Imagine having twenty television sets on and being unable or with great difficulty to turn them off or turn them down. Imagine being given vague instructions. Finally imagine being a Mexican jumping bean. If you can imagine any of these you can imagine my world as person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or may be one yourself.
ADHD affects me both personally and professionally as a writer. For example I get bored after 15 to 20 minutes and need constant stimulation. I usually have many projects on the go. I’m currently writing three books, a magazine article and updating my journalism site, not to mention reading a book. My brain races at about a thousand kilometers per hour, while the rest of me struggles to do five. And when I go to a newsstand or bookstore I am overwhelmed by the numbers of magazines and books.
Once at church someone commented on some preschoolers how nice it would be to have their energy. I had that much energy into my twenties and I never ever want it again. I just couldn’t concentrate. Even today I still have lots of energy, but my concentration has improved.
Sometimes I’ll get an assignment and read it, but miss seeing something important until I’m almost at the deadline and then I scramble to take that something into account. It’s not uncommon for me to put my foot in my mouth with unintended consequences as I hadn’t thoroughly thought things out.
It’s no picnic. I find having ADHD very frustrating as no doubt those who have to deal with me. What adds to the frustration is being fairly intelligent. I suffer from anxiety as a result and am constantly second guessing myself.
Society has never been fully accepting of ADHDers and those with other differences and mental health issues. For all the recent talk of dealing with disabilities and mental health issues, I have yet to see any significant changes.
Fortunately I have learned some coping skills. Writing weekly and daily lists of things to do are a big help. For example my weekly list will include appointments, which I also write on a chalk board, specific tasks to do, like get groceries, and ongoing things to do, like reading the book I’m reading or a piece of work I’m writing. My daily list will include such things as take my vitamins and aspirin, appointments, reading and working on specific writing projects, like an article I’m on deadline for. Writing lists has greatly improved my productivity.
Speaking of deadlines, I’ve learned that big tasks get done and done quicker if I break them down into much smaller ones. So once I get a deadline I mark it down and work back from there as to when specific tasks must be done and write it down. I find projects go a lot easier that way and I also reward myself for completing certain tasks, like taking a ten minute break outside or playing a computer game.
To cope with having lots of energy, I bicycle and walk regularly, plus do daily exercises. When writing, I’ll sit for five to fifteen minutes and then get up and walk around. I go back and forth like this until I finish what I’m working on. It helps me cope and focus better.
I’ll have more to say on ADHD in future blogs.