Sometimes, you read something that just clicks. This is actually how I first started to think that I had ADD. This article about how ADHD is different for women started making the rounds on my college alum Facebook groups.
It was like a door opened, and I could finally understand what was “wrong” with me.
After the birth of my second child, I was really struggling. I was balancing a newborn, a preschooler, my freelance writing work, and – let’s face it – my husband. Everything was falling apart, including me.
I was angry all the time, and this was a huge shock. I’m not an angry person. I’m that cheerful hippy-dippy person who everyone goes to when they need some cheering up.
I had heard that excessive anger could be a sign of postpartum depression, so I started taking some medication for that. Apparently, my response to the medication was a bit unusual. I immediately felt better. My mind was clear and I could start getting shit done. Maybe not all my shit…but at least some of it.
But then things turned dark and I started having some thoughts that I knew were not my own.
I switched medicines, but the same thing happened, and I just gave up. I suffered, but I thought that it was better than feeling as bad as I did on the antidepressants.
Until I came across that article about ADHD being different for women. I checked off almost all of the symptoms, then asked my doctor for some medicine. She wouldn’t give me any until I talked to a psychiatrist, but once I did that and started my medicine, things got a lot better.
But Not Always
My medication helps me a lot. Most of the time, it helps me have the patience I need to deal with multiple kid-demands coming at me from all directions. It even helps me get into a groove when I need to get work done.
Often, though, it’s hard to get started on the right track. For instance, I’ll look at my work load and see that it isn’t so bad if I just do one thing each day. Those tasks are small and easy enough that that any one of them should take an hour or less. Yet I don’t do always do them.
So I get behind until it comes to a point where I end up having a gazillion work-things to do. But it’s my kid’s birthday, so I also have make a cake and go to her school to have lunch with her. I can’t just sit in my chair and do work all day.
The Panic Monster
Have you seen this TED talk about master procrastinators? It’s good. My husband is Japanese, and he had a version of this with the Japanese subtitles, so we watched it together.
He’s not a master procrastinator, but I am. The idea of the Panic Monster coming out was an eye opener. That’s totally how I operate most of the time. And it was really nice for my husband to see this because it meant he could understand how I operate a bit.
One thing that he talks about is that the Panic Monster only comes out when it comes to meeting deadlines set by other people. Master procrastinators tend to fail when it comes to meeting other types of goals – like the kind you might set when you’re a freelance writer who has a comfortable amount of work but who could do a bit better.
That was the part of the speech that really stuck with me. That I could have major problems getting ahead in life because I don’t have the push-through to work for things without outside pressure. While I can certainly appreciate other people’s success, I’ve been a bit jealous at times. Especially when I feel like I’m just as smart or just as creative as that type of person.
I’ve tried to set my own goals, but I just don’t have the pressure to follow through, and I don’t do it.
Overlooked ADHD Symptoms
I came across this article the other day. It talks about some of the most-overlooked ADHD symptoms, and it spoke to me.
It talked about how those with ADHD have interest-driven nervous systems. This speaks to the characteristic where we really can focus on something that we really like. I’m sure that all of us have had that experience.
More importantly, though, it discusses how some of the more traditional organization and motivational techniques simply don’t work for people who have ADHD. This tidbit blew my mind because I had always thought that if I could just find the right system to get things done, I’d be just fine.
My first job out of college sent me to a Franklin Covey seminar, and I’ve always really loved their system. At the same time, I’m not going to lie. My planners have been full of empty pages and/or had days where I still didn’t get anything done and simply forwarded every single task to the next day.
I’ve recently become interested in Bullet Journals. I loved looking at some of the weekly spreads on Pinterest, and I was thinking that if I had something like that, I might become more effective. By having all of the days on a two-page spread, I figured that the limited space for tasks would force me to pick the few tasks that were really important on a certain day. I also set up a little section for weekly tasks – the types of things that I would normally forward from day to day as other things took priority; the things that I want to get done in the week, but it doesn’t really matter when it gets done. And another little section for daily goals.
I’ve been disappointed that it didn’t really motivate me the way that I had hoped it would.
But seeing now that these traditional organizational systems don’t really work with the ADHD brain has made me willing to look elsewhere.
Secrets of Your ADHD Brain
Desperately wanting more information on how I can use the idea of an interest-driven nervous system to get my daily tasks done, I clicked through to the next article on the Secrets of Your ADHD Brain.
The downside is that this article didn’t have a lot of concrete suggestions. The main idea is to pay attention to the types of things that put you in the zone, then use those to your advantage. Since those types of things are different for everyone, you have to do a bit of work to find the types of things that work for you.
I’ve always thought that I hated working with music in the background because I find it a bit distracting. I do occasionally use Brain.FM, which has specially-designed focus music that’s supposed to make your brain stay focused. But as I tried to think of some things that have helped me get in the zone, I thought about music. When I want to organize my kid’s room or clean the house, I turn on some music that I really like (specifically, I was thinking of the musical Rent).
I decided to try playing music when I do work. I set up my browser to block some time-wasting sites during daytime hours (probably necessary), but then have been playing some other popular Broadway shows while working.
It’s been going pretty well, but a lot of the stuff I’ve had to do this week has been admin-type stuff rather than actual work. It’s gotten me to actually write this post, though, which is a good start.
Getting Into (and Staying in) the Zone
The purpose of that exercise was to find some ways of getting into the Zone so that you can focus enough to get your work done.
And it made me realize another thing about how some other traditional techniques might not work for you.
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of the Pomodoro technique. In a nutshell, you focus on work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. I have a Chrome extension that blocks sites like Facebook for 25 minutes.
To really follow the technique, though, you need to stop what you’re doing when the timer goes off, then get back into the groove after your 5-minute break. My extension makes you click a button to start the next session, so I would constantly find myself taking much longer than the 5-minute break and then have a hard time getting back to work, even if I was close to being finished.
This was hard for me, and I now think that I won’t even bother it. It’s better to find my Zone other ways and stick to it until the work is finished.
What are your ways of getting into the Zone?