ADHD and Other Letters: Time, the Suitcase

As a person with ADHD, I do not perceive time passing.

Apparently there is a part of the brain that manages this in neurotypical people, to varying degrees, but for me, that just doesn’t exist. Time exists in one of two states: now and not now.

When I first tripped over this phrasing, it was in the comments section of the Captain Awkward blog, and I think my brain screeched to a damn halt when I read that. Read it again. And again. Holy shit. Holy shit.

That’s how I first began to truly suspect I might have ADHD. That was my lightning bolt moment.

See, the thing is, just the week before, I’d explained – with self-deprecating humour and apology and embarrassment, because I am always fucking late – that I had this weird thing where time only seemed to exist when I looked at a clock. “It was twenty past ten,” I said, “and I knew I had to get moving at ten thirty, so I figured I had ten minutes to read! The only problem is that, while I was reading, in my brain it was still twenty past ten, and it stayed that time until I looked up.”

At which point, time doing that thing that it does – i.e., being in continuous forward motion without stopping, like a complete bastard – I discovered that it was not twenty past ten. It was closer to eleven. I had now missed one train and was well on the way to missing the next one.

But… everyone knows what’s it like to look up at the clock and be genuinely shocked, right?

Well, yeah, but here’s the thing: most people don’t need a series of incremental alarms to make sure they get to their appointments in the morning.

Screenshot of an iPhone alarm screen with the following times and labels:
8:35am. put some fucking pants on
8:40am. What did I just say?
8:45am. Leave in 15 minutes
8:50am. Leave in 10 minutes
9:00am. You better be in the car, or so help me god
My phone, she cast the shade.
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ADHD and Other Letters: Neurodivergence on the Road

There’s work for me in Perth; for funding reasons, it needs to be done by the end of June. I haven’t earned more than a couple hundred bucks in about 18 months, and before last Sunday, I hadn’t been on a plane since September 2019. We’ve been waiting for the state borders to open, hovering on the verge of booking flights, and then finally it all seemed to fall into place.

I’ve been here a week, now. I’ve got another week to go – possibly another week after that, but we need to have a look at the workload and the budget. It’s not cheap to get me here, or put me up, or to pay me.

So here I am, two hours behind and not quite 3,500 kilometres from home.

I find it interesting how travel like this interacts with my ADHD and autistic coping mechanisms, so that’s where I go today.

Just under 3,500 kms, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 2,150 miles.
Though as we can see, I can save the extra 38 kms by taking the coast road when passing from South Australia into Victoria.

I’ve travelled this route for fieldwork. Flying is easier.
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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: 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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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.

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ADHD and other letters: The Trouble With Flexibility

As an ADHDer, I’m well-acquainted with the fact that I am a terrible boss of myself.

I’ve spent my academic and professional career working my arse off, burning the midnight oil, procrastinating projects I actually want to do, and castigating myself for being unable to parcel out my workload in any organised fashion.

It’s a strange contradiction, to be a person whose entire functionality is constructed from sheer bloody-mindedness and to also have executive dysfunction.

I have a will of iron.

Sometimes I can’t make myself do things.

Both of these things are absolutely true.

I don’t blame anyone for finding that confusing. I often look at all this and think, “No, really, what the fuck?


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ADHD and other letters: More Than School

(content note: this post deals with some of the more severe consequences of ADHD, as well as bullying, social rejection, mental illness, and medication. It may not be a fun read. It was hard to write. I think it matters)

We need to talk about how we manage ADHD treatment.

I’m not talking solely about the healthcare system (which varies enormously in accessibility and effectiveness, depending on where in the world you make your home), though that’s definitely part of it.

I mean that we need to talk about how we decide to treat ADHD at all.

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ADHD and other letters: The Hyperfocus Daemon or “Out! Out, damned weed!”

1. Names have power and this one is just kind of shit

It’s true that “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” is an extraordinarily ineffective name for the condition.

Firstly, plenty of people internalise their hyperactivity and thus appear to be “inattentive” (I have opinions on this, but we’ll go with that for now).

Secondly, we do not have a deficit of attention. We have a profound difficulty focusing that attention. We pay attention to things – to lots of things! – but just not the things we might choose. This is where you end up with frustrated parents snapping “You can’t focus on your homework for ten minutes but you can spend five hours playing a video game!” because, well, look, probably it is frustrating. It seems as if surely you could focus on the homework.

Except it’s really not that straightforward at all.

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