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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