ADHD and Other Letters: Hacky Problem Solving – The Comfy Chair

In the previous post, I explained that ADHD offers specific cognitive challenges that force us to think outside the box, and that we tend to solve problems in creative ways, using approaches that feel like shortcuts to us, because we’re just using what we have; but sometimes they are quite innovative.

And I gave a few examples from my own life.

In this post, I’m going to take you on a journey through the most iterative hacky problem solving I have ever undertaken, and what I have ended up with is a bizarre jury-rigged solution that… mostly works.

The Problem

I am hypermobile, which is something I’ve written about a lot in my O Bendy Gymster posts, but what you need to know for this post is my ligaments don’t hold my joints in place very well, and my muscles have to pick up the slack. They are always tight, and always tired. I also hyperextend my joints without realising, because that’s normal motion for me.

In periods of stress, the muscles tend to spasm, and I don’t monitor my range of motion.

Thanks to the rotational hyperextension of my wrists (i.e., I can twist them right around), I have worn through the discs that support the joint near the carpal tunnel. There was inflammation in those tendons and also on the other side, and in the thumb joint. Basically, my hands were a bit fucked. I couldn’t do lab work or play console games for ages, and I could only type for short stretches. It sucked.

But it also meant I got very serious about the ergonomic layout of my desk.

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ADHD and other Letters: Hacky Problem-Solving, Part One

I’m not one of those people who thinks that ADHD is a superpower. It’s a disability with real costs and lifelong challenges.

The flipside of that is that our brains have ways of adapting to those challenges and finding workarounds and shortcuts, and that means that we have a tendency to be creative problem solvers, and to be pretty resourceful, because if all we want is some hacky solution that will do the job for now, we will become absolute wizards of engineering.

In Part One, I am going to provide you with some examples of my own hilarious hackery, and then in Part Two I will take you on a journey.

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Dive Log: In Which I Continuously Tilt Sideways For No Apparent Reason

(this was going to be a Facebook post, and/or a Twitter thread, but it kind of ended up being too long, which is a thing that has never happened to me before, not even once. This explains some of the idiosyncratic punctuation, which is a bit of a deliberate Twitter dialect. Just go with it. Anyways, whether you find this story entertaining or confusing probably depends on whether you SCUBA dive, but I’ve tried to add in explainers)

Yesterday’s Fish Count dive managed to perfectly blend “even experienced dive guides have the occasional brain fart” with “I cannot believe how well I managed that, what a fkn gun” and I choose to find it entertaining (rather than embarrassing).

(explanations for non-divers provided in brackets)

The day’s golden moments started with my arrival on site, a full seven minutes early. Given that I have the whole “ADHD delayed onset sleep phase” bullshit (aha, there is a legit fkn medical reason I suck at mornings, I feel vindicated), and this was an unusually early start (I stumbled out of bed at 5:32am), so I was pretty psyched. Sure, I’d allowed an extra half an hour in my conservative time budget, so that’s twenty-three minutes swallowed by the unfeeling beasts of eternity, but still: seven minutes early, motherfucker. Professional as FUCK.

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ADHD and other letters: Prioritising People

I’m a fortunate person, I think. I have wonderful friends, many more than I suspect I deserve. They support me when I’m at the end of my rope, they forgive my foibles and quirks, they occasionally call me on my bullshit when that’s needed (usually gently, and with care), and they are all-round excellent humans.

They are the greatest blessing of my life.

For myself — as a person with ADHD who doesn’t manage time well — the greatest frustration of my life is that there is never enough time to spend with these people. Some dear friends go months – even years – without contact, and then we meet up and it’s like no time has passed at all, but I always regret those gaps of time.

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Doctor Fancy Pants Does Febfast (Kinda)

(apologies, I am owing one ADHD post, though I’m tempted to class “The Bridge” as being sort of in that category even though it’s more about human relationships and communications, because when we have ADHD we are more likely to end up really needing to both fix relationships we may have stomped on, and set boundaries when we in turn get stomped. Anyways, I have fallen into a major post-lockdown depressive episode and the post didn’t happen. So you get this instead! Fundraising! Everyone’s favourite thing! But wow do I really believe in this cause you guys)

Kate, dammit, what are you giving up for Febfast?
WE ALL KNOW YOU BARELY DRINK

Yeah, fair play. I actually don’t drink much these days (seriously. Once a month? Once a week during some parts of Melbourne Lockdown). I’m on a pretty restricted diet for medical reasons (no sugar for me – or barely). And I work out a lot (hypermobility is a demanding mistress).

Early on in lockdown, we instituted the tradition of Fancy Zoom, which involved getting all glammed up, and for some of us, making a cocktail for the occasion. This is a “margatini”. It’s gin, lime juice, and cointreau, and is vaguely keto at about 10g carbs. It’s also delicious. Look at all that damn salt. The tradition of making the cocktail only lasted a few weeks, but it was a pleasant ritual, and also essentially quadrupled my usual rate of alcohol consumption to “once a week”.

But what did I do during lockdown? Shit, I bought so much stuff online. Cardigans, slippers and trackie daks featured heavily (because WINTER and LOCKDOWN dammit). I got kind of addicted to fountain pens and colourful inks, and fancy notebooks – and these brought me genuine joy, and I bought pretty cheap inks, and they helped me in my writing and journalling. But. But.

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The Bridge

Imagine that you are traversing the lip of a great ravine – there’s nothing particularly interesting on either side, so use whatever background you prefer – and then you look up and you see someone on the opposite side.

It’s someone you love.

Of course you want to reach them, but the ravine is way too hard to climb (plus I have it on good authority that the floor is lava, so keep that in mind). You can’t fly, and you don’t have access to any sort of special communication technology.

So you’re going to build a bridge.


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2020: The Good Stuff

(Mountain Fortress edition)

I started writing this post in a different way, wanting to focus on the good things because we are all pretty well aware of the bad shit at this point. To research it – because time has been very confusing this year, and I can’t always be sure what happened this year and what was some random thing that happened last year but still feels recent – I went through my bullet journals for this year.

And thoroughly fucking depressed myself.

Because on top of the pandemic and the bushfires and a whole bunch of other globally shared horrors, I had some really awful, deeply personal shit go sideways this year (mostly in the first half).

I got weepy, saved the draft, and closed the file.

So, instead of that carefully composed, thoughtfully researched and time-stamped account of good things, you are getting a random grab bag in no particular order.

This isn’t about good things globally, or even in Australia. This is purely about Doctor Fancy Pants and the Mountain Fortress, and about trying to ground myself in time somehow.

I repeat: no particular order.

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ADHD and Other Letters: Finite Resources and the Absence of Laziness

True story. I already had the first part of this drafted when I saw neurodivergent Twitter explode in the best way, taking apart the concept of laziness. I wish I could take credit for my timely response, but I assure you, this was entirely accidental.

Regardless, this is the patented Doctor Fancy Pants take on the subject.


1. On Cooking

I don’t particularly enjoy cooking.

I mean, I sometimes enjoy cooking.

Well… I don’t hate it? Usually?

By contrast, I have a lot of friends who love cooking. They’re really good at it. They’re fascinated by it. I have friends who get right into the science of cooking. I have friends who have built it into an art form. Sometimes it derives from a long-standing joy or happy kitchen memories, sometimes from a desire to be frugal, sometimes from a restricted diet that demands a good deal of additional attention in the kitchen to make it work.

They get a real kick out of it.

Me? I cook so I can eat, and I’ll be honest, my food preparation practice probably shouldn’t be called cooking. More often, Husband cooks so that we can both eat.

I will take any shortcut I possibly can.

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ADHD and other letters: Threshold Effectiveness

This post and the previous post were originally one post, so if you read that when it was a single many-limbed beast, this isn’t going to tell you anything new. I tend to make things long and verbose (see the blog title), and it’s an issue for me. In the end I decided that I’d take a pass at editing posts, but if I worried too much about length, I’d just get in my own way and never publish anything. So this is a “sit down with a cup of tea” blog.

That said, there was a really obvious break point here when I took another look at it, and what the heck, look at this shit, now we have two readily digestible parts!

In the first part, I talked about how – in spite of being convinced that I’m terrible at dealing with flexible goals and fluid workouts – I’ve managed to cobble together a relatively functional approach, so that when I look at averages and trends, I can see that I get things done. I shuffle things around. And my “five days of seven” rule serves me very well on that time scale.

But what about individual days? I’ll be honest, I have a real trouble with getting to the end of the day and feeling okay about it.

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ADHD and other letters: Five of Seven

(note: this post and the following post were originally one single gargantuan post, but then it turned out there was a really obvious break point, so I split it)

I try to have at least one intervening blog post between my commitment to monthly ADHD posts, and that fell down a bit this time, but in my defense, it’s November, which means NaNoWriMo – and I’m proud to be one of three Municipal Liaisons for Melbourne, working with a fantastic team to support and encourage a wonderful, warm-hearted community – so I’m simultaneously trying to write a giant chunk of novel draft, stay on top of the social media hype (I feel like I’ve finally made my peace with the dreaded Hoot!Daemon. Erm, that’s how I refer to Hootsuite) and host an endless number of Zoom events which are replacing in-person events for 2020.

Maybe I should have posted a chunk of my draft instead of a blog post.

(ha. no.)

This leads pretty well into this month’s ADHD post.

Last month, I wrote about how incredibly difficult it is to develop flexible goals for myself, and how I used a bunch of weird ad hoc strategies to ensure there were hard boundaries to keep me on track.

In fact, NaNoWriMo is an excellent example: the official goal is to write 50,000 words over the 30 days of November. I have participated eight times, and I have never yet failed to meet that goal. Last year I’d hit it by the 18th of November. I am badass at NaNoWriMo.

In April and July, the good people at NaNoWriMo HQ run a program called “Camp NaNoWriMo”, where you sign up and you set your own goal for the month, which you can change at any time.

I suck at Camp NaNo. Some part of me just knows that goal is flexible, and no matter how much I care about that project, I let the rest of my life get in the way, and I keep lowering my target. I never know whether to decide that I’ve “won” at Camp or not, because I’ve often slashed my goal by the end of the month, and my brain isn’t sure that it counts (I have succeeded once, where my goal was to do a bunch of redrafting and editing on a manuscript. That was excellent).

External structure and hard boundaries are vital for people with ADHD and other forms of executive dysfunction, and I explained that last month.

But.

During the course of the following weeks, I realised that I have figured out ways to set flexible goals, and I’ve been doing that for a long time. It’s just that I had to find a way to do that within the limits of my own brain.

So I’m writing about that today.

Continue reading “ADHD and other letters: Five of Seven”