I am writing myself, and all of you, a little reminder: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) does not make our choices for us and is not the sole voice in the choir of our waking thoughts. Every day you and I have choices. Here are the ones I try to remember to make:
1. Choosing to Treat ADD/ADHD
Part of my adult ADD treatment is learning which choices are available to me, and making the most effective ones.
For me, because medication is part of my treatment, my first choice most mornings is to take it before I get out of bed. This clears the fog of confusion that plagues me when I wake up. Clearing the fog makes me less grumpy … and when I’m less grumpy, I’m better able to prioritize my actions and thoughts.
2. Considering Every Option
I like options, even though too many of them overwhelm me. When I’m stressed — I have a husband, three stepchildren, two dogs, and two cats swirling around me while I’m trying to think — I remind myself to sit down, review the situation, and list my options. I write them down because, duh, I have ADD/ADHD, and I don’t remember things unless I do. So I look at my list and try to make a plan.
Sometimes I draw pictures of all my choices ... especially if particular tasks suggest a visual approach. I do event-planning and, to keep myself engaged, I draw a person in the middle of a poster board (me!) and big talk-balloons above my head, filled with the things I need to do. I number them to remind me which ones to do first.
4. Asking for Help
If I find it hard devising the list, or the plan that follows from it — because I’d rather be, oh, I don’t know, learning the tango or eating a sandwich — I talk it over with my therapist. She frames things in a way that make choices less overwhelming, and then lobs them back in my court.
5. Starting the Day Off Right
I can choose to stay in bed too long, and have a rushed, crappy morning, or I can choose to get up on time. Then I can choose to leave the house on time or let my mind wander. This takes work, because my mind loves to wander and I have lots of ideas in the morning. I can choose to pack a snack, or be miserable an hour later when I’m at work and feeling hangry (hungry plus angry equals hangry!). I hit the mark more often than not.
6. Practicing, Practicing, Practicing...Symptom Management
I can choose among a lot of little things, too: putting my ATM card back in my wallet, filling my gas tank, instead of only asking for $5 worth, because I can’t sit still long enough at the pump. I can choose to sort my laundry when it comes back from the ’mat ... instead of starting off the day with wardrobe confusions or underwear shortages.
7. Remembering That the Little Things Mean a Lot
I mention these minutia of daily life for two reasons:
Non-ADD/ADHDers: Understand that mundane details mean more to us than they do you. These are the devils that regularly frustrate us. You may not think these are real chores for us, but that’s the point. It is in the nature of ADD/ADHD, and its impact on people’s lives, that small things are difficult, that we must approach them mechanically. Hyperactive adults aren’t intentionally aggravating you. ADD/ADHD isn’t about the big disruptive things that people do. It’s best defined by the little things that shouldn’t be so hard.
ADD/ADHDers: I find it helpful — and I hope you do, too — to think of the day as a series of choices to be made. I don’t always make perfect ones, but I try for a decent batting average. Each day I remind myself of the penalties of not making better choices (and I do mean remind, not torture, myself). By good-faith efforts at making better decisions, we do not cure ourselves, but we manage the symptoms that would otherwise be making decisions for us.
It’s not easy, but do we have another choice? We do, but I would argue — I just did — that it’s probably not the better one.
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