Friday, February 12, 2010

Exhibit A: Shoe on Dash Board

Words are not always the best descriptive tool. Most people, and apparently many with ADHD learn best when "shown". And so I give you Exhibit A, above. It's a photo I took this afternoon after a trip to a friends house, when I got into my car, saw the scene on my dashboard and said "this is what people really need to understand about ADHD". It's not about forgetting silly things. It's not about finding things boring. It's not about being lazy.

Let me explain this photo, and perhaps you'll understand what I'm saying. To the right of my steering wheel, there are three items on the dash. A pair of (totally hot, retro, 1940's styled) dancing shoes. A bag of pistachios. And a note to self. The shoes are there to remind me to go to dance class. Exercise is good for the ADHD mind and especially for those of us with a little hyperactivity issue. The pistachios live on my dash because I have to eat frequently, and the only way I will remember, is if I leave food in sight. The note to self says "Jillian!" and "Yankee Cockfight!" I use a lot of exclamation marks because I think in exclamations. I write notes like this so that I don't forget things like "hey, your sister Jillian said she'd cut your hair tonight if you remember to show up!" and "oh hey, Yankee Cockfight, an awesome blues duo is coming through town later!".

To my ex-boyfriend (not to belabor certain points, but he's representative of the class of people we like to call "non-ADHDers!") this was clutter. To me: priceless lifelines to my buried memory. Triggers to connect me to the present...anchors to the day at hand.

Another great example...while driving back to the office I stopped at the gas station.

I took out my credit card, from my pay for the gas. When I got back in the car, my first impulse was to throw the credit card in my bag without putting it back in the wallet.

I used to do things like that all the time...which explains a lot about why my life was so difficult. it is simply not natural to me, to put the "thing" back where I found it. It is still to this day, and probably for my whole life, something that irritates and frustrates me. I have to override the impulse and briefly picture the chaos of thinking my card was missing...or of actually losing it. Take a breath...and put it back in the wallet. There is always a conscious effort in this process. It reminds me of a terrific quote that I can't remember the source of, but I read it in the article "Messy Purse Girls" which incidentally is a great article about what it's like to be a girl with ADHD. The quote is something like "most people have no idea how much work it is for some of us to appear normal".

I am known as an organized, motivated git-er-done kind of gal. And all of those things are true about me...but I spend just as much effort, if not more, on making sure the little routine things that many others take for granted are done.

So I remind myself to put the card back in the wallet. I set the garbage can in the middle of the doorway to remember to take out the garbage. I put the shoes on the dashboard to remember to go to dance class (and I REALLY LOVE dance class, which makes it even funnier that I need a reminder!). I also input all of these things into my iPhone so it reminds me.

Without these anchors I float. I still exist...but without connection to the framework. "The framework"? The framework that to the ADHDer, it seems everyone else exists within. I mean really...there is no framework. But I have to create it for myself or I can't function. What's really funny is that...I bet people whose brains aren't like this don't even need it! People who are able to ride bikes don't need training wheels after all. The important part for me to remember, I suppose, is that my focus should be on the goal...there is no need to question my need for training wheels. My results speak for themselves.


  1. Ah...the typical ADDer's OOSOOM (Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind) problem, hence the need for visual reminders. And you've done exactly what you are supposed to've created different reminders (dashboard and iPhone) and put them in a prominent location. I really do wonder, like you do, how non-ADDers actually remember stuff. I can't fathom how they do it.

  2. Yes...and I don't miss living in a house where I had to constantly argue my right to my visual cues.

    I seriously, seriously dno't get how people just "do" those routine things. There are people who don't even have a thought process about them! That's just unreal to me. I guess some ADHDers don't have a thought process about them either...but the way ADHD manifests in my brain, I am often aware of the little things...sometimes aware of way too many of them...which is why I get irritated as hell by them and can't stand to deal with them...the effort of having to put the credit card back in the wallet is just SOOOOOO HUGEEEEE in those moments...moments where other peole just "do" the "thing".

    What must that be like? Heh...