I got the inspiration for this post after reading an article by the creative mind behind How To ADHD. Also, on behalf of Mental Health Awareness Month, I figured I’d start diving in to a prevalent part of my life that I just recently discovered had a name.
Disclaimer: While my days usually come with a unique set of challenges, and no two are usually a like, this is my best representation of the majority of my days when I think about common themes that plague my life on a regular basis.
My alarm goes off at 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. every day. I make sure to set it that way, because I get stressed if I sleep longer than that, but find it hard to motivate myself out of sleep any earlier. Of course, my alarm going off at 9:00 and 9:30 doesn’t mean I’m awake. It just means that once every five minutes, for about 50 minutes, my alarm slowly wakes me up so I can turn it off angrily.
Finally, at around 9:50 a.m. I work hard to keep my eyes open but I roll over, pull up Facebook and scroll. I know I have a list of things to do today, but none of those items are appealing. So I lay in bed scrolling, attempting to wake up enough to be human. Well, as human as possible.
On a good day, I can roll out of bed by 10:45 or 11:00 a.m., but on a bad day it can be 12:00, 12:30 or even 1:00 p.m. If the dogs aren’t home, getting out of bed is usually prompted by my need to pee, or because I’m getting hungry and I gotta eat. Like right now.
What’s for lunch? I open the fridge and I see leftovers. I can’t eat those, I had those already; plus, it’s not what I’m craving. I walk to the bathroom and stare at the silver drain cover in the sink, lost in thought: I could go out and get food, but that requires me to put on pants, brush my teeth, brush my hair, put on deodorant, find my shoes, find my keys, find my wallet, and drive somewhere. It’s too much, I don’t wanna do that, can’t do that.
Walk to the bedroom, grab my laptop, and order food for delivery. Sure, I have to wait, but at least I didn’t have to go out. Besides, I can be productive while I wait, right?
So I head downstairs and remember I gotta watch that new episode of my show. I sit down and then realize my phone is missing. Where is it, didn’t I just have it? I get up, retrace my steps, finally find it laying on the bathroom counter – where I stopped off to stare at the sink just 5 minutes ago.
Back downstairs, but now the remote is missing even though I just had it – didn’t I? So I’m back up again, retracing my steps. I walk upstairs, look on the floor, the sofa, under the blanket; finally walk into the kitchen and it’s sitting on the counter. When did I walk into the kitchen with the remote?
Oh, probably when I was looking for food to eat. I sigh, and go to sit down. TV is on, I start to watch my show. Before I know it, food is here. It’s 1:30 p.m. and I say to myself, don’t forget, you have work at 3:00.
I eat, and keep watching videos on YouTube once I’m done with my show. I am watching video after video, actively knowing I could be doing something, but I can’t.
The clothes in the hamper means I have to walk downstairs to the washing machine and load the clothes, back up and then remember to walk back down to transfer, walk back up and then remember to walk back down again to dry; remember to go downstairs to get the clothes and head back up to fold, then up to the second story to sort, hang and put away those clothes.
The kitchen means I’d have to unload the dishes (and actually put away the dishes instead of just piling them up on the counter), scrub each dish I need to reload by hand, reload the dishes, wash the remaining dishes by hand, dry them, put them away (instead of just leaving them there on the mat for weeks at a time), remove the clutter, pick up the trash, clean out the fridge, sweep, wipe down the counters.
The living room means I’d have to pick up the trash, clear the table, find places for the things I cleared from the table, dust, vacuum, fold the blankets, and find places for the random items that accumulated in the living.
Sitting down to edit means that I have to transfer photos, sort the photos, upload the photos to light room, edit the photos, export the photos, upload the photos to an online gallery, set up that gallery, message the client, answer the client’s questions, and do my best not to self sabotage by saying all my photos suck and I’m a terrible artist.
It’s all too much, too overwhelming. Where do I start, how do I start? I want to focus, but I can’t focus. I don’t have the motivation, I know my productivity will suffer. It suffers all the time, and I just glance at the mess on the floor, the piled up dishes in the sink, the table overflowing with items that don’t need to be there. I’m boredline panicked thinking about it now, and the negative feelings set in. Why can’t I just get up? Why can’t I just focus long enough to act like I’m an adult? Is it because I’m lazy? Am I not trying hard enough? Why isn’t the mess motivating enough? Why can’t I just pick things up as I go?
Now, its really all too much. So I sit, overwhelmed and anxious, that I should be doing something, but that I don’t have the energy or mental power to even try to start doing it. I shut down, and keep watching YouTube videos, attempting to silence the guilt, shame and white noise of my brain.
I look down at my phone: it’s 2:30 and I need to leave in 10 minutes. I’m still in my pajamas, I haven’t brushed my teeth or my hair. I don’t know where my shoes are. I panic.
I rush upstairs, and start looking for clothes to wear. Nothing is clean, so I start sifting through my dirty laundry. Something without stains, without smell; I just need something. I rush to brush my teeth, my hair.
Shoes. Where are my shoes? Why aren’t they where I left them? Why can I only find the right shoes, I can’t go to work with mix matched shoes. Ugh, forget it, I’ll just get those last. I run around; where are my keys? Shouldn’t they be on the hook? Oh gosh they aren’t on the hook. Maybe the basket? The kitchen counter? Nope and nope. Where are they… jacket! My jacket! Well, I need my jacket, so I’ll just throw that on and head out the door.
Wait, shoes, still no shoes. Oh for god’s sake, in the kitchen? Why would I kick them off in the kitchen? Okay. Shoes, keys, good to go. Nope, wait, phone. Where is my phone, why can’t I find my phone? I can’t believe I keep doing this to myself. Of course, I left it on the dresser in the closet. That makes sense, I guess.
Okay. Shoes, keys, phone? Yup. Okay, let’s go. Lock the door, head out to my car, reach for the door handle and hit the unlock button on the handle. Nothing. I pat my jacket pockets. Are you kidding me – and I locked the front door didn’t I. Yup, I locked the door. This is why I don’t lock the door, why would I do this to myself?
I walk to my back gate, and unlock the hinge, walk in through the back door and the search for my keys begins. For some reason, they are on my bedside table. I sigh, defeated as I walk out the door and glance at the time: 2:50.
I’m going to be late, why does this keep happening to me. I have to pick up these kids by 3:00 and it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get across town. They’re going to leave, they aren’t going to see me. I’ll have to explain to my boss that I was late and that’s why the kids aren’t here. She’ll be mad, I don’t want her to be mad. What if they fire me? I can’t get fired, not again. I’ll be a failure if I can’t even do this job.
Okay, I’m here, it’s 3:02. Maybe I’m not too late? I run to our meeting spot and somehow, at 3:05, the kids were just getting out. Phew. I dodged the bullet… this time. I walk to the car and head to work. My mind wanders, I’m easily overwhelmed by the amount of noise 14 kids in a small room make. I get anxious, agitated. I do my best to hide it because they don’t understand. I ask for them to quiet down, and I see the looks my co-workers give me; it’s not that loud, I imagine they’re saying.
I head home, and sit down. I realize I’ve done nothing today but go to work. Did I mention I didn’t really want to go to work? It took a lot to pull myself off the chair to put on pants. My only motivation was the fear of being fired, again. But someday’s that’s enough, and my mental health wins out.
I sit down, worn out and overwhelmed. It’s 5:15 p.m., and I decide to just scroll Facebook until my husband calls. Then he does.
He starts talking and my mind starts to wander. I’m staring outside, thinking about everything. Sometimes the everything is actual words, and I’m just following this weird, sporadic train of thought. Other times it’s like standing in the middle of a crowded room, and everyone is talking at the same time; words make sense by they’re muddled together. I know he’s talking but his voice goes away and it’s just me and mind.
Before I know it, he’s been talking for a while and I haven’t been listening. I just want to get to the part where I can talk, is that selfish? It feels selfish, but I don’t mean it selfishly. I want to tell him about my day, it’s easier to focus when I’m talking; even if sometimes I get lost on other thoughts and before I know it I don’t remember what I was saying.
He’s home, and that makes me excited. Sometimes it’s overstimulating – I want to bounce around, go out, talk talk talk. It makes me sad and frustrated that he needs to go to the restroom when he gets home. He does it every day, but it still frustrates me.
5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. 20 minutes.
I’m bored. I’m lonely. We should be doing something. I message him: “Hun, hurry up! ugh!” I hear him sigh. He comes down, asks what’s for dinner. Ugh. Dinner.
If I haven’t already eaten without him, because I got hungry and had to eat right then and there, I cringe. Dinner means cooking. I don’t want to cook, it’s so boring and tedious. Can’t we just… go out and eat? We should save money, and we need to eat better. Cooking is better, but going out means food is done faster and I don’t have to do anything. Plus the kitchen is a mess and we’d have to clean that before we cooked. Going out it is.
At this point, it’s close to 7:00 p.m. I realize I need to do something with my day, so I pull out my laptop and decide to try and edit.
I sit down to edit, and pull up Lightroom. Here I go. Wait, was that a notification? Go to Facebook, respond to notification and start to scroll. Five minutes pass and I realize what I’m doing and jump back to editing. Okay, one photo down. My phone buzzes, I check it, I end up in a phone game. I’ve done it again. Okay, seriously, focus. Editing time. I start the second photo – what is my dog chewing on? I take it from him, sit down, hop on Facebook. See an ad for something I need and start browsing Amazon. Ah, crap, photos, okay focus. Focus. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Phew. Okay, I think that’s good enough.
Close my laptop, I’m exhausted. It’s 10:00 p.m. and I head upstairs. I hop into bed and immediately I’m awake. I don’t want to sleep, sleep is boring. I want to play a game, watch videos, stay up late. I know, I need to do something creative. Maybe I should take up writing again. How cool would it be to write a book! Should I maybe write a book? No, start a blog. Nope, wait, I have a blog, several actually. This reminds me that I should be looking for things for my pride booth this year. I’ll need shirts and swag. I wonder who has the cheapest stuff. Oh, look, I can make custom lapel pins! That would be cool, can I maybe have my logo done? Or something else. How can I revamp my logo for pride? What should I wear to pride? I bet lookhuman has some cool stuff. What’s this word mean? I should look it up – oh man, this video explains it all to me. Wait, what is this video?
It’s 1:45 a.m. and I realize I have to be up tomorrow earlier than usual. Okay, time to start winding down, so I close my laptop and pull up my favorite ASMR channel on my phone, LatteASMR. Headphones. Where are my headphones? Shouldn’t they be on my bedside table? Nope, on the floor, cool. Now I’m awake again, so I play games until the ASMR lulls me to sleep. This isn’t working. It’s 2:30 a.m.?
I put down my phone, and lay on my back, the ASMR drowned out by my constant internal chatter. I do my best to focus on the ASMR by turning up the volume, I steady my breathing, and somehow, eventually, I’m asleep.
Does this sound exhausting? That’s because it is, and this is what my life is like with predominantly Inattentive ADD (though I still have symptoms of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity, they just aren’t as prominent as my inattentive symptoms).
I know I’ve missed huge highlights – like forgetting whether I’ve fed the dogs all their meals and giving them less or more than they need; or how when I do heat up leftovers, I forget to put the remaining stuff back in the fridge and it spoils on the counter. Or how I get bored at every job I’ve ever done after 2-3 months, and from that point on I get incredibly careless. I stop doing assignments, I make major mistakes, I’m late more days than not. I start calling in sick because my motivation to go is shot. I look for new jobs hoping it’ll “be the one” but it always ends the same: leaving at the cusp of being fired, or actually getting fired. Or, how in a single day I can go from happy, to sad, to anxious, to hyperactive, to sluggish, to bored, to overstimulated, to happy. No rhyme or reason, I just fluctuate like that sometimes.
I wake up every day exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed. Everything is overwhelming; but some days I can fake it better than others. Some days the planets align so that I can pretend like despite the fact I’m drowning in forgotten chores, lingering galleries, and failed responsibilities, that I’m well put together and totally not a failure. Some days those feelings are a small simmer, and some days those feelings are a raging boil, but they’re always there.
Some days I can wake up and turn the volume down just ever so slightly so that my brain noise isn’t keeping me from focusing (though it doesn’t mean my motivation or productivity is there). Some days I wake up with energy and focus I know will only last a short time, and I pick a chore that seems doable in that time frame – and it’s usually the kitchen. It takes me months to get back to the point I can do a full chore again, the rest of the time it’s half chores, half completed, and poorly done.
But all days I struggle to some degree. Sometimes it’s everything colliding all at once; and some days certain aspects are harder while other things are easier. Sometimes I maximize my strengths and manage to get stuff done, even if it takes me all day. And sometimes, I fail to even get out of bed to start my day.
It’s hard to sum up what it’s like to live this way, because it impacts my life in so many ways that many times I don’t even realize it’s ADD – I think it’s just me and who I am, and that everyone feels the same way I do. But this is a good glimpse into my life, my struggles, and why it’s so important to listen to what your mind is saying, and seek help from a knowledgeable mental health professional. ADD is commonly misdiagnosed as OCD, depression, bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, and anxiety in adults; and while many of these disorders can be comorbid, ADD presents it’s own unique set of challenges and you deserve answers if you’re struggling to make ends meet on your mental health journey.
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