Early on, my ADHD and I caused such havoc and disappointment that I developed a psycho-level work ethic to try to fix the things I was bound to screw up or forget before it happened.
by Frank South
“Dad, stop already. The microwave is clean enough. I want to make popcorn.”
That’s my 13 year-old daughter, Coco. And she’s wrong.
You have to use a scrubby sponge on the inside ceiling of the microwave to get all the little bits of chili and soup that get stuck up there. You don’t want one of those bits falling into your coffee when you heat it up, at least I don’t. Besides, I’ve got to take the rotating plate out and put it through the dishwasher to get off the grime. And the bottom corners have some dried up gook that I’ll need to dig out with a fork tine. The popcorn will have to wait until I get this job done properly. Just give me a second. Or a half-hour.
Coco rolls her eyes.
“OCD much, Dad?” The accepted myth in my family is that I’m obsessive-compulsive. That seems reasonable, considering OCD is well-documented as a possible comorbid condition with ADHD. But I’m not OCD.
I am ADHD - of course. Hypomanic – uh huh. Stammer – y-y-yep, word-retrieval incompetent, and pathetic short-term memory - that’s me. Alcoholic – well, duh.
But in all the testing I’ve gone through at various times in my life I’ve never been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No matter how clean I keep the house.
Then again, there are a bunch of people that worked with me back when I was a TV writer-producer that would definitely agree with my daughter. My passion for organization, folders, binders, production calendars projecting four months into the future, and scripts finished weeks ahead of production drove a lot of writers on staff right over the edge. I went to work earlier and earlier and stayed later, pushing myself and everyone else, checking and rechecking, petrified of forgetting something or falling behind. Towards the end of one season an exhausted writer stood in the middle of my office and yelled at me, “You’re not a Pharaoh, Frank! You can’t just keep loading the work on for no reason!”
Honest, I would cop to OCD it if I had it. Kicking and screaming all the way, I’ve learned one basic rule from my own experience and from the examples of others with all sorts of disabilities; deal with any challenge straight on – accept whatever it is, get the help you need to understand and handle it, and get on with the day. So, if I’m not in denial, then what’s going on?
Over-Compensating Disorder, that’s what. Yeah, I made it up, but listen:
I think early on, my ADHD and I caused such havoc and disappointment that I developed a psycho-level work ethic to try to fix the things I was bound to screw up or forget before it happened. No matter what disaster I caused in school or Boy Scouts, at least my room was clean and my bed was made. Plus when everything is so messy and hard to control inside your head, having the kitchen clean can bring a little peace.
Yes, I’m nuts and confused, but as I told Coco, when I pull my hot cup of coffee out of spotless microwave my head and the world both seem a little easier to handle.