And I might add, misplacing something is different from losing it. Losing something means its gone for good or until I stumble across it in a box in the basement where I stuffed said item when we were blitzkrieg cleaning before company arrived.

That said, today at work I misplaced my phone. This, of course, sent me into a blind panic. OMG! Where’s my phone? It wasn’t in my holster. It wasn’t on my desk. It wasn’t on a cabinet. It wasn’t on the floor.

So I retraced all my steps since arriving at work. The restroom? No. The breakroom? No. OK, what if someone found it? Luckily, we’re on a floor inaccessible to the public or I’d really be in a panic that someone found it and kept it (which still briefly entered my mind, but knowing most of the people on my floor, I dismissed it).

Maybe someone turned it in to the Lost and Found, which we don’t actually have. They would have emailed the facilities manager, who in turn would send out a building-wide email.

Email! So I went and checked to see if someone had indeed found it.

No such luck.

So I’m standing in my cube, my mind racing a mile a minute (which, by the way, is only 60 mph. Not very fast, so why do people use that expression?), and well, that brings up the second thing I should mention.

Second thing: I’ve had my phone holster for as long as I’ve had my phone, but I only use it when I’m wearing a shirt with no front pocket. The last week, however, I’ve been wearing the holster because the fitness step tracker app registers my steps better while on my hip.

So, yes, you’re probably ahead of me at this point, nodding your head and thinking, “What an idiot.” OK, I deserve that.

Where was I? Oh, right, standing in my cube after having searched every inch of it for my phone, as well as the rest of the 5th floor, wondering what the hell do I do next and did I take out insurance for it from Verizon, when I happened to glance down and there it was…

In my shirt pocket…

Where I had absentmindedly placed it instead of the holster.

Am I red-faced or what?

Which brings me to the final thing.

Third, and last, thing: my smartphone is one of the larger ones and sticks out of my pocket by a good half inch.

I’m very glad I didn’t go up to anyone and asked, “Have you seen my phone?” And all the whole its there, visible, in my shirt pocket. They’d have probably thought it was an April Fool’s prank.

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Adventures in ADHD

In our previous episode of “Adventures in ADHD,” I mentioned how important routine is to a sufferer of Attention Deficit.

Today, I bring another good example from personal experience.

Routinely, when I get home, I put my phone by my computer to charge overnight.

Routinely, when I get out of my work clothes and into that evening’s comfy clothes, I put my wallet on my dresser.

Routinely, in the morning when I dress, I put my wallet in my pocket, go downstairs and put the phone in my pocket.

Yesterday, for some reason, When I changes out of my work clothes, my phone was still in my pocket and I set it on my dresser, as well as my wallet.

This morning I got dressed, saw my phone and put it in my pocket. Do you see the problem? The action of taking the phone and putting it on my pocket was an unanticipated step in my routine that took the place of a normal step.

I continued to get ready, and left for work. I parked my car, got out, and felt something wasn’t quite right.

I reached into my pocket and…

…no wallet!

This meant, not only could I not buy anything, my morning coffee because our Keurig is down, but I also can’t get into work or use the elevator because my keypass is in my wallet!

Its going to be a great day. Thank god its Friday.

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Adventure in ADHD

To some people, routine means stuck in a rut, but to someone with ADHD, routine is one of the few orderly things in a chaotic world.

For instance, every morning I would make myself a mug of coffee with breakfast. I’d hardly drink it and as I got ready to leave for work, part of my routine for the last several years was to pour that mug into my travel cup then take my Adderall before screwing on the lid and leaving for work.

The last two mornings, however, I changed things up. I thought, why do I dirty a mug when I could just brew the coffee into my travel mug, cutting out all those extra steps?

So that’s what I did yesterday and today. And guess what I forgot to do as a consequence?

That’s right. I forgot to take my Adderall.

You may call it living in a rut, or doing things by rote, or even being unimaginative and boring, but the fact remains, for many of us suffering with ADHD, routine is our lifeline keeping us from being swept away in a river of chaos.

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Routine Adventures with ADHD

As a sufferer of Attention Deficit Disorder, I find that routine is often my savior, but it can be a curse as well.

Without a specific routine in the morning, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t bolted on.

Many people tend to look at routine as boring, or as being in a rut. For me, with my flighty distractibility, routine helps me manage my day.

I do things in a particular order at a specific time and if something throws that routine off, it can mess up my whole day.

One example of how adding just a single extra step to a normal procedure can throw things off is — and I don’t know if this will be considered TMI, but I’ll italicize the rest so if you want to skip it you can return when the font straightens out — if my pants have that extra inside button, for example. My normal pants procedure is pull them up, snap the snap (or button, or hook), buckle my belt, zip my fly. But if my pants have one of those extra inside buttons, that adds an additional step, and since I’m habitually used to 3 steps, not 4, guess which procedure is forgotten? I have one pair of pants that has TWO extra buttons. I’m surprised those days they don’t fall down around my ankles. “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with his pants on the ground.”

So since I received my promotion, I was moved up a few floors. The previous break room had a community coffee pot that we all paid to use. This one however, has a Kurig single cup coffee maker. Now I’m not about to buy my own K-Cups just for work, so I’m making coffee at home and bringing it in a travel mug. Fine. But one cup only lasts so long.

On Tuesday, I found and cleaned out my coffee thermos (I was actually looking for something else and was pleasantly surprised to find the thermos. I’d forgotten I even had it). With this metal insulated canister, I get to bring more of my own coffee to work.

But guess what? Pouring coffee into the thermos added an extra step to my morning routine. Before, I’d get my lunch set. Pour my cup of coffee. Then take my ADHD medicine and I’m out the door.

Now the last few steps became, lunch set, coffee cup poured, thermos poured, sealed, and put in my messenger bag, and with a “Goodbye Honey!” I was out the door.

Two days in a row. Wednesday and Thursday. I had forgotten an important step (and lucky for me it wasn’t the “Goodbye Honey!” part).

I’d forgotten to take my ADHD meds before work.

Guess who was anything but productive those two days?

Yeah. Routine is a two-edged sword.

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More thoughts and revelations of an adult with ADHD

So I had a consult with my doctor about my ADHD. He said it was something we were supposed to do every three months because Adderal is a “controlled substance” and they’re (whoever “they” are) cracking down to prevent misuse and abuse.

We laughed because it was our first real consult since I started taking meds back in 2011.

So he asked me the usual questions, Do I feel I need them? Do I see any benefit from them? Are there any issues with them?

So I mentioned that all my life I’ve been a screw-up and I couldn’t figure out why. On the job I’d put things off, I procrastinated, I did the easier job at the expense of a harder (and probably more important) one, and because of that I’ve jumped from job to job. Some were not my fault — I’ve had several small companies fold underneath me. Others were. And I’d been fired or laid off a few times because of my “poor work ethic.”

I told him my mom had finally told me that I had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child. I remember going to Chicago to see a doctor. I remember being fascinated with his automatic letter opener to the point that he gave me a bunch of envelopes to open just so I wouldn’t be so distracted. He prescribed Ritalin, which was the only drug available at the time. I also remember taking those bitter white pills; my mom would hide them inside elbow macaroni so I’d swallow them.

But I guess I had a reaction to the Ritalin, and my doctor took me off it, not believing in either the disorder or the treatment, I’m not sure which. And I never found out I had the disorder until my son was diagnosed and I noticed all the similarities. That’s when I sought out my doctor’s advice. But I’ve mentioned all this before.

And I explained that since I’ve been taking Adderal, I’ve had several outstanding personnel reviews. Numerous attaboys. I go above and beyond what is required on the job, volunteer for extra-curricular duties, and I was just recently promoted. The first promotion I’ve ever ever received… ever. I can’t stress that enough. Ever.

So yes, it is helping me. But it seems to wear out too soon, a few hours before the end of the day, so my last few hours are somewhat chaotic.

We discussed a few options and decided to try two capsules a day instead of just one.

If only… Right? If only I had known I was ADHD, I wouldn’t have spent my life wondering if I was deliberately self-destructive (do you know what it is likeliving your life thinking you’re nothing but a fuck-up?). If only I had known so I could have sought out treatment as an adult–maybe I’d be successful today.

“If only” sucks. Because you can’t change the past and dwelling on it does no good except to depress you.

So you have to focus on the present, on the future, on improving day by day.

Yes, the meds are helping. Yes, I’m slowly getting my life in order. One step at a time.

First promotion evah!

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Crowds, fairs, and ADHD

Sunday, I went to the Wisconsin State Fair. I didn’t take my ADHD medicine. I didn’t think I’d need it. I was wrong.

The last time we went to the State Fair was before I was diagnosed with ADHD and I remember that I didn’t eat much.

This time I realized why. There are just too many choices. I was overwhelmed by the selections. Dozens of items on a stick. Things with bacon. Things fried. Weird combinations. All sorts of animal jerky. In addition to the everyday fair fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob, and so on.

So I kept saying I was hungry and my wife kept saying, “Get something!” and I kept responding, “I haven’t seen what I’m looking for” which is ADHD code for “Help! I can’t make a decision.”

I also came to realize that my childhood fear of crowds was actually an ADHD-reaction to being over-stimulated. As a child, it manifested as anxiety and a feeling of claustrophobia (being smaller than everyone around me, I felt boxed in, like the walls were closing in on me).

Yesterday, however, I realized what it was. Just too many damned interesting people and an inability to focus on just one. As a kid it caused fear because I couldn’t recognize my parents among all the other giants since I couldn’t focus long enough on one face. I kept losing track of where they were and felt panic each time.

I no longer have a fear of becoming lost, swept away by the relentless stream of humanity, but I was still anxious. Non-afflicted people have no idea how unsettling a crowd of thousands can be to someone with ADHD.

And there was a moment when the crowd stopped moving, boxed in somehow by large flows from different directions on streets too narrow, that I felt overwhelmed. Trapped. Concerned I’d be separated from my kids. My younger son, also ADHD, would hold my hands in those moments and only now does it occur to me that maybe he was feeling panicked too. Or he was comforting me.

So the lesson is, next time we’ll take our meds. I don’t like that feeling of losing control. Of being overwhelmed. The fair should be fun, not an anxiety attack waiting to happen.

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