Reply To: Living with ADHD and Dyslexia

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I can relate to whisperingwings challenges. I’m diagnosed on the moderate to severe spectrum. Right now, I’m on the severe side as the combination of reduced physical activity influenced by helping my recovering wife, managing the household and kids, and a chaotic contract job, sent my head spinning. The good news is, my contract ended early, and my wife and I took that as a blessing for me to get some much needed rest.

I can relate on a number of factors. Skeptical spouse, being fidgety, signs of dyslexia, boring jobs, business idea that seems just out of grasp, easily distracted, difficulty talking to others. While I don’t have answers, I can share what I’m doing to adjust my expectations of myself and others.

My wife has had life long health challenges that within the last few years, and after 2 kids, consumed more and more of my time, reducing the time I had for activities that unbeknownst to me at the time, were things that moderated me. It was in 2015, shortly after our second child, that she had surgery with an unexpected lengthy recovery, during an economic down turn in the oil & gas industry. Thankfully my employer at the time had a employee crisis line to call. As someone who excelled and thrived at overcoming difficult situations, while logically I knew it was the right thing to do, emotionally, whether it was pride, or thinking “this too shall pass”, or thinking that “yesterday was a bad day, and today will be better”, it took me 4 months until I dialled the number and stayed on the line to talk. As silly as this sounds, that was one of the hardest things I had to do. Shortly thereafter, I was put in touch with a psychologist who after several sessions, asked me questions about my childhood and other experiences that I had not revealed to her previously, that then led her to say “I think you have ADHD”. That was the beginning of my diagnosis. I went on to get a more formal diagnosis, and have now hired an ADHD coach to begin working through issues, starting with routines and sleep. Upon initial diagnosis, I was relieved, pissed off, very sympathetic to my wife’s complaints about me, and scared for my kids all at the same time. My wife’s initial reaction was unsurprisingly one of rejection of the diagnosis, and without me saying or inferring anything, immediately rejected the notion the kids have it. Several years later, some conversations, helpful links, her initial reaction has softened, yet still very skeptical.

To overcome this, I am scheduling my wife to join me with my coach, who is neuro-typical, to have my coach discuss and relate to her situation. I’ve learned the hard way that it sometimes takes a 3rd party to help. The time off while I’m looking for a new contract, has allowed me to rest, and we are actually talking more, and I’m trying to open up more. There’s a couple’s retreat, based on the Gottman approach, in June, that I’m going to sign us up for. My wife has struggled for years to figure out why I do the things I do, and has done everything she could to help. I can see why she has resentment, and it’s up to me now to carry this forward, so she doesn’t have to feel like she’s parenting “the 3rd child”.

Fidgeting? Whether it’s bouncing knee, tapping fingers, or conversations that go off somewhere, you name it. It’s an unconscious outlet to burn off excess energy. For me, recognizing this and looking inside as to what’s causing it helps to moderate.

Dyslexia. Not sure whether I have this or not but I notice, after the fact of course, that I will transpose numbers or words that I read or read to me. I used to survey roads years ago and after working 10 hours, I was entering in numbers backwards; 10.437 would become 734.01. You mention using the word “thing” in place of a word that you should easily remember, but can’t recall in the moment. I’m just like that. I get creative when that happens to create humour and overcome the shame and embarrassment of forgetting. For example, “Where’s the thingy thing that changes the channels on the TV?”, response “Do you mean the remote control?”. Or, when I am completely blank, I’ll make fun of myself and say “Where’s the thing thingy that things things?”, response “Huh?”, my response after my memory starts working, “Oh yeah, the thingy from Walmart you asked me about”

Boring jobs and distraction. It’s not that I’m in boring jobs, it’s that there’s an administrative aspect to my job that often causes big headaches because the procrastination and excuse monkey takes over. Logically I know I need to do those things, however, I try to make a schedule and routine that allows me to complete these things in as minimal time as possible. Part of making this part of the job suck less, is to actually get creative and figure out how to make it suck less by figuring out how to make it fast and/or fun. eg; I had to fill out timesheets in a new SAP timesheet system that was slow and unintuitive. After the timesheet police and by boss got really on my case about it, I set about figuring out how to deal with this. I learned I could copy the previous weeks entries so I wouldn’t have to renter the codes and the times. In addition, I found out that I could retrieve my time entry data through the data portal and spent some time setting up a dashboard comparing my estimates to my actuals. This was initially rewarding as it made this activity really quick and less painful, and over time, allowed me to see where I was spending my time so I could ensure I was using it wisely. Eliminating distraction is paramount. In cube farms, I try and find the place that balances me with less distraction, yet, keeps me around people so I don’t get hyperfocused. As for email, turn off all those stupid popups, and put in rules to filter out noise. I have a personal guide that after 3 emails, I pickup the phone, schedule a meeting, or go meet the person.

Business Idea. I’ve got a business idea that I want to try, yet is always just out of reach. Right now as I work on my next contract, my coach suggested I get all those “to-dos” out of my head and write them down. I’ve done that, and have started to complete them. I put a few bar charts to visualize my progress as a way to contextualize what feels like an overwhelming list. As an ADDer, time and linear thinking don’t come easily. I just started on things on the list that were really easy, and that got the ball rolling. Before I knew it, I’ve got about a dozen things done! Why does this matter to my business idea? These have been perpetual distractions that if I don’t tackle somehow, will continue to be there and distract me. The trick is not to get sucked into a new project, write it down, sit on it, then evaluate it’s priority! With the weight of these todos starting to lift, I feel more motivated to pursue both the creative aspects of my business idea, and the necessary yet boring aspects of it. In this last week, I’ve felt much more motivated to reach out to people, attend business sessions, research the “necessary boring stuff”, and even conceptualize what the “business to-do list” should start to look like.

As I read through the posts here, I can empathize with the folks on here. I also smile because I see the same things, such as REALLY LONG POSTS, as I’m prone to do. 🙂 As was pointed out earlier, part of the feeling different is that we do think differently, and evolutionnarily, for good reason. We’re not deficient, ADD is labeled as a disorder by those that think we all need to fit in a nice bell curve. I’ve learned to manage through physical activity, socializing with neuro-typicals to understand their world, socializing with like minded people to fulfill the “social acceptance” which helps to reinvigorate and maintain the energy required to deal with the world. Believe it or not, there was a time when left handed people were forced to use their right hand because somehow using the left hand was wrong or the devil’s work. Despite the acknowledgement that being left-handed is a hereditary trait, and some accommodation such as left handed scissors, left handed computer mouse, left shooting golf clubs and hockey sticks, the reality is that the world is right hand dominated, and that’s unlikely to change. I am reminded of this when I find a smaller selection of left handed hockey sticks at the store, or go to rent golf clubs, only to have none, or the crappiest left handed clubs while the right hand ones are new. Even my fancy new smart watch believe it or not, does not have a left hand oriented setting! Since this reality is unlikely to change, I have had to change my expectations, and to make fun of these situations. The alternative is to fall into a cynical, bitter view of the world, which is extremely toxic. Now that I’ve had my diagnosis, enlisted some help, I’m getting better tools to be more aware of my negative triggers that so I can better use my desired ADD characteristics in ways that benefit me and others.

One last thing, I can empathize with the cultural biases. I have family that is old-world European, and friends that are Polish and Chinese. In the old-world European mindset, there’s a lack of acceptance for anyone that’s different or perceived as “defective”. Unbelievably, in this day in age, I see that still persisting, even here in Canada, in these communities. When my grandparents were alive, I remember talking about these topics, how quickly they would dismiss it. As for Chinese, in talking with friends emigrated from China, or 2nd generation, I hear the same strict “proper behaviours” that one should undertake. It might be my oppositional defiance disorder talking, however, I reject those strict definitions of what is proper or not, and openly challenge them. My grandparents being very conservative and old-world European, I was pissed off at the current conservative government in power years ago, so I voted for the most leftist party, and then used that to challenge my grandparents assertions that the only good government was a conservative one. My point was not to be a “pain in the ass”, but to point out the fallacy of labels, ideology, and blind adherence to authority and cultural norms. It was only when my grandparents were in their last years and their bodies were failing them, did they realize the uselessness of the facades they purported their entire life. It wasn’t their fault, it was the time and generation they grew up in. My grandmother would always put on makeup before leaving her room. As her arthritis kicked in, she was unable to do it herself, and was very angry when she was wheeled out to the dining hall with the other residents. When my wife and I explained to her that almost everyone there couldn’t see or their minds were not present, did a huge sense of relief come over her that none of them cared! It only took her 87 years to realize that!

I hope that helps you whisperingwings, and the others here on this thread.