Straining to Remain Productive While Coping with Adult ADHD (Part 1)

“Okay! I’m going to sit down and write this blog post before I do, well, the other four thousand things on my To-Do list today. Which reminds me, I need to hang that bookshelf…THAT’S going on the list! No, stay productive! Hey, there’s that check I’ve been meaning to mobile deposit. I’ll take care of it now before it’s misplaced again. Just gotta unlock my iPhone…oh look, we’re supposed to get a thunderstorm today. And somebody posted that they lost their cat, the poor thing. Ah, that reminds me of this cute Instagram video I wanted to re-share! Remember that woman handing out food samples in the store and asked to take my picture for her Instagram page? Wait, why did I even unlock my phone?”

Make a list; start a task; get distracted; lose everything; lose focus. Rinse & repeat the constant internal dialogue.

Buzzwords like “neurodivergent” are trending across various social networks of Millennial peers like wildfire. Rightfully so – although only 4.4% of American adults are diagnosed with ADHD (with prevolance being higher in males, who historically face social stignma for seeking treatment for mental hygine issues), it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. Partially due to this, it's also becoming a fashion fad that’s only achieving delegitimization of an intense and debilitating issue.

“Sorry I forgot to order you Starbucks, I must have ADD today” is the new, “oh my God, that totally gives me PTSD.” Okay, listen. Whole Foods Market running out of organic, non-gluten, GMO-free, anti-whatever, $400-per-pound red lentil Farafelle pasta is unlikely to shift your life onto such a traumatic course.

Actually living with ADD is a 24/7 mental exercise. An invisible part of survival. Every moment is inundated with an endless supply of ideas, emotions, and subconscious streams of thought that cannot coordinate themselves.

You constantly have A LOT of things to do that are equally important, but you either cannot remember what they are or hyperfocus on something for so long that you can’t do anything else; and, meeting new people is daunting due to the need to apologize for a) your innate lethologica, and, b) thinking that the person whom you’re in “deep conversation” with (i.e.: obligatory small talk about how you bought your shirt at H&M years ago without realizing it was missing a button) suddenly needs to know that McDonald’s invented bubblegum flavored broccoli in a failed attempt to make nutrition more appetizing to children in 2014.

Once more for the people in the back: How do you stay productive when your brain is fighting so hard against it? Especially if your penmanship looks like you’re trying to write a letter on a moving train during an earthquake because your brain is processing and spitting out information MUCH faster than your hand can record it. And then, you need to remember where your notepad is once you do get it written down?! Hell will freeze over first.

Answer: Technology! Queue the Medival trumpet fanfare. Unlimited resources to help us stay organized and trek onward are literally in the palm of our hand, sometimes with a $1.99/month subscription if your ADHD is so severe that you lack the patience to sit through a 10-second ad when you open an app.

My favorite is also a way to get out some pent-up aggression: a certain “Hey, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!” smart speaker builds a Home Depot shopping list via my repeated, frustrated, and eventually, desperate shoutings from the other side of the kitchen – complete with each item’s aisle and shelf number, researched ahead of time on the store’s website and recorded so I don’t get distracted by something shiny, or, God forbid, having to stop and TALK to someone for assistance…oh the humanity!

She’ll even shout out reminders to me, like, “take out the garbage!” every Thursday at 8 pm because I can’t routinely prioritize that task over scrolling through my Facebook feed while waiting for the ad between my rounds of Solitaire to finish, and “you have two packages arriving from Amazon today because your ADHD causes you to have severe impulse control impairment at times.”

In this post I shared how coping with adult ADHD affects my overall life. Next time we’ll dive deeper into the techy knowledge management tools and AI services that help me keep pace with the rest of productive society.

Now, where did I put that damn check?