You know how normal people respond if you’re late?
They see it as a sign of disrespect, and take offense (quite often). They get annoyed with you.
You know how normal people respond if you failed to get things together?
They assume you just don’t care, and respond accordingly.
You know what normal people think when you try to explain it’s ADHD?
If it’s important enough, you’d manage. It’s an excuse. Why don’t you just try harder? Why don’t you just do it?….. you need more discipline. You need more willpower.
And before I get accused of overgeneralising again: stating it like that does not mean there are no exceptions. I am simply trying to explain what I run into more often than not, in situations where I am already desperately disappointed in myself and frustrated. If you’re not close to me, I suck it up and sometimes break down as soon as I’m somewhere you’re not around to witness it. Your reaction makes my problem worse. Not only do I have my ADHD, I now also have you to deal with, and I really just want to make most of life. This I have to do in the midst of normal people.
The thing is, and I’m talking about ‘getting things done’ and ‘being on time’ because essentially they’re part of the same problem….
I understand that you have no clue what it’s like to have no concept of time, a chaotic and perpetually overloaded mind, and very limited planning ability mixed with being easily distractable, impulsive and sometimes just not being able to find that info in the jungle you call your mind. I get that. Normal people are weird like that, unable to imagine what it’s like to be different.
Because I DO care and because I DO respect you, I go to great lengths to meet you somewhere nearer to you than halfway, because I understand that halfway is just too much to ask of you.
I learned ‘time’. Or, at least, I do my best to understand what you mean by it. I put great effort into trying to grasp what time it is (instead of just ‘it’s dusk, day, midday, dawn, evening, night’. That’s useless in Northern Europe, mind you, so I’m double handicapped. And then for some moronic reason there’s daylight savings time…). It takes all the willpower I can master sometimes, but I force my mind to do it. I then have to concentrate really hard to remember more or less what ‘number’ is linked to certain activities. The number is minutes, but it’s like having to understand a second language if you’re really bad at languages. You’ll never quite master it, but have to keep trying. Add them up only to discover I’ve already lost at least ten trying to figure out time. And in all that concentration, the info ‘where are my keys’ are lost, because for some then pretty intelligent reason I put them somewhere else last time I had them.
In order to be in time for work in the morning, this is the sequence:
– a few days beforehand, start worrying about how to get to bed in time in order to wake up well. Waking up well is absolutely crucial because I need max concentration
– In general, now that I’m not in such irregular shifts any more, I am practising a morning routine. It’s not routine yet, so it takes a lot of focus still. I’m also not sure what’s worse: getting up well early and being late because I thought I had a lot of time, or getting up at the last moment and rushing, risking being late because I’m simply late. Or had my keys already in my handbag but forgot about that.
– the evening before, I prepare lunches as far as I can without it becoming icky through being prepared too long beforehand. This in itself is complicated because meal planning is planning just as well and food isn’t my favourite thing. Another bit of forced concentration, will power.
– I get things ready, and this procedure has to be planned before med rebound… (Another bit of planning…) I check my planner, I pack my bag, because it’s nothern Europe I also have to check the weather in detail, somehow remember that not-too-interesting info, plan an outfit and actually think about things such as umbrellas, getting up earlier if it rains…. (I’ve been told I should have left earlier when I was late due to storms and the like, so now it’s at least 15 mins stress a day about that). Not only do I have to have my basic ‘plan’ in mind, it also has to be adjustable, and then I’m thrown off again. If I’m lucky, the getting-ready-for-tomorrow procedure takes about 15-20 mins. On a bad day (such as when I just had to finish the last paragraph of that assignment, or someone left just too late and I’m in rebound)… this can take an hour.
– I spend the entire evening trying to get everything done and not get distracted, often depriving myself of the small things I enjoy, just to get to bed in time. This often fails, because I get distracted, because I can’t keep up that level of stress always, because someone actually needed my attention.
– I put a lot of effort into calming down so I can sleep well so I wake up well so I at least have a shot. On physical days I read/look at pictures in some magazine. On wordy days I do yoga, shower, sometimes do some exercise before the yoga, listen to music and/or sing. Wordy days are the worst.
– In the morning first thing I do is take my meds. I need varying doses of willpower/self discipline to get out of bed, because I’m apprehensive of the procedure to be on time. Since I haven’t yet mastered my routine, it’s hard. And then, because of this horrid climate, I also have to ‘adjust my planning’ to match the weather. And I keep forgetting: does a west wind come from the west or go towards the west?
– I spend as much time checking the clock as I do getting ready I think! And setting an alarm to leave won’t help, I don’t have enough concept of time to know how long that half hour is. I’ve tried ‘training’ myself, but that same half hour feels different depending on my energy, meds, whatnot.
– And then, if I manage to make it on time, I feel like the ‘dumb’ student who FINALLY has a C- in a class they’re just not good at… YES YES YES A C-!!! PARTY come celebrate with me! And all the other ‘students’ look at me like I’m nuts, they all have A’s.
I respect you, my job, whatever, enough to put myself through that. If I fail, I can’t promise it will never happen again. It will. But rest assure, I will try to figure out if there’s anything I can do to prevent it from happening.
If you say ‘you’re on time for work, but not for meeting up with me, I must not be important’: You are important to me. I feel horrible about making you wait because I’ve managed to step in my own chaos again. The difference between you and work is that I simply don’t have days to precisely try to figure out how to get to you in time. Trust me, I’ve put a lot of will power, frustration, stress and whatnot in it to get to you in time. A few minutes from your side to try to understand that would be nice, but I’m not asking for it because I’ve had my share of negative responses. If you’re going to keep on giving me a hard time, I will reconsider doing all that for you though.
The same applies to reading a few chapters to prep for class. It’s not that class is not important for me. It’s just that I simply failed to go through all the steps to get it read. These steps include:
– Forcing myself to sit and read, sometimes using a timer.
– Forcing myself back to that position
– Sometimes basically re-writing the book
– Spending I don’t know how long getting frustrated because I simply can’t learn from long texts, and since you won’t allow me to adjust my learning to what works, the result is that I will fail to get it done the way you can.
So please understand why your assumptions offend me greatly, hurt me, and sometimes make me raging mad. And I don’t understand why respecting you means basically torturing myself, while you do nothing to meet me say at 95% your side. I’ve been told that normal people are far better at thinking, so maybe you can master a tiny bit of cognition about why I fail to meet your expectations. I’ve been told that normal people are better listeners, so listen when I say it’s not about you or about respect if I fail to meet your expectations. You’d offer a one-legged person a hand or walk slower if they can’t keep up, but you get mad at me if I fail to match your pace. And if I do fail to arrive on time, sorry, but why don’t you check your facebook instead of winding yourself up about how disrespectful I am for being born this way. That’s what I do if I have to wait, and trust me, waiting is torture to me. (And yes, I feel really bad about doing it to you. But you don’t feel bad about guilt tripping me, so maybe I should not respect you, actually.)