Thursday, August 11, 2011

Workplace ADHD Hazard #245: The guy across the room talking on the phone

...when you're trying to listen to a conference call at your desk...where you're the one that's supposed to be demo-ing the new database for a group of other people, but to do the demo you have to be able to hear the instructions that are being given to you...but you can't follow the instructions because the guy across the room is talking on HIS phone and it's literally impossible to focus with that distraction in the room, with the sound of his voice layered on top of the sound of your speakerphone.

Sort of felt like my brain might explode.

I can feel my holes...can you feel yours?

Alright, so you know how we with the ADHD sometimes have memory deficiencies, difficulty prioritizing things, can get cognitively constipated, and the like?

I'm a smart person, people say I'm fairly "quick" and "witty", but of course I DO clearly have ADHD which means I've found some curvy methods for getting to the end points in life.

But I can FEEL it when my brain isn't working. It's like I'm driving golf balls for a while and they're flying beautifully off into the sky and then suddenly WHOA, who put that brick wall there! The balls of thought bounce back at me no matter how hard I try to hit them away. It's a deadness in my thought pattern that cannot be revived through artificial means. It's a sensation that's palpable like a blanket in a baby's hand.

I also KNOW that I forgot SOMETHING but I can't tell you what IT is. I know it relates to YOU somehow and that I was supposed to remember it, and it bothers me until I figure it out. I know that seems odd to people who don't have that problem, because I see that people think it's odd when I try to retrace my thought process out loud. But I've learned that it's better, for example, at work, to admit that you don't know and you have to go look through your notes, even for something simple like details about a phone call you JUST had 10 minutes before that you're not sure that you actually had...until you see the note in your own handwriting. Fortunately I've had many employers who are willing to let my results speak for themselves, and who don't worry about my process for producing those results.

It's like looking at a person's face but not being able to see the features on it (please know this is a metaphor, not a new mental health problem, lol). I can see the outline of the face, and I know a person is THERE, but I can't tell you who they are or what their expression is, or what they are trying to tell me.

This is why I take a lot of notes...I KNOW the holes are there and often, the notes help fill them in. Sometimes it's just a function of time though and notes mean nothing...I used to joke often that my memory is actually very good, it just runs on a 10-20 minute delay. A 10-20 minute delay that I'm acutely aware of...that sits there like a hole I can't fill with immediate recall, but which, over time, slowly comes into focus after I take a first pass, and a second pass...and write myself a note to take a third pass later...

Sometimes it doesn't make sense to people (without ADHD) that I can SEE that there's an issue, but I can't immediately "fix" the issue. I can see myself that it's odd, really, it doesn't make sense. If you know there's a problem you should be able to fix it. It's simple logic. And to that I say "this is why they call it a disorder". Furthermore, it's a currently incurable disorder.

...sometimes it's like there's too much information and I can tell that my mind is "working" on the information, but I can't connect the dots immediately. Then, suddenly, all dots connect at once. Or sometimes dots connect immediately on something totally seemingly unrelated to the topic at hand...sometimes it IS actually totally relevant but the conversation hasn't gotten to that point yet...sometimes my mind has decided "this is a stupid topic and a waste of my time, I'm moving on". I AWARE that it's all happening when it's happening.

It reminds me, in a small way, of a man that I read about once, who had Alzheimer's. He was a painter, and he was aware of what he was losing, as he was losing it, and could show it to others, simply by painting a portrait. As the disease impaired his cognition, it invaded his ability to paint, it eroded both his inherent talent as well as his technical skills. And for quite a while, he was aware of exactly what was happening, but he couldn't stop it or control it. His paintings slowly lost their definition, their detail until indeed, all that was left were the abstract suggestions of faces and landscapes.

Thankfully, ADHD isn't quite like's isn't progressive. But I wonder many times if others with ADHD have that same awareness of the "gaps". Sometimes keeping track of the gaps is exhausting. In the last few years, I have had to learn to let some of them go, in order to let go of some of my anxiety...and adjusting to that is hard, it makes me feel a little less "in control".

Can you feel your holes? Do you sense the gaps? What do you do to try to keep track of them?