Mr. & Mrs. ADHD

A Gaggle of Dreamers Here

ADHD and Living on the edge

It’s easy for me to justify my last minute approach to tasks, especially at work (and previously at school). I don’t even think of it as procrastination. I think of it more like:

My productivity on a particular task is an exponential curve; it looks really concerning as it begins but breaks skyward at the last second.

And that upward spike generally results in completion of the task to a degree of quality that people seem to appreciate. I even had a grad school professor tell me “you get more work done at a higher level of quality than any student I’ve worked with.”

My managers and my professors before them learned not to ask questions mid-process as they’d be concerned at the slow start I am off to. My thesis adviser urged me to set artificial deadlines, to pull the all-nighter one night ahead of deadline. Then I can find the last typos the next day before handing it in.

But there is no denying that this approach puts me constantly on the edge of a chasm of massive failure. It exposes me to a great deal of risk and does nothing to protect against uncontrollable events that could make me unable to work in the final days or hours, negating the vertical portion of my work curve. It’s a pattern that could lower my professional reputation from “ridiculously productive” to “ridiculously unpredictable” in one day of, say, massive technological failure (like a computer crash). What’s more, one high cost event would cause upper management to pressure middle management to check up on me more often, which would result in me looking like a horrible worker because of how far my actual early work progress is from where a typical manager would expect it needs to be if deadlines are to be met.

Living on the edge. Hardly worth the risk, you would think. But it’s the knife at the back that gets me moving; it’s the pressure that has wrought all the successes I’ve had.

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How big is an adhd psychiatrist’s lost and found box?

Went to a prescribing NP today. Went over a bunch of data about me and ADHD. Left my coat and bag in her office.

Medication consultation tomorrow

Tomorrow I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to find out, I guess, if I’m officially diagnosable ADHD. I talked with a non-prescribing guy last week and he felt confident that I should see somebody wielding a prescription pen…

Past week I’ve been challenging my tendency to put dull but important work tasks on hold, reminding myself that such a tendency was not the behavior of the successful person I plan to be but the forgetful, flighty, late, disappointing person I could
become.

I read about Sarah Blakely, billionaire owner of Spanx, in Forbes this weekend. She mentions that she finds mortality to be a good motivator. I agree. It’s useful to remind myself that my employer pays me to work, and that for all the justifications for my little adhd daydreams or failures to complete some necessary action, the truth is that the end result of being unproductive is being broke and out of work, and actually hungry.

That’s the interesting thing about the ADHD experience. We have stratospheric potential but might end up face down in the gutter. The difference between one and the other, I tell myself, is sending that piece of mail I have sitting there, waiting to be stamped, or putting away the folded laundry. Or filling up the car before its totally, totally, totally empty.

Insanity Lists

When I was very young my mom would have me make lists of things going through my head so I could get to sleep. I remember filling many pages with random things tearing through. This was a time in my life when I was kind of debilitated by weird brain things for just a little while at a time. I’d get maybe what is vertigo, I don’t know — all I can remember now is that it felt extremely unnatural, like a chemical problem, and that when I looked at things I felt violently ill in a way that I blamed on their distance from me and the nature of space and distance generally. It was like if you smelled something rotten you would say the smell is making you sick — I would see a picture across the room and new it was the distance that was making me sick. Then I would get sick thinking about information and I can’t actually remember this sensation, I just remember telling my mom that I was doing a little better by telling myself over and over again, “I don’t have to read every book.” This was when I was like 5.

Anyway, I haven’t made an insanity list for a long time and I thought I’d grown out of that childhood brain, but I just realized it’s really kind of funny and crazy to think of how many Big Ideas I’ve had in just, say, the last 6 months. So maybe the ideas are just bigger. I remember having things like “Pepsi” and “Dogs” and “running” go down on my lists as a kid. Now it’s more like this, with each idea lasting for a few days of massive research into them and then influencing for a month or so:

We should move to San Francisco

We should move to Seattle this summer

We should actually move to the suburb where my mom lives so she can help more with the kids (bought a condo on this one)

I wish we could move to Boston but it’s so hot

We should buy multiple condos in the suburbs and become landlords

I think I should become a marketing manager in my company instead of a sales rep

The Font in our products is shit

I want to learn about typeface, font, and typography

Let’s go paleo (did it for two months)

Let’s eat Icecream like every night for a month (did it)

Let’s have another kid

let’s go to a fertility doctor

Let’s not have another kid

Let’s join a new gym and get in shape

Let’s make a blog together and like really really do it

Let’s go to Surtex

Let’s start a company that helps people improve their craigslist listings

I HAVE to have lunch with my entrepreneurial cousin and find out what his new company is and maybe join it

I should start angling myself to become the new person in my company in charge of design of our digital products

I should be a technology specialist in my company

I need to get a second bachelors in design

We should invest bonus money in stocks

We should put a Wolf Appliance in our new condo (in a low income area haha)

I should join my friend in his company that sells weird socks

I want to become the CEO of the company I work for right now

I want to take the GRE again and try to beat my score

I want to also take the med school entrance exam for fun

I should move to vegas and become a professional poker player

 

It’s amazing to me how good a job I do of actually seeming like I have a focused plan and life path all the time. Really quite amazing actually. Here’s the real plan:

 

Keep doing what I’m doing for as long as I can stand it (I usually love it but have gotten bored lately because it’s getting too easy).

Take a promotion in house because I love this company and the people are good.

Get into a position with some influence on design.

Position myself to get hired at a design firm like IDEO.

Get back into a high level position at my current company or one like it, OR join a start up and absolutely kill it.

The ADHD Teleporter

I come from a Late Family. Mrs ADHD does as well. We both grew up Late. Everything was Late. When Grandma ADHD helps with the twins she’s late. She gives windows like “10 or 10:30” and shows up at 10:48. We plan on that.

Lateness is often framed as an issue of “rudeness.” Being late is rude. It compromises other people’s time.

I actually think it’s worse than that. I think our tendency to show up late is fundamentally an issue of compulsive LYING.

I’ve thus set out in the past several years to correct it in myself, and here’s how: by seeking Immediate Feedback that ties lateness to the harm it causes others more clearly, which allows my empathy to kick in and gives me more clarity about the decisions I made that caused me to be late. I get this immediate feedback by telling the truth about how late I am when someone asks, which gives them the chance to let me know how frustrating that is to them, subtly or overtly.

How many times have you been driving a route you’ve driven  a  million times, at 9:50 am on your way to a 10:00 am appointment, and you’re passing the Center Street exit, which is, objectively, 20-25 minutes minimum from your destination, when you call your friend and tell her that you are going to be a few minutes late? I used to do this all the time. “I’m going to be about 5 minutes late,” I’d say. “I’m about 15 minutes away,” I’d say, understanding as I did that I was actually 15 minutes away from the exit I’d need to take to get to my intended location. It’s as though I believed that when I took that exit, unlike every time before in which I had to traverse ten minutes through the city, I might, finally, this time, be able to drive into a TELEPORTER that would immediately plop my ass squarely in the chair across from my friend at the brunch place.

Here’s what Lying about it does for me. “I’m going to be 5 minutes late.” Oh, my friend thinks, that’s hardly even worth calling about. How considerate of him to let me know, my friend thinks. And then at 10:04, the friend hasn’t even begun to wonder where I am. Only at 10:06 does my friend start watching the door for me. And when I come in at 10:10 or 10:15, I seem to be a bit less late than I really am. In my friend’s mind, not only do I only seem about 5 or 10 minutes late, rather than 10 or 15, but also, my friend has been manipulated into thinking that some unforeseeable situation that occured between our conversation and now has caused me to be later than anticipated — some Highway issue, for example. Traffic. Whatever. This is all completely untrue — I’m late because I LEFT MY HOUSE with the assumption that I would find a TELEPORTER.

So here’s the important thing to remember: There is no Teleporter. And when you are running 15 minutes late, and you call to tell your friend you are running late,  tell them you are 15-20 minutes late. Just say the words. You’ll feel the immediate consequences. Let your empathy work for you. Once you’ve started saying that, it gets even easier to say, “I’m really sorry, I’m 15 or 20 minutes late because I left my house 15 or 20 minutes late.”

Once you get there you are only a few more late trips away from not being a late person anymore. But if you are like me you will always slip back into your old ways, continually planning on the teleporter as you try to finish just one more random insane thing around the house before you go. The antidote for me has never been better planning, but honesty.

Turn Me Into a Robot, Please

I keep trying to write, read articles, and listen to a Podcast at the same time. Also: plan unrelated things. And keep rhythm with my teeth.  It’s quite frustrating to have only the capacity for one effective process at a time.

I think I never considered that I had ADHD (until yesterday when I met with a Psychiatrist) because  the ADHD mind was often described in negative terms. Lots of simultaneous channels; a flighty concentration; flitting from thing to thing. These descriptions put the single track mind as the ideal and paint these failed attempts at thought multitasking as undesirable. I’ve therefore never recognized myself in the descriptions.

Now I realize that these ideas describe my mind, but from an outsiders perspective. From my perspective, it’s more like this: Desires to take in everything all at once. Wants to read faster. Wishes each eye could read a different article at the same time, while each ear listened to a different conversation or podcast at the same, while each hand typed a different story at the same time, while talking aloud through some complicated thing.

Basically I wish I could learn like a robot.

Becoming a robot has been a goal of mine since the technological singularity first captivated me in 2006 when I read Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. I even read almost the whole book (naturally in like a few hours).

Kurzweil takes an extremely optimistic approach to predicting the future of humanity, one in which we sidestep the existential dangers of Artificial Intelligence by integrating our biological selves with technology bit by bit until we become, basically, machines.

Not machines like your metal and plastic Dyson. More like the extrapolation of recent research in which scientists have found a way to program biology. From a HuffPo article on the breakthrough:

Said computers would be able to accomplish tasks like telling if a certain toxin is present inside a cell, seeing how many times a cancerous cell has divided or determining precisely how an administered drug interacts with each individual cell.

The technological singularity appeals to me not because it would make us effectively immortal, not because it would strip us of the unique difficulties of this mortal coil like pain or illness, but because it would allow to more effectively take in, organize and synthesize information and facts.

Some Thursday

A friend who struggled intermittently with anxiety over future performance once told me that he’d learned to remind himself that there will never be a time in this life when it isn’t just 10:24 am on a Thursday. 

 

Here goes another blog that I’d like to stick with. I begin here at 10:24 am on a Thursday. 

 

Admittedly I should be working. I told my manager to check on me tomorrow to make sure I get done what I need to get done. I dressed down today and plan to stay away from clients. I’ve made a list of things to do. 

 

Why does it so often feel like making the list is enough? Like the things don’t actually have to get done, they just need to be listed. This is the low bar I ask myself to jump over, as regards tasks.