Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beer and pudding pops

As I shopped for groceries one evening last week, I excitedly discovered pudding pops in freezer case. For the uninitiated, I'm referring to frozen pudding on a stick for which Bill Cosby once served as a spokesmodel. As a kid, I enjoyed pudding pops perhaps more than any type of frozen treat. It, of course, thrilled me beyond belief to see that they have made a comeback in the 21st century.

But just before I reached into the freezer case to snag a box of pudding pops, I noticed the cost: $4.99 for a box of 12. My hand then retreated from the handle of the freezer case.

I thought to myself that it was crazy to pay that much for pudding pops. I think I figured that they should cost $3, so $4.99 was exorbitant to me. Never mind that I hadn't had a pudding pop since the Reagan adminstration.

Thinking back to earlier in the evening, I realized the irony of my situation. I'd been out with a friend and drank one beer, which cost $4 and a $1 tip. Thus, I paid $5 for an after work beer, which I occasionally have...and never think twice about its cost.

So why did I get all indecisive about buying the pudding pops? Probably because the thing that I wanted very much was staring me in the face and actually having it was too overwhelming to comprehend.

Perhaps you're thinking that I'm a lady of low expectations to have such an emotional reaction to pudding pops, but I'm pretty certain that you do the same thing. There's likely something that you want, but it takes a bit more investment to procure or achieve than you had originally anticipated. It could be a purchase, but it also could be catching up with an old and awesome friend with whom you haven't been in touch with in a few years. Yesterday, in the U.S., it could have been voting for president. Or maybe it's updating your resume. Or learning how to knit. Or, if you've been me over the last couple of months, it could be blogging.

By having ADD, we often excuse ourself for not achieving what we want. I'm not talking about the "shoulds", as my ADD coach would say; that is, things we feel obligated to do. I am referring to the things in life that deep down, you really want. If you're like me and were diagnosed with ADD as an adult, you probably have an impressive track record of things that you started and never finished, as well as the squashed confidence that's a residual effect.

As a result, you take the easy way out or accept a lesser substitute for what you really want. I'll use the previous examples from two paragraphs ago as examples. So, instead of contacting your old friend, you write "hope to catch up soon!" on a holiday card and spend your time listening to the pal (of sorts) who calls when s/he needs an audience for her/his latest drama. Or maybe you decided to drive straight home from work yesterday because you live in one of the bluest states and you were planning to vote for Obama. And why try to get another job when the economy sucks? Or try to knit a sweater when there are plenty available at TJ Maxx? Or, if you're me, assert that you have no time to blog yet plenty to watch "What Not to Wear?"

In my earlier example with the pudding pops, I illogically felt like it didn't make sense to buy a box because the price differed from what I expected it to be. And I almost let this ridiculous notion overrule some other compelling points:

Were they the delicious pudding pops that I remembered from my youth? Totally.

Was I as excited to see them as I am to see the new James Bond movie? Heck yeah.

Did I have any issue with parting with $5 for my postwork beer? Of course not.

How we each spend our money, time, affection, attention, calories, and so forth is our owndecision. Are you using these resources on the people and things that you know will enhance your life and delight you? Or are you squandering them on people/things that fill your time or squander these resources?

With ADD, it's easy to accept second best. We're all used to everything having a higher degree of difficulty than what non-ADDers have to handle. But at the same time, don't use your ADD to justify not setting out to achieve anything that you want in life, small or large. If you do, that makes as much sense as a lady who shivers in the frozen foods aisle for way too many minutes as she grapples with the idea of shelling out an extra $2 for something that will keep her happy for a week.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Time for the important stuff...

My all-time least favorite work assignment hung over my head like a dark cloud for 2 weeks. It involves cross-referencing and organizing papers. Many many papers. Which is also known as the Nightmare on ADD Street. Usually, it's a task that I could handle intermittently while I completed other work. But in this case, I had a little over a week to finish it, and thinking about the task at hand made me want to down a bottle of Tums.

I began the hell assignment on a Tuesday, and I got a small bit of it done. At the end of the day, I promised myself that Wednesday would be the day that I would knock off a big chunk of it. But Wednesday came and went, and I yet again finished just a small part of it.

I left work on Wednesday feeling rather defeated. The thought of the work I had to do hung over my head like a dark cloud encircled with buzzards. I knew I needed to figure out a better way of getting the work accomplished. As I mulled over options for a "better way," the most novel idea struck me. One really effective way to finish the project would be to -- get this -- actually work on it.

I knew I hadn't been slacking off at work. However, I knew that I had been quick to respond to every email that landed in my inbox over the past couple of days. I also knew that I'd agreed to give a hand to a few others who needed assistance with some random, minor assignments that they had. In other words, I'd put everything else in front of the #1 priority that I needed to complete.

And so, I decided on Thursday to perform some self-recon on the amount of time that I spent on the tormenting assignment. Using the Journal feature of Microsoft Outlook as my timer, I started when I worked on the assignment, and stopped it when I worked on anything else. When lunchtime rolled around, a good 3+ hours after I arrived at the office, I checked the amount of time I'd spent on my "priority" assignment.

36 minutes.

I had spent the rest of my time on work of lesser priority, helping some coworkers, and yes, going for coffee. I maybe spent just 15 minutes on the coffee run. But still, 15 minutes was almost half the time that I spent on what I had deemed to be my #1 priority. Or had I actually deemed it to be my priority?

I think that, for ADDers, time slips through our fingers in a unique way. If we decide that something's important, then that's where our goes. And that's good, because we get to focus our energies on exactly what we want to do. However, that's also bad because there are some things that we must do, like taxes or hell assignments or buying groceries, whether or not they truly interest us. Certainly, you can get H&R Block to do your taxes or even have your groceries delivered. But you still have to decide to toss your receipts into a shoe box and hop in the car, or log onto the grocery delivery Web site.

When I went out at lunch on that Thursday, I thought about the face that having the assignment done would be like lifting a huge anvil off from my chest. I wouldn't walk around all dramatic, as if all the world's problems were mine to solve. And thinking about that feeling of, well, being free from the madness definitely provided me with motivation.

I returned from lunch optimistic that completing the assignment was within my reach. I continued to use the timer to keep myself accountable. Doing so definitely helped, because every time I paused it, it made me think for a minute whether my reason for pausing time merited my diversion from my assignment.

Indeed, at the 11th hour, I completed the assignment. Today, I started a new assignment that I enjoy so much that I didn't even consider using the timer. And because of this experience, I keep thinking about what I believe to be important and how much time I spend on it. Wow. Talk about having something to ponder...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I now pronounce me properly attired

Hey folks, I’m back. Among the typical bumper crop of summer activities, I also had three weddings and their associated festivities to attend. Of course, these pose the typical coordination challenges to the ADDer, such as returning RSVP cards, showing up on time, buying gifts, and making travel arrangements. Oddly enough, I seem to have little problem with those tasks. Finding a dress to wear is what vexes me.

Initially, I didn’t think that finding frocks would pose a challenge. For wedding #1, I figured that the dress from my high school reunion would work well. I tried it on, and it fit and flattered. Crisis averted! For wedding #2, I mulled over wearing the dress I’d worn to a friend’s wedding a few years ago. I hesitated to try it on because I’d been extremely tan from a tropical vacation when I’d worn it. But I tried it on, and it fit and flattered my pasty self. Crisis averted!

And then there was wedding #3, a fancier evening affair that required a shopping trip. In true ADD-Libber fashion, I waited until 5 days before the event to make my purchase. Deciding shopping at one location would facilitate the task, I squandered some of my $4.00 gasoline and hightailed it to one of the giant suburban malls.

In one store, I plucked armfuls of dresses that met my vague criteria (classy but not stuffy, alluring but not slutty) from a bountiful sales rack. I hated them all. I felt the same about the non- discounted dresses. In another store, an adorable sales associate aided my pursuit. The dozen and a half that the lady and I selected failed to flatter, including the satiny number that looked incredibly attractive on the hanger but, on me, appeared like someone restrained me with an accordion.

Swallowing my pride, I made the ultimate in desperate moves. I went to Macy's.

When I go to Macy's, it's the equivalent of a Lifetime movie character who hocks her grandmother's diamond ring to pay for her crack habit: the epitome of rock-bottom desperation. I’d lost my enthusiasm for Macy’s when it subsumed my local and beloved department store chain. And its fitting rooms make me furious: chicly remodeled entryways lead to grungy little pens that hadn’t seen a paint job since the Soviet Union broke up.

After hunting the racks and hoisting my prey over one arm, I stepped into a fitting room with a giant pile of clothes that resembled the textile equivalent of San Francisco's World Famous Bushman. I overcame the fear that the pile would come to life and slipped on what likely was dress #46. Innocuous on the hanger, its v-neck reached my waist. And not in a good way. I laughed at my reflection because, in addition to my mussed hair from all of the try-ons, my eyes were bloodshot and the day’s makeup had faded away. Courtney Love would even think twice about attending a church ceremony attired the way that I was.

That moment of humor in the dressing room calmed me down a bit. I’d worked myself into such a frenzy over acquiring a dress. Oh, the drama! I made my only purchase of the night, a lemonade in the food court, and headed home.

Even though I intended to abandon the dress issue for the rest of the night, I happily did not. To relax a bit, I organized some of my digital photos on my computer. These included a few from a recent New Years Eve…when I attended a an adorable black dress with beading and a swishy skirt…that, wait, still hung in my closet? Yes! It was there, behind a few skirts that I’ve been meaning to get altered for years. I tried it on, and it fit and flattered. Crisis averted!

And here’s the moral of the story: I can’t see straight when I get all worked up. That’s likely true for you as well, if you have ADD. So next time something like this happens to me, I’m going to try to stop what I’m doing, and get a lemonade, and trust that things work out. Of course, the challenge will be to figure out, in the moment, that I need to do this!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Post Deadline Ennui Syndrome

Last week, I had a big ol' deadline at work that I had to push to meet, and indeed met it. The week before, I had a presentation to prepare. And this week? A bunch of non-pressing loose ends to tie up and some minor assignments. Yawn.

No question, work that lacks a specific deadline is the nemesis of the ADDer. And that's why it's 2:00AM and I'm blogging. The thought of going to work later this morning, well, bores me. Never mind that my salary keeps the lights on and feeds me. Without a big and defined challenge in front of my face, I check out.

There's times that I wish I could have the mindset of a non-ADDer and look at all work, deadline or none, as stuff that needs to be done and just go and apply for myself. However, when it comes to meeting deadlines, nobody knocks it out of the park like an ADDer. Our brain chemicals get us fired up for the those 11th hour assignments. In contrast, I've seen non-ADDers wilt under the pressure.

In the meantime, I've got a handful of hours to scrounge up some motivation to go to work. Maybe it'll come in my dreams?!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's not about the bike...or the dress...

I was away for a bit a week or so ago, which perhaps you noticed! While I was out of town, I did some bicycling and had a great inspiring moment. Or so I thought. Sometimes, you need to see inspiration in action to believe it.

I mistakenly thought that taking a bike ride near the beach would make for a pleasant and flat ride. Sea level's a low elevation, right? Ah, but the path I chose managed to have way more incline than decline. Pedaling up these hills certainly provided me with an exquisite view of the seascape, but my quads and calves certainly weren't savoring their surroundings. Accordingly, I shifted to a lower gear to make it easier for my legs to pedal. When the road flattened a bit, I added more gear. But I certainly took off gear when the incline challenged my muscles.

After several ups and downs and ups and ups, I discovered a learning moment as clear as the blue sky above me: when things get difficult, make things easier for yourself. Don't heap on more (in this case, gear), because you'll make your tough road even tougher. Making things easier means you get yourself up that hill.

No question - all of these things seem obvious. But whenever we ADDers are in the thick of whatever turmoil we find ourselves in, these notions manage to escape us. We're quite good at getting wrapped up in one thing, which begets another, which begets...well, you get the idea.

The lighbulb in my head burned brightly thanks to all of those pithy thoughts, and shortly thereafter I thought that I needed to blog all about these fantastic thoughts the moment I got home. But an even better idea superseded it:

Try it out for yourself and then report on the results.

Little did I know that I'd get such an opportunity the following evening. I was attending a wedding that following weekend, and in true ADD Libber fashion, waited until the last minute to find a frock. I waited until the last minute because I'm picky about dresses. So I figured I'd squander some of the $4.00/gallon fossil fuel in my car, hit one of the colossal suburban malls, and in no time I'd land the perfect outfit. Right?


Gracious salesclerks suggested volumes of frocks for me to audition in the triple mirrors of dressing rooms. Each dress, unfortunately, had its issues: skirt too straight, skirt too full, way too high cut, way too low cut, too slutty, too prissy. As the evening at the mall wore on, I transformed from a upbeat, optimistic shopper to a bitter castoff from "America's Next Top Model". I started dragging dresses to the fitting rooms that I didn't like, in the hope that they would fit and I'd deal with how they looked at another time.

Dragging dresses left me bedraggled. And then, the lightbulb from the previous day lit up. I thought of those pithy thoughts about taking off some of the load when the going gets tough. Perhaps it was time for me to call off my search for the evening?

At first, I balked at the idea because of the gas I used and the time crunch that remained. But then I thought, "What is it that I really want right now?" And you know what? At that moment, I didn't want a-line or taffeta. I wanted a lemonade. So I went to the food court and bought one, which ended up being my only purchase of the night. Shortly thereafter, I headed back to my car. I decided to make a plan when I got home.

Also in true ADD Libber fashion, I didn't make that plan when I got home. Instead, I downloaded pictures from my little trip onto my computer. While the camera transferred the pictures, I flipped through some random photographs. Those included some from a New Year's ball I went to a couple years ago...and I remembered that the awesome dress I wore was still in my closet!

I'd forgotten about it, which is odd because I own few dresses. I tossed it on and preened in the mirror from all angles. It still fit. Perfectly. And it still fit perfectly when I wore it last weekend when my friends tied the knot.

I can't guarantee you'll have a Cinderella moment and find a dress or Prince Charming or even a post-midnight pumpkin when you need one. But why not downshift when the going gets tough?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't believe in yesterday.

While parting company with my friends C. (a guy) and P. (a lady) one recent evening, C. wrapped me in a bear hug and proceeded to lift me off the floor. The instant that my feet left the ground, I had the immediate thought that many women unfortunately have: Put me down, please! I had no issue with C. elevating me, but I do have issues about my weight. So I said to C., "Hey, don't do that." To which he replied:

"Why? You're not heavy?"

I shot a look of surprise to P., who concurred with C. by exclaiming, "You're not!"

Well, then!

Several years ago, before I knew both C. and P., I weighed a lot more than I do now. Even though I still have some more weight to lose to reach my goal, my mind is usually still stuck in the days when eating stuff covered with whipped cream served as the antidote to my misery. And whenever I chat with my latest crush, I sometimes think of myself as that awkward eighth grader I once was, complete with giant glasses, braces, and (holy smokes!) leg warmers.

My ADD, and perhaps yours, provides ample examples of other messages in the mind that keep repeating over and over. For me, any time that I'm late for work, procrastinate on responding to an email, arrive 10 minutes late to meet someone, or get a late fee on a bill, I instinctively think of mypre-ADD days when the aforementioned stuff happened pretty regularly. As a result, a litany of negative messages bombard my head. So when I'm late for work, all I can think of is how I yet again failed to get to the office on time. Never mind the fact that I stay late to make up the time and also get my work done. I still make myself feel bad for something that only I judge myself for.

Similarly, I judged my friend C. for the comment that he made. I felt that he said I wasn't heavy only to indulge me. However, C.'s not one to sugarcoat his thoughts and realized that perhaps he was correct. When I saw him a few days later, I mentioned that his comment made me feel good. But just for good insanely neurotic measure, I asked him to confirm that he wasn't just me. C. looked at me with one eyebrow askew and said, "No," in a tone of voice that would have been the same had I asked him to swap Super Bowl tickets for a marathon viewing of Lifetime movies.

This vignette has made me think a lot about how my thoughts often don't reflect who I am now. And how about you? How many of your thought patterns have to do with the you who you used to be? And how come they're still hanging around?

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Sleep Cure*

Last evening, I switched on "60 Minutes" and found it pretty much devoted to one topic for the entire program instead of the usual three segments. If you didn't see it, you're probably thinking that it covered Iraq or the oil crisis or the mortgage meltdown or the Presidential candidates. Nope. Instead it covered something even more important.


That surprised me. Personally, I had my money on global warming. But as I watched the fabulous Lesley Stahl delve into the subject in her usual engaging manner, I became a true believer. We don't have a more essential function than getting our rest. Link here to read or watch segments of the broadcast, and I'm sure you'll agree. My takeaway? I don't know when exactly the polar ice caps will melt, but I do know that, if I don't get enough sleep, I'm screwed.

Given all of the sage advice I heard, you may guess what this ADDer did later that night. Go to bed early? Nah, that's too obvious and sane. Rather, I stayed up waaaay too late on the Internets, and got maybe 5 hours of sleep. I would have had less sleep but I didn't hear my alarm, which led me to oversleep. I got to work an hour late, something I haven't done in years.

The moral of the story is definitely do as I say, not as I do!

One of the most compelling parts of the "60 Minutes" broadcast came in a point that compared sleep-deprived brains to brains of folks with psychiatric disorders. When they took MRIs of the people and their respective brains, the brains of the sleep-deprived showed the same functional deficits as the brains of the folks with psychiatric disorders. In the "how does this affect you" category, if you take a brain saddled with ADD and deprive it from sleep, you've made things super-difficult for yourself.

Intellectually, I know all of that. But suppose it's after midnight and you're reading clicking around IMDB to read the filmographies of the entire cast of Oceans 11 AND you have ADD, your brain doesn't want to you hit the off switch on the computer. Maybe you'll let yourself pick one more actor, but then you find that you can't choose between Casey Affleck and Bernie Mac. You decide to pick Casey, which tempts you to click on Good Will Hunting, which tempts you to figure out who played the Harvard guy with the blond ponytail...

...which then brings you until 3:00AM. In a few hours, your kids will want breakfast and your employer wants you to work.

Even though I know that sleep is good for the ol' noggin, the thing that will actually pry me offline is much more superficial: my looks. If I get less that 6 hours of sleep, which unfortunately I often do on weekdays, I end up looking pasty with big dark circles under my eyes that take expensive concealer to somewhat cover up. I also retain lots of water in my belly when I don't get enough sleep, which makes getting dressed in the morning oh so much fun.

I'm going to try try try to get enough shuteye, at least tonight. I don't want to say that from hereon, I'm going to get ample sleep on a weeknight, because I know I'll get annoyed with myself if I slip up. I know that I'll be sharper at work and get less snippy with people. But really, if getting more sleep means I can spend my concealer budget at Sephora on lipstick instead, then that's an even better perk.

*Not to be confused with the sleep cure in "The Valley of The Dolls," which, by the way, is the best trashy novel ever written.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Researchers say the darndest things.

A long time ago, I learned something unexpected from a brilliant researcher who I worked for. When I offered to pick him some lunch for him at McDonald's, he requested a sandwich, fries, and a soda. So I asked him if he wanted it Supersized, to which he responded:

"Oh? Supersized? What's that?"

And here's the moral of the story: when it comes to academic matters, the man is peerless. But when it comes to practical matters, he's not your guy.

When I saw the press coverage last week concerning the new article about ADD and the workplace, I couldn't help but be reminded of that tale of my old boss. For those of you who missed it, I'll summarize it here to save you from slogging through the tedious passive-voice writing that academics enjoy using:

  • Researchers interviewed "nationally representative samples of people" in a bunch of different countries with questionnaires that would determine whether they had ADD.

  • Did I mention that DSM-IV criteria for ADHD "were developed with children in mind and offer only limited guidance regarding adult diagnosis," even though these are the criteria they based their ADHD questionnaires on?

  • Also they based the whole study on interview data, which can be considered the weakest form of evidence? Sorry, I digress...I'm an unproductive ADDer, y'know...

  • They also asked questions about "role performance", which questions such as "Beginning yesterday and going back 30 days, how many days out of the past 30 were you totally uable to work or carry out your normal activities?’’ and ‘‘How many days out of the past 30 were you able to work and carry out your normal activities, but had to cut down on what you did or not get as much done as usual?’’

  • A lot of people whose questionnaires indicated that they screened positive for ADD (as if it were chicken pox or mono, sheesh) were asked if they ever received treatment for ADD, and most hadn't.

  • Based on all of that, we arrive at the gripping conclusion: "The above results raise the question whether adult ADHD is a candidate for targeted workplace screening and treatment programs. ... It might be cost-effective from the employer perspective to implement workplace screening programs with such a scale to detect and provide treatment for workers with ADHD."

Cost-effective? As if! This notion is an attorney's dream. Any employer (in the U.S., at least) would get their butts sued on privacy grounds.

And never mind the obvious illogical leap the article makes. To oversimplify, spike the office water cooler with Ritalin, and employers will squeeze oodles of productivity out of their unfocused hoardes with ADD.

Eh, not so much.

All of us ADDers know that taking the drugs gives you focus. Drugs don't provide ADDers with focus on things that we don't care about. Once during a performance review, another old boss commented, "You like doing the things that you enjoy, and don't like doing the things that you don't enjoy." Heck yeah! In other words, if you like the work that you do, then you will most likely stay focused. If work doesn't interest you, you're more likely to surf Amazon for stuff to buy just to entertain yourself.

The thing is, ADDers may have difficultly finding the right occupation or setting. We get attracted to the shiny, fun stuff and leave the rest in our wake. And face it, some jobs just aren't all that interesting. We've all worked them before. While non-ADDers probably have an easier time muddling through the less enjoyable parts of jobs and careers, getting our ADD selves to do things that don't interest us presents a challenge of epic proportions. As a result, we tend to be less productive because the work doesn't interest us.

I'll make it clear - I'm not justifying ADDers slacking on the job. Not at all. However, the study didn't measure the type of work (other than blue/white collar, etc) that participants did, nor did it mentioned levels of job satisfaction.

You'll find this same nugget of sage advice in a companion interview with the good Dr. Hallowell. When asked what's been most helpful to him in dealing with his own ADD, he included "find the right job" in his list. Exactly.

But never mind getting the right job, folks. Academics know what's best for you! And they us how best to get the ball rolling further on in their conclusion:

"The obvious next step from a public health perspective, given these findings, is to evaluate the extent to which best-practices outreach and treatment would result in improvement in functioning that might have a positive return on-investment for employers."

Hey docs, would you like that Supersized?

All of the authors of this article earn their lving at prestigious universities and medical centers. No doubt they also likely have tenure. Thus, they likely are concerned about their job security as much as they're concerned about the meal size options at fast food restaurants. In short, the idea of employers screening their staff for any disorder - physical or mental - disturbs me. In the cozy world of academic research, the docs probably never considered the ramifications of their conclusion. I know my response if my employer handed me a questionnaire and a pencil. Never mind that, though. Like I said earlier, I'm sure that my employer's attorneys would put the kibosh on the office ADD quizzes before they'd see the light of day.

As someone who was diagnosed with ADD pretty far into my career, I do feel that having treatment for ADD earlier in my working life certainly would have made my life easier. But having my ADD uncovered by my (or any!) employer and being known as "the one with ADD" would have felt uncomfortable, awkward, strange, and definitely exploitive.

So folks, if you have ADD or think that you might, spend your energies on figuring out what your bliss is. And then follow it. It might sound trite, but don't forget that being easily distracted at work might mean that there's something out there that's more enjoyable to do. And that could mean being the best burrito maker, a number cruncher, or the leader of the free world.

I know all of this myself because lately I've also been doing a lot of searching for my career bliss. It's not easy. But I know that spending time thinking about it will certainly be worthwile. And when I find it, it'll be good. And I'll have fries with that, please.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

On housekeeping: no stars in my eyes

Not that I'm a one foot in the gutter kind of lady (OK, yes I am...a fair amount of the time), but as proud as I was about my housekeeping endeavors that I excitedly blogged about, I did wonder how long all of this tidiness would last.

Result? 2 weeks!

After maintaining the cleanliness and clutter-free (eh, minimally cluttered!) environment for 1 week, the sense of calm I possessed amazed me. In order to maintain it, I created a checklist for myself of things that I needed to do on a daily basis to maintain it. That included spending just 5 minutes in the morning cleaning the bathroom. In other words, little things that add up to a lovely big picture. The checklist also included some small stuff to maintain *myself*. Because I know that drinking enough water and brushing my teeth at night matter, I wanted to check the extent to which I actually do these things.

(And so that you are sure you read the previous paragraph correctly, I'm confirming that I sometimes forget to brush my teeth at night. I'm not proud of this, but hey, this is my ADD story, warts and all.)

Back to the checklist. To make it fun, I used sticker stars to check off each item. I like sticker stars, and it's a shame that we don't receive these as awards after second or third grade. I was all pumped about using the checklist, and enjoyed using it for 3 days. I didn't complete every item on the list each of those days. However, it was also an interesting data collection experience for me, as I was able to see which of the things I did and which I didn't do.

And then, Day 4 rolled around. I had a date with B, who I now know will not be a contender for the position of Mr. Add Libber. Thanks to the wonderful public transit system, I got home 30 minutes before I had to be out the door looking all cute and girly. Fortunately, I primped extensively and met my timeframe. However, my place looked like Sephora and Ulta had vomited products everywhere after an all-night beauty bender.

When I got home that night, I used my busy day and evening as a justification for not following my checklist. By the next day, the checklist sat overlooked on my bedroom dresser and remained unused.

That was over a week ago. This morning, I looked around and felt like things had again gotten out of control. My buoyant mood had also sunk, and I felt very blah. I'veread in many home organization books that the state of your home represents your life. And my life apparently has an empty sparkling cider bottle on the desk.

And so I'm printing out another checklist and aiming to get back on track. I'm frustrated that I let things get awry. But then again, I never thought that my big cleanup a couple of weeks ago would last as long as it did. I hope that I can get things back in order, one star at a time. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 16, 2008

On housekeeping: dusting off the motivation (part two)

And now, the exciting conclusion!

As the days and weeks passed between the decision to have S. and B. over for dessert and D Day itself, I had the best intentions to prep for the event. Every time I had a free evening or Sunday, my head flooded with all of the possibilities of what I could do to get ready for dessert night: shred extraneous papers, pick out some recipes, put pictures in the frames I'd purchased that still held the stock black-and-white photos of blissful faces. At the same time, other diversions tempted me: riding my bike, seeing a show, hanging out with friends, and oh yeah, catching up on the whereabouts of the cast of The Facts of Life on Wikipedia.

Having so many options rendered me indecisive. Or rather, I gravitated to the activities that immediately gratified me (= not party prep!). But fortunately, a few days before the party, I selected recipes and motivated myself to the grocery store to make the desserts. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was going to make three types of desserts for the three of us? I figured that if I was going to be all Martha Stewart, I was going full throttle - minus the prison sentence, of course.

Because I purchased all of the necessary foodstuffs, I developed a false sense of security about having everything ready dessert night. My place still required ample tidying, yet I put it off until the night before, when a feeling of dream washed over me. Indeed, I attributed all of the disorder to be the cause of this feeling. But actually, the thought of going to the office the following day weighed on me. After significantly pulling my weight over the past several months, I'd reached a huge lull. As a result of all of my feelings, I did the most logical thing.

I called in sick. Sick of work, that is! (Note: I don't normally advocate absenteeism, but sometimes you have to listen to your gut.)

And so I happily spent all of dessert day mopping, baking, cleaning, and generally prettying things up. Admittedly, I enjoyed every minute of it. But then again, I know that I wouldn't have enjoyed doing all of this on a non-work day. Being home when I wasn't supposed to be made it all fun.

Dessert night was a hit. S. and B. had just assumed that I bought the desserts, but seeing the products conceived in my kitchen bowled them over. As we chowed down my sugary treats and gossiped and laughed, I knew that all of the effort had paid off.

Gearing up for this event served as an excellent shot of motivation to keep atop my housekeeping. So far, I think I've been doing OK. When I come home at the end of the day, I have more of a feeling of calm when I see less stuff sitting around. In order to keep things in order, I'm aiming to spend 20 minutes a day on housekeeping. Although, as my head's about to hit the keyboard, I'm giving myself tonight off for good behavior. I'm sure Martha Stewart would understand that all too well!

On housekeeping: dusting off the motivation (part one)

About a month ago, the disorganization in my home bubbled up to be the number one annoyance in my life. It even transcended the cheery "have you dined with us before?" remark that waiters now ask in many restaurants, as if you just fell onto the planet and couldn't figure out how to order off from a menu. (I digress...)

And so, for the 98th time, I carped about the disarray to my coach. Her response? "Throw a party!"

When she said that, I looked around the living room with wide eyes. At that moment, the only appropriate event to throw in my home was an intervention. My tax paperwork dangled precariously from the arm of a chair near my desk because the desk lacked any place for the stuff to balance. Oh, and a sweater languished on the shelf of my bookcase. It didn't land there during a torrid tryst (unfortunately!). Rather, to remind myself that I wanted to give it away, I put it there. In February. As the Flylady would say, I had CHAOS -- Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.

But Jen's intent was to provide me with a larger goal to reach for. Picking up stuff would allow me to feel comfortable having people over, which was something that I really wanted to do. Although keeping it picked up for myself is a noble deed, I don't really notice that things are disorganized until they are extremely out of whack. But if I know that company's coming, I see my surroundings in a different light, and my motivation to clean, organize, and declutter blossoms.

I hadn't thrown a party in a couple of years, so Jen's idea enticed me. But, reflecting on the hilarious vodka tonic-fueled late-evening chorus of "Wonderwall" at my last soiree, I decided to plan something on a smaller scale. Before I could give the matter much more thought, I emailed a couple of friends to come over for dessert on a weeknight.

After picking a date far enough into the future to give me ample time to gear up for the festivities, I immediately found that my motivation paid off. The mere thought of having people over compelled me to round up four shopping bags of clothing and housewares and donate the stuff to charity. Yeahhhh, I though. I'm so ahead of the game.

What happened next? Stay tuned!

Monday, May 12, 2008

On housekeeping: Target will be there for you

Now that spring is in full swing, my thoughts have turned to getting my place cleaned up and orderly. Indeed, I think about this more than I actually do it. But this year, I really want to clean up my act. I know I have more energy as well as a clearer mind when I have my house in order.

In the next bunch of posts I'll make, I'll talk about random thoughts I have related to housekeeping. Even the word housekeeping gets me all psyched. It's so retro, and makes me feel like I should be vacuuming in high heels and greet my husband at the door with warm smile and an icy cold martini. Of course, this image is unrealistic for me: I'm single, have hardwood floors, and prefer my gin with tonic. But hey, if the word interests me in cleaning and decluttering, what's not to love?

I think that we ADDers succeed very well at getting inspired for housecleaning. This typically occurs, in my experience, when we're not at home because it's too easy to watch the Dramatic Squirrel over and over and figure out who you haven't yet sent the excellent link to. When I'm outside of my own walls, by far there's one place that gets me fired up about cleaning. And that would be Target.

Stumble into one of the aisles with cleaning products and you can't help but be inspired by the scores of products neatly lined up on the white metal shelves. If you need something to make your home whiter, shinier, or the squeakiest of clean, you will find it on these shelves. You will drool over the citrus-scented Swiffers. You will muse about the best way to nominate the creator of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for the Nobel prize. You will decide to ensure that the next generation will have an earth to inhabit by switching to Method products.

These thoughts enter my head all of the time as I approach this aisle. As difficult as I find it to do, I make every effort to simply inhale the heady aroma of chlorine bleach and lemon freshness and walk on by.

Why? Because my under-sink cabinets are jam-packed with cleaning potions galore, which I acquired while dazzled by the possibility of cleaning. Unfortunately, that possibility dissolved the minute I walked into my door with those bullseye-adorned plastic bags. What attracted me on the store shelves turned into one more thing to cram into that limited cabinet space. The allure of a new pack of wipes or the best mildew killer ever vanishes the minute I realize that I have six other cleaners that do the same thing. Or, I discover that I already own the product and never used it. Whoops!

So, as I embark on my big ol' spring cleaning mission, I have to get all Zen and remind myself that I have everything I need. I don't need any extra-special-wonderful-fabulous cleaning solution. I have enough stuff in the house to do the job. And when I deplete my stash, Target will be waiting for me with its wide aisles of products standing at attention, all waiting to be called to duty in the Battle against Grime.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ADD Success Story - Songwriter, Esq.

Chucking a career to fulfill a creative calling probably remains a fantasy for many of us. But it's not every day that you hear about a law firm partner chucking his career to pursue his passion for songwriting. That's why I was especially delighted to read about Will Hopkins, featured last week as a Lawyer of the Day on the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog (say that ten times fast!). Will is one of the twenty finalists for the American Idol songwriting contest.

But wait, there's more. Will credits his ADD for his songwriting career:

"A doctor diagnosed me as having [attention deficit disorder] and suggested
I try Ritalin. In my mind it unleashed the creative gene again, and it was like
the light was back on. And I said, Dammit, do something with it this time."
If you do the math in the story about Will, you'll see that he had a successful career as an attorney, made partner at his firm, and then was diagnosed with ADD. I think that's like a lot of us ADDers who were diagnosed as adults. We created our lives, only to discover that there's a name for why we function the way that we do. And medication can give us that ability to focus on the talents and strengths that may have been tangled up all of these years.

I can't wait until May 20th to see if the Battle of the Davids features Will's song!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No ticket to ride, and I didn't care!

Thirty-one years ago today, my family and I dressed in outfits suitable for a daytime wedding and boarded an airplane to Florida for vacation. Back then, you dressed up for air travel. Wearing a tracksuit with "Juicy" spelled out across one's bum would be unthinkable, but puffing on a cigarette in the jet's smoking section was allowed.

My family's itinerary included a number of Florida attractions, but no question, our days at Disney World captivated me the most. In 1977, Disney World pretty much comprised the Magic Kingdom and River Country. That's it. No Epcot, no Animal Kingdom, and definitely no fireworks at night. And you know what? We didn't even miss them.

Ticketing at Disney World worked much differently then than it does now. Instead of the admission ticket that gave you access to all of the Magic Kingdom's attractions, you used ticket books for the rides. Disney offered five level of tickets: A, B, C, D, and E. The letter on the ticket determined the magnitude of the ride for which you could use it. The most exciting rides, like Space Mountain, required an E ticket for admission. You could use the A tickets at one of the little movie theaters on Main Street USA or the merry-go-round.

As the afternoon crawled toward evening on our second day at the Magic Kingdom, my family had depleted our supply of tickets. My brother and I knew that our parents weren't going to buy more tickets, but we didn't want to leave the Magic Kingdom so early and miss seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade once again. Fortunately, the Magic Kingdom offered a couple of attractions that didn't require tickets. Of these, "If You Had Wings" was by far the coolest because it seemed the most like a real ride. Seated in black pod-like contraptions, you'd ride through scenery of various destinations served by Eastern Airlines. Essentially, it was one giant commercial for the airline, and not all that popular, either.

But that night, "If You Had Wings" was the most exciting find for my brother and me. It moved, so it was a ride. And it didn't require tickets, so we could ride on it. And that's exactly what we did. We'd hop into a pod, travel through the ride, and when we got to the end of it, hopped off and raced to the ride's entrance to experience it again. And again. And again, much to the amusement of our parents who witnessed our scheme and the ride operator who appreciated having some business at his attraction. I can picture that scene as if it happened yesterday, my little sneakers with their white rubber toe caps striking the ground over and over so that I could get to the ride's entrance all the quicker.

This evening, I started focusing a lot on the stuff I hadn't done. I still haven't found a new dentist, I owe emails and phone calls to several people, and yet again, I nixed my intentions of going to the gym after work. And instead of a decent dinner, I ate some of that spicy snack food that I love. As I posted once before, kicking myself for all of this isn't a great way for me to be my own best friend! So I started thinking about the stuff that I did do today. I remembered a coworker's birthday. I took a 3 mile walk at lunchtime. I delegated some stuff to my intern, who did a fantastic job with it. And even though I pretty much ate junk food for dinner, I did eat an incredibly healthy salad with chicken on it for lunch.

We ADDers tend to beat ourselves up for the things that we haven't done, as opposed to what we've achieved. There's a bunch of dishes in my sink, but I finished my taxes on time. I didn't work out, but I got to see Elliott Yamin return to "American Idol" for a performance. I didn't hop on the elliptical, but I took in the lovely spring weather at lunchtime with The White Stripes serenading me through my earphones. Not bad, eh?

There's a lot of memories that I recall from that Florida vacation all of those years ago. But no question, the most vivid memory remains our night of repeated rides on "If You Had Wings". Think about it: of the entire Florida vacation I took as a kid, one of the things I remember the most was the ride that was free. And I have no idea how many times I went on a coveted E Ticket ride. The only thing that mattered was that we had a blast on "If You Had Wings".

Thirty-one years from now, I'll be 70. I'm guessing that I'm not going to care then about the kind of car I drove or whether I made the bed every day or my quest for the perfect mascara that will transform my lashes into a feathery, flirty fan. Nope, I'm pretty sure I'm going to reflect fondly on all of the fun and silly moments that I had. And just like "If You Had Wings," those moments are priceless, in more ways than one.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Name it so you can claim it.

I've read recently on a couple of blogs that the term "ADDer" has been deemed offensive by some folks. I've seen it referred to as a "cultlike" term (like perhaps, Scientologist? Heaven's Gate? Jim Jones?). I also saw it pronounced as un-PC, in the "I'm not just my ADD" manner.

Wow. I had no idea that a term that others have considered a term that I've often used to be so derogatory.

As you might expect, I also have an opinion on the subject: if you're looking for a cause to fight for, this isn't a worthy one. Feeding the homeless and saving the environment? Worthy. Offended by the "ADDer" label? Not worthy. In fact, I think that worrying about "ADDer" is what Cheryl Richardson called a first-world problem, meaning it's something that garners concern when we have all of the trappings of a comfortable life as opposed to people in third-world nations.

I don't mean to turn this into a "eat your peas because children are starving in Africa" lecture. Quite the opposite, actually. Count me as someone who proudly wears the ADDer monniker.

Is there more to me than my ADD? Of course! I'm a spicy snack food afficionado, a loyal and patient friend, and an American Idol addict. And those labels just scratch the surface. Unless you're Madonna, Cher, or Prince, one word will never describe the entirety of you.

But after being on this planet for 37 years, discovering that I am an ADDer was the best thing that could ever happen to me that didn't involve George Clooney. For the first time ever, I could focus, listen, and pay attention. I've heard many stories from my inattentive ADD childhood of absorbing myself in books instead of playing with the other kids. I learned to overcompensate in school and worked my tail off to get really good grades, only to crash and burn on any exam that included reading comprehension, including the SATs. I suffered through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading every week in graduate school, but couldn't remember a word of what I'd read, which in part compelled me to leave my program. At work, I would still be in the office at 9:00PM working on a simple assignment by desk lamp because our office powered down the overhead lights at 8:00PM because nobody was expected to be in the building. And along the way I lost all too many things: money, friendships, sleep, keys, and the list goes on.

I come from a family of tidy morning people who are always 10 minutes early and can focus like a microscope. Interestingly, many of my friends also fit that description. As a result, I've felt out in left field for most of my life. One of the reasons that I write this blog is to have some sort of connection with other ADDers out there. After all, we're the only ones who know what it's like to be inside of our own heads. For me, having the label of ADDer provides me a connection to others to which nobody in my offline life can relate. And that's a label that I'm glad to have.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Take that, Tom Cruise!

At lunchtime today, a lady stopped me on the street to hand me a flyer.
"Would you like a personality test?"
Sheesh. I knew what this was all about. She's a frickin' Scientologist. So I cheerily replied:
"I don't think my psychiatrist would think that's a good idea."
In response, she snarked, "I bet he wouldn't!" (Oh snap! The flock must give all of the good lines to Tom.)
As an aside, her sexism appalled me. It's 2008; I'm a woman and the crazy Thetan's a woman. Why on earth would she assume that my psychiatrist is a man? In all fairness, my psychiatrist *is* a man. But still, that's a pretty big assumption! ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Smothered in comfort

Hi. Here I am!

Unlike my recent post about being one's own best friend, my lack of updates lately can't be attributed to any magnitude of self-loathing. Rather, I've been plagued by a bout of indifference lately. I'd start a blog post or six and write a portion of it. Before I could finish, apathy would overtake me.

That's strange behavior for me for several reasons. One, I really like writing this blog. Two, I have an opinion on pretty much everything. Even if I lack interest in something, I have an opinion as to why I don't care. Three, I know for sure that I'm not depressed, because I know what being depressed feels like. And I'm not in denial about being depressed, either, because (believe me) I considered that. In many other aspects of my life, I'm genuinely happy.

My case of the "I don't knows" and the "whatevers" seemed to start several weeks ago when my ADD coach and I started talking about a career change for me. She has posed a number of questions to think about concerning career stuff, and oftentimes I replied with "I have no idea" or something to that effect. Seeking for a new opportunity is kind of a big deal. I've been at my job for several years, and to a large degree, I enjoy what I do. But life at the employer's much less than ideal. I've done what I've been able to try to improve my situation, but On most mornings, I debate calling in sick but decide not to because I'll have to have to return to the office the following day anyway.

Given that I know what I like to do professionally and my current situation stinks like discount sushi, you'd think that I'd be papering the city with my resume. Instead, I've been doing little thinking about getting a new job, much less applying for a new one.

My indifference nagged at me for weeks, and I decided to investigate its source by journaling about it. But Little Miss Motivated put off writing all week. On Saturday, I tucked my journal into my purse as I headed out on errands, and insisted to myself that I sit down and write while I was out. After grabbing some lunch, I pulled out the journal and bargained with myself that I could put away the journal after I wrote for 15 minutes.

Instead, I wrote for 40 minutes and filled seven pages. I started off with the question of why I've been so indecisive about all things career. But amazingly, my writing veered into a direction I never imagined. I ended up writing about a relationship I had that didn't work for me, which I tolerated for a number of years. Just like the job, I would try to improve things, but my needs felt on deaf ears. Ultimately, sticking up for myself resulted in the end of the relationship. And you know what? The end of that relationship was probably the one of the best things that could have happened for me.

I never realized how much my job was akin to that relationship. In both cases, things weren't terrible. But they weren't great, either. And over time, after trying to do what I could to remedy each situation, I just got used to the way things were. Even though the job and the relationship aren't/weren't doing much for me, I got comfortable with them.

And therein lies the problem. For me, getting too comfortable is the eighth deadly sin. I possess a healthy competitive streak, and if I'm not constantly learning something or achieving something on any scale, I get dormant. And blah. And...yes, indifferent. The achieving part of my job left the building quite a while ago. But why have I stayed? Well, there's the paycheck. And the work's pretty interesting for the most part. I'm also pretty good at what I do, so for me it's a secure and comfortable situation.

But there's also a wee part of me, despite the competitive streak, that typically feels that I can't do better than the current situation that I'm in. That this job is as good as it gets. I know that I get this feeling when I know it's time to make a necessary change. Indeed, that's how I felt about the relationship that's no longer. And that's probably why, in my journal, I described being so comfortable as "a very deadly illness". A page later, I knew I'd finished sorting things out in my head when a powerful sentence spilled onto the page:

"Always remember that doing the thing or making the choice that is outside of the comfortable is going to be what brings you closer to being the ultimate, wonderful person who you know that you are."

To be honest, typing an entire line from my journal into this post felt risky and revealing because I know that people other than me would be reading it. But I know that every time I push myself to take a risk, the rewards pay off nicely. And now, I think I'm ready to take more leaps.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A victory of Olympic-sized proportions!

As Day One of Daylight Savings Time draws to a close, I have achieved the unthinkable. All timepieces in my home accurately reflect the correct time! Here's the play by play, in the order of victory:

Cable box: automatically at 2:00AM
Bedroom clock: when I went to bed (yes, after 2:00AM!)
Stove clock: late in the morning after washing dishes
Sports watch: before switching to my dress watch
Dress watch: halfway through the afternoon
Bathroom wall clock: at around 10:30PM

And I didn't need to change the clock on the answering machine because I never changed the time last fall!

Normally, this process takes me days, or sometimes more than a week. Check out the video to see how fantastic I feel about this!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Snakes on a Brain

(Note: I realize that many people have extreme fears of reptiles. If this applies to you, please skip this article!)

Last week, I took a little break after making substantial headway on one of my latest tasks at work. The excellent Mark Morford had a new column, so I surfed over to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site. As I enjoyed Mark’s latest musings, a title in the “most read” box got my attention:

New threat to our way of life: giant pythons


Here’s America’s real threat. Forget the tanking economy, disappearing glaciers, and terrorist cells. Oh yeah, and forget my work. A new cause celebre had commandeered my thought processes, especially with this quote from a government geologist:

"We have not yet identified something that would stop their spreading to the Bay Area."

Did I mention that the giant pythons currently reside in the Everglades? You know, in Florida, diagonally across the country from San Francisco?

Naturally, I’m creeped out by the story. But forget that. The logistics of potential migration of giant pythons to northern California fascinated me. By my underestimation, I spent the next several minutes on my employer’s dime trying to figure out how the giant pythons would get to the Bay Area. Obviously, they wouldn’t take I-10 to the 101 because they can’t drive. And they don’t have identification, so forget about flying. (Plus, it’s been done before.) Amtrak now requires ID, so the train’s out, too.

Or suppose the giant pythons wanted to go it alone. How would they cross the Rockies? They lack the necessary hands, feet, or paws for scaling the mountains.

This story was too important for me to keep it to myself, so I shared it two guys I work with. Not surprisingly, H. made some silly analogy about men being pythons and women being rattlesnakes. Citing a line from the article, I actually agreed with him:

Lifestyle: When young, the pythons spend much of their time in trees. In adulthood, their weight makes tree-climbing too difficult.

Next, I mentioned to S. that perhaps the military could consider drafting the giant pythons as a secret weapon. S. claimed that my idea wouldn’t work because it lacks the element of surprise. To which I remarked:

“You wouldn’t be surprised if a giant python came after you?”

When I went out at lunchtime, I reflected on my question to S. What would I do if confronted by the beasts? First of all, I’d scream like a little girl. And I’d run, of course. But the shoes I was wearing weren’t conducive to escaping from giant pythons. I could perhaps kick off my shoes, then run into a building and take the stairs to the highest floor. That’s the best option I could think of. I’m quite proud of my plan because I’m now prepared for what seems like the inevitable.

Back in the office, all thoughts of giant pythons slithered from my head. A new assignment and an upcoming conference call fortunately brought my focus back to work. I’m lucky that I got in gear so quickly, because on other days, I’d need a giant python chasing me to do some work.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friend or Foe?

Welcome to all Experiencing ADDvantages readers!

When I started on Ritalin 2 years ago, I realized an interesting residual effect of being medicated: I made many poor choices in friendships.

Taking Ritalin felt like that last piece of one of those 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles was finally put into place in my brain. I felt like a truly functioning human being. But as excited as I was about Ritalin, I only wanted to confide in a few trusted pals about it, including G. When she and I met several years ago, I think both of us thought the other was the sister that neither of us had. Both of us loved beauty products as much as we loved our favorite sports teams and flying to new vacation destinations.

The week before G. and I headed for a warm winter getaway, I excitedly shared my medication news with her. Immediately, the lollipops and rainbows in that conversation exited stage right. G. noticeably feigned enthusiam for my news, and the reason quickly became clear. She felt that I could easily manage my ADD with natural cures. And while not mentioning it directly, I could tell that she believed ADD to be a ficticious diagnosis.

Now, I don't think Tom Cruise and the Thetans got to G. before I broke my news. Nor is G. a skeptic about pharmaceuticals. In fact, she takes many of them herself. I explained to her that ADD isn't the just little kid that runs around the restaurant. It's also the adult who has never read a book in a Starbucks because the conversations and espresso machines derail one's train of thought.

I can't remember how our conversation ended that night, other than me feeling alienated and misunderstood. I swept the matter under the rug while we were away, and didn't raise it again for another 4 months. I decided to tell her how the ability to focus and concentrate had changed my life. She mentioned the natural cures yet again, and then remarked that my home must be really clean because one of the Desperate Housewives took Ritalin and then cleaned her entire McMansion in one fell swoop. When I told G. how Ritalin works on the ADD brain, she changed the subject on me. Within a couple of days, the friendship was over. It wasn't only because of the lack of support for my ADD. I'd also had enough of her passive-aggressiveness, which permeated our friendship.

Because my mind felt off and awkward for most of my existence, my self esteem had always resided at the lowest levels. I know for sure that's what kept me from saying anything in response to the hurtful remarks that G. had made to me even before I went on Ritalin. In some respects, I felt as if I was lucky to have any friends at all. As a result, I tended to befriend many people who fell into two camps: Camp Narcissist and Camp Commiserate. The former includes people who should be named Mimi, because that's all they talk about. And the latter includes fellow low self-esteemers who like you best when you're down in the dumps like them.

To be sure, I had chosen these folks as my friends. But now I realized that the friendships either had to change or cease to exist. In some cases, I indeed salvaged the friendships, and usually this came from talking about my struggles with ADD and how they affected my life. Many friends of mine had no idea how much I was trying to overcompensate for my distracted brain. But in a lot of other cases, the friendships had to die on the vine.

On the flip side, I treasure the friendships that I have. These pals enrich my life. To be honest, I'm also very cautious when making new friends. I'm not aloof with people; I easily make acquaintances. But I do consider whether the person will enrich my life or only cause grief. Oftentimes, I don't figure out the latter until a few months down the road. But fortunately, I've been spot-on about the former, and have forged some wonderful friendships since ADD-Day.

A couple months ago, I saw an excellent quote in a magazine from the actor Jack Black: "A friend is someone who doesn't f----n' want anything from you. Just wants to hang." Reading that reminded me of several people I know, which are the ones with whom I could sit on a park bench and drink a Slurpee and tell stories and just have a blast all afternoon. They're the ones that call to see if you're doing OK when you're feeling blah, and the ones whom you buy crazy regional snack foods for when you're travelling because you know how psyched they'll be to receive them. (Of course, vice versa on both accounts). After reading the quote, I dialed up a few pals and told them, "I just read something that reminded me of you..."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Being our own best friend

I started realizing in the past couple of weeks that people are reading what I have to say on this blog. Sweet! I'm delighted to have an audience for my words and experiences, and am glad y'all are along for the ride.

I've found one downside that unfortunately comes with knowing that an audience exists. It's not you, dear reader; it's me. Over the past week, I've had an idea or two each day that I wanted to blog about. But each time that I fired up my computer and started writing about my fabulous idea, it babbled on with no end or I couldn't remember my original point. Showing my true colors as a person with ADD, I saved the post as a draft with the intent on returning to it later and posting it on the blog. Of course, it didn't happen. Because I was looking to create some sort of masterpiece, I continued to procrastinate.

Also characteristic of ADD-me, I got irritated with myself about not finishing my writings. Now, I know that doing that is counter-productive. Would I tell a blogger friend who hadn't published all week for the same reasons that s/he needs to get in gear? I wouldn't, because I know that writing is a personal thing for everyone and harping on someone to blog won't help matters.

When I sat down to write this, the only things I had in mind we contained in the first two paragraph. My goal with writing this post was just to update the blog and procrastinate no longer. Indeed, I've achieved that goal :-)

But interestingly, after I wrote the paragraph beginning with "also characteristic," which seemed to roll off from my fingers onto the keyboard, I realized how much of a dark cloud I'd put above my head concerning my writing. I actually felt better after writing that paragraph, because it made me think of the unnecessary pressure I'd put upon myself. I shouldn't do that, and neither should you. By having ADD, we have enough to handle. Why mentally pummel ourselves when we haven't achieved some goal with an adjustable bar?

This reminds me of a little story. A few years ago, I did my friend E.'s makeup on her wedding day. Because of a delay at the hair salon where she was getting her updo, she arrived at the chapel only half an hour before the ceremony. She still had to get dressed and I still had to apply her maquillage. While I was applying her makeup, she wanted me to do it quickly and even suggested skipping some of the products. I mentioned to my dear friend that doing everything properly and without rushing would only take maybe an additional 5 minutes. I also mentioned that I'd never been to a wedding that started exactly on the time of the invitation. But more importantly, the wedding doesn't start without the bride.

E. relaxed after I said that. She and I then enjoyed our precious minutes of girl bonding before the I-do's. The wedding was perfectly lovely, and I know for sure that nobody knew or cared that the wedding began a few minutes late.

So, the next time you or I think about how we have that pile of papers to go through or how we left the left the house a few minutes later than we were supposed to, or how we have to resort to take-out yet again because we forgot to grocery shop because we have no idea what we need to buy, let's think about where that pressure's coming from. The only person who we know for sure will be with us every moment of our lives is ourself. We may as well be a friend to that great person.

Friday, February 15, 2008


(Note: Welcome to all readers who linked from the ADHD Blog Carnival!)

I spent the last several days on a much needed break from my everyday life. Usually at this time of year, I've jetted off to somewhere warm for respite from the winter weather. But this time, I headed to a holisitc-ish retreat center that's a few hours away from home.

It wasn't so much the meditation and yoga that attracted me to the place. Rather, I relished the thought of being in simple surroundings with no TV, newspapers, or Internet. Part of me -- the ADD part, of course -- did worry about being bored, and so I brought three books, three magazines, and two journals. I guess I had big plans to write the great American novel or ADD-Libbing posts for the next six months! One duffel bag contained everything I needed for the week. Before I left home on Sunday, I kept thinking I would run out of clothes, and so I stuffed in some extra things at the last minute.

The retreat was perfect for clearing my mind. My room faced east, and I enjoyed waking gently to the sunrise each morning. I ate plenty of healthy food, and they nicely offer two kinds of hot sauce for people like me to add some much needed spice. I didn't find myself thinking about the mindless media minutiae, such as Britney's latest antics. I learned a bit about aromatherapy, which I always wanted to know more about. I met a couple of some fun new people I plan to stay in touch with, and I fit in some exercise, too.

Of course, after a few days, I began to miss some parts of my regular life. A couple of days into the retreat, I holed up to make a few cell phone calls home to get connected to people I missed. The following day, I decided that I needed to reconnect a bit with the rest of civilization, and ducked out in the afternoon to visit a little local museum and buy a pair of shoes. Oh yeah, and I happily treated myself to a real cup of coffee - they definitely watered down the organic, shade-grown, fair trade stuff that they served only between certain hours. I definitely felt even more recharged after my afternoon excursion.

Being disconnected from TV, news, and Internet was definitely a great thing for my ADD mind. I wondered a bit about what emails I might be missing, but otherwise, the urge to get myself online dissipated. As for all of the reading and writing material that I brought, I finished two of the three magazines, got a third of the way through one book, and definitely did not fill up wither journal. Seeing how much I didn't read made me think about how much we try to pack into our stimulated ADD brains (i.e., a lot!). I always worry that I'm going to be bored, and so I cart along way too much stuff to prevent boredom.

I've two takeaways from my time away. One, I'm definitely going to try to have time that's free of TV, news, and Internet. I know that this will be difficult for me. It's one thing to be somewhere that lacks these things, another to be at home with my computer and TV staring me in the face. I definitely felt energized by not getting sucked into these things while I was away, and so I'd like to maintain this energy.

Two, being in my simple surroundings gave me a renewed desire to work on clearing my clutter. I found it easy to get by for several days with just one bag of clothes and toiletries. And oftentimes when I'm at home, I feel psychologically weighted down by all of the stuff in my home that I don't use or really care about. This weekend, I'm going to list a bunch of things on Freecycle and also bag some stuff for charity.

If I can do both of these things, I can have the best of both worlds: a clutter-free environment AND TV and Internet available at my disposal for (hopefully!) healthy periods of time.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ritalin and the Two Sides of Me

On Super Bowl Sunday, I celebrated my second aniversary of being Powered by Ritalin. When I reflect on the past couple of years, a recent compliment pops into my mind. A manager in one of my employer's main offices phoned me with accolades regarding how I handled a recent meeting. She also said she's noticed that my ability to take command in such meetings had catapulted in the past couple of years. Coincidence?

That manager's compliment sums up one side of me. I occasionally lead or participate in high-level meetings in which I must be clear, articulate, on my game, and thinking fast. Pre-Ritalin, I used to dread these situations because after a few minutes I would feel like I fell face first into a mud puddle because everything said in the meeting would just form a traffic jam in my brain.

Post-Ritalin, I relish these opportunities. I'm able to address what's being said, and even go off on tangents because I can easily return to my main points. Even better, I can do all of this with little effort. I've thus discovered my new ability to think on my feet. While other colleagues require detailed notes before they speak in public, I can expound for a while with just a few bullets.

But then there's the other side of me. This other side of me forgot to do laundry the night before one of these meetings last week. I realized well after midnight while I was still surfing the Internet that I had no clean hosiery to wear to the meeting in the morning. I quickly handwashed a pair and rolled it in a bath towel to speed up the drying process. However, I forgot to unroll the towel and hang up the hosiery before I went to bed. As a result, I had to blast my hair dryer on them so as not to don moist legwear. And though I knew what I planned to wear, I chose not to iron until the morning. I could have used the hosiery-drying and ironing time to eat breakfast. Instead, I arrived at the meeting with an empty belly and ample gratitude for the person who brought donuts.

Another one of the meetings involved overnight travel. Though I'd only be gone for a couple of days, I still could not decide what I wanted to wear. I partially attribute my indecision to a temporary post-Thanksgiving weight gain in all of the wrong places and not liking the way my clothes fit. I ended up going to bed at 3:30 in the morning without having my attire selected, and had to get up 2 hours later to catch my flight. I ended up packing my stuff right before I left for the airport, and the 10 minutes of crunch-time decision making worked out just fine. Had I curtailed the procrastination, I wouldn't have needed to frequently squirt drops in my red eyes, prop myself up with caffeine, or scarf down every carb that came within an arm's reach.

On the job, I'm able to keep the harried and frantic side of me hidden away. I show up for these professional confabs by presenting my poised, confident, and smartly attired. But on the inside, I feel as exhausted as someone who just finished a marathon because of all the hoops I make myself jump through to get myself out the door.

Shortly after becoming Powered by Ritalin, a former friend (I alluded to her in a previous post) expressed her skepticism about ADD in general. She mentioned that one of the characters on "Desperate Housewives" took her kid's Ritalin and then cleaned the house in one fell swoop. Then she asked if that was how the drug would affect me. If only! ADD drugs provide us with an ability to do things, not the discipline. I'll continue to muddle through the latter, because discipline doesn't come in pill form.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We can be "Heroes"...

(note: if you've not yet seen season one of "Heroes" and want to avoid any potential minor spoilers, please skip this post!)

I recently started watching season one of "Heroes" and immediately became hooked. Thus far, I've watched about half a dozen episodes, so I'm still at the point where the heroes are realizing that they possess special powers. Discovering their powers bewilders the heroes. Furthermore, the heroes who share their knowledge with others fail to find understanding among the "normal" folk. So, even though the heroes can do cool stuff such as fly or regenerate parts of their own bodies or travel into the future, they feel abnormal. They only begin to appreciate their amazing abilities when they meet the other heroes.

Therein lies the reason why I love this show. This show has made me think a lot lately of my ADD "assets" as superpowers. Because my ADD wasn't diagnosed until adulthood, I can relate to feeling different than other people and not knowing why I can't be just like them and be able to pay attention, not blurt out what's on my mind, or space out at inappropriate times. True, ADD doesn't give me the ability to see tomorrow's newspaper for the lottery numbers and allow me to retire before I'm 40. However, ADD's given me the ability to think on my feet, which is a huge asset in my career. ADD helps me realize my true talents and abilities by letting me hyperfocus on them. And ADD plants creative ideas in my head like dandelions in a roadside field.

It's not been an easy road for me to view the positives with ADD. In some cases, it's been a lonely one, just as it's been for the heroes. I've felt misunderstood for a good portion of my life for not being a neatnik like the rest of the family. It's delayed promotions at work, caused sleep deficits, and even ended a friendship (though in retrospect, that may have been for the best). It wasn't until I finally started getting support - from close friends, my old therapist, my coach, and my drug doc - did I realize that I could view ADD as a positive.

New research actually proves the importance of support. Last week, the New York Times' health blog discussed a journal article on the perspectives of children with ADD. Not surprisingly, the article's titled "I Have Always Felt Different," and is based on interviews with college students who were diagnosed with ADD as children. One line in the conclusion certainly rang true for me: "A strong theme throughout these interviews was the value of being understood and supported."

I still have a lot more episodes of "Heroes" to enjoy, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the show unfolds. In the meantime, we folks with ADD should try to embrace the positives that the disorder provides. I certainly have a hard time doing this myself. But with the right support, our gifts can benefit the world, just like the heroes' gifts.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dieting and ADD go together like drinking and driving

A new year has begun, which means that diet ballyhoo has reacquainted itself with the collective American conscience. You can't watch TV, read a newspaper or magazine, or even ride a bus without being reminded of the fact that January's arrived and it's time to shed all of the poundage gained over the last few indulgent months. And if you're me, you can't go to work without being reminded that willpower's in the house. Nothing exemplified this better today than seeing a colleague who once played football in school microwave an incredibly small bowl of vegetable soup for his lunch.

I want to lose weight, too. But I believe that dieting with ADD is a losing proposition. By dieting, I mean a fixed time period of counting calories/fat grams/protein servings/restricting the types of food that you eat.

And I say that because I know it first hand. I'm a three time Weight Watchers flunkie. Here's why dieting doesn't work:
  • ADDers like to start things. Meaning, it's difficult for us to stick with a diet for the long haul. In addition to Weight Watchers, I've tried a number of other diets over the years. I immediately get excited about them and those first five pounds seem to melt away. And that's great if five pounds are all that you have to lose. Once the weight loss gets smaller week to week, it's easy to lose interest. Which leads us to...

  • ADDers are highly creative. As a result, it's easy for folks with ADD to think of brilliant and clever ways to skirt our diets. When I attempted Weight Watchers' "Core Plan," which lets you eat unlimited amounts of certain foods and spend your "points" on other, nonbasic, foods, I figured out a number of ways to eat more without dipping into the "points." Often, these schemes involved sneaking canned pumpkin into fat free pudding. After a while, the diet becomes a game that you want to win. If your weight loss stalls, then why not win at outwitting the diet?

  • ADDers like flexibility. No question, diets such as Weight Watchers allow you to adjust your eating so that you can fit in a special meal or other treat. But then your birthday or anniversary arrives, and you celebrate it at a non-chain restaurant that doesn't have the "point" totals for its meals or calorie counts available on the Internets. And then what happens? You feel guilty for enjoying a delicious meal because your weigh-in day's looming around the corner. Which brings us to...

  • ADDers despise failure. OK, so does everybody else. But in my experience, and probably in the experiences of other folks with ADD, hearing that you yet again gained an ounce or didn't lose any weight over a week is an express train to feeling crappy. Especially when you feel like you really did try to do everything right over the week.

This last bullet really hits home for me. On my third foray into Weight Watchers, I joined at the same time as a woman named M. Both of us had 35 pounds to lose. M. lost all of her pounds within 3 months. I remained a Weight Watchers member for about 10 months, and only lost about 10 or 15 pounds. Every week at the meeting, the leader lauded M. as a role model for success. In return, M. always sang the praises of Weight Watchers.

Over time, M. and the leader's mutual admiration society negatively affected my progress. Because I didn't lose weight as quickly as M., I felt discouraged. And I gained weight during my last few weeks as a member. After a while, the leader questioned whether I accurately counted my "points". Indeed, I did accurately count all my "points". However, I was now consuming far too many "points". I now ate to rebel. And I knew something had to change when I manage to lock myself out of my hotel room on a work trip to Oklahoma during a frantic raid of the vending machine down the hall.

When I returned home, I started therapy and quit Weight Watchers. A few months later, I received my ADD diagnosis.

Since then, I've generally maintained the same weight. However, this weight maintenance represents a maintenance of a 40 pound weight loss that slowly happened over time. As I wrote above, I still have more weight that I want to lose. I try not to obsess about it, but I know that I still do from time to time. And for me, I know what it takes to lose weight:

  • Get enough rest. There's enough research out there that shows the effect of diminished sleep on weight gain. But I don't need the New England Journal of Medicine to prove it to me. When I don't get enough sleep for a day or two, my belly sticks out the next day. When I don't get enough sleep for a week, the scale climbs. And it doesn't help that I compensate for rest with caffeine and sugar.

  • Roughage, baby! The five fruits and vegetables our government recommends that we eat daily really represents a minimum. All of those antioxidants do a body good. And you're less likely to snarf a party sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos with a belly full of produce.

  • Stay on the move. Modern society's made it easy for us to be lazy. We jockey for close parking spaces and email colleagues down the hall rather than get out of our chairs. On most days, I'd rather do a thousand other things than exercise. But when I get myself to the gym for a workout, I feel so much better afterward! And now, there's even more proof about why that good feeling is especially beneficial to folks with ADD.

  • Eat something real. Weight Watchers messed me up good when it comes to eating real food. An ocean full of the pumpkin/pudding concoction cited above can't compare to the deliciousness of a serving of the pie made with the Libby's pumpkin recipe. And newsflash for you, Weight Watchers: mixing diet A&W and skim milk fails to approximate a root beer float. I've learned that I'm satisfied when I eat real, actual food, rather than some edible fabrication.

The key for me will be following my own advice. Readers, I shall keep you updated!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scheming for a 2008 theme

Rather than create New Year's resolutions, my ADD coach advised me last week to devise a theme for the year. I liked the idea and mulled over a different idea for a theme every day. None of them stuck...until earlier today, into my head popped the winner:

Go Out and Get It!

Before I explain what...

Last week was hectic but enjoyable. A new short-term project at work, a night at the theater, a friend's birthday, and visits with other friends kept me happily occupied. Even 4 days of back-and-forths with my doctor's office and not getting to the gym didn't get me down. But one thing remained that frustrated me to no end.

My hair.

The kooky weather being what it is - 0 degrees one week, 60 degrees the next - as well as nosebleed-provoking dry air in my office have managed to suck all the moisture out of my hair. To rectify matters, I've tried a number of conditioners, creams, serums, and potions to transform the straw-like texture. Unfortunately, all of the hair goop had resulted in limp, greasy hair that remained strawlike. And when I got out of bed every morning, I looked like I hadn't washed my hair all week. Even after I washed it, the thought of my hair made me just cranky enough.

Yesterday, I decided that I should maybe try a new shampoo for a while. My normal shampoo is an extra-special one that oh so gently cleanses my hair with little sudsing that could upset the shape of my curls. I think it's made out of angels' tears or something like that. It has served me very well, and few hair products compel me to sing their praises. But right now, I needed something short of Dawn dishwashing liquid to get the grease out of my parched hair.

Fortunately, I had a trial size of a good shampoo on hand to rescue my hair. However, I didn't think to put it in the shower when I thought of the idea. But I did think of the other shampoo the minute the shower water streamed over my hair. Even though I already started showering, I couldn't bear to go another day with my case of the greasies. And into my head popped the mantra for 2008: Go Out and Get It. I shut off the shower, toweled off, and dug out the sample of shampoo.

Go Out and Get It is a perfect theme for me because I tend to hesitate and nay-say things that I really want to do. I get frustrated when an entire year goes by and I realize that I never did things I really wanted to do because I thought of far too many reasons why I shouldn't pursue them. This applies to small things, like visiting a new coffee shop, and larger endeavors, like running a 10K. I feel that I grow whenever I take risks, and feel that there are many more that I can take.

My theme has stuck in my head all day like a dull roar and has already served me well. This evening, I debated about going to the gym because the temperature had dropped and I wouldn't be able to work out too long before it closed. I kept thinking about "Go Out and Get It," and how I want to become more fit this year. And then I bundled up, and went out and got a 35 minute workout on the elliptical.

And my hair's behaving very well, too! The grease is gone, and it feels more like hair than straw. I'm excited to see how my theme will serve me during the year.